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It’s time to make room for the new volumes you will put on your shelves after this year’s Friends of the Keene Memorial Library Book Sale. I’ve been working on this for the last couple of months by donating volumes to this year’s sale and I have every intention of replacing each and every one of the donated books with new reading material.

As many long time collectors of books know, reading tastes evolve over time and volumes that I purchased years ago, I will never read again. When discarding old books, I first consider if it might be a volume that one of our daughters or grandchildren may want and they get first choice. However, there are books that they don’t want and there are books that for any number of reasons I don’t want to pass on to them and those are donated.

For example, I am currently fixated on political and historical nonfiction and I just don’t read much fiction. I used to feel just the opposite and read lots of historical fiction. While many of those earlier reads are fine, I know they won’t capture the imagination of my family, so off to the sale they go.

This year’s sale will take place beginning with member’s night only on Thursday, April 12 from 5-7 p.m. For the general public, hours are 9 a.m.-7 p.m. on Friday, April 13, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, April 14 and Noon-5 p.m. on Sunday, April 15. During the Sunday hours, all books will be sold for half of their regular and already very reasonable price or by the box or bag.

To shop on Thursday, all you have to do is join the Friends of the Library which you can do on Thursday night at the door for $10. When you join and then buy books from the sale, you are supporting wonderful programs at our library.

I went to last year’s book sale twice – once on Thursday night and then again on Friday morning. I found some wonderful additions to my library including a cookbook I have used more than once this year.

It is entitled The Foods of Israel Today by Joan Nathan. This volume is a collection of fantastic recipes and so much more. The introduction includes a concise history of Israel beginning in the nineteenth century. I learned so much about the founding of the modern state of Israel and the efforts it took to transform this desert land into a fertile agricultural community. The process was really quite remarkable including the planting of olives, figs, almonds and citrus that still feed the nation today.

The author has lived in Israel and she describes her first breakfast when she volunteered on a kibbutz in the 1970s. She recalls that “Before the sun was up we started working, and at 7:30 – breakfast time – all of us volunteers ran to a pump, splashed water on our faces and hands, and sat down in a huge shed in the middle of a field, hungry for breakfast. There was something so satisfying about a bowl of figs or pears picked that morning, with the dew still on them, and a basket of kibbutz cucumbers, tomatoes and green peppers. We could choose our own white cheese, or cottage cheese, yogurt, sour cream called shemenet, and kibbutz-baked rye bread or rolls, to craft our own meal.”

I am including two recipes from this book’s pages that represent Israeli foods that are delicious and easily made in our kitchens. The first is an appetizer that I often eat for lunch as an accompaniment for fresh carrots and celery – hummus. I most often buy hummus but this recipe is wonderful if you have the time. It really does have a fresh flavor that the commercially prepared hummus does not.

The second is for a traditional accompaniment to hummus – pita bread. Once again these breads are easily purchased, but if you want to experience the freshness of your own homemade pita, this recipe makes it very easy to do.

Hummus

1 cup dried chickpeas

1 cup tahini (sesame seed butter)

1/2 cup lemon juice, or to taste

2 cloves garlic, or to taste

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons pine nuts

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Dash of paprika or sumac

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

Put the raw chickpeas in a bowl with cold water to cover and soak overnight. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then place them in a heavy pot with enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer, partially covered, for about one hour or until the chickpeas are soft and the skin begins to separate. Add more water as needed. Drain the chickpeas, reserving about 1 and one-half cups of the cooking liquid. Set aside one-fourth cup of the cooked chickpeas for garnish. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the remaining chickpeas with a tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin and at least one-half cup of the reserved cooking liquid. If the hummus is too thick, add more reserved cooking liquid or water until you have a paste-like consistency. Heat a frying pan and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Spread the pine nuts in the pan and stir-fry, browning on all sides. To serve, transfer the hummus to a large, flat plate, and with the back of a spoon make a slight depression in the center. Drizzle the remaining olive oil on the top and sprinkle the reserved chickpeas, pine nuts, paprika or sumac and parsley or cilantro over the surface. Serve with cut-up raw vegetables and pita bread.

Pita Bread

1 package dry yeast (1 scant tablespoon)

1 1/2 cups warm water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (approximately)

Sprinkle the yeast into a large bowl and pour the warm water on top. Stir until the yeast is dissolved; add the olive oil and salt and mix well. Add enough flour until the dough is difficult to stir. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to make a firm, elastic dough. You can also use a food processor, or an electric mixer with a dough hook. Place the dough in a greased bowl and let rise, covered, for about 1 and one-half hours or until doubled in bulk. Turn the dough out onto a large floured surface and cut into 12 equal sections. Using your hands, form each section into a ball about the size of a ping-pong ball. Cover with a towel and set aside for 5 minutes. Flour the work surface lightly. Using a rolling pin, roll out each ball to a disk 6 inches in diameter. The dough will be very elastic, so roll firmly, adding a little more flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough. Cover the circles and let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500 degrees, lining one rack with baking tiles or a baking stone. (If you do not have either, heat a baking sheet.) If you have a bread paddle, dust it with flour and transfer 2 of the rounds to it, then slide them onto the hot tiles or stone, keeping the remaining balls covered. Otherwise gently pick up the disks with your fingers and toss them onto the tiles. Bake for 3 minutes. Remove the pitas with tongs or a spatula. Repeat with the remaining rounds.

Reminder of the Week: Put the Friends of the Keene Memorial Library Book sale on your calendar. See you at the Fremont City Auditorium this weekend for this wonderful event!

Ellen Lund

of Fremont is a freelance food columnist.

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