Saturday, July 19, 2008

For Seymour Benzer, Upon Receiving the Gruber Prize

Getting Personal

Only half his friends called him crazy
The rest thought he was, may be, lazy
Wanting to figure out human traits
By watching flies run or hide, love or hate.

His students created hermaphroditic flies,
And peered into the depths of their complex eyes.
They gently mutated them into a fate
Of chronic sluggishness or hyperkinetic state.

When Proxmire nominated him for a fleece of gold,
He called him “Rutabaga” and continued being bold.
But when the Grubers undertook their neuroscience venture,
He accepted with pride and recounted his adventures

And told of a menagerie of creatures flawed,
The tardy, the stuck, the dunce, the easily awed…
And now on a summer day, when I swat a fly,
I am sure to think: “There, but for the grace of God, go I”.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cheese Kanafeh (Kataifi)

This is an extremely easy recipe and yet it captures a taste that is quintessentially Mediterranean.

The dish itself has no sugar, but syrup is added at the end. So, it’s possible to control the degree of sweetness as a function of taste.

Kanafeh can be reheated, although there are rarely any leftovers.

Special Ingredients

Kanafeh, sometimes also called Katayif or Kadaif or Kataifi (etc) is also known as “Shredded Fillo” or “Shredded Wheat” Pastry. The very thin, vermicelli-like threads are usually woven into skeins. When kept sealed they are soft and can be shredded readily by hand.

Kanafeh is sold in Middle Eastern or Greek stores (e.g. Sahadi Fine Foods in Brooklyn_ or can be ordered on line (e.g, or or These boxes can be stored in the freezer.

Cheese: Optimally one needs Nabulsi Cheese (from Nablus, a city in the West Bank). The dessert is often called Nabulsieh or “from Nablus” as both the cheese and the dough were perfected there. Nabulsi cheese is a white sheep or goat milk cheese, with a very mild yet slightly tangy taste and it melts beautifully and becomes elastic. The closest commonly available cheese in the US is Halloumi cheese, but that is too salty and the texture is not quite right. So, absent the Nabusi cheese, one can use Ricota, which does not duplicate the texture but approximates the taste.


• ½ lb Kanafeh

• 15 oz whole milk Ricota Cheese

• 1.5 stick of unsalted butter, melted

Shred Kanafeh by hand to pull apart all the threads. The idea is to take a tight skein and turn it in to a light fluffy pile. Quick, fun and therapeutic.

Line a pie pan, with ½ the shredded dough. Sprinkle with about 1/3 of the butter. Add Ricotta Cheese and smooth into a layer. Add second half of the dough on top and add remainder of the butter.

Bake at 350 for ~40 min. The dough will turn golden brown. Add syrup and serve hot.

Sugar Syrup:

• 2 cups of sugar
• 1 cup of water

Boil in saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. Then decrease temperature and continue cooking for ~ 4-5 minutes until it thickens. Let it cool. Can add a few drops of rose water.