Café Arabe and Peace in the Middle East

Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO

December 20, 13


Not wanting to wake the sleeping members of our household early this morning by grinding fresh coffee I made do with an old bag of pre-ground coffee brought home from Israel; Arabic coffee blended with cardamom seeds, finely ground and meant to be prepared in a finjan.  That’s a traditional long handled little cooking pot especially designed for making coffee over an open fire, though it works fine over our gas stove.  You mix the ground coffee directly with water, bring the mixture to a boil, remove it from the flame momentarily until the boil calms and then bring it back to a boil twice again.  Poured into cute little cups that hold little more than an ounce of liquid, the coffee has a near-mud consistency.  A little bit goes a long way and this perhaps was my mistake. Instead of using a finjan I loaded up my Starbucks drip machine and a 24-ounce mug of the stuff, maybe more than I needed to start the day.  Two ounces would have done the trick.

While walking dog at double speed I became aware that my approach to the world around me had taken and interesting turn.  To say I was irritable would have been an understatement, I was suddenly and near hopelessly surrounded by a world of morons and nincompoops.  This sensation was so extreme as to be laughable and luckily I walk the dog alone and had no opportunity to express my thoughts to anyone.


No wonder the idea of peace in the Middle East is such a hopeless dream.  As long as this kind of coffee is legal over there, there is little chance anyone will get along, even the best of friends.  (Or perhaps drinking coffee like this helps limit your circle of friends to the few and the special.)  Drinking coffee like this, one can get in an argument over right of ways crossing 22nd street.  How can anyone expect to negotiate the fate of Jerusalem?


Heading toward home I found myself contemplating a bite or two of a poppy seed filled stollen.   That filling,  the mohn, is a ground poppy seed paste; it would be enough to fix things.  The herbal extract made from poppy, opium is very tightly regulated and so are its derivatives. Eating poppy seed as food is still quite legal.  In theory there are no opiatesin poppy seeds. (Or at least not enough to have an effect.)  Well trust me, a good poppy seed pastry can take some of the rattle and buzz off a cup of coffee so if there is no drug left, it is a great placebo.  If you have eaten one of my dear wife’s homemade poppy seed filled hamentaschen, you know that they are addictive.


Poppy seeds and coffee go well together, a perfect food combination.  This is not what most naturopathic doctors mean when they talk about food combining, that whole belief system about what foods will digest simultaneously and which won’t.  When I write coffee and poppy combine well, this is about balancing the drug effects of various foods to produce a desirable reaction in the brain.  The combination of these two foods, poppy and coffee, produces a great sense of well-being, at least for a few moments.


I came upon this concept of food combining in a lovely book by Adam Gopnik called “The Table Comes First.”  Gopnik is a regular writer for the New Yorker and this is one of several books he wrote while living in Paris. He describes how a restaurant patron’s awareness and attention is narrowed by drinking wine with a meal, so that the table and plate becomes the focus of attention and that an after dinner coffee, expands those boundaries again to encompass the rest of the world, helping get the diner up out the door and back onto the street.


Speaking of mind-altering substances, one might also argue that a cup of Starbuck’s ‘instant coffee’ mixed with two tablespoons of their hot chocolate does fill one with a sense of optimism and good cheer.

Perhaps what Jerusalem needs is hot chocolate mix?


While on the subject of mind altering substances, Colorado, or at least some people in Colorado are counting the days until marijuana becomes legal to purchase here.  Even yours truly, whose interest in mind-altering substances is more than satisfied experimenting with the previously mentioned combinations, is paying attention.


My close colleagues, who specialize in cancer care, have been discussing whether marijuana preparations are as useful as proponents claim.  I’ve heard some intriguing descriptions of success with specific patients and cancers, if the ‘right strains’ are used.  There isn’t good published evidence to support these claims yet, so we are in a wait and watch mode for the most part. I’ve got something of an open mind about this issue, as long as it’s not my kid smoking the stuff.


Granted there is decent evidence that marijuana can be used to help cancer patients reduce pain and increase appetite and maybe improve mood.  It’s whether or not specific marijuana strains will inhibit cancer tumor growth or trigger tumor shrinkage that is the question.  From these anecdotal reports, it sounds like it might.  This is perhaps the good part of the change in legal status in Colorado; we may be able to get some answers.  What the downsides will be, well, we’ll soon see, won’t we?




Poppy Seed Stollen


For the Sponge:

 3/4 cup milk, room temperature, divided

 1 1/2 (0.6 ounce) cakes cake yeast

 1 teaspoon white sugar

 1 cup unbleached flour


For the Dough:

 3 cups unbleached flour

 1/4 cup white sugar

 1 pinch salt

 2 eggs, room temperature

 Zest from 1 lemon

 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into chunks

 1/2 cup ground almonds


For the Filling:

 3/4 cup milk

 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

 1/3 cup white sugar

 2 1/2 cups poppy seeds

 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest

 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 1 egg, room temperature



To make the sponge:

Dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in 1/4 cup of the room-temperature milk. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup milk into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 1 cup of flour and the yeast mixture. Mix with a fork to combine. Cover the bowl with a towel and allow to rest until bubbly, 10 to 15 minutes.


Make the dough:

Stir the remaining 3 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, room-temperature eggs, and zest from 1 lemon into the sponge. Use the dough hook to mix the dough on the lowest setting. Mix the dough for about 5 minutes, occasionally scraping the dough off of the hook and down the sides of the bowl.


Increase the speed to medium-low and add the softened butter 1 tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated. Allow the dough to mix for an additional 5 minutes, scraping the dough down as needed. Add the ground almonds and turn the mixer on for 1 or 2 turns, mixing just until incorporated. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and shape it into a ball. Place the ball in an oiled mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let it rise until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.


Make the filling:

While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Heat the milk in a heavy 4-quart saucepan until it begins to boil; stir in the butter and sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and add the poppy seeds, 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon zest, and the cinnamon. Let the mixture stand for 30 minutes to soften the poppy seeds. When the mixture is cool, whisk in the egg.


Make the Stollen

Punch down the dough and roll it out into a 10 1/2- by 16-inch rectangle. Spread the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch margin on all sides. Roll the dough up into a log, starting with the long side, and pinch the edges together to form a seam.


Place the loaf, seam-side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover it with greased plastic wrap or a well-floured kitchen towel and allow it to rise for an additional 30 to 40 minutes.

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).



Bake the stollen until golden brown on the bottom of the loaf, about 40 minutes. Let the bread cool completely before glazing.



While still warm apply some sort of ‘sweet glaze’.  My favorite is a bit of apricot jam slightly warmed in a microwave oven, perhaps with a bit of water added to make it spreadable.






I’m not going to pretend that this recipe is food for you.  Yet I cannot resist going through the motions to justify a belief that this is health food.


A study published December 5, 2013 tells us that an extract of lemon peel (note: the peel of an entire lemon is called for in our recipe) may be useful in treating cyanide poisoning in rats.  No doubt this is why rat poison is not lemon flavored.  If you want to read the abstract of this study go to:


We should also mention that lemon peel may protect against some forms of skin cancer:


Here is an abstract suggesting that a poppy seed oil provides protection to the brain reducing damage from oxygen deprivation:


Poppy seed oil is being considered as an alternative to diesel fuel, a poppy-bio-diesel powered car could be in our future.


Eating poppy seeds messes up urine drug screens.  In the past tests had a difficult time distinguishing whether someone has eaten a poppy seed bagel or shot up heroine.  That no longer seems to be such a problem:


In Indonesia poppy seed oil enriched with iodine was tested on children as an iodine delivery system to prevent thyroid disease.  While it appears to work, peanut oil worked way better.






This is not our first newsletter mentioning poppy seeds. 

Several years ago we posted Rena’s hamentaschen recipe:


There is a fascinating 1997 article published in Harper’s Magazine on poppy plants, titled Opium Made Easy, written by Michael Pollan before he became the famous food-guy.  Back then he was just Harper’s garden-guy. A fascinating read.



Earlier newsletters about coffee:


Coffee and liver cancer:


Coffee and MI risk varies with genotype


Coffee interferes with thyroid hormone dosing: