Cinnamon Buns

photo-2Last week I dreamt about my Mom for the very first time since she passed away over a decade ago.  In my dream I was laying in bed and she was sitting on the edge looking down on me, reassuring me that “everything was going to be alright,” an expression that I don’t remember her using when she was alive.  The whole dream was unsettling, but I decided that her message was worth holding on to, and so during this particularly stressful summer, I have tried making an effort to weave some childlike innocence back into my life, at least during August, my birthday month.  It’s easy to remember what it was like when world news could not be farther from my thoughts and the biggest worry I had on any given day in August was deciding which flavor I would pick from the Italian ice cart as it made its way down the Grand Concourse on those hot summer days in the Bronx.

So what have I done this summer?  We had lunch at the original Farmers’ Market which consisted of a delicious grilled cheese sandwich at Short Cake, with a tall glass of iced blueberry lemonade (blueberries were a very important part of my childhood summers).  We saw How to Train a Dragon 2, during which I treated myself to a childhood favorite, Malted Milk Balls.  Last Sunday was spent at the beach with Shira and Norm, and enjoyed the feeling that with each set of receding waves, another set of worries were being washed away.  Shira and I spent an afternoon at a Korean Spa, (o.k. that is not from my childhood) an experience so relaxing that I fell asleep while having a spa treatment.  And then today.  Today is my actual birthday and so after my daughter-in-law arrived in town we went to Joan’s  On Third for breakfast, definitely a favorite of mine, and I ate two soft-boiled eggs, something my mother often made for me and always served in shot glasses.  Joan’s makes them just the way I like them, 4 minutes, not 3 which produces a runny white, and not 5 which makes the yolk too hard.  It has to be four, four is  the perfect number to achieve the right balance between too soft and too firm.  We then drove over  to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market, came home, ate fresh (peaches and cream) corn, brushed with melted butter and a sprinkling of sea salt.  Elizabeth and I, her close friend Rachel and baby Orly, retreated to the den and Norm “put up” some pickles, and baked a batch of cinnamon buns for dessert.  They should be ready in a few minutes and I expect that when I bite into that rich yeast dough, and all I smell is that quintessential childhood combination of sugar and cinnamon, that I will remember my dream, and the words of my mother, and I too will be sure that everything will be alright.

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Cinnamon Buns

1) Make a half recipe of your favorite Challah dough, using about  3 1/2 – 4 cups flour.   (Click on the link for my recipe)

2) Mix dough and allow to rise at room temperature till double in bulk.  While dough is rising, make sugar and cinnamon combination.

3) Combine 3/4 cup brown sugar or a combination of brown and white sugars with 3 Tb good quality ground cinnamon. Whisk together till smooth, and lump free.

4) Sprinkle counter with flour, punch down dough,  and roll out to a large rectangle, till thickness is about 1/4 inch.

5) Melt 2 Tb butter and using a pastry brush, paint surface of dough.

6) Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar combination leaving a 1/4 inch border around the perimeter of the dough.

7) Roll dough into a tight log, starting with the long side.  Slice into 16 equal portions.

8) Grease a 9″ square pan and place buns, spiral side up, snugly into pan.

9) Allow to rise for about 2 hours.

10) Preheat oven and bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes, rotating after 1o minutes, till rich golden brown.

Make a fondant or cream cheese glaze of your choice.

Serve slightly warm.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

 

 

Oven-Roasted Herb Tomatoes

photo-2 copy 2It was the summer of 1972,  I was 16 years old and I was going to Israel for the first time. The trip was organized by Hadassah, six weeks long, we were to spend a week on kibbutz, a week on Gadna (pre-army training camp) at Sde Boker, and the remaining month touring.  After we arrived, we drove to Jerusalem and were taken to our residence, Beit Riklis on Mt Scopus.  There was a brief orientation after which we were sent to our rooms and told ” lights out.”   But we were 16 year olds, naïve and foolish, and it didn’t take long before we decided to sneak out.  We began walking down the road  but our adventure soon ended when a Volkswagen pulled over and the driver, a middle-aged man, asked who we were, what we were doing, and where we were going.  He yelled at us, and made us pile into the car so he could return us to the safety of the dorm.  That was the first, but not the last, time that we got into trouble that summer, a summer filled with adventure and new experiences, exactly as it should have been.

Of course, I remember the food as well, my first taste of Falafel, of ice-cold Choco, of perfectly diced Israeli salads made with ripe red tomatoes and crunchy cucumbers, the centerpiece of those incredibly lavish Israeli breakfasts (my normal breakfast of Frosted Flakes and milk was no match).

For weeks now, Israel is never far from our thoughts.  We worry, listen to the news on an hourly basis, and check in with family and friends who live there.  I spend time reminiscing, thinking about that summer, and the year that I later spent on Kibbutz Usha.  I think about how lucky I was to have those experiences, as were my husband and children during the time they spent in Israel.  I think about how different this summer is, and hope that very soon, Israeli teenagers will once again be living in peace, and American teenagers will once again be taking their first trips to Israel, getting into trouble, and having a summer filled with adventure and new experiences, exactly as it should be.

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Sde Boker 1972

 

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Oven-Roasted Herb Tomatoes

When I spent time with our family friends on Kfar Meishar, a Moshav outside of Gedera,  I was always amazed at how quickly delicious salads would appear on the table, with what appeared to be little effort.  With a surplus of tomatoes in the garden,  many of which I used for Israeli salad, I decided to roast some.  I sliced them, placed them in a glass dish (avoid using metal that could react with the tomatoes) sprinkled them with a small handful of chopped herbs, also from the garden ( I used sage, oregano, rosemary and tarragon),  added 6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced, a little sea salt and  drizzled Israeli olive oil over the top. They were a great addition to a breakfast of fried eggs, feta cheese and olives.

Bake at 325 for about 1 1/2 hours.

Enjoy,

Irene

Pan- Fried Trout

photo-2The family vacations we took with my parents were typically to parks in California.  Sequoia, Yosemite, Mammoth, Big Sur, Lake Tahoe.  They were simple vacations, all within driving distance.  There were eight of us, and we usually stayed in cabins inside the parks, ate in the park concessions, and spent our days hiking or going on ranger walks.

We just returned from a family trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, and though my parents are no longer alive, I thought of them often during this particular trip.  I knew how much my father would have enjoyed the wildlife, and I was sure that my excitement at seeing bison and bears would have paled in comparison to what his reaction might have been.  I thought of my mother and knew how much she would have loved being with us, to have had the opportunity to see her grandchildren all grown up,  and get to know her granddaughter-in-law.  I knew that they would have “kvelled” when their youngest grandson broke the family record of never having caught a fish, by catching a beautiful trout in Lake Yellowstone.  I was grateful for the memories I had of watching my mother prepare fish, so when I found myself suddenly faced with the task, I was able to stun, kill, gut, and scale the trout as my husband and kids looked on.  An hour later the trout was  presented to us on platters, graciously prepared by the chef at Lake Lodge.

We’ve been home for a week, but I am still thinking of our trip, and especially Yellowstone.  Instead of our typical Shabbat dinner, tonight we are having fish.  Trout, of course.

As one of the guides said to me, “Americans are always going somewhere else, but there is plenty of beauty in our own backyard.”  Amen and Happy 4th of July.  Shabbat Shalom.

Pan-Fried Trout 

The chef at Lake Lodge told me  she soaked the trout in milk for a few minutes, then lightly dredged it in flour, and seasoned to taste.  The only thing I changed is that I added some cornmeal to the flour mixture for extra crunch, and pan-fried the trout in my cast iron pan.

1  3-4 pound trout, boned and cut into fillets

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup flour and equal amount of cornmeal

1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp paprika

3 Tb butter

1 Tb olive oil

Soak trout in milk to cover for about 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry.  Combine flour and cornmeal and add seasonings.  Lightly dredge trout, then shake off excess coating.  Put butter in a cast iron pan along with olive oil.  Melt butter and place fillets in hot pan, skin side up, for about 5 minutes, depending on size.  Turn over and cook an extra five minutes, adding more butter if necessary.  Serve with lemon wedges, fresh corn and a cold beer.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Sara’s Muesli

photo-2Last week my mother-in-law Lillian Saiger passed away and the family sat Shiva in Toronto.  This time I was not the mourner, but the supporter, and watching from that perspective allowed me to see the beauty and choreography of Shiva.  As I sat with my husband, sisters-in-law, and Uncle Dave, I observed the sadness, loss, and the intensity of their mourning, but there were other aspects to this rich tradition.  Friends and family arrived to share stories of my mother-in-law, some even walked in carrying photos, others talked about her recipes.  People showed  their respect by coming by to wish their condolences, but their kindness was also demonstrated as they quietly dropped off a plate of their favorite dishes for the family to share, small gifts meant to console and sweeten the bitterness that the family was experiencing.   Plates of home-made poppy-seed cookies, a loaf of banana bread, a noodle-cheese kugel, Quiche, home-made cupcakes and red velvet cookies.  People provided meals, even from a distance, a salve to help heal the wounds.

I listened to stories of my mother-in-law from people who knew her from various stages of life, and learned all kinds of things that I didn’t know.   She wore bikinis, as a young woman she smoked, she invited my father-in-law on a date soon after they first met.  A South African friend shared that my mother-in-law was her mentor, and told me that when she first moved to Toronto, my mother-in-law took her under her wing and encouraged her to play bridge so that she would meet new people.  I met someone who told me that just after her husband passed away, Lil insisted that she join her for Shabbat dinner.  I watched my children, nieces and nephews come together as part of this choreography, with such grace and beauty, each one finding their unique way to help and support each other and their parents.

Were there any great surprises, not really.  I found out that there was an explanation for why my mother-in-law’s fricassee recipe looked darker and richer than my version. I was missing an ingredient.  During Shiva Lil’s niece Carol told me that when Lil gave her the recipe, she said to add a little grape jelly, grape juice, or even some Manishewitz.  I was so taken aback, how was it that I never knew this, but Carol reassured me that it wasn’t that Lil had intentionally left out an ingredient, but rather that the recipe changed over the years, a work in progress.

On the last morning the Cappe girls provided breakfast, the last meal before the mourners “got up” for the customary walk.  It was the final dance, and after the davening we sat down to a meal that Lil would have approved of, and enjoyed.

Sara’s Muesli

4 cups rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 cup toasted almonds (chopped or I used almond slivers)
1 cup of seeds (I used sunflower or pumpkin)
1/4 cup chia seeds (optional)
1.5 cups dried fruit (I used raisins and craisins)
1 cup light coconut milk
3 cups milk (I used almond milk)
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp maple syrup
Cinnamon (to taste)
1 package frozen blueberries

Toast the oats and coconut on unlined baking sheets at 325 for 5-7 min (take out before the coconut burns)
Toast the almonds on the stove until browned.
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir. Leave overnight and it’s ready to eat the next morning. Serve with yogurt, berries, more nuts or dried fruits. Sometimes in the morning I add in a bit more milk if it’s mostly absorbed.  NOTE: Enough for a crowd and as is customary to say in Toronto, auf simchas.

Enjoy!

Irene

Teriyaki Chicken

Photo taken by Micah

Photo taken by Micah

Years ago I was in Israel during Passover, and at the end of the chag  I was visiting my sister-in-law Fern in Bet Shemesh. On the last evening, after the chag was over, she took us to her neighbor’s home where I experienced my first Mimouna, a celebration that Moroccan Jews have at the end of the holiday.  Apparently it is a kind of open house, no invitations required, allowing friends and family to join together and break the week-long prohibition against leavened bread.  Sound familiar?  We do something very similar at the end of Yom Kippur,  but unfortunately we end Passover in a very different way.  We typically rush out for pizza or pasta or any carb laden meal, all of which is very unsatisfying.   What a sad way to say goodbye to a holiday that we have devoted so much time to,  and then leave so eagerly.   I loved being at that Mimouna,  just like I love going to our friend Fredda to break the fast after Yom Kippur.  There is a lot to be said for after-parties, everyone is relaxed and is anybody really ready to say goodbye?

I propose that we adopt a similar ritual to Mimouna, but instead of Moroccan sweets and mufleta, (a flat bread served warm with honey) we end Passover with a post-chag BBQ.  Corn, hot dogs, hamburgers, fresh buns, and my new favorite, Teriyaki Chicken.  Any takers?

Teriyaki Chicken

2-3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs ( i do not recommend breasts)

Marinade

1/2 cup mirin

1/2 cup soy sauce

One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

Combine mirin, soy sauce, and ginger in a large freezer bag.  Add the chicken thighs, force the air from the bag and seal.  Make sure the marinade covers all the chicken and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, flipping it over a few times so both sides get marinated.   Drain the chicken and reserve marinade in a small pan.  Bring marinade to a boil, reduce heat, and cook for a few minutes.

Grill chicken over a high heat, or pan fry (put a tablespoon or two of canola oil in the pan and heat) in a cast-iron skillet, for about 3 minutes on each side, then cover, lower grill or flame, and cook for about 15 minutes total.  Brush with marinade as needed.  Do NOT overcook!   Slice in 2 inch strips.   Serves 4-6.

Note: I served this plain, but they would be delicious in a brown rice bowl with steamed veggies, or in a sandwich!  Reduce soy sauce if you prefer less salt, or add sugar if you like a sweeter teriyaki.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Asparagus in Bell Pepper Coulis

IMG_1413Sitting in my backyard for hours on Shabbat morning is one of my greatest pleasures.  I usually have a magazine or book in my hand, cookbooks and crossword puzzles stacked next to me on the table, and a hot cup of French Press.  But when Spring arrives, it’s hard to sit still and I find myself getting up and down from my chair to look at something in the garden more closely.  A rose on the bush that one week ago was practically bare.  The first apple on a tree given to me on Mother’s Day by my friends Michael and Jenny, just two years ago.  The tulip that came up from the bulbs given to me a few months ago by Elin, after her first trip to the Netherlands.  I look at the blood orange tree and see that it’s covered in hundreds of fragrant tiny white flowers.  I wait to get a glimpse of the hummingbird that visits every Shabbat morning and watch it draw nectar at the same time that I drink my coffee.  I always smile and wonder who is watching who.  Eventually I return to my book but yesterday my mind wandered to Pesach and vegetables, not the muted color of winter vegetables, but vegetables whose colors will remind me of my garden and the beauty of Spring.

 

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photo-2Asparagus in Bell Pepper Coulis

Depending on the size of the asparagus, blanch to desired tenderness.  My asparagus were very thin so I just cooked them for about 3 minutes in rapidly boiling salted water and then plunged them into a sink filled with ice water to stop the cooking and set the color.

1 orange bell pepper and 1 yellow bell pepper  (red would be beautiful!)

3 cloves garlic

salt

2 Tb olive oil

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Peel the skin of the bell peppers and place them in a pot with garlic cloves and a pinch of salt.  Cover with water, bring to a boil and cook for about 15 -20 minutes.  Drain and allow to cool so they can be handled.  Open up the peppers and remove seeds and stem.  Place one pepper in a food processor with a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and one tablespoon of olive oil.  Puree and place in a bowl.  Repeat with the other pepper.  Take a large serving place and spoon yellow pepper coulis on one side of plate and orange pepper coulis on the other.  Lay asparagus across the top and drizzle with a little more olive oil.

Enjoy,

Irene

Cottage Cheese Chremslach (Passover)

IMG_0377We use to have really good home-cooked breakfasts when our children were little.  Norm would spend every Sunday morning in the kitchen, trying to please everyone by preparing pancakes, eggs, hash browns, and French Toast.  Despite the complaints, especially if the yolk of the fried egg broke, we knew how much the children enjoyed not only the variety, but the feeling of being in the kitchen, eating as much as they could possibly want, and not having to hurry off to school.

It’s not just the food that I miss, it’s the ritual of waking up in the morning to the smell of something cooking.  Breakfast foods have their own special smells, eggs frying in butter, potatoes and onions simmering in oil, bread that has been perfectly toasted, and of course,  freshly brewed coffee.  It all tastes better when the amount of time you can devote to enjoying the meal equals the amount of time spent on its preparation.  These days, even our Sunday mornings have become so busy, there no longer seems to be enough time to sit around and enjoy a leisurely breakfast.  But Pesach is different.

Since I only make certain dishes during Passover, and try to make those that have been passed down from family members, it seems that the recipes themselves have taken on a life of their own.  Each one is a little reminder of a story, a person, a time or a place.  What would breakfast during Passover be without making Matzoh Brie, a bubbelah, or the cottage cheese pancakes that my mother-in-law Lil used to make.  Whenever I make them, I think of Passover on Chiltern Hill Road in Toronto, and breakfast in Lil’s kitchen.  Norm said his Mom took pride in the fact that she made ” a sponge cake a day” something I have never been able to duplicate.  I don’t remember the sponge cakes, but I do remember the delicious cottage cheese pancakes.  Serve them with fresh berries or a little jam, some coffee, and a side order of time.

Cottage Cheese Chremslach

1 cup cottage cheese (try to get a brand that isn’t too runny)

3 eggs

1 Tb sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup matzoh meal

dash of salt

Butter/oil for frying

Mix all the ingredients and let stand for about 5 minutes.  Batter should hold together and depending on size of eggs, add a little more matzoh meal.  Then pour a couple of tablespoons of oil into a frying pan along with an equal amount of butter.   Using a large spoon, drop the batter into the pan to make small pancakes.  Fry till golden and then flip over.  Makes about 12.

Enjoy,

Irene