Blueberry Buns

Blueberries are my favorite summer fruit.  I love the color, texture, the little crown at the top of the berry, and the memories that I associate with this small delicate fruit that was plentiful on the East Coast.  As a child I picked berries in Lakewood, New Jersey and watched my Tante Marisha and mother prepare blueberry buns that we would eat straight from the oven, the warm berries oozing out with the first bite.  At The Rendezvous, a corner store in The Bronx, I always ordered fresh blueberry ice cream in the summer.  It had a particular fragrance that I had completely forgotten until this past year when a facial cream brought back this incredibly familiar smell, it was the smell of fresh blueberry ice cream.

Other memories include reading Blueberries for Sal to my children, a family favorite, and listening to Blueberry Pie by Bette Midler.

Life is peachy, let’s go bananas,
no one will care!
Blueberry Pie, let’s have fun,
’cause when all is said and done
I love you, yes I do,
’cause, Blueberry, you’re true blue.

There was a trip to Maine when the kids were little and we picked berries on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.  Summer trips to Toronto where blueberry buns were a local specialty of European Jewish bakeries.  I remember my cousin Rose serving a delicious blueberry cake and I have a favorite peach and blueberry cobbler recipe that I make each summer.  Blueberry buns, or  yagda bilkelach, which is what they are called in Yiddish, are from an era when you could go out and pick your berries, bring them home and spend the day making something special for your family to eat.  Summer days should be like that.  Try them.

Make your favorite challah recipe or use the one I give on an older post.

Voila!

Blueberry Buns ( The photo is of my husband’s Toronto version, folded on the side but I prefer them pinched on the top)

Filling

2 cups blueberries

1/2 cup sugar

Mix blueberries and sugar and let stand for about 5 minutes.

Divide dough into 8 equal portions.  Roll dough on floured board into circles 1/8 inch in thickness.  Place one tablespoon of filling in center and bring sides of dough to the top and pinch closed.  Brush with egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water.  Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Makes 8 buns.

Enjoy,

Irene

Shakshuka


My parents, Miriam and Harry Graf, were both originally from small towns near Warsaw, Poland, from families who were religious Zionists.  In my father’s hometown of Warka, he and his brothers were active in the Revisionist movement in the 1930s. My mother’s older brother had tickets on a liner to Palestine but the war broke out and he was never able to leave.  After having survived the war, my parents created a home where Israel dominated every topic of conversation.  Their passion and devotion to Israel was contagious and they imparted their love to their daughters and grandchildren.

Last night we were going to a Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebration sponsored by the Israeli Consulate.  Not having much time to prepare dinner and wanting to serve something “Israeli” I made shakshuka.  I don’t remember where I first tasted this dish, but shakshuka is a great way to prepare eggs.

Shakshuka

2 tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, sliced

1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

6 eggs

salt and pepper to taste

Saute garlic and jalapeno in olive oil for a minute or two. Add crushed tomatoes, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper and cook for about five minutes over low heat. Gently crack eggs into simmering sauce, cover and cook for ten minutes till eggs set.

Serves 3

Enjoy,

Irene

Freekeh

My son Micah returned from Israel this morning after spending the past six months in Tel Aviv.  Of course I had to welcome him with a home-cooked meal.  I made turkey meatloaf (a variation of Ina Garten’s recipe), a green salad with avocado and honey vinaigrette, schnitzle (to ease the transition from Israel to L.A.) and freekeh, a grain that I had purchased at the Williamsburg farmers’  market during my trip to NYC in February.

Freekeh is green wheat, mainly eaten in the Middle East.  The wheat is harvested, sun-dried and then set on fire on top of a bed of straw. Higher in protein and fiber than many other grains, freekeh is in vogue.  I had no idea.

I decided to prepare it in the same way that mujadara is prepared, with lentils and fried onions.  The freekeh has an earthy, smoky quality and is similar in texture to bulgur, another hearty grain that I love.

Freekeh

1 cup brown lentils

1 cup freekeh

2 large brown onions

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


Rinse and place lentils in a medium saucepan, add water to cover by an inch, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.  Drain the lentils and set aside.

Dice onions and saute in olive oil over low heat until they are deep golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.  Most of the flavor comes from the caramelized onions so be patient.

Bring 1 cup freekeh to a boil with 2 cups water.  Lower heat, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes.  Remember this grain remains chewy.

Gently mix freekeh with lentils.  Add caramelized onions and season to taste. Serves 4-6

Note: Last night I baked the freekeh/lentil dish in a 300 degree oven, covered, for about 45 minutes. Not only did it give the flavors a chance to blend but the texture was perfect! I would definitely add this step to the recipe.

Enjoy,

Irene

Tabit (Iraqi Chicken and Rice)

It is Sunday morning and Norm is making bagels in the kitchen and my daughter Shira is on her way to the Bronx Zoo, both part of the Sunday rituals that I grew up with. Plus it is my sister’s birthday. Happy Birthday Anita!

Last week I went to synagogue to say Yizkor, the prayer service for the departed, and afterwards heard a sermon about a poem written by the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai.  The poem was about faith, God, and the Jewish experience, and the rabbi who delivered the sermon referred to the contents of the poem as “a stew of memories.”  I have been thinking of that sentence ever since.  Naama, my supervisor, once told me that she can remember every outfit she wore from the time she was a child. I cannot say that I remember every meal but I can say that, for me, food evokes memories.  The Bronx of the 1950s and 1960s was truly a melting pot.  You could walk down the Grand Concourse and stop and have a kosher hot dog at the deli owned by two brothers from Poland, pizza from Mario’s, Italian ices from a cart on the street, and the two foods that we considered very American, lemon meringue pie from Sutter’s Bakery and ice cream at Krum’s. The apartment building we lived in was filled with people who spoke foreign languages, had heavy accents in English, and cooked the way they had in their homeland. We lived on the 4th floor and there was no elevator. I remember walking down each flight of stairs and registering the smells that would permeate those halls. People did not have much to share, so they sat around and shared their food and their recipes. My mother learned how to make Fanny’s recipe for tzimmis, Esther’s recipe for sweet potatoes, Ruth’s recipe for pineapple kugel, and Suralayeh’s recipe for baked spaghetti.  As children, my sister and I sometimes complained because we preferred my mothers own recipes and were resistant to change.  I didn’t understand why she would try new dishes when we were perfectly happy with the dishes that we knew and loved.  As an adult and a mom I finally understand.  She had lost her entire family in the war and this was my mother’s way of building new relationships, a way to find a common bond and draw others into her life so that she could create a “stew of memories” for my sister and me.  What a wonderful legacy.

Here is a “stew” that I learned how to make from an Iraqi Jewish family that I met many years ago in Los Angeles.  Place tabit in the oven before Shabbat begins on Friday evening and serve for lunch, a Sephardic alternative to cholent.

Tabit

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 chicken cut into eighths

3 cups water

1 1/2  tsps salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp paprika

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 large tomato, diced

2 cups rice, rinsed several times

1 can garbanzo beans

Saute onion in oil till golden.  Add chicken and brown.  Then add freshly diced tomato and sauté for several minutes.  Place rice around chicken and add water, salt, pepper, paprika, garbanzo beans, and tomato paste.  Stir gently.  Bring to a boil, cover and lower heat and cook for abut 15 minutes.  Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place Tabit in oven overnight.

Enjoy,

Irene

Note: If you are interested in seeing some old photos of the Bronx and the Grand Concourse go to http://www.nostalgictimewarp.com/bronx.html

Stuffed Cabbage

Gefilte Kraut, Gelupsie, Holishskes, Stuffed Cabbage. This is not fast food, in fact I think making stuffed cabbage requires a kind of Zen approach to cooking.  I started making the rolls at 8:00 a.m. on Monday morning.  The cabbage has to be cooked and cooled and the meat mixture prepared.  I carefully peeled the cabbage leaves and placed them on dish towels that covered the breakfast room table to be sure that I had enough filling for each leaf. The stuffed cabbage rolls simmered on the stove top for an hour and then in the oven for several more hours until they were golden and tender.  My mother always served them over mashed potatoes with the cabbage perched on top and some of the juices poured over the dish.  For me the appeal of this dish is that you cannot rush the preparation, there are no shortcuts.  So when you want to make something warm and filling and are in the mood to spend some time in the kitchen, try making some gelupsie for your family.

Stuffed Cabbage

1 head cabbage, cored

Filling

1 lb. ground turkey OR 1 lb. ground beef

1 large brown onion, diced

2 eggs

2 Tbs ketchup

salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup cooked quinoa (this is instead of rice and I found that the meat mixture was more tender)

Sauce

1 large brown onion, diced

2 Tbs oil

leftover parts of cabbage

1 lemon, juiced

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup ketchup

2 cups water

2 large carrots, sliced

salt and pepper to taste

Boil cored cabbage in large pot till  leaves are very tender.  Allow to cool and gently separate leaves and lay on work surface. Prepare meat mixture and place a heaping tablespoon of meat in center of each leaf.  Fold by pulling bottom of leaf up over meat, then fold sides in and roll up.  Repeat with all the leaves.

Place diced onion and any bits of unused cabbage in large pot.  Place stuffed cabbage rolls, seam down, close together in pot. Add sauce, sliced carrots, cover and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for one hour.  Then place in 300 degree oven for an additional 1 1/2 hours, covered.  Uncover and bake an 30 extra minutes to brown. Serves 4-6

Enjoy,

Irene

Chopped Liver

Nobody eats real chopped liver anymore but it is yontif and my son David is in town and this is one of his favorites.   I have had versions made with lentils, green beans (my personal preference), mushrooms and eggplants usually  blended with walnuts, hard-boiled eggs, and onions and  although they are delicious they just aren’t the same.  The trick to good chopped liver is patience.  The onions need to caramelize for about 30 minutes over a low flame.  If the color of the onions isn’t a deep golden brown, you won’t achieve that flavor that takes chopped liver to a whole different level.  This is the way my mother made it and today I used her wooden bowl and hackmesser (chopping knife) to make it.

Chag Sameach!

Manya’s Chopped Liver

1 pound chicken livers

5 hard-boiled eggs

4 large brown onions

1/2 cup vegetable oil

dash of salt

Broil the livers for about 5 minutes, turning once or twice.  Remove and cool.  Dice onions and saute in oil over a low flame till they are a deep golden brown.  Place all ingredients in wooden bowl and chop till fine or you can do this in the food processor on the pulse cycle but DO NOT over blend.

Enjoy,

Irene