Caramel Apple Tart

I attended a day camp called Funland during one summer, or maybe even part of a summer.  Most summers were spent in the “mountains” at a bungalow colony in upstate New York.  Typically these colonies were filled with Jewish women and children who were escaping the city’s heat and humidity.  We passed the time by playing: the women played cards and the kids played with each other.  We were always at the club house or at the pool, sitting in a garden glider (porch swing) or catching lightning bugs. Me, my cousin Mel, our friend Roz and her cousin.  Not much else was going on and we didn’t seem to mind.

My husband had a similar experience outside of Toronto (of course substituting the lakes for the mountains) at Lake Simcoe and Chrystal Beach on Lake Erie. Long lazy days on the shore.  He too never attended sleep away camp until he was old enough to be a counselor.  He then spent many summers on staff at a Young Judea Camp in Ontario and, then, one summer at Camp Ramah in Canada. The seed was planted.

In 1994 our daughter went to Camp Ramah www.ramah.org in Ojai for the first time.  I am not sure if she loved the camp as much as we loved having her be a part of Ramah.  We loved the site, Ojai, the campgrounds, the staff, the kids, and visitors day.  Our own memories receded as we saw the rich and rewarding experiences that Ramah offered. Well, among our three children, at least one has either been attending or working at Camp Ramah for over 15 years.  There is a specific place where we sat each year on Visitor’s Day, (up on the hill in front of the chapel) catching up with our family, friends and our children’s friends. We will miss it this year (none of our children will be there) but we still feel very connected to all that Ramah stands for. Our hope is that our children feel the same way.

I recently found out that Zach L., Camp Director and one of my favorite people, is an amazing cook and once a week prepares a meal for his hanhalla (senior) staff. Here is one of his recipes.

Caramel Apple Tart

Crust

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1/4 tsp coarse kosher salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut in small pieces

2 large egg yolks

Blend flour, powdered sugar, and salt in food processor.  Add butter and blend until texture is of coarse meal. Add egg yolks. Pulse till dough starts to form.  Gather dough and shape into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap and chill at least 1 hour. (Dough for tart crust can be made 1 day ahead and kept chilled.)

Caramel sauce

¾ cup (packed) dark brown sugar

¾ cup whipping cream

3 tbsp unsalted butter

Bring sugar, cream, and butter to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking constantly until sugar dissolves. Boil until caramel thickens enough to coat wooden spoon, whisking often, about 10 minutes. (Caramel sauce can be made 5 days ahead. Cover and chill. (Whisk over low heat until warm before using)

Filling

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

5-6 large McIntosh or Golden Delicious apples (about 2 ½ pounds), peeled, cored and quartered.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl and mix. Add apples and toss until evenly coated.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray tart pan with baking spray.

NOTE : You can either

1) Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Cut overhang even with the top of pan. Press sides of dough to bring 1/4 inch above sides of pan.

OR

2) Take refrigerated dough and press it in the pan.

Arrange apple quarters, cut side down, in circle around outer edge of pan, fitting snugly. Cut remaining apple quarters lengthwise in half and place in center of tart, fitting snugly.  Drizzle with 1/3 sauce.  Bake tart until apples are tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove tart from oven; brush with additional 1/3 caramel sauce. Cool tart to room temperature. Re-warm remaining caramel sauce and drizzle tart lightly with remaining 1/3 sauce.

Adapted by: Zachary L.

Enjoy,

Irene

Baladi Eggplant

My youngest son, Micah, just moved into a Moishe House in Los Angeles and Norm and I were thrilled to be invited for Shabbat dinner.  It was potluck and I decided to bring an appetizer, main course, and dessert.  I had just purchased three eggplants and Micah suggested that I make them Baladi style, a dish he ate in Israel.  Having never heard of it, I did a little bit of research and decided it was worth trying.  I can’t say how authentic this version is, but it was easy to make and delicious.  The eggplant was soft, with a great smoky flavor, and the addition of Tehina gave a creamy texture to the dish.

It is a perfect appetizer for a Memorial Day BBQ.

We wish the newest residents of the Los Angeles Moishe House great success!!

Baladi Eggplant

2 Eggplants

1/4 cup Tehina

1 lemon

3 cloves garlic

Wrap whole eggplants in foil and grill for about 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Eggplant will collapse when tender.

Cool and drain off any liquid that has collected at the bottom of the eggplant.  Slit eggplants down the center with a sharp knife and spread open. Rake pulp with a fork to separate from skin.

Mix Tehina with minced garlic and lemon juice to taste.  Thin with a little bit of water if needed.  Drizzle over eggplants and serve with pita.

Serves 6-8 as an appetizer.

Enjoy,

Irene


Blintzes

I was 16 years old, it was my first trip away from home, and I was going abroad.  Although my parents had never been to Israel, they decided to send me on a summer program.  I was nervous and excited and had no idea what to expect.  I didn’t know anybody else in my group but I was confident that I was going to a place where I would feel comfortable.  My mother had two friends that she had known in Poland before the war but had not seen since 1945. Manya and Sonia both lived with their families on a moshav outside of Gedera called Meishar.  My mother asked me to go see them, she said they were like family.  I had to hitchhike into the moshav, another first, and when I was dropped off at Manya’s home, (same name as my mother) she looked at me as if she were looking at my mother, with recognition in her eyes.  Manya K. and Sonia U. were neighbors and their homes were  no more than 100 feet apart.  On that first of many visits they opened their homes and hearts to me. They fussed over me and told me stories and cooked and cooked and cooked.  I literally went back and forth between their homes all day long, each one beckoning for me to come over and have something to eat. Sonia U. would make blintzes for Aruchat Arba, afternoon tea, in such an effortless way that it made an impression on me that lasted till today.  It was hospitality at its best. Warm, inviting, and gracious.

Both women have passed away but their families are still on the Moshav,  and I still see Aaron and Rosie and their children whenever I go to Israel. We sit and tell stories and cook and eat.  They are like family.




Blintzes

Bletlech (Leaves)

3 eggs

1 3/4 cups milk

2 tbsp sour cream

pinch salt

1 cup flour

Beat eggs and add milk and sour cream. Slowly whisk in flour and pinch of salt and beat till batter is smooth.

Filling

1 lb. farmer’s cheese ( I prefer Friendship brand)

8 oz. small curd cottage cheese

1 tbsp sour cream

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg yolk (gives filling a buttery color)

dash cinnamon and salt

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Heat an 8″ omelette pan and grease with vegetable oil. (I like to put the oil on a paper towel which I use to grease the pan in between making each leaf) Heat pan and add slightly less than 1/4 cup batter, swirling pan so that  batter covers the bottom.  Fry for about 2 minutes or till there are bubbles forming and batter looks dry.  Turn leaf onto plate. Continue until batter is finished, stacking leaves. This should yield 15 leaves.

Spread leaves on dish towels and evenly divide filling among them. Fold and lightly saute blintzes in butter.

Enjoy,

Irene

Spring Salads

I am not sure when salads graduated from their humble beginnings to the gourmet status they have today, but I no longer dread eating them.  Growing up in the Bronx of the 1950s, salads were tolerated and eaten because iceberg lettuce filled the need for a vegetable.  No one worried about carbon footprints because there were no tomatoes from Mexico or peppers from Israel to purchase.  The produce that was available was limited and seasonal.

Today’s salads defy their dictionary definition, ” raw greens often combined with other vegetables and served with a dressing.” The combinations of ingredients are only limited by our imagination.  For example the salad I had for lunch today used shredded iceberg lettuce but it was tossed with raw corn, garbanzo beans, chunks of avocado, thin strips of fried tortillas and a lemony cilantro dressing. Yum!

Here are three very different type of salads that I hope you will try, and enjoy.

My mother used to serve a very simple salad of crisp cucumbers, ripe beefsteak tomatoes, mild white onions and hard-boiled eggs, all thinly sliced and tossed together with lemon juice, a bit of oil, salt, and crushed black pepper. Once the salad was mixed, the egg yolks would blend with the lemon juice and oil, creating a yellow hued dressing that was tart and refreshing.  After we finished eating the salad, my sister and I would take fresh rye bread and soak up the remaining dressing from the bottom of the bowl. That’s how good it was.

Tomato Salad

3 large ripe tomatoes

5 Persian cucumbers

5 hard-boiled eggs

1 white onion

2 lemons, juiced

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Thinly slice all ingredients, toss with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and serve cold.

Serves 4 as a side dish.

Wanda P. shared this recipe for her Thai Curry Coleslaw a while ago but I finally had the opportunity to make it.  The salad was bursting with flavor, color, and texture  (like Wanda) and would be a perfect side with grilled fish or chicken. This is an edited and slightly altered version of the recipe, so to get the original version and to read Wanda’s tips look on  The Rendezvous.

Note: Norm is allergic to carrots so I used purple cabbage as a substitute.


Thai Curry Coleslaw

1 bunch cilantro

1 bunch mint

1 bunch basil

Remove stems and place herbs in food processor, coarsely chop, and empty into large mixing bowl.

1 large green cabbage

6-7 good size fresh organic carrots

Shred carrots and cabbage in processor and add to bowl.

1 1/2 cups whole Spanish peanuts or cashews, added to bowl.

DRESSING

In processor blend:

3/4  cup olive oil

1/2 cup Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

1/2  cup fresh-squeezed organic lemon juice

4-5 cloves minced garlic

1″ minced fresh ginger

1/2  cup Nama Shoyu* (raw soy sauce)

1/2  cup  raw organic agave nectar

1 tsp chili powder

2 heaping tablespoons curry powder

Thoroughly blend above ingredients until emulsified and dress salad.

Garnish with basil or mint leaves.

A couple of weeks ago a few of us took a cooking class and the cookbook author used Pomegranate Molasses in one of her recipes.  I had bought a bottle several months ago at a Persian Market but after the class I finally used it in a vinaigrette.


Spring Salad with Pomegranate Dressing

1 lb. assorted baby lettuces

1 avocado, diced

1 can hearts of palm, sliced

1 –  11 oz. can mandarin oranges

1 tbsp black sesame seeds

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds, lightly toasted

Wash lettuce and place in bowl with diced avocado, sliced hearts of palm, black sesame seeds, slivered almonds, mandarin oranges and dress.

Dressing

4 tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar

2 tbsp. Pomegranate Molasses

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

serves 4

Enjoy,

Irene

Rena’s Cheesecake

Shavuot is approaching and the tradition is to serve dairy meals, stemming from a description of Israel as “a land flowing with milk and honey.” What a wonderful opportunity to create meals with ingredients that I love.  Sweet butter, heavy cream, farmer cheese, cream cheese and sour cream will be transformed into vichyssoise, blintzes, cheesecake, and one of my childhood favorites, warm broad egg noodles tossed with butter, farmer cheese, cinnamon, and sugar.  Sweet and comforting.

Of course the quintessential dessert for Shavuot seems to be cheesecake and my friend Rena H. is the local Cheesecake Queen. She has been making this recipe for years, and although she has recently “lightened” it up, I prefer the original. Growing up, my son David always anticipated having Rena’s cheesecake during the holidays, as did we all.  I recently asked Rena to share this recipe and she told me it was originally adapted from a recipe by Dinah Shore!  Who knew!
On Wednesday Rena brought over this delicious cheesecake, made with the original recipe.
Here is the original recipe.

Rena’s Cheesecake

Crust:

1 and  3/4 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 stick melted butter

Mix all ingredients together setting aside 3 tbsp for topping.  Press remaining mixture into bottom of 9″ spring-form pan.

Filling

3 eggs

2-8 oz. packages cream cheese (Rena uses Philadelphia brand)

1 cup sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups sour cream

Combine eggs with cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Blend in sour cream. Pour on top of crust and top with reserved crumb mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for one hour. Chill for 4-5 hours or overnight.

Serves 12

Enjoy,

Irene




Schav Borscht (Sorrel Soup)

Mother’s Day may feel like a Hallmark holiday but it does force us to stop whatever we are doing for a minute, an hour, or a day, and think about our mothers or our role as mothers.  My mother was a petite, olive-skinned woman with medium brown hair and the deepest set blue-grey eyes I have ever seen.  Those eyes had seen the best and the worst of humanity but in the end my mother chose life and all that it had to offer.  Nothing was more important to her than her family, her daughters, and especially her grandchildren.  She would kvell at their every achievement, smile when they smiled, and if they experienced a moment of sadness or pain, you could see the sadness reflected in those deep blue-grey eyes.  She was the embodiment of a yiddishe mamma.

As mothers, we all know that motherhood is much like a roller coaster ride, thrilling and frightening at the same time.  On this mother’s day I want to thank my husband Norm and my children, Shira, David and Micah for giving me the opportunity to experience the ride. Nothing could be better.

Michael Yanow, a friend and colleague, took this generational photograph of  his grandmother sitting at her vanity.
http://www.storiestoldbythecamera.com/?p=589

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!

Here is one of my Mom’s favorite cold soups.

Sorrel growing in my garden

Schav Borscht

1 lb. schav (sorrel leaves)

6 cups water

1 lemon, juiced

1 tsp salt

2 egg yolks

1/2  cup sour cream

Wash the sorrel well, removing the tough stems and chopping the leaves coarsely.

Bring the water to a boil, add sorrel, lower heat and cook for about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add salt. Slowly add lemon juice until the desired tartness is achieved.

In a small bowl beat the egg yolks well. Add a few tablespoons of the soup to the yolks and then stir yolks back into remaining soup. (Delete yolks if you are worried about egg related illnesses)

Whisk in 1/2 cup sour cream.

Chill and serve in a tall glass along with a bowl of hot buttered mashed potatoes.

Note: I wrote my post before I read this article but had to share the coincidence.  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/05/dining

Enjoy,

Irene

Roasted Artichokes

What a glorious week it has been in Los Angeles!  The sun is shining, the sky is a beautiful shade of blue, the wind is blowing and you can see the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains in the distance.  It feels like Spring, even in Southern California.

I have been taking walks during lunch and often stop at Joan’s on Third (one of my favorite places to eat and shop)  where I pick up half a grilled artichoke, a perfect spring vegetable.  They are full, luscious, multi-layered, delicate and incredibly versatile.  Last week we had dinner with our friends and Steve made a wonderful puree of artichoke soup.  I may be able to get him to share the recipe!

Eating artichokes, unlike any other vegetable, requires patience.  Peeling one leaf at a time, dipping it into your favorite sauce and savoring each small edible part of the petal, you are then rewarded with the heart.  My sons would fight over the heart, and I always understood why.

My mother always boiled her artichokes and served them with vinaigrette.  I now prefer this two-step process.

Roasted Artichokes

4 large globe artichokes

Wash artichokes and trim each leaf, cutting off the sharp tips as well as the stem. Place in a basin of water with a sliced lemon. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add artichokes and cook for about  30- 40 minutes or until leaves can be pulled off fairly easily.  Remove and turn artichokes upside down so water drains out.  Allow to cool.

Cut the artichokes in half and using a small paring knife, remove fuzzy choke and any purple tipped petals.

Combine 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar with 4 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and spread on rimmed cookie sheet.  Place cut side of artichokes on top of vinaigrette and press down, slightly flattening artichoke.  Roast at 475 degrees for about 30 minutes or until artichokes are slightly charred.  You can also grill them if you prefer.

My two favorite dipping sauces.

Honey Balsamic Dip

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste.

Garlic-Basil Mayonnaise

1 cup mayonnaise mixed with 2 large minced cloves of garlic and 2 large basil leaves. Salt and pepper to taste. Blend in food processor.

Enjoy,

Irene