Lemon Chicken

Three of us share one office.  Granted it is an executive space, with large  floor to ceiling windows and a great view of the city.  Still, the day I learned that two of my colleagues and I would have to reconfigure this space to accommodate all of us, I was filled with trepidation.  Our jobs (caseworkers) require spending a fair part of the day on the phone, helping parents or volunteers deal with whatever issues they may be grappling with.  How was this ever going to work?

It took a willingness to compromise and talk things over,  but two years later, we are more than just colleagues.  Our different approaches and personalities could have been an obstacle, but it turned out to be our strength.  We support and encourage each other when we need it, we confer with each other when faced with challenging situations, we laugh, one of us cries, and two of us cry from laughter.  We talk about our families, pets, books, movies, vacations, work, and, of course, food.

Barbie’s dad owned the famous Nibblers Restaurant and shares her wonderful memories of growing up there.  A creative cook, Barbie often describes the concoction she had prepared the night before, using whatever she had in the kitchen.  Susan, not so much a foodie, has some dishes that she has perfected and relies on, like Mac N’ Cheese, Butter Tarts and Lemon Chicken.

Some would find our situation impossible.  We spend more time together than we do with anybody else, eight hours a day, five days a week, in close quarters.  There is no privacy, sort of like three children sharing a bedroom, but I must admit, I never really liked having my own room.

Susan’s Lemon Chicken

2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts  (I used strips)

flour for dredging

6 Tbs olive oil

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup white wine

2 cloves minced garlic

juice of 1 1/2 lemons

salt and pepper to taste

Lightly dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess.  Using a frying pan, brown chicken in olive oil and remove from pan, placing in a Pyrex dish.  Add garlic, broth and wine to frying pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add lemon juice, salt and pepper and pour mixture over chicken. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Enjoy,

Irene

Bean and Barley Soup

Although I have been able to re-create some of my mother’s recipes, recently it occurred to me that there are many more that I won’t ever be able to replicate.  Never having owned a cookbook, my mother cooked and baked by taste and by feel.  Here is a list of things she prepared that I wish I had paid attention to: raspberry cordial, butter cookies (that were hard as rocks but perfect for dipping into a cup of hot coffee), a yeast based cake that she called a pitah (butter) babka, potato dumplings made with raw grated potatoes squeezed dry in a dish towel and boiled, and all of those delicious homemade noodles of every size and shape.

Mollie, my girlfriend’s mother, recently commented on a post, “I wish I had the recipes for all the wonderful foods my Mom made, she never wrote anything down and I married young and was not interested at that time of cooking Jewish foods -my very bad.” So, here is my suggestion to each of you.  Call your mom or your grandmother, ask her for your favorite recipes (don’t forget to get the stories behind them) and write them down.  To the grandmas, bubbies, nanas, savtas and savties, why not do the same.  And if anyone has a recipe for raspberry cordial, please share!

Bean and Barley Soup

1 large brown onion, diced

2 stalks celery including leaves, chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped

2 Bay leaves

8 cups beef or chicken stock

1/2 cup barley

1/2 cup assorted beans, soaked overnight and drained

salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in olive oil till soft.  Add garlic, celery (including leaves) and parsley, sautéing for several minutes after adding each ingredient.  Add stock, beans and barley and two bay leaves. Bring soup to a boil, lower to a simmer and cover.  After two hours of cooking, season with salt and pepper and remove bay leaves. Check to see if beans are tender before serving.  Soup should be thick and peppery!

Enjoy,

Irene

Moussaka

My mother would hang the wet laundry on clothes lines that were strung across the rooftop of our building.  She carried it up the stairs in a laundry basket with her wooden clothespins resting on top.  On her way up she would pass the apartment of an Italian family with a daughter named Rosemary, who was a friend of mine.  Her grandmother, Rose, lived next door to them, and sometimes my mother would stop in to see her and share a small glass of wine.  Rose spoke very little English so I have no idea how she and my mother communicated but it didn’t seem to matter.  With people living in such close proximity language barriers didn’t stand in the way of relationships.

This past week we were invited to friends for Shabbat dinner and I was seated next to a lovely woman in her eighties.  Intrigued by her accent, I asked about her background.  We spent the next three hours talking, and during that time I learned a lot about her life.  An Egyptian Jew, she spoke of her experiences in Israel and the struggles of  Sephardic immigrants in a country governed by Ashkenazim.  She spoke of her husband and children and the ups and downs one has during a lifetime.  Throughout her story, she kept stating that no matter what challenges you are dealt in life, “somehow you adjust.”  As I stood up to leave, she took both of my hands in hers and asked me to please come and visit her.  On our way home, I told Norm all about this woman and then I realized that we never even learned each other’s names.

That interaction made me wonder about my mother and Rose, who I am sure learned less about each other’s lives in the thirteen years that they were neighbors than this woman revealed in the three hours we spent together.  It made me think of friendships and how we define them.  The glass of wine that Rose and my mother shared, was no less significant for them than friendships based on a more intimate knowledge of each other’s lives.  Sometimes, a glass of wine or a dish of Moussaka is enough.

This is the recipe for the Moussaka that we all shared on Shabbat.

Moussaka

4 globe eggplants

olive oil

4 onions, diced

2 pounds ground chicken or turkey

1 tsp each of ginger, turmeric, cumin and paprika

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 14 oz. can of tomato sauce

1 small can of tomato paste

1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped

6 eggs, beaten

Drizzle about 3 Tbs  of olive oil on a cookie sheet and pre-heat sheet in a 350 degree oven. Peel and slice eggplant,  1/2″  thick, sprinkle with salt, and bake in a single layer on cookie sheet till soft. Turn eggplant slices over and bake other side.  (you can fry the eggplant if you prefer but this is a much lighter version)  Heat 3 Tbs olive oil in a large heavy pot and add 4 finely diced onions. Saute till golden. Add ground chicken, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cumin, paprika, and salt and pepper.  With a wooden spoon, continue breaking up ground chicken till seasonings are incorporated and meat is lightly browned.  Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, and cilantro to chicken mixture and cook for about 20 minutes over a low flame, stirring frequently.

Grease a 9 x 13 dish and cover the bottom of the dish with half the meat sauce and add a layer of eggplant. Repeat this so that you end with the eggplant on top.  Beat 6 eggs and pour over dish.  Bake about one hour, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven.

Enjoy,

Irene