Vegetarian Chili

What can I say,  I have been missing in action for a few weeks but I do have a good excuse.  We are heading to Texas where our eldest son is getting married.  Too busy to do much cooking but not too busy to contemplate the importance of sharing food with the people you love.  Good food elevates the spirit, just think about how you feel when you bite into something special and delicious, made for you with loving care. This has been a week when many of us have been preparing food for all the wonderful celebrations that are coming up.  Two of my friends prepared 8 lbs. of sweet and sour meatballs for a Shabbat dinner that they and other close friends are hosting in honor of the newlyweds.  Norm and I did spend some time baking, and everything we baked was made with someone else in mind.  I prepared three pumpkin chocolate chip breads at the request of the bride’s sister and Norm made two Challot at the request of the bride’s brother.  The bride asked for cholent which I will make for Shabbat lunch after they all arrive in town next week.  My daughter asked for a fruit crisp and I am considering blueberries and peaches (now that summer fruit is here.)  The bottom line is, it doesn’t have to be fancy, difficult, or complicated but the simple act of feeding someone is so nurturing and loving.  For those of you with children, my advice is to get started right away because in the blink of an eye they will be standing under the Chuppah.

My daughter has become a great hostess and I love knowing that she too has a passion for good food and feeding her friends.  She made this chili at one of her parties and apparently it was a big hit.

Shira’s Vegetarian Chili

2 Tbs olive oil

1 med onion, chopped

1 red pepper chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup beer

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 15 oz. can red kidney beans

1 15 oz. can black beans

1 Tbs cumin

2 Tbs chili powder

1 tsp kosher salt

1 15 oz can vegetarian refried beans

1 pkg frozen vegetarian crumbles (meat substitute)

Saute peppers and onion in olive oil for several minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer for about two hours.  Serve with tortilla chips, sharp Cheddar cheese and diced green onions.

NOTE: If you like your chili spicy I would add 1 Tbs. Tabasco and/or 1 Tbs. chili powder.

Serves 4-6

Enjoy,

Irene

Brie en Croute

When I was growing up, Sunday was my father’s day to cook.  The menu never varied, it was always broiled steaks and lamb chops, a salad, and home-made french fries.  My father prided himself on knowing his way around a kitchen.  He would peel and cut the fries in a particular way, preferring a thick cut fry.  He used a stainless steel pan filled with oil and would fry the potatoes in batches until they were golden brown.  My father was unusual in that European men of that generation didn’t typically spend time in the kitchen cooking.  I didn’t realize it at the time but he was modeling a behavior that my children noticed.  They grew up around a grandfather and a father who both devoted lots of time in the kitchen, cooking for their families.  What a nice legacy to have inherited.  My children all know how to cook but I hope that my sons continue this particular tradition and one day cook for their own wives and children.  In the meantime, to all the fathers and grandfathers, and especially to my father-in-law, wishing you a Happy Father’s Day!!

Norm loves to bake so after making this French  Boule, we used it to make a family favorite, Brie En Croute.  We prefer this version as opposed to using puff pastry.

Brie en Croute

1 small French Bread

1 stick sweet butter, melted

3 0r 4 cloves of garlic, minced

16 oz. of Brie

Carefully hollow out center of bread, making a well.  Melt butter, add minced garlic and brush mixture on the inside of the hollowed out bread.  Cut Brie into large pieces and place inside bread.  Take the bread that you had cut out, slice into bite size pieces and brush with remaining garlic butter.  Bake Brie en Croute and croutons on a lined tray in a 375 degree oven till Brie is melted and oozing.  Serves 4-6

Enjoy,

Irene

Baked Ricotta Pie

How do you keep traditions alive, and at the same time stay creative and flexible?  Every year, during Passover, our family talks about incorporating Kitniyot into our diet.  My reaction is always the same, how will future generations know about our family’s Ashkenazi traditions, if we all end up eating rice and legumes.  Without preserving some of our differences, it seems that we have more to lose than we have to gain.

Food is a way for me to preserve memories of my mother and pass on her traditions.  One memory is that she always made blintzes for Shavuot.  Tonight I decided to try something new in preparation of the holiday.  I made a layered cheese pie filled with ricotta and mascarpone, a far cry from the traditional farmer cheese filling of  the blintzes that my mother lovingly prepared.  I am sure it will be delicious (it is an Ina Garten recipe) but I already  feel a pang of guilt, as if I chipped away at a family tradition and one small memory of my mother.  Chag Sameach, enjoy the layered Ricotta pie, but next year I am serving blintzes.

Baked Ricotta Pie  (adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten)

1 1/4 cups milk

2 Tbs sour cream

1/2 stick melted butter

1/3 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

4 eggs

1 1/3 cup flour

Beat ingredients together in large bowl and pour half the batter into a greased 9 x 13 Pyrex dish.  Bake for about 10 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree oven.

Filling

22 oz. fresh ricotta cheese

8 oz. mascarpone cheese

2 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients and pour over baked layer of batter.  Spoon remaining batter on top and bake an additional 30-40 minutes. Serives  6

Enjoy,

Irene

 

 

Greek Lemon Chicken

I met Maria P. at the Shoah Foundation about 15 years ago, when she was hired to catalogue  the testimonies of Greek Jews.  A petite woman, with dark, medium length hair and olive skin, my mother would have described her as being made of “fire and flame.” Maria was from Saloniki and had a Mediterranean temperament.  Warm, passionate, and full of life, she had many of the qualities that I admire.  We once invited Maria to join us for dinner during Sukkot and, when she arrived, she walked into my kitchen and took charge.  I remember her taking off her shoes, donning an apron, and then… she began to cook.  She had the ability to make herself at home in such a way that you never wanted her to leave.  I lost touch with Maria but the dish that she made that night was memorable.  Maria didn’t bother measuring anything, she placed peeled and quartered potatoes around whole chickens  and poured fresh lemon juice and olive oil (half a bottle) over the entire thing.  An hour and a half later we had a delicious Greek dish in a Sukkah in Los Angeles, and tonight, I am serving it for Shabbat.

 

Greek Lemon Chicken

2 whole chickens

juice of 3 large lemons

1/2 cup olive oil

2 Tbs dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

Place whole chickens in roasting pan (breast side down)  and rub salt, pepper and oregano into skin.  Pour lemon juice over both chickens and then drizzle olive oil over top. Refrigerate overnight or for at least several hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and roast chickens for about 1 1/2 hours.  Turn chickens breast side up after about 45 minutes.

Serves 6-8

Enjoy,

Irene