My sister is in town, and it isn’t surprising that the conversation often turns to our mother, hers and mine. The discussion typically begins with Anita recalling how, “our mother used to say…” ,”used to prepare…”, “used to pronounce…” or “used to like…”, and ends when I respond by saying, “not my mother.” There are eight years between us and in some ways we did have different mothers. Anita was born and spent her early years in post-war Paris, while I was a child of the 1950s, born in The Bronx. With each of us, our mother was busy adjusting to a new country, culture, language, and cuisine. As the younger sister I must admit that I thoroughly enjoy this verbal sparring but I’m not sure my sister feels the same way.
Preparing for Rosh Hashana, I feel an obligation to make some of the dishes that we both remember, and agree, that our mother served every Yontif. I will make her Chicken Soup with kreplach, garlic chicken with roast potatoes, and make sure to include carrots for a sweet year. The gefilte fish has been eliminated from the menu, as has the honey cake. Instead of Tzimmis, I will prepare a fresh raw salad, colorful and slightly sweet, still using some ingredients that were often found in my mother’s kitchen, but with a new twist.
I remember my mother wishing that the New Year would be at least as good as the last, and no worse. I called my sister to confirm this, and of course, she said that her mother never said that. Luckily, some things never change. Wishing you all a Zisn Yontif, on that we can all agree.
Note: This recipe was adapted from a salad prepared in my home several weeks ago by the chefs from Puzzle Israel.
1/2 cup olive oil
1/ 4 cup lemon or lime juice
1 Tb sesame oil
1 tsp salt
I would add a few drops of honey for some extra sweetness
Nir and Guy arrived at my home early Sunday afternoon, carrying shopping bags filled with fresh groceries they had just purchased at the local Persian market. Although we hadn’t met before, these young Israelis, full of personality and charm, quickly made themselves at home. Promoting their company, Puzzle Israel, (which provides a unique approach to touring) they come to the U.S several times a year offering cooking classes and demonstrations.
The class was hands-on, and with everyone participating we all had a good time. There was a station in the kitchen for the meat dishes and a station in the dining room for salads and dessert. The menu included freshly baked Foccacia, chicken liver stuffed mushrooms, salmon ceviche salad, cabbage salad, and eggplant rolls filled with ground beef. Dessert was a dish of baked bananas with a biscuit Halvah topping.
When I asked Guy how he expanded from culinary arts to the touring industry, he said “cooking is the best way of making connections.” How right he is.
Stuffed Eggplant Rolls
2 globe eggplants
1 1/2 pounds ground beef, not too lean
1/3 pound Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 purple onion, finely diced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Slice the eggplants to a 1/4 inch thickness. Layer slices on a greased cookie sheet and drizzle olive oil over both sides. Bake for about 20 minutes until slices are golden brown and tender but do not overbake. In a bowl, combine ground beef with dates, onion, salt and pepper. After eggplant has cooled, place about 1 Tb of mixture on edge of each slice of eggplant, roll up and layer in greased baking dish. Place in 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Serve hot.
As a child I was frightened of revolving doors, worried that they wouldn’t slow down long enough for me to get out. Eventually I overcame my fear, (I must admit I still don’t like them) but in truth revolving doors are unavoidable, and have become somewhat of a metaphor. People seem to come in and out of my life, particularly at work where young adults are often experiencing their first job in the non-profit world, moving on after several years. I tend to “adopt” these 25-30 year olds that I call my ” work kids.”
Jenny was one of those “kids,” arriving in L.A. from Michigan, eager to get started, a whirlwind of a girl, full of energy and spunk, and fun to have around. After several years of searching for the right guy, Jenny was fortunate enough to meet Sean and joined him in Ohio.
What do you do when you miss someone? Some people look at photos, others are good at reaching out, I cook something that reminds me of the person. Eggplant Parmesan was Jenny’s signature dish. By the way, the good thing about revolving doors is that they have no beginning and no end.
My children attended Akiba Academy, now known as Sinai Akiba, from grades K-8. When Norm and I chose that particular school, the decision was based on reputation, philosophy, and location. We were young parents and had no idea how that choice would impact not only the lives of our children, but our lives as well. My children made life-long friends at Akiba, (my older son is now related to one of those friends) and some of our closest friends were also found in those classrooms. Our family benefited in ways that we didn’t anticipate, by meeting and becoming friends with Jewish families that came from places like Iran, Mexico, Russia and Egypt. Being Akiba parents influenced our decision to send our children to Camp Ramah, (where our older son met his wife) it exposed us to more observant families, influencing the way we practiced Judaism, it opened our eyes to the benefits of Jewish education which ultimately led to the decision to continue with our children’s Jewish education through Shalhevet and Milken Community High School.
When I look back, I realize how significant those relationships were, in spite of how young our children were at the time. That community of children and parents stood by each other through good times and challenging times, through celebrations and unfortunately, through losses. I love that so many of them and so many of us are still in touch. I love that early this morning my daughter called wanting my recipe for Sumi salad, a salad I first tasted in the Silberman home over 20 years ago, shortly after David and Aaron met in Kindergarten. What better way to celebrate the 4th than with a recipe for a salad that was given to me by a friend I met through Akiba, who was born in Egypt, raised in Israel, and living in America. Happy 4th to all and thank you Sinai Akiba.
Irma’s Sumi Salad
1 head shredded cabbage (or 1 bag)
8 green onions, thinly sliced
2 packages of Ramen noodles or a kosher equivalent. Just use the noodles, not the seasonings
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup frozen apple juice, thawed
1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 Tb dark sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. Take bags or Ramen and without opening them, break noodles in the bag with your hands or a rolling-pin. Add to salad. Mix dressing ingredients and pour over salad no more than 15 minutes before serving so noodles stay somewhat crispy. Serves 6
As a little boy he dreamed of being a cowboy, raised in the era of Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and The Cisco Kid. All Norm wanted was a pony and a six-gun, but the closest he came was horse-back riding, living on Kibbutz and wearing a cowboy hat He even named his bike Trigger. Over the years, there have been purchases of Western attire, showing that deep down the dream still exists. His love of all things Western included the many Cowboy ballads that we spent hours either listening to or singing during the long car trips with our children. Even my mother knew all of the lyrics to The Streets of Laredo and it never failed to bring a tear to her eyes.
Today in honor of Father’s Day, Norm was able to relive a bit of that dream. An afternoon spent at the Gene Autry Museum which included a concert featuring some of the members of the Western Music Association. So here is to fathers everywhere who had to hang up their hat and raise their kids instead. He would never have traded being a Dad for anything, but just to let him dream for a few more hours, I am serving him a bowl of Cowboy Caviar for dinner.
Happy Father’s Day and Happy Trails to you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcYsO890YJY
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 can yellow corn, drained and rinsed or fresh raw corn
1/2 sweet Vidalia onion, diced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1/2 each of an orange and red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro or parsley, depending on your crowd
1/2 cup of canola oil
1 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp cumin
Combine prepared vegetables and place in a large bowl. Combine ingredients for marinade in a pot and heat over low flame for about 10 minutes. Let cool completely and pour over vegetables. Allow to marinade for several hours before serving.
I took a class in Tai Chi while visiting a friend in New Jersey, and it was all about balance and the ability to shift your weight from one foot to the other while still in motion, and without effort. For almost three weeks I traveled around the East Coast and each day brought a change in scenery and tempo. Five states, four museums, historic sites and centers, cities and countryside. I stayed in seven different places during my trip and enjoyed each one. Some days were filled with activity and celebrations of one kind or another, other days were quiet and peaceful. Some days were devoted to cooking with old friends and family members, others were spent eating wonderful meals in restaurants, pubs, and inns. I even managed to stop for lunch at one of my all time favorite “food” places, Reading Terminal. With too many memorable meals to mention, here are just a few. A post-graduation lunch at Bar Boulud where I ate a dish of homemade pasta with cippolini onions, spring peas, and cheddar. Mother’s Day (the day my brother-in-law’s newest grandson was born) was celebrated at Minetta Tavern. I had Brandade, a dish of salt cod cooked with potatoes and milk, mashed into a creamy purée. There was crisp duck with a balsamic glaze at a kosher restaurant in Teaneck, smoked fish from Acme in Brooklyn, halibut with mango and avocado salsa in West Orange followed by a delicious cheesecake, filet of flounder sautéed in panko crumbs in Philly followed by ripe cheeses and many glasses of wine, blintzes in Greenwich, and fish cakes with rémoulade sauce in Marshfield.
My cousins in Marshfield have a beautiful garden filled with flowers and vegetables. One morning Janine picked some rhubarb, enough to make a pie or two, with no cookbook in hand and no recipe card on the counter. It reminded me of the way my mother baked but this time I made sure to take notes. It had been twenty-seven years or so since I last visited Marshfield and I left hoping that my next visit would come sooner. Ready to get back to the fast pace of NYC, I first made sure that I took some home-grown rhubarb with me. On our last Shabbat in NYC we enjoyed a vegetarian feast prepared for us by Heidi and Rob, friends of our children. The meal ended with a strawberry rhubarb crisp that I made with Janine’s recipe and her rhubarb.
Then there was the wedding. It was magical, set in the Hudson River Valley, not far from where I spent summers during my childhood. Everything felt familiar, the air, the trees, the food, and the music. We returned to Brooklyn in the early evening on Memorial Day and we celebrated with a BBQ in the park. Norm and I were going home early the next morning and as I prepared to shift once again, I found that it was not without effort.
1 quart strawberries, cut in half or quartered, depending on size
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tb tapioca
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
Mix all ingredients and put in the bottom of either two greased 8″ round pie plates, or one large greased 8 x 10 pan.
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
Mix ingredients together with your finger tips until you get small crumbs. Sprinkle over fruit and bake at 375 till golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Can serve 2 or 6, just depends.
She would fold a towel and place it on the window sill, pull over a chair and then peer out the window. High above the Grand Concourse, she looked down and watched what was happening on the streets below. That was how my mother spent her afternoons once her chores were completed and before we sat down to dinner. She looked peaceful and happy in that position and looking back, I now realize that it allowed her to be alone without feeling lonely. After a while, she would end up in the kitchen, making dinner and baking cookies.
Our family is very good at enjoying periods of quiet and inactivity, although some of us prefer company even in our quiet moments. This past Friday after attending an early morning Bris, followed by a day of work, I came home to an afternoon where I was completely free to do as I please. It was a beautiful day and in spite of a week where the news was filled with tragedies, nothing is more life affirming than being around a newborn. With another Bris to look forward to, plus a graduation, two wedding showers, five weddings, and two Sheva Brachot, life is sweet. So, after sitting in my yard and looking out at my garden, now in full bloom, I went into my kitchen and baked cookies. Almond cookies, crunchy and sweet, my mother would have loved them.
This recipe was given to me by a friend with very little instruction. It took no time to make, nice when you are in rush and even nicer when you have the time to enjoy one freshly baked, in your yard with a cup of coffee.
3 cups sliced almonds
3 egg whites
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place parchment paper on two cookie sheets. Mix ingredients well, it is a loose batter, and spoon onto the cookie sheet. You need to keep mixing the mixture in between spooning. Bake till golden brown, about thirty minutes. Allow to cool completely. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
My own memories of Pesach include scenes of my mother and Tanta Marisha, cooking together in my aunt’s kitchen. I loved watching them, it made it so much nicer that they had each had a kitchen companion, not to mention just having another person to ask if the soup is too salty or help decide if you really need another kugel.
Over the course of two days leading up to Yontif, we prepared for 28 guests. We had more kitchen companions than I can mention, but each one made a significant contribution, and although they were not technically all family members, they acted and felt like family. I was thrilled to be a part of it, but the best part is knowing how well-prepared the next generation is to tell the story, carry on the traditions, and even make the brisket. Letting go? I guess next year Kitniyot may appear on the menu. I look forward to finding out.
Note: I changed this recipe slightly by adding a rub that I massaged into the brisket the day before cooking it, two days before the Seder.
1- 10 pound brisket, both first and second cut.
10 cloves garlic
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1 Tb paprika
2 Tb olive oil
Mix ingredients and “massage” into brisket. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
5 large brown onions, thinly sliced.
2 cups good quality Cabernet
2 cups Ketchup
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place brisket in a large roasting pan and cover with sliced onions. Combine wine with ketchup and pour on top. Cover and bake at 325 till tender. About 6 hours. Slice cold and reheat. Served 20 when cut with an electric knife!
Imagine sitting in a dimly lit room, when suddenly a stranger walks in, throws open the curtains and turns on the light. Those two small gestures can alter the scene. That’s what I experienced this week when Effi joined our staff. A petite Israeli woman, of Moroccan descent, our conversation quickly turned to food. I told her that I was heading East for Passover, and that we were having a traditional Ashkenazi Seder, but as I stood there speaking, I already knew that change was in the air, that things were about to shift. Effi talked about her traditional dishes, some of which I would not be able to make, dishes with rice and corn and peas, dishes made with lamb cooked over low heat for several hours. There was more, and just a few minutes later I walked away with recipes for a Moroccan beet salad, a variation of Matbucha, and a delicious tagine made with dried fruit and a touch of cinnamon. Effi told me that she serves sweet dishes for a sweet Passover. That’s where the differences ended, and the essence of what we both wanted for Passover converged. Wishing you a Zisn Pesach.
Effi’s Turkey or Chicken Tagine
2 Tb olive oil and more as needed
3 lbs. chicken or turkey thighs, cubed
3 large brown onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup dried prunes
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 Tb chicken bouillion
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp cumin
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a heavy bottomed pot, brown turkey thigh in 2 Tb. olive oil, sprinkling generously with salt and pepper. Once turkey meat is golden, remove to plate along with any liquid that accumulated on the bottom of the pot. Add another tablespoon of olive oil and all the sliced onions to pot. Add 1/2 tsp sugar and saute onions till dark golden brown. Remove half the sautéed onions to a plate. Scatter half of the apricots and prunes on top of the onions. Place turkey meat back into the pot. Add remaining apricots and prunes and then top with remaining onions. In a small bowl combine warm water with salt, pepper, cumin, chicken powder and cinnamon. Stir well and pour over meat. Cover pot and place in oven for 2-3 hours. Serves 4-6
Note: Effi said that sometimes she adds walnut halves on top of the first layer of walnuts.