Tomato Soup

IMG_2156My sister told me that despite her repeated requests for a colored television, my parents refused to buy one until I (the baby in the family) wanted one, and then one was bought right away.  That television changed our lives in many ways.  Ed Sullivan, The Micky Mouse Club, and Captain Kangaroo became weekly guests in our home.  We were just as attentive during the commercial breaks and the ads were so convincing, that even a child as young as I was then, I advocated for whatever they happened to be selling.  I am ashamed to admit that I begged my mother to buy Chef Boyardee products, T.V. Dinners, and Campbell Soups.  I couldn’t understand why she insisted on spending her time carefully dicing and chopping vegetables when I was sure that her homemade soups could not possibly compare to the gelatinous, cylindrical mass of soup that came out of a can.  My mother kept preparing her wonderful chicken soup, made with chicken feet that we loved to chew on, vegetable soups cooked with delicious marrow bones which could only be scooped out with the smallest of spoons, white bean soups that were hearty and peppery, and a “milchig” tomato soup, the one soup I wouldn’t eat.  I can’t tell you why.  Maybe it was because my mother told me that she never ate tomatoes when she was a child.  Maybe it was the tartness of the tomatoes, or the acidity of the soup.  I have no memory of what that particular soup tasted like, and sadly I have no idea how she prepared it.

What I do know is that my mother refused to listen to those ad campaigns and successfully ignored my nagging.  She continued  making homemade soups her entire life.  Without any lecturing, in her own gentle way, and by example, she taught me a valuable lesson about life and soup, that fast is not always better and that tomato soup is delicious after all.

Tomato Soup adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten

I-28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

2 large red onions, chopped

3 medium carrots, diced

4 cloves garlic

1 tsp sugar

2 Tb tomato paste

3 Tb olive oil

4 cups pareve chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup whole milk

Heat the olive oil in a large pot.  Add chopped onions and carrots, and sauté for about 20 minutes.  Add garlic, can of tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, chicken stock, salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, stir, lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.  Puree, stir in milk, and adjust seasoning.  Garnish with diced avocado and tortilla chips.  Serves 4-6

Enjoy,

Irene

Chicken Taquitos

IMG_2145Some family patterns are repeated from generation to generation.  When I was growing up it wasn’t unusual for my mother to make three different entrees for the four of us.  My parents would share one main course, but in addition, my mother often prepared whatever it was that my sister and I each craved.  I now see that it was just a “crazy” thing to do, but it is a pattern that I repeated with my own children.  Food was love and nobody was ever expected to eat something they didn’t care for.  Meals were about enjoyment, pleasure, and indulgence.

Last week all four of my adult children were coming to town to attend the wedding of family friends.  Two were arriving in time for Shabbat and not knowing exactly what each one would want for dinner, I covered all the bases.  I prepared enough food for ten, completely unable to cook for four.  I made Matboucha (a Moroccan tomato salad) to start with, followed by chicken soup with matzoh balls.  The main course included shredded brisket that was braised for ten hours, baked honey garlic chicken, roast potatoes, sautéed Bok Choy with shiitake mushrooms, and a green salad.  Dessert was fruit, and brownies covered with a layer of caramel and sea salt, an Ina Garten recipe.  I guess I went overboard, but as a result we had lots of leftovers.  On top of it all, I still had to do something with that soup chicken.  My mother used to serve the soup chicken as a main course (one reason that she was forced to make something different for my sister and me,) and my mother-in-law used it as filling for knishes or shepard’s pie.  I decided to make Chicken Taquitos.

During the course of the weekend, as the kids devoured the Taquitos, they shared some “constructive criticism.”  One son suggested that next time I might consider adding some diced potatoes or chunks of avocado, and another said the Taquitos could   have used more seasoning and cilantro.

On Wednesday morning we woke up to a much quieter household and I decided to get up and clean out the fridge before I left for work.  The leftovers were gone as were three of the four children, and there wasn’t a Taquito in sight.

Chicken Taquitos

4 large cooked chicken breasts

4 green onions, thinly sliced

½ cup chicken broth

24 corn tortillas.  4 1/2 inch size

2 tbsp canola oil plus oil for frying

1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper
In a large bowl, skin, bone, and shred cooked chicken, and set aside.  In 2 tbsp oil, sauté sliced green onions for about 3-4 minutes and add to shredded chicken along with salt and pepper to taste.  At this point you might want to add some diced pre-cooked potatoes, taco seasoning, chopped fresh cilantro, or some avocado chunks.  Add chicken broth to moisten the mixture.  Warm tortillas in microwave, wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel or in a tortilla warmer, till soft enough to roll.  Place about 2 tbsp of chicken mixture at the bottom part of the tortilla and roll tightly.  Place tooth pick through the flap to hold Taquito together.  Add enough oil to a large frying pan so that it is about 2 inches deep.   Place pan over med-high heat till hot, and fry Taquitos till golden brown on one side and then turn.  Cook about 3 minutes per side.  Serve hot with salsa and guacamole.  Serve 2 to 3 Taquitos per person.
Enjoy,

Irene

Estelle’s Thai Chicken Tacos with Cabbage Slaw

IMG_1290As 2012 comes to an end, I want to thank all of you who have continued to give me support and encouragement over the past year.  Some of you send me private e-mails, some of you post comments on the blog, some “like” me on Facebook, and some of you subscribe but never say a word, and that too is appreciated.

My friend Estelle sent me and our friend Susan this e-mail about a Shabbat dinner that she prepared for her family, and because she is an incredible cook I am sure these chicken tacos are as good as she said they were.  More importantly, you will see that she left her comfort zone, not an easy thing to do, whether it be in the kitchen or elsewhere.  May 2013 be filled with health,  happiness, good food, and just enough courage to try something new.

 

” Dear Friends,
Over the past years I have admired many of my friends.  I have been lucky to have been surrounded by women that have given me advice, names of painters, doctors, and recipes that have turned a meal into a memory.  I have forwarded many of those recipes to you, but today I thought I would write a little story along with an incredible recipe, that I served on Shabbat.
 
I have two wonderful friends by the names of Irene and Susie.  I look forward to their blog posts, not only for the delicious recipes, but truly for their stories, and the memories they  share with all of us.  After reading many of Irene’s stories and recipes, I wonder if we are related.   Often times when I make something truly delicious, I always wonder what Irene and Susie would have said about this dish.  
 
Recently I had a lovely lunch with a new friend.  We talked for a long time and then swapped  Shabbat recipes.  I told her I was going to make Thai Chicken Tacos but was not going to serve them with corn tortillas, as the recipe called for.  I explained that I  could hear my dad’s voice saying, ” What is a tortilla?”   But my friend told me that she had done a Mexican themed Shabbat dinner and it was fine.  She gave me “permission” to veer from the norm.  When I came home,  I was still not convinced but then I fondly remembered many Mexican Shabbat dinners at Susie’s house.  Most of them had tortillas that complemented  her delicious menu.  Could I have the courage to do that?   I did it, and our dinner felt both familiar and like an adventure, but most importantly, it still felt like Shabbat.  
Warmest wishes to all, Estelle. “
Thai Chicken Tacos
1 lime, halved
l lb skinless boneless chicken breasts, thighs, or tenders, cut into strips, 1/2″ thick.
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 shallot, sliced
3 cloves garlic minced
2 tsp  soy sauce
1/2 to 1 tsp chili flakes
1/2 to 1 tsp hot sauce
2 Tb vegetable oil
16 corn tortillas heated
1 recipe Cabbage Slaw
Juice one half of a lime.  Cut remaining half in wedges (oops forgot to serve them) and set aside.  In a bowl combine chicken strips, cilantro, shallot, garlic,  lime juice, soy sauce, chili flakes, and hot sauce.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour ( I did it overnight.)  In a large skillet cook chicken in hot oil over medium high till cooked, about 1o minutes, stirring occasionally.  To serve, layer 2 tortillas (we used only one) top with chicken and cabbage slaw.  Serve remaining cabbage slaw and lime wedges on side.
 
CABBAGE SLAW
in a bowl toss 2 cups shredded Napa cabbage, 1/2 cup shredded carrot, 1/2 cup sliced green onion, 1/2 cup sliced radishes (did not use as I forgot to buy them) 1/4 cup chopped cilantro,  and 1/4 cup coarsely chopped peanuts (did not use as my mom is allergic.) Although think it would be better with sliced or slivered almonds.   Add 1/4 cup rice vinegar and toss.
Enjoy,
Irene

Chicken Cacciatore

2012-12-14 17.26.20It is a testament to my parents’ confidence in their ability to transmit their values to my sister and me that they were not threatened by Christmas.  I was allowed to attend Christmas dinner at the Bartolinis, listen to holiday music on the radio, help my neighbor Rosemary decorate her Christmas tree, and go to the Lorenzano brothers home on Christmas Eve for a very small glass of Creme de Menthe.   Maybe they knew it was unavoidable since we attended public school, but their liberal attitudes gave me the freedom to learn about Christmas, see how it was observed, and discover that in the homes of our Italian neighbors and friends, food played a central role at their family gatherings as well. 

This Friday night as the last days of Chanukkah were approaching, and Norm and I had Shabbat dinner by ourselves, all I wanted was Chicken Cacciatore,  the kind of hearty dish that Mrs. Bartolini might have made for Christmas Dinner.  I felt lucky that I had those wonderful memories to call on and as I placed freshly made, piping hot latkes on my husband’s plate, and with no apple sauce in sight, he used the latkes to soak up the sauce of the Chicken Cacciatore.  The next night our friends joined us for a Christmas Concert where Norm was singing in the choir, and afterwards we went to one of our local kosher dairy restaurants for “Toastim.”   Without giving it much thought my parents instilled a love of Judaism that doesn’t prevent me from being able to appreciate the beauty of Christmas. 

Chicken Cacciatore

6 Chicken Thighs, legs attached

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 large red bell peppers, chopped

1 large brown onion, chopped

1 lb. white mushrooms, halved

4 garlic cloves, finely sliced

3/4 cup dry red wine

1 – 28-oz can crushed tomatoes

3/4 cup chicken stock

1 tsp chili flakes

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and then dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, shaking off excess.  In a large pot, heat the oil, add the chicken pieces to the pan and brown over high heat, about 5 minutes per side.  Avoid crowding, browning in two batches if necessary.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.  Add the chopped bell peppers, onion, and garlic to the same pan and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Add the wine, crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, garlic, chili flakes, and oregano.  Add the chicken pieces back to the pot, and the mushrooms,  making sure the sauce covers everything.  Bring the pot to a simmer and cook, covered,  over low heat for about 1 1/2 hours.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serves 4 generously.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

 

Roasted Winter Vegetables

IMG_2049There was a mist covering Los Angeles this past weekend, and it does feel like winter.  Living in the West, people assume that the seasons just blend together without any noticeable changes but that isn’t so, the changes are just less dramatic.  The flower beds are not quite as full,  some of the trees lose their leaves, and the jewel-toned winter vegetables in the markets are completely in sync with the holiday season.  The reds and purples of fingerlings, the rust colored yams, the beautiful deep green of the acorn squashes that at once bring to mind acorns and the forest beds where they fall.  My favorite are the turban squashes, each one so different that they look as if an artist painted these unusual gourds by hand, some splattered with yellow and green, others like our winters, less showy but no less beautiful.

 

Roasted Winter Vegetables 

What makes this dish so beautiful are the skins.  Do not bother peeling the squashes, just roast them for a long time in small wedges and they will soften.

Acorn squash

Turban squash

Butternut squash

Assorted Fingerling potatoes, sliced in half lengthwise (purples and reds)

Yams, peeled and cut in large chunks

Turnips, peeled and cut in large chunks

1 large red onion, cut in wedges

2/3 cup olive oil

10 peeled cloves of garlic

salt and pepper

2 Tb. maple syrup

2 Tb white balsamic vinegar

Carefully cut all the squash into small wedges, leaving the skin on.  Toss in a large bowl with 1/3 cup olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and roast on a cookie sheet in a preheated oven at 425 degrees till skin is easily pierced.  Toss occasionally so all the squash cooks evenly.  Roast for  about one hour.

Take remaining vegetables and red onion, and toss in a bowl with 1/3 cup olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and maple syrup.  Place on cookie sheet at the same temperature for about 30 minutes or until done.

Combine both sheets of vegetables and adjust seasoning.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Curried Zucchini Soup

IMG_1692I often think of my mother, but as Chanukah approaches her memory burns bright.  She would stand at the kitchen counter with her box grater, and one by one grate the potatoes on the side with the finest holes.  Grated, not shredded.  No food processor in sight, just hard work that often resulted in raw knuckles.  The same pan was used to fry them each year, the one pan that produced a golden disc, not dark brown and not soft, but thin and crisp.  Since they were served as the main course, there were always plenty of Latkes to go around, and I would alternate between topping them with sour cream, apple sauce, or my personal favorite, just plain sugar.

For some reason my mother chose tuna salad as the side dish, and everyone was given hot tea which she served in drinking glasses.  The golden color of the Laktes was echoed in the color of the tea, my mother’s holiday china, and in the lights of the Menorah.  She loved the melodies of the Chanukah songs, and so each year we sing the Yiddish variation of Chanukah Oy Chanukah, a tradition we have carried on in tribute to this diminutive, brave, woman who made our home shine so bright.

 Chanukah, Oy Chanukah
A yontev a sheyner
A lustiger, a freylecher
Nito noch azayner

Alle nacht in dreydl
shpilen mir
zudik heyse latkes
Esen Mir
Geshvinder
tzindt kinder
Di Chanukah lichtelach ahn

Lomir alle singen
Und lomir ale Shpringen
Und lomir ale tantzen in kon

Lomir alle singen
Und lomir ale Shpringen
Und lomir ale tantzen in kon

 I think hot soup goes better with latkes, especially one that serves as another venue for sour cream.

Curried Zucchini Soup

2 Tb butter

1 Tb olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 small carrot, chopped

2 Tb butter

4 medium zucchini, coarsely chopped

4 cups pareve chicken broth

2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder, or to taste

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot add butter and olive oil over low heat till butter is melted.  Add the diced onion and sauté till translucent but not brown.  Add garlic and carrots and cook for about 10 minutes.  Then add zucchini, chicken broth, and curry powder.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring soup to a boil, and reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Carefully purée the soup in the blender in small batches.  Don’t forget to serve with a dollop of sour cream.  Happy Chanukah!Enjoy,

Irene

Simple Pot Roast

There are certain dishes that call out to us.  You might want to recreate that favorite cookie from your childhood, or a dish that a neighbor offered you when you visited, perhaps it’s something that you associate with a grandparent or even a close friend.  My mother used to make gedempfte fleish, braised beef of some kind, and although I have no recollection of how it was prepared, what it tasted like, or even the smell, I have wanted to duplicate that pot roast for years.  I finally decided to try it over Rosh Hashana.

This humble piece of meat, held together by white butcher twine, is cooked on low heat for hours, slowly coaxed into a dish worth serving.  Once released from the string, the meat just falls apart on the plate, landing in every direction, completely unlike brisket which is thinly sliced and carefully arranged on an elegant platter.  Pot Roast is peasant food at its best.  I have now made it twice and on both occasions it elicited a response that was perfectly suited to this earthy dish.  After dinner, when the roast itself was finished, “the kids” stood over the pan filled with the braising liquid, mopping it up with pieces of Challah.  Ignoring their pressed shirts and silk blouses, they risked spills and stains.  What more is there to say of the lowly pot roast other than to tell you it is my newly found treasure based on a vague and distant memory.

Simple Pot Roast

1  4 or 5 lb. chuck roast, tied.

1 bottle of good red wine, like a Burgundy

2 onions, cut in half

2 cloves garlic

2 stalks celery, cut

2 carrots, cut

2 bay leaves

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

2 Tb oil

3 Tb flour

Put roast in a large pot and add wine.  Make sure meat is covered with liquid, and if not, add some beef broth.  Add vegetables, bay leaves, garlic, salt and pepper to the pot.  Allow beef to marinate overnight, turning meat every few hours.  Next day, remove beef from marinade and dry with paper towels.  Roll beef in a shallow plate of flour, shaking off excess.  Place oil in cast iron pan and sear meat on all sides till crusty and dark brown.  Return seared roast to pot filled with marinade, cover pot, and allow to a simmer over low heat for one hour.  Then put pot in a preheated 275 degree oven and cook roast for about three hours or till meat is very tender.  Remove string, slice think,  and serve  roast and some gravy over mashed potatoes or even on top of a stack of golden Latkes.  Serves 6-8

Enjoy,

Irene

Garlic Turkey

At 5:40 this morning we drove our friends to the airport.  They were flying to Boston to be with their “East coast” family for Thanksgiving.  On Wednesday we will return to LAX to pick up my daughter, and on Thursday to pick up my youngest son.  It’s the wonderful pull of Thanksgiving, being with the family and hanging out in kitchens where the smells are familiar.  Today I started baking, and so this morning my kitchen smelled like cinnamon and allspice from the pumpkin breads in the oven.  This afternoon it smelled of apples and dried cherries baking inside puff pastry squares that I folded into individual turnovers.  On Thanksgiving day the kitchen will smell like the mulling spices simmering in the pot of apple cider on the stove top, but as soon as the fridge door is opened,  the predominant smell will be the garlic that was rubbed into the turkey on Wednesday morning.  That specific smell of garlic-covered poultry is embedded in my memory because it is the smell that I most closely associate with my mother’s kitchen.  The smell that signaled it was Shabbat,  Yontif, and yes, Thanksgiving.  On Thursday the kitchen will smell both savory and sweet, depending if you are  standing near the oven or closer to the kitchen table covered with desserts.  I love the old recipes combined with an occasional new one, it sets the mood and gives me the perfect opportunity to remember and be thankful for what we had, what we have, and what we look forward to.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Garlic Turkey

Mixture for a 15 pound turkey

1 Tb kosher salt
1 Tb. paprika
2 tsp. pepper
1/3 cup  olive oil
2 whole heads garlic, peeled and minced

Mix all ingredients together until you have a paste-like consistency.  It should be red from the paprika and thick, almost like tomato paste.  Rub the garlic mixture on the inside and outside of the turkey and let marinate in fridge overnight.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place turkey in a roasting pan, breast down, with about 2 ” of water on the bottom of the pan.  Bake for 30 minutes and then baste with liquid.  Add more water to pan if necessary.  Lower heat to 350 degrees.  Continue to add liquid and baste about every 30 minutes.  When turkey is golden brown, turn breast side up and finish roasting. Total baking time is about 3 hours depending on size of the bird.

Enjoy,

Irene

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Mushrooms and Fried Onions

Our life as newlyweds began in Toronto.  There I was, 21 years old, living in a strange city in a foreign country.  I had no idea how to cook, but coming from a family with some very good cooks and bakers, I was determined to learn.  I remember exploring various neighborhoods around the city, my way of getting comfortable, and discovering shops that were more intimate and personal than the local supermarket.  Slowly I developed my  list of “favorites.”  I fell in love with Kensington Market and regularly went there to buy cheese, and sweet butter, cut from an enormous block on top of the counter and wrapped in wax paper,  on Sunday mornings I went to Gryfe’s for bagels, very different from the kind I grew up with but perfect when toasted, and Daiter’s for herring in cream sauce or smoked fish.  On occasion we would go to Markys for a deli sandwich (sadly no longer in business) and sometimes we would make a quick stop at United Bakers for Norm’s favorite local dessert, butter tarts,  a small, individual tart filled with a brown sugar and butter mixture that I prefer runny.

Last week Norm and I traveled to Toronto where we were joined by our sons.  We were there to celebrate my father-in- law Pinnie’s 93rd birthday and during our visit we managed to include a few short trips to our favorite haunts.  We went back to Kensington Market and saw the old cheese shops nestled among the new vegan hot spots and coffee bars, we went to Daiters and bought silky smooth Atlantic smoked salmon to put on our freshly purchased bagels from Gryfe’s.  Of course no trip to Toronto would be complete without at least one butter tart.  We spent time with my mother-in-law Lil, cooking and shopping.  She made stuffed cabbage and chremslech ( similar to a latke but made with leftover mashed potatoes) Norm baked Challot, which really do come out better on the East coast (is it really the water?) and I made Cholent for Shabbat lunch.

Each day we spent time visiting my father-in-law who was in good spirits.  My sons were very entertaining and their grandfather roared with laughter on more than one occasion.   Of course one of the first questions I asked Pinnie was about the food he was  served, and he responded by saying “everything is delicious.”  At the end of each visit we would say, “see you tomorrow” and Pinnie always responded by saying “I hope so.”  Just in time for Thanksgiving, we are so grateful that we were able to celebrate your 93rd birthday together and “hope” to come again next year for your 94th!

One more thing.  In those early days, no matter what I made, as long as it had fried onions, Norm thought it was delicious.  He still feels that way.  Like father, like son.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Mushrooms and Fried Onions

1 pound Brussels Sprouts, tip cut off.

2 large brown onions, chopped

16 oz. assorted mushrooms, sliced (I used a combination of shiitake and portobello)

1/3 cup olive oil

Using double blade, place Brussels Sprouts in food processor and pulse till shredded.  Set aside.  Chop onions in processor and place in frying pan with olive oil.  Allow onions to slowly cook over a low flame till golden brown.  Add sliced mushrooms to pan and sauté for about 10 minutes. Next add shredded sprouts and cook for about 3 or 4 minutes. Do not overcook. You want that beautiful green color and a little crunch.  Salt and pepper to taste. I put a generous amount of pepper in.  Serves 4-6

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Cheesy Grits

I had forgotten how dark, how quiet, and how peaceful it is to be out in the woods.  The pleasure of being temporarily disconnected from things that beep, light up, or plug-in, is an added bonus.  For many years we took a yearly trip to the national parks with my parents and sister.  After  joining us on a trip to Sequoia, we quickly realized the benefits of having that kind of family time together, there were few distractions, lots of unstructured activity, and no fixed schedules.  My parents and sister were troopers and year after year they drove up treacherous mountain roads, participated in nature walks, attended the evening ranger talks, and stayed in places that were not particularly luxurious.  During those trips my parents often shared their own memories of going to the woods in Poland before the war.  My mother talked about the delicious mushrooms that she picked and dried, to be used in soups all year long.  My father spoke about the gypsies that came through each year, setting up camp in the woods, entertaining the locals with their small circus act.  Those trips were definitely planned by Norm, who always insisted that we start at the visitor center and who always left the parks with a patch that he planned to sew on a wool blanket one day.

This past weekend we went camping for the first time in many years.  I loved every minute of it and on Sunday morning when I knew that we would have to pack up and leave, I stayed in our small two-person tent as long as I could.  It had rained the night before and I was enjoying that cozy feeling of being warm and comfortable in a very small space.  Eventually I got up and walked out into the crisp morning air, and there stood Norm, still a Boy Scout at heart, slowly stirring a pot of grits, frying up eggs, making fresh coffee, and buttering up the toast.  When we came home, I was still thinking about all those past trips that we had taken with our children and parents and realized that something was missing.  This time Norm forgot to buy a patch.  I guess we’ll have to go back soon.

Cheesy Grits

1 cup Falls Mill White Corn Grits.

1 Tb sweet butter

dash of salt

8 oz. sharp grated sharp cheddar cheese

Place grits in bowl and cover with water, and stir so light bran will rise to the top.  Carefully pour off water and light bran. In the meantime bring 2 cups of water to a boil with 1 Tb butter and 1/2 tsp salt. Add grits and reduce heat to low, cover pot and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Grits should be thick and creamy.  Add cheese, ground pepper, and a little milk if needed.  Serves 4
Enjoy,

Irene