Archive for the ‘Appetizer’ Category
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.
I grew up hearing stories of my grandmothers and their preparations for Passover, most of which began way in advance of the holiday. The walls had to be whitewashed, the geese had to be slaughtered and the goose fat rendered, and the down pillows were opened so that the feathers could be cleaned and re-stuffed into new ticking. Then there was the shopping and cooking. With large families, and no take-out or prepared foods available, everything was made at home. I was told that my maternal grandmother baked an enormous sponge-cake every morning, made with 12 dozen eggs, a cake large enough so everyone could have a piece for breakfast. I wish I knew my grandmothers, these women who worked tirelessly to keep their traditions and whose efforts made lasting impressions on their children and on the grandchildren they never had the chance to meet.
I think of my mother’s preparations for Passover and wonder how much she was influenced by her own childhood experiences. I think of my children and wonder if there are pieces they will choose to keep from their childhood. Do they remember that the glass dishes soaked in the bathtub for days, that they were made to clean their dresser drawers while keeping an eye out for pieces of gum or candy that might have been missed. That the trunk of the car was loaded with all the cutlery, pots and pans that had to be toivled at the synagogue and then driven to the car wash so that the back seats could be lifted and vacuumed? Or my personal favorite which was hiding the chametz around the house and searching for it by candlelight?
I too am starting to think of Passover and I remember specific foods that my mother always had on hand during the holidays. Home-made beet borscht for one, the cold version that had sour cream mixed in which turned it into the color of bubble gum, but which I never did acquire a taste for. When I met my friend Susan T., I discovered a meat version of beet borscht, made with short ribs and served piping hot with a generous dollop of mashed potatoes mixed with fried onions, heaped in the center of the soup bowl and suddenly I discovered how good beets could be. Eventually there were other preparations that I now love, like beets paired with goat cheese and walnuts, or simply roasted and drizzled with an aged balsamic vinegar.
I wish my grandmothers had lived to see how Passover is observed in the homes of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I imagine that they would shep naches knowing that their descendents make an effort to get together for the seders, that we care enough to argue over issues like kitniyot, that we have dishes like beet salad whose ingredients they would still recognize as being familiar, and that no matter how many of us there are, we make sure there is enough cake so that everyone can have a piece for breakfast.
Beet and Blood Orange Salad
5 medium beets, use a combination of red, orange, and yellow.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced, placed in cold water for 1 minute and squeezed out.
5 blood oranges, peeled, and segmented
Some 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.
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.
As the summer comes to an end, my thoughts are beginning to turn to Rosh Hashana. These long, lazy days will soon be replaced with an onslaught of holidays and the frenzy of preparation. I wonder if my Mother compiled lists in her head as I have already begun to do. In some ways, even without the modern conveniences of food processors and dishwashers, things were simpler. The menus were standard, Yontif meals were at home or with family that lived close by, and although everything was hand-made, her days were orderly and divided into tasks. There was shopping, baking, cooking, and dealing with that carp in the bathtub. Baking day meant the large wooden board and rolling-pin were placed on the dining room table where she would prepare homemade noodles, challahs, and roll out the thin dough for favorkes (something like wonton skins, fried and served in the soup.) The next day the Gefilte Fish, Kreplach, and Chicken Soup were prepared. Just hours before Erev Rosh Hashana, the last details were given her fullest attention. Garlic chicken and potatoes were roasted in the oven along with a sweet bread pudding. On top of the stove was a pot of simmering sweet carrots with a knaidle in the middle. A green salad was easily assembled and there was always an apple cake for dessert.
My life seems far less predictable in some ways. As each holiday approaches, I now wonder if I will be at home in Los Angeles, or on the East Coast with my children. The menus change from year to year, incorporating whatever the new food rage is, quinoa, kale chips, freekah, etc. The number of vegetable dishes increase, and the brisket has lost its place as the centerpiece of the holiday meal.
As I step into my yard, I see the changes that are taking place there as well. My summer garden is coming to an end which means we are harvesting the last of the tomatoes and eggplants. That leads me to think about fall, wondering which vegetables to plant in spite of the nagging uncertainty of how they will grow. As I contemplate both the past and the future, it is 25 years ago today that my youngest son was born. A quarter of a century has passed and our hope is that his future be filled with love, health, and happiness, on his birthday and in the New Year. For him, for us, and for all of you.
Sautéed Baby Eggplants ad Plum Tomatoes
12 baby eggplants, firm and unblemished, peeled and sliced into 1″ pieces
1 large onion, diced
12 plum or Roma tomatoes, diced
1 tsp Piment d’Espellete ( or substitute red chili powder)
1/3 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and add the diced onion. Saute onion till golden and then add minced garlic. Saute for a minute and add sliced eggplant. Add salt, pepper, and Piment d’Espellete. Lower heat to a simmer, and cover pan, allowing eggplant to cook through. This takes about 30 minutes. Then uncover and add diced tomatoes. Cook eggplant for another 20 minutes, again over a low flame. Serve hot or at room temperature with chopped fresh cilantro sprinkled on top.
In an earlier post I recalled that each year before Rosh Hashana my Mother would buy a carp which was kept alive in the bathtub, destined to be made into Gefilte Fish. For several days I would come home after school anxious to check on the fish and would then spend hours watching it swim back and forth. It was a funny sight, but not an unusual one in the building where we lived. The day before Rosh Hashana my mother would drain the tub, carry the fish into the kitchen, and lay it down on her large wooden board. She would stun the fish with her rolling-pin, and then chop its’ head off. The fish was ground and mixed with eggs, matzoh meal, a little salt, and sugar, yes, lots of sugar.
The first time I went to Toronto, my mother-in-law, Lil, served Gefilte Fish for dinner. I was shocked that the the fish was not in the least bit sweet, and in fact was quite peppery. At Chanukah I discovered that the Saiger family put onions in their Latkes and served them with sour cream and apple sauce. My family preferred them onion-free and generously sprinkled with sugar.
We learned to compromise. I now make Latkes with just a small amount of onion, enough to satisfy Norm’s palate, but not clash with the sugar. As for Gefilte Fish, I don’t think I have ever actually made it, but in recent years we found a version that we both prefer. The recipe is not Russian or Polish, but South African. Both sweet and savory.
To all the fathers who have adapted their tastes for the sake of compromise, Happy Father’s Day. I hope the day turns out to be sweeter than you expect, but not without a hint of spice.
2 frozen Gefilte Fish loaves (sweet variety) thawed. (Mom forgive me)
3/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil, add more as needed
Combine thawed fish with bread crumbs and form into small patties. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil and sauté fish cakes till golden brown. Set aside.
Stella’s Curry Sauce for Fish Cakes (This recipe belonged to Stella’s great-aunt, and was given to her by her Mom)
2 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
1 lemon, juiced
1 large apple, coarsely grated
2 Tb Mrs. Ball’s Peach Chutney
2 Tb apricot jelly
3/4 cup sugar
2 Bay Leaves
Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 cup raisins
1 Tsp whole peppercorns
Salt to taste
Put all ingredients in a medium size saucepan and bring to a boil. In the meantime take a small bowl and combine:
2 Tb Curry Powder
1 Tb Corn Starch
Add 1 cup cold water (a little at a time so that it doesn’t get lumpy) to starch mixture and stir till well blended. Slowly pour into sauce on the stove and lower heat to a simmer. Let cook for about 15 minutes. When sauce is cool, pour over fish and refrigerate.
My girlfriend Elin who grew up in the South recently accused me of being “such a city girl.” She is right, but like many city girls I often read magazines about country life. I fantasize about how nice it would be to live Upstate (New York of course) and have a piece of land where we could have a large vegetable garden, a few chickens (Araucana chickens so I can have blue eggs) and maybe even a goat or two (now that I know that a local editor has goats in his backyard here in L.A.) I think about Norm selling his homemade baked goods at local farmers markets along with my blueberry buns.
Creating something with your own two hands is really rewarding, especially if you have to work at it. It doesn’t matter if it is gardening, cooking, blogging or even needlepoint. Every time I walk out my back door and look at the vegetable garden I stand and stare in amazement. I guess that’s because I truly am a city girl.
Not wanting anything to go to waste I must have picked the equivalent of three bunches of chard and made this dish. Hope you enjoy it. In the meantime, here is what this city girl is reading about. http://clericiranch.wordpress.com/artisanal-chickens-availability
Swiss Chard Strudel
1 pkg puff pastry, rolled out into a large square
3 bunches Swiss chard, washed, rolled up and sliced into thin strips (stems and leaves)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
3 Tb olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup raisins
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tb pomegranate molasses
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. In a large pot, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil on a low flame for several minutes till golden. Add chard, raisins, salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, making sure chard is tender and fully cooked. Squeeze mixture gently after cooled to remove excess liquid. Add pomegranate molasses and adjust seasoning to taste. Spread chard mixture to cover entire surface of puff pastry. Then roll up and tuck ends under strudel. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake on a parchment covered cookie sheet till golden and crisp, about 25 minutes. Slice and serve. Serves 8 as a first course.
My father had a standard response to a certain type of question, and that response was “only the best.” That’s a tall order, and of course the idea of what’s best is very subjective. The statement taught me not to settle for mediocrity. At work I meet with families and often tell them to manage their expectations when it comes to their mentors, not because of the quality of the volunteers, but because I don’t want anyone disappointed. Still even as I utter those words, I know I am not being true to myself or my father’s words.
When my father first arrived in NYC, he worked as a tailor for Davidow Suits. a women’s suit company whose ads I remember seeing in Vogue Magazine when I was a teen. After coming home from a long day he would have dinner and head to night school to learn English. Years later he decided to follow his passion and become a Stock Broker, not an easy thing for a man in his 40s who had to pass the grueling exam in English, by then his fourth language. He studied night after night and when he passed away I found all the exams, almost perfect scores on each one. It didn’t surprise me.
Shavuot is holiday about relationships. It is also the one holiday where dairy reigns. One of my favorite cooking shows is called “The Best Thing I Ever Made.” The program features various chefs who talk about that one dish that they make at home for their loved ones and closest friends, the people who you want to serve your best. Last week a female Mexican chef featured a lasagna that she makes with a Mexican twist. The best of two great culinary worlds come together in perfect harmony.
May your relationships, your holiday, and your food come from the desire for it to be the best, even if it isn’t always achievable. Chag Saneach.
Corn and Poblano Lasagna adapted from Marcela Valladolid
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 2 ears)
2 cups heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Poblano chiles, charred, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch strips
2 large zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
Twelve no-boil lasagna sheets
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add two cloves of minced garlic and the corn and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool, and purée until smooth.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic clove along with the Poblano and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread about one-quarter of the corn mixture over the bottom of an 9 x 12 inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Spread 1/4 of the vegetable mixture and 1/4 of the cheese over the pasta. Repeat the layering three more times. Cover with foil.
Bake covered for about 50 minutes. Remove the foil and turn up the oven temperature to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Serves 6-8
The concept of actually going someplace with the intention of picnicking was not something we did when I was growing up. Wherever we went food was always packed and brought along. That changed when I had children of my own and we actually began planning picnics as an activity. July 4th at the Hollywood Bowl, Visitor’s Day at Camp Ramah and Mother’s Day in the park all stand out in my mind. My mother loved going to Will Rogers State Park which had an expansive lawn, a Polo field and horse filled stables. It was a perfect way for three generations to spend time together either playing with a frisbee, flying kites, feeding the horses or hiking. My mother was the figurehead, she would sit and watch and smile. My parents didn’t care about cards or gifts because being with us was really all they wanted.
Of course, we all have certain ideas of what constitutes a picnic. My mother loved deli with cole slaw and potato salad, Norm prefers fried chicken, I love good cheese and a baguette. The kids seemed to like it all, but one of them loved Inari, something my friend Fredda introduced to my family. This will be my first (I think), Mother’s Day without having any children in town. What will I do?? I guess get some cheese and wine and maybe have Norm bake a baguette and then head over to Will Rogers. Recently my sister told me that I am turning into my mother. I hope so.
To Lil and all the other Moms, Happy Mother’s Day!!
Prepare 1 cup Japanese sushi rice according to directions on package. Remove cooked rice from heat and place in shallow bowl to cool. Mix vinegar, sugar and salt and heat in small pot till sugar dissolves. Cool and mix into rice. Carefully open bean curd pouches. Divide rice into 12 portions and stuff into each pouch. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Note: Try adding slivers of tofu, shiitake mushrooms, carrot, avocado, or sliced omelette.
6 chicken cutlets
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup Matzoh Meal
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
Lemon cut in wedges
Place the Schnitzle between sheets of wax paper and pound to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Place beaten eggs and matzoh meal in wide bowls. Season matzoh meal with salt and pepper. In the meantime heat oil in frying pan. Dip each cutlet in egg mixture and then in matzoh meal and place on a large plate. Do not stack. Test to make sure oil is hot enough. Dont’ be impatient, this step is really important. Cook the Schnitzle until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Don’t crowd the pan. As the cutlets are done, put them on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. Serve with lemon wedges. Serves 3.