Inari (Beancurd skins stuffed with rice)

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!!

Inari

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.

Dressing

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.

Enjoy,

Irene
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Chicken Schnitzle

 My colleague at work calls them her Divas In Training, the young women who cook with her every Sunday, learning to make the family recipes by her side.  I had a similar experience this Passover when we were joined by young women for almost every holiday meal.  The kitchen was filled with chitchat along with the sound of stainless steel spoons hitting metal pots, of salad dressing being whisked, and of chicken Schnitzle sizzling in hot oil.  My favorite kind of noise, the noise of a busy kitchen.
Once upon a time I too was a young and inexperienced cook and stood in the kitchens of women whose food I enjoyed, so I could learn from them.  It just so happens that this Passover, Schnitzle was served at least 3 or 4 times over the course of the week (some from Fresh Foods Catering in Houston, Texas.)  At one point I was asked to post my recipe for Schnitzle (you can also try the non-Passover version of Schnitzle and see which you prefer) and so this is for “the girls.”
I love the idea that a new generation of women, all busy with their careers, and some with families, still want to take the time to prepare Schnitzle.  It’s like keeping a little part of Passover alive all year long, until it rolls around again.  Just remember to listen for the sizzle.
Chicken Schnitzle

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.

Enjoy,

Irene

My Favorite Passover Recipes

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Heading to NYC to be with our family but not before sharing a few of my favorite Passover recipes.  If you have a favorite family recipe, please send it in so we can all enjoy.  Family stories welcomed and encouraged!

Marinated Eggplant

Bubelach (Passover Pancakes)

Brownie Meringues

Coconut Macaroons

Imberlach

Matzoh Balls

Matzoh Lasagna

Mushroom Kugel

Passover Pogos

Persian Charoset

Sally’s Moussaka

Chag Sameach and Enjoy,

Irene

Brussel Sprout Leaf, Arugula, and Almond Salad

Last week I turned on the Food Network and Giada De Laurentiis had just blanched a pot of Brussel Sprout leaves.  Unfortunately I missed her technique for separating the leaves, but the result looked so appealing that I decided to try to duplicate it.  My friend Sheila had invited us over to try a new recipe that she was testing for Passover, Braised Short Ribs, and I thought that a green salad would be a perfect way to balance the richness of the beef.  Plus it was fun knowing that we were going to be each other’s taste testers in anticipation of Pesach.

Using a very small paring knife, I cut the bottom of each Brussel Sprout and gently trimmed off each individual leaf.  After about 45 minutes, I had enough for a large salad.  The leaves were quickly blanched, strained, and thrown into a bowl of ice water.  There they were, a bowl of delicate beautiful emerald-green leaves which I tossed with arugula and toasted almonds.  The dressing was equal parts olive oil and lemon juice.  The salad was refreshing and lemony, and the preparation was a nice alternative to roasting the Brussel Sprouts.  The short ribs melted in your mouth.

We won’t be in Los Angeles for Pesach this year, we are heading East at the invitation of our recently married son and daughter-in-law.  I will miss our Seder, our friends in L.A., and my sister and brother-in-law, but it will be the first time that both families, (and all the siblings) will join together to celebrate a Chag, and that’s too wonderful an opportunity to pass up.

Spring can’t come soon enough.

Brussel Sprout Leaf, Arugula and Almond Salad

1 lb. Brussel Sprouts, bottoms trimmed and leaves removed

3 cups Baby Arugula

1/2 cup slivered toasted almonds

salt and pepper to taste

Dressing

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and toss in leaves. Boil for one minute, strain, and place in bowl of ice water.  Drain and toss Brussel Sprout leaves, arugula and toasted almonds in a large bowl. Dress and serve immediately.  Serves 6

By the way, the Braised Short Ribs were as beautiful as they were delicious, just take a look for yourself.

Enjoy,

Irene

Nopal Salad

Several months ago I had the pleasure of spending the morning at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles listening to several innovative chefs and speakers discuss food.  One of the speakers was  Michael Stern, the author of  Roadfood, who shared humorous stories about his search for great meals while “on the road.”  He reflected on the difference between fine dining and dining on local fare,  and encouraged the audience to embrace all the small diners, stands, and dives where the ambiance may be lacking, but the food more than makes up for it.  Don’t trade taste for a tablecloth.  Michael Stern urged us to look for “regional experiences” when travelling, and to try dishes that the city or town is known for.  Lobster in Maine, Deep Dish Pizza in Chicago, Mexican Food in Los Angeles, and BBQ in Texas.  For some of us that may mean kosher Fried Chicken in Atlanta, vegetarian Dim Sum in NY’s Chinatown,  and…. BBQ in Texas…. (where I am spending this weekend.)

In order to do that, you have to be willing to expand your horizons and be open to experience food prepared by people who have been eating and serving those dishes for generations.  Food that may be unfamiliar, strange, and different from what you are used to.  Allow yourself to have a gastronomic adventure and, who knows, you may just discover that you love cilantro after all.

Here were some of Michael Stern’s tips for hunting out places on the road where you may end up having a memorable meal.  Look for police cars or truckers parked outside a restaurant.  Use your nose and follow something that smells good till you get to the source.  (A close friend of my father’s, who lived in Paris, once told me the same thing) Think about where you are!  Do you really want to eat Mexican food in Connecticut??  Be open, leave your judgement and your prejudices at the door, and enjoy!

Grace’s Nopal Salad  (Cactus Paddle Salad)

1 pound Nopales (cactus) cooked and sliced  (these can be bought pre-prepared in Los Angeles)

1 whole fresh tomato, chopped

2 green onions, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lime, juiced

1 -2 finely chopped Serrano chilis

1/4 tsp dried oregano

3 Tbs olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

Put nopales in a bowl and add green onion and chopped tomato.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over cactus.   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

Sweet and Sour Turkey Meatballs

I have always found graduations moving.  Just hearing that first note of Pomp and Circumstance makes my eyes well up with tears, but listening to a young group of male and female rabbinic students, including my older son, walking in to their ordination ceremony singing Ozi v’Zimrat Yah was stirring.  We were watching a new generation of rabbis marching down the aisle, stepping forward to carry on the traditions.  As wonderful as it was, having family and friends join us to witness the occasion, made it even more special.

Being in New York City was great, even during a week when the sun rarely shined.  Taking long walks each day, exploring the city and, of course, eating.  Here were some of the highlights.  An exhibit at the New York Public library celebrating the 100th anniversary,  going to the High Line in Chelsea, breakfast at Clinton Street Baking Co. , a wonderful brunch at my daughter’s new apartment in Williamsburg, and dinner at Pulino’s.  The post-graduation dinner was a success, catered by The Kosher Marketplace ,  it included Sweet and Sour Turkey Meatballs, one of David’s favorite dishes.

When it came time to return home, I found it incredibly hard to say goodbye.   The gloomy weather reflected my mood.  Just after arriving at the airport in Newark we bumped into Stephanie S. whom I had met in Houston earlier this year, close family friends of my soon to be machatunim.   Travelling with her family, she had one child asleep in the stroller, another child in tow, and was overloaded with bags, toys and drinks.  We chatted while standing in the security line, and as I watched her I was flooded with memories of travelling with my own children at that age.  I wanted to tell Stephanie to cherish the moment because I know something that she doesn’t, that in the blink of an eye she will be attending her children’s graduations.

David’s Favorite Meatballs

2 lbs. ground turkey

1/2 cup bread crumbs

3 large eggs, beaten

2 cloves minced garlic

salt and pepper to taste

Mix ingredients and make golf ball sized meatballs.

Sauce

1 can whole cranberry sauce

1 jar chili sauce (about 1 1/2 cups) or ketchup

2-3 Tbs dark brown sugar

2 Tbs fresh lemon juice

Combine sauce ingredients and cook for about 10 minutes.  Add meatballs and cook over low flame for about one hour.

Serves 6-8.

Enjoy,

Irene

Fried Green Tomatoes

During the Seder I shared an article written by Rabbi Debora Gordon in which she writes about “leaving Passover behind”.   We are coming to the last days of the Chag and I too am sad to know that the end of the holiday is approaching.  It  isn’t just the departure of two of my children, and it isn’t just the daunting task of putting things back in order.  It is in part the passage of time, knowing that another holiday season is now behind us and I am faced with the uncertainty of what next year will bring.  Rabbi Gordon wrote that the end of Passover means that “Life stops being so simple”.   We have spent our holiday in simplicity, being at home, in the kitchen, eating all of our meals together, making few excursions out of the house.  With the religious limitations and restrictions comes an ease that occurs when fewer choices means fewer decisions.  That too is something that I will miss.  I will relish these last days of  Yontif and wish all of you a Chag Sameach.

When I was growing up the meals my mother prepared during Passover were really not that different from the rest of the year.  Dinner consisted of soup, chicken or beef, salad and potatoes. A box of Matzoh was placed on the table instead of the loaf of freshly baked rye bread.  The pressure to be innovative is self-imposed and I know that nobody would complain if I made garlic chicken every night.  This year  I have made a conscious effort to incorporate more vegetables into our diet.  We have had Kale chips, trays of various roasted vegetables including artichokes and asparagus,  Greek salads, pickled vegetables, and last night I served a Passover version of Fried Green Tomatoes with a side of tomato basil salad.  Very simple.

Fried Green Tomatoes

3 large green tomatoes

1 cup matzoh meal

3 eggs, beaten

salt and pepper to taste

Safflower oil

Core and slice tomatoes.  Each tomato should yield 4 slices, about 1/2 inch in thickness.  Dip in beaten egg, and then in seasoned matzoh meal.  Heat oil in frying pan till very hot and add tomatoes.  Do not crowd pan.  Fry till brown and crispy on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.  Cast iron pan is best.  Serve hot with a side of tomato basil salad.

Serves 12

Enjoy,

Irene

Tomato Basil Salad

Despite the fact that we lived in the city, The Bronx had enough natural beauty for my father to enjoy.  There was Mosholu Parkway, Pelham Parkway, Poe Park, and Van Cortlandt Park, just to name a few of the places where one could escape to.  On Sundays my father and I would walk to St. James Park with a brown paper bag filled with leftover Challah, and feed the birds.  We could spend hours there, not saying much, just sitting and watching the pigeons that flocked around the crumbs at my father’s feet.  Some Sundays were spent at The Bronx Zoo or at Orchard Beach.  My father loved being outdoors and he loved animals.  As an extension of that connection to nature, he was conscious of the things he ate and where they came from.  He always preferred eating food in its most natural state, feeling that fruits and vegetables were created in the way they were intended to be eaten, perfect in their simplicity.  It has taken me a long time to reach the same conclusion.

Here is a very simple tomato salad.  It is really best when you use ripe, locally grown, plum tomatoes.

Tomato Basil Salad

1 dozen Roma Tomatoes,

One bunch fresh Basil

4-5 cloves garlic

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Slice Roma tomatoes in half, lengthwise, and gently squeeze out pulp.  Dice into 1/2 ” cubes and place in large bowl.  Remove basil leaves from stem, then stack and roll.  With a sharp knife cut into thin slices.  Add to tomatoes.  Mince garlic and add to bowl, along with salt and pepper to taste.  Add olive oil, cover and allow to sit for flavors to blend before serving.

Enjoy,

Irene

Note: This is great on Matzoh!


Rachel’s Eggplant Salad

Growing up, all of my parents’ friends were Polish Jews.  As immigrants, they wanted to surround themselves with people who had similar experiences and backgrounds, people who shared common customs, language, and food.  It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I met Jews who looked different, spoke Hebrew or Ladino (as opposed to Yiddish), and ate foods that I had never heard of, prepared with spices that had exotic names like turmeric, cardamom and fennel.

My children had a completely different experience growing up in Los Angeles.  A city with a strong Persian presence, Persian food was introduced into their diet early on.  They also have Jewish friends and acquaintances whose families were originally from Egypt, Iraq, Yemen and Morocco.  Our family has eaten Aloo-m-Kalla in the Sukkah of a friend who is from India, watched an Egyptian friend prepare Bamia, and have eaten many meals in my friend Rachel’s house, whose family immigrated to Israel from Afghanistan.  I am so proud of the fact that my daughter just prepared a traditional Ashkenazi Rosh Hashana dinner for her friends, but I love knowing that she can just as easily make Tabit or Shakshuka.

A great cook, my friend Rachel’s food is full of flavor, but her appetizers and salads are particularly outstanding.  Here is a recipe that she shared after returning from her most recent trip to Israel.

Rachel’s Eggplant Salad

2 eggplants, diced into 1/2 inch cubes

5 Tbs olive oil

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 small green chili pepper, thinly sliced

1 small red chili pepper, thinly sliced

1 32 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

2 Tbs red wine vinegar

1 Tbs sugar

Italian parsley

Take diced eggplant and toss with  3 Tbs of the olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven till tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  In a large pot, combine 2 Tbs olive oil, green and red chilis, crushed tomatoes, red wine vinegar and sugar.  Cook over low heat for about 20 minutes.  Add prepared eggplant and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes over a low flame.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve cold or at room temperature, with a handful of chopped parsley on top.

Enjoy,

Irene