Stella’s Curry Sauce for Fish Cakes

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.

 

Fish Cakes

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.

Enjoy,

Irene

Swiss Chard Strudel

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.

Enjoy,
Irene

 

 

 

 

 

Corn and Poblano Lasagne

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

Enjoy,

Irene

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