Faux Crab Cakes

The 182-183 Street station of the D train that travelled from The Bronx to Manhattan was directly under the apartment building where I grew up.  Going “downtown” was a big deal, not in terms of distance but in almost every other way.  You didn’t throw on a pair of jeans and go downtown, you dressed for the occasion.  Anita, my sister, would take me to Manhattan as part of her continuous effort to expose me to culture and the arts.  She took me to all the wonderful museums, Central Park, the art galleries in The Village, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and everywhere else she could.  We ate roasted chestnuts, Chinese and Italian food, and hot, square knishes from street vendors.  We drank egg creams and hot chocolate.  I still remember getting off the train in Manhattan and experiencing that childlike sense of awe and wonder.  Walking up Fifth Avenue felt as if I had stepped over a threshold into another world.  No delis or bakeries on the corners, no people sitting on the stoops, no noises from the kids playing stickball on the street.  Instead there was elegance, beauty and The Plaza Hotel, straight out of the Eloïse books I adored.

The summer after I turned 16, I walked into Bergdorf Goodman and applied for a job.  I don’t think I would have had the courage to do that were it not for my sister and all those trips to Fifth Avenue.  To my amazement, I was hired, right then and there.  Suddenly I found myself working just around the corner from The Plaza Hotel and the elegant Palm Court where they served things like Cobb Salad and Crab Cakes.  That summer I had lunch there for the very first time.

I am meeting Anita in New York in October and I can’t wait.  I hope we have the chance to stroll up Fifth Avenue so I can re-capture some of the wonder of being in New York with my big sister.  We may even have tea at The Plaza.

Now that you can buy Kosher faux crab meat, I make crab cakes at home.

Faux Crab Cakes

1 lb. crab meat

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 green onion, thinly sliced

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/ 2 cup bread crumbs

3 dashes Tabasco sauce

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup canola oil.

Coating

1 cup corn flake crumbs

In food processor, using the double blade, add crab meat and pulse a few times till shredded. Place in large bowl and add mayonnaise, green onion, eggs, breadcrumbs, tabasco and salt and pepper. Mix well and form about 12 cakes, making sure they are not too thick.

Place corn flake crumbs on a plate and coat each crab cake. Heat oil in cast iron pan till hot, fry crab cakes till golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side.  Crab cakes are very delicate and fall apart easily so handle with care.

Perfect appetizer for a festive meal.

Enjoy,

Irene

Potato Sides

My sister, brother-in-law, and older son came to town this week for my father’s unveiling.  Yes, it was sad and emotional, but it was also a celebration of a life lived to the fullest.  Well they have all gone home and, tonight, when I sat down to write this post, all I could think of was potatoes.  They are the ultimate comfort food for those of us who come from Eastern European Jewish stock. How can anyone resist a steamy, buttery bowl of mashed potatoes at the end of a challenging day?  Potatoes have always been a staple in our house.  Occasionally we had noodles, Kasha or rice, but potatoes reigned.  My mother served them mashed, roasted, fried, and boiled and used them to create dishes like potatonik, chremslech, kartoffel knaidlech and latkes.  One of my favorite preparations was a dish she learned while living in Paris, called Pomme de Terre Sauté.  Potato knishes are another favorite, and although we did not make them at home, we enjoyed eating them in the delis and on the streets of New York.  In Israel I discovered Burekas, a crisp flaky dough filled with tender mashed potatoes, similar to the knish but a little lighter with a more tender crust.

This is a verse from an old Yiddish folksong about potatoes, a reminder that this delicious tuber was eaten daily!

Zuntik bulbes, montik bulbes,
Dinstik uhn mitvoch bulbes,
Donershtik uhn fraytik bulbes.
Ober shabbes in a noveneh a bulbeh kuggele
Zuntik vayter bulbes

Ober shabbes in a noveneh a bulbeh kuggele
Zuntik vayter bulbes

Pomme de Terre Saute

2 Idaho potatoes

1/4 cup butter

4 eggs

salt and pepper to taste

Peel potatoes and slice as thin as possible.  Saute them in a frying pan with butter, over low heat, until they are transparent and starting to form a golden crust. Beat eggs, and season with salt and pepper.  Pour eggs into the frying pan over the potatoes and gently stir. When the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork, they are ready.

Potato Burekas

1 Pkg pre-cut puff pastry  (this is readily available in most middle-eastern markets and are already cut into squares)

4 Idaho potatoes

2 large onions, diced

1/4 cup oil

black sesame seeds

Egg Wash

1 egg beaten with 1 Tbs water

Peel and quarter potatoes and boil till tender. Drain and mash.  Dice and sauté onions in oil until they are golden brown. Add to mashed potatoes and season with salt and pepper.  In the center of each square of puff pastry place a heaping tablespoon of potato filling. Fold into a triangle and press firmly down along edge. Brush the top of the Bureka with egg wash and sprinkle with black sesame seeds.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and bake burekas till golden. About 30 minutes.

Enjoy,

Irene

Baladi Eggplant

My youngest son, Micah, just moved into a Moishe House in Los Angeles and Norm and I were thrilled to be invited for Shabbat dinner.  It was potluck and I decided to bring an appetizer, main course, and dessert.  I had just purchased three eggplants and Micah suggested that I make them Baladi style, a dish he ate in Israel.  Having never heard of it, I did a little bit of research and decided it was worth trying.  I can’t say how authentic this version is, but it was easy to make and delicious.  The eggplant was soft, with a great smoky flavor, and the addition of Tehina gave a creamy texture to the dish.

It is a perfect appetizer for a Memorial Day BBQ.

We wish the newest residents of the Los Angeles Moishe House great success!!

Baladi Eggplant

2 Eggplants

1/4 cup Tehina

1 lemon

3 cloves garlic

Wrap whole eggplants in foil and grill for about 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Eggplant will collapse when tender.

Cool and drain off any liquid that has collected at the bottom of the eggplant.  Slit eggplants down the center with a sharp knife and spread open. Rake pulp with a fork to separate from skin.

Mix Tehina with minced garlic and lemon juice to taste.  Thin with a little bit of water if needed.  Drizzle over eggplants and serve with pita.

Serves 6-8 as an appetizer.

Enjoy,

Irene


Chopped Liver

Nobody eats real chopped liver anymore but it is yontif and my son David is in town and this is one of his favorites.   I have had versions made with lentils, green beans (my personal preference), mushrooms and eggplants usually  blended with walnuts, hard-boiled eggs, and onions and  although they are delicious they just aren’t the same.  The trick to good chopped liver is patience.  The onions need to caramelize for about 30 minutes over a low flame.  If the color of the onions isn’t a deep golden brown, you won’t achieve that flavor that takes chopped liver to a whole different level.  This is the way my mother made it and today I used her wooden bowl and hackmesser (chopping knife) to make it.

Chag Sameach!

Manya’s Chopped Liver

1 pound chicken livers

5 hard-boiled eggs

4 large brown onions

1/2 cup vegetable oil

dash of salt

Broil the livers for about 5 minutes, turning once or twice.  Remove and cool.  Dice onions and saute in oil over a low flame till they are a deep golden brown.  Place all ingredients in wooden bowl and chop till fine or you can do this in the food processor on the pulse cycle but DO NOT over blend.

Enjoy,

Irene

Marinated Eggplant

Many years ago I was a volunteer on Kibbutz Usha in Northern Israel.  I asked to be assigned to the dairy and was given the morning shift, working side by side with an Arab named Hasan, a kind and willing teacher.  It was quite an experience for a girl from New York.  For me, the year I spent on Usha was filled with new experiences, but milking 300 cows a day was one of the highlights.  Another was that Norm and I got engaged that year!  The kibbutznikim were warm and friendly and we still have lifelong friends that we met that year.  One couple in particular, Amitai and Tovchik, became like family to us. Tovchik would marinade eggplants and keep them in a jar in her fridge, ready to serve if you ever stopped by for the typical Israeli 4 pm  meal.  It was a delicious snack, (although definitely not low-cal.) Sadly Tovchik passed away several years ago but it has become my tradition to make her eggplant dish every Passover.  It makes me think of Tovchik and my year at Usha with love and a smile.

Tovchik’s Eggplant
2 eggplants
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
red wine vinegar
vegetable oil

Lay sliced eggplants on a tray in a single layer and salt liberally.  Let them sit for half an hour and then pat off excess  moisture and salt with a paper towel.  Make sure both sides are dry.
Fill a frying pan with about 2″ of oil.  When oil is very hot, fry eggplant till brown, several minutes on each side.
Take a deep dish and cover with a layer of eggplant.  Then slice 2-3 cloves fresh garlic and toss slices over eggplants.  Lightly drizzle with red wine vinegar.  Add another layer of eggplant, more garlic and more vinegar and keep repeating till all eggplant is used.
Refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least 24 hours.  Serve at room temperature

Enjoy,
Irene