Lemon Chicken

Three of us share one office.  Granted it is an executive space, with large  floor to ceiling windows and a great view of the city.  Still, the day I learned that two of my colleagues and I would have to reconfigure this space to accommodate all of us, I was filled with trepidation.  Our jobs (caseworkers) require spending a fair part of the day on the phone, helping parents or volunteers deal with whatever issues they may be grappling with.  How was this ever going to work?

It took a willingness to compromise and talk things over,  but two years later, we are more than just colleagues.  Our different approaches and personalities could have been an obstacle, but it turned out to be our strength.  We support and encourage each other when we need it, we confer with each other when faced with challenging situations, we laugh, one of us cries, and two of us cry from laughter.  We talk about our families, pets, books, movies, vacations, work, and, of course, food.

Barbie’s dad owned the famous Nibblers Restaurant and shares her wonderful memories of growing up there.  A creative cook, Barbie often describes the concoction she had prepared the night before, using whatever she had in the kitchen.  Susan, not so much a foodie, has some dishes that she has perfected and relies on, like Mac N’ Cheese, Butter Tarts and Lemon Chicken.

Some would find our situation impossible.  We spend more time together than we do with anybody else, eight hours a day, five days a week, in close quarters.  There is no privacy, sort of like three children sharing a bedroom, but I must admit, I never really liked having my own room.

Susan’s Lemon Chicken

2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts  (I used strips)

flour for dredging

6 Tbs olive oil

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup white wine

2 cloves minced garlic

juice of 1 1/2 lemons

salt and pepper to taste

Lightly dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess.  Using a frying pan, brown chicken in olive oil and remove from pan, placing in a Pyrex dish.  Add garlic, broth and wine to frying pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add lemon juice, salt and pepper and pour mixture over chicken. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Enjoy,

Irene

Moussaka

My mother would hang the wet laundry on clothes lines that were strung across the rooftop of our building.  She carried it up the stairs in a laundry basket with her wooden clothespins resting on top.  On her way up she would pass the apartment of an Italian family with a daughter named Rosemary, who was a friend of mine.  Her grandmother, Rose, lived next door to them, and sometimes my mother would stop in to see her and share a small glass of wine.  Rose spoke very little English so I have no idea how she and my mother communicated but it didn’t seem to matter.  With people living in such close proximity language barriers didn’t stand in the way of relationships.

This past week we were invited to friends for Shabbat dinner and I was seated next to a lovely woman in her eighties.  Intrigued by her accent, I asked about her background.  We spent the next three hours talking, and during that time I learned a lot about her life.  An Egyptian Jew, she spoke of her experiences in Israel and the struggles of  Sephardic immigrants in a country governed by Ashkenazim.  She spoke of her husband and children and the ups and downs one has during a lifetime.  Throughout her story, she kept stating that no matter what challenges you are dealt in life, “somehow you adjust.”  As I stood up to leave, she took both of my hands in hers and asked me to please come and visit her.  On our way home, I told Norm all about this woman and then I realized that we never even learned each other’s names.

That interaction made me wonder about my mother and Rose, who I am sure learned less about each other’s lives in the thirteen years that they were neighbors than this woman revealed in the three hours we spent together.  It made me think of friendships and how we define them.  The glass of wine that Rose and my mother shared, was no less significant for them than friendships based on a more intimate knowledge of each other’s lives.  Sometimes, a glass of wine or a dish of Moussaka is enough.

This is the recipe for the Moussaka that we all shared on Shabbat.

Moussaka

4 globe eggplants

olive oil

4 onions, diced

2 pounds ground chicken or turkey

1 tsp each of ginger, turmeric, cumin and paprika

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 14 oz. can of tomato sauce

1 small can of tomato paste

1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped

6 eggs, beaten

Drizzle about 3 Tbs  of olive oil on a cookie sheet and pre-heat sheet in a 350 degree oven. Peel and slice eggplant,  1/2″  thick, sprinkle with salt, and bake in a single layer on cookie sheet till soft. Turn eggplant slices over and bake other side.  (you can fry the eggplant if you prefer but this is a much lighter version)  Heat 3 Tbs olive oil in a large heavy pot and add 4 finely diced onions. Saute till golden. Add ground chicken, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cumin, paprika, and salt and pepper.  With a wooden spoon, continue breaking up ground chicken till seasonings are incorporated and meat is lightly browned.  Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, and cilantro to chicken mixture and cook for about 20 minutes over a low flame, stirring frequently.

Grease a 9 x 13 dish and cover the bottom of the dish with half the meat sauce and add a layer of eggplant. Repeat this so that you end with the eggplant on top.  Beat 6 eggs and pour over dish.  Bake about one hour, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven.

Enjoy,

Irene

Chicken Fricassee

For over eighteen years Norm and I would pile our three kids into the blue Volvo station wagon on Friday afternoons and head down to Palm Springs where Norm’s parents would rent a condo every winter.  Pinnie and Lil were snow-birds, leaving behind their home in Toronto and flying West to enjoy six weeks of sunshine and warm weather and, of course, their grandchildren.  The parents of our close friends vacationed in the same complex which meant that the children had their friends, we had ours, and Bubbie and Zaidie had us all. Some years my sisters-in-law and their families would come in from Canada or Israel, giving the cousins the opportunity to spend time together. Our days were spent sitting at the pool relaxing, and watching the kids play Marco Polo. There were also hikes in Joshua Tree, tennis matches, outings to the local flea market, February birthday celebrations, and of course, many meals. After the inevitably long trip from Los Angeles, we knew that Bubbie and Zadie were waiting on the other end keeping Shabbat dinner warm.  We often made it just in time for supper, and we could predict with a fair amount of certainty what that would be.  It would include either vegetable or chicken soup, cornflake coated chicken, salad, and the all time favorite, chicken fricassee.  I had never heard of fricassee before I met my mother-in-law.  It is a delicious stew of chicken balls and wings, cooked together in a slightly sweetened tomato based sauce and it was the perfect dish to eat after a long, trying car trip.  The chicken balls were tender, the wings would fall apart as you ate them, and the sauce would soak into the mashed potatoes.  As often as I have I made this dish, it never tastes exactly like Lil’s.  I have gone over the recipe with her many times but maybe you have to be a Bubbie to get it just right.  We are going to Toronto in October to visit Bubbie and Zaidie and maybe with a little luck and a BIG hint, we will have fricassee waiting when we arrive.

*August 7th is Lil’s 85th birthday and we all wish you a Happy Birthday!!!  See you soon.

Lil’s Chicken Fricassee

10 chicken wings, cut at the joint

Meatballs

2 lbs. ground chicken

1 large onion, finely diced

1/2 cup bread crumbs

2 eggs

2 Tbsp ketchup

salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and form into balls. Set aside.

Sauce

1- 29 oz. can tomato sauce

1-15 oz. can crushed tomatoes

2 large brown onions, cut in half and thinly sliced

1/4 cup ketchup

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup raisins

salt and pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients for the sauce in a very large pot.  Bring to a boil and stir.  Add wings first and then carefully add chicken balls. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook fricassee for about two hours.

Enjoy,

Irene






Schnitzle

For years now a group of our friends have being going to the Hollywood Bowl to celebrate the Fourth of July.  We arrive early, picnic, and then head over to our seats.  It has all the elements of what I consider to be the perfect night: spending an entire evening outdoors, dining and listening to music surrounded by family and friends.  Among us there are two immigrants, one from Canada and one from England,  two first generation Americans, and the rest are “real” Americans.  We have never discussed how we feel about this particular holiday so I have no idea if the others find it as meaningful as I do.  I have always been very aware that my parents could have ended up anywhere in the world when they left France in 1952.  Fortunately they came to this country and made it their home and mine.

Happy Fourth of July!!

My mother’s version of fried chicken, a  traditional Fourth of July dish, was Schnitzle, pounded boneless chicken breasts, breaded and fried. What a great way to combine the old world with the new.

Schnitzle

1 lb. boneless chicken breast, pounded thin

1/2 cup flour

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup bread crumbs

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup oil or more as needed

Place flour, beaten eggs, and seasoned bread crumbs in three separate shallow bowls. In assembly line order, dip each breast in flour, eggs,  and then seasoned bread crumbs.  Heat oil in frying pan (cast iron is best) till sizzling. Fry schnitzle till golden on each side.

Serves 4

Enjoy,

Irene

http://www.foodista.com/food/SSKFCT7S/chicken-breast/widgets

Chicken Fajitas

Anytime I served my mother any kind of ethnic food, her standard response, in Yiddish, was, “we never ate this in Mogielnice.”   I was raised on a strict diet of Eastern European Jewish fare: good, solid, hearty meals.  My mother never made Pad Thai or tacos or stir fry, and just trying to conjure up an image of her standing in the kitchen with a wok makes me smile.  Truth be told, when she did try a new recipe that she was given by a friend or neighbor, my sister and I were typically unhappy about it.  We never wanted to experiment, not in my mother’s kitchen.

Somewhere along the way I discovered that I am drawn to exotic flavors, spices, and aromas more than to burgers, steaks, mac n’ cheese and kugels!  Going to Artesia for vegetarian Indian food is almost as good as reading a book that transports you to Bombay. It is an adventure that you can experience with little effort.  After having lived in Los Angeles for over thirty years, Mexican food is at the top of my list of favorite ethnic foods, simple but incredibly flavorful.  I love the beans, guacamole, salsas and the heat of chiles.

I tend to shy away from cooking ethnic dishes at home. They are often too labor intensive and I don’t usually have the time or the ingredients on hand.  Chicken fajitas are easy.  They are  fast and healthy and don’t require anything complicated in terms of preparation. Served with guacamole, salsa and warm corn tortillas, it’s perfect for a light summer meal and a nice break from roast chicken and potatoes.

Chicken Fajitas

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Marinade

1 large onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbsp olive oil

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp oregano

salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients for marinade, pour over chicken breasts and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Discard marinade.

2 red peppers or 1 red and 1 yellow, sliced

1 large onion, sliced

1 Tbsp olive oil

Heat olive oil in pan ( I prefer a cast iron pan) till hot.  Add onions and sliced peppers and cook over medium high heat until peppers start to caramelize.  Take chicken breasts and slice them into 3/4 inch strips.  Add to peppers and onions and saute, stirring constantly until chicken is cooked.  About ten minutes.  Serve with corn tortillas, salsa, and guacamole.

Serves 4

Enjoy,

Irene


Garlic Chicken

My mother made garlic chicken every Friday night for as long as I can remember.  She used the same rub on turkey, duck and Cornish hens, the only variation being the bigger the bird, the more garlic.
Bake the chicken in a large enough pan to hold quartered potatoes and baste chicken and potatoes with drippings.

Garlic Chicken
1 whole roasting chicken
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 Tbs oil
1 whole head garlic, peeled and minced

Combine spices in a bowl. Add minced garlic and oil to spices and blend together until you have a paste-like consistency. Rub the garlic mixture on the inside and outside of chicken. Let marinate in fridge overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place chicken in baking dish, breast down, with about 1/2″ of water on the bottom of the pan. Bake for 30 minutes and then baste with liquid. Add more water to pan if necessary. When chicken is golden brown, turn chicken breast side up. Baste every 20 minutes or so.  Total baking time is about 1 1/2 hours.

Enjoy,
Irene

Oven-Fried Chicken Wings

My friend Fredda and I wrote this several years ago for a synagogue newsletter. We had decided to watch the Oscars together and serve this particular chicken. Well the Oscars are on Sunday so I thought it would be fun to revive the article and the recipe.

Project Chicken Soup is a wonderful organization.
To learn more about it visit www.projectchickensoup.org

2005 - When our children were very young and attending Jewish Day Schools, they were required to do community service. We all loved the idea, wanting to instill in them the value of “giving back”. Project Chicken Soup, an organization in L.A. that cooks and delivers hot meals to house-bound AIDS patients needed volunteers. Since our children were not old enough to drive themselves to the communal kitchen, going to Project Chicken Soup became a Sunday morning family activity. It allowed all of us to participate and gave us all a chance to cook! It was a labor of love.

A favorite family recipe came out of that experience.

Project Chicken Soup Chicken
Enough for one whole chicken cut in eighths or twenty wings.
l cup flour
1 cup cornflake crumbs
3 tbsp sweet paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Run chicken under water and pat till almost dry. Dredge chicken in crumb mixture and shake off excess. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees till crisp and brown. If you choose to make the wings then this dip is a great accompaniment.
Pareve Ranch Dressing (non-dairy) Mix an envelope of Lipton Kosher Pareve Ranch Mix with one container of Tofutti Brand Sour Supreme (a pareve sour cream substitute). Stir well.

Enjoy,
Irene