Susan’s Mini Corn Muffins

The stoop was not just an architectural feature of many of the buildings in The Bronx, it was much more than that.  In addition to flanking the entryway to the building , it was the place to linger, to hang out and have what my older son refers to as a “stop and chat.”  It even served as a destination because plans were often made to meet up with friends at “the stoop”  The boys played stoop ball and the girls used the same pink Spalding ball to play “A my name,” a children’s game where you continuously bounced the ball and turned your leg over the ball on the word that contained the letter of the alphabet that was being emphasized.   i.e. A my name is Anita and my husband’s name is Al, we come from Alabama and we sell Apples.  It wasn’t until about 7 years ago on a trip to Brooklyn when I bought several “spaldines” and discovered that we had mispronounced Spalding all these years.

My friend Saul likes to make fun of the days I spent hanging out at the stoop but to this day I smile when I am in NYC and see that kids and adults are still doing it.  After spending those hot summer days lingering around the stoop I would go upstairs and have an ice-cold glass of milk with an afternoon snack.  If my mother were here, she would tell you that had the milk been out of the fridge and on the counter for more than one minute, I would refuse to drink it.  The snacks?  My favorite were, iced brownies with walnuts, black and white cookies, Chinese cookies, or a corn muffin split in half and lathered in butter.   The stoops are in The Bronx and I am in L.A. , but the corn muffins are in the kitchen, hot and fresh from the oven, and the milk is still in the fridge.

 

Susan’s Mini Corn Muffins

2 cups yellow cornmeal

2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tb baking powder

2 tsp salt

2/3 cup oil

2 eggs

2 cups milk

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients.  Combine oil, eggs, and milk in a small bowl, and add to dry ingredients till just combined.  Grease mini muffin tins well and fill to the top.  Bake for about 8 minutes using a convection oven or about 10 minutes in a conventional oven.  Makes 24 muffins.

Enjoy,

Irene

Summer Fruit Cobbler

My father had a story to tell but unfortunately I was not ready to hear it when he was alive.  I know that he was the youngest of seven children and that his father died shortly after my father was born.  I don’t recall my father sharing many stories about his siblings, extended family or even his mother.  Perhaps the loss was so painful that he just couldn’t bring himself to speak of them, or maybe he thought his stories couldn’t compete with my mother’s colorful delivery.  Either way, there are holes in the family history and nobody left to ask.

My mother was a storyteller and spoke warmly of her large family and their lives in the small shtetl of Mogielnica.  We grew up hearing about my maternal grandfather’s tannery, about her aunt who owned the bakery in town and whose sisters were also bakers, about her unruly brothers who she clearly adored.  The meals, the food, the holidays, the memories were vivid and sharp and I can recall many of them to this day.

My daughter recently traveled to Germany and realized that she doesn’t know as much about my family as she had thought.  She has asked me to write down what information I have, but I must admit it is very limited.  It is a tall order and it feels like I am trying to recreate something without knowing all the ingredients.  So instead, I spent the afternoon baking a Fruit Cobbler, in memory of all the family bakers that preceded me, and in honor of my daughter who wants to know more and is ready to ask.

 

Fruit Cobbler

1 stick butter

1 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1 Tb baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup milk

4 cups fruit ( I used blackberries and peaches)

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Place butter in a large round baking dish and melt in a 375 degree oven.  In the meantime, mix 1 cup of sugar with the flour, salt, and baking powder.  Add milk, stirring gently but not thoroughly.  Pour batter over melted butter but do not stir.

In a medium pot, cook fruit with sugar and cinnamon for just a few minutes.  Pour over batter and sprinkle with more cinnamon.  Bake for about 45 minutes or till golden brown.  There is liquid in the center even when the cobbler is fully baked, just take the juices and spoon over each serving.  Serves 8

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

Judy’s Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce

I had forgotten how beautiful Spring is on the East Coast.  Tulips and Daffodils are everywhere, poking their heads through even the most unwelcoming strips of land, and Golden Forsythia, White Dogwood, and Pink Redbud are all in full bloom.  After having spent hours in the kitchen preparing for Seder, the next day was sunny and warm and we were able to eat lunch outside.  I even managed to fall asleep on the grass, something I had not done in years.  Weather and family aside, we had the pleasure of sharing the holidays with the offspring of our children’s contemporaries.  There were three couples with babies under the age of one, the mothers women who I knew long before they were contemplating motherhood.  One of the babies spent all of Yontif  with us, Raviv, who everyone wanted to hold, each of us vying for his attention and affection.  There was no question that this Passover was different, and Zis, just as we had hoped.

In between the cooking and eating, there were several times when something brought me back to my childhood.  Today as I was walking down the streets of Williamsburg, I suddenly heard people speaking both Yiddish and Polish.  And this afternoon as I sat down to eat my lunch on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I realized that I packed the very same lunch that my mother used to make me, matzoh and salami (my mother’s favorite) a Dr. Brown’s Cream soda and a Passover Rainbow Cookie ( the ones with the almond flavoring and raspberry jam separating the yellow, green, and red layers of cake covered in dark chocolate.)  I thought about the fact that all my daughter wanted for lunch was my friend Judy’s Salmon, and so we prepared it last night.  Maybe she was reminiscing as well.  I hope that your last days of Yontif are filled with good food and the time to reminisce.

Judy’s Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce
I  2-3 lb. salmon fillet
1 stick of butter  (melted)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Honey
1 Tbsp White Vinegar
1 tsp Dill (dried)
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Melt the butter and allow to cool.  Mix with the other ingredients and add salt and pepper to taste.  Place the salmon fillet on parchment paper.  Spread about half of the sauce mixture on the salmon.  Place in oven for about 20 minutes, checking the thickest part to test if done.  Top of fish will be lightly browned.  Serve fish either hot or at room temperature with the rest of the sauce.  Serves 4-6
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

Poppy Seed Crisps

When this Judy Zeidler recipe appeared in this week’s Jewish Journal, the photo of one of the cookies featured reminded me of something my mother used to make.  Pletzlach were large, flat, sugar-topped crackers that we ate right out of the oven, when she let me. These turned out to be more of the traditional poppy-seed cookie, thin, light and not too sweet, really good, they just are not my mother’s pletzlach.

Earlier this week Norm sent me an article about forgotten foods, and the very next day my sister called and, out of the blue, suggested that I make Helzel, a chicken neck stuffed with flour, fat and spices, (similar to kishke) that my mother often made. I still remember my mother sitting at the kitchen table and patiently sewing up the neck with a needle and thread.

Now there are two recipes of my mother’s that are missing, but not forgotten. Just like my mother.

Judy Zeidler’s Poppy Seed Crisps

1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
6 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 ounces poppy seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Add oil and 1 1/2 cups sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer and blend together until fluffy. Beat in the eggs until smooth. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the milk alternately with the sifted dry ingredients to the oil mixture, beating after each addition. Blend in the poppy seeds. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 4 days and stored in the freezer for 3 weeks.)

Remove the dough a heaping teaspoon at a time on to a generously floured board or a sheet of wax paper. Roll out the dough into a thin rectangle, about 8 by 11 inches. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into diamond shapes and place them on a greased baking sheet or silicone baking mat. Mix together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the cookies.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool.

Enjoy,

Irene

Portobello Mushroom Frittata

Last week we went to see an Israeli documentary called The Breakfast Parliament about the privatization of Kibbutz Ein Tsurim and the impact on its’ members.  The film focused on a group of Kibbutznikim who, for decades, had breakfast together in the dining hall until a vote decides that it is no longer economically feasible.  In one of the last scenes of the film, you glimpse each of these men eating in their homes, separately and alone.

One of the highlights of the year I spent working on Kibbutz Usha, milking 300 cows a day, was walking into the communal dining hall after the morning milking, knowing that there would be a room full of people talking about anything and everything, over breakfast.  Being part of a setting where meals were always communal had a great impact on me, and to this day breakfast is a meal that I prefer to have in the company of others.

I was fortunate enough to continue this tradition over the past several years.  Sharing an office with two colleagues, who became friends, we begin each morning with breakfast, each of us at eating at our own desk, but in each other’s presence.  It has been a ritual that has nourished our stomachs and our souls  as we catch up, chat, confer and prepare for the day.  Last week I was told that I will be moving into the office next door, and yesterday I packed up my desk.  Barbie sat with me and we reminisced, Susan handed me a card on which she wrote that I should knock on the wall three times when I need her.  Friday was the last day of our own breakfast parliament.  I am ready to knock.

Portobello Mushroom Frittata

8 oz. small Portobello mushrooms, sliced

1 large shallot, sliced

4 eggs

3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 Tb olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put olive oil in frying pan and heat.  Add sliced shallots and mushrooms and sauté on high heat for about 5 minutes.  Allow mixture to cool.  Beat 4 eggs in a large bowl and add mushroom mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.   Add 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and mix well.  Butter a pie dish and pour in egg mixture.  Cover with remaining mozzarella cheese.  Place in oven till golden brown, about 40 minutes.  Serves 4-6 for breakfast.

Enjoy,

Irene

Mexican Hot Chocolate

My youngest son is moving to New York City today so at 6 a.m. this morning I got up and prepared a special breakfast to send him off.  The winds have been howling for the past two days here in Los Angeles, almost as if they too are sad to see him go. When he wakes up he will find a plate of sautéed tomatoes, mushrooms, and onions, all scrambled together with eggs, served with a side of veggie sausages and fresh guacamole.  Of course I wanted to make something special to warm his insides before he deals with the realities of life in New York City and so I prepared a pot of hot chocolate, added some cinnamon, a little vanilla, and a touch of chili powder. Bittersweet.  Bon Voyage and B’hatzlachah!

Mexican Hot Chocolate

4 Cups milk

1/2 Cup U-Bet Chocolate Syrup

1 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla

1/2 tsp ground chili powder

Simmer all the ingredients together and adjust sweetness to your taste.  I would top it with fresh whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Serves two because it is always nicer to share a cup of cocoa with someone else.

 

Enjoy,

Irene

Hearty Vegetarian Lasagna

When the boys were little, they used to drag chairs into their bedroom, grab sheets from the linen closet, flashlights from the drawers, and spend hours building forts.  They loved creating something out of nothing and the only limitations were the size of their room and the breadth of their imagination.  Each time they did this the configuration of the fort was just a little different but the basics were the same.  Just like our Sukkah.  The size is determined by the space available and the rest is up to us.  In truth building a Sukkah is not so different than building those forts.  Shortly after Rosh Hashana, Norm orders the Schah, (in Los Angeles we use Palm fronds) and then starts pulling the lumber out of the garage.  A few days later the frame goes up but it doesn’t really look like  anything much at this point.  (If anything it looks like he is planning to build a fort)  Then the lights and a few decorations go up.  That lasts about a week, and finally when the schah is delivered and thrown over the top of the frame, the Sukkah takes on a life of its own.

This year my brother-in-law Jeff will be joining us in our Sukkah for the very first time.  Just like when the kids invited a friend to come play in the fort, a guest gives you an opportunity to show off your handiwork.  For years I have encouraged Norm to buy a Sukkah Kit, or have the patio roof re-done so that all he would have to do is add the walls, in other words to find a way of building a Sukkah that would take less effort.  That will never happen because then he wouldn’t be able to tell Jeff, or any other guest, that “he built it all by himself.”  There is something about boys and their forts.  Chag Sameach.

 

 

This is a vegetarian version of Joy Behar’s lasagna as seen on The Chew.  The soy crumbles and soy Italian sausages worked perfectly.

Hearty Vegetarian Lasagna

2 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 lb soy Italian Sausages, cut into 1/2″ slices

8 oz. soy crumbles

1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1- 6 oz. can tomato paste

1/2 cup basil leaves slicked into slivers

2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp oregano

1/2 box lasagna noodles

1 lb. whole milk ricotta

1 cup grated parmesan

1 extra-large egg

1 lb. whole milk fresh mozzarella

1/4 cup parmesan for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Soak noodles in a casserole dish filled with hot tap water.  Heat olive oil in large pan, add chopped onions and sauté for about 5 minutes.  Add minced garlic and sauté for another minute.  Add soy crumbles and Italian sausage and cook for about 10 minutes.  Then add tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano and basil.  Simmer on low, while preparing filling, for about 10 minutes.

In a bowl mix ricotta with beaten egg and 1 cup parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Take a 9 x 12 baking dish and pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom.  Then cover sauce with half of the soaked noodles.  Cover noodles with 1/3 sauce, 1/2 of the sliced mozzarella and half the ricotta mixture.  Add second layer of noodles, and repeat. Sprinkle with additional 1/4 cup parmesan.  Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.  Serves 6-8

Enjoy,

Irene

 

 

Long Bean Salad with Creme Fraiche Dressing

As a child having an August birthday was always a little disappointing.  Children who were born during the school year had typical parties that included games and home-made birthday cakes, but in the heat of the summer not too many kids were hanging around the Bronx.  It also stemmed from the fact that my parents were not particularly interested in birthday celebrations.  They never quite understood what all the fuss was about, on top of which they believed that once your birthday arrived, that year was over and you were now entering the next year of your life.  Telling your friends that you are finally sixteen was somewhat hampered by my Mom who was busy reminding me that I was no longer sixteen, but now in my seventeenth year.  We didn’t know my father’s actual birthday till he sent for his Polish birth certificate when he was well into his sixties.  We grew up thinking his birthday was December 2nd, and so you can imagine our surprise when the certificate arrived and we realized he was born on February 12th.  He hadn’t remembered that the day, rather than the month, is listed first on European documents.  My mother often reminded us that birthdays were not marked when she was growing up, but were referred to in proximity to holidays, you were born near Sukkot, or on Passover, and that was the extent to which it was mentioned.

All this by way of saying that I love celebrating birthdays, which is no surprise.  It just so happens that there are many August birthdays in our family and one in mid-September, which is close enough.  My youngest son turned 24 today or as my mother would have said, has now entered his 25th year.  Out of bed early this morning, I am spending the day cooking for his birthday celebration, a picnic and concert at the Hollywood Bowl.  Dinner will include slow-roasted tomatoes, cheese (hand delivered from Paris) and a crispy baguette.  Then on to baked salmon, pasta with vine-ripened tomatoes, basil and garlic.  Sides are grilled artichokes, Chinese Long Bean salad, and a green salad with avocado and hearts of palm.  Then champagne grapes, Bing cherries and a home-made two-layer chocolate cake.
Happy birthday Micah,and of course to all of you other August babies, here’s to us!!  Special wishes for my Machatenista who has a big celebration coming up, and to Auntie Clara who is turning 100!!

Micah's Birthday Cake

Chinese Long Bean Salad with Creme Fraiche Dressing

1 pound Chinese Long Beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

3-4 cloves minced garlic

2 tablespoons crème fraîche

2 tablespoons honey
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Cook cut long beans in rapidly boiling salted water for 1-2 minutes.  Do not over cook.  Drain and plunge into bowl of ice water and allow to cool.  In a large bowl, combine basil, garlic, honey and crème fraîche.  Add beans and toss.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
Serves 6
Enjoy,
Irene