Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

In the past two weeks we have had many reasons to celebrate.  Our anniversary marking 36 years of marriage, and our son’s and daughter-in-law’s marking their first year of marriage.  There have also been weddings, engagements, and of course, birthdays.  In an embarrassment of riches the 4th of July almost slipped by unnoticed except that three recent experiences served as reminders of this 236th birthday.

We had the opportunity to tour a plantation in Nashville where we were reminded of one of the darkest periods of America’s past, and then just one week later we were filled with hope at the recent decision of the Supreme Court to uphold President Obama’s Health Care Law.  Then, just a few days ago I read an article in a Temple Bulletin which included an excerpt of a letter that President Washington wrote to the Jews of Newport Rhode Island in 1790.   “May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while everyone shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid….May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.”

I hope you can enjoy the 4th under your own vine or fig tree, but if not, Strawberry-Rhubarb pie with a scoop of French Vanilla ice cream should do.  Happy 4th!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Pastry

1 1/2 sticks butter (or pareve margarine)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tb sugar

2-3 Tb ice water

Cut cold butter in cubes and place in bowl of food processor.  Add flour and sugar.  Start processor and add ice water through feeder tube, but only enough water till dough gathers into a ball.  Remove dough and wrap in Saran wrap.  Refrigeration for two hours or up to two days.  Try to handle dough as little as possible when rolling out.  This yields enough dough for two crusts.

Filling

2 lbs. strawberries, hulled, and sliced in half

4 stalks rhubarb, thinly sliced

1  3/4 cups sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

i tsp vanilla

2/3 cup flour

4 Tb butter

In  a large bowl, mix cut fruit with flour, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Place one pie crust on prepared dish.  Add fruit and dot with bits of butter.  Cover fruit with second crust.  Crimp the crusts together, make slits in the top, and brush with about 2 Tb milk or non-dairy creamer.  Sprinkle with sugar and place in oven to bake.  Place lined cookie sheet on the tray below the pie to catch any drippings.   Bake for  about 50 minutes or till golden.  Tip: If edges brown to quickly, cover with foil collar.

Enjoy,

Irene

Blackberry Buckle

My mother never baked pies, cobblers, buckles, or crisps, and since I didn’t have the opportunity to meet my grandmothers, coming home or going to grandma’s house for a piece of freshly baked pie was just not part of my childhood.  It is only in the last few years that I have thought how nice it would be to have recipes that were handed down for more than one generation.

Thankfully my children grew up with all four of their grandparents.  My mother passed away many years ago but Bubbie is still cooking up a storm in Toronto.  Both grandmothers loved to cook and both had the pleasure of feeding their grandchildren.  If I asked my children which dishes they loved eating when they went to their grandmothers, I am not sure what they would say, but I would venture to guess it wasn’t dessert.  So back to my fantasy.  It could be any kind of fruit at all, baked with a crust, topped with dough, sprinkled with crumbs, or oozing in a buckle, and really who cares what it’s called.  My plan is to bake each of these desserts this summer, all made with different types of fruit and various toppings, until I find my favorite.  Maybe one day it will even be passed down.  I’ll keep you posted.
Blackberry Buckle
Cake:
1 cup flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 extra-large egg
5 Tb milk
1 Tb Creme de Cassis
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cups fresh blackberries
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Over a large piece of wax paper, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg and beat till smooth.  In a small bowl, combine milk with vanilla and Creme de Cassis.  Alternately add milk and dry sifted ingredients to the butter mixture, beating well after each addition.  Pour batter into a greased and floured 1½ quart baking dish.  Spread blackberries over batter.
Crumble topping:
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
3 Tb cold butter
Combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon.  Add small bits of butter at a time, until mixture is crumbly and sprinkle over blackberries.  Bake for about 35-40 minutes.  Serves 4-6
Enjoy,
Irene

Marizon’s Steamed Persimmon Pudding

My sister remembered this story from her childhood and e-mailed it to me.

“I had a job after school helping an elderly man with his errands. I would take his laundry to the cleaners on the corner.  I bought him the evening paper and sometimes I would pick up two slices of pizza for his dinner and in return he would always give me a dime or a quarter.  He once asked me what was the one thing I really wanted.  I told him I wanted a bicycle like the other kids on my block but explained that my parents said it was too expensive.  One day I came home and there in the hallway was the most beautiful blue Schwinn bicycle I ever saw.  I have never forgotten how generous and kind that wonderful old man was.”

We have a friend from synagogue, Marizon.  Over the past few years she has made us numerous Steamed Persimmon Puddings.  Sometimes she brings them to Shul, sometimes she delivers them to our house, but either way we are always surprised and delighted.  That kind of giving makes everyone happy so if  you do make this recipe just remember to double it so you can share.  It will taste even better that way.

Marizon’s Steamed Persimmon Pudding
 1  1/ 2 cups pureed persimmons ( 4 – 5  Fuyu persimmons, skins and pit removed , or you can use 2-3 ripe Hachiya persimmons)
2 Tsp. Baking soda
1 stick butter or pareve margarine at room temperature
1 1/2 Cups sugar
2 Eggs
1 Tb lemon juice
2 Tb  Rum
1 Cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon (Optional -  enhance with a bit of allspice and a whisper of ground clove) I only use Cinnamon
½ tsp. Salt
1 Cup broken walnuts or pecans
1 Cup raisins (may use golden or black or mix of both)

Find a pot that is large enough to hold a 2 Quart pudding mold.  Fill the pot with enough water to reach halfway up the sides of the mold as it rests on a metal rack in the bottom of the pot.  The mold must have a lid.   Let the water come to a boil while you mix the pudding batter.

(Pudding mold is available at William Sonoma or Sur La Table).

Grease the mold well.  Butter is best, though cooking spray is faster. Use pareve margarine if making a non-dairy pudding.

Put the persimmon purée in a bowl and stir in the baking soda.  Set aside (the persimmon mixture will stiffen and lighten in color – it really is a rather odd fact of chemistry)

Using a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs, lemon juice, and rum and beat well.  Set the mixer to its slowest speed and add the flour, cinnamon, and salt.  When well blended, add the persimmon mixture and beat until well mixed.  Remove bowl from mixer and stir in raisins and nuts.

Spoon the batter into the mold, cover, and steam for at least two hours (it’s nearly impossible to over-steam!).  Remove from the pot, and let rest for 10 – 20 minutes.

Use a long, narrow skewer to help remove the pudding from the sides of the mold, and then turn out onto the serving plate.  Some parts may stick to the bottom of the mold – just remove them and patch back together (the pudding is very moist).

I usually turn the mold over and the pudding just falls onto the serving plate.

Presentation
The traditional service for this dish is with a sprig of holly stuck into the top, then flamed with more of the rum.  To flame your rum, pour a generous ounce into a sauce pot, and THEN put the pot over medium heat.  Swirl the rum to warm it for thirty seconds or so, then carefully light it and immediately pour the flaming rum over the pudding.  It may be difficult to see the flame in strong light, so dim the lights for the 20 seconds or so before the alcohol burns off.

Serve warm with unsweetened whipped cream, or a crème anglaise.

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

Loretta’s Chocolate Chip Mandelbroit

“A living stew of inconsistencies” is how our friend Meyer described himself in a Dvar Torah that he gave several weeks ago.  Many of us are inconsistent in how we practice or observe Judaism, but Passover is a holiday when perfectly rational people behave in irrational ways.  My daughter has repeatedly accused me of being too “machmir” (strict) when it comes to Pesach.

I actually made a decision that this year would be different and I would adopt a come what may attitude.  My plan was to arrive back East and cook, not get involved in the kashering, and only minimally involved in the shopping.  I was doing SO well until tonight when I stopped at Western Kosher on my way home, my excuse being that I wanted to see any new Passover products that came on the market.  I swore that I wouldn’t buy anything, but here I am sitting at the kitchen table writing this post and in front of me there are six shopping bags filled with all kinds of Passover groceries.  Who could resist Masala Chai Tea???   Somehow they will all need to be packed into our luggage along with a tin of our favorite Passover Mandelbroit that I will bake on Sunday.  There are some things that never change, no matter how hard we try.

I wish each and every one of you a Zisn Pesach.

Loretta’s Chocolate Chip Mandelbroit

3 sticks margarine

2 cups sugar plus an extra 4 Tb for sprinkling

6 eggs

2  3/4 cups cake meal

3/4  cup potato starch

1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp cinnamon

2  12 oz. bags of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Reserve 4 Tb sugar and mix with 2 Tsp cinnamon and set aside.  Cream sugar and margarine.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg.  Add dry ingredients.  Divide dough into 4 equal portions and with oiled hands, form 4 loaves, divided between 2 greased cookie sheets.  Sprinkle each loaf with an equal amount of the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Bake for about 30-40 minutes. Slice loaves and place Mandelbrot cut side up, sprinkling with more cinnamon sugar.  Return to oven and bake another 10-15 minutes per side or till crisp.

Enjoy,

Irene

Passover Lemon Meringue Pie

Last week I lost two important people in my life, my cousin Robert, who was more like an older brother than a cousin, and my close friend Ruthie.  I went back East for Robert’s funeral and what I experienced over the course of five days was the workings of a family who come together like pieces of a patchwork quilt, all different in design but stronger and more effective as one unit.  Almost my entire immediate family, as well as my extended family, came to Philadelphia where we spent our days cooking, eating, crying and  laughing in the comfort of our cousin Micheline’s home.  Even after both refrigerators and freezers were filled to capacity we continued to cook.  It kept us busy and focused, taking care of each other and everyone around us.

After the funeral we prepared Shabbat dinner for about twenty.  Everyone participated in their own way, some by offering words of comfort to the mourners, some by taking charge of the kitchen, some by providing comic relief.  On Saturday night, the evening before everyone’s departure, Denise (Robert’s daughter) said that it was just the kind of evening her father loved, having the family together, sharing good food and good wine.  The night ended with my daughter Shira, myself, and Denise all sitting around the table sharing a pie which we ate straight from the tin, one spoonful at a time.

Passover is just around the corner, a time when families get together.  May it be filled with joy, and not with sorrow, and with the memories of those we lost but will never forget, and why not make some pie that can be shared straight from the tin.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Crust

1 cup Matzoh Meal

1/4 cup melted margarine

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp sugar

1/8 tsp salt

Blend ingredients together.  Press into a greased 9″ pie pan and bake at 375 for 15 minutes or till golden brown.

Lemon Meringue Filling

5 tbsp potato starch

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

2 cups water

3 eggs, separated

2 tbsp margarine

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbsp grated lemon rind

Combine potato starch, salt and 1/2 cup sugar in top of a double boiler and then add water.  Cook, stirring over boiling water till thickened. Cover pot, lower heat and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.   In a bowl, combine egg yolks with remaining 1/2 cup sugar.  Spoon a little of the hot cooked mixture into the yolks, stirring rapidly.  Then pour yolk mixture back into the pot. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add a drop of water if too thick.  Remove from heat.  Add margarine, lemon juice and lemon rind to filling and allow to cool to room temperature.  Pour into pie shell.

Meringue

3 egg whites

dash salt

6 tbsp sugar

Using a beater, beat egg whites with salt till foamy, gradually adding  6 tbsp sugar till smooth and glossy.  Pour Meringue over pie filling and bake in 325 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Chill and serve.

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

Lil’s Hamantaschen

One of my favorite memories of growing up in The Bronx is of the leisurely strolls down the Grand Concourse which often included a stop at Krum’s, a large soda parlor at 187th Street.  At the front of the store there was a counter behind which were bins filled with assorted, and what I thought were exotic, nuts.  Among others, there were Brazil nuts, Cashews (my personal favorite), white Pistachios, and red Pistachios which were what we always bought.  The red dye would rub off on your fingers and that was part of the fun, plus we were innocent of the danger of red dye.  In the center of the store there was a large display table that changed every season.  Cellophane gift baskets that contained combinations of dried fruits, nuts and crackers towered over the smaller items.  I always liked the Spring display the best, when chocolate Easter Bunnies dominated the table and all the confections were some shade of pastel and filled with marshmallows or soft creams.  At the back of the shop was the Soda Fountain where you could have any kind of drink, ice cream or Sundae, to which my father would treat me on occasion, always on a Sunday.

Purim is just around the corner and though this holiday doesn’t resonate with me I can’t break with certain traditions.  I try to hear the Megillah reading in the morning, at work, recited with decorum and not much fanfare.  What else?  I send my children gift baskets, Mishloach Manot.  In spite of the fact that they are not all fans of Hamantashen, I always include them along with whatever other treats I either bake or buy.  Hopefully these ” baskets” (that arrive in FedEx boxes instead of cellophane and ribbons) will create happy memories for them, like the ones that I carry,  and who knows, some day they may even develop a taste for Hamantaschen.  Chag Purim Sameach.

Here is one more tradition that I can’t change, it is my mother-in-law’s recipe for Hamantaschen and I use it every year.  Some people find the dough too soft to work with, but I think it’s perfect just the way it is.

Lil’s Hamantaschen
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 Tsp. baking powder
2 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup orange juice

Mix dry ingredients in bowl.  Combine eggs and oil and mix well.  Slowly add orange juice to eggs and then mix liquid into dry ingredients.  Mix together till dough is soft and pliable.  If dough is too soft, refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Filling
6 oz. dried apricots
6 oz. dried pitted prunes
1 1/2 cups raisins
3-4 Tb sugar
1/2 Tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup water or orange juice

In a small heavy bottomed pot combine all ingredients over low heat and cook until fruit is soft, about 20 minutes.  Add water if needed.  Process mixture in a food processor for about one minute until it looks like jam.

Roll dough out on floured board till about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out small circles and place a teaspoon of filling in the center.  Pinch sides together to form a triangle.  Brush with beaten egg and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden.

Enjoy,
Irene

 

Elka’s Jam Cookies

There are several important people in my life who turned 60 this year but next Saturday night we are celebrating Norm’s 60th.  The kids are coming in, friends are coming over, and together we will light both Chanukkah candles and birthday candles.  Norm wanted a party, a big party, surrounded by the people he loves.  We have both been busy baking in preparation of the event and tonight I made a batch of these very small cookies for my 60-year-old hubby who has a very big heart.  Happy Birthday Norm!

Elka’s Jam Cookies

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg yolk

1 stick butter, room temperature

1 cup flour

 

Cream sugar and butter till smooth. Add egg yolk and mix well and then add flour.  When dough is smooth, place in Saran wrap and refrigerate for about 10-15 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Roll olive size pieces of the dough and place on cookie sheet, covered with parchment paper.  Gently press down on the cookie with a small shot glass.   Then take a very small spoon (the size of a baby spoon) and make an indent in the middle of each cookie.  Dot with a tiny bit of strawberry jam.  Bake for 15 minutes.   Remove cookies before they brown.  Allow to cool completely on rack.  Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

Enjoy,

Irene

Old Fashioned Apple Pie

With Fall came the appearance of apples in the markets on the East Coast, with numerous varieties to choose from, most of which were grown in Upstate New York.  As a child, my father took great pride in his ability to peel an apple in one uninterrupted motion, rotating the apple and keeping the knife steady in his hand as the peel slowly curled off the fruit.  I was fascinated by it and he always chuckled as I looked on.  In the evening, my mother would serve a snack of cut-up apples alongside sliced rye bread and butter, or she would steep slices of apple in hot tea.  Occasionally she made baked apples or an apple cake.  My father would encourage me to eat apples, stating how healthy they were, maybe because he actually believed that “an apple a day kept the doctor away” (my father typically believed what he read in print) but I was allergic to raw apples and so eventually I just stopped eating them.

I envied my parents and sister, and later on, my husband and children, who took such pleasure in eating this seemingly perfect snack that actually didn’t require peeling.  I loved watching them take that very first bite when you could hear the crunch and that pop of juice.  I would watch the expressions on their faces as they formed an opinion, was the apple too mealy, too tart, too sweet or just perfect.  I still find myself drawn to the apple stands at the farmers markets.  I might ask the grower about new varieties, pick one up and weigh it in my hand, look for blemishes, gently squeeze it to see if it feels firm and then buy a few to take home.  I have a bowl full of apples in my kitchen right now, purchased for no reason other than that they looked so pretty.

My daughter recently went apple picking in Upstate New York and she brought some of the apples home with her on Thanksgiving.  Like everything in life, things may not be exactly as we wish, but we adjust.  I accept that I will never experience  the pleasure of biting into a just picked Northern Spy or an Ida Red, but I can take those apples and turn them into apple pie, home-made, double crusted and perfect.

Old Fashioned Apple Pie

Crust   (enough for a double crust)

2 Cups all-purpose flour

3/4 Tsp salt

1 Cup Crisco

1 egg

2 Tbs cold water

1 Tbs white vinegar

Filling

6  baking apples ( I used a combination of Ida Red, Macoun and Empire)

3/4 Cup sugar

2 Tbs flour

1 1/2 Tsp cinnamon

Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine flour and salt in large bowl.  Add Crisco to flour and using your fingers blend until mixture resembles large peas. Beat egg, water, and vinegar together and pour into flour mixture.  Stir with a fork until blended.  Divide dough in half and shape each portion into a ball.  Flatten each into a 4″ circle, wrap in Saran, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Dust rolling-pin and board with flour.  Roll one portion of dough out to fit an 8″ pie plate with a 1″ overhang.  Carefully place dough into greased pie plate.

Peel, core, and slice apples and mix with sugar, flour, cinnamon, and lemon juice.  Place apple mixture in pie shell.  Roll out second piece of dough and  place on top.  Crimp edges or just fold over for a more rustic looking pie.  Cut slits in the top crust to allow for steam to escape or use a pie bird.  Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes, until pie is fully baked and apples are tender.

Enjoy,

Irene