Linda’s Sweet Potato Pie

photo-24Norm said that the freezer is full, no room to fit another thing.  We are one week away, my Chanukah shopping is finished, the gifts are wrapped, the menus planned for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night.  All that’s left is the turkey, the sides and two more desserts, a chocolate ginger cake and pumpkin chocolate chip bread.  Desserts are key on Thanksgiving, less so on Chanukah.  What’s not to like about a jelly doughnut?

Our traditional Thanksgiving dessert is pumpkin chocolate chip bread but we always have a pie, or two, as well.  My personal favorite is pecan pie, but since my kids never developed a taste for it, it fell off the menu years ago.  My daughter prefers fruit pies, I like pumpkin.  There is one pie that I have wanted to try for years and that’s Sweet Potato pie (Have you noticed that I love Southern food? Strange for a kid from the Bronx.)  Last week my friend Linda and I were discussing Thanksgiving menus when she told me she was preparing 60 sweet potato pies, using ready-made crusts.  We figured out how to cut her recipe down to enough filling for two pies and armed and ready, I went home and made them.

I brought one to a friend who had invited us for Shabbat dinner, and put the other in the freezer.  The pie was a hit, although the ready-made crust was not, a good lesson to have learned in advance of the holidays. When Linda asked how the pies turned out, I was happy to give her a glowing report.  The filling wasn’t overly sweet, the texture was perfect (Linda told me that she doesn’t like runny pies) and the flavor….Fall was in every bite.

Did I mention that Norm said there is no more room in the freezer?  There will be in about an hour.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Chanukah to all of you.  It’s been great getting all of your comments.  Can’t wait to hear how it all turns out.

Sweet Potato Pie

Filling for two pies.

7 small red fleshed sweet potatoes

1 stick margarine

2 tsp vanilla

2 heaping tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp allspice

1/3 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 Tb flour

3 eggs

1/2 cup unflavored soy milk

Preheat oven to 375.  Boil sweet potatoes in their skins till soft.  Then remove from water, wait till they are cool enough to handle and peel. Linda said to then place the peeled potatoes on a dish in the oven for about 10 minutes, removing excess moisture.   Place sweet potatoes in bowl and mash, then add melted butter,  spices, vanilla, flour, sugars, beaten eggs, and soy milk.  Place mixture in food processor for a minute or two just to smooth out.  Pour into pie shells and bake for about 45 minutes.  I have included a basic pastry crust below.

Enjoy,

Irene

Pastry

1 1/2 sticks butter (or pareve margarine)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tb sugar

2-3 Tb ice water  (VERY IMPORTANT)

Cut cold butter or margarine into cubes and place in bowl of food processor.  Add flour and sugar.  Start processor, pouring ice water through feeder tube but only enough for dough to gather into a ball.  Remove dough, wrap in Saran and refrigeration for two hours or up to two days.  Try to handle dough as little as possible.  Roll out on lightly floured board and place in pie dish.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

photo-7The trip was special in that it began with my daughter-in-law’s graduation from medical school and ended with a wedding of close family friends.  In between it went something like this.

I took a class in Tai Chi while visiting a friend in New Jersey, and it was all about balance and the ability to shift your weight from one foot to the other while still in motion, and without effort.  For almost three weeks I traveled around the East Coast and each day brought a change in scenery and tempo.  Five states, four museums, historic sites and centers, cities and countryside.  I stayed in seven different places during my trip and enjoyed each one.  Some days were filled with activity and celebrations of one kind or another, other days were quiet and peaceful.  Some days were devoted to cooking with old friends and family members, others were spent eating wonderful meals in restaurants, pubs, and inns.  I even managed to stop for lunch at one of my all time favorite “food” places, Reading Terminal.  With too  many memorable meals to mention, here are just a few.  A post-graduation lunch at Bar Boulud  where I ate a dish of homemade pasta with cippolini onions, spring peas, and cheddar.  Mother’s Day  (the day my brother-in-law’s newest grandson was born) was celebrated at Minetta Tavern.  I had Brandade,  a dish of salt cod cooked with potatoes and milk, mashed into a creamy purée.  There was crisp duck with a balsamic glaze at a kosher restaurant in Teaneck, smoked fish from Acme in Brooklyn, halibut with mango and avocado salsa in West Orange followed by a delicious cheesecake,  filet of flounder sautéed in panko crumbs in Philly followed by ripe cheeses and many glasses of wine, blintzes in Greenwich, and fish cakes with rémoulade sauce in Marshfield.

My cousins in Marshfield have a beautiful garden filled with flowers and vegetables.  One morning Janine picked some rhubarb, enough to make a pie or two, with no cookbook in hand and no recipe card on the counter.  It reminded me of the way my mother baked but this time I made sure to take notes.  It had been twenty-seven years or so since I last visited Marshfield and I left hoping that my next visit would come sooner.  Ready to get back to the fast pace of NYC, I first made sure that I took some home-grown rhubarb with me.  On our last Shabbat in NYC we enjoyed a vegetarian feast prepared for us by Heidi and Rob, friends of our children.  The meal ended with a strawberry rhubarb crisp that I made with Janine’s recipe and her rhubarb.

Then there was the wedding.  It was magical, set in the Hudson River Valley, not far from where I spent summers during my childhood.  Everything felt familiar, the air, the trees, the food, and the music.  We returned to Brooklyn in the early evening on Memorial Day and we celebrated with a BBQ in the park.  Norm and I were going home early the next morning and as I prepared to shift once again, I found that it was not without effort.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
4 large stalks rhubarb, thinly sliced

1 quart strawberries, cut in half or quartered, depending on size

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 Tb tapioca

1/2 cup sour cream

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients and put in the bottom of either two greased 8″ round pie plates,  or one large greased 8 x 10 pan.

Topping

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

Mix ingredients together with your finger tips until you get small crumbs.  Sprinkle over fruit and bake at 375 till golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes.  Can serve 2 or 6, just depends.

Enjoy,

Irene

Micheline’s Creme Caramel

We are standing in the kitchen together again, as we have for more than 50 years, but this time we weren’t in her kitchen.  The location doesn’t seem to matter, we have an easy rhythm that two people share when they are just happy to be together.  Like a duet, effortless, even though we hadn’t practiced in a long time.  We shop, cook, eat, drink, and talk, and after resting we start all over again.  I learned that our Uncle David was going to be a rabbi, she learned that my favorite wine is Vouvray.   We have history, both genetic and the kind that comes from having lived in close proximity to each other, and despite our mature ages, she is still my role model.  I am astonished that she arrives to cook with perfectly done hair and make-up, wearing a twin sweater-set she could just as easily have been dressed for an afternoon at the museum.

On Friday afternoon Micheline took center stage, no recipe in hand to guide her, just years of practice and the experience of having prepared this dish hundreds of times.  I stood and watched, still learning from my cousin who has already taught me so much about food, family, and life.

After the first day of Yontif,  Micheline went home, and we discovered a brown bag with her custard pan, the slightly larger pan which she uses for a Bain-marie , along with the small Corningware pot that she uses to make her caramel.  I called her to see if we should ship them to her, but she said to keep them.  Now those pans belong to my son and daughter-in-law.  May they use them in good health, and have them as a reminder of the wonderful Rosh Hashana that they created for the family.  Maybe one day they too will make crème caramel.

I called  Micheline this morning and she asked me to share this part of the story.  That afternoon, she trustingly left me to watch over the crème caramel while she ran to the market.  I over-baked it and “ruined it.”   I hope she will forgive me, but it was a lesson well learned and one I don’t think I will ever forget.  There is still so much to learn.  Chag Sameach.

Photo taken by Glenda Amit

Micheline’s Creme Caramel
(original recipe from Mireille)

Custard

8 egg yolks and 4 whole eggs

1/4 cup sugar

1 quart whole milk

dash of salt

2 tsp vanilla

In a large mixing bowl, mix eggs with sugar, then add milk and salt, ending with vanilla.  Set aside.

 

Caramel

1 cup sugar

water to cover

To make the caramel, place sugar in a small saucepan and add just enough water to cover the sugar, no more than that.  Place pan on stove over medium heat.  Do not stir.  Allow syrup to boil until it starts to turn dark brown.  Then quickly remove from the heat and immediately pour into baking dish, tilting pan till bottom is covered with caramel.

 

Pour custard over caramel.  Place larger pan in the oven and put custard-filled pan inside of it.  Carefully add cold water in between the two pans, 2/3 up the side.  Not too much!  We don’t want it to flow over into the crème caramel.

Set oven temperature to 350° F.  and bake for about 30 minutes. The water should not boil during baking. The custard is done when it has set, which you can test by inserting a  knife which should come out clean.  DO NOT OVERBAKE. Allow the custard to cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate till serving time.  To serve, run a knife along the outside and turn over onto a dessert plate.  Serves 10-12

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

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

Image

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

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