Crepes

Last night I went to meet a jeweler who is doing some work for our family.  Although I had spoken on the phone with Sol several times, I had not had the pleasure of meeting him.  From his accent, I could tell that Sol had grown up in a country where he had spoken French so I was already curious.  As I pulled up in front of his home, Sol was waiting for me outside, tending to some flowers in the garden.  He greeted me as if I were an old friend and put me completely at ease.  Once inside, he introduced me to his wife but before we discussed the reason for my visit we spent some time getting to know each other.  Sol told me that he and his wife were from Egypt and showed me a newspaper article which featured a photograph of the synagogue his family belonged to outside of Cairo.  We talked about his family, his home, his synagogue and his community.  Although Sol’s wife did not say much, she exuded warmth, had great presence and was a gracious hostess.

When I left, I felt fortunate to have met this lovely couple, not only because he was able to do what I came to ask of him, but because I was able to observe the loving and adoring glances that he gave his wife.  She was the mother of his children and he spoke to her in the same gentle manner that he used when speaking with me.  I left with a smile on my face for two reasons. Knowing that our son and soon to be daughter-in-law would have the bands that they wanted,  but being a true romantic,  I was also smiling at the thought of Sol who clearly celebrates Mother’s Day every day, even on an ordinary Tuesday afternoon.

Wishing you all a very Happy Mother’s Day.

Crepes are a perfect food for Mother’s Day Breakfast.  The trick is to make sure your pan is hot before you add the batter.

Crepes

2/3 cup flour

2 eggs

1/2 tsp sugar

3/4 cup low-fat milk

1 Tbs oil

Combine all ingredients in a  large bowl. Whisk until batter is smooth.  If batter is too thick, thin with small amounts of additional milk.  I pour a little bit of oil on a small plate and dip a paper towel in the oil.  I grease a small skillet with the paper towel, and heat pan over high heat.  Take a large spoon and add batter, tilting pan so batter covers bottom of pan.  Cook for about one minute and then turn over and cook on the other side.  I like them with lemon juice and powdered sugar but the possibilities are endless.

Serves 4.

Enjoy,

Irene


Latkes

The Chanukah of my childhood bears little resemblance to how we now celebrate the holiday.  Growing up there were three ways that a visitor to our home would recognize that it was Chanukah.  Latkes were being fried in the kitchen, a Hanukkiah was prominently placed on the dining room table, and a dreidel or two were lying around the living room.  There were no decorations strung in the apartment, and no wrapped presents to open.  Before the candles were lit, we said the brachot and sang a song or two.  We were then given gelt, money to spend as we wished, (I still remember the white go-go boots that I bought at Alexander’s on Fordham Road) and that was our gift.

Looking back, I don’t feel that the significance of the holiday was in any way diminished, despite the modest way in which it was celebrated. I loved Chanukah and anticipated its arrival each year.  I would come home from school and run to choose the candles, carefully selecting colors and creating patterns.  Alternating blue and white candles one night, assorted colors on another, and my favorite, an entire Hanukkiah filled with white candles.  Chanukah had no religious meaning or overtones in our home.  We knew about the miracle associated with the oil but my parents always emphasized the military victory.

When we were raising our children, Chanukah celebrations became much more elaborate, and the religious significance was emphasized rather than the military history.  There were always parties to host or attend, lots of gifts and decorations, lots of singing and lots of food.  I look forward to seeing the traditions that my children will embrace in their own homes, but for now I am happy to know that all of my children are either hosting Chanukah parties or participating in the celebration. That is the greatest gift.

No matter how we celebrated the holiday one thing always remained the same, the way we make latkes.  I make them exactly as my mother did during those early celebrations, sweet and simple, with a little sugar sprinkled on top.

Happy Chanukah to you and your families!


Latkes

4 large Russet potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks and placed in bowl of cold water.

1 large onion, peeled and cut into chunks

5 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup matzoh meal

salt to taste

Vegetable Oil
Pour enough oil into a large frying pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the pan.  In the meantime, place coarsely chopped potatoes and onion in food processor,  a few at a time, and process till fine.  (we do not use grated potatoes)  Pour into bowl and add beaten eggs, salt, and enough matzoh meal to bind mixture.  When oil is hot, place large spoonfuls of mixture in pan but do not crowd.  Fry about 4-5 latkes at a time.  Fry till golden and flip over. Serve straight from pan.

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

Shakshuka


My parents, Miriam and Harry Graf, were both originally from small towns near Warsaw, Poland, from families who were religious Zionists.  In my father’s hometown of Warka, he and his brothers were active in the Revisionist movement in the 1930s. My mother’s older brother had tickets on a liner to Palestine but the war broke out and he was never able to leave.  After having survived the war, my parents created a home where Israel dominated every topic of conversation.  Their passion and devotion to Israel was contagious and they imparted their love to their daughters and grandchildren.

Last night we were going to a Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebration sponsored by the Israeli Consulate.  Not having much time to prepare dinner and wanting to serve something “Israeli” I made shakshuka.  I don’t remember where I first tasted this dish, but shakshuka is a great way to prepare eggs.

Shakshuka

2 tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, sliced

1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

6 eggs

salt and pepper to taste

Saute garlic and jalapeno in olive oil for a minute or two. Add crushed tomatoes, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper and cook for about five minutes over low heat. Gently crack eggs into simmering sauce, cover and cook for ten minutes till eggs set.

Serves 3

Enjoy,

Irene