In an earlier post I recalled that each year before Rosh Hashana my Mother would buy a carp which was kept alive in the bathtub, destined to be made into Gefilte Fish. For several days I would come home after school anxious to check on the fish and would then spend hours watching it swim back and forth. It was a funny sight, but not an unusual one in the building where we lived. The day before Rosh Hashana my mother would drain the tub, carry the fish into the kitchen, and lay it down on her large wooden board. She would stun the fish with her rolling-pin, and then chop its’ head off. The fish was ground and mixed with eggs, matzoh meal, a little salt, and sugar, yes, lots of sugar.
The first time I went to Toronto, my mother-in-law, Lil, served Gefilte Fish for dinner. I was shocked that the the fish was not in the least bit sweet, and in fact was quite peppery. At Chanukah I discovered that the Saiger family put onions in their Latkes and served them with sour cream and apple sauce. My family preferred them onion-free and generously sprinkled with sugar.
We learned to compromise. I now make Latkes with just a small amount of onion, enough to satisfy Norm’s palate, but not clash with the sugar. As for Gefilte Fish, I don’t think I have ever actually made it, but in recent years we found a version that we both prefer. The recipe is not Russian or Polish, but South African. Both sweet and savory.
To all the fathers who have adapted their tastes for the sake of compromise, Happy Father’s Day. I hope the day turns out to be sweeter than you expect, but not without a hint of spice.
2 frozen Gefilte Fish loaves (sweet variety) thawed. (Mom forgive me)
3/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil, add more as needed
Combine thawed fish with bread crumbs and form into small patties. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil and sauté fish cakes till golden brown. Set aside.
Stella’s Curry Sauce for Fish Cakes (This recipe belonged to Stella’s great-aunt, and was given to her by her Mom)
2 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
1 lemon, juiced
1 large apple, coarsely grated
2 Tb Mrs. Ball’s Peach Chutney
2 Tb apricot jelly
3/4 cup sugar
2 Bay Leaves
Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 cup raisins
1 Tsp whole peppercorns
Salt to taste
Put all ingredients in a medium size saucepan and bring to a boil. In the meantime take a small bowl and combine:
2 Tb Curry Powder
1 Tb Corn Starch
Add 1 cup cold water (a little at a time so that it doesn’t get lumpy) to starch mixture and stir till well blended. Slowly pour into sauce on the stove and lower heat to a simmer. Let cook for about 15 minutes. When sauce is cool, pour over fish and refrigerate.
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
My mother always hummed when she cooked. Typically, the small radio on the kitchen counter was turned to the Yiddish radio station, but if not, there was always a station that played sentimental music, lots of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. I loved knowing that when I came home, music would be in the air and dinner on the stove. She didn’t like the sound of silence and I must admit, neither do I. My ritual is almost identical, with a modern twist. I walk into my kitchen and head straight for the radio, or my IPOD, and only then do I begin to cook.
I have family members in three different countries this weekend, and so here are my plans for a quiet Friday afternoon. A glass of wine, some music, and Moroccan Salmon. It’s raining outside and So Far Away is playing on the IPOD. Not too bad. Shabbat Shalom.
1 pound of salmon fillets
salt and pepper to taste
4 thin slices of lemon
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. harissa
1/4 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
2 tbs. orange juice
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
Our family was very small. None of my mother’s siblings had survived the war, but my father had two brothers and a sister that lived close by. His oldest brother, Uncle Jack, was the debonair one in the family, always beautiful dressed with his Homburg perched perfectly on his head. Jack had emigrated to France as a young man, married and had three children. In the 1950s, the three brothers and their families immigrated to the United States where I was born. Uncle Jack was a furrier by trade but we all thought of him as an artist. His manners were impeccable, he was bright, engaging, and always walked into our home carrying a clear square box , filled with pastel-colored chocolate mints. As a child, I adored my uncle and his children, my older “French” cousins. They had striking good looks, charm, a joie de vivre that was contagious, and spoke English with beautiful French accents.
At some point I began spending a week or so of each summer with my cousin Micheline who lived outside of Philadelphia. She and her family lived on the Main Line, a lush, green suburb full of large trees and great expanses of lawn. It was a wonderful break from the hot city streets of New York. I would arrive at her home and it was if I walked into a different world. Micheline painted, developed photographs in her dark room, knit, crocheted, did needlepoint, read voraciously and cooked incredibly delicious French dishes. Every young child has someone who they want to be like when they grow up, I always wanted to be like Micheline.
Two weeks ago when we were visiting New York, Micheline drove in from Philadelphia to join us. The next day we headed back to her home in Villanova and that evening we were joined by the rest of the family for dinner. Micheline made us a wonderful meal that included a poached salmon covered in a light sauce of sautéed tomatoes. Simple and delicious, served with grace and charm and ease.
Micheline’s Salmon with Tomatoes
Use your favorite method for cooking a side of salmon. This topping would work well on grilled, baked or poached salmon fillets.
8 Roma Tomatoes peeled, diced and seeded
2 large chopped onions
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat oil in frying pan, add chopped onions and sautee for about 15 minutes or till golden. Meanwhile peel tomatoes, cut in half, squeeze out seeds and then dice. Add garlic and diced tomatoes to onions and season well with salt and pepper. Cook for about 10-15 minutes till tomatoes collapse. Pour mixture over salmon and serve.
NOTE: Micheline served this with salad, a crusty French baguette and a small dish of dipping sauce that she prepared with olive oil, a very good bottle of balsamic vinegar and a few cloves of coarsely chopped fresh garlic. DELICIOUS!!
The 182-183 Street station of the D train that travelled from The Bronx to Manhattan was directly under the apartment building where I grew up. Going “downtown” was a big deal, not in terms of distance but in almost every other way. You didn’t throw on a pair of jeans and go downtown, you dressed for the occasion. Anita, my sister, would take me to Manhattan as part of her continuous effort to expose me to culture and the arts. She took me to all the wonderful museums, Central Park, the art galleries in The Village, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and everywhere else she could. We ate roasted chestnuts, Chinese and Italian food, and hot, square knishes from street vendors. We drank egg creams and hot chocolate. I still remember getting off the train in Manhattan and experiencing that childlike sense of awe and wonder. Walking up Fifth Avenue felt as if I had stepped over a threshold into another world. No delis or bakeries on the corners, no people sitting on the stoops, no noises from the kids playing stickball on the street. Instead there was elegance, beauty and The Plaza Hotel, straight out of the Eloïse books I adored.
The summer after I turned 16, I walked into Bergdorf Goodman and applied for a job. I don’t think I would have had the courage to do that were it not for my sister and all those trips to Fifth Avenue. To my amazement, I was hired, right then and there. Suddenly I found myself working just around the corner from The Plaza Hotel and the elegant Palm Court where they served things like Cobb Salad and Crab Cakes. That summer I had lunch there for the very first time.
I am meeting Anita in New York in October and I can’t wait. I hope we have the chance to stroll up Fifth Avenue so I can re-capture some of the wonder of being in New York with my big sister. We may even have tea at The Plaza.
Now that you can buy Kosher faux crab meat, I make crab cakes at home.
Faux Crab Cakes
1 lb. crab meat
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 green onion, thinly sliced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/ 2 cup bread crumbs
3 dashes Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup canola oil.
1 cup corn flake crumbs
In food processor, using the double blade, add crab meat and pulse a few times till shredded. Place in large bowl and add mayonnaise, green onion, eggs, breadcrumbs, tabasco and salt and pepper. Mix well and form about 12 cakes, making sure they are not too thick.
Place corn flake crumbs on a plate and coat each crab cake. Heat oil in cast iron pan till hot, fry crab cakes till golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Crab cakes are very delicate and fall apart easily so handle with care.
Perfect appetizer for a festive meal.
Tonight is Tisha B’Av, a fast day. Admittedly it is a day that I struggle with, but not my husband Norm. He will be home any minute and will want to eat and run off to shul. That meant preparing a light and easy meal.
Fish is something that I enjoy on occasion but certainly never have a craving for. I just can’t get excited over salmon the way I can over a beautiful thick steak or a perfectly prepared lamb chop. There is one fish dish that I really enjoy, sautéed fillet of sole. All you need is fresh fish from a reliable fish market, good quality butter and lemon.
For those of you observing, I wish you an easy fast.
Sautéed Fillet of Sole
1 lb. fillet of sole
1/2 cup flour seasoned well with salt and pepper
3 Tbsp butter
Dredge sole in seasoned flour and shake to remove excess.
Melt butter in large sauté pan over medium heat. When butter sizzles, add sole and cook about 4 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side. Put on platter and drizzle with fresh squeezed lemon.