Winter Squash filled with Garbanzo Beans, Dried Cranberries, and Caramelized Onions

If  you are the kind of person who looks for changes that occur with each season, even subtle changes, you might notice that the leaves are not as bright as they were during the summer.  Their beauty is not in any way diminished, it is just different.  The Fall palette is everywhere.  Inside my home, autumn is reflected in the color of the tablecloths, candles, floral arrangements, and even in the foods that come from the kitchen.  The bright greens, reds, and yellows of summer vegetables are gone, replaced with oranges, purples, burgundy, and softer shades of green.  The youthfulness of summer is just a memory, overshadowed by a more mature Fall season, a season that presents us with a range of colors, a more complex season.  We leave a certain kind of fun behind, but in its’ stead, we welcome inspiration.  Who can help but sigh when looking out over the Hudson River Valley,  seeing shades of every color, mixed together by Mother Nature, our greatest artist.  We attempt to duplicate her sense of color in our fall kitchen.  We roast root vegetables that mimic the purple and orange leaves that take our breath away, we braise stews and large cuts of meat, reminiscent of the earthy tones of fall, flecked with herbs, like leaves still clinging to the trees.

The shift comes in other ways as well. We slowly move away from outdoor activities to puzzles and board games that we can play in the quiet and warmth of our homes.  Beach Boys give way to “Autumn Leaves.”   I begin to think about new dishes using this palette, celebrating the new season, and welcoming it into our garden, our home, and our landscape.  Like a friend I haven’t seen for a while, I can’t wait to spend time with her and see what we can create, together.

                                                                            Scenes from The Hudson River Valley

Winter Squash Baked with Garbanzo Beans and Dried Cranberries

One large piece of  winter squash, cut, and hollowed it.

2 Tsp cinnamon

1 Tb olive oil

Mix oil and cinnamon and rub into the entire inside surface of the squash.  Bake on parchment paper lined cookie sheet at 350 degrees till flesh is easily pierced with a knife.  About 30 minutes.

Filling

4 brown onions

1/3 cup olive oil

1 cup dried cranberries

1 large can garbanzo beans, drained

2 tsp honey

Pomegranate Molasses

Slice onions in wedges and place in frying pan with enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes.  Drain onions and place  in dry frying pan with the olive oil.  Increase flame to medium heat, add honey, and allow onions to caramelize, lowering heat after several minutes till you achieve the desired golden color.  In a large bowl combine garbanzo beans, dried cranberries, and a dash of salt and pepper.  Add 2-3 Tb pomegranate molasses and adjust seasoning to taste.  Gently spoon filling into hollowed out squash,  gently cover surface with caramelized onions, cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes at 350.  Great side dish for brisket or roast chicken.   Serves  6-8

Enjoy,

Irene

Moroccan Carrots

 

Photo taken by Elizabeth Saiger

They are almost like characters in a book, these relatives that I have heard so much about but never had the opportunity to meet.  The baker, the grocer, and the tanner.  Yisroel (Isser) Gutman, my maternal grandfather, the one who I know the most about, owned a tannery in Mogielnica.  Is it coincidence or did I purposely seek out the stories of my namesake?  What I do know is that he was observant, davening in Shul three times a day, leaving little time to spend with his family.  My mother told us how he maimed himself to avoid conscription into the Polish army out of fear that he would be forced to eat “treif.

My favorite story was the one of his great adventure.  One night, long before the war, Isser left his home in the middle of the night, while everyone else was asleep,  to rendezvous with an uncle with who had concocted a plan.  They had hired a driver with a horse and wagon to meet them at a certain hour and take them to the port where they boarded a ship bound for the United States.  Apparently when my grandmother woke up that morning and heard the news, she went to the port to stop him, but it was too late.  Yes, my grandfather left his family without any discussion, but I prefer to think about the great lengths that he undertook to improve their lot.  Isser stayed in New York for about a year, but we don’t know anything about his life there.  Did he work as a tanner, did he live on the Lower East side, where I imagine him living, was he happy, lonely, prosperous?  We know that my grandmother refused to join him in this “heathen” land and eventually Isser returned to Poland and neither she nor he survived

I think of Isser more often during this time of year because of two stories that connect him to the holidays.  One was that he would insist on eating all of his meals in the sukkah no matter how bad the weather was, forcing my grandmother to carry his food out to him while the rest of the family ate inside.  The other story is that the head of the fish, which was considered not only a delicacy but also a symbol of good fortune, was always saved for my grandfather on Rosh Hashana, out of deference and respect.

We didn’t make fish for Rosh Hashana but we did serve other symbolic foods.  Dates and pomegranates, beets and kreplach, (kreplach represent our concealed fate for the coming year.)  In Yiddish the word for carrots is mehren, a word that also means multiply or increase, so they too were included.  I like to slice them and drizzle them with olive oil so that they look like a bowl of glistening golden coins, a reminder of the riches we hope for in the New Year.  Riches that come in the form of enjoying good health, from spending time with family, and from remembering and sharing the stories that have enriched my life.   These carrots, although not an Ashkenazi dish, remind me of Isser who wanted more from life and tried his best to achieve it.  G’mar Hatimah Tovah.

Moroccan Carrots

2 pounds large carrots, peeled and sliced into coin size thickness

1/3 cup olive oil

juice of two lemons

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp ground cumin

salt and pepper to taste

Boil sliced carrots in a large pot of water for about 8 minutes.  Drain under cold water.  Place carrots in bowl and toss with remaining ingredients.  Adjust seasoning.  Sprinkle with chopped cilantro if desired.  Serves 6-8 as a side dish.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Baby Eggplants with Plum Tomatoes

As the summer comes to an end, my thoughts are beginning to turn to Rosh Hashana.  These long, lazy days will soon be replaced with an onslaught of holidays and the frenzy of preparation.  I wonder if my Mother compiled lists in her head as I have already begun to do.  In some ways, even without the modern conveniences of food processors and dishwashers, things were simpler.  The menus were standard,  Yontif meals were at home or with family that lived close by, and although everything  was hand-made, her days were orderly and divided into tasks.  There was shopping, baking, cooking, and dealing with that carp in the bathtub.  Baking day meant the large wooden board and rolling-pin were placed on the dining room table where she would prepare homemade noodles, challahs, and roll out the thin dough for favorkes (something like wonton skins,  fried and served in the soup.)  The next day the Gefilte Fish, Kreplach, and Chicken Soup were prepared.   Just hours before Erev Rosh Hashana, the last details were given her fullest attention.  Garlic chicken and potatoes were roasted in the oven along with a sweet bread pudding.  On top of the stove was a pot of simmering sweet carrots with a knaidle in the middle.  A green salad was easily assembled and there was always an apple cake for dessert.

My life seems far less predictable in some ways.  As each holiday approaches, I now wonder if I will be at home in Los Angeles, or on the East Coast with my children.  The menus change from year to year, incorporating whatever the new food rage is, quinoa, kale chips, freekah, etc.  The number of vegetable dishes increase, and the brisket has lost its place as the centerpiece of the holiday meal.

As I step into my yard,  I see the changes that are taking place there as well.  My summer garden is coming to an end which means we are harvesting the last of the tomatoes and eggplants.  That leads me to think about fall, wondering which vegetables to plant in spite of the nagging uncertainty of how they will grow.  As I contemplate both the past and the future,  it is 25 years ago today that my youngest son was born.  A quarter of a century has passed and our hope is that his future be filled with love, health, and happiness, on his birthday and in the New Year.  For him,  for us, and for all of you.

The last of the garden tomatoes and eggplants

Sautéed Baby Eggplants ad Plum Tomatoes

12 baby eggplants, firm and unblemished, peeled and sliced into 1″ pieces

1 large onion, diced

12 plum or Roma tomatoes, diced

1 tsp Piment d’Espellete ( or substitute red chili powder)

1/3 cup olive oil

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

cilantro

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and add the diced onion.  Saute onion till golden and then add minced garlic.  Saute for a minute and add sliced eggplant.  Add salt, pepper, and Piment d’Espellete.  Lower heat to a simmer, and cover pan, allowing eggplant to cook through.  This takes about 30 minutes. Then uncover and add diced tomatoes.  Cook eggplant for another 20 minutes, again over a low flame.  Serve hot or at room temperature with chopped fresh cilantro sprinkled on top.

Enjoy,

Irene

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

Stella’s Curry Sauce for Fish Cakes

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.

 

Fish Cakes

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.

Enjoy,

Irene

Swiss Chard Strudel

My girlfriend Elin who grew up in the South recently accused me of being “such a city girl.”  She is right, but like many city girls I often read magazines about country life.   I fantasize about how nice it would be to live Upstate (New York of course) and have a piece of land where we could have a large vegetable garden, a few chickens (Araucana chickens so I can have blue eggs) and maybe even a goat or two (now that I know that a local editor has goats in his backyard here in L.A.)  I think about Norm selling his homemade baked goods at local farmers markets along with my blueberry buns.

Creating something with your own two hands is really rewarding, especially if you have to work at it.  It doesn’t matter if it is gardening, cooking, blogging or even needlepoint.  Every time I walk out my back door and look at the vegetable garden I stand and stare in amazement.  I guess that’s because I truly am a city girl.

Not wanting anything to go to waste I must have picked the equivalent of three bunches of chard and made this dish.  Hope you enjoy it.  In the meantime,  here is what this city girl is reading about.  http://clericiranch.wordpress.com/artisanal-chickens-availability  

 

Swiss Chard Strudel

1 pkg puff pastry, rolled out into a large square

3 bunches Swiss chard, washed, rolled up and sliced into thin strips (stems and leaves)

1 small onion, thinly sliced

3 Tb olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup raisins

salt and pepper to taste

2 Tb pomegranate molasses

1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large pot, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil on a low flame for several minutes till golden.  Add chard, raisins, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, making sure chard is tender and fully cooked.  Squeeze mixture gently after cooled to remove excess liquid.  Add pomegranate molasses and adjust seasoning to taste.   Spread chard mixture to cover entire surface of puff pastry.  Then roll up and tuck ends under strudel.  Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds.  Bake on a parchment covered cookie sheet till golden and crisp, about 25 minutes.  Slice and serve.  Serves 8 as a first course.

Enjoy,
Irene

 

 

 

 

 

Curried Swiss Chard and Lentil Stew

The Graf brothers all loved nature, the outdoors, and animals.  My father would watch shows about the animal kingdom and would tell us stories of the pets he owned growing up in Warka, Poland.  A porcupine, really?  He was already well into his seventies when he suddenly decided to stop eating chicken and beef, purely for ethical reasons.  With longing and affection, my father would talk about the orchard and vegetable garden behind his mother’s home.  At the farmer’s market he would choose his fruits and vegetables with such care and tenderness, rotating each apple or pear to make sure it was blemish free, fresh, firm, and fragrant with ripeness, intent on selecting the best he could find.

The brothers were all avid gardeners, and I was fairly certain that their green thumbs were not passed down to my city hands.  I love the idea of gardening, to be able to go into your backyard and plan your meal based on what’s ready to be picked.  After a long hiatus, I was determined to try my hand at vegetable gardening once again and so I ruthlessly pulled out a whole bed of roses.  It took months to prepare the soil and put in the first raised bed.  During a trip back East my cousin Janine laid out the plans for my garden and I use it as my roadmap.  Not only does it guide me but it provides me with inspiration,  knowing that another branch of the Graf family are successful gardeners.  My first planting included broccoli which was a complete failure, basil which was immediately consumed by insects and several plants of red leaf lettuce which grew well, but became limp immediately after being harvested, not a desirable texture for a fresh salad.  I thought I would try kale and swiss chard and finally I was able to experience the sense of pride that comes with success.  There is more chard and kale in my garden than I know what to do with.

My father would probably chuckle at my meager garden but despite its small size, the pleasure that I derive from it is immeasurable.  My father and I never gardened together, I was too young and independent to listen to his advice when he offered it, but now each time I am in the garden I think of Harry, Charlie and Jack, and the legacy they left behind.

 

 


This dish is a vegetarian stew but so hearty that you really don’t miss the meat. Serve with rice or whole wheat pasta.

Curried Swiss Chard and Lentil Stew (adapted from a recipe from Bon Appetit)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
5 tsp curry powder
1 /2 tsp chili powder
42 oz. pareve chicken stock or vegetable broth
1 large bunch Swiss chard, stems thinly sliced and leaves coarsely chopped (about 12 cups)
1 pound brown lentils, rinsed well
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans
2 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp cumin.

Saute onion in olive oil till golden.  Add spices and sauté for several minutes, till fragrant.  Add broth and bring to a boil, then put in lentils and garbanzo beans.  Lower heat to a simmer, add salt and chard, and cover.  Cook till lentils are tender but still whole.  About 20 minutes.  Serves 6

Enjoy,

Irene