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

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

This is a post from last Thanksgiving but some of you are new to Bamitbach and I wanted to introduce you to my standard dessert for the holiday.  I have been in NYC for the last five days and have had many wonderful experiences, meals, and moments.  I am thankful that I was able to spend the days leading up to Thanksgiving with all of my children as well as my sister and brother-in-law.  I look forward to being home and celebrating with the family and friends who can join us, but I am equally happy knowing that those who can’t join us are, thankfully, in good hands.   Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

November 2010

My sister recalls that I came home from Kindergarten and told my mother that I wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving.  At that point my parents and sister would have been living in the United States for about seven years,  and were open to the idea of celebrating this “American” holiday.  That was the beginning of a new tradition for our family, Thanksgiving dinner.

I remember my mother roasting a turkey, prepared the same way she prepared roast chicken for Shabbat, with lots of garlic, salt and pepper.  She made candied sweet potatoes, a dish she learned from my cousin’s housekeeper Edith, and a delicious stuffing made with challah, mushrooms, celery, carrots and caramelized onions.  It was sort of an Eastern European Thanksgiving dinner.  No guests, no fanfare, no cornucopia, but I always found it special and meaningful.

As a child of immigrants, the Thanksgiving narrative of people who came to America searching for religious freedom always resonated with me.  As a child of survivors, I understood that my family had much to be thankful for.  It was not a story from a textbook, it was the story of my family.  America welcomed them and gave them a fresh start, shelter, the ability to live openly and proudly as Jews, and a place to put down roots and watch their families grow and flourish.  For each of those reasons, and more, I will always be thankful.

Our Thanksgiving dinner is very traditional, given some dietary restrictions.  We have mulled cider, Turkey, stuffing, corn bread, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and our favorite Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

3 1/2 cups flour

3 cups sugar

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

1 1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs, beaten

1 cup oil

2/3 cup water

2 cups canned pumpkin

1 12 oz. pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips, tossed with 1 tbsp flour

Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Combine eggs with oil, water and pumpkin and mix well. Stir into dry ingredients.  Fold chocolate chips in to batter.  Divide mixture among three greased loaf pans.  Bake at 350 for one hour or until toothpick inserted into loaf comes out dry.


Enjoy,

Irene

Kopytka (Polish Noodles)

With Rosh Hashana just a few days away, this morning Norm and I began preparing in earnest.  We made 12 Challot between the two of us, some of which are being shipped to the kids on the East Coast.  Since I already had a cake to send to my daughter, I decided to bake Oatmeal Cookies and Ginger Crinkles for my son and daughter-in-law.

I hadn’t spent much time thinking about a menu for the holidays, although I knew dinner would include some standard dishes, like home-made Challot, chicken soup with Kreplach, fish, vegetables, chicken and some type of beef.  I needed inspiration for the main courses and last week it arrived in unexpected ways.  My Machatenista sent me a link with some recipes, one of which was chicken with dried fruit and honey and so, to my surprise, ( and I am sure to her surprise as well) Nancy ended up helping me with the menu.  Then I had lunch with two old friends, one of whom had just lost her Mom.  We sat and talked about our children, our mothers, the holidays, and food, and that’s when Anna G. shared her recipe for Goulash.  I decided that a stew would help balance some of the sweetness of the meal but I wasn’t quite sure what to serve with it.  Always trying to incorporate a dish that my mother would make, I decided to prepare a thick Polish noodle called Kopytka, which actually means “little hooves”.  It is the perfect size, shape and density for a thick hearty stew, a noodle that can “sop” up the sauce.   I have to warn you, this is not as quick or easy as it looks, but it did make me feel as if my Mom was in the kitchen with me, for hours and hours.

Shana Tovah to all of you. 

 

 

Kopytka

The more common version is made with boiled potatoes but this is the way my mother prepared these hearty noodles.

4 eggs

2 Tbs oil

1 Tbs salt

1 tsp pepper

2 cups water

6 cups flour and more as needed.

In a bowl mix eggs with oil and add salt and pepper.  Mix in water, and gradually add flour till dough is workable.  Dough needs to be firm enough to roll into ropes.  On a floured board, take a portion of the dough and roll into a 1″ thick rope.  Slice on the diagonal, about 1/2″ pieces.  Repeat till you have used all of the dough.  Toss some flour on the noodles so they don’t stick together.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (throw in some Telma or Osem for extra flavor), and throw in the Kopytka, about 10 at a time.  Once they float to the top, cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Remove with slotted spoon and allow to cool in one layer on baking sheet.  Serves 10 -12.

Enjoy,

Irene



 

Persian Rice with Tadig

Rice was a staple in my mother’s kitchen. Always prepared in the most basic way, it was never the centerpiece of the meal but occupied the role of ” the starchy” side dish.  My mother bought Uncle Ben’s and cooked it in salted boiling water.  Period.  There were two ways that it was served, with hot milk and sugar for a dairy meal, and in sort of a sticky mass for meat meals.  The rice didn’t elicit any response when it came to the table, it was like eating white bread, just sort of there.  My mother was a great cook so I attribute this lack of imagination to the fact that she grew up in Poland where I am sure she was raised eating potatoes (which she always prepared well and in numerous ways) but, of course, my sister disagrees.

The first time I tasted Persian rice with Tadig was when my children began attending a Jewish Day School in Los Angeles that had a large Persian population.  The special preparation of this dish produces a tender, fluffy and fragrant rice that is covered with a thick, pale yellow crust (tadig).  The crust is both chewy and crunchy, and since there is only one layer of it, everyone wants to get an even share. 

I was determined to learn how to prepare Tadig and so over the years I have tried various recipes, this being the one that I now use.  For those of us who live in Los Angles, Persian rice is not a particularly unusual or exotic dish, but for those of you who live in other parts of the country, I encourage you to try this.  It may take a little getting use to, but I promise that it’s worth the effort.  You’ll never be satisfied with a bowl of Uncle Ben’s again.

rice after soaking in water

rice formed into a pyramid

rice with lid wrapped in tea towel

 Persian Rice with Tadig

2 cups Basmati Rice

salt

4 cups water

4 Tbs corn oil

1/4 tsp turmeric

2 Tbs water

Rinse rice and place in bowl.  Submerge rice in warm water and let stand for 30 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  Bring a wide-bottomed pot filled with 4 cups of salted water to a rapid boil.  Add the rice and cook for 8 minutes. Drain.

Wipe pot dry with a paper towel.  Place 3 Tbs of the oil in the pot, add the turmeric and stir.  Tilt pan to cover entire bottom with oil.  Pour rice into pan, making sure that the bottom of the pan is covered with rice.  Then gently pull extra rice towards the center to form a pyramid.  Sprinkle rice with remaining oil.  Cover lid with a dish towel and tie on the top.  Cover pot, and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.  Then lower heat ( as low as possible)  and cook for at least 30- 45 more minutes.  Crust will form on bottom.  Invert and serve with crust on top.  Serves 6-8 people

Enjoy,
Irene

Chocolate Cake


Rosh Hashana is approaching and as usual there is a feeling of anticipation and excitement about what the New Year will bring.  Pouring over tattered recipes, trying to decide between making a traditional meal or trying something new, choosing which Challah recipe to use and do we want a sweet chicken or savory.  Will I make my mother’s apple cake, not because it is the best, but because it was the apple cake that she made, and when I make it I am reminded of her.  Of course, there are the guests, because what would a Yontif celebration be without guests.  For me that is the best part, the pull of the holidays to bring the family and friends home.  Not sure who will be here, but hopefully some calls will trickle in, and I will be grateful to share my table.

This recipe was given to me by my friend Susan T.  who raved about the results.  She was right, the cake is light and chocolaty and not too sweet.  It is a perfect cake for a birthday celebration.

Happy Birthday Shira!

Susan’s Chocolate Cake

3 cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 cups cold water

1 cup oil

1 tbs vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour three 9″  round pans or two round pans and one loaf pan.  Sift together first five ingredients.  In another bowl, mix water, oil and vanilla.  Mix in dry ingredients and combine.  Add chocolate chips and divide batter into pans.

Bake about 25-30 minutes, till toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Serves 8-10

Enjoy,

Irene

Fresh Watermelon Granita

Aside from the end of the school year, there were several other changes that took place at the beginning of each summer.  There was the annual re-appearance of the Italian ice man wheeling his cart down the street, offering lemon, cherry, or chocolate ices in a white paper cup.  We had no idea why it was called Italian ices.  Then, at the market you would suddenly find, prominently displayed, a table of large, oval-shaped fruit.  Watermelon, thick-skinned and hardy, a fruit with a statement.  Everything about it was unusual and fun.  The size, the pale green shade of the skin, and the darker green stripes that swept across it.  The fruit itself, surprisingly pink and dotted with small glistening black seeds, was always cut in thick slices and served ice-cold, a perfect summer treat.

 

 

Children no longer get excited about the appearance of watermelons since they are now available all year.  On top of which, there is apparently an entire generation of children who don’t even know that watermelons originally had black seeds in them, having only been served the seedless varieties.  Farmers have engineered our fruit so that we can eat it more efficiently.  Personally I am never in that much of a rush and how sad that we don’t  think our kids should take the time to spit out seeds!   Not to mention, that they will never have that oh-oh experience of swallowing a seed only to worry whether a watermelon will start to grow in their stomachs.

I can only think of one good reason to buy a seedless watermelon and that is to make Granita. Something between an Italian ice and a slush.


Watermelon Granita

1 small seedless watermelon, peeled and cut into chunks

4 Tbs sugar

2 limes juiced ( use your imagination, lemons, orange juice, cranberry, or even vodka)

1/3 cup of sugar.

Puree watermelon in food processor and pour into a 9  x 13  Pyrex.   Add sugar and any flavoring you like and stir.   Cover with Saran and freeze for several hours.  Remove and scrape surface with a fork and return to freezer.  Repeat this every few hours until the mixture is “slushy.”   Serves 10-12

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Nopal Salad

Several months ago I had the pleasure of spending the morning at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles listening to several innovative chefs and speakers discuss food.  One of the speakers was  Michael Stern, the author of  Roadfood, who shared humorous stories about his search for great meals while “on the road.”  He reflected on the difference between fine dining and dining on local fare,  and encouraged the audience to embrace all the small diners, stands, and dives where the ambiance may be lacking, but the food more than makes up for it.  Don’t trade taste for a tablecloth.  Michael Stern urged us to look for “regional experiences” when travelling, and to try dishes that the city or town is known for.  Lobster in Maine, Deep Dish Pizza in Chicago, Mexican Food in Los Angeles, and BBQ in Texas.  For some of us that may mean kosher Fried Chicken in Atlanta, vegetarian Dim Sum in NY’s Chinatown,  and…. BBQ in Texas…. (where I am spending this weekend.)

In order to do that, you have to be willing to expand your horizons and be open to experience food prepared by people who have been eating and serving those dishes for generations.  Food that may be unfamiliar, strange, and different from what you are used to.  Allow yourself to have a gastronomic adventure and, who knows, you may just discover that you love cilantro after all.

Here were some of Michael Stern’s tips for hunting out places on the road where you may end up having a memorable meal.  Look for police cars or truckers parked outside a restaurant.  Use your nose and follow something that smells good till you get to the source.  (A close friend of my father’s, who lived in Paris, once told me the same thing) Think about where you are!  Do you really want to eat Mexican food in Connecticut??  Be open, leave your judgement and your prejudices at the door, and enjoy!

Grace’s Nopal Salad  (Cactus Paddle Salad)

1 pound Nopales (cactus) cooked and sliced  (these can be bought pre-prepared in Los Angeles)

1 whole fresh tomato, chopped

2 green onions, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lime, juiced

1 -2 finely chopped Serrano chilis

1/4 tsp dried oregano

3 Tbs olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

Put nopales in a bowl and add green onion and chopped tomato.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over cactus.   Serves 4-6.

Enjoy,

Irene

Succotash

Here are some of my memories of the 1960s.  Standing on a line that curved around the block as I waited to see West Side Story.  Watching American Bandstand on T.V. and then looking on as my sister practiced the dance steps using the refrigerator handle as her dance partner.  Seeing the Beatles for the first time on The Ed Sullivan Show, during which my mother remarked that they would “ruin America.”   (I think it had something to do with their long hair)  Watching the coverage of the anti-war rallies on the evening news and listening to my father as he ranted against the protesters.  It was not surprising that he thought his adopted country could no wrong.

Despite a world that was “rapidly changing,”  life in our home moved at a much slower pace.  Fads and trends were not supported in the Graf household and certainly our diets did not vary very much over the years.  (It was at least 20 years later when my Mom met her very first vegetarian, my husband)  With two children and a husband, no car, and few conveniences, my mother was too busy to spend her time worrying whether we needed more vegetables or fewer carbs.  Meals were balanced and colorful, dessert was never offered, but fruit was always available.  Basically as long as our diet included the two foods that my mother felt were critical to good health, she wasn’t overly concerned.  The items were milk and meat, but never served together of course.

Today as I walked through a local Persian market, the summer vegetables were in all their glory.  I couldn’t decide what to make so I picked a few vegetables of various colors and made a version of Succotash, a dish I never had growing up but SO American that my father would surely have approved.

Succotash (without the shell beans and adapted from Bobby Flay)

2 pounds Mexican Squash, cut in chunks

3 Tbs olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves minced garlic

1 red bell pepper, diced

4 ears of corn

3 Tbs lime or lemon juice

1 tsp cumin

2 Tbs cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in  olive oil till translucent.  Add minced garlic and cook for several minutes and then add diced red pepper, turning heat to high, allowing pepper to caramelize.  After about 5 minutes add the Mexican squash and cook for an additional 10 minutes on medium heat.  Cut kernels off husks and add to pan along with salt, pepper, and cumin.  Allow flavors to combine for several minutes and remove from heat.  Add lemon juice and chopped cilantro.  Serves 4-6

Enjoy,

Irene

Tomato Basil Salad

Despite the fact that we lived in the city, The Bronx had enough natural beauty for my father to enjoy.  There was Mosholu Parkway, Pelham Parkway, Poe Park, and Van Cortlandt Park, just to name a few of the places where one could escape to.  On Sundays my father and I would walk to St. James Park with a brown paper bag filled with leftover Challah, and feed the birds.  We could spend hours there, not saying much, just sitting and watching the pigeons that flocked around the crumbs at my father’s feet.  Some Sundays were spent at The Bronx Zoo or at Orchard Beach.  My father loved being outdoors and he loved animals.  As an extension of that connection to nature, he was conscious of the things he ate and where they came from.  He always preferred eating food in its most natural state, feeling that fruits and vegetables were created in the way they were intended to be eaten, perfect in their simplicity.  It has taken me a long time to reach the same conclusion.

Here is a very simple tomato salad.  It is really best when you use ripe, locally grown, plum tomatoes.

Tomato Basil Salad

1 dozen Roma Tomatoes,

One bunch fresh Basil

4-5 cloves garlic

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Slice Roma tomatoes in half, lengthwise, and gently squeeze out pulp.  Dice into 1/2 ” cubes and place in large bowl.  Remove basil leaves from stem, then stack and roll.  With a sharp knife cut into thin slices.  Add to tomatoes.  Mince garlic and add to bowl, along with salt and pepper to taste.  Add olive oil, cover and allow to sit for flavors to blend before serving.

Enjoy,

Irene

Note: This is great on Matzoh!


Olive Oil Cake

Having recently read The Girls From Ames, I have been thinking about women and their friendships, and how important those relationships are.  My mother had a habit of sitting at the windowsill looking down over the Concourse, where there were always women strolling arm in arm.  Sitting with her, I would imagine myself as an adult, walking with a friend, our arms intertwined. Unfortunately it is no longer in fashion for women to lock arms as they stroll, and the art of strolling has all but disappeared. What has not changed is the importance of female companionship.

This weekend my daughter came to visit us from NYC.  It just so happened that several of her oldest friends were also in town and were able to join us for various meals.  In different configurations, they came for dinner, lunch, and afternoon tea.  They laughed, talked, rolled their eyes (mostly at their mothers), shared confidences, and exchanged glances that clearly only they understood.  All very accomplished young women, each one passionate and full of life, I loved sitting back and watching them.  We have known two of the girls since birth and one since she was six.  Three now live in NYC and one in Los Angeles but the distances don’t seem to matter, or the time apart.  Having my daughter come home is always special, but knowing that this particular group of friends would be in Los Angeles at the same time, and that we would get to see them, turned the weekend into a celebration.  So, I baked the girls a cake, in the shape of a rose.

I found this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, The Kosher Scene.   Norm said it tasted like a glazed buttermilk doughnut. Moist and delicious.

Olive Oil Cake

1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups orange juice

5  eggs

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1  1/2 tsp kosher salt

3 c. granulated sugar

zest of  3 oranges

Glaze

1 cup confectioners sugar

Approximately 4 tsp of orange juice  (Mix juice with sugar until you have the consistency of a loose glaze, slowly, add more juice if needed)

Mix eggs in a large bowl.  Slowly add sugar, beating till egg mixture is light in color.  Add orange juice and stir till fluffy.  In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt.  Alternating, slowly add olive oil, and then flour,  to egg mixture, and beat until batter is smooth.  Mix in orange zest.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt pan. Add batter and bake for about 1 hour or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on rack for about 20 minutes and remove cake from pan.  Combine ingredients for glaze and drizzle over cake.

Enjoy,

Irene