Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot and Almond Biscotti

Soft, chewy cookies or hard, crisp ones?  As with many foods, over time people develop preferences. I am a firmly entrenched fan of the hard, dry, crisp variety of cookies.  I like them to have enough substance to withstand being dunked in my coffee without melting or disintegrating. In addition to density, I like texture, so I prefer that the cookie includes nuts, chocolate chips, or both. Over the years I have tried various Mandelbrot and biscotti recipes and have found that these two recipes are among my favorites. The Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot recipe is actually a Passover recipe that was given to me by a friend of a friend.  We like it so much that I now bake it all year round. The Almond Biscotti recipe was adapted from one of Judy Zeidler’s cookbooks.  It has a more traditional flavor and is reminiscent of the Mandelbrot that I grew up with.

My mother would often visit family members and end up in their kitchen cooking.  I remember her making schav borscht in Micheline’s kitchen and chopped liver in Tante Marisha’s kitchen.  She enjoyed pitching in and being helpful, and it created a feeling of togetherness.  Although I have cooked in my daughter Shira’s and my cousin Micheline’s kitchens, I sometimes end up transporting challot or cookies from my kitchen in Los Angeles.  It is an expression of my affection, a way to let someone know that I was thinking of them even before I arrived at my destination. This morning I baked both Almond Biscotti and Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot (with Norm’s help) to take to Houston, Texas, where I will be attending my future daughter-in-law’s bridal shower.  As Marcella Hazan the famous cookbook author once said, “After all, what experience of food can compare with eating something good made by someone you can hug?”  Cookies and hugs, perfect.

Almond Biscotti

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

1/4 tsp kosher salt

3/4 ground almonds

1/2 toasted silvered almonds

2 eggs

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

1 egg white

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place dry ingredients in a shallow bowl and mix. Create a well in the center and add eggs, vanilla and sugar and quickly incorporate flour.  Divide dough into two equal portions. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper and, using oiled hands, form dough into two logs.  Brush with beaten egg white. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Move logs to a board and carefully slice on a diagonal. Return to cookie sheet, cut side up, and bake for an additional 10 minutes on each side.

 

Loretta’s Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot

3 sticks margarine

2 cups sugar plus an extra 4 Tbs for sprinkling

6 eggs

2 3/4 cups cake meal

3/4 potato starch

1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp cinnamon

2 – 12 oz. bags of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Reserve 4 Tbs sugar and mix with 2 Tsp cinnamon and set aside. Cream sugar and margarine. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg.  Add dry ingredients.  Divide dough into 4 equal portions and with oiled hands, form 4 loaves, divided between 2 greased cookie sheets.  Sprinkle each loaf with an equal amount of the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Bake for about 45 minutes. Slice loaves and place Mandelbrot cut side up, sprinkling with more cinnamon sugar.  Return to oven and bake another 10-15 minutes per side or till crispy.

 


Enjoy,

Irene

 


White Strudel

I attended P.S.115, also called E.B.B., Elizabeth Barrett Browning, from K-8.  It was a co-ed elementary school but once we hit middle school the boys were transferred out, and E.B.B was dubbed “everything but boys.”  The school was walking distance from where we lived but there was a crossing guard, a flaming red-head named Irene, to escort the children across the Grand Concourse.  Every morning at 10:00 a.m. classes came to a halt and snack was served.  The teacher, along with a class monitor, would go to the office and bring back a flat of small milk containers and either a box of cookies or a container of pretzel rods.  As much as I liked the pretzel rods, I preferred the cookies.  I can only remember one type of cookie being served, a sandwich cookie with a cream filled center, the top half chocolate and the bottom vanilla.

School was over at 3:00 p.m. and when I arrived home I was served milk and cookies as my afternoon snack. (remember in the 1950s milk was thought to be a miracle food)  The little white bakery bag on the kitchen table held either a Black and White cookie, a brownie with walnuts and chocolate frosting, or a Chinese cookie which was a marbled coffee-colored cookie with a crinkle top and a glob of hard chocolate in the center.  Having milk and cookies at home was always better than at school, the milk was served in a tall glass, straight from the fridge and ice-cold, the way I prefer it.  The cookies were bought fresh every morning in the bakery my mother frequented on Burnside Avenue.  It didn’t seem to matter what season it was, or how low the temperature fell outside, both in school and at home the snack was always the same, and after all what could be better than milk and cookies?

This recipe came from Norm’s grandmother Shaindle Rose, who my daughter Shira is named after.  It is a very 1950s kind of recipe which includes bits of the confection Turkish Delight.  My mother-in-law Lil made it the last time we were in Toronto and told me that Bubbie Shaindle called it White Strudel.
Bubbie Shaindle’s White Strudel

4 cups flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup Crisco

1/2 cup oil

rind of a lemon

 

Filling

Strawberry jam

7 or 8 thin slices of  Turkish Delight, cut into bits

Flaked coconut

Maraschino cherries, cut in half

Golden raisins

Mix together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Using a pastry blender or the tips of your fingers, add the Crisco until the mixture resembles small lumps.  Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the wet ingredients.  Mix gently and add flour if needed. Dough will be very sticky.  Refrigerate dough for one hour which will make it easier to handle but feel free to add extra flour as needed.  Divide the dough into four equal portions.  Roll out one portion at a time on a well floured board into a 9 x 12 rectangle.

Spread a thin layer of strawberry jam over the dough. Then sprinkle Turkish delight, coconut, golden raisins and sliced maraschino cherries over the top.  Using a knife for easier handling, and add more flour as needed, gently roll up dough into a log and place on baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.  Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden. Cool and slice with a serrated knife.

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

Bean and Barley Soup

Although I have been able to re-create some of my mother’s recipes, recently it occurred to me that there are many more that I won’t ever be able to replicate.  Never having owned a cookbook, my mother cooked and baked by taste and by feel.  Here is a list of things she prepared that I wish I had paid attention to: raspberry cordial, butter cookies (that were hard as rocks but perfect for dipping into a cup of hot coffee), a yeast based cake that she called a pitah (butter) babka, potato dumplings made with raw grated potatoes squeezed dry in a dish towel and boiled, and all of those delicious homemade noodles of every size and shape.

Mollie, my girlfriend’s mother, recently commented on a post, “I wish I had the recipes for all the wonderful foods my Mom made, she never wrote anything down and I married young and was not interested at that time of cooking Jewish foods -my very bad.” So, here is my suggestion to each of you.  Call your mom or your grandmother, ask her for your favorite recipes (don’t forget to get the stories behind them) and write them down.  To the grandmas, bubbies, nanas, savtas and savties, why not do the same.  And if anyone has a recipe for raspberry cordial, please share!

Bean and Barley Soup

1 large brown onion, diced

2 stalks celery including leaves, chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped

2 Bay leaves

8 cups beef or chicken stock

1/2 cup barley

1/2 cup assorted beans, soaked overnight and drained

salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in olive oil till soft.  Add garlic, celery (including leaves) and parsley, sautéing for several minutes after adding each ingredient.  Add stock, beans and barley and two bay leaves. Bring soup to a boil, lower to a simmer and cover.  After two hours of cooking, season with salt and pepper and remove bay leaves. Check to see if beans are tender before serving.  Soup should be thick and peppery!

Enjoy,

Irene

Sweet Couscous

It was in the early 1980s when Norm and I decided to build our first Sukkah.  Neither of us had grown up with one, and so we had no family traditions to help guide us.  We had to create our own, discover our own way, and find traditions that we were comfortable with.  One year we used fresh fruit to decorate the Sukkah, fruit that began to decompose over the course of the week.  It seemed out of sync with the festive atmosphere we were trying to create, not to mention the waste, and so we switched to plastic fruits.  Over the years we experimented with the size of the Sukkah, materials, lighting, choice of plants for schach, and decorations.  It has always been a work in progress, and from year to year it changes slightly, as we do.

Each year my mother would come to our Sukkah and reminisce about her childhood in Poland, recalling how her father would insist on eating all of his meals in their Sukkah.  She said that even if it was pouring, he would sit there, the rain streaming down his face, though his beard, and into his soup.  That story was repeated to us each year and out of that shared memory a new tradition grew.  We realized that when my mother spoke of her father it was almost as if he was with us, sitting in our Sukkah.  Now, each year we go around the table and ask our guests the following question. ” If you could invite anyone to join you in the Sukkah, who would that be?”  We have had kings and politicians, musicians and celebrities, family members who have passed away and family members who are just far away.  Along with the Ushpizin, all of our guests, present and imaginary, make this holiday magical.  Chag Sameach.

This recipe is adapted from Claudia Roden’s  The Book of Jewish Food.

Sweet Couscous

Prepare 1 lb. of couscous by placing grain in a large bowl.  Using a total of about 2 1/2 cups of warm water, add a few tablespoons of water at a time and let it absorb into the couscous.  Using your fingers, plump up couscous, breaking up any lumps. Repeat till couscous is soft but not wet. Couscous will double in bulk.

To this basic recipe add:

1 cup golden raisins, soaked in warm water for about 20 minutes,  and chopped up.

1 cup dried apricots, thinly sliced

1/2  cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

1/4 cup sugar combined with cinnamon to taste

Shape couscous into a cone and decorate with lines of cinnamon mixed with sugar.

Enjoy,

Irene

Corn Cakes

Summer and fresh corn on the cob are one of those perfect pairings, like peanut butter and jelly, or chocolate cake and milk.  As a child I only remember eating yellow corn which we always bought with the husk on, thinking they were fresher that way.  (I still can’t bring myself to husk the corn at the market even though it would mean less mess in the kitchen) My mother boiled that corn forever, not knowing that it only needed a few minutes to cook.  It certainly never occurred to us that we could eat it raw.  She always told my sister and I that in Poland corn and tomatoes were food for cows, not humans.

When our children were little, we often went to Toronto during the summer to visit their paternal grandparents.  One of the places we enjoyed visiting was Puck’s Farm outside of Toronto.  It was a wonderful old-fashioned farm with a barn,  a few farm animals, bales of hay to jump in, an area where you could pick your own vegetables, and incredible corn that had just been harvested.  The variety they grew was called peaches and cream, alternating white and yellow kernels, and I had never seen anything like it.  The corn was for sale but it was also available to eat right there, steaming hot ears of corn ready to dip into a huge vat of melted butter.  So simple and so good. Boiling is only one of the ways I now prepare corn, and when I do boil it, it is for no more than five minutes.  I often grill it, constantly turning the ears till they get slightly charred.  Sometimes I cut the kernels off the cob and add them to a salad, raw.  Other times, I throw the raw kernels into a hot cast iron pan with olive oil,  salt and pepper, and some shredded basil.  It’s all good but, truth be told, none of it is as sweet as it was on those summer days when we watched our children eating corn on the cob with melted butter dripping down the sides of their smiling faces.

Corn Cakes

3 ears fresh corn

3 eggs

1/2 cup matzoh meal

2 scallions

1/4 cup cilantro

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/4 cup canola oil

Cut corn off cob and put in mixing bowl. Add eggs, slightly beaten, and matzoh meal to bowl. Mix well. Thinly slice scallions and add to mixture along with coarsely chopped cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. In a cast iron pan heat oil till hot. Drop large tablespoons of corn mixture into hot oil. Let cook till golden brown then turn over.

Warning: Corn pops in the frying pan so be careful!!!

Makes 12 corn cakes.

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

Baladi Eggplant

My youngest son, Micah, just moved into a Moishe House in Los Angeles and Norm and I were thrilled to be invited for Shabbat dinner.  It was potluck and I decided to bring an appetizer, main course, and dessert.  I had just purchased three eggplants and Micah suggested that I make them Baladi style, a dish he ate in Israel.  Having never heard of it, I did a little bit of research and decided it was worth trying.  I can’t say how authentic this version is, but it was easy to make and delicious.  The eggplant was soft, with a great smoky flavor, and the addition of Tehina gave a creamy texture to the dish.

It is a perfect appetizer for a Memorial Day BBQ.

We wish the newest residents of the Los Angeles Moishe House great success!!

Baladi Eggplant

2 Eggplants

1/4 cup Tehina

1 lemon

3 cloves garlic

Wrap whole eggplants in foil and grill for about 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Eggplant will collapse when tender.

Cool and drain off any liquid that has collected at the bottom of the eggplant.  Slit eggplants down the center with a sharp knife and spread open. Rake pulp with a fork to separate from skin.

Mix Tehina with minced garlic and lemon juice to taste.  Thin with a little bit of water if needed.  Drizzle over eggplants and serve with pita.

Serves 6-8 as an appetizer.

Enjoy,

Irene


Roasted Artichokes

What a glorious week it has been in Los Angeles!  The sun is shining, the sky is a beautiful shade of blue, the wind is blowing and you can see the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains in the distance.  It feels like Spring, even in Southern California.

I have been taking walks during lunch and often stop at Joan’s on Third (one of my favorite places to eat and shop)  where I pick up half a grilled artichoke, a perfect spring vegetable.  They are full, luscious, multi-layered, delicate and incredibly versatile.  Last week we had dinner with our friends and Steve made a wonderful puree of artichoke soup.  I may be able to get him to share the recipe!

Eating artichokes, unlike any other vegetable, requires patience.  Peeling one leaf at a time, dipping it into your favorite sauce and savoring each small edible part of the petal, you are then rewarded with the heart.  My sons would fight over the heart, and I always understood why.

My mother always boiled her artichokes and served them with vinaigrette.  I now prefer this two-step process.

Roasted Artichokes

4 large globe artichokes

Wash artichokes and trim each leaf, cutting off the sharp tips as well as the stem. Place in a basin of water with a sliced lemon. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add artichokes and cook for about  30- 40 minutes or until leaves can be pulled off fairly easily.  Remove and turn artichokes upside down so water drains out.  Allow to cool.

Cut the artichokes in half and using a small paring knife, remove fuzzy choke and any purple tipped petals.

Combine 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar with 4 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and spread on rimmed cookie sheet.  Place cut side of artichokes on top of vinaigrette and press down, slightly flattening artichoke.  Roast at 475 degrees for about 30 minutes or until artichokes are slightly charred.  You can also grill them if you prefer.

My two favorite dipping sauces.

Honey Balsamic Dip

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste.

Garlic-Basil Mayonnaise

1 cup mayonnaise mixed with 2 large minced cloves of garlic and 2 large basil leaves. Salt and pepper to taste. Blend in food processor.

Enjoy,

Irene

Blueberry Buns

Blueberries are my favorite summer fruit.  I love the color, texture, the little crown at the top of the berry, and the memories that I associate with this small delicate fruit that was plentiful on the East Coast.  As a child I picked berries in Lakewood, New Jersey and watched my Tante Marisha and mother prepare blueberry buns that we would eat straight from the oven, the warm berries oozing out with the first bite.  At The Rendezvous, a corner store in The Bronx, I always ordered fresh blueberry ice cream in the summer.  It had a particular fragrance that I had completely forgotten until this past year when a facial cream brought back this incredibly familiar smell, it was the smell of fresh blueberry ice cream.

Other memories include reading Blueberries for Sal to my children, a family favorite, and listening to Blueberry Pie by Bette Midler.

Life is peachy, let’s go bananas,
no one will care!
Blueberry Pie, let’s have fun,
’cause when all is said and done
I love you, yes I do,
’cause, Blueberry, you’re true blue.

There was a trip to Maine when the kids were little and we picked berries on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.  Summer trips to Toronto where blueberry buns were a local specialty of European Jewish bakeries.  I remember my cousin Rose serving a delicious blueberry cake and I have a favorite peach and blueberry cobbler recipe that I make each summer.  Blueberry buns, or  yagda bilkelach, which is what they are called in Yiddish, are from an era when you could go out and pick your berries, bring them home and spend the day making something special for your family to eat.  Summer days should be like that.  Try them.

Make your favorite challah recipe or use the one I give on an older post.

Voila!

Blueberry Buns ( The photo is of my husband’s Toronto version, folded on the side but I prefer them pinched on the top)

Filling

2 cups blueberries

1/2 cup sugar

Mix blueberries and sugar and let stand for about 5 minutes.

Divide dough into 8 equal portions.  Roll dough on floured board into circles 1/8 inch in thickness.  Place one tablespoon of filling in center and bring sides of dough to the top and pinch closed.  Brush with egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water.  Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Makes 8 buns.

Enjoy,

Irene