Middle Eastern Flavored Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

topI woke up this morning planning to go to The Shoe Museum, but the snow was coming down and the sidewalks were not inviting.  Instead I sat and listened to a recording of the eulogy that my son David delivered at the funeral of my mother-in-law’s  baby brother who recently passed away,  known by the family as Uncle Gibby.  In it David referred to how much Gibby loved food and music, something we can all relate to.  Instead of venturing out into the snow, we sat around the breakfast table telling stories, eating delicious pletzlach from Grodzinsksi’s Bakery and simultaneously laughing and crying.  It is not surprising that food was a recurring part of the discussion.  As I sat and listened to various ” Gibby stories,”   our conversation turned back to our plans for the day.  We are going to visit my father-in-law this afternoon, but what about lunch and dinner?

The snow is coming down even harder now, but it’s time to head out.  In my head I am humming one of my favorite songs,  Baby It’s Cold Outside and I realize it’s a perfect day for meatballs in tomato sauce.   I think both would make Gibby smile.

Middle Eastern Flavored Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

1 lb. ground turkey

2/3 cup pareve breadcrumbs

1/4 cup water

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp baharat

1/2 tsp ground  black pepper

1/4 tsp  chili flakes

Tomato Sauce

3 tbsp olive oil

1½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp sharp paprika

1 medium onion, chopped

1 lb. large mushrooms, coarsely chopped

1 cup chicken broth

14 oz can chopped tomatoes

1 small red chili, left whole,

1 garlic clove, crushed

Salt and pepper to taste

 Heat the oil in a large pot and add the chopped onion, garlic and spices.  Saute over low heat till onion is translucent but not brown.  Add mushrooms and cook for several minutes before adding chicken broth, chopped tomatoes, chili,  salt and  pepper.  Simmer for about 5-10 minutes,  and adjust seasoning.

Mix turkey with the other ingredients and form into small meatballs.   Gently drop into simmering pot of tomato sauce and cook, covered, over low heat for about 1 hour.  Delicious over thick chewy noodles!  Serves 4



Corn and Poblano Lasagne

My father had a standard response to a certain type of question, and that response was “only the best.”  That’s a tall order, and of course the idea of what’s best is very subjective.  The statement taught me not to settle for mediocrity.   At work I meet with families and often tell them to manage their expectations when it comes to their mentors, not because of the quality of the volunteers, but because I don’t want anyone disappointed.  Still even as I utter those words, I know I am not being true to myself or my father’s words.

When my father first arrived in NYC, he worked as a tailor for Davidow Suits. a women’s suit company whose ads I remember seeing in Vogue Magazine when I was a teen.  After coming home from a long day he would have dinner and head to night school to learn English.  Years later he decided to follow his passion and become a Stock Broker, not an easy thing for a man in his 40s who had to pass the grueling exam in English, by then his fourth language.  He studied night after night and when he passed away I found all the exams, almost perfect scores on each one.  It didn’t surprise me.

Shavuot is  holiday about relationships.  It is also the one holiday where dairy reigns.  One of my favorite cooking shows is called  “The Best Thing I Ever Made.”  The program features various chefs who talk about that one dish that they make at home for their loved ones and closest friends, the people who you want to serve your best.  Last week a female Mexican chef featured a lasagna that she makes with a Mexican twist.  The best of two great culinary worlds come together in perfect harmony.

May your relationships, your holiday, and your food come from the desire for it to be the best, even if it isn’t always achievable.  Chag Saneach.




Corn and Poblano Lasagna adapted from Marcela Valladolid

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 2 ears)

2 cups heavy cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 Poblano chiles, charred, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch strips

2 large zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise

Twelve no-boil lasagna sheets

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add two cloves of minced garlic and the corn and sauté for 5 minutes.  Stir in the cream.  Cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool, and purée until smooth.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic clove along with the Poblano and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread about one-quarter of the corn mixture over the bottom of an 9 x 12 inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Spread 1/4 of the vegetable mixture and 1/4 of the cheese over the pasta.  Repeat the layering three more times. Cover with foil.

Bake covered for about 50 minutes. Remove the foil and turn up the oven temperature to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Serves 6-8



Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower

There is something wonderful about visiting NYC just as winter is approaching.  The air is crisp and clean, and although it may be chilly, it isn’t the bitter cold that would normally prevent you from being outdoors.  In fact it is perfect walking weather.  The windows on 5th Avenue are decked out for the holiday season, stores are busy, and salespeople helpful.  Shops are filled with the scent of spices that we associate with winter festivities and celebrations, like cinnamon, ginger, and pumpkin.  My sister said that she was on sensory overload, too much to buy, to see, to try, to do.  Still when it came time to leave, she said that it was harder for her to leave this time, harder than during her previous visits.  In part we are sad to leave the place where we spent our childhood because as we wander the streets, we are flooded with memories.  Winter memories of coming home to my mother who would be standing and warming her hands on the stove, my father coming in after work and rubbing his cold face against our cheeks, putting wet gloves on the steaming radiator in the living room, and of course lots of good food everywhere.  Some things never change.

Here is a list of my recent discoveries and indulgences.  

Breakfast at Saltie in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  I recommend the Ship’s Biscuit which wasn’t a biscuit at all but a hearty focaccia slathered with a layer of ricotta and the most perfectly seasoned scrambled eggs.

Brunch at Pastis, a French Bistro in the Meatpacking District.  Perfect for a special occasion.

Dinner at Porsena in the Village.  We started with Baccalá mantecato, salt cod with potato, garlic toast and extra virgin olive oil.  Salt cod is amazing!!!!   For dinner I had Penette col Cavolfiore – roasted cauliflower, olives, capers, garlic, toasted breadcrumbs .

If you still have energy take a ride down to the Lower East Side.   I accidentally came across Economy Candy and spent some time going down memory lane.  I walked out with $40.00 worth of candy and although I was lectured by my sister and son for spending a ridiculous amount of money on candy,  that night there were no complaints as we each ate our share of Abba Zabba, Bit O Honey, thin strands of red licorice, and my personal favorite, Baby Ruth.

Happy Holidays.

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower chopped into small pieces

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/2 lb. cooked pasta

2 Tb capers

1/2 cup olives

1/4 cup roasted garlic cloves

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste.

Toss chopped cauliflower with about 2 Tb olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast on a cookie sheet in a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes or till tips are golden brown.  Then sprinkle with bread crumbs and roast for another five minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.

In a large bowl,  toss together 3-5 Tb of olive oil, capers, roasted garlic cloves (optional), cooked pasta and cauliflower.  Season to taste.  Add a little more olive oil on top and serve with shaved parmesan.  Serves 4.