Oven-Roasted Herb Tomatoes

photo-2 copy 2It was the summer of 1972,  I was 16 years old and I was going to Israel for the first time. The trip was organized by Hadassah, six weeks long, we were to spend a week on kibbutz, a week on Gadna (pre-army training camp) at Sde Boker, and the remaining month touring.  After we arrived, we drove to Jerusalem and were taken to our residence, Beit Riklis on Mt Scopus.  There was a brief orientation after which we were sent to our rooms and told ” lights out.”   But we were 16 year olds, naïve and foolish, and it didn’t take long before we decided to sneak out.  We began walking down the road  but our adventure soon ended when a Volkswagen pulled over and the driver, a middle-aged man, asked who we were, what we were doing, and where we were going.  He yelled at us, and made us pile into the car so he could return us to the safety of the dorm.  That was the first, but not the last, time that we got into trouble that summer, a summer filled with adventure and new experiences, exactly as it should have been.

Of course, I remember the food as well, my first taste of Falafel, of ice-cold Choco, of perfectly diced Israeli salads made with ripe red tomatoes and crunchy cucumbers, the centerpiece of those incredibly lavish Israeli breakfasts (my normal breakfast of Frosted Flakes and milk was no match).

For weeks now, Israel is never far from our thoughts.  We worry, listen to the news on an hourly basis, and check in with family and friends who live there.  I spend time reminiscing, thinking about that summer, and the year that I later spent on Kibbutz Usha.  I think about how lucky I was to have those experiences, as were my husband and children during the time they spent in Israel.  I think about how different this summer is, and hope that very soon, Israeli teenagers will once again be living in peace, and American teenagers will once again be taking their first trips to Israel, getting into trouble, and having a summer filled with adventure and new experiences, exactly as it should be.

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Sde Boker 1972

 

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Oven-Roasted Herb Tomatoes

When I spent time with our family friends on Kfar Meishar, a Moshav outside of Gedera,  I was always amazed at how quickly delicious salads would appear on the table, with what appeared to be little effort.  With a surplus of tomatoes in the garden,  many of which I used for Israeli salad, I decided to roast some.  I sliced them, placed them in a glass dish (avoid using metal that could react with the tomatoes) sprinkled them with a small handful of chopped herbs, also from the garden ( I used sage, oregano, rosemary and tarragon),  added 6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced, a little sea salt and  drizzled Israeli olive oil over the top. They were a great addition to a breakfast of fried eggs, feta cheese and olives.

Bake at 325 for about 1 1/2 hours.

Enjoy,

Irene

Whitefish Salad

photo-19We landed in Montreal, a city that neither of us had visited before, and in spite of my many trips to Toronto, clearly this was a very different part of Canada.  As my daughter and I strolled around old town, walking on cobblestone streets, surrounded by French speakers, I couldn’t help but wonder how my parents had felt when they first arrived in Paris just a year or so after the war.
As we explored the various neighborhoods, we enjoyed wonderful meals in small Bistros, every evening trying a different salmon preparation, accompanied by good wine and ending with a fairly rich dessert.  Each morning we left our hotel with a list of coffee shops and bakeries that had come highly recommended.  It soon became clear that those addresses were not needed because the scent of butter-laden pastries just coming out of the oven could be detected blocks away.  Twice in three days, we visited Boulangerie Kouign-Amann where we enjoyed freshly baked croissants, sampling the plain, chocolate, and almond.  Of course we also had to try the pastry that the shop is named after, Kouign-Amann,  similar to a croissant but both top and bottom layers are made of a thin crispy coating of caramelized sugar.
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One afternoon we made our way to a local greasy spoon, not a place or an area that I think attracts very many tourists, but we were on a mission to eat a vegetarian version of  Poutine, a common Québécois dish of fries topped with cheese curds and smothered in gravy.
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On the morning we planned to have the famous Montreal bagels for breakfast, subject of much debate among people who engage in bagel war conversations, we took the Metro to the area known as Mile End, a neighborhood where waves of immigrants had once settled, Jews among them.  The bagels were smaller than New York bagels and slightly sweet, first boiled and then baked in a wood-fired oven.  As we munched on our warm bagels slathered in cream cheese (sadly there was no whitefish salad)  we passed spice stores, vintage shops, and cafes, and my guess is that new immigrants now settle elsewhere.
We turned a corner and came to an area with a Shul, a kollel, a kosher market and bakery, discovering a community of Belzer Hasidim nestled among the trendy shops.  Suddenly I heard Yiddish, saw sprinkle cookies, looked at faces whose features were clearly Eastern European and once again I imagined  how my parents might have felt wandering around the streets of Paris and suddenly seeing Hasids walking towards them.  No doubt it would have made them smile, and I smiled as well.   The only thing missing was whitefish salad.
Whitefish Salad
1 whole smoked whitefish, about 1 pound.
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1 Tb minced shallot
3 Tb mayonnaise
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Skin fish and very carefully remove from bones.  Mix with sugar, sesame oil, minced shallot and mayo to taste.  I like my fish flaked and not too mushy.  Serves 2-4.
Enjoy,
Irene

Beet, Fennel, and Mango Salad

photo-17My sister is in town, and it isn’t surprising that the conversation often turns to our mother, hers and mine.  The discussion typically begins with Anita recalling how, “our mother used to say…” ,”used to prepare…”,  “used to pronounce…” or “used to like…”, and ends when I respond by saying, “not my mother.”   There are eight years between us and in some ways we did have different mothers.  Anita was born and spent her early years in post-war Paris, while I was a child of the 1950s, born in The Bronx.  With each of us, our mother was busy adjusting to a new country, culture, language, and cuisine.   As the younger sister I must admit that I thoroughly enjoy this verbal sparring  but I’m not sure my sister feels the same way.

Preparing for Rosh Hashana, I feel an obligation to make some of the dishes that we both remember, and agree, that our mother served every Yontif.  I will make her Chicken Soup with kreplach, garlic chicken with roast potatoes, and make sure to include carrots for a sweet year.  The gefilte fish has been eliminated from the menu, as has the honey cake.  Instead of Tzimmis, I will prepare a fresh raw salad, colorful and slightly sweet, still using some ingredients that were often found in my mother’s kitchen, but with a new twist.

I remember my mother wishing that the New Year would be at least as good as the last, and no worse.  I called my sister to confirm this, and of course, she said  that her mother never said that.  Luckily, some things never change.  Wishing you all a Zisn Yontif, on that we can all agree.

Note: This recipe was adapted from a salad prepared in my home several weeks ago by the chefs from Puzzle Israel.

Beet, Fennel and Mango Salad
1/2 head of red cabbage thinly sliced
2 large red beets, peeled and Julienned
2 firm mangoes peeled and Julienned
3 or 4 large carrots, peeled and shredded
1 fennel bulb, cored, and slivered
1/2 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

Dressing

1/2 cup olive oil

1/ 4 cup lemon or lime  juice

1 Tb sesame oil

1 tsp salt

I would add a few drops of honey for some extra sweetness

Enjoy,

Irene

Irma’s Sumi Salad

IMG_1290My children attended Akiba Academy, now known as Sinai Akiba, from grades K-8.  When Norm and I chose that particular school, the decision was based on reputation, philosophy, and location.  We were young parents and had no idea how that choice would impact not only the lives of our children, but our lives as well.  My children made life-long friends at Akiba, (my older son is now related to one of those friends) and some of our closest friends were also found in those classrooms.  Our family benefited in ways that we didn’t anticipate, by meeting and becoming friends with Jewish families that came from places like Iran, Mexico, Russia and Egypt. Being Akiba parents influenced our decision to send our children to Camp Ramah, (where our older son met his wife) it exposed us to more observant families, influencing the way we practiced Judaism, it opened our eyes to the benefits of Jewish education which ultimately led to the decision to continue with our children’s Jewish education through Shalhevet and Milken Community High School.

When I look back, I realize how significant those relationships were, in spite of how young our children were at the time.  That community of children and parents stood by each other through good times and challenging times, through celebrations and unfortunately, through losses.  I love that so many of them and so many of us are still in touch.  I love that early this morning my daughter called wanting my recipe for Sumi salad,  a salad I first tasted in the Silberman home over 20 years ago, shortly after David and Aaron met in Kindergarten. What better way to celebrate the 4th than with a recipe for a salad that was given to me by a friend I met through Akiba, who was born in Egypt, raised in Israel, and living in America.  Happy 4th to all and thank you Sinai Akiba.

Irma’s Sumi Salad

1 head shredded cabbage (or 1 bag)

8 green onions, thinly sliced

2 packages of Ramen noodles or a kosher equivalent.  Just use the noodles, not the seasonings

1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

1 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Dressing

1/2 cup frozen apple juice, thawed

1/2 cup rice vinegar

3 Tb dark sesame oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup sugar

Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl.   Take bags or Ramen and without opening them, break noodles in the bag with your hands or a rolling-pin.  Add to salad.   Mix dressing ingredients and pour over salad no more than 15 minutes before serving so noodles stay somewhat crispy.  Serves 6

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Dottie’s Cowboy Caviar

photo-12As a little boy he dreamed of being a cowboy, raised in the era of Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and The Cisco Kid.  All Norm wanted was a pony and a six-gun, but the closest he came was horse-back riding, living on Kibbutz and wearing a cowboy hat  He even named his bike Trigger.  Over the years, there have been  purchases of Western attire, showing that deep down the dream still exists.  His love of all things Western included the many Cowboy ballads that we spent hours either listening to or singing during the long car trips with our children.  Even my mother knew all of the lyrics to The Streets of Laredo and it never failed to bring a tear to her eyes.

Today in honor of Father’s Day, Norm was able to relive a bit of that dream.  An afternoon spent at the Gene Autry Museum which included a concert featuring some of the members of the Western Music Association.  So here is to fathers everywhere who had to hang up their hat and raise their kids instead.  He would never have traded being a Dad for anything, but just to let him dream for a few more hours, I am serving him a bowl of Cowboy Caviar for dinner.

 

Happy Father’s Day and Happy Trails to you.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcYsO890YJY

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Cowboy Caviar

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

1/2  cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 can yellow corn, drained and rinsed  or fresh raw corn

1/2  sweet Vidalia onion, diced

2 celery stalks, thinly sliced

1/2  each of an orange and red bell pepper, diced

1/2 cup chopped cilantro or parsley, depending on your crowd

Marinade

1/2 cup of canola oil

1 cup of apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp red chili flakes

1 tsp cumin

Combine prepared vegetables and place in a large bowl.  Combine ingredients for marinade in a pot and heat  over low flame for about 10 minutes.  Let cool completely and pour over vegetables.  Allow to marinade for several hours before serving.

Enjoy,

Irene

Beet and Blood Orange Salad

IMG_2186I grew up hearing stories of my grandmothers and their preparations for Passover, most of which began way in advance of the holiday.  The walls had to be whitewashed, the geese had to be slaughtered and the goose fat rendered, and the down pillows were opened so that the feathers could be cleaned and re-stuffed into new ticking.  Then there was the shopping and cooking.  With large families, and no take-out or prepared foods available, everything was made at home.  I was told that my maternal grandmother baked an enormous sponge-cake every morning,  made with 12 dozen eggs, a cake large enough so everyone could have a piece for breakfast.  I wish I knew my grandmothers, these women who worked tirelessly to keep their traditions and whose efforts made lasting impressions on their children and on the grandchildren they never had the chance to meet.

I think of my mother’s preparations for Passover and wonder how much she was influenced by her own childhood experiences.  I think of my children and wonder if there are pieces they will choose to keep from their childhood.  Do they remember that the glass dishes soaked in the bathtub for days, that they were made to clean their dresser drawers while keeping an eye out for pieces of gum or candy that might have been missed.  That the trunk of the car was loaded with all the cutlery, pots and pans that had to be toivled at the synagogue and then driven to the car wash so that the back seats could be lifted and vacuumed?  Or my personal favorite which was hiding the chametz around the house and searching for it by candlelight?

I too am starting to think of Passover and I remember specific foods that my mother always had on hand during the holidays.  Home-made beet borscht for one, the cold version that had sour cream mixed in which turned it into the color of bubble gum, but which I never did acquire a taste for.  When I met my friend Susan T., I discovered a meat version of beet borscht, made with short ribs and served piping hot with a generous dollop of mashed potatoes mixed with fried onions, heaped in the center of the soup bowl and suddenly I discovered how good beets could be.  Eventually there were other preparations that I now love, like beets paired with goat cheese and walnuts, or simply roasted and drizzled with an aged balsamic vinegar.

I wish my grandmothers had lived to see how Passover is observed in the homes of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  I imagine that they would shep naches knowing that their descendents make an effort to get together for the seders, that we care enough to argue over issues like kitniyot, that we have dishes like beet salad whose ingredients they would still recognize as being familiar, and that no matter how many of us there are, we make sure there is enough cake so that everyone can have a piece for breakfast.

Beet and Blood Orange Salad

5 medium beets, use a combination of red, orange, and yellow.

Dressing

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced, placed in cold water for 1 minute and squeezed out.

5 blood oranges, peeled, and segmented

1 cup pomegranate seeds
This is how the produce man at the farmer’s market suggested that I prepare the beets.  Take a thin slice off the top and bottom of each beet and then place beets in a pot with enough water to cover.  Bring water to a boil, lower heat to medium, and cook beets until they can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife.  Cool just enough to be able to handle beets and then peel by rubbing skin off with your fingers.  The skin will easily fall off.
Cut beets into 1/3-inch-thick wedges and place in a large bowl with orange segments and onion. Top with pomegranate seeds. Whisk orange juice, pomegranate molasses, vinegar, and olive oil.  Dress salad and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serves 4-6
Enjoy,
Irene

 

Soba Salad

I look back on my childhood and wonder how I felt as a young girl walking through the front door of our home knowing that the language would shift from English to Yiddish.  My recollection is that I always liked Yiddish, having positive associations with the language and understanding that the words were so much more expressive than their English counterparts.  To this day there are certain words that I have never found an English equivalent for.  One of my favorite words is fagin, a word my mother often used.  Loosely translated it expresses the act of denying oneself the pleasure of an indulgence.  It takes several English words to capture that one word in Yiddish and the sentiment is still lacking.

This week I heard an interview with Professor Udea who published the first Japanese-Yiddish dictionary after spending twenty years of his life dedicated to producing this scholarly work.  The NPR interview made me smile, especially when hearing Professor Udea’s Japanese-accented Yiddish.  My father used to insist that Yiddish was a dying language and when I find evidence to the contrary, I am delighted.  One of my mother’s favorite expressions was that it was a lebidikeh velt,  and she was right.  Guess what we are having for Shabbat dinner tonight?  Japanese inspired Soba Salad.  Gut Shabbos.

For those of you who might be interested in learning some Yiddish, take a look at yiddishwordoftheweek.tumblr.com   

Soba Salad

12 oz. Soba noodles, cooked in boiling water for about 6-8 minutes.  Drain and rinse very well, actually washing the noodles in cold water to remove all excess starch.  Set aside.

1 red pepper

1 scallion

1 avocado, thinly sliced

1 block firm tofu, cut in cubes

6 oz. shiitake mushrooms sliced

1 bunch of greens of your choice, chard, spinach, steamed

2 Tb olive oil

1 tsp sesame oil

Thinly slice red pepper, scallion and avocado and set aside.  Slice mushrooms and sauté over high heat for about 5 minutes.  Add sesame oil and set aside.  Steam spinach.

Dressing
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 Tb rice vinegar
2 Tb maple syrup
3 Tb Agave Nectar
5 Tb peanut butter
1/4 cup water
Whisk all ingredients together till smooth.   Adjust sweetness to your taste.  Assemble salad ingredients in shallow dish and dress.  Serves 4-6
Enjoy,
Irene

Brussel Sprout Leaf, Arugula, and Almond Salad

Last week I turned on the Food Network and Giada De Laurentiis had just blanched a pot of Brussel Sprout leaves.  Unfortunately I missed her technique for separating the leaves, but the result looked so appealing that I decided to try to duplicate it.  My friend Sheila had invited us over to try a new recipe that she was testing for Passover, Braised Short Ribs, and I thought that a green salad would be a perfect way to balance the richness of the beef.  Plus it was fun knowing that we were going to be each other’s taste testers in anticipation of Pesach.

Using a very small paring knife, I cut the bottom of each Brussel Sprout and gently trimmed off each individual leaf.  After about 45 minutes, I had enough for a large salad.  The leaves were quickly blanched, strained, and thrown into a bowl of ice water.  There they were, a bowl of delicate beautiful emerald-green leaves which I tossed with arugula and toasted almonds.  The dressing was equal parts olive oil and lemon juice.  The salad was refreshing and lemony, and the preparation was a nice alternative to roasting the Brussel Sprouts.  The short ribs melted in your mouth.

We won’t be in Los Angeles for Pesach this year, we are heading East at the invitation of our recently married son and daughter-in-law.  I will miss our Seder, our friends in L.A., and my sister and brother-in-law, but it will be the first time that both families, (and all the siblings) will join together to celebrate a Chag, and that’s too wonderful an opportunity to pass up.

Spring can’t come soon enough.

Brussel Sprout Leaf, Arugula and Almond Salad

1 lb. Brussel Sprouts, bottoms trimmed and leaves removed

3 cups Baby Arugula

1/2 cup slivered toasted almonds

salt and pepper to taste

Dressing

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and toss in leaves. Boil for one minute, strain, and place in bowl of ice water.  Drain and toss Brussel Sprout leaves, arugula and toasted almonds in a large bowl. Dress and serve immediately.  Serves 6

By the way, the Braised Short Ribs were as beautiful as they were delicious, just take a look for yourself.

Enjoy,

Irene

Eggplant Relish

I have something to share about my husband.  He has a tendency to reveal the ending of a play or movie plot before the rest of us have seen it, or share the final score of a sports event when others are watching in a different time zone.  It is something we joke about, and as a family we often censor him just when we realize from the twinkle in his eye that he is about to spill the beans. 

Here is another thing that he loves to do.  Every year at this time, Norm comes home from shul and announces that they began to read from the Book of Exodus.  Can you guess what the next line is??  He casually adds, “that means Pesach is not far off.”  Norm knows that this is not an announcement that elicits a reaction that I might have with a slightly more “fun” piece of news.  Don’t misunderstand, I love Passover but he knows that in mid-January thinking about Passover is pretty much an excercise in anxiety.

I am simply refusing to take heed and am putting Passover out of my mind, at least for now.  Tu Bishvat is around the corner, and though I don’t really do anything to celebrate this particular holiday, it is a reminder that Spring is not too far off, that in Israel the Almond trees will soon blossom, and that the days are once again getting longer.

Last night I made an eggplant relish and added toasted almonds instead of the pine nuts that were called for in the recipe.  (it is an adaptation of an Ina Garten recipe)  It would be a good dish to have for a Tu Bishvat Seudah and will be a perfect accompaniment to matzoh.  Something to think about.

Eggplant Relish

3 Globe Eggplants

8 oz. Jar of Roasted Red Peppers, diced

2 medium Onions, diced

3 cloves Garlic, minced

4 Tb Tomato Paste

1/3 cup Red Wine Vinegar

4 Tb olive oil

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

salt and pepper to taste

Chopped parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and roast whole eggplants on a cookie sheet until tender, about one hour.  In the meantime, sauté chopped onions in olive oil till onions are translucent.  Add minced garlic and sauté an additional minute or two.  Remove to bowl and add tomato paste, red wine vinegar and a dash of olive oil.  After the eggplant has cooled, scoop out the flesh and process for a few minutes before adding to onion mixture.  Mix in finely diced red peppers and season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with toasted almonds and parsley.  Serves 8

Enjoy,

Irene

Long Bean Salad with Creme Fraiche Dressing

As a child having an August birthday was always a little disappointing.  Children who were born during the school year had typical parties that included games and home-made birthday cakes, but in the heat of the summer not too many kids were hanging around the Bronx.  It also stemmed from the fact that my parents were not particularly interested in birthday celebrations.  They never quite understood what all the fuss was about, on top of which they believed that once your birthday arrived, that year was over and you were now entering the next year of your life.  Telling your friends that you are finally sixteen was somewhat hampered by my Mom who was busy reminding me that I was no longer sixteen, but now in my seventeenth year.  We didn’t know my father’s actual birthday till he sent for his Polish birth certificate when he was well into his sixties.  We grew up thinking his birthday was December 2nd, and so you can imagine our surprise when the certificate arrived and we realized he was born on February 12th.  He hadn’t remembered that the day, rather than the month, is listed first on European documents.  My mother often reminded us that birthdays were not marked when she was growing up, but were referred to in proximity to holidays, you were born near Sukkot, or on Passover, and that was the extent to which it was mentioned.

All this by way of saying that I love celebrating birthdays, which is no surprise.  It just so happens that there are many August birthdays in our family and one in mid-September, which is close enough.  My youngest son turned 24 today or as my mother would have said, has now entered his 25th year.  Out of bed early this morning, I am spending the day cooking for his birthday celebration, a picnic and concert at the Hollywood Bowl.  Dinner will include slow-roasted tomatoes, cheese (hand delivered from Paris) and a crispy baguette.  Then on to baked salmon, pasta with vine-ripened tomatoes, basil and garlic.  Sides are grilled artichokes, Chinese Long Bean salad, and a green salad with avocado and hearts of palm.  Then champagne grapes, Bing cherries and a home-made two-layer chocolate cake.
Happy birthday Micah,and of course to all of you other August babies, here’s to us!!  Special wishes for my Machatenista who has a big celebration coming up, and to Auntie Clara who is turning 100!!

Micah's Birthday Cake

Chinese Long Bean Salad with Creme Fraiche Dressing

1 pound Chinese Long Beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

3-4 cloves minced garlic

2 tablespoons crème fraîche

2 tablespoons honey
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Cook cut long beans in rapidly boiling salted water for 1-2 minutes.  Do not over cook.  Drain and plunge into bowl of ice water and allow to cool.  In a large bowl, combine basil, garlic, honey and crème fraîche.  Add beans and toss.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
Serves 6
Enjoy,
Irene