Brie en Croute

When I was growing up, Sunday was my father’s day to cook.  The menu never varied, it was always broiled steaks and lamb chops, a salad, and home-made french fries.  My father prided himself on knowing his way around a kitchen.  He would peel and cut the fries in a particular way, preferring a thick cut fry.  He used a stainless steel pan filled with oil and would fry the potatoes in batches until they were golden brown.  My father was unusual in that European men of that generation didn’t typically spend time in the kitchen cooking.  I didn’t realize it at the time but he was modeling a behavior that my children noticed.  They grew up around a grandfather and a father who both devoted lots of time in the kitchen, cooking for their families.  What a nice legacy to have inherited.  My children all know how to cook but I hope that my sons continue this particular tradition and one day cook for their own wives and children.  In the meantime, to all the fathers and grandfathers, and especially to my father-in-law, wishing you a Happy Father’s Day!!

Norm loves to bake so after making this French  Boule, we used it to make a family favorite, Brie En Croute.  We prefer this version as opposed to using puff pastry.

Brie en Croute

1 small French Bread

1 stick sweet butter, melted

3 0r 4 cloves of garlic, minced

16 oz. of Brie

Carefully hollow out center of bread, making a well.  Melt butter, add minced garlic and brush mixture on the inside of the hollowed out bread.  Cut Brie into large pieces and place inside bread.  Take the bread that you had cut out, slice into bite size pieces and brush with remaining garlic butter.  Bake Brie en Croute and croutons on a lined tray in a 375 degree oven till Brie is melted and oozing.  Serves 4-6

Enjoy,

Irene

Baked Ricotta Pie

How do you keep traditions alive, and at the same time stay creative and flexible?  Every year, during Passover, our family talks about incorporating Kitniyot into our diet.  My reaction is always the same, how will future generations know about our family’s Ashkenazi traditions, if we all end up eating rice and legumes.  Without preserving some of our differences, it seems that we have more to lose than we have to gain.

Food is a way for me to preserve memories of my mother and pass on her traditions.  One memory is that she always made blintzes for Shavuot.  Tonight I decided to try something new in preparation of the holiday.  I made a layered cheese pie filled with ricotta and mascarpone, a far cry from the traditional farmer cheese filling of  the blintzes that my mother lovingly prepared.  I am sure it will be delicious (it is an Ina Garten recipe) but I already  feel a pang of guilt, as if I chipped away at a family tradition and one small memory of my mother.  Chag Sameach, enjoy the layered Ricotta pie, but next year I am serving blintzes.

Baked Ricotta Pie  (adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten)

1 1/4 cups milk

2 Tbs sour cream

1/2 stick melted butter

1/3 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

4 eggs

1 1/3 cup flour

Beat ingredients together in large bowl and pour half the batter into a greased 9 x 13 Pyrex dish.  Bake for about 10 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree oven.

Filling

22 oz. fresh ricotta cheese

8 oz. mascarpone cheese

2 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients and pour over baked layer of batter.  Spoon remaining batter on top and bake an additional 30-40 minutes. Serives  6

Enjoy,

Irene

 

 

Salmon with Diced Tomatoes

Our family was very small.  None of my mother’s siblings had survived the war, but my father had two brothers and a sister that lived close by.  His oldest brother, Uncle Jack, was the debonair one in the family, always beautiful dressed with his Homburg perched perfectly on his head.  Jack had emigrated to France as a young man, married and had three children.  In the 1950s, the three brothers and their families immigrated to the United States where I was born.  Uncle Jack was a furrier by trade but we all thought of him as an artist.  His manners were impeccable, he was bright, engaging, and always walked into our home carrying a clear square box , filled with pastel-colored chocolate mints.  As a child, I adored my uncle and his children, my older “French” cousins.  They had striking good looks, charm, a joie de vivre that was contagious, and spoke English with beautiful French accents.

At some point I began spending a week or so of each summer with my cousin Micheline who lived outside of Philadelphia.  She and her family lived on the Main Line, a lush, green suburb full of large trees and great expanses of lawn.  It was a wonderful break from the hot city streets of New York.  I would arrive at her home and it was if I walked into a different world.  Micheline painted, developed photographs in her dark room, knit, crocheted, did needlepoint, read voraciously and cooked incredibly delicious French dishes.  Every young child has someone who they want to be like when they grow up, I always wanted to be like Micheline.

Two weeks ago when we were visiting New York, Micheline drove in from Philadelphia to join us. The next day we headed back to her home in Villanova and that evening we were joined by the rest of the family for dinner. Micheline made us a wonderful meal that included a poached salmon covered in a light sauce of sautéed tomatoes.  Simple and delicious, served with grace and charm and ease.

Micheline’s Salmon with Tomatoes

Use your favorite method for cooking a side of salmon. This topping would work well on grilled, baked or poached salmon fillets.

8 Roma Tomatoes peeled, diced and seeded

2 large chopped onions

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in frying pan, add chopped onions and sautee for about 15 minutes or till golden.  Meanwhile peel tomatoes, cut in half, squeeze out seeds and then dice.  Add garlic and diced tomatoes to onions and season well with salt and pepper. Cook for about 10-15 minutes till tomatoes collapse.  Pour mixture over salmon and serve.

NOTE: Micheline served this with salad, a crusty French baguette and a small dish of dipping sauce that she prepared with olive oil, a very good bottle of balsamic vinegar and a few cloves of coarsely chopped fresh garlic. DELICIOUS!!

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


Blintzes

I was 16 years old, it was my first trip away from home, and I was going abroad.  Although my parents had never been to Israel, they decided to send me on a summer program.  I was nervous and excited and had no idea what to expect.  I didn’t know anybody else in my group but I was confident that I was going to a place where I would feel comfortable.  My mother had two friends that she had known in Poland before the war but had not seen since 1945. Manya and Sonia both lived with their families on a moshav outside of Gedera called Meishar.  My mother asked me to go see them, she said they were like family.  I had to hitchhike into the moshav, another first, and when I was dropped off at Manya’s home, (same name as my mother) she looked at me as if she were looking at my mother, with recognition in her eyes.  Manya K. and Sonia U. were neighbors and their homes were  no more than 100 feet apart.  On that first of many visits they opened their homes and hearts to me. They fussed over me and told me stories and cooked and cooked and cooked.  I literally went back and forth between their homes all day long, each one beckoning for me to come over and have something to eat. Sonia U. would make blintzes for Aruchat Arba, afternoon tea, in such an effortless way that it made an impression on me that lasted till today.  It was hospitality at its best. Warm, inviting, and gracious.

Both women have passed away but their families are still on the Moshav,  and I still see Aaron and Rosie and their children whenever I go to Israel. We sit and tell stories and cook and eat.  They are like family.




Blintzes

Bletlech (Leaves)

3 eggs

1 3/4 cups milk

2 tbsp sour cream

pinch salt

1 cup flour

Beat eggs and add milk and sour cream. Slowly whisk in flour and pinch of salt and beat till batter is smooth.

Filling

1 lb. farmer’s cheese ( I prefer Friendship brand)

8 oz. small curd cottage cheese

1 tbsp sour cream

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg yolk (gives filling a buttery color)

dash cinnamon and salt

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Heat an 8″ omelette pan and grease with vegetable oil. (I like to put the oil on a paper towel which I use to grease the pan in between making each leaf) Heat pan and add slightly less than 1/4 cup batter, swirling pan so that  batter covers the bottom.  Fry for about 2 minutes or till there are bubbles forming and batter looks dry.  Turn leaf onto plate. Continue until batter is finished, stacking leaves. This should yield 15 leaves.

Spread leaves on dish towels and evenly divide filling among them. Fold and lightly saute blintzes in butter.

Enjoy,

Irene

Rena’s Cheesecake

Shavuot is approaching and the tradition is to serve dairy meals, stemming from a description of Israel as “a land flowing with milk and honey.” What a wonderful opportunity to create meals with ingredients that I love.  Sweet butter, heavy cream, farmer cheese, cream cheese and sour cream will be transformed into vichyssoise, blintzes, cheesecake, and one of my childhood favorites, warm broad egg noodles tossed with butter, farmer cheese, cinnamon, and sugar.  Sweet and comforting.

Of course the quintessential dessert for Shavuot seems to be cheesecake and my friend Rena H. is the local Cheesecake Queen. She has been making this recipe for years, and although she has recently “lightened” it up, I prefer the original. Growing up, my son David always anticipated having Rena’s cheesecake during the holidays, as did we all.  I recently asked Rena to share this recipe and she told me it was originally adapted from a recipe by Dinah Shore!  Who knew!
On Wednesday Rena brought over this delicious cheesecake, made with the original recipe.
Here is the original recipe.

Rena’s Cheesecake

Crust:

1 and  3/4 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 stick melted butter

Mix all ingredients together setting aside 3 tbsp for topping.  Press remaining mixture into bottom of 9″ spring-form pan.

Filling

3 eggs

2-8 oz. packages cream cheese (Rena uses Philadelphia brand)

1 cup sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups sour cream

Combine eggs with cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Blend in sour cream. Pour on top of crust and top with reserved crumb mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for one hour. Chill for 4-5 hours or overnight.

Serves 12

Enjoy,

Irene




Schav Borscht (Sorrel Soup)

Mother’s Day may feel like a Hallmark holiday but it does force us to stop whatever we are doing for a minute, an hour, or a day, and think about our mothers or our role as mothers.  My mother was a petite, olive-skinned woman with medium brown hair and the deepest set blue-grey eyes I have ever seen.  Those eyes had seen the best and the worst of humanity but in the end my mother chose life and all that it had to offer.  Nothing was more important to her than her family, her daughters, and especially her grandchildren.  She would kvell at their every achievement, smile when they smiled, and if they experienced a moment of sadness or pain, you could see the sadness reflected in those deep blue-grey eyes.  She was the embodiment of a yiddishe mamma.

As mothers, we all know that motherhood is much like a roller coaster ride, thrilling and frightening at the same time.  On this mother’s day I want to thank my husband Norm and my children, Shira, David and Micah for giving me the opportunity to experience the ride. Nothing could be better.

Michael Yanow, a friend and colleague, took this generational photograph of  his grandmother sitting at her vanity.
http://www.storiestoldbythecamera.com/?p=589

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!

Here is one of my Mom’s favorite cold soups.

Sorrel growing in my garden

Schav Borscht

1 lb. schav (sorrel leaves)

6 cups water

1 lemon, juiced

1 tsp salt

2 egg yolks

1/2  cup sour cream

Wash the sorrel well, removing the tough stems and chopping the leaves coarsely.

Bring the water to a boil, add sorrel, lower heat and cook for about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add salt. Slowly add lemon juice until the desired tartness is achieved.

In a small bowl beat the egg yolks well. Add a few tablespoons of the soup to the yolks and then stir yolks back into remaining soup. (Delete yolks if you are worried about egg related illnesses)

Whisk in 1/2 cup sour cream.

Chill and serve in a tall glass along with a bowl of hot buttered mashed potatoes.

Note: I wrote my post before I read this article but had to share the coincidence.  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/05/dining

Enjoy,

Irene