Dried (and fresh) Mushroom Soup

mushroomLetters would arrive from France, Poland, and Israel, my father carefully removing the stamps before tossing the envelopes.  Once in a while, no more than once or twice a year, a package would arrive as well.  It was always the same, a cardboard box wrapped in brown paper tied with a rope.  It was clear from the handwriting that it was addressed by someone whose native language was not English.  A pungent, earthy smell seeped through the box, revealing the contents before we managed to cut the string.

The box contained dried mushrooms, grzyby.  They were sent to us by a Polish man who had helped my father during the war, a man who in return for his kindness and heroism, received a small check from my father, every month, for as long as I can remember.  They never saw each other again, but the relationship was maintained by this exchange that went back and forth across the ocean, via mail.

In an age where letters are a rare form of communication, and packages often come from Amazon, I miss that feeling of anticipation and excitement that went hand in hand with the approach of a mailman.   We say our hectic lives are to blame, but I think about this Polish farmer, whose life I am sure was challenging in many unimaginable ways, going out to the woods to pick mushrooms after a rainfall,  then drying them, boxing them, and taking them to a post office to mail them to a man in the United States who he had not seen in years.

It has been rainy and cold (for L.A.) and Purim is around the corner.  That means Mishloah Manot will soon be mailed.  I have no doubt that there will be various comments about the contents, but I hope that the packages will stir the same feelings that I think my father experienced when those boxes arrived.  Knowing that someone is thinking of you, year after year, and from miles away.

In the meantime, it is a perfect time of year to make a pot of mushroom soup.

Dried Mushroom Soup

2 oz. dried Polish mushrooms

1 cup hot water

1 lb small brown or white mushrooms

2 Tb olive oil

1 large brown onion

1 small leek, white part only

1 large russet potato

2 Tb butter

3 cups pareve chicken stock plus reserved water that mushrooms were soaked in.

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1/2 cup whole milk

Soak dried mushrooms in a small bowl of hot water for a few minutes to release any dirt.  Then strain and place mushrooms in about 1 cup of hot water for about 20 minutes till mushrooms soften.  Peel and dice onion, clean and thinly slice leek,  and add both to a large soup pot along with the 2 Tb  of olive oil.   Saute onions and leeks for about 5 minutes over a low flame but do not allow to brown.  Thinly slice fresh mushrooms and add to pot along with dried mushrooms, reserved liquid, and chicken broth.  Add potato that you have peeled and diced and salt and pepper.  Bring  soup to a boil, lower heat and simmer covered, for about one hour.  Allow to cool and then purée using an immersion blender.  Add butter and milk and adjust seasoning to taste.  If you want to reheat, do it over a low flame.  Serves 6 – 8

Enjoy,

Irene

Israeli White Bean Soup

photo-9Shabbat dinner always felt different from the rest of the week.  The differences were small, my mother bentched licht covering her head with whatever was nearby, sometimes even grabbing a dish-towel, the table was covered with an embroidered cloth, challah replaced rye bread, roast chicken was served, and my father said Kiddush.  On Saturdays life went back to normal but that feeling of Shabbat lingered in the air.

As the week winds down, after a full work-week, it’s sometimes hard to plan, shop, and prepare for Shabbat.  That’s what makes those hardy one pot meals like Cholent, Tabit, and Hamin, so attractive.  Instead of serving it for lunch, I often make one of those dishes and put it in the oven early Friday morning to serve for dinner instead.

Tonight we are having some of our children’s Ramah friends over and my plan was to make a one pot dinner.  I thought I would try something new so I chose to make Sofrito from the Jerusalem cookbook, a one-pot chicken and potato dish, cooked slowly in its own juices on top of the stove.  Then I decided to make a pot of turkey meatballs in a cumin-scented tomato sauce.  When I left for the market there was a chill in the air, and so I decided to come home and make a family favorite, a pot of Israeli bean soup.

My one pot dinner has turned into three pots, and with all of them simmering slowly on the stove top, it does feel different, and for me, that’s what Shabbat is all about.  Hope yours feels different too.  Shabbat Shalom.

Israeli Bean Soup

1 pound small white beans, rinsed well

1 large brown onion

1 – 8 oz can tomato sauce

2 cloves garlic

2 tsp salt

2 tsp pepper

2 Tb olive oil

8 cups chicken broth or water with 1 Tb chicken bouillon

Chop onions in a small dice.  In a large soup pot, sauté onions in olive oil till translucent, but not browned, for about 5 or 6 minutes.  Mince garlic and add to onions and cook for another minute or two.  Add water/chicken broth and beans and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a medium simmer and cook for about one hour.  Then add salt, pepper, and tomato sauce and cook till beans are tender about another 1 1/2 hours.  Adjust seasonings and serve.  Serves 6.

Enjoy,
Irene

 

 

 

 

 

Tomato Soup

IMG_2156My sister told me that despite her repeated requests for a colored television, my parents refused to buy one until I (the baby in the family) wanted one, and then one was bought right away.  That television changed our lives in many ways.  Ed Sullivan, The Micky Mouse Club, and Captain Kangaroo became weekly guests in our home.  We were just as attentive during the commercial breaks and the ads were so convincing, that even a child as young as I was then, I advocated for whatever they happened to be selling.  I am ashamed to admit that I begged my mother to buy Chef Boyardee products, T.V. Dinners, and Campbell Soups.  I couldn’t understand why she insisted on spending her time carefully dicing and chopping vegetables when I was sure that her homemade soups could not possibly compare to the gelatinous, cylindrical mass of soup that came out of a can.  My mother kept preparing her wonderful chicken soup, made with chicken feet that we loved to chew on, vegetable soups cooked with delicious marrow bones which could only be scooped out with the smallest of spoons, white bean soups that were hearty and peppery, and a “milchig” tomato soup, the one soup I wouldn’t eat.  I can’t tell you why.  Maybe it was because my mother told me that she never ate tomatoes when she was a child.  Maybe it was the tartness of the tomatoes, or the acidity of the soup.  I have no memory of what that particular soup tasted like, and sadly I have no idea how she prepared it.

What I do know is that my mother refused to listen to those ad campaigns and successfully ignored my nagging.  She continued  making homemade soups her entire life.  Without any lecturing, in her own gentle way, and by example, she taught me a valuable lesson about life and soup, that fast is not always better and that tomato soup is delicious after all.

Tomato Soup adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten

I-28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

2 large red onions, chopped

3 medium carrots, diced

4 cloves garlic

1 tsp sugar

2 Tb tomato paste

3 Tb olive oil

4 cups pareve chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup whole milk

Heat the olive oil in a large pot.  Add chopped onions and carrots, and sauté for about 20 minutes.  Add garlic, can of tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, chicken stock, salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, stir, lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.  Puree, stir in milk, and adjust seasoning.  Garnish with diced avocado and tortilla chips.  Serves 4-6

Enjoy,

Irene

Curried Zucchini Soup

IMG_1692I often think of my mother, but as Chanukah approaches her memory burns bright.  She would stand at the kitchen counter with her box grater, and one by one grate the potatoes on the side with the finest holes.  Grated, not shredded.  No food processor in sight, just hard work that often resulted in raw knuckles.  The same pan was used to fry them each year, the one pan that produced a golden disc, not dark brown and not soft, but thin and crisp.  Since they were served as the main course, there were always plenty of Latkes to go around, and I would alternate between topping them with sour cream, apple sauce, or my personal favorite, just plain sugar.

For some reason my mother chose tuna salad as the side dish, and everyone was given hot tea which she served in drinking glasses.  The golden color of the Laktes was echoed in the color of the tea, my mother’s holiday china, and in the lights of the Menorah.  She loved the melodies of the Chanukah songs, and so each year we sing the Yiddish variation of Chanukah Oy Chanukah, a tradition we have carried on in tribute to this diminutive, brave, woman who made our home shine so bright.

 Chanukah, Oy Chanukah
A yontev a sheyner
A lustiger, a freylecher
Nito noch azayner

Alle nacht in dreydl
shpilen mir
zudik heyse latkes
Esen Mir
Geshvinder
tzindt kinder
Di Chanukah lichtelach ahn

Lomir alle singen
Und lomir ale Shpringen
Und lomir ale tantzen in kon

Lomir alle singen
Und lomir ale Shpringen
Und lomir ale tantzen in kon

 I think hot soup goes better with latkes, especially one that serves as another venue for sour cream.

Curried Zucchini Soup

2 Tb butter

1 Tb olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 small carrot, chopped

2 Tb butter

4 medium zucchini, coarsely chopped

4 cups pareve chicken broth

2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder, or to taste

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot add butter and olive oil over low heat till butter is melted.  Add the diced onion and sauté till translucent but not brown.  Add garlic and carrots and cook for about 10 minutes.  Then add zucchini, chicken broth, and curry powder.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring soup to a boil, and reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Carefully purée the soup in the blender in small batches.  Don’t forget to serve with a dollop of sour cream.  Happy Chanukah!Enjoy,

Irene

Chelov (Afghani Stew)

I love hanging out in the kitchen, anybody’s kitchen, and clearly there are others who feel the same way.  No matter if I am planning on entertaining indoors or outdoors, dining room or living room, there are always a few who just end up standing around the kitchen.  I can’t explain it other than eating in someone’s kitchen makes you feel as if you are part of the family and that’s what we all want.
Last week I wrote about having peered into a pot at a friend’s house and assumed that what I saw was soup, but found out it was actually an Afghani stew called Chelov.  So last Friday morning I called my friend Rachel whose parents were born in Afghanistan, and asked if she had a recipe for this dish.  Fortunately for me, Rachel was busy preparing Chelov when I called, and
invited Norm and I to join her family for Shabbat dinner.  I couldn’t wait, and when we arrived it turned out that there were only five of us for dinner.  The Chelov was separated and placed in serving dishes.  One bowl contained the delicious, tart greens in their broth, another held the turkey necks, and the third had  Tadig to serve it over.   The food, wine and company were all great, but eating in the kitchen was the icing on the cake.

One more thing: Earlier in the week I was contacted and asked if one of my recipes could be featured on this site, Culinary Kosher,  http://culinarykosher.com/index.php?action=home2.  Look towards the bottom right for my Yemenite Chicken Soup and check out the site!

 

Chelov

6 turkey necks

1 large onion, chopped

1 leek, cleaned and sliced 1/2 ” thick

1  15 oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped

1 bunch parsley or dill, coarsely chopped

1  8 oz.  package frozen spinach, thawed and moisture squeezed out

2-3 small zucchini, diced

2 stalks of rhubarb, sliced 1/2″ thick

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp turmeric

6 cups water

1 lemon, juiced
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  Add turkey necks, onions and leeks and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.  Skim the top.  Add remaining ingredients (other than lemon) and  continue to summer on low for about another hour.  Squeeze lemon into stew before serving.  Serves 8

Rachel’s Variations

2 stalks sliced celery in place of rhubarb

1 cup sliced cabbage

Gondhi  (meatballs)

1 lb. ground turkey, beef, or chicken

1 egg

2 Tb breadcrumbs

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 T oil

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Mix ingredients together and form into small balls. Add to Chelov at the same time as turkey necks.

Enjoy,

Irene

Yemenite Chicken Soup

When I was growing up virtually all my parents’ friends were Polish.  I don’t remember meeting any Czechs, Russians or Romanians, no less any Sephardic or Mizrahi Jews.  My parents were determined to hold on to their language, their food and their customs.  They belonged to a Landsmanschaft,  a kind of club whose members came from a common town or region, it was a way to help them feel comfortable in their new home.  This was not uncommon at the time, synagogues were also established around cities of origin, as were burial societies.

You might be able to imagine their reaction when I brought home Isaac. J., a young man I met when I was about 16, whose family had moved from Yemen to Israel and then eventually to the United States. The fact that Isaac came from an observant home and that his brother was the Cantor at a local Orthodox synagogue made no difference.  Fortunately for me his family did not have the same reaction.  Isaac’s mother was short in stature but she had a big heart, and in spite of the fact that we didn’t share a common language she always made me feel welcome in her home.  Her kitchen was nothing like any other kitchen I had ever been in, and her dishes included unusual ingredients like cilantro, turmeric, cumin, and Hawaij, herbs and spices I had never seen or tasted.  I remember two dishes that she seemed to prepare each Shabbat, Jachnun, a bread that baked overnight, served with grated tomatoes and Zhug (a spicy Yemenite version of salsa),  and a traditional Yemenite Soup, fragrant and green.  This was not my mother’s chicken soup and matzoh balls.

Last week I went to the home of a friend sitting Shiva and I peered into a pot sitting in the kitchen.  It smelled and looked just like the Yemenite chicken soup that Mrs. J. used to make.  (in fact it was not, but that will have to wait for another post)  Later in the week I came home and made a version of Yemenite soup.  If my parent’s had only tried it, I think they would have liked it.

Yemenite Chicken Soup
6 chicken thighs
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tbsp hawaij
1 heaping tsp ground turmeric
8 cups water
Salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 large russet potato, cut into chunks
1 14 oz. can chickpeas, drained
1 bunch fresh spinach washed and chopped OR 1 bag frozen spinach, defrosted and
excess water squeezed out
1 bunch of cilantro, stemmed and chopped
In a large pot, sauté the onions, carrots, and celery in the olive oil over medium heat for about five minutes.  Add the minced garlic, cumin, turmeric and hawaij, and sauté for a minute or two before adding water, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil and add chickpeas, chicken and potatoes. Reduce the heat to a simmer,  add the spinach and cover the pan.  Cook for about one hour.  Add chopped cilantro just before serving.  Serves 6
Enjoy,
Irene

Lentil Soup with Matzoh Balls

On some cold winter days when there was not much to do, my sister would take me downtown to wander around a museum.  I only remember visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Natural History, not The Frick, Guggenheim, or MoMA (maybe she thought I was too young to appreciate those) but the Met was always my favorite and still is.  We would stop and look at whatever interested us, or go watch a Fred Astaire/ Ginger Rogers movie when they had free screenings.  I think my sister felt responsible for my cultural well-being.

In any case, I loved going, mainly because It felt like a very grown up thing to do.  Even the approach to the Met was exciting, with all those stairs to climb, and then, once you reached the entrance there were crowds of people milling around, taking off their overcoats and shaking off the chill.  The foyer is impressive at any age, but particularly to a young child, and of course you had to get by the solemn guard stationed at the hall leading to the galleries.

My sister was an enthusiastic teacher who at the time was taking an art history course at Hunter College and was eager to share her knowledge.  I credit her for my appreciation of museums and to this day I try to visit the Met when I am in NYC.  I never really thought much about it but earlier this week my younger son called and mentioned that it was really cold day, and to my surprise, my immediate response was to tell him to “go to a museum.”

At the end of the day we would take the train back to The Bronx and of course my mother would have dinner ready and waiting.  Hot soup and warm memories are perfect for cold days.  Thanks Anita!

Lentil Soup with Matzoh Balls

1/ 3 cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped,

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

2 carrots, diced

3 cloves of minced garlic

1 pound brown lentils

8 cups chicken broth

1 Tb cumin

1 Tb Paprika

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 bag baby spinach leaves

In a large pot, sauté  chopped onion in olive oil for a few minutes, or  till translucent.  Add celery, carrots, garlic and cumin and sauté for several more minutes.  Add lentils, chicken broth, paprika, salt and pepper.  Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for about one hour. Add spinach and serve.  Prepare Matzoh Balls and add one to each serving.  Serves 6-8

Fluffy Matzoh Balls

4 eggs

1/2 cup oil

1 cup Matzoh Meal

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

Process all the ingredients in a Cuisinart for about 10 seconds. Place mixture in fridge for about an hour.  Shape into balls and add to a large pot of salted, boiling water.  Cover and cook matzoh balls for about 45 minutes.

Makes 12 matzoh balls.

Enjoy,

Irene