Stuffed Potatoes (Passover)

photo 1Spring is here, Purim is over, and Passover is just weeks away.  For the third year in a row, we are going back East to celebrate Passover with our children at the home of our older son and daughter-in-law, a home where we have always felt welcomed and included, to a seder that is open to so many.  As my part of the planning begins, various family members have gently reminded me that “less is more”,  have informed me that a Seder meal doesn’t need both chicken and beef, have encouraged me to cook larger quantities of fewer dishes, and have suggested to me that a good model to follow is something apparently common in restaurants in Williamsburg, where they often specialize in a dish or two that they make really well (does that sound like a hint?).  Appreciative of everyone’s wish to make the entire process less labor intensive, easier on me, healthier, less costly, etc. I understand and hear the words in my head, but they don’t resonate in my heart.  The dictionary definition of feast is to eat and drink sumptuously.

Last night I went to bed with a plan for a stream-lined menu that felt a little bit as if the “feasting” part of Passover, as we knew it, may be a thing of the past.  This morning I thought of my mom, a woman who knew what hunger was, what deprivation meant, and who, more, than many of us, understood the importance of Passover.  When the time came for her to serve the meal, there was no doubt that you were not sitting down to a typical dinner, but to a Passover feast.  She knew that less is not more, it is just less.  That when a family gathers together to celebrate, we should celebrate to the fullest, the wine should pour freely, and the food should be plentiful and varied.  Let all who are hungry come and eat.

Ode to Fried Potatoes by Pablo Neruda

Translated from the Spanish by Maria Jacketti

The world’s joy

is spluttering,

sizzling in olive oil.

Potatoes

to be fried

enter the skillet,

snowy wings

of a morning swan –

and they leave

half-braised in gold,

gift of the crackling amber

of olives.

Garlic

embellishes the potato

with its earthy perfume,

and the pepper

is pollen that has traveled

beyond the reefs,

and so,

freshly

dressed

in a marbled suit,

plates are filled

with the echoes of potatoey abundance:

delicious simplicity of the earth

 Stuffed Potatoes 

20, thin-skinned, new white potatoes, smallish and round, about 2″ in diameter

Filling

1 tablespoon olive oil  (for turkey or chicken which needs a little extra fat)

Chopped leftover potatoes

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 pound ground chicken, beef or turkey

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon cumin

additional olive oil for frying

Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

3 medium tomatoes, diced

1 Tb Telma chicken bouillon

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

2 cups water

To make the sauce, add olive oil to a medium-sized saucepan.  Add minced garlic and sauté for a minute or two over a low flame,  just till fragrant.  Add diced tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes before adding remaining ingredients.  Cover and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Place potatoes on a sturdy service and carefully cut off a small slice from both the bottom and top.  Stand potato on one end and using a small sharp knife, grapefruit cutter, or melon baller, hollow out almost all of the sides and the center of  the potato.

photoFinely chop leftover potato pieces in food processor, and add to a large bowl with the other ingredients for the filling. Mix well.  Using a small spoon, stuff filling into hollowed out potatoes.  Gently sauté stuffed potatoes in olive oil till golden on all sides.  Place in oven proof casserole.  Pour the sauce over the stuffed potatoes,  cover,  and bake in a preheated oven for about 2-3  hours.   Serves 15-20 as a side dish.

Note: Number of potatoes and amount of filling varies depending on size.  Any leftover meat can be made shaped into small ktzizot (burgers), sautéed in same olive oil and added to pot.  We did that and they were great!  This is a dish that is better when it has a chance to sit so make it the day before you are planning to serve it.

Enjoy,

Irene

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

Enjoy,

Irene

Effi’s Turkey or Chicken Tagine

IMG_2342Imagine sitting in a dimly lit room, when suddenly a stranger walks in, throws open the curtains and turns on the light.  Those two small gestures can alter the scene.  That’s what I experienced this week when Effi joined our staff.  A petite Israeli woman, of Moroccan descent, our conversation quickly turned to food.  I told her that I was heading East for Passover, and that we were having a traditional Ashkenazi Seder, but as I stood there speaking, I already knew that change was in the air, that things were about to shift.  Effi talked about her traditional dishes, some of which I would not be able to make, dishes with rice and corn and peas, dishes made with lamb cooked over low heat for several hours. There was more, and just a few minutes later I walked away with recipes for a Moroccan beet salad, a variation of Matbucha, and a delicious tagine made with dried fruit and a touch of cinnamon.   Effi told me that she serves sweet dishes for a sweet Passover.  That’s where the differences ended, and the essence of what we both wanted for Passover converged.  Wishing you a Zisn Pesach.

Effi’s Turkey or Chicken Tagine

2 Tb olive oil and more as needed

3 lbs. chicken or turkey thighs, cubed

3 large brown onions, cut in half and thinly sliced

1 cup dried apricots

1 cup dried prunes

1 1/2 cups warm water

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 Tb chicken bouillion

1 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp cumin

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  In a  heavy bottomed pot, brown turkey thigh in 2 Tb. olive oil, sprinkling generously with salt and pepper.   Once turkey meat is golden, remove to plate along with any liquid that accumulated on the bottom of the pot.  Add another tablespoon of olive oil and all the sliced onions to pot.  Add 1/2 tsp sugar and saute onions till dark golden brown.  Remove half the sautéed onions to a plate.  Scatter half of the apricots and prunes on top of the onions.  Place turkey meat back into the pot.  Add remaining apricots and prunes and then top with remaining onions.  In a small bowl combine warm water with salt, pepper, cumin, chicken powder and cinnamon.  Stir well and pour over meat.  Cover pot and place in oven for 2-3 hours.  Serves 4-6

Note: Effi said that sometimes she adds walnut halves on top of the first layer of walnuts.

Enjoy,

Irene

Garlic Turkey

At 5:40 this morning we drove our friends to the airport.  They were flying to Boston to be with their “East coast” family for Thanksgiving.  On Wednesday we will return to LAX to pick up my daughter, and on Thursday to pick up my youngest son.  It’s the wonderful pull of Thanksgiving, being with the family and hanging out in kitchens where the smells are familiar.  Today I started baking, and so this morning my kitchen smelled like cinnamon and allspice from the pumpkin breads in the oven.  This afternoon it smelled of apples and dried cherries baking inside puff pastry squares that I folded into individual turnovers.  On Thanksgiving day the kitchen will smell like the mulling spices simmering in the pot of apple cider on the stove top, but as soon as the fridge door is opened,  the predominant smell will be the garlic that was rubbed into the turkey on Wednesday morning.  That specific smell of garlic-covered poultry is embedded in my memory because it is the smell that I most closely associate with my mother’s kitchen.  The smell that signaled it was Shabbat,  Yontif, and yes, Thanksgiving.  On Thursday the kitchen will smell both savory and sweet, depending if you are  standing near the oven or closer to the kitchen table covered with desserts.  I love the old recipes combined with an occasional new one, it sets the mood and gives me the perfect opportunity to remember and be thankful for what we had, what we have, and what we look forward to.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Garlic Turkey

Mixture for a 15 pound turkey

1 Tb kosher salt
1 Tb. paprika
2 tsp. pepper
1/3 cup  olive oil
2 whole heads garlic, peeled and minced

Mix all ingredients together until you have a paste-like consistency.  It should be red from the paprika and thick, almost like tomato paste.  Rub the garlic mixture on the inside and outside of the turkey and let marinate in fridge overnight.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place turkey in a roasting pan, breast down, with about 2 ” of water on the bottom of the pan.  Bake for 30 minutes and then baste with liquid.  Add more water to pan if necessary.  Lower heat to 350 degrees.  Continue to add liquid and baste about every 30 minutes.  When turkey is golden brown, turn breast side up and finish roasting. Total baking time is about 3 hours depending on size of the bird.

Enjoy,

Irene

Italian Sausage and Peppers

Recently I have eaten more hot dogs, hamburgers, and sausages than I normally would in the span of a few weeks, mainly because it’s summertime and everyone is busy grilling.  Typically I would try a bit of everything but as the weeks have gone by I realized that hamburgers (even the Brazilian style burger we made with a pan-fried egg on top) just can’t compete with a really good hot dog or sausage.  When I was growing up franks and sausages were part of the culinary scene among both Jewish and Italian immigrants.  Three preparations come to mind.

The salty scent of frankfurters remind me of Ben’s Kosher Deli which was located on the Concourse and 183rd Street.  The hot dogs were prepared in the front window where they shared center stage with salamis, large and small, suspended from the ceiling, drying.  The hot dog buns were the perfect texture, soft and fresh, the mustard was traditional yellow deli mustard, and the sauerkraut warmed to just the right temperature.  Of course the only suitable drink was a Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda.  The best part of the meal was undoubtedly the first bite, because nothing could compare to that immediate burst of flavor.

Another favorite was a dish my mother made using kosher knockwurst, a larger, plumper hot dog.  According to my sister it was called choucroute and my mother learned to make it in France.  The preparation was simple.  My mother would dice a large onion and brown it in a little vegetable oil in a large pot.  She would then take a jar of sauerkraut and rinse it, and add it to the caramelized onions, along with about 3 cups of water.  To this she would add a few meaty beef bones, season the dish with salt and pepper, cover and cook it for about an hour and a half.  She would then add a package of knockwurst and let simmer for another hour.  It was a hearty winter dish, served steaming hot on top of mashed potatoes.

Finally, if you went to the Bartolinis on a Sunday,  you would get a whiff of the Italian version of frankfurters, Italian Sausage and Peppers.  A simple dish that combined sausages, onions, and green bell peppers, all sautéed till golden brown and piled into a crusty Italian roll.

For those of you would never consider eating hot dogs and sausages, there are now vegetarian, chicken, turkey, tofu and “low-fat” versions.  Personally, I prefer mine fully leaded, with either a cold cream soda or a beer.

Italian Sausage and Peppers

6 Italian sausages, cut in large chunks  (try Jeff’s, Neshama or Jack’s )

2 large brown onions, cut in half and then thinly sliced

2 large green Bell peppers, sliced

3 Tb olive oil

Heat olive oil and over a high flame, browning  sausages.  Add onions and peppers, reduce flame and cook till onions are caramelized and peppers are tender.  Add some chili flakes if you like it hot.  Pile high in a crusty Italian roll.

Enjoy,

Irene

Chicken Schnitzle

 My colleague at work calls them her Divas In Training, the young women who cook with her every Sunday, learning to make the family recipes by her side.  I had a similar experience this Passover when we were joined by young women for almost every holiday meal.  The kitchen was filled with chitchat along with the sound of stainless steel spoons hitting metal pots, of salad dressing being whisked, and of chicken Schnitzle sizzling in hot oil.  My favorite kind of noise, the noise of a busy kitchen.
Once upon a time I too was a young and inexperienced cook and stood in the kitchens of women whose food I enjoyed, so I could learn from them.  It just so happens that this Passover, Schnitzle was served at least 3 or 4 times over the course of the week (some from Fresh Foods Catering in Houston, Texas.)  At one point I was asked to post my recipe for Schnitzle (you can also try the non-Passover version of Schnitzle and see which you prefer) and so this is for “the girls.”
I love the idea that a new generation of women, all busy with their careers, and some with families, still want to take the time to prepare Schnitzle.  It’s like keeping a little part of Passover alive all year long, until it rolls around again.  Just remember to listen for the sizzle.
Chicken Schnitzle

6 chicken cutlets

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup Matzoh Meal

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil

Lemon cut in wedges

Place the Schnitzle between sheets of wax paper and pound to a thickness of about 1/4 inch.  Place beaten eggs and matzoh meal in wide bowls.  Season matzoh meal with salt and pepper.  In the meantime heat oil in frying pan.  Dip each cutlet in egg mixture and then in matzoh meal and place on a large plate.  Do not stack.  Test to make sure oil is hot enough.  Dont’ be impatient, this step is really important.  Cook the Schnitzle until golden brown, about  3-4  minutes on each side.  Don’t crowd the pan.  As the cutlets are done, put them on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels.  Serve with lemon wedges.  Serves 3.

Enjoy,

Irene

My Favorite Passover Recipes

Image

Heading to NYC to be with our family but not before sharing a few of my favorite Passover recipes.  If you have a favorite family recipe, please send it in so we can all enjoy.  Family stories welcomed and encouraged!

Marinated Eggplant

Bubelach (Passover Pancakes)

Brownie Meringues

Coconut Macaroons

Imberlach

Matzoh Balls

Matzoh Lasagna

Mushroom Kugel

Passover Pogos

Persian Charoset

Sally’s Moussaka

Chag Sameach and 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

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries

It all comes down to a few essentials.  I don’t think many people are waiting for the roasted Brussel sprouts (even when they are beautifully presented on the stalk) or the cranberry chutney, and some people don’t really like turkey.  For me it is the dressing (we don’t stuff), the sweet potatoes and the corn bread.  Like most things in my life, you can eliminate the extras and find that there are just a few things that really count.  Family, friends and food.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes for Thanksgiving.  Also some photos taken last year in and around Blue Hill at Stone Barns to  help you get in the mood.

Almost any type of sweet potato dish works, I don’t think I have ever tried a recipe that I didn’t like.

I often boil the sweet potatoes in their jackets till soft, mash with some brown sugar and a little bit of margarine and then place in a baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.  Today I tried oven baked sweet potato fries.  Good for a small crowd.

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries

5 Sweet Potatoes, cut into thin long slices

3-4 Tbsp olive oil

Salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste.

Toss together and bake on a parchment covered cookie sheet at 450 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.  Serves 4-5

Shira’s Corn Pone

We bought a bread cookbook in Amish country when Shira was a little girl.  She makes this recipe for Thanksgiving dinner every year.  It’s great for dinner and cut in half, toasted and served with butter the next morning!!!!

1 c. sugar

1/2 cup butter or  pareve margarine

2 eggs

1  1/2 cup stone ground cornmeal

1  1/2 cups flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups milk or non-dairy creamer

Cream together margarine and sugar.  Add beaten eggs and mix well.  In a bowl, sift cornmeal with flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour and milk alternately to batter.  Pour into greased and floured 9x 13 baking dish.  Bake at 450″ for 30-35 minutes.  I  think the texture is better if made the day before.  Serves 8-10

Pumpkin Bread, a yearly traditional dessert.  This recipe has spread far and wide and I love that!  Click on the link for the recipe.

Manya’s Mushroom Stuffing

1 1/2 lbs. brown mushrooms or a combination of mushrooms
2 large onions
2 large carrots
2 stalks celery
4 eggs, beaten
1 large Challah,  crust removed.
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil

Dice onions and sauté in olive oil over low flame until a rich golden color, this can take up to 30 minutes.
Dice carrots and celery and add to onions and sauté for about ten minutes until tender.  Raise heat slightly, add sliced mushrooms and cook an extra 15 minutes.  Allow to cool and place in large mixing bowl.
Remove crust and run challah under warm water until soft.  Then squeeze challah and add to mushroom mixture.  Add beaten eggs, salt and pepper.
Prepare 9×13 pan by adding 2-3 Tbsp oil, make sure bottom and sides are well-greased and place in 350 degree oven for several minutes.  Take out and immediately pour in stuffing  mixture.  Brush with olive oil.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.  Serves 6-8

Please send in your family favorites to share!

Enjoy,

Irene

Ktzizot (Hamburgers)

In Aaron Lansky‘s book, Outwitting History,  he relates that in the Conservative synagogue he attended as a young boy, the front rows of the shul were filled with ” American-born professionals” who created an atmosphere that become more decorous each year.  On the other hand, the back of the shul was filled with Eastern European immigrants who spoke Yiddish and almost never stopped talking.  He tells us that by the age of 7 he already preferred” the heymish, home-grown, back of the shul to the highbrow front.”

When I read that passage, I smiled because this past week my friend Fredda and I spent some time standing at the back of the shul, talking and enjoying the casual “heymish” atmosphere.  It was liberating, no shushing and no rules.  I am also a ‘back of the shul” kind of cook.  That was the food I grew up on, simple, unpretentious, nourishing food that would fill your stomach and feed your soul.  My mother used to make pan-fried hamburgers that I thought were too basic and too simple.  Now I know that’s exactly what made them so good.  G’mar Hatimah Tovah.

Ktzizot

1 pound ground turkey, chicken or beef

1 small onion, finely chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2-3 Tbsp. bread crumbs

salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup Vegetable oil

 Place ground meat in a large bowl and add chopped onion, garlic and parsley.  Beat eggs and combine with meat along with bread crumbs, salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Form into oval or round patties.  In a cast iron skillet, heat about 1/3 cup oil till hot.  Fry Ktzizot for several minutes on each side.  Serves 4