Curried Swiss Chard and Lentil Stew

The Graf brothers all loved nature, the outdoors, and animals.  My father would watch shows about the animal kingdom and would tell us stories of the pets he owned growing up in Warka, Poland.  A porcupine, really?  He was already well into his seventies when he suddenly decided to stop eating chicken and beef, purely for ethical reasons.  With longing and affection, my father would talk about the orchard and vegetable garden behind his mother’s home.  At the farmer’s market he would choose his fruits and vegetables with such care and tenderness, rotating each apple or pear to make sure it was blemish free, fresh, firm, and fragrant with ripeness, intent on selecting the best he could find.

The brothers were all avid gardeners, and I was fairly certain that their green thumbs were not passed down to my city hands.  I love the idea of gardening, to be able to go into your backyard and plan your meal based on what’s ready to be picked.  After a long hiatus, I was determined to try my hand at vegetable gardening once again and so I ruthlessly pulled out a whole bed of roses.  It took months to prepare the soil and put in the first raised bed.  During a trip back East my cousin Janine laid out the plans for my garden and I use it as my roadmap.  Not only does it guide me but it provides me with inspiration,  knowing that another branch of the Graf family are successful gardeners.  My first planting included broccoli which was a complete failure, basil which was immediately consumed by insects and several plants of red leaf lettuce which grew well, but became limp immediately after being harvested, not a desirable texture for a fresh salad.  I thought I would try kale and swiss chard and finally I was able to experience the sense of pride that comes with success.  There is more chard and kale in my garden than I know what to do with.

My father would probably chuckle at my meager garden but despite its small size, the pleasure that I derive from it is immeasurable.  My father and I never gardened together, I was too young and independent to listen to his advice when he offered it, but now each time I am in the garden I think of Harry, Charlie and Jack, and the legacy they left behind.

 

 


This dish is a vegetarian stew but so hearty that you really don’t miss the meat. Serve with rice or whole wheat pasta.

Curried Swiss Chard and Lentil Stew (adapted from a recipe from Bon Appetit)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
5 tsp curry powder
1 /2 tsp chili powder
42 oz. pareve chicken stock or vegetable broth
1 large bunch Swiss chard, stems thinly sliced and leaves coarsely chopped (about 12 cups)
1 pound brown lentils, rinsed well
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans
2 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp cumin.

Saute onion in olive oil till golden.  Add spices and sauté for several minutes, till fragrant.  Add broth and bring to a boil, then put in lentils and garbanzo beans.  Lower heat to a simmer, add salt and chard, and cover.  Cook till lentils are tender but still whole.  About 20 minutes.  Serves 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

My Favorite Passover Recipes

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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

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

Portobello Mushroom Frittata

Last week we went to see an Israeli documentary called The Breakfast Parliament about the privatization of Kibbutz Ein Tsurim and the impact on its’ members.  The film focused on a group of Kibbutznikim who, for decades, had breakfast together in the dining hall until a vote decides that it is no longer economically feasible.  In one of the last scenes of the film, you glimpse each of these men eating in their homes, separately and alone.

One of the highlights of the year I spent working on Kibbutz Usha, milking 300 cows a day, was walking into the communal dining hall after the morning milking, knowing that there would be a room full of people talking about anything and everything, over breakfast.  Being part of a setting where meals were always communal had a great impact on me, and to this day breakfast is a meal that I prefer to have in the company of others.

I was fortunate enough to continue this tradition over the past several years.  Sharing an office with two colleagues, who became friends, we begin each morning with breakfast, each of us at eating at our own desk, but in each other’s presence.  It has been a ritual that has nourished our stomachs and our souls  as we catch up, chat, confer and prepare for the day.  Last week I was told that I will be moving into the office next door, and yesterday I packed up my desk.  Barbie sat with me and we reminisced, Susan handed me a card on which she wrote that I should knock on the wall three times when I need her.  Friday was the last day of our own breakfast parliament.  I am ready to knock.

Portobello Mushroom Frittata

8 oz. small Portobello mushrooms, sliced

1 large shallot, sliced

4 eggs

3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 Tb olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put olive oil in frying pan and heat.  Add sliced shallots and mushrooms and sauté on high heat for about 5 minutes.  Allow mixture to cool.  Beat 4 eggs in a large bowl and add mushroom mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.   Add 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and mix well.  Butter a pie dish and pour in egg mixture.  Cover with remaining mozzarella cheese.  Place in oven till golden brown, about 40 minutes.  Serves 4-6 for breakfast.

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

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

Rosie’s Pickled Vegetables (Hamutzim)

My mother had close friends who moved to Israel in the 1940s and settled on a Moshav, Kfar Meishar, near Gedera.  Although she had not seen them since the end of the war they had kept in touch, and when I made my first trip to Israel at age 16,  my mother insisted that I visit them.  Sonia and Manya made me feel right at home even though I spoke no Hebrew and very little Yiddish.  They doted on me, and took turns serving me food that was not only familiar, but almost identical to the food that my mother served.  The women and their families lived in houses that were spitting distance from one another and each day I was asked whose house I was going to sleep in and where I would be eating breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I often ended up eating six meals a day, trying hard not to offend either of them.  They couldn’t do enough for me and the intensity of their affection did not push me away, it drew me in, like being wrapped in a warm blanket on a rainy day.  Sonia and Manya are no longer alive but when either my daughter or I go to Israel, we always visit their children and grandchildren.  Friendships that span three generations are rare and it only happens if everyone makes the effort to keep the connection alive.  I could never imagine visiting Israel without spending time with Sonya’s son and daughter-in-law, Aharon and Rosie.  I know that they will welcome us with open arms and I know that Rosie will have pickled vegetables sitting on her kitchen counter.  It’s nice knowing that there are some things you can always count on.

Rosie’s Pickled Vegetables

1 Kohlrabi, cut in thick strips.

3-5 large carrots, cut in bite size pieces

1 red cabbage, sliced

1 cauliflower, broken into small pieces

1 red pepper, sliced

1 green pepper, sliced

1 Serrano chili, cut in pieces

1 head of garlic, peeled

Place the vegetables in a large jar with a lid.

Brine

4 cups of boiling water

2 cups of white vinegar

2 Tbs salt

1/2 cup sugar

Mix ingredients for brine and pour over vegetables, making sure vegetables are covered with liquid.  Do not refrigerate.  Hamutzim will be ready in 2-3 days.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Hearty Vegetarian Lasagna

When the boys were little, they used to drag chairs into their bedroom, grab sheets from the linen closet, flashlights from the drawers, and spend hours building forts.  They loved creating something out of nothing and the only limitations were the size of their room and the breadth of their imagination.  Each time they did this the configuration of the fort was just a little different but the basics were the same.  Just like our Sukkah.  The size is determined by the space available and the rest is up to us.  In truth building a Sukkah is not so different than building those forts.  Shortly after Rosh Hashana, Norm orders the Schah, (in Los Angeles we use Palm fronds) and then starts pulling the lumber out of the garage.  A few days later the frame goes up but it doesn’t really look like  anything much at this point.  (If anything it looks like he is planning to build a fort)  Then the lights and a few decorations go up.  That lasts about a week, and finally when the schah is delivered and thrown over the top of the frame, the Sukkah takes on a life of its own.

This year my brother-in-law Jeff will be joining us in our Sukkah for the very first time.  Just like when the kids invited a friend to come play in the fort, a guest gives you an opportunity to show off your handiwork.  For years I have encouraged Norm to buy a Sukkah Kit, or have the patio roof re-done so that all he would have to do is add the walls, in other words to find a way of building a Sukkah that would take less effort.  That will never happen because then he wouldn’t be able to tell Jeff, or any other guest, that “he built it all by himself.”  There is something about boys and their forts.  Chag Sameach.

 

 

This is a vegetarian version of Joy Behar’s lasagna as seen on The Chew.  The soy crumbles and soy Italian sausages worked perfectly.

Hearty Vegetarian Lasagna

2 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 lb soy Italian Sausages, cut into 1/2″ slices

8 oz. soy crumbles

1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1- 6 oz. can tomato paste

1/2 cup basil leaves slicked into slivers

2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp oregano

1/2 box lasagna noodles

1 lb. whole milk ricotta

1 cup grated parmesan

1 extra-large egg

1 lb. whole milk fresh mozzarella

1/4 cup parmesan for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Soak noodles in a casserole dish filled with hot tap water.  Heat olive oil in large pan, add chopped onions and sauté for about 5 minutes.  Add minced garlic and sauté for another minute.  Add soy crumbles and Italian sausage and cook for about 10 minutes.  Then add tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano and basil.  Simmer on low, while preparing filling, for about 10 minutes.

In a bowl mix ricotta with beaten egg and 1 cup parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Take a 9 x 12 baking dish and pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom.  Then cover sauce with half of the soaked noodles.  Cover noodles with 1/3 sauce, 1/2 of the sliced mozzarella and half the ricotta mixture.  Add second layer of noodles, and repeat. Sprinkle with additional 1/4 cup parmesan.  Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.  Serves 6-8

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