Hatch Chiles

Last summer my son David was visiting us with his girlfriend Elizabeth.  At one point I looked at her and said
“he can be a challenge” but her immediate response was, “he’s worth it.”  As parents we all want our children to find that person who loves and accepts them for who they are, and if and when that happens it’s pretty wonderful.  A week ago today, my son proposed to Elizabeth and she accepted.  Several days later they arrived in Los Angeles along with Elizabeth’s parents Nancy and Larry, and her sister Irene. My daughter Shira also flew in and together our families celebrated this wonderful occasion. We open our home and our hearts to Elizabeth, Nancy, Larry, Irene and Alexander and welcome them to our family.

They flew in from Houston, Texas, where Elizabeth is from, and arrived bearing gifts.  Salsas, hot sauce and a bag of fresh Hatch Chiles.  I had never seen or heard of a Hatch Chile but I rose to the challenge, did lots of research, and prepared them for Shabbat dinner.  I wasn’t sure if they were mild or hot so I decided to prepare them very simply, wanting to taste the chile without it being overwhelmed by other flavors. I charred them on the grill till the skins were blackened, peeled them, and then sprinkled them with sliced green onions, lemon juice,  fresh diced tomato and salt and pepper.  They were a perfect side to the barbecued chicken but I sat there wondering how they would taste with cheese sprinkled on top or sliced up and mixed into eggs.  I guess this is just the beginning.  Stay tuned or better yet, if you have any Hatch Chile recipes, please share them.

Hatch Chiles

6 Hatch Chiles

3 Tbsp olive oil

2 scallions

1 lemon

1 large tomato

salt and pepper to taste

Rinse chiles and cook whole on grill till completely charred.  Carefully peel skins. Place on platter and sprinkle with thinly sliced scallions. Drizzle with lemon juice, olive oil and a finely diced tomato. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Enjoy,

Irene

Corn Cakes

Summer and fresh corn on the cob are one of those perfect pairings, like peanut butter and jelly, or chocolate cake and milk.  As a child I only remember eating yellow corn which we always bought with the husk on, thinking they were fresher that way.  (I still can’t bring myself to husk the corn at the market even though it would mean less mess in the kitchen) My mother boiled that corn forever, not knowing that it only needed a few minutes to cook.  It certainly never occurred to us that we could eat it raw.  She always told my sister and I that in Poland corn and tomatoes were food for cows, not humans.

When our children were little, we often went to Toronto during the summer to visit their paternal grandparents.  One of the places we enjoyed visiting was Puck’s Farm outside of Toronto.  It was a wonderful old-fashioned farm with a barn,  a few farm animals, bales of hay to jump in, an area where you could pick your own vegetables, and incredible corn that had just been harvested.  The variety they grew was called peaches and cream, alternating white and yellow kernels, and I had never seen anything like it.  The corn was for sale but it was also available to eat right there, steaming hot ears of corn ready to dip into a huge vat of melted butter.  So simple and so good. Boiling is only one of the ways I now prepare corn, and when I do boil it, it is for no more than five minutes.  I often grill it, constantly turning the ears till they get slightly charred.  Sometimes I cut the kernels off the cob and add them to a salad, raw.  Other times, I throw the raw kernels into a hot cast iron pan with olive oil,  salt and pepper, and some shredded basil.  It’s all good but, truth be told, none of it is as sweet as it was on those summer days when we watched our children eating corn on the cob with melted butter dripping down the sides of their smiling faces.

Corn Cakes

3 ears fresh corn

3 eggs

1/2 cup matzoh meal

2 scallions

1/4 cup cilantro

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/4 cup canola oil

Cut corn off cob and put in mixing bowl. Add eggs, slightly beaten, and matzoh meal to bowl. Mix well. Thinly slice scallions and add to mixture along with coarsely chopped cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. In a cast iron pan heat oil till hot. Drop large tablespoons of corn mixture into hot oil. Let cook till golden brown then turn over.

Warning: Corn pops in the frying pan so be careful!!!

Makes 12 corn cakes.

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


Spring Salads

I am not sure when salads graduated from their humble beginnings to the gourmet status they have today, but I no longer dread eating them.  Growing up in the Bronx of the 1950s, salads were tolerated and eaten because iceberg lettuce filled the need for a vegetable.  No one worried about carbon footprints because there were no tomatoes from Mexico or peppers from Israel to purchase.  The produce that was available was limited and seasonal.

Today’s salads defy their dictionary definition, ” raw greens often combined with other vegetables and served with a dressing.” The combinations of ingredients are only limited by our imagination.  For example the salad I had for lunch today used shredded iceberg lettuce but it was tossed with raw corn, garbanzo beans, chunks of avocado, thin strips of fried tortillas and a lemony cilantro dressing. Yum!

Here are three very different type of salads that I hope you will try, and enjoy.

My mother used to serve a very simple salad of crisp cucumbers, ripe beefsteak tomatoes, mild white onions and hard-boiled eggs, all thinly sliced and tossed together with lemon juice, a bit of oil, salt, and crushed black pepper. Once the salad was mixed, the egg yolks would blend with the lemon juice and oil, creating a yellow hued dressing that was tart and refreshing.  After we finished eating the salad, my sister and I would take fresh rye bread and soak up the remaining dressing from the bottom of the bowl. That’s how good it was.

Tomato Salad

3 large ripe tomatoes

5 Persian cucumbers

5 hard-boiled eggs

1 white onion

2 lemons, juiced

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Thinly slice all ingredients, toss with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and serve cold.

Serves 4 as a side dish.

Wanda P. shared this recipe for her Thai Curry Coleslaw a while ago but I finally had the opportunity to make it.  The salad was bursting with flavor, color, and texture  (like Wanda) and would be a perfect side with grilled fish or chicken. This is an edited and slightly altered version of the recipe, so to get the original version and to read Wanda’s tips look on  The Rendezvous.

Note: Norm is allergic to carrots so I used purple cabbage as a substitute.


Thai Curry Coleslaw

1 bunch cilantro

1 bunch mint

1 bunch basil

Remove stems and place herbs in food processor, coarsely chop, and empty into large mixing bowl.

1 large green cabbage

6-7 good size fresh organic carrots

Shred carrots and cabbage in processor and add to bowl.

1 1/2 cups whole Spanish peanuts or cashews, added to bowl.

DRESSING

In processor blend:

3/4  cup olive oil

1/2 cup Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

1/2  cup fresh-squeezed organic lemon juice

4-5 cloves minced garlic

1″ minced fresh ginger

1/2  cup Nama Shoyu* (raw soy sauce)

1/2  cup  raw organic agave nectar

1 tsp chili powder

2 heaping tablespoons curry powder

Thoroughly blend above ingredients until emulsified and dress salad.

Garnish with basil or mint leaves.

A couple of weeks ago a few of us took a cooking class and the cookbook author used Pomegranate Molasses in one of her recipes.  I had bought a bottle several months ago at a Persian Market but after the class I finally used it in a vinaigrette.


Spring Salad with Pomegranate Dressing

1 lb. assorted baby lettuces

1 avocado, diced

1 can hearts of palm, sliced

1 –  11 oz. can mandarin oranges

1 tbsp black sesame seeds

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds, lightly toasted

Wash lettuce and place in bowl with diced avocado, sliced hearts of palm, black sesame seeds, slivered almonds, mandarin oranges and dress.

Dressing

4 tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar

2 tbsp. Pomegranate Molasses

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

serves 4

Enjoy,

Irene

Roasted Artichokes

What a glorious week it has been in Los Angeles!  The sun is shining, the sky is a beautiful shade of blue, the wind is blowing and you can see the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains in the distance.  It feels like Spring, even in Southern California.

I have been taking walks during lunch and often stop at Joan’s on Third (one of my favorite places to eat and shop)  where I pick up half a grilled artichoke, a perfect spring vegetable.  They are full, luscious, multi-layered, delicate and incredibly versatile.  Last week we had dinner with our friends and Steve made a wonderful puree of artichoke soup.  I may be able to get him to share the recipe!

Eating artichokes, unlike any other vegetable, requires patience.  Peeling one leaf at a time, dipping it into your favorite sauce and savoring each small edible part of the petal, you are then rewarded with the heart.  My sons would fight over the heart, and I always understood why.

My mother always boiled her artichokes and served them with vinaigrette.  I now prefer this two-step process.

Roasted Artichokes

4 large globe artichokes

Wash artichokes and trim each leaf, cutting off the sharp tips as well as the stem. Place in a basin of water with a sliced lemon. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add artichokes and cook for about  30- 40 minutes or until leaves can be pulled off fairly easily.  Remove and turn artichokes upside down so water drains out.  Allow to cool.

Cut the artichokes in half and using a small paring knife, remove fuzzy choke and any purple tipped petals.

Combine 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar with 4 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and spread on rimmed cookie sheet.  Place cut side of artichokes on top of vinaigrette and press down, slightly flattening artichoke.  Roast at 475 degrees for about 30 minutes or until artichokes are slightly charred.  You can also grill them if you prefer.

My two favorite dipping sauces.

Honey Balsamic Dip

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste.

Garlic-Basil Mayonnaise

1 cup mayonnaise mixed with 2 large minced cloves of garlic and 2 large basil leaves. Salt and pepper to taste. Blend in food processor.

Enjoy,

Irene

Sally’s Cabbage Salad

I have always loved books. When I was growing up in the Bronx, buying books was a luxury we could not afford so my sister, Anita, took me to the local public library every week.  Anita is eight years older than me and as a child I loved going everywhere with her, but our visits to the library were special.  I did own a beautifully illustrated edition of Heidi but my favorite books were Eloise and Madeline. All three books were about young girls in foreign lands and while reading them I was transported to Paris, the Swiss Alps and The Plaza (The Plaza Hotel might as well have been in a foreign country).  To this day my favorite books are set in other countries where I am introduced to new cultures, customs, and food.

When I was hired by a non-profit agency in the same building that housed the Los Angeles Jewish Community Library I was thrilled.  For the past six years the library was my refuge.  It was peaceful and calming and there was a wonderful collection of cookbooks that covered Jewish cuisine in Italy, Greece, Yemen and various other countries.  All of this and Sally.  Sally sat at the front desk greeting everyone who came to the library as she had done for over twenty years.  I never knew what her exact position was but she clearly ran the library.  Originally from India, Sally is a fantastic cook. Whenever my family is invited to her home we are amazed at the range of tastes, textures and scents.  Going to Sally for dinner feels as if you are in the midst of reading a Jewish Indian cookbook. The variety of food that is served is astonishing. With an average of twenty guests each Shabbat dinner, there are at least ten appetizers and an equal number of entrees.  Each dish is infused with cilantro, ginger and garlic.

Several months ago the Jewish Community Library closed.  It was disappointing and sad.  I miss the library and I miss Sally.  I do not see her with nearly the same frequency but I think of her often.  Here is a recipe for a cabbage salad that I have eaten at Sally’s many times.  It is a perfect addition to any meal, Passover or any other time.

Sally’s Cabbage Salad

1 head cabbage, thinly sliced

3 jalapeno chilis, thinly sliced

1 bunch cilantro

2 lemons, juiced

1/2 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and allow to sit for about 20 minutes before serving.

Increase the number of chilis if you prefer spicier foods.  I add lots of cracked pepper!  NOTE: This is hot so reduce the number of jalapeno peppers if you prefer mild AND be careful how you handle the peppers.

Enjoy,

Irene

Kale Chips

Last night’s sponge cake cooled in the pan overnight and it did not fall!  What I learned is that it is better to beat the egg whites to a slightly stiffer  consistency before incorporating them into the yolks.  Also, remember to tap the cake pan on the counter before placing it in the oven to eliminate  any air  pockets.  Of course, we haven’t tasted it yet.

As I mentioned yesterday, my plan was to go to the Hollywood Farmers’  Market this morning and at 8:00 A.M. I headed over with my good friend  Fredda and my daughter Shira.  Here is what we found:  pink cherry blossoms, lilacs, rainbow radishes, purple carrots, strawberries, swiss chard, brown eggs, asparagus, basil, zucchini blossoms, mint, kale, golden nugget mandarins, turnips, sweet potatoes, baby heirloom tomatoes, parsnips and ice cream (for tonight).  I am apparently going to separate and bake the kale leaves to make kale chips, a request from my daughter.  That should be interesting.  The squash blossoms and chard are going to be sautéed with basil, garlic, and olive oil (separately).  I am putting the carrots, tomatoes and radishes on the Seder table for people to snack on before the meal is served.  The sweet potatoes are for the tzimmis and the herbs are going to be minced with olive oil and garlic for the chicken.

NOTE:  Here is the recipe that I used for Kale Chips.  Everyone seemed to enjoy having something healthy and crunchy to snack on after the blessing for Karpas.

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2009/02/tuscan_kale_chips

I hope that all of you have a Chag Sameach and I look forward to writing again soon.

Enjoy,

Irene

Roasted Asparagus

Each year we get so caught up in the newest Passover products on the market that it is easy to forget that we can enjoy the holiday without sacrificing our health.  We are just a few days into Spring and here in Los Angeles the farmers’ markets are filled with all of the wonderful produce that the season has to offer;  California artichokes, rainbow chard, French radishes, fresh rhubarb, and of course, the ultimate Spring vegetable, asparagus.  This recipe is not new or innovative, it is a reminder that we can all have a healthy and delicious Passover, filled with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Roasted Asparagus

2 bunches asparagus

3 Tbs olive oil

1 Tsp salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

On a flat baking sheet, mix oil with salt, pepper and garlic. Roll asparagus in mixture and spread in a single layer. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and roast asparagus for about 15 minutes.

Enjoy,

Irene

Marinated Eggplant

Many years ago I was a volunteer on Kibbutz Usha in Northern Israel.  I asked to be assigned to the dairy and was given the morning shift, working side by side with an Arab named Hasan, a kind and willing teacher.  It was quite an experience for a girl from New York.  For me, the year I spent on Usha was filled with new experiences, but milking 300 cows a day was one of the highlights.  Another was that Norm and I got engaged that year!  The kibbutznikim were warm and friendly and we still have lifelong friends that we met that year.  One couple in particular, Amitai and Tovchik, became like family to us. Tovchik would marinade eggplants and keep them in a jar in her fridge, ready to serve if you ever stopped by for the typical Israeli 4 pm  meal.  It was a delicious snack, (although definitely not low-cal.) Sadly Tovchik passed away several years ago but it has become my tradition to make her eggplant dish every Passover.  It makes me think of Tovchik and my year at Usha with love and a smile.

Tovchik’s Eggplant
2 eggplants
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
red wine vinegar
vegetable oil

Lay sliced eggplants on a tray in a single layer and salt liberally.  Let them sit for half an hour and then pat off excess  moisture and salt with a paper towel.  Make sure both sides are dry.
Fill a frying pan with about 2″ of oil.  When oil is very hot, fry eggplant till brown, several minutes on each side.
Take a deep dish and cover with a layer of eggplant.  Then slice 2-3 cloves fresh garlic and toss slices over eggplants.  Lightly drizzle with red wine vinegar.  Add another layer of eggplant, more garlic and more vinegar and keep repeating till all eggplant is used.
Refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least 24 hours.  Serve at room temperature

Enjoy,
Irene

Mushroom Kugel

 

My mother would saute mushrooms, onions, celery and carrots and either mix them with challah for her Thanksgiving stuffing or with matzot during Passover.  It is a very simple combination but if the onions are caramelized to the perfect stage and the mushrooms are flavorful, you end up with a really good kugel.

Manya’s Mushroom Kugel

1 1/2 lbs. brown mushrooms or a combination of mushrooms
2 large onions
2 large carrots
2 stalks celery
4 eggs, beaten
6 Matzot
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.
Soak Matzot in warm water until soft.  Then squeeze matzot 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 vegetable mixture.  Brush with olive oil.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Enjoy,
Irene