Bamitbach

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January 31, 2014
Irene Saiger

16 comments

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

 

 

 

 

 

January 20, 2014
Irene Saiger

10 comments

PB&B Smoothie and Bimbambam – A Special Guest Post

David here. Meaning the middle child. As in, Irene’s. You probably don’t know this, but I’m something of a foodie myself. More of a critic than a chef, but let’s just say that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to food. Like usually when my mom cooks something and I’m not overly enthusiastic about it and she gets mad and says it’s delicious and asks me what I think is wrong and then I tell her, she almost always agrees with my assessment.Image

My opinion in the kitchen is generally respected, but no one likes to admit it. It might be a middle child quirk. Anyway, my moms a fantastic mom, an even better cook (that’s a compliment, right?), but most of all, the best blogger this family has ever produced! I was inspired by my mom and bamitbach to create my own blog, thisistorah.com, which is not at all like bamitbach but my mom says it’s pretty good so I’m happy.

Anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk food.

Even though I’m pretty good at criticizing food, I’m not very good at making it. So my recipes tend to be, let’s say, functional. Here are two of my favorite low-budget low-time high-calorie dishes, the type of thing I like to eat after I’ve been playing squash for an hour and am about to fall down from fatigue but alas need to go to work. So I need protein, carbs, “vegetables,” etc.

1) I don’t always drink smoothies, but when I do, I prefer a Green Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie. I drink lots of these when it’s hot outside, especially after a bike ride or a game of tennis. Hits the spot. The “Green” refers to the color (as opposed to environmental impact) which is due to the vegetable/protein powder I use. There are literally lots of protein and vegetable powders out there, so if you’re enhancing your smoothie with these I recommend going to the store and asking someone to help you figure out which one best fits your needs. I don’t like to eat vegetables, so I go for a green one that makes me feel better about my diet. My father-in-law introduced me to Amazing Grass (no, this product does not contain marijuana) which is working pretty well for me right now. Slight seaweedy aroma, but nbd. Also, I can’t stress enough how important the ripeness of the bananas is. If you think you can just throw a banana in any state of ripeness into the blender and come out with a great smoothie, you are sorely mistaken. I use bananas that are brownish, just before they turn soft and squishy.   

2) The second is a new creation that I’m finding very useful; I like to call it Bimbambam (my version of the Korean dish bibimbap). Very quick, filling, and relatively healthy. Basically an egg and couscous dish. Fits my meat-reductionist lifestyle quite well.

So, here are the recipes! Thanks Mom, for letting me write whatever I want on your blog!

Green Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie Recipe

2 Bananas, perfectly ripe!

1 heaping spoonful (or more) of peanut butter (I use PB&Co Smooth Operator, because it’s smooth and sweet)

4 ice cubes

A bit of honey (or maple syrup)

Some cinnamon

Milk (cow or soy or almond)

Amazing Grass powder (as much as you can tolerate, I guess. I put about 3/4 of a scoop)

Variations:

1) Sometimes I add a full cup of yogurt, if I’m feeling extra hungry. When I do this I reduce the amount of milk and adjust quantities appropriately. I like using coconut Greek yogurt.

2) Turn the smoothie into a milkshake by adding ice cream. Delicious. If you do this, I recommend leaving out the vegetable powder. You sort of have to decide what type of smoothie you’re going for…

3) of course you can add berries, like fresh or frozen blueberries.

 So basically put all the ingredients into a blender and liquefy. Cleaning the blender is a pain, so I throw it into the dishwasher or put some soap and water into it and blend that until it’s clean. The other thing I’ve noticed is that when I put in the peanut butter I try to get it right in the middle, after I’ve put it the bananas and ice, so that it isn’t resting against the side while I add the other ingredients. This prevents a significant amount of your pb from ending up smeared on the side of the blender (as opposed to in your smoothie).

Image

 

Bimbambam Recipe

Near East Roasted Garlic Couscous (or whatever you want)

3 eggs

Fresh Salsa (I like Whole Foods)

Hot Sauce (lately I’ve been using Cholula)

Variation: you can sauteed vegetables to add to the mix, like spinach or something.

Make the couscous according to the box’s instructions. Put about half of it in a bowl. Fry the three eggs and put them on top of the couscous. Add salsa and hot sauce. Enjoy.

 

January 12, 2014
Irene Saiger

10 comments

Sweet and Savory Hot Wings

photo-6Christopher Columbus High School was considered one of the top performing schools in The Bronx, but to be perfectly honest that was not why I chose to go there (although I’d like to think that I wouldn’t have considered it if it had a poor reputation.)   The real reason was that I had just spent three years in an all girls middle school, and had no desire to go on to an all girls high school. Enough was enough.

Looking back I realize that the co-ed aspect of my high school experience wasn’t significant.  The most important lessons I learned had little to do with boys or academics, and everything to do with the people I met and their approach to life.  For the first time I found myself among students and teachers who were passionate, engaged, and involved.  There was Mr. Dubow, whose love of the French language was contagious.  Miss Silberstang, the art teacher who inspired and pushed me to do better on a daily basis, Miss Pakula, an English teacher who also taught drama, and whose encouragement and good nature appeared to be endless, and Mr. Tannenbaum, who taught me Hebrew in a way that I had never experienced in all  my years of Hebrew school.

I had a friend who suddenly and secretly flew to Moscow to participate in a protest on behalf of  Soviet Jewry.  I met students who were active in Zionist organizations and were strongly committed to living in Israel, some who were Betarniks and others from Hashomer Hatzair.  For the first time in my life I met drama students, and art students ,who like myself, spent hours working on portfolios.  I met students who cared about the world, and teachers who cared about us.  Both inside and outside of the classroom, I learned that passion was a great motivator.  It’s the lesson that I still try to remember each day.

Recently I found out that Christopher Columbus is closing its doors, the result of  poor academic performance and low graduation rates.   I am sad that other students won’t experience what I experienced during my years in a great high school, in a great neighborhood, in a great borough.  Goodbye, Columbus.

Goodbye Columbus (a poem in the Anchor Yearbook of 1973 )
“…. May every season…winter, spring, summer or fall….add new phases to your life, when you will more vividly remember saying hello rather than goodbye….”
The foods I craved most during my high school years were pizza, hot dogs with sauerkraut, and black and white cookies.  I  still eat those same foods on almost every trip back East, but in recent years we have been introduced to hot wings, and they have become a family favorite.
Sweet and Savory Hot Wings
2 dozen wings cut in half or the same number of winnetz, which is just the little drumstick part of the wing.
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
5 Tb pareve margarine
Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Season wings with salt and pepper and place on cookie sheets in a single layer. Bake at 475 till crisp on one side and then turn over and continue baking.  Total baking time is about one hour.  In the meantime, melt margarine over low flame and mix in large bowl with sriracha and brown sugar.  When wings are done toss them in the  bowl of sauce till well coated.  Reheat before serving for about 10-15 minutes.  Serve with a pareve ranch dressing.
Enjoy,
Irene

January 1, 2014
Irene Saiger

5 comments

2013 In Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Thank you for following me this past year.  Hope to try new things in the “new” year.  I promise to keep you posted.

Here is an excerpt from Word Press.  The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

December 25, 2013
Irene Saiger

8 comments

Rolled Biscuits

biscuit 2Having grown up in New York, I couldn’t imagine a childhood free of snow, so each year, around  Christmas time, we piled our kids into the car and drove them to the mountains surrounding Los Angeles.  There were day trips to Angeles Crest, the trunk of the Volvo Wagon holding plastic saucers and black garbage bags, perfect for sliding down the snow-covered hills.  Some winter vacations were spent visiting Bubbie and Zaidie in Toronto, there we would walk our children to Cedarvale Park so they could sled in the very same spot where Norm and his sisters had gone sledding as children.  There were occasional December trips to NYC, making sure that we took the time to show the kids the Christmas windows,  an annual ritual from my childhood, made all the better if the day involved gently falling snowflakes while strolling down 5th Avenue.

When they were slightly older, we discovered Mammoth, an easy five-hour drive from home.  We put pillows and blankets in the car and on the way we listened to Burl Ives,  and sang civil war songs from our collection of worn and tattered song books.  Arriving in the town of Bishop always meant a stop at Schat’s Bakkery to buy delicious Sheepherder’s bread for sandwiches, and cinnamon bread for breakfast toast.

There were ski lessons and snow boarding lessons.  While Norm and the kids were on the slopes, I spent the days seated by the large glass window in the ski lodge, with my magazines and books piled on my table, and a mug of cocoa as my only companion.  I passed the time quietly, my only other activity was my frequent  glances through the window, hoping that I would see them coming down the mountain,  still in one piece.  We would always have lunch together, and then they would head back out.  One year, my friend Fredda and I made Cholent for lunch, and actually transported it to the ski area, ladling out hot steaming portions to our grateful skiers, who may have been embarrassed by their mothers, but still ate with relish.

There were specific restaurants we went to each year.  One was Blondie’s Kitchen and Waffle Shop, a small breakfast place with checkered tablecloths, and a down home atmosphere, the kind of place I still love.  The breakfast was always good, and the portions generous.  Eggs came with a side of biscuits, my first introduction to what blossomed into my ongoing love affair with those small and simple quick breads.

We haven’t been to Mammoth in years.  One of my children still actively skis, and all the kids live on the East Coast where they have plenty of snow.  Norm and I are still  in warm and sunny Los Angeles, where today, I am remembering it all and making biscuits for breakfast.  Happy Holidays!!!

 

biscuit 1

Rolled Biscuits 

2 cups all-purpose flour 

1 tsp sugar

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

6 Tb cold butter, cut into pieces

3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Using a pastry knife or two forks, cut butter into mixture until it begins to look like cornmeal.  Make a well in flour mixture and  add milk.  Place mixture on lightly floured board and  knead  for a minute or two, just enough for dough to hold together.   Gently pat dough  down and out, using your finger tips, till you have a 1/2 ” thick rectangle.  Cut rounds out with a medium-sized glass by pressing down, not twisting.  Bake biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 10-12 minutes.   Makes about 10 biscuits.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

November 21, 2013
Irene Saiger

11 comments

Linda’s Sweet Potato Pie

photo-24Norm said that the freezer is full, no room to fit another thing.  We are one week away, my Chanukah shopping is finished, the gifts are wrapped, the menus planned for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night.  All that’s left is the turkey, the sides and two more desserts, a chocolate ginger cake and pumpkin chocolate chip bread.  Desserts are key on Thanksgiving, less so on Chanukah.  What’s not to like about a jelly doughnut?

Our traditional Thanksgiving dessert is pumpkin chocolate chip bread but we always have a pie, or two, as well.  My personal favorite is pecan pie, but since my kids never developed a taste for it, it fell off the menu years ago.  My daughter prefers fruit pies, I like pumpkin.  There is one pie that I have wanted to try for years and that’s Sweet Potato pie (Have you noticed that I love Southern food? Strange for a kid from the Bronx.)  Last week my friend Linda and I were discussing Thanksgiving menus when she told me she was preparing 60 sweet potato pies, using ready-made crusts.  We figured out how to cut her recipe down to enough filling for two pies and armed and ready, I went home and made them.

I brought one to a friend who had invited us for Shabbat dinner, and put the other in the freezer.  The pie was a hit, although the ready-made crust was not, a good lesson to have learned in advance of the holidays. When Linda asked how the pies turned out, I was happy to give her a glowing report.  The filling wasn’t overly sweet, the texture was perfect (Linda told me that she doesn’t like runny pies) and the flavor….Fall was in every bite.

Did I mention that Norm said there is no more room in the freezer?  There will be in about an hour.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Chanukah to all of you.  It’s been great getting all of your comments.  Can’t wait to hear how it all turns out.

Sweet Potato Pie

Filling for two pies.

7 small red fleshed sweet potatoes

1 stick margarine

2 tsp vanilla

2 heaping tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp allspice

1/3 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 Tb flour

3 eggs

1/2 cup unflavored soy milk

Preheat oven to 375.  Boil sweet potatoes in their skins till soft.  Then remove from water, wait till they are cool enough to handle and peel. Linda said to then place the peeled potatoes on a dish in the oven for about 10 minutes, removing excess moisture.   Place sweet potatoes in bowl and mash, then add melted butter,  spices, vanilla, flour, sugars, beaten eggs, and soy milk.  Place mixture in food processor for a minute or two just to smooth out.  Pour into pie shells and bake for about 45 minutes.  I have included a basic pastry crust below.

Enjoy,

Irene

Pastry

1 1/2 sticks butter (or pareve margarine)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tb sugar

2-3 Tb ice water  (VERY IMPORTANT)

Cut cold butter or margarine into cubes and place in bowl of food processor.  Add flour and sugar.  Start processor, pouring ice water through feeder tube but only enough for dough to gather into a ball.  Remove dough, wrap in Saran and refrigeration for two hours or up to two days.  Try to handle dough as little as possible.  Roll out on lightly floured board and place in pie dish.

November 11, 2013
Irene Saiger

6 comments

Mini Sweet Potato Latkes

photo 3-1I always drew inside the lines, one of the reasons that I loved Paint by Number as a child.  My coloring books were neat and orderly, and the colors I chose were dictated  by convention,  no blue haired girls or purple suns in sight.  Although I took art classes all through high school, and worked hard on my portfolio, I wasn’t accepted by the one school I had hoped to attend, Parsons School of Design.   I accepted the fact that although I might have had the skill, I didn’t have the creativity.  For the most part, I am still that person.  I rely on cookbooks, especially for baking, I sketch from photographs, I follow rules.  So when my cousin Dottie asked me for a recipe for sweet potato latkes, I felt challenged.  I didn’t see any point in looking up a recipe on-line and sending it to her, she could do that herself, so I decided to see what I could come up with.

I spent hours thinking about how to make the latkes, and the thought process went something like this.  If I used my traditional latke recipe, which involves pulverizing the potatoes, then the result might be more like a sweet potato pancake.  If I only used grated sweet potatoes,  I was concerned that the latkes would be too lacy in texture, and not substantial enough to hold together.  In the end I decided to combine both kinds of potatoes and both methods.  Green onions replaced brown onions, and panko crumbs were used in place of matzoh meal.

The latkes came out light and fluffy and held together well, no small feat when frying anything that’s been shredded. After having eaten the first one plain, I thought it needed a little something to enhance the flavor of the sweet potato, so I drizzled some honey over the next one, and that gave the latke just the right amount of sweetness.  I think I’ll serve them with some Tofutti sour cream as well.

I have no plans to toss out my cookbooks, and I will most likely always draw inside the lines, but the upcoming joint celebration of Thanksgiving and Chanukah offers a great opportunity to try new things.  Just one more reason to be grateful.  Dottie, what’s next?

Mini Sweet Potato Latkes

1 russet potato, peeled and pureed in food processor (do this last so the potato stays as white as possible)

1 sweet potato, finely grated

2 scallions, thinly sliced

3 eggs

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup Panko crumbs

Canola oil

Place grated sweet potato in a large bowl and add eggs, salt, baking powder, panko crumbs, and green onions.  Process white potato and stir in.  Heat about 1 inch of oil in a large frying pan and using a spoon, drop small amounts of mixture into sizzling oil.  Cook till golden and then flip.  This made 21 mini latkes.

Enjoy,

Irene

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