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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

November 1, 2013
Irene Saiger

8 comments

Savory Zucchini Mushroom Muffins

photo-22They came to America on the S.S. Argentina, sailing out of Genoa, Italy, in 1952,  my parents and sister, five-year old Anie.  My sister said our mother spent the entire trip in their cabin below deck, fighting seasickness.  Anie spent the days running around having fun, following our father who apparently spent most of the trip in the company of an Italian man.  Once they docked, they went to Ellis Island for medical examinations,  after which my sister and my mother were placed in quarantine for a day or two.

Anie soon became Anita, Henri became Harry, and Marie became Miriam.

Harry found work as a tailor, Anita was enrolled in Kindergarten, and Miriam stayed home and took care of her family.  By the time I was born three years later, they had settled in, for the most part.  Harry was back to Hersch, Miriam was Manya and Anita was Anita.  They had all learned to speak English, my sister had shed her Parisian roots, my mother had a drawer filled with slim, decorated boxes, that when opened, revealed various shades of delicate silk stockings, and my father’s shirts were sent to the dry cleaners.  Just like everyone else, we watched Ed Sullivan.

They were participants in the melting pot.  Eventually, my father left the world of tailoring and became a stock broker, my mother wore pencil skirts and even tried smoking for a brief time.  Anita straightened her hair and dated boys who smoked pipes.  Despite all of their efforts, I knew that we weren’t “real” Americans.

This year, Thanksgiving and Chanukkah are coinciding and I couldn’t imagine a more suitable pairing.  One holiday celebrating freedom and the other, victory.   I am sure that when our small family of three reached the shores of New York, they felt that they had achieved both freedom and victory in a way that they had never dreamed possible just a few years earlier.  They navigated this new world, and somehow managed to find the perfect balance.  They were Americans on the outside, in ways they found palatable, like how they dressed, or attending Thanksgiving dinners, but we were Jews first and foremost.

This Thanksgiving, we will serve latkes instead of stuffing, and apple sauce alongside cranberry sauce.  Turkey will still be the main  but I am considering adding a pot roast or brisket.  Sufganiyot will be paired with mulled cider, and little kugels might be served as well, disguised as muffins.  Hopefully we will strike the right balance, and be richer for it.

Savory Zucchini-Mushroom Muffins

6 medium zucchini, shredded or coarsely chopped in food processor.

6 large mushrooms, chopped

3 large brown onions, finely chopped, in processor

5 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup olive oil

2 tsp salt

1 Tb finely ground black pepper  (or less depending on preference)

Canola oil

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Make sure there are no dry spots left in the mixture.  Grease your muffin tins with canola oil and place them in the oven to heat for several minutes.  Remove from oven and  spoon mixture into tins.  Bake for about an hour or until  muffins are golden brown.  Or bake in large roasting pans for a more traditional looking kugel.  This made one large round kugel and 12 muffins.  Serves 10 -12

Note:  I think you can substitute almost any vegetable and this would work. Chopped broccoli, small diced eggplant, shredded carrots, etc. 

Enjoy,

Irene  

October 4, 2013
Irene Saiger

10 comments

Whitefish Salad

photo-19We landed in Montreal, a city that neither of us had visited before, and in spite of my many trips to Toronto, clearly this was a very different part of Canada.  As my daughter and I strolled around old town, walking on cobblestone streets, surrounded by French speakers, I couldn’t help but wonder how my parents had felt when they first arrived in Paris just a year or so after the war.
As we explored the various neighborhoods, we enjoyed wonderful meals in small Bistros, every evening trying a different salmon preparation, accompanied by good wine and ending with a fairly rich dessert.  Each morning we left our hotel with a list of coffee shops and bakeries that had come highly recommended.  It soon became clear that those addresses were not needed because the scent of butter-laden pastries just coming out of the oven could be detected blocks away.  Twice in three days, we visited Boulangerie Kouign-Amann where we enjoyed freshly baked croissants, sampling the plain, chocolate, and almond.  Of course we also had to try the pastry that the shop is named after, Kouign-Amann,  similar to a croissant but both top and bottom layers are made of a thin crispy coating of caramelized sugar.
photo-20
One afternoon we made our way to a local greasy spoon, not a place or an area that I think attracts very many tourists, but we were on a mission to eat a vegetarian version of  Poutine, a common Québécois dish of fries topped with cheese curds and smothered in gravy.
photo-21
On the morning we planned to have the famous Montreal bagels for breakfast, subject of much debate among people who engage in bagel war conversations, we took the Metro to the area known as Mile End, a neighborhood where waves of immigrants had once settled, Jews among them.  The bagels were smaller than New York bagels and slightly sweet, first boiled and then baked in a wood-fired oven.  As we munched on our warm bagels slathered in cream cheese (sadly there was no whitefish salad)  we passed spice stores, vintage shops, and cafes, and my guess is that new immigrants now settle elsewhere.
We turned a corner and came to an area with a Shul, a kollel, a kosher market and bakery, discovering a community of Belzer Hasidim nestled among the trendy shops.  Suddenly I heard Yiddish, saw sprinkle cookies, looked at faces whose features were clearly Eastern European and once again I imagined  how my parents might have felt wandering around the streets of Paris and suddenly seeing Hasids walking towards them.  No doubt it would have made them smile, and I smiled as well.   The only thing missing was whitefish salad.
Whitefish Salad
1 whole smoked whitefish, about 1 pound.
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1 Tb minced shallot
3 Tb mayonnaise
photo-18
Skin fish and very carefully remove from bones.  Mix with sugar, sesame oil, minced shallot and mayo to taste.  I like my fish flaked and not too mushy.  Serves 2-4.
Enjoy,
Irene

September 1, 2013
Irene Saiger

6 comments

Beet, Fennel, and Mango Salad

photo-17My sister is in town, and it isn’t surprising that the conversation often turns to our mother, hers and mine.  The discussion typically begins with Anita recalling how, “our mother used to say…” ,”used to prepare…”,  “used to pronounce…” or “used to like…”, and ends when I respond by saying, “not my mother.”   There are eight years between us and in some ways we did have different mothers.  Anita was born and spent her early years in post-war Paris, while I was a child of the 1950s, born in The Bronx.  With each of us, our mother was busy adjusting to a new country, culture, language, and cuisine.   As the younger sister I must admit that I thoroughly enjoy this verbal sparring  but I’m not sure my sister feels the same way.

Preparing for Rosh Hashana, I feel an obligation to make some of the dishes that we both remember, and agree, that our mother served every Yontif.  I will make her Chicken Soup with kreplach, garlic chicken with roast potatoes, and make sure to include carrots for a sweet year.  The gefilte fish has been eliminated from the menu, as has the honey cake.  Instead of Tzimmis, I will prepare a fresh raw salad, colorful and slightly sweet, still using some ingredients that were often found in my mother’s kitchen, but with a new twist.

I remember my mother wishing that the New Year would be at least as good as the last, and no worse.  I called my sister to confirm this, and of course, she said  that her mother never said that.  Luckily, some things never change.  Wishing you all a Zisn Yontif, on that we can all agree.

Note: This recipe was adapted from a salad prepared in my home several weeks ago by the chefs from Puzzle Israel.

Beet, Fennel and Mango Salad
1/2 head of red cabbage thinly sliced
2 large red beets, peeled and Julienned
2 firm mangoes peeled and Julienned
3 or 4 large carrots, peeled and shredded
1 fennel bulb, cored, and slivered
1/2 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

Dressing

1/2 cup olive oil

1/ 4 cup lemon or lime  juice

1 Tb sesame oil

1 tsp salt

I would add a few drops of honey for some extra sweetness

Enjoy,

Irene

August 5, 2013
Irene Saiger

5 comments

Stuffed Eggplant Rolls

photo-16Nir and Guy arrived at my home early Sunday afternoon, carrying shopping bags filled with fresh groceries they had just purchased at the local Persian market.  Although we hadn’t met before, these young Israelis, full of personality and charm, quickly made themselves at home.  Promoting their company, Puzzle Israel,  (which provides a unique approach to touring) they come to the U.S several times a year offering cooking classes and demonstrations.

The class was hands-on, and with everyone participating we all had a good time. There was a station in the kitchen for the meat dishes and a station in the dining room for salads and dessert.  The menu included freshly baked Foccacia,  chicken liver stuffed mushrooms, salmon ceviche salad, cabbage salad, and eggplant rolls filled with ground beef.  Dessert was a dish of baked bananas with a biscuit Halvah topping.

When I asked Guy how he expanded from culinary arts to the touring industry, he said “cooking is the best way of making connections.”  How right he is. 

Stuffed Eggplant Rolls

2 globe eggplants

1 1/2 pounds ground beef, not too lean

1/3 pound Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped

olive oil

1 purple onion, finely diced

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.   Slice the eggplants to a 1/4 inch thickness.  Layer slices on a greased cookie sheet and drizzle olive oil over both sides.  Bake for about 20 minutes until slices are golden brown and tender but do not overbake.  In a bowl, combine ground beef with dates, onion, salt and pepper.  After eggplant has cooled, place about 1 Tb of mixture on edge of each slice of eggplant, roll up and layer in greased baking dish. Place in 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  Serve hot.

Enjoy,

Irene

July 26, 2013
Irene Saiger

17 comments

Jenny’s Eggplant Parmesan

photo-15As a child I was frightened of revolving doors, worried that they wouldn’t slow down long enough for me to get out.  Eventually I overcame my fear, (I must admit I still don’t like them) but in truth revolving doors are unavoidable, and have become somewhat of a metaphor.  People seem to come in and out of my life, particularly at work where young adults are often experiencing their first job in the non-profit world, moving on after several years.  I tend to “adopt” these 25-30 year olds that I call my ” work kids.”  

Jenny was one of those “kids,” arriving in L.A. from Michigan, eager to get started, a whirlwind of a girl, full of energy and spunk, and fun to have around.  After several years of searching for the right guy, Jenny was fortunate enough to meet Sean and joined him in Ohio.

What do you do when you miss someone?  Some people look at photos, others are good at reaching out, I cook something that reminds me of the person.  Eggplant Parmesan was Jenny’s signature dish.  By the way, the good thing about revolving doors is that they have no beginning and no end.

photo-14

Jenny’s Eggplant Parmesan
2 Globe Eggplants
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups of Italian bread crumbs
3 eggs, or more as needed
salt and pepper
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan
3 cups shredded mozzarella 
2 – 26 oz. jars of Marinara sauce or whatever sauce you prefer. Jenny likes 3 Cheese Tomato Sauce
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Slice eggplants about 1/2 inch thick.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Make an assembly line with three pie plates, one with flour, one with beaten eggs, and the last with bread crumbs seasoned with salt and pepper.  Lightly dredge each slice of eggplant in flour, dip in egg, and then in seasoned bread crumbs.  Lay coated slices of eggplant on cookie sheets and  bake for about 20 minutes.  Eggplant slices should be tender and golden when done.  Grease a baking dish with olive oil.  Spoon enough sauce to just cover the bottom of the pan and layer with eggplant, sauce,  sprinkling of Parmesan and then mozzarella.  Keep layering till you finish with mozzarella cheese on top.  Add more cheese as needed.  Bake for another 20 minutes or so until cheese is golden brown and bubbling.  Serves 6
Enjoy,
Irene

July 4, 2013
Irene Saiger

14 comments

Irma’s Sumi Salad

IMG_1290My children attended Akiba Academy, now known as Sinai Akiba, from grades K-8.  When Norm and I chose that particular school, the decision was based on reputation, philosophy, and location.  We were young parents and had no idea how that choice would impact not only the lives of our children, but our lives as well.  My children made life-long friends at Akiba, (my older son is now related to one of those friends) and some of our closest friends were also found in those classrooms.  Our family benefited in ways that we didn’t anticipate, by meeting and becoming friends with Jewish families that came from places like Iran, Mexico, Russia and Egypt. Being Akiba parents influenced our decision to send our children to Camp Ramah, (where our older son met his wife) it exposed us to more observant families, influencing the way we practiced Judaism, it opened our eyes to the benefits of Jewish education which ultimately led to the decision to continue with our children’s Jewish education through Shalhevet and Milken Community High School.

When I look back, I realize how significant those relationships were, in spite of how young our children were at the time.  That community of children and parents stood by each other through good times and challenging times, through celebrations and unfortunately, through losses.  I love that so many of them and so many of us are still in touch.  I love that early this morning my daughter called wanting my recipe for Sumi salad,  a salad I first tasted in the Silberman home over 20 years ago, shortly after David and Aaron met in Kindergarten. What better way to celebrate the 4th than with a recipe for a salad that was given to me by a friend I met through Akiba, who was born in Egypt, raised in Israel, and living in America.  Happy 4th to all and thank you Sinai Akiba.

Irma’s Sumi Salad

1 head shredded cabbage (or 1 bag)

8 green onions, thinly sliced

2 packages of Ramen noodles or a kosher equivalent.  Just use the noodles, not the seasonings

1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

1 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Dressing

1/2 cup frozen apple juice, thawed

1/2 cup rice vinegar

3 Tb dark sesame oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup sugar

Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl.   Take bags or Ramen and without opening them, break noodles in the bag with your hands or a rolling-pin.  Add to salad.   Mix dressing ingredients and pour over salad no more than 15 minutes before serving so noodles stay somewhat crispy.  Serves 6

Enjoy,

Irene

 

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