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.
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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.
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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
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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

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

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

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.

 

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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

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

 

Dottie’s Cowboy Caviar

photo-12As a little boy he dreamed of being a cowboy, raised in the era of Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and The Cisco Kid.  All Norm wanted was a pony and a six-gun, but the closest he came was horse-back riding, living on Kibbutz and wearing a cowboy hat  He even named his bike Trigger.  Over the years, there have been  purchases of Western attire, showing that deep down the dream still exists.  His love of all things Western included the many Cowboy ballads that we spent hours either listening to or singing during the long car trips with our children.  Even my mother knew all of the lyrics to The Streets of Laredo and it never failed to bring a tear to her eyes.

Today in honor of Father’s Day, Norm was able to relive a bit of that dream.  An afternoon spent at the Gene Autry Museum which included a concert featuring some of the members of the Western Music Association.  So here is to fathers everywhere who had to hang up their hat and raise their kids instead.  He would never have traded being a Dad for anything, but just to let him dream for a few more hours, I am serving him a bowl of Cowboy Caviar for dinner.

 

Happy Father’s Day and Happy Trails to you.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcYsO890YJY

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Cowboy Caviar

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

1/2  cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 can yellow corn, drained and rinsed  or fresh raw corn

1/2  sweet Vidalia onion, diced

2 celery stalks, thinly sliced

1/2  each of an orange and red bell pepper, diced

1/2 cup chopped cilantro or parsley, depending on your crowd

Marinade

1/2 cup of canola oil

1 cup of apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp red chili flakes

1 tsp cumin

Combine prepared vegetables and place in a large bowl.  Combine ingredients for marinade in a pot and heat  over low flame for about 10 minutes.  Let cool completely and pour over vegetables.  Allow to marinade for several hours before serving.

Enjoy,

Irene

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

photo-7The trip was special in that it began with my daughter-in-law’s graduation from medical school and ended with a wedding of close family friends.  In between it went something like this.

I took a class in Tai Chi while visiting a friend in New Jersey, and it was all about balance and the ability to shift your weight from one foot to the other while still in motion, and without effort.  For almost three weeks I traveled around the East Coast and each day brought a change in scenery and tempo.  Five states, four museums, historic sites and centers, cities and countryside.  I stayed in seven different places during my trip and enjoyed each one.  Some days were filled with activity and celebrations of one kind or another, other days were quiet and peaceful.  Some days were devoted to cooking with old friends and family members, others were spent eating wonderful meals in restaurants, pubs, and inns.  I even managed to stop for lunch at one of my all time favorite “food” places, Reading Terminal.  With too  many memorable meals to mention, here are just a few.  A post-graduation lunch at Bar Boulud  where I ate a dish of homemade pasta with cippolini onions, spring peas, and cheddar.  Mother’s Day  (the day my brother-in-law’s newest grandson was born) was celebrated at Minetta Tavern.  I had Brandade,  a dish of salt cod cooked with potatoes and milk, mashed into a creamy purée.  There was crisp duck with a balsamic glaze at a kosher restaurant in Teaneck, smoked fish from Acme in Brooklyn, halibut with mango and avocado salsa in West Orange followed by a delicious cheesecake,  filet of flounder sautéed in panko crumbs in Philly followed by ripe cheeses and many glasses of wine, blintzes in Greenwich, and fish cakes with rémoulade sauce in Marshfield.

My cousins in Marshfield have a beautiful garden filled with flowers and vegetables.  One morning Janine picked some rhubarb, enough to make a pie or two, with no cookbook in hand and no recipe card on the counter.  It reminded me of the way my mother baked but this time I made sure to take notes.  It had been twenty-seven years or so since I last visited Marshfield and I left hoping that my next visit would come sooner.  Ready to get back to the fast pace of NYC, I first made sure that I took some home-grown rhubarb with me.  On our last Shabbat in NYC we enjoyed a vegetarian feast prepared for us by Heidi and Rob, friends of our children.  The meal ended with a strawberry rhubarb crisp that I made with Janine’s recipe and her rhubarb.

Then there was the wedding.  It was magical, set in the Hudson River Valley, not far from where I spent summers during my childhood.  Everything felt familiar, the air, the trees, the food, and the music.  We returned to Brooklyn in the early evening on Memorial Day and we celebrated with a BBQ in the park.  Norm and I were going home early the next morning and as I prepared to shift once again, I found that it was not without effort.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
4 large stalks rhubarb, thinly sliced

1 quart strawberries, cut in half or quartered, depending on size

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 Tb tapioca

1/2 cup sour cream

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients and put in the bottom of either two greased 8″ round pie plates,  or one large greased 8 x 10 pan.

Topping

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

Mix ingredients together with your finger tips until you get small crumbs.  Sprinkle over fruit and bake at 375 till golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes.  Can serve 2 or 6, just depends.

Enjoy,

Irene