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

Almond Stacks

IMG_2361She would fold a towel and place it on the window sill, pull over a chair and then peer out the window. High above the Grand Concourse, she looked down and watched what was happening on the streets below. That was how my mother spent her afternoons once her chores were completed and before we sat down to dinner.  She looked peaceful and happy in that position and looking back, I now realize that it allowed her to be alone without feeling lonely.  After a while, she would end up in the kitchen, making dinner and baking cookies.

Our family is very good at enjoying periods of quiet and inactivity, although some of us prefer company even in our quiet moments.  This past Friday after attending an early morning Bris, followed by a day of work,  I came home to an afternoon where I was completely free to do as I please.  It was a beautiful day and in spite of a week where the news was filled with tragedies, nothing is more life affirming than being around a newborn.  With another Bris to look forward to, plus a graduation, two wedding showers, five weddings, and two Sheva Brachot, life is sweet.  So, after sitting in my yard and looking out at my garden, now in full bloom, I went into my kitchen and baked cookies.  Almond cookies, crunchy and sweet, my mother would have loved them.

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This recipe was given to me by a friend with very little instruction.  It took no time to make, nice when you are in rush and even nicer when you have the time to enjoy one freshly baked, in your yard with a cup of coffee.

Almond Stacks

3 cups sliced almonds

3 egg whites

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place parchment paper on two cookie sheets.  Mix ingredients well, it is a loose batter, and spoon onto the cookie sheet.  You need to keep mixing the mixture in between spooning.  Bake till golden brown, about thirty minutes.  Allow to cool completely.  Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Enjoy,

Irene

Sheila’s Brisket

photo 2I just finished reading Russ & Daughters, a memoir written by Mark Russ Federman, now retired owner of my favorite appetizing store in NYC.  It made me think about Pesach which we spent with our children and family on the East Coast.  This year felt different, with everyone helping, all in their own way of course, there was a rhythm and ease that I had not felt before.  Some shopped, some cooked, some did prep work, some set, some supervised, and some even cleaned.  In his book Mark Federman  talked about family and how important it is to rely on them when you need them to step up, and how that not only requires the patience to teach, but the ability to let go.  Getting ready for Pesach is like running a small family business and I can only say that by the time I left, I felt that while they already knew exactly how to run a Seder, this time they learned what it takes to prepare for one.

My own memories of Pesach include scenes of my mother and Tanta Marisha, cooking together in my aunt’s kitchen. I loved watching them, it made it so much nicer that they had each had a kitchen companion, not to mention  just having another person to ask if the soup is too salty or help decide if you really need another kugel.

Over the course of two days leading up to Yontif, we prepared for 28 guests.  We had more kitchen companions than I can mention, but each one made a significant contribution, and although they were not technically all family members, they acted and felt like family.  I was thrilled to be a part of it, but the best part is knowing how well-prepared the next generation is to tell the story, carry on the traditions, and even make the brisket.  Letting go?  I guess next year Kitniyot may appear on the menu.  I look forward to finding out.

Sheila’s Brisket

Note: I changed this recipe slightly by adding a rub that I massaged into the brisket the day before cooking it, two days before the Seder.

1- 10 pound brisket, both first and second cut.

Rub

10 cloves garlic

2 tsp salt

2 tsp pepper

1 Tb paprika

2 Tb olive oil

Mix ingredients and “massage” into brisket.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

5 large brown onions, thinly sliced.

2 cups good quality Cabernet

2 cups Ketchup

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place brisket in a large roasting pan and cover with sliced onions. Combine wine with ketchup and pour on top. Cover and bake at 325 till tender. About 6 hours.  Slice cold and reheat.  Served 20 when cut with an electric knife!

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Effi’s Turkey or Chicken Tagine

IMG_2342Imagine sitting in a dimly lit room, when suddenly a stranger walks in, throws open the curtains and turns on the light.  Those two small gestures can alter the scene.  That’s what I experienced this week when Effi joined our staff.  A petite Israeli woman, of Moroccan descent, our conversation quickly turned to food.  I told her that I was heading East for Passover, and that we were having a traditional Ashkenazi Seder, but as I stood there speaking, I already knew that change was in the air, that things were about to shift.  Effi talked about her traditional dishes, some of which I would not be able to make, dishes with rice and corn and peas, dishes made with lamb cooked over low heat for several hours. There was more, and just a few minutes later I walked away with recipes for a Moroccan beet salad, a variation of Matbucha, and a delicious tagine made with dried fruit and a touch of cinnamon.   Effi told me that she serves sweet dishes for a sweet Passover.  That’s where the differences ended, and the essence of what we both wanted for Passover converged.  Wishing you a Zisn Pesach.

Effi’s Turkey or Chicken Tagine

2 Tb olive oil and more as needed

3 lbs. chicken or turkey thighs, cubed

3 large brown onions, cut in half and thinly sliced

1 cup dried apricots

1 cup dried prunes

1 1/2 cups warm water

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 Tb chicken bouillion

1 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp cumin

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  In a  heavy bottomed pot, brown turkey thigh in 2 Tb. olive oil, sprinkling generously with salt and pepper.   Once turkey meat is golden, remove to plate along with any liquid that accumulated on the bottom of the pot.  Add another tablespoon of olive oil and all the sliced onions to pot.  Add 1/2 tsp sugar and saute onions till dark golden brown.  Remove half the sautéed onions to a plate.  Scatter half of the apricots and prunes on top of the onions.  Place turkey meat back into the pot.  Add remaining apricots and prunes and then top with remaining onions.  In a small bowl combine warm water with salt, pepper, cumin, chicken powder and cinnamon.  Stir well and pour over meat.  Cover pot and place in oven for 2-3 hours.  Serves 4-6

Note: Effi said that sometimes she adds walnut halves on top of the first layer of walnuts.

Enjoy,

Irene

Beet and Blood Orange Salad

IMG_2186I grew up hearing stories of my grandmothers and their preparations for Passover, most of which began way in advance of the holiday.  The walls had to be whitewashed, the geese had to be slaughtered and the goose fat rendered, and the down pillows were opened so that the feathers could be cleaned and re-stuffed into new ticking.  Then there was the shopping and cooking.  With large families, and no take-out or prepared foods available, everything was made at home.  I was told that my maternal grandmother baked an enormous sponge-cake every morning,  made with 12 dozen eggs, a cake large enough so everyone could have a piece for breakfast.  I wish I knew my grandmothers, these women who worked tirelessly to keep their traditions and whose efforts made lasting impressions on their children and on the grandchildren they never had the chance to meet.

I think of my mother’s preparations for Passover and wonder how much she was influenced by her own childhood experiences.  I think of my children and wonder if there are pieces they will choose to keep from their childhood.  Do they remember that the glass dishes soaked in the bathtub for days, that they were made to clean their dresser drawers while keeping an eye out for pieces of gum or candy that might have been missed.  That the trunk of the car was loaded with all the cutlery, pots and pans that had to be toivled at the synagogue and then driven to the car wash so that the back seats could be lifted and vacuumed?  Or my personal favorite which was hiding the chametz around the house and searching for it by candlelight?

I too am starting to think of Passover and I remember specific foods that my mother always had on hand during the holidays.  Home-made beet borscht for one, the cold version that had sour cream mixed in which turned it into the color of bubble gum, but which I never did acquire a taste for.  When I met my friend Susan T., I discovered a meat version of beet borscht, made with short ribs and served piping hot with a generous dollop of mashed potatoes mixed with fried onions, heaped in the center of the soup bowl and suddenly I discovered how good beets could be.  Eventually there were other preparations that I now love, like beets paired with goat cheese and walnuts, or simply roasted and drizzled with an aged balsamic vinegar.

I wish my grandmothers had lived to see how Passover is observed in the homes of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  I imagine that they would shep naches knowing that their descendents make an effort to get together for the seders, that we care enough to argue over issues like kitniyot, that we have dishes like beet salad whose ingredients they would still recognize as being familiar, and that no matter how many of us there are, we make sure there is enough cake so that everyone can have a piece for breakfast.

Beet and Blood Orange Salad

5 medium beets, use a combination of red, orange, and yellow.

Dressing

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced, placed in cold water for 1 minute and squeezed out.

5 blood oranges, peeled, and segmented

1 cup pomegranate seeds
This is how the produce man at the farmer’s market suggested that I prepare the beets.  Take a thin slice off the top and bottom of each beet and then place beets in a pot with enough water to cover.  Bring water to a boil, lower heat to medium, and cook beets until they can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife.  Cool just enough to be able to handle beets and then peel by rubbing skin off with your fingers.  The skin will easily fall off.
Cut beets into 1/3-inch-thick wedges and place in a large bowl with orange segments and onion. Top with pomegranate seeds. Whisk orange juice, pomegranate molasses, vinegar, and olive oil.  Dress salad and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serves 4-6
Enjoy,
Irene

 

Shortbread Triangles

IMG_2192Shhhh,  here is what I baked and sent in lieu of Hamantaschen this year, and here is what I received in return.  Chag Purim Sameach.

Shortbread Triangles (a Martha Stewart Recipe)

1 stick unsalted butter room temperature

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy.  Add flour and mix just enough to combine. (You can chill dough for 10 minutes if it is too soft) Pat dough into a greased 8-inch round cake pan.  Using a small knife and a small ruler, score cookies so that you end up with 8 triangles. Crimp edges with a fork. Bake about 30 to 35 minutes or till just lightly golden. Cool completely, and then turn out of pan on to hard surface and immediately slice cookies along scored edges with a serrated  knife.  Set on parchment paper and dip one edge of each cookie into chocolate.

Chocolate glaze

3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate

1 tsp canola oil

Coarsely chop chocolate and melt in a double boiler, stirring with a wooden spoon.  Add safflower oil and stir.  Remove from heat, and let cool for just a few minutes.  Dip one edge of each cookie into chocolate glaze, and transfer to rack to cool.  Refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Cookies can the be stored, or shipped!

Friday, February 22, 2013

By Rav David

Our Temple Sholom Purim festivities kick off tomorrow night with our hamentaschen bake off and pizza party, followed by the Megillah reading. However, the beginning of Purim festivities technically begins two weeks in advance of the holiday, when the Hebrew month of Adar begins. For me, the spirit of Purim begins when I receive an email from my mother asking about particulars for this year’sMishloach Manot, special Purim care packages full of hamantaschen and other delicious (and not necessarily nutritious) foodstuffs.

This year’s email was particularly entertaining. I quote, in full: “Sinful goodies will soon be on their way but IF anybody doesn’t want a basket because of lifestyle “issues” then please tell me now, not after, and I can redistribute all the goodies. Love, me.” In my family, “lifestyle ‘issues’” are things like a carbohydrate- or sugar-free diet, a bout of veganism, or the like. We all write back saying that of course we’ll love whatever our beloved mother sends-which is true-and with the anticipation of homemadeMishloach Manot the spirit of Purim is upon me.

But Purim is about more than hamantaschen, carnivals, and costumes. It’s about defeating Haman through spreading joy and practicing compassion: “The Kobriner Rabbi (late 19th century) was accustomed to command his followers to give Purim gifts to each other, and to pay for the messengers by a special donation to the poor of the Land of Israel. ‘This is the best way to strike at Haman,’ said the Rabbi.” Indeed! Mordecai himself instituted the ritual of spreading the joy and compassion on Purim, in Esther 9:22: “[The] days on which the Jews enjoyed relief from their foes…had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.” In the Jewish tradition, there is no more powerful way to strike at Haman, to defeat enemies, than to celebrate life, to feast, to spread joy and compassion in the world.

Leo Tolstoy said of Jews: “The Jew – is the symbol of eternity. … He is the one who for so long had guarded the prophetic message and transmitted it to all mankind. A people such as this can never disappear. The Jew is eternal. He is the embodiment of eternity.” The Jew is not eternal because Haman and his predecessors and followers all failed to destroy the Jewish people. The Jew is eternal because with the failure of each and every anti-Jewish ruler, the Jews gather together, celebrate, and defeat hatred with love. We are a people that have suffered, yes; but we have nevertheless, paradoxically, affirmed a basic optimistic outlook and joyful approach to life. Purim is the holiday that best captures that joy, and the special foods, theMishloach Manot, are an embodiment of the indefatigable Jewish spirit.

Every holiday that celebrates triumph over enemies–Purim, Chanukah, Passover, etc–gives us two options. We can either complain about the evil that caused so much suffering for our people, or we can increase the joy, increase the compassion, and increase the justice in the world. Purim is the opportunity to increase that joy.

One of my favorite teachings on this topic comes from Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the Chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine. A European Jew born in the mid-19th century, Rav Kook lived in Europe during World War I, and saw any number of latter day “Hamans”. Nevertheless, he challenges us to increase the good in the world rather than complaining about the evil: “…the pure righteous do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom.”

Chag Purim Sameach – Happy Purim!