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March 3, 2013
Irene Saiger

8 comments

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

 

February 22, 2013
Irene Saiger

6 comments

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!

February 17, 2013
Irene Saiger

4 comments

Chocolate Babka

IMG_2178I wish I knew something about the Purim celebrations that my parents experienced during their childhood.  They were both from observant families so it is hard to imagine that the holiday was not marked in some way.  On top of which my mother’s aunt owned the bakery in Mogielnica.  Did she prepare Hamantaschen or some other local pastry for the holiday?  What was the filling?  Poppy I assume,  but I will never know.  What I do know is that with only one week to go, I am without a plan as I have decided not to make Hamantaschen this year.

Last week I found myself in a situation where I had to come up with a dessert at the last minute.  Without having planned it in advance, I took part of my challah dough and made a chocolate Babka.  It turned out great and since it was my first attempt, I was pleasantly surprised.  One can only hope that inspiration will come to the rescue, but in the meantime chocolate Babka anyone?  Chag Sameach.

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Chocolate Babka

Your favorite challah recipe or mine.   I used half the dough to prepare two Challot and half to prepare two Babkas.

Filling for one Babka
1 stick sweet butter or pareve margarine, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 pound semi-sweet chocolate
Pinch of salt
1 Tb cinnamon

Egg wash (optional)
1 egg
2 teaspoons milk, water or soy milk
1 Tb sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coarsely chop bar of chocolate, then finish chopping in food processor till fine.  Add salt, sugar and cinnamon and mix for a few seconds.  Add butter or margarine and mix in by pulsing.

Grease a round pan well.  After dough doubled in size, punch down and roll into a large rectangle.  This takes some time and patience.  Make sure your surface is well floured so dough doesn’t stick.  Make it as thin and long as you can.

Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough.  Starting from the long side, roll dough as tightly as possible.   Place in pan and let rise for about 30 minutes.   Mix egg with milk or water and brush on top.  Sprinkle with a Tablespoon of sugar mixed with a Tsp of cinnamon.  Bake for about 30 minutes and cool on rack.

Enjoy,

Irene

January 25, 2013
Irene Saiger

9 comments

Roast Chicken with Figs

IMG_2161We grew up eating dried fruit and nuts for dessert.  The nuts were in their shells, and were left out on the dining room table with a nutcracker on top.  I am sure my mother bought them that way because she thought they were fresher, but the unintentional result was that you actually needed to sit around the table to shell them.  Pieces of shell would fly as I tried to crack walnuts, filberts, and almonds on my own. The walnuts were the most challenging, hard to crack because of the uneven shell, and prying out the walnut meat was a delicate and time-consuming task in itself.  I was impatient and my father would take over, proud when he was able to remove a walnut half intact.  The dried fruit was typically dates, or figs imported from Greece, pierced and on a string.
On my first trip to Israel I went to Kfar Meishar to visit family friends.  The Unterstein’s had a pecan orchard and so once again I found myself sitting around a table and shelling nuts.  Tonight is Tu Bishvat and that makes me think of Israel, and because it is also Shabbat, we planned a menu around this New Year of the Trees.  We have chicken with figs, olive oil cake, dried fruit, and  walnuts still in their shell, with my parents’ nutcracker on top.  I can’t wait to see if anyone will even be tempted to use it, other than myself.
Roast Chicken with Figs 
2 chickens cut in eighths
Marinade
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 /2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
6 cloves of garlic
1 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper
Combine in food processor and marinade chicken for several hours or overnight.
1 1/2 cups figs, sliced in half, or dried fruit of your choice.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Remove chicken from marinade and place in roasting pan.  Scatter figs and  pour 1 cup of the marinade over the top.  Bake for 1 1/2 hours, basting and adding marinade as needed.  Serves 8-10
Enjoy,
Irene

January 15, 2013
Irene Saiger

5 comments

Tomato Soup

IMG_2156My sister told me that despite her repeated requests for a colored television, my parents refused to buy one until I (the baby in the family) wanted one, and then one was bought right away.  That television changed our lives in many ways.  Ed Sullivan, The Micky Mouse Club, and Captain Kangaroo became weekly guests in our home.  We were just as attentive during the commercial breaks and the ads were so convincing, that even a child as young as I was then, I advocated for whatever they happened to be selling.  I am ashamed to admit that I begged my mother to buy Chef Boyardee products, T.V. Dinners, and Campbell Soups.  I couldn’t understand why she insisted on spending her time carefully dicing and chopping vegetables when I was sure that her homemade soups could not possibly compare to the gelatinous, cylindrical mass of soup that came out of a can.  My mother kept preparing her wonderful chicken soup, made with chicken feet that we loved to chew on, vegetable soups cooked with delicious marrow bones which could only be scooped out with the smallest of spoons, white bean soups that were hearty and peppery, and a “milchig” tomato soup, the one soup I wouldn’t eat.  I can’t tell you why.  Maybe it was because my mother told me that she never ate tomatoes when she was a child.  Maybe it was the tartness of the tomatoes, or the acidity of the soup.  I have no memory of what that particular soup tasted like, and sadly I have no idea how she prepared it.

What I do know is that my mother refused to listen to those ad campaigns and successfully ignored my nagging.  She continued  making homemade soups her entire life.  Without any lecturing, in her own gentle way, and by example, she taught me a valuable lesson about life and soup, that fast is not always better and that tomato soup is delicious after all.

Tomato Soup adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten

I-28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

2 large red onions, chopped

3 medium carrots, diced

4 cloves garlic

1 tsp sugar

2 Tb tomato paste

3 Tb olive oil

4 cups pareve chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup whole milk

Heat the olive oil in a large pot.  Add chopped onions and carrots, and sauté for about 20 minutes.  Add garlic, can of tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, chicken stock, salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, stir, lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.  Puree, stir in milk, and adjust seasoning.  Garnish with diced avocado and tortilla chips.  Serves 4-6

Enjoy,

Irene

January 3, 2013
Irene Saiger

8 comments

Chicken Taquitos

IMG_2145Some family patterns are repeated from generation to generation.  When I was growing up it wasn’t unusual for my mother to make three different entrees for the four of us.  My parents would share one main course, but in addition, my mother often prepared whatever it was that my sister and I each craved.  I now see that it was just a “crazy” thing to do, but it is a pattern that I repeated with my own children.  Food was love and nobody was ever expected to eat something they didn’t care for.  Meals were about enjoyment, pleasure, and indulgence.

Last week all four of my adult children were coming to town to attend the wedding of family friends.  Two were arriving in time for Shabbat and not knowing exactly what each one would want for dinner, I covered all the bases.  I prepared enough food for ten, completely unable to cook for four.  I made Matboucha (a Moroccan tomato salad) to start with, followed by chicken soup with matzoh balls.  The main course included shredded brisket that was braised for ten hours, baked honey garlic chicken, roast potatoes, sautéed Bok Choy with shiitake mushrooms, and a green salad.  Dessert was fruit, and brownies covered with a layer of caramel and sea salt, an Ina Garten recipe.  I guess I went overboard, but as a result we had lots of leftovers.  On top of it all, I still had to do something with that soup chicken.  My mother used to serve the soup chicken as a main course (one reason that she was forced to make something different for my sister and me,) and my mother-in-law used it as filling for knishes or shepard’s pie.  I decided to make Chicken Taquitos.

During the course of the weekend, as the kids devoured the Taquitos, they shared some “constructive criticism.”  One son suggested that next time I might consider adding some diced potatoes or chunks of avocado, and another said the Taquitos could   have used more seasoning and cilantro.

On Wednesday morning we woke up to a much quieter household and I decided to get up and clean out the fridge before I left for work.  The leftovers were gone as were three of the four children, and there wasn’t a Taquito in sight.

Chicken Taquitos

4 large cooked chicken breasts

4 green onions, thinly sliced

½ cup chicken broth

24 corn tortillas.  4 1/2 inch size

2 tbsp canola oil plus oil for frying

1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper
In a large bowl, skin, bone, and shred cooked chicken, and set aside.  In 2 tbsp oil, sauté sliced green onions for about 3-4 minutes and add to shredded chicken along with salt and pepper to taste.  At this point you might want to add some diced pre-cooked potatoes, taco seasoning, chopped fresh cilantro, or some avocado chunks.  Add chicken broth to moisten the mixture.  Warm tortillas in microwave, wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel or in a tortilla warmer, till soft enough to roll.  Place about 2 tbsp of chicken mixture at the bottom part of the tortilla and roll tightly.  Place tooth pick through the flap to hold Taquito together.  Add enough oil to a large frying pan so that it is about 2 inches deep.   Place pan over med-high heat till hot, and fry Taquitos till golden brown on one side and then turn.  Cook about 3 minutes per side.  Serve hot with salsa and guacamole.  Serve 2 to 3 Taquitos per person.
Enjoy,

Irene

December 24, 2012
Irene Saiger

7 comments

Estelle’s Thai Chicken Tacos with Cabbage Slaw

IMG_1290As 2012 comes to an end, I want to thank all of you who have continued to give me support and encouragement over the past year.  Some of you send me private e-mails, some of you post comments on the blog, some “like” me on Facebook, and some of you subscribe but never say a word, and that too is appreciated.

My friend Estelle sent me and our friend Susan this e-mail about a Shabbat dinner that she prepared for her family, and because she is an incredible cook I am sure these chicken tacos are as good as she said they were.  More importantly, you will see that she left her comfort zone, not an easy thing to do, whether it be in the kitchen or elsewhere.  May 2013 be filled with health,  happiness, good food, and just enough courage to try something new.

 

” Dear Friends,
Over the past years I have admired many of my friends.  I have been lucky to have been surrounded by women that have given me advice, names of painters, doctors, and recipes that have turned a meal into a memory.  I have forwarded many of those recipes to you, but today I thought I would write a little story along with an incredible recipe, that I served on Shabbat.
 
I have two wonderful friends by the names of Irene and Susie.  I look forward to their blog posts, not only for the delicious recipes, but truly for their stories, and the memories they  share with all of us.  After reading many of Irene’s stories and recipes, I wonder if we are related.   Often times when I make something truly delicious, I always wonder what Irene and Susie would have said about this dish.  
 
Recently I had a lovely lunch with a new friend.  We talked for a long time and then swapped  Shabbat recipes.  I told her I was going to make Thai Chicken Tacos but was not going to serve them with corn tortillas, as the recipe called for.  I explained that I  could hear my dad’s voice saying, ” What is a tortilla?”   But my friend told me that she had done a Mexican themed Shabbat dinner and it was fine.  She gave me “permission” to veer from the norm.  When I came home,  I was still not convinced but then I fondly remembered many Mexican Shabbat dinners at Susie’s house.  Most of them had tortillas that complemented  her delicious menu.  Could I have the courage to do that?   I did it, and our dinner felt both familiar and like an adventure, but most importantly, it still felt like Shabbat.  
Warmest wishes to all, Estelle. “
Thai Chicken Tacos
1 lime, halved
l lb skinless boneless chicken breasts, thighs, or tenders, cut into strips, 1/2″ thick.
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 shallot, sliced
3 cloves garlic minced
2 tsp  soy sauce
1/2 to 1 tsp chili flakes
1/2 to 1 tsp hot sauce
2 Tb vegetable oil
16 corn tortillas heated
1 recipe Cabbage Slaw
Juice one half of a lime.  Cut remaining half in wedges (oops forgot to serve them) and set aside.  In a bowl combine chicken strips, cilantro, shallot, garlic,  lime juice, soy sauce, chili flakes, and hot sauce.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour ( I did it overnight.)  In a large skillet cook chicken in hot oil over medium high till cooked, about 1o minutes, stirring occasionally.  To serve, layer 2 tortillas (we used only one) top with chicken and cabbage slaw.  Serve remaining cabbage slaw and lime wedges on side.
 
CABBAGE SLAW
in a bowl toss 2 cups shredded Napa cabbage, 1/2 cup shredded carrot, 1/2 cup sliced green onion, 1/2 cup sliced radishes (did not use as I forgot to buy them) 1/4 cup chopped cilantro,  and 1/4 cup coarsely chopped peanuts (did not use as my mom is allergic.) Although think it would be better with sliced or slivered almonds.   Add 1/4 cup rice vinegar and toss.
Enjoy,
Irene
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