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

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

Inari (Beancurd skins stuffed with rice)

The concept of actually going someplace with the intention of picnicking was not something we did when I was growing up.  Wherever we went food was always packed and brought along.  That changed when I had children of my own and we actually began planning picnics as an activity.   July 4th at the Hollywood Bowl,  Visitor’s Day at Camp Ramah and Mother’s Day in the park all stand out in my mind.   My mother loved going to Will Rogers State Park which had an expansive lawn, a Polo field and horse filled stables.  It was a perfect way for three generations to spend time together either playing with a frisbee, flying kites, feeding the horses or hiking.  My mother was the figurehead, she would sit and watch and smile.  My parents didn’t care about cards or gifts because being with us was really all they wanted.

Of course, we all have certain ideas of what constitutes a picnic.  My mother loved deli with cole slaw and potato salad,  Norm prefers fried chicken, I love good cheese and a baguette.  The kids seemed to like it all, but one of them loved Inari, something my friend Fredda introduced to my family.  This will be my first (I think), Mother’s Day without having any children in town.  What will I do??  I guess get some cheese and wine and maybe have Norm bake a baguette and then head over to Will Rogers.  Recently my sister told me that I am turning into my mother.  I hope so.

To Lil and all the other Moms, Happy Mother’s Day!!

Inari

Prepare 1 cup Japanese sushi rice according to directions on package.  Remove cooked rice from heat and place in shallow bowl to cool.  Mix vinegar, sugar and salt and heat in small pot till sugar dissolves.  Cool and mix into rice.  Carefully open bean curd pouches.  Divide rice into 12 portions and stuff into each pouch.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.

Dressing

3 Tbsp rice vinegar

1 1/2 Tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

Note:  Try adding slivers of tofu, shiitake mushrooms, carrot, avocado, or sliced omelette.

Enjoy,

Irene
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Brie en Croute

When I was growing up, Sunday was my father’s day to cook.  The menu never varied, it was always broiled steaks and lamb chops, a salad, and home-made french fries.  My father prided himself on knowing his way around a kitchen.  He would peel and cut the fries in a particular way, preferring a thick cut fry.  He used a stainless steel pan filled with oil and would fry the potatoes in batches until they were golden brown.  My father was unusual in that European men of that generation didn’t typically spend time in the kitchen cooking.  I didn’t realize it at the time but he was modeling a behavior that my children noticed.  They grew up around a grandfather and a father who both devoted lots of time in the kitchen, cooking for their families.  What a nice legacy to have inherited.  My children all know how to cook but I hope that my sons continue this particular tradition and one day cook for their own wives and children.  In the meantime, to all the fathers and grandfathers, and especially to my father-in-law, wishing you a Happy Father’s Day!!

Norm loves to bake so after making this French  Boule, we used it to make a family favorite, Brie En Croute.  We prefer this version as opposed to using puff pastry.

Brie en Croute

1 small French Bread

1 stick sweet butter, melted

3 0r 4 cloves of garlic, minced

16 oz. of Brie

Carefully hollow out center of bread, making a well.  Melt butter, add minced garlic and brush mixture on the inside of the hollowed out bread.  Cut Brie into large pieces and place inside bread.  Take the bread that you had cut out, slice into bite size pieces and brush with remaining garlic butter.  Bake Brie en Croute and croutons on a lined tray in a 375 degree oven till Brie is melted and oozing.  Serves 4-6

Enjoy,

Irene

Baladi Eggplant

My youngest son, Micah, just moved into a Moishe House in Los Angeles and Norm and I were thrilled to be invited for Shabbat dinner.  It was potluck and I decided to bring an appetizer, main course, and dessert.  I had just purchased three eggplants and Micah suggested that I make them Baladi style, a dish he ate in Israel.  Having never heard of it, I did a little bit of research and decided it was worth trying.  I can’t say how authentic this version is, but it was easy to make and delicious.  The eggplant was soft, with a great smoky flavor, and the addition of Tehina gave a creamy texture to the dish.

It is a perfect appetizer for a Memorial Day BBQ.

We wish the newest residents of the Los Angeles Moishe House great success!!

Baladi Eggplant

2 Eggplants

1/4 cup Tehina

1 lemon

3 cloves garlic

Wrap whole eggplants in foil and grill for about 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Eggplant will collapse when tender.

Cool and drain off any liquid that has collected at the bottom of the eggplant.  Slit eggplants down the center with a sharp knife and spread open. Rake pulp with a fork to separate from skin.

Mix Tehina with minced garlic and lemon juice to taste.  Thin with a little bit of water if needed.  Drizzle over eggplants and serve with pita.

Serves 6-8 as an appetizer.

Enjoy,

Irene


Chopped Liver

Nobody eats real chopped liver anymore but it is yontif and my son David is in town and this is one of his favorites.   I have had versions made with lentils, green beans (my personal preference), mushrooms and eggplants usually  blended with walnuts, hard-boiled eggs, and onions and  although they are delicious they just aren’t the same.  The trick to good chopped liver is patience.  The onions need to caramelize for about 30 minutes over a low flame.  If the color of the onions isn’t a deep golden brown, you won’t achieve that flavor that takes chopped liver to a whole different level.  This is the way my mother made it and today I used her wooden bowl and hackmesser (chopping knife) to make it.

Chag Sameach!

Manya’s Chopped Liver

1 pound chicken livers

5 hard-boiled eggs

4 large brown onions

1/2 cup vegetable oil

dash of salt

Broil the livers for about 5 minutes, turning once or twice.  Remove and cool.  Dice onions and saute in oil over a low flame till they are a deep golden brown.  Place all ingredients in wooden bowl and chop till fine or you can do this in the food processor on the pulse cycle but DO NOT over blend.

Enjoy,

Irene

Marinated Eggplant

Many years ago I was a volunteer on Kibbutz Usha in Northern Israel.  I asked to be assigned to the dairy and was given the morning shift, working side by side with an Arab named Hasan, a kind and willing teacher.  It was quite an experience for a girl from New York.  For me, the year I spent on Usha was filled with new experiences, but milking 300 cows a day was one of the highlights.  Another was that Norm and I got engaged that year!  The kibbutznikim were warm and friendly and we still have lifelong friends that we met that year.  One couple in particular, Amitai and Tovchik, became like family to us. Tovchik would marinade eggplants and keep them in a jar in her fridge, ready to serve if you ever stopped by for the typical Israeli 4 pm  meal.  It was a delicious snack, (although definitely not low-cal.) Sadly Tovchik passed away several years ago but it has become my tradition to make her eggplant dish every Passover.  It makes me think of Tovchik and my year at Usha with love and a smile.

Tovchik’s Eggplant
2 eggplants
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
red wine vinegar
vegetable oil

Lay sliced eggplants on a tray in a single layer and salt liberally.  Let them sit for half an hour and then pat off excess  moisture and salt with a paper towel.  Make sure both sides are dry.
Fill a frying pan with about 2″ of oil.  When oil is very hot, fry eggplant till brown, several minutes on each side.
Take a deep dish and cover with a layer of eggplant.  Then slice 2-3 cloves fresh garlic and toss slices over eggplants.  Lightly drizzle with red wine vinegar.  Add another layer of eggplant, more garlic and more vinegar and keep repeating till all eggplant is used.
Refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least 24 hours.  Serve at room temperature

Enjoy,
Irene