Vegetarian Chili

What can I say,  I have been missing in action for a few weeks but I do have a good excuse.  We are heading to Texas where our eldest son is getting married.  Too busy to do much cooking but not too busy to contemplate the importance of sharing food with the people you love.  Good food elevates the spirit, just think about how you feel when you bite into something special and delicious, made for you with loving care. This has been a week when many of us have been preparing food for all the wonderful celebrations that are coming up.  Two of my friends prepared 8 lbs. of sweet and sour meatballs for a Shabbat dinner that they and other close friends are hosting in honor of the newlyweds.  Norm and I did spend some time baking, and everything we baked was made with someone else in mind.  I prepared three pumpkin chocolate chip breads at the request of the bride’s sister and Norm made two Challot at the request of the bride’s brother.  The bride asked for cholent which I will make for Shabbat lunch after they all arrive in town next week.  My daughter asked for a fruit crisp and I am considering blueberries and peaches (now that summer fruit is here.)  The bottom line is, it doesn’t have to be fancy, difficult, or complicated but the simple act of feeding someone is so nurturing and loving.  For those of you with children, my advice is to get started right away because in the blink of an eye they will be standing under the Chuppah.

My daughter has become a great hostess and I love knowing that she too has a passion for good food and feeding her friends.  She made this chili at one of her parties and apparently it was a big hit.

Shira’s Vegetarian Chili

2 Tbs olive oil

1 med onion, chopped

1 red pepper chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup beer

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 15 oz. can red kidney beans

1 15 oz. can black beans

1 Tbs cumin

2 Tbs chili powder

1 tsp kosher salt

1 15 oz can vegetarian refried beans

1 pkg frozen vegetarian crumbles (meat substitute)

Saute peppers and onion in olive oil for several minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer for about two hours.  Serve with tortilla chips, sharp Cheddar cheese and diced green onions.

NOTE: If you like your chili spicy I would add 1 Tbs. Tabasco and/or 1 Tbs. chili powder.

Serves 4-6

Enjoy,

Irene

Bean and Barley Soup

Although I have been able to re-create some of my mother’s recipes, recently it occurred to me that there are many more that I won’t ever be able to replicate.  Never having owned a cookbook, my mother cooked and baked by taste and by feel.  Here is a list of things she prepared that I wish I had paid attention to: raspberry cordial, butter cookies (that were hard as rocks but perfect for dipping into a cup of hot coffee), a yeast based cake that she called a pitah (butter) babka, potato dumplings made with raw grated potatoes squeezed dry in a dish towel and boiled, and all of those delicious homemade noodles of every size and shape.

Mollie, my girlfriend’s mother, recently commented on a post, “I wish I had the recipes for all the wonderful foods my Mom made, she never wrote anything down and I married young and was not interested at that time of cooking Jewish foods -my very bad.” So, here is my suggestion to each of you.  Call your mom or your grandmother, ask her for your favorite recipes (don’t forget to get the stories behind them) and write them down.  To the grandmas, bubbies, nanas, savtas and savties, why not do the same.  And if anyone has a recipe for raspberry cordial, please share!

Bean and Barley Soup

1 large brown onion, diced

2 stalks celery including leaves, chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped

2 Bay leaves

8 cups beef or chicken stock

1/2 cup barley

1/2 cup assorted beans, soaked overnight and drained

salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in olive oil till soft.  Add garlic, celery (including leaves) and parsley, sautéing for several minutes after adding each ingredient.  Add stock, beans and barley and two bay leaves. Bring soup to a boil, lower to a simmer and cover.  After two hours of cooking, season with salt and pepper and remove bay leaves. Check to see if beans are tender before serving.  Soup should be thick and peppery!

Enjoy,

Irene

Black Beans

One of the ways that I express my interest and desire to travel and see the world is by cooking foods from other countries.  When I think about the books I choose to read, or the movies that I am drawn to see, they are often set outside of the United States.  Each time I learn a little more about a particular culture and, of course, the food.  It is my personal way of having a mini-adventure.  I can get lost in a cookbook from Israel or a food blog from Mexico.  In the course of a weekend I can read about a family struggling in India, go see a romantic movie that takes place in France, and watch a cooking show filmed in Spain.  My older son recently returned from Guatemala, and my daughter will be going to Colombia and Argentina in the next few months.  That may be the source of my inspiration as I sat and planned what to serve for Shabbat Dinner.  I kept going back to Central and South American food, simple and satisfying, flavorful and made with ingredients that are readily available, especially here in Southern California.
A friend who I work with, Alba, is originally from Guatemala.  We are always talking about food, love, and life.  She calls me “her Jewish Mom” and that is only one of the many reasons that I am crazy about her.  Another is her Black Beans.

Alba’s Black Beans

1 lb black beans

2 large onions

4 cloves garlic

4 Tbsp. olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Place beans in a large pot to soak overnight.  Add a large onion, cut in half, two cloves of garlic, and enough water to cover beans by at least one inch. The next day cook the beans in the same pot of water for several hours over a low flame, until the beans are tender. Beans continue to expand so add water as needed. Remove onion and garlic and discard.

Finely dice  the second large onion and two cloves of minced garlic and sauté in olive oil till golden.  Strain the beans (reserve liquid) and add to onions.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  At this point add as much of the reserved liquid until you have the desired consistency. Cook for another twenty minutes for flavors to blend.

Serve with rice and some fresh chopped cilantro.

Enjoy,

Irene

Cholent

Travelling to New York City in February may not be ideal but there is this internal “tug” that draws us to visit “the children” no matter where they are.  Of course, my children are no longer children, but adults.  Yet, they still have birthdays and that is as good a reason as any to visit.  Two of my children now live in NYC, the city of my birth.  My youngest is in Israel and though I have not yet visited him, I spend many hours contemplating that trip.  So, what do you do when you go see your children in the dead of winter and know that your visit will span Shabbat?  You plan to make cholent.  I am a traditionalist when it comes to cholent.  In other words my oven has never seen a veggie cholent, chicken cholent, tofu cholent or any of the other variations that are currently in vogue.  As a daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants I remember the stories that my mother told me of what Shabbat was like in Mogielnica, a small town outside of Warsaw.  Her aunt owned the local bakery and apparently each household would bring their cholent to the bakery before Shabbat and place their pots in the commercial oven from which they were retrieved the next day for lunch.  I have often wondered how people recognized which cholent pot belonged to their family.  So, I am off to NYC and in my “carry on” luggage there will be 5 Lbs. of frozen short ribs for the cholent, from Doheny Kosher,  3 packages of Jeff’s Sausages and two frozen layers of carrot cake, ready to assemble for my son’s birthday. Here is the basic recipe for my mother’s cholent.

Manya’s Cholent
Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees
I large onion, left whole
1 1/2 cups small white beans
1/2 cup pearl barley
4-5 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut in eighths
4 or 5 strips of short ribs, cut up
salt and pepper to taste

Place onion, beans, barley and potatoes in the bottom of a heavy pot.  Add short ribs and enough water JUST to cover.  Season with salt and pepper. Bring cholent to a boil, cover with lid and then place in a 250 degree oven overnight.  I normally cook this for 12-14 hours.  DO NOT STIR.

Enjoy,
Irene