Savory Zucchini Mushroom Muffins

photo-22They came to America on the S.S. Argentina, sailing out of Genoa, Italy, in 1952,  my parents and sister, five-year old Anie.  My sister said our mother spent the entire trip in their cabin below deck, fighting seasickness.  Anie spent the days running around having fun, following our father who apparently spent most of the trip in the company of an Italian man.  Once they docked, they went to Ellis Island for medical examinations,  after which my sister and my mother were placed in quarantine for a day or two.

Anie soon became Anita, Henri became Harry, and Marie became Miriam.

Harry found work as a tailor, Anita was enrolled in Kindergarten, and Miriam stayed home and took care of her family.  By the time I was born three years later, they had settled in, for the most part.  Harry was back to Hersch, Miriam was Manya and Anita was Anita.  They had all learned to speak English, my sister had shed her Parisian roots, my mother had a drawer filled with slim, decorated boxes, that when opened, revealed various shades of delicate silk stockings, and my father’s shirts were sent to the dry cleaners.  Just like everyone else, we watched Ed Sullivan.

They were participants in the melting pot.  Eventually, my father left the world of tailoring and became a stock broker, my mother wore pencil skirts and even tried smoking for a brief time.  Anita straightened her hair and dated boys who smoked pipes.  Despite all of their efforts, I knew that we weren’t “real” Americans.

This year, Thanksgiving and Chanukkah are coinciding and I couldn’t imagine a more suitable pairing.  One holiday celebrating freedom and the other, victory.   I am sure that when our small family of three reached the shores of New York, they felt that they had achieved both freedom and victory in a way that they had never dreamed possible just a few years earlier.  They navigated this new world, and somehow managed to find the perfect balance.  They were Americans on the outside, in ways they found palatable, like how they dressed, or attending Thanksgiving dinners, but we were Jews first and foremost.

This Thanksgiving, we will serve latkes instead of stuffing, and apple sauce alongside cranberry sauce.  Turkey will still be the main  but I am considering adding a pot roast or brisket.  Sufganiyot will be paired with mulled cider, and little kugels might be served as well, disguised as muffins.  Hopefully we will strike the right balance, and be richer for it.

Savory Zucchini-Mushroom Muffins

6 medium zucchini, shredded or coarsely chopped in food processor.

6 large mushrooms, chopped

3 large brown onions, finely chopped, in processor

5 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup olive oil

2 tsp salt

1 Tb finely ground black pepper  (or less depending on preference)

Canola oil

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Make sure there are no dry spots left in the mixture.  Grease your muffin tins with canola oil and place them in the oven to heat for several minutes.  Remove from oven and  spoon mixture into tins.  Bake for about an hour or until  muffins are golden brown.  Or bake in large roasting pans for a more traditional looking kugel.  This made one large round kugel and 12 muffins.  Serves 10 -12

Note:  I think you can substitute almost any vegetable and this would work. Chopped broccoli, small diced eggplant, shredded carrots, etc. 

Enjoy,

Irene  

Chicken Cacciatore

2012-12-14 17.26.20It is a testament to my parents’ confidence in their ability to transmit their values to my sister and me that they were not threatened by Christmas.  I was allowed to attend Christmas dinner at the Bartolinis, listen to holiday music on the radio, help my neighbor Rosemary decorate her Christmas tree, and go to the Lorenzano brothers home on Christmas Eve for a very small glass of Creme de Menthe.   Maybe they knew it was unavoidable since we attended public school, but their liberal attitudes gave me the freedom to learn about Christmas, see how it was observed, and discover that in the homes of our Italian neighbors and friends, food played a central role at their family gatherings as well. 

This Friday night as the last days of Chanukkah were approaching, and Norm and I had Shabbat dinner by ourselves, all I wanted was Chicken Cacciatore,  the kind of hearty dish that Mrs. Bartolini might have made for Christmas Dinner.  I felt lucky that I had those wonderful memories to call on and as I placed freshly made, piping hot latkes on my husband’s plate, and with no apple sauce in sight, he used the latkes to soak up the sauce of the Chicken Cacciatore.  The next night our friends joined us for a Christmas Concert where Norm was singing in the choir, and afterwards we went to one of our local kosher dairy restaurants for “Toastim.”   Without giving it much thought my parents instilled a love of Judaism that doesn’t prevent me from being able to appreciate the beauty of Christmas. 

Chicken Cacciatore

6 Chicken Thighs, legs attached

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 large red bell peppers, chopped

1 large brown onion, chopped

1 lb. white mushrooms, halved

4 garlic cloves, finely sliced

3/4 cup dry red wine

1 – 28-oz can crushed tomatoes

3/4 cup chicken stock

1 tsp chili flakes

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and then dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, shaking off excess.  In a large pot, heat the oil, add the chicken pieces to the pan and brown over high heat, about 5 minutes per side.  Avoid crowding, browning in two batches if necessary.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.  Add the chopped bell peppers, onion, and garlic to the same pan and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Add the wine, crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, garlic, chili flakes, and oregano.  Add the chicken pieces back to the pot, and the mushrooms,  making sure the sauce covers everything.  Bring the pot to a simmer and cook, covered,  over low heat for about 1 1/2 hours.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serves 4 generously.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

 

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Mushrooms and Fried Onions

Our life as newlyweds began in Toronto.  There I was, 21 years old, living in a strange city in a foreign country.  I had no idea how to cook, but coming from a family with some very good cooks and bakers, I was determined to learn.  I remember exploring various neighborhoods around the city, my way of getting comfortable, and discovering shops that were more intimate and personal than the local supermarket.  Slowly I developed my  list of “favorites.”  I fell in love with Kensington Market and regularly went there to buy cheese, and sweet butter, cut from an enormous block on top of the counter and wrapped in wax paper,  on Sunday mornings I went to Gryfe’s for bagels, very different from the kind I grew up with but perfect when toasted, and Daiter’s for herring in cream sauce or smoked fish.  On occasion we would go to Markys for a deli sandwich (sadly no longer in business) and sometimes we would make a quick stop at United Bakers for Norm’s favorite local dessert, butter tarts,  a small, individual tart filled with a brown sugar and butter mixture that I prefer runny.

Last week Norm and I traveled to Toronto where we were joined by our sons.  We were there to celebrate my father-in- law Pinnie’s 93rd birthday and during our visit we managed to include a few short trips to our favorite haunts.  We went back to Kensington Market and saw the old cheese shops nestled among the new vegan hot spots and coffee bars, we went to Daiters and bought silky smooth Atlantic smoked salmon to put on our freshly purchased bagels from Gryfe’s.  Of course no trip to Toronto would be complete without at least one butter tart.  We spent time with my mother-in-law Lil, cooking and shopping.  She made stuffed cabbage and chremslech ( similar to a latke but made with leftover mashed potatoes) Norm baked Challot, which really do come out better on the East coast (is it really the water?) and I made Cholent for Shabbat lunch.

Each day we spent time visiting my father-in-law who was in good spirits.  My sons were very entertaining and their grandfather roared with laughter on more than one occasion.   Of course one of the first questions I asked Pinnie was about the food he was  served, and he responded by saying “everything is delicious.”  At the end of each visit we would say, “see you tomorrow” and Pinnie always responded by saying “I hope so.”  Just in time for Thanksgiving, we are so grateful that we were able to celebrate your 93rd birthday together and “hope” to come again next year for your 94th!

One more thing.  In those early days, no matter what I made, as long as it had fried onions, Norm thought it was delicious.  He still feels that way.  Like father, like son.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Mushrooms and Fried Onions

1 pound Brussels Sprouts, tip cut off.

2 large brown onions, chopped

16 oz. assorted mushrooms, sliced (I used a combination of shiitake and portobello)

1/3 cup olive oil

Using double blade, place Brussels Sprouts in food processor and pulse till shredded.  Set aside.  Chop onions in processor and place in frying pan with olive oil.  Allow onions to slowly cook over a low flame till golden brown.  Add sliced mushrooms to pan and sauté for about 10 minutes. Next add shredded sprouts and cook for about 3 or 4 minutes. Do not overcook. You want that beautiful green color and a little crunch.  Salt and pepper to taste. I put a generous amount of pepper in.  Serves 4-6

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breasts

New Year is approaching and during the course of the week we will greet both friends and strangers with wishes for a Happy New Year.  It is the time of year when we are filled with goodwill, and we extend the hope that a better year lies ahead for all of us.  It is the time of year when everyone is planning celebrations, large and small, simple or lavish, an opportunity to spend an evening with people you care about.

Some of my best memories of New Year’s Eve are of simple dinner parties, like those that my parents hosted when I was growing up in The Bronx.  The silver chafing dishes were polished and shined, the dining room table was beautifully set, and my mother would prepare some of my favorite dishes.  Tender sweetbreads in a mushroom sauce, miniature matzoh balls in mushroom gravy, and farfel with caramalized onions and mushrooms. (it was not till I began writing this post that I realized how many of the dishes included mushrooms)  One wonderful New Year’s Eve was spent in Philadelphia with my cousin Micheline and her family.  Even though there were just a few of us, Micheline wore a full length gown and a tiara on her head. We sat on the carpet in the living room around the coffee table, and dined on cheese, baguettes and champagne.  No matter where I was, we always watched the ball fall in Times Square and listened to Guy Lombardo’s rendition of  Auld Lang Syne, .  That melody speaks volumes.

To all of you, and to my family (old and new) and my friends, I wish you all a very Happy New Year.

Mushroom Stuffed Chicken

There is no recipe for this, but it is simple to make. No exact measurements are required.

Pounded chicken breasts

Shiitake mushrooms

Garlic

Italian Parsley

3-4 Tbs Olive Oil

Eggs

Bread Crumbs

salt and pepper to taste.

Slice Shiitake mushrooms and sauté in olive oil along with minced garlic and chopped parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook till mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat.  Fill each flattened chicken breast with some of the mixture and roll up. Dip in beaten egg and then seasoned bread crumbs.  Return to hot frying pan to which you have added some extra olive oil. Fry till golden on both sides.  Place frying pan in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes till chicken is cooked through. Slice on the diagonal and serve.

Enjoy,

Irene

Mushroom Kugel

 

My mother would saute mushrooms, onions, celery and carrots and either mix them with challah for her Thanksgiving stuffing or with matzot during Passover.  It is a very simple combination but if the onions are caramelized to the perfect stage and the mushrooms are flavorful, you end up with a really good kugel.

Manya’s Mushroom Kugel

1 1/2 lbs. brown mushrooms or a combination of mushrooms
2 large onions
2 large carrots
2 stalks celery
4 eggs, beaten
6 Matzot
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil

Dice onions and sauté in olive oil over low flame until a rich golden color, this can take up to 30 minutes.
Dice carrots and celery and add to onions and sauté for about ten minutes until tender.  Raise heat slightly, add sliced mushrooms and cook an extra 15 minutes.  Allow to cool and place in large mixing bowl.
Soak Matzot in warm water until soft.  Then squeeze matzot and add to mushroom mixture.  Add beaten eggs, salt and pepper.
Prepare 9×13 pan by adding 2-3 Tbsp oil, make sure bottom and sides are well greased and place in 350 degree oven for several minutes.  Take out and immediately pour in vegetable mixture.  Brush with olive oil.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Enjoy,
Irene