Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

This is a post from last Thanksgiving but some of you are new to Bamitbach and I wanted to introduce you to my standard dessert for the holiday.  I have been in NYC for the last five days and have had many wonderful experiences, meals, and moments.  I am thankful that I was able to spend the days leading up to Thanksgiving with all of my children as well as my sister and brother-in-law.  I look forward to being home and celebrating with the family and friends who can join us, but I am equally happy knowing that those who can’t join us are, thankfully, in good hands.   Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

November 2010

My sister recalls that I came home from Kindergarten and told my mother that I wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving.  At that point my parents and sister would have been living in the United States for about seven years,  and were open to the idea of celebrating this “American” holiday.  That was the beginning of a new tradition for our family, Thanksgiving dinner.

I remember my mother roasting a turkey, prepared the same way she prepared roast chicken for Shabbat, with lots of garlic, salt and pepper.  She made candied sweet potatoes, a dish she learned from my cousin’s housekeeper Edith, and a delicious stuffing made with challah, mushrooms, celery, carrots and caramelized onions.  It was sort of an Eastern European Thanksgiving dinner.  No guests, no fanfare, no cornucopia, but I always found it special and meaningful.

As a child of immigrants, the Thanksgiving narrative of people who came to America searching for religious freedom always resonated with me.  As a child of survivors, I understood that my family had much to be thankful for.  It was not a story from a textbook, it was the story of my family.  America welcomed them and gave them a fresh start, shelter, the ability to live openly and proudly as Jews, and a place to put down roots and watch their families grow and flourish.  For each of those reasons, and more, I will always be thankful.

Our Thanksgiving dinner is very traditional, given some dietary restrictions.  We have mulled cider, Turkey, stuffing, corn bread, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and our favorite Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

3 1/2 cups flour

3 cups sugar

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

1 1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs, beaten

1 cup oil

2/3 cup water

2 cups canned pumpkin

1 12 oz. pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips, tossed with 1 tbsp flour

Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Combine eggs with oil, water and pumpkin and mix well. Stir into dry ingredients.  Fold chocolate chips in to batter.  Divide mixture among three greased loaf pans.  Bake at 350 for one hour or until toothpick inserted into loaf comes out dry.


Enjoy,

Irene

Gingerbread Cake

When we were growing up, it seemed that someone was always dropping in to visit with my mother.  They would sit at the kitchen table and talk, usually over a cup of coffee.  My mom’s closest friend, Fanny, would nibble on a spoonful of  jam instead of  a cookie.  Our lifestyle is not really conducive to dropping in on friends in such a casual way,  and so I was thrilled when my friend Lori came by last Sunday afternoon with a warm cake,  just out of the oven, and a book that she knew I would love.  We sat and chatted, and I was reminded of what we have lost in the shuffle of our busy schedules.  I miss dropping in on friends and I miss having friends drop in on us, but the sad part of the story occurred to me afterwards,  and that was that I never even offered her a cup of coffee.

Lori sent me the recipe along with a little explanation.

The recipe is called “Gingerybread” and is adapted (by me) from a lovely little breakfast/brunch cookbook from the Grant Corner Inn, a bed and breakfast located in a 106 year old Victorian house in Sante Fe, New Mexico.  It makes a large 10 x 14 inch cake that can easily serve more than 12 people.
Gingerybread
1 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup dark molasses
1 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
2 TBSP strong coffee
1 3/4 boiling water
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped candied ginger
Preheat oven to 325 and grease a 10 x 14 inch baking pan.
Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy.  Blend in eggs, coffee, vanilla, molasses and honey.  Stir in boiling water and set aside.
In a medium bowl sift together dry ingredients and then mix into liquids, blending well.
Fold in candied ginger. Bake at 325 for about 45 minutes or till top springs back when touched.
PS – The cookbook states that this recipe is similar to the way gingerbread is made in Scotland – dark and substantial.  My adaption was to omit the zest of an orange and substitute vanilla and coffee for 2 TBSP of brandy.
Note: This cake would be perfect for the holidays as an alternative to honey cake.  Lori halved the recipe without a problem and is experimenting with oil to make a pareve version.
Enjoy,
Irene

Succotash

Here are some of my memories of the 1960s.  Standing on a line that curved around the block as I waited to see West Side Story.  Watching American Bandstand on T.V. and then looking on as my sister practiced the dance steps using the refrigerator handle as her dance partner.  Seeing the Beatles for the first time on The Ed Sullivan Show, during which my mother remarked that they would “ruin America.”   (I think it had something to do with their long hair)  Watching the coverage of the anti-war rallies on the evening news and listening to my father as he ranted against the protesters.  It was not surprising that he thought his adopted country could no wrong.

Despite a world that was “rapidly changing,”  life in our home moved at a much slower pace.  Fads and trends were not supported in the Graf household and certainly our diets did not vary very much over the years.  (It was at least 20 years later when my Mom met her very first vegetarian, my husband)  With two children and a husband, no car, and few conveniences, my mother was too busy to spend her time worrying whether we needed more vegetables or fewer carbs.  Meals were balanced and colorful, dessert was never offered, but fruit was always available.  Basically as long as our diet included the two foods that my mother felt were critical to good health, she wasn’t overly concerned.  The items were milk and meat, but never served together of course.

Today as I walked through a local Persian market, the summer vegetables were in all their glory.  I couldn’t decide what to make so I picked a few vegetables of various colors and made a version of Succotash, a dish I never had growing up but SO American that my father would surely have approved.

Succotash (without the shell beans and adapted from Bobby Flay)

2 pounds Mexican Squash, cut in chunks

3 Tbs olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves minced garlic

1 red bell pepper, diced

4 ears of corn

3 Tbs lime or lemon juice

1 tsp cumin

2 Tbs cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in  olive oil till translucent.  Add minced garlic and cook for several minutes and then add diced red pepper, turning heat to high, allowing pepper to caramelize.  After about 5 minutes add the Mexican squash and cook for an additional 10 minutes on medium heat.  Cut kernels off husks and add to pan along with salt, pepper, and cumin.  Allow flavors to combine for several minutes and remove from heat.  Add lemon juice and chopped cilantro.  Serves 4-6

Enjoy,

Irene

Turkey Meatloaf

There are days when I arrive home wanting to prepare something quick and nourishing for dinner.  Turkey meatloaf fits the bill perfectly.  The inspiration for this recipe came from my colleague Linda, a remarkable woman with an effervescent personality.   Around the “coffee maker” we often discuss our children, husbands, and food, usually in that order.  Almost every night Linda goes home and cooks dinner for herself and her husband.  Not the”light” meal that one might expect of a weeknight, but roasts, ribs or chicken, all accompanied by sides and a homemade dessert.  According to Linda, “It isn’t dinner without dessert.”

Completely devoted to her family, Linda’s weekends are filled with family celebrations and outings, and although her children no longer live at home,  she continues to cook for a crowd.  Last week I had mentioned having 1 lb. of ground turkey in the fridge and Linda suggested that I make meatloaf, “something quick and easy.”  I discovered that Linda was also making meatloaf that night, using 10 pounds of ground beef!!!   That’s precisely what I love about her, embracing life to the fullest, Linda not only inspires me to cook, she inspires me to cook more, because who knows if someone will come by.

Linda’s meatloaf recipe is pretty basic.  What was unusual is that she uses oatmeal as her binder.  I loved the results.

Turkey Meatloaf

1 1/2  lbs. ground turkey

1 tsp kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

2 eggs

1 large brown onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup ketchup and an additional 1/4 cup for top of meatloaf

1/4 cup oatmeal

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a loaf pan and set aside. In a large bowl, mix ground turkey with remaining ingredients, leaving 1/4 cup of ketchup aside.  Mix well and pour mixture into loaf pan.  Spread remaining ketchup on top.  Bake for one hour.

Note: Try substituting oats with Matzoh Meal for Passover!

Enjoy,

Irene

 

 

Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges with Black Sesame Seeds

When I was growing up, the sense of community among apartment dwellers was clear.  The building that I lived in on the Grand Concourse functioned as a vertical village, with neighbors pitching in and helping one another.  People watched over each other’s children, helped out with errands, and some even divided their poultry order, as my mother and her closest friend Fanny did (the Pruzans took the dark meat while the Graf family preferred the white) for many years.

Last week I took my first trip to Houston, Texas, and felt that same sense of community.  Although the trip was short, the impressions were long-lasting.

As for the food, I had dinner at a Tex-Mex restaurant where I was introduced to queso, a warm, slightly spicy, cheese dip.  I tasted a pecan pie that may have been the best I have ever eaten, and a jalapeño cheese bread that was equally good.  Other Texas treats included candied pecans tossed in a salad, roasted sweet potato wedges topped with black sesame seeds, a warm pasta dish served in a poblano sauce, a King’s Cake, and an amazing version of strawberry shortcake served on a biscuit and smothered in Creme Anglaise.

In New York the feeling of community went along with a desire to be a “good neighbor.”  In Texas, there is the tradition of Southern hospitality.  My future daughter-in-law, along with her sister and parents, as well as their family friends, made us feel at home in a BIG way, Texas style.

Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges

4 medium sweet potatoes

2 Tbs water
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs sesame oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a cup combine the olive oil, brown sugar, rice vinegar, and water.  Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Cut off ends of sweet potatoes.  Slice sweet potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut each half on the diagonal into slices about an inch thick.

Pour brown sugar mixture over sweet potatoes, stirring so that they are all coated.  Place sweet potatoes on cookie sheet and roast till tender, about one hour.

Garnish with black sesame seeds.

Enjoy,

Irene

Meatballs (turkey) in Tomato Sauce

I must confess that there are many things that I love about Christmas.  I love the carols, the movies, and the wonderful decorations that announce the arrival of the holiday season.  My children had to get used to the fact that after Thanksgiving, my car radio was tuned to the station that played Christmas music, and the more sentimental the song, the louder I sang.

Growing up in The Bronx, my neighborhood was filled with Jewish and Italian immigrants, two groups that had a lot in common.  One of my closest friends was Donna Bartolini whose parents had come to New York from Sicily.  Donna and I were classmates and lived around the corner from each other.  If I stopped by after school and she wasn’t there, her mother thought nothing of giving me a shopping list and sending me off to the local Italian butcher to pick up ingredients she needed for dinner. (years later I realized that the random numbers listed on the back of the list was Mrs. B’s way of placing illegal bets)  There was always something wonderful cooking in Mrs. Bartolini’s kitchen, but what I remember most is the rich, thick tomato sauce that simmered for hours.  It was a kitchen you never wanted to leave, a kitchen so inviting that even Donna had a hard time coaxing me to her room.  I remember being invited for Christmas dinner, when the dining table was covered with pasta dishes, platters of sausage and peppers, cheesy lasagnas, and freshly baked breads to mop up the sauce on the bottom of the plates.  There was always a large bowl of meatballs in tomato sauce, the sauce that had cooked for hours.

To this day, when meatballs are cooking in my kitchen, the smell conjures up memories of my Italian neighbors in The Bronx.  On this December night,  my youngest son came home for dinner and was served meatballs and freshly baked bread that Norm made.  As we lovingly put away the Hannukiah, candles and dreidles, Christmas carols are playing on the radio in the background, and I smile at the memories.

Traditionally these meatballs were made with beef but I now often make a lighter version using ground turkey.

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

3 lbs. ground turkey  (or beef)

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 pinch red chili flakes

1 pinch dried oregano

1/2 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

4 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup bread crumbs

Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix well.  Make golf size meatballs and sauté in olive oil, browning both sides.

Tomato Sauce

1 large onion, diced

4 tbs olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

2 tbs tomato paste

1 tsp salt

1 sprig basil

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup dry red wine

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil till translucent. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste and sauté for several minutes. Add seasonings, water and wine and bring sauce to a simmer.  Gently place browned meatballs in sauce, cover pot and allow to cook for about 1 1/2 hours on a low flame.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

 

 

Latkes

The Chanukah of my childhood bears little resemblance to how we now celebrate the holiday.  Growing up there were three ways that a visitor to our home would recognize that it was Chanukah.  Latkes were being fried in the kitchen, a Hanukkiah was prominently placed on the dining room table, and a dreidel or two were lying around the living room.  There were no decorations strung in the apartment, and no wrapped presents to open.  Before the candles were lit, we said the brachot and sang a song or two.  We were then given gelt, money to spend as we wished, (I still remember the white go-go boots that I bought at Alexander’s on Fordham Road) and that was our gift.

Looking back, I don’t feel that the significance of the holiday was in any way diminished, despite the modest way in which it was celebrated. I loved Chanukah and anticipated its arrival each year.  I would come home from school and run to choose the candles, carefully selecting colors and creating patterns.  Alternating blue and white candles one night, assorted colors on another, and my favorite, an entire Hanukkiah filled with white candles.  Chanukah had no religious meaning or overtones in our home.  We knew about the miracle associated with the oil but my parents always emphasized the military victory.

When we were raising our children, Chanukah celebrations became much more elaborate, and the religious significance was emphasized rather than the military history.  There were always parties to host or attend, lots of gifts and decorations, lots of singing and lots of food.  I look forward to seeing the traditions that my children will embrace in their own homes, but for now I am happy to know that all of my children are either hosting Chanukah parties or participating in the celebration. That is the greatest gift.

No matter how we celebrated the holiday one thing always remained the same, the way we make latkes.  I make them exactly as my mother did during those early celebrations, sweet and simple, with a little sugar sprinkled on top.

Happy Chanukah to you and your families!


Latkes

4 large Russet potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks and placed in bowl of cold water.

1 large onion, peeled and cut into chunks

5 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup matzoh meal

salt to taste

Vegetable Oil
Pour enough oil into a large frying pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the pan.  In the meantime, place coarsely chopped potatoes and onion in food processor,  a few at a time, and process till fine.  (we do not use grated potatoes)  Pour into bowl and add beaten eggs, salt, and enough matzoh meal to bind mixture.  When oil is hot, place large spoonfuls of mixture in pan but do not crowd.  Fry about 4-5 latkes at a time.  Fry till golden and flip over. Serve straight from pan.

Enjoy,

Irene

Turkey Potpie

Thanksgiving is over.  In the past three days I have served a total of 41 guests at various times.  Now, my husband is on the way to the airport with two of my children who are heading back East, where they live.  My future daughter-in-law will be leaving tomorrow and I am already experiencing the ache that always fills the space they leave behind.  Still, I continue to be grateful, even days after Thanksgiving, that they still come home.

When I wasn’t entertaining, I was thinking about change.  In my last post, I wrote about having asked my mother to make Thanksgiving dinner.  This weekend, I sat and wondered how she felt about that request.  It never occurred to me that perhaps she felt hurt, sad, or worried that her child was going to grow up and become too American, rejecting the things she stood for.  Did she wonder why I wanted American food rather than her Eastern European fare?  Did she understand my wish to belong? Although I will never know how she truly felt, I must admit that she would have been right to worry.  The reason having American food was so important to me was the naïve belief of a child that it would define who I was, or at least who I wanted to be.

I have a “day after Thanksgiving” tradition.  I take all the leftover meat from the turkey and turn it into potpie.  Nothing in my family’s culinary background could have led me to this dish.  Potpie was just another step into an American life, a dish that is creamy, definitely not kosher (although I have adapted the recipe), and about as far away from a kugel as one could get.  Chopped bits of poultry swimming in sauce covered by a layer of pastry?  As an adult, I am much more comfortable with my background, embracing my history along with the food that goes with it.  Still there is a place inside me that just wants a piece of potpie.  I think my mother would approve, seeing that we can have it all.

Turkey Potpie

Use as much leftover turkey as you like, white and dark meat, diced

1 large brown onion, diced

2 stalks of celery, diced

1 carrot, diced

2 Tbsp oil

1 stick parve margarine

1/2 cup flour

6 cups chicken broth

salt and pepper to taste

Crust

1 sheet of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry, rolled out to 9 x 13 rectangle

In a large pot sauté chopped onion in oil for several minutes until onion is translucent.  Add celery and carrot and sauté an additional 5 minutes.  Remove vegetables from pot and set aside.  In the same pot, melt the margarine.  Add the flour and blend together over a low flame for 2-3 minutes.  Gradually add 6 cups of chicken broth, stirring constantly.  Season with salt and pepper. Add diced turkey and vegetables and cook for about 5 minutes.  Pour into a shallow 9 x 13 baking pan.  Cover with dough and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Serve hot.

Enjoy,

Irene

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

My sister recalls that I came home from Kindergarten and told my mother that I wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving.  At that point my parents and sister would have been living in the United States for about seven years,  and were open to the idea of celebrating this “American” holiday.  That was the beginning of a new tradition for our family, Thanksgiving dinner.

I remember my mother roasting a turkey, prepared the same way she prepared roast chicken for Shabbat, with lots of garlic, salt and pepper.  She made candied sweet potatoes, a dish she learned from my cousin’s housekeeper Edith, and a delicious stuffing made with challah, mushrooms, celery, carrots and caramelized onions.  It was sort of an Eastern European Thanksgiving dinner.  No guests, no fanfare, no cornucopia, but I always found it special and meaningful.

As a child of immigrants, the Thanksgiving narrative of people who came to America searching for religious freedom always resonated with me.  As a child of survivors, I understood that my family had much to be thankful for.  It was not a story from a textbook, it was the story of my family.  America welcomed them and gave them a fresh start, shelter, the ability to live openly and proudly as Jews, and a place to put down roots and watch their families grow and flourish.  For each of those reasons, and more, I will always be thankful.

Our Thanksgiving dinner is very traditional, given some dietary restrictions.  We have mulled cider, Turkey, stuffing, corn bread, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and our favorite Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

3 1/2 cups flour

3 cups sugar

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

1 1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs, beaten

1 cup oil

2/3 cup water

2 cups canned pumpkin

1 12 oz. pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips, tossed with 1 tbsp flour

Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Combine eggs with oil, water and pumpkin and mix well. Stir into dry ingredients.  Fold chocolate chips in to batter.  Divide mixture among three greased loaf pans.  Bake at 350 for one hour or until toothpick inserted into loaf comes out dry.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Enjoy,

Irene

White Bean Soup (Arbas un Kliskelach)

I just began reading a book about five immigrant families who lived in a tenement on the Lower East Side of New York at the turn of the century.   97 Orchard details the hardships that each group faced upon their arrival to the New World, and goes on to talk about the culinary influences that they had on the New York food scene.

The Lower East Side was one of the places that my mother took us shopping.  The streets were teeming with people going through tables piled high with merchandise, strategically placed outside of the merchants’ storefronts.  You could buy anything and everything in this relatively small area.  There were stores selling undergarments and socks, bags and luggage, silver stores filled with Kiddush cups and candelabras, and, of course, food vendors and restaurants.  Many of the signs were in Yiddish, the language of the Eastern European Jews who frequented the area around Orchard Street.  I remember having an occasional meal at Ratners, a large dairy restaurant known for their onion rolls and Kasha Varnishkes.  There was Yonah Schimmel, the tiny shop that offered a variety of knishes, beyond potato and cheese.  The Streit’s Matzoh Factory (still working on a pulley system) was on the Lower East Side as were several pickle vendors that also offered delicious pickled green tomatoes.  Of course, Russ and Sons (now Russ and Daughters) offered all kinds of dairy and smoked fish. We called it an appetizing store.  What an exciting and colorful way to spend the day.

In 97 Orchard, there is the recurring theme of assimilation, something every immigrant family faced at some point.  For me, the differences were magnified by what was waiting inside my brown lunch bag.  My lunch looked nothing like those of the “American” kids.  There it was, the unsightly wax paper folded over a substantial sandwich made with hearty rye bread, filled with sliced salami, bologna, tuna or egg salad.  The Americans would open their lunch bags and the difference was startling.  Delicate white bread sandwiches filled with just one slice of meat or cheese, maybe peanut butter and jelly, cut on a diagonal and wrapped in plastic wrap.  No strong smells, and no mess.  It is hard to believe that I could have possibly preferred eating Wonder Bread, that generic loaf that formed a doughy mass and stuck to the roof of your mouth.  It stems from the need to belong, to be accepted and welcomed in to the larger society.  At some point I realized that rye bread was earthy and hearty and delicious and that garlicky salami is superior in every way to a square slice of orange cheese.

Next month I will be in New York City and my sister and I plan to go to 97 Orchard Street, now The Tenement Museum.  We may walk over to Yonah Schimmel and have a knish with mustard, stop by the Pickle man, go to Russ and Daughters, and embrace the wonderful foods of our childhood.

This simple soup was a staple in our home.

White Bean Soup

1 lb small lima beans, soaked overnight

2 quarts water or pareve chicken stock

1 brown onion, left whole

1/2 stick butter

salt and pepper to taste (should be very peppery)

1 package small square noodles, cooked according to directions on package.

Place beans,  onion and water in large pot.  Add salt and pepper.  Cover pot, bring to a boil and then lower heat.  Cook soup for about an hour and a half or till beans are tender.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Remove onion, and add butter and noodles to soup.  Serve hot.  Serves 6

Enjoy,

Irene