Peanut Butter Cookies

On the corner of our apartment building was a candy store.  It was the typical corner store of that period (1950s) with a counter and bar stools where you could order your soda fountain treats.  I would often stop in after school or on the weekend and buy a candy bar.  My all time favorites were Baby Ruth or Chunky, but I also liked anything made with peanut butter.  Butterfingers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Mary Janes, James Peanut Butter Chews and Abba-Zaba bars.  My parents never ate peanut butter so I have no idea where I developed a taste for it. (although my father did discover peanut butter in his 80s and decided that it was perfectly paired with sliced tomatoes)  Like many foods there are two sides to the peanut butter debate, those who prefer the creamy variety (my daughter) or the crunchy type (me.)  The wonderful thing about eating peanut butter is that with one bite you are transported  right back to your childhood when life was messy, gooey, salty and sweet, just as it should be.

Here is the classic recipe for peanut butter cookies. You can use any variety of peanut butter, I used extra crunchy.

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 1/2 cups Skippy extra crunchy peanut butter

1 stick sweet butter at room temperature

1 cup brown sugar (packed)

1 large egg

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl sift together baking powder and flour.

In a large bowl, combine and beat sweet butter, sugar, and peanut butter.  Add lightly beaten egg and mix.  Slowly add flour mixture.

Using slightly less than a tablespoon per cookie, roll dough into balls and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Press down gently to flatten. Then using the tines of a fork make your cross-hatch pattern on top of each cookie.  Cookies should be about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake for about 15 minutes or till golden brown.

Enjoy,
Irene

Sautéed Fillet of Sole

Tonight is Tisha B’Av, a fast day.  Admittedly it is a day that I struggle with, but not my husband Norm.  He will be home any minute and will want to eat and run off to shul. That meant preparing a light and easy meal.

Fish is something that I enjoy on occasion but certainly never have a craving for.  I just can’t get excited over salmon the way I can over a beautiful thick steak or a perfectly prepared lamb chop.  There is one fish dish that I really enjoy, sautéed fillet of sole.  All you need is fresh fish from a reliable fish market, good quality butter and lemon.

For those of you observing, I wish you an easy fast.

Sautéed Fillet of Sole

1 lb. fillet of sole

1/2 cup flour seasoned well with salt and pepper

3 Tbsp butter

Dredge sole in seasoned flour and shake to remove excess.

Melt butter in large sauté pan over medium heat. When butter sizzles, add sole and cook about 4 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side. Put on platter and drizzle with fresh squeezed lemon.

Serves 3-4

Enjoy,

Irene

Tongue

When life feels stressful we often think about simpler times.  I think about growing up in the 1950s and although, admittedly, I was very young, my impression was that life was uncomplicated, relaxed, and good.  I am sure that my parents had worries and struggles but they and my older sister protected and sheltered me, and I am grateful to be left with memories that are positive and rose-colored.  I had the freedom and luxury  to be a kid.  My friends and I ran around the Grand Concourse after school and nobody seemed to worry about where we were or who we were with.  Both adults and children had a sense of security and a basic belief that all was well with our world.

Even food was less complicated.  Daily, my mother would go to the market, pulling her shopping cart behind her, and return home with the ingredients she needed for that night’s dinner.  Every afternoon she would prepare either one entrée or two, depending on what she was serving.  As the “baby” and a fussy eater, there were certain things I would not eat, so my mother would make a separate entrée for me. For example, my family loved organ meats. I don’t  know if that was a function of economy, or of having lived in Paris for five years, but  my mother would often prepare brains, liver, sweet breads, pancreas and tongue. Brains were mushy, a consistency that I still dislike, liver was liver, pancreas had the texture of a sponge, but tongue… that was delicious. I loved everything about its’ delicate flavor and soft creamy texture.  I remember watching the tongue come out of the pot, this enormous version of the one in my mouth.  How could I not be impressed!   Tongue makes a statement.  My job was to peel the tough outer layer off the tongue. I  still love doing that!!

Tongue is readily available and you can buy veal or beef tongue. It is simple to prepare and great on a thin slice of rye bread with mustard.

Here is to simple times!


Tongue

3 -4 lb. Tongue

2 bay leaves

1 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns

2 Tbsp. coarse salt

Place tongue in pot with cold water to cover.  Bring water to a boil and cook for thirty minutes. Discard water and start again. Add fresh water to cover tongue and add bay leaves, salt and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook till tongue is tender. About 2 hours. Test tongue with a fork for tenderness.

Remove tongue from pot and when it is cool enough to handle, peel tough outer skin. Cool and refrigerate.

Enjoy,

Irene

Caramel Apple Tart

I attended a day camp called Funland during one summer, or maybe even part of a summer.  Most summers were spent in the “mountains” at a bungalow colony in upstate New York.  Typically these colonies were filled with Jewish women and children who were escaping the city’s heat and humidity.  We passed the time by playing: the women played cards and the kids played with each other.  We were always at the club house or at the pool, sitting in a garden glider (porch swing) or catching lightning bugs. Me, my cousin Mel, our friend Roz and her cousin.  Not much else was going on and we didn’t seem to mind.

My husband had a similar experience outside of Toronto (of course substituting the lakes for the mountains) at Lake Simcoe and Chrystal Beach on Lake Erie. Long lazy days on the shore.  He too never attended sleep away camp until he was old enough to be a counselor.  He then spent many summers on staff at a Young Judea Camp in Ontario and, then, one summer at Camp Ramah in Canada. The seed was planted.

In 1994 our daughter went to Camp Ramah www.ramah.org in Ojai for the first time.  I am not sure if she loved the camp as much as we loved having her be a part of Ramah.  We loved the site, Ojai, the campgrounds, the staff, the kids, and visitors day.  Our own memories receded as we saw the rich and rewarding experiences that Ramah offered. Well, among our three children, at least one has either been attending or working at Camp Ramah for over 15 years.  There is a specific place where we sat each year on Visitor’s Day, (up on the hill in front of the chapel) catching up with our family, friends and our children’s friends. We will miss it this year (none of our children will be there) but we still feel very connected to all that Ramah stands for. Our hope is that our children feel the same way.

I recently found out that Zach L., Camp Director and one of my favorite people, is an amazing cook and once a week prepares a meal for his hanhalla (senior) staff. Here is one of his recipes.

Caramel Apple Tart

Crust

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1/4 tsp coarse kosher salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut in small pieces

2 large egg yolks

Blend flour, powdered sugar, and salt in food processor.  Add butter and blend until texture is of coarse meal. Add egg yolks. Pulse till dough starts to form.  Gather dough and shape into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap and chill at least 1 hour. (Dough for tart crust can be made 1 day ahead and kept chilled.)

Caramel sauce

¾ cup (packed) dark brown sugar

¾ cup whipping cream

3 tbsp unsalted butter

Bring sugar, cream, and butter to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking constantly until sugar dissolves. Boil until caramel thickens enough to coat wooden spoon, whisking often, about 10 minutes. (Caramel sauce can be made 5 days ahead. Cover and chill. (Whisk over low heat until warm before using)

Filling

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

5-6 large McIntosh or Golden Delicious apples (about 2 ½ pounds), peeled, cored and quartered.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl and mix. Add apples and toss until evenly coated.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray tart pan with baking spray.

NOTE : You can either

1) Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Cut overhang even with the top of pan. Press sides of dough to bring 1/4 inch above sides of pan.

OR

2) Take refrigerated dough and press it in the pan.

Arrange apple quarters, cut side down, in circle around outer edge of pan, fitting snugly. Cut remaining apple quarters lengthwise in half and place in center of tart, fitting snugly.  Drizzle with 1/3 sauce.  Bake tart until apples are tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove tart from oven; brush with additional 1/3 caramel sauce. Cool tart to room temperature. Re-warm remaining caramel sauce and drizzle tart lightly with remaining 1/3 sauce.

Adapted by: Zachary L.

Enjoy,

Irene

Blintzes

I was 16 years old, it was my first trip away from home, and I was going abroad.  Although my parents had never been to Israel, they decided to send me on a summer program.  I was nervous and excited and had no idea what to expect.  I didn’t know anybody else in my group but I was confident that I was going to a place where I would feel comfortable.  My mother had two friends that she had known in Poland before the war but had not seen since 1945. Manya and Sonia both lived with their families on a moshav outside of Gedera called Meishar.  My mother asked me to go see them, she said they were like family.  I had to hitchhike into the moshav, another first, and when I was dropped off at Manya’s home, (same name as my mother) she looked at me as if she were looking at my mother, with recognition in her eyes.  Manya K. and Sonia U. were neighbors and their homes were  no more than 100 feet apart.  On that first of many visits they opened their homes and hearts to me. They fussed over me and told me stories and cooked and cooked and cooked.  I literally went back and forth between their homes all day long, each one beckoning for me to come over and have something to eat. Sonia U. would make blintzes for Aruchat Arba, afternoon tea, in such an effortless way that it made an impression on me that lasted till today.  It was hospitality at its best. Warm, inviting, and gracious.

Both women have passed away but their families are still on the Moshav,  and I still see Aaron and Rosie and their children whenever I go to Israel. We sit and tell stories and cook and eat.  They are like family.




Blintzes

Bletlech (Leaves)

3 eggs

1 3/4 cups milk

2 tbsp sour cream

pinch salt

1 cup flour

Beat eggs and add milk and sour cream. Slowly whisk in flour and pinch of salt and beat till batter is smooth.

Filling

1 lb. farmer’s cheese ( I prefer Friendship brand)

8 oz. small curd cottage cheese

1 tbsp sour cream

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg yolk (gives filling a buttery color)

dash cinnamon and salt

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Heat an 8″ omelette pan and grease with vegetable oil. (I like to put the oil on a paper towel which I use to grease the pan in between making each leaf) Heat pan and add slightly less than 1/4 cup batter, swirling pan so that  batter covers the bottom.  Fry for about 2 minutes or till there are bubbles forming and batter looks dry.  Turn leaf onto plate. Continue until batter is finished, stacking leaves. This should yield 15 leaves.

Spread leaves on dish towels and evenly divide filling among them. Fold and lightly saute blintzes in butter.

Enjoy,

Irene

Schav Borscht (Sorrel Soup)

Mother’s Day may feel like a Hallmark holiday but it does force us to stop whatever we are doing for a minute, an hour, or a day, and think about our mothers or our role as mothers.  My mother was a petite, olive-skinned woman with medium brown hair and the deepest set blue-grey eyes I have ever seen.  Those eyes had seen the best and the worst of humanity but in the end my mother chose life and all that it had to offer.  Nothing was more important to her than her family, her daughters, and especially her grandchildren.  She would kvell at their every achievement, smile when they smiled, and if they experienced a moment of sadness or pain, you could see the sadness reflected in those deep blue-grey eyes.  She was the embodiment of a yiddishe mamma.

As mothers, we all know that motherhood is much like a roller coaster ride, thrilling and frightening at the same time.  On this mother’s day I want to thank my husband Norm and my children, Shira, David and Micah for giving me the opportunity to experience the ride. Nothing could be better.

Michael Yanow, a friend and colleague, took this generational photograph of  his grandmother sitting at her vanity.
http://www.storiestoldbythecamera.com/?p=589

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!

Here is one of my Mom’s favorite cold soups.

Sorrel growing in my garden

Schav Borscht

1 lb. schav (sorrel leaves)

6 cups water

1 lemon, juiced

1 tsp salt

2 egg yolks

1/2  cup sour cream

Wash the sorrel well, removing the tough stems and chopping the leaves coarsely.

Bring the water to a boil, add sorrel, lower heat and cook for about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add salt. Slowly add lemon juice until the desired tartness is achieved.

In a small bowl beat the egg yolks well. Add a few tablespoons of the soup to the yolks and then stir yolks back into remaining soup. (Delete yolks if you are worried about egg related illnesses)

Whisk in 1/2 cup sour cream.

Chill and serve in a tall glass along with a bowl of hot buttered mashed potatoes.

Note: I wrote my post before I read this article but had to share the coincidence.  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/05/dining

Enjoy,

Irene

Stuffed Cabbage

Gefilte Kraut, Gelupsie, Holishskes, Stuffed Cabbage. This is not fast food, in fact I think making stuffed cabbage requires a kind of Zen approach to cooking.  I started making the rolls at 8:00 a.m. on Monday morning.  The cabbage has to be cooked and cooled and the meat mixture prepared.  I carefully peeled the cabbage leaves and placed them on dish towels that covered the breakfast room table to be sure that I had enough filling for each leaf. The stuffed cabbage rolls simmered on the stove top for an hour and then in the oven for several more hours until they were golden and tender.  My mother always served them over mashed potatoes with the cabbage perched on top and some of the juices poured over the dish.  For me the appeal of this dish is that you cannot rush the preparation, there are no shortcuts.  So when you want to make something warm and filling and are in the mood to spend some time in the kitchen, try making some gelupsie for your family.

Stuffed Cabbage

1 head cabbage, cored

Filling

1 lb. ground turkey OR 1 lb. ground beef

1 large brown onion, diced

2 eggs

2 Tbs ketchup

salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup cooked quinoa (this is instead of rice and I found that the meat mixture was more tender)

Sauce

1 large brown onion, diced

2 Tbs oil

leftover parts of cabbage

1 lemon, juiced

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup ketchup

2 cups water

2 large carrots, sliced

salt and pepper to taste

Boil cored cabbage in large pot till  leaves are very tender.  Allow to cool and gently separate leaves and lay on work surface. Prepare meat mixture and place a heaping tablespoon of meat in center of each leaf.  Fold by pulling bottom of leaf up over meat, then fold sides in and roll up.  Repeat with all the leaves.

Place diced onion and any bits of unused cabbage in large pot.  Place stuffed cabbage rolls, seam down, close together in pot. Add sauce, sliced carrots, cover and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for one hour.  Then place in 300 degree oven for an additional 1 1/2 hours, covered.  Uncover and bake an 30 extra minutes to brown. Serves 4-6

Enjoy,

Irene

Garlic Chicken

My mother made garlic chicken every Friday night for as long as I can remember.  She used the same rub on turkey, duck and Cornish hens, the only variation being the bigger the bird, the more garlic.
Bake the chicken in a large enough pan to hold quartered potatoes and baste chicken and potatoes with drippings.

Garlic Chicken
1 whole roasting chicken
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 Tbs oil
1 whole head garlic, peeled and minced

Combine spices in a bowl. Add minced garlic and oil to spices and blend together until you have a paste-like consistency. Rub the garlic mixture on the inside and outside of chicken. Let marinate in fridge overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place chicken in baking dish, breast down, with about 1/2″ of water on the bottom of the pan. Bake for 30 minutes and then baste with liquid. Add more water to pan if necessary. When chicken is golden brown, turn chicken breast side up. Baste every 20 minutes or so.  Total baking time is about 1 1/2 hours.

Enjoy,
Irene

Oven-Fried Chicken Wings

My friend Fredda and I wrote this several years ago for a synagogue newsletter. We had decided to watch the Oscars together and serve this particular chicken. Well the Oscars are on Sunday so I thought it would be fun to revive the article and the recipe.

Project Chicken Soup is a wonderful organization.
To learn more about it visit www.projectchickensoup.org

2005 - When our children were very young and attending Jewish Day Schools, they were required to do community service. We all loved the idea, wanting to instill in them the value of “giving back”. Project Chicken Soup, an organization in L.A. that cooks and delivers hot meals to house-bound AIDS patients needed volunteers. Since our children were not old enough to drive themselves to the communal kitchen, going to Project Chicken Soup became a Sunday morning family activity. It allowed all of us to participate and gave us all a chance to cook! It was a labor of love.

A favorite family recipe came out of that experience.

Project Chicken Soup Chicken
Enough for one whole chicken cut in eighths or twenty wings.
l cup flour
1 cup cornflake crumbs
3 tbsp sweet paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Run chicken under water and pat till almost dry. Dredge chicken in crumb mixture and shake off excess. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees till crisp and brown. If you choose to make the wings then this dip is a great accompaniment.
Pareve Ranch Dressing (non-dairy) Mix an envelope of Lipton Kosher Pareve Ranch Mix with one container of Tofutti Brand Sour Supreme (a pareve sour cream substitute). Stir well.

Enjoy,
Irene