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





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