Linda’s Sweet Potato Pie

photo-24Norm said that the freezer is full, no room to fit another thing.  We are one week away, my Chanukah shopping is finished, the gifts are wrapped, the menus planned for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night.  All that’s left is the turkey, the sides and two more desserts, a chocolate ginger cake and pumpkin chocolate chip bread.  Desserts are key on Thanksgiving, less so on Chanukah.  What’s not to like about a jelly doughnut?

Our traditional Thanksgiving dessert is pumpkin chocolate chip bread but we always have a pie, or two, as well.  My personal favorite is pecan pie, but since my kids never developed a taste for it, it fell off the menu years ago.  My daughter prefers fruit pies, I like pumpkin.  There is one pie that I have wanted to try for years and that’s Sweet Potato pie (Have you noticed that I love Southern food? Strange for a kid from the Bronx.)  Last week my friend Linda and I were discussing Thanksgiving menus when she told me she was preparing 60 sweet potato pies, using ready-made crusts.  We figured out how to cut her recipe down to enough filling for two pies and armed and ready, I went home and made them.

I brought one to a friend who had invited us for Shabbat dinner, and put the other in the freezer.  The pie was a hit, although the ready-made crust was not, a good lesson to have learned in advance of the holidays. When Linda asked how the pies turned out, I was happy to give her a glowing report.  The filling wasn’t overly sweet, the texture was perfect (Linda told me that she doesn’t like runny pies) and the flavor….Fall was in every bite.

Did I mention that Norm said there is no more room in the freezer?  There will be in about an hour.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Chanukah to all of you.  It’s been great getting all of your comments.  Can’t wait to hear how it all turns out.

Sweet Potato Pie

Filling for two pies.

7 small red fleshed sweet potatoes

1 stick margarine

2 tsp vanilla

2 heaping tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp allspice

1/3 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 Tb flour

3 eggs

1/2 cup unflavored soy milk

Preheat oven to 375.  Boil sweet potatoes in their skins till soft.  Then remove from water, wait till they are cool enough to handle and peel. Linda said to then place the peeled potatoes on a dish in the oven for about 10 minutes, removing excess moisture.   Place sweet potatoes in bowl and mash, then add melted butter,  spices, vanilla, flour, sugars, beaten eggs, and soy milk.  Place mixture in food processor for a minute or two just to smooth out.  Pour into pie shells and bake for about 45 minutes.  I have included a basic pastry crust below.

Enjoy,

Irene

Pastry

1 1/2 sticks butter (or pareve margarine)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tb sugar

2-3 Tb ice water  (VERY IMPORTANT)

Cut cold butter or margarine into cubes and place in bowl of food processor.  Add flour and sugar.  Start processor, pouring ice water through feeder tube but only enough for dough to gather into a ball.  Remove dough, wrap in Saran and refrigeration for two hours or up to two days.  Try to handle dough as little as possible.  Roll out on lightly floured board and place in pie dish.

Mini Sweet Potato Latkes

photo 3-1I always drew inside the lines, one of the reasons that I loved Paint by Number as a child.  My coloring books were neat and orderly, and the colors I chose were dictated  by convention,  no blue haired girls or purple suns in sight.  Although I took art classes all through high school, and worked hard on my portfolio, I wasn’t accepted by the one school I had hoped to attend, Parsons School of Design.   I accepted the fact that although I might have had the skill, I didn’t have the creativity.  For the most part, I am still that person.  I rely on cookbooks, especially for baking, I sketch from photographs, I follow rules.  So when my cousin Dottie asked me for a recipe for sweet potato latkes, I felt challenged.  I didn’t see any point in looking up a recipe on-line and sending it to her, she could do that herself, so I decided to see what I could come up with.

I spent hours thinking about how to make the latkes, and the thought process went something like this.  If I used my traditional latke recipe, which involves pulverizing the potatoes, then the result might be more like a sweet potato pancake.  If I only used grated sweet potatoes,  I was concerned that the latkes would be too lacy in texture, and not substantial enough to hold together.  In the end I decided to combine both kinds of potatoes and both methods.  Green onions replaced brown onions, and panko crumbs were used in place of matzoh meal.

The latkes came out light and fluffy and held together well, no small feat when frying anything that’s been shredded. After having eaten the first one plain, I thought it needed a little something to enhance the flavor of the sweet potato, so I drizzled some honey over the next one, and that gave the latke just the right amount of sweetness.  I think I’ll serve them with some Tofutti sour cream as well.

I have no plans to toss out my cookbooks, and I will most likely always draw inside the lines, but the upcoming joint celebration of Thanksgiving and Chanukah offers a great opportunity to try new things.  Just one more reason to be grateful.  Dottie, what’s next?

Mini Sweet Potato Latkes

1 russet potato, peeled and pureed in food processor (do this last so the potato stays as white as possible)

1 sweet potato, finely grated

2 scallions, thinly sliced

3 eggs

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup Panko crumbs

Canola oil

Place grated sweet potato in a large bowl and add eggs, salt, baking powder, panko crumbs, and green onions.  Process white potato and stir in.  Heat about 1 inch of oil in a large frying pan and using a spoon, drop small amounts of mixture into sizzling oil.  Cook till golden and then flip.  This made 21 mini latkes.

Enjoy,

Irene

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  

Garlic Turkey

At 5:40 this morning we drove our friends to the airport.  They were flying to Boston to be with their “East coast” family for Thanksgiving.  On Wednesday we will return to LAX to pick up my daughter, and on Thursday to pick up my youngest son.  It’s the wonderful pull of Thanksgiving, being with the family and hanging out in kitchens where the smells are familiar.  Today I started baking, and so this morning my kitchen smelled like cinnamon and allspice from the pumpkin breads in the oven.  This afternoon it smelled of apples and dried cherries baking inside puff pastry squares that I folded into individual turnovers.  On Thanksgiving day the kitchen will smell like the mulling spices simmering in the pot of apple cider on the stove top, but as soon as the fridge door is opened,  the predominant smell will be the garlic that was rubbed into the turkey on Wednesday morning.  That specific smell of garlic-covered poultry is embedded in my memory because it is the smell that I most closely associate with my mother’s kitchen.  The smell that signaled it was Shabbat,  Yontif, and yes, Thanksgiving.  On Thursday the kitchen will smell both savory and sweet, depending if you are  standing near the oven or closer to the kitchen table covered with desserts.  I love the old recipes combined with an occasional new one, it sets the mood and gives me the perfect opportunity to remember and be thankful for what we had, what we have, and what we look forward to.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Garlic Turkey

Mixture for a 15 pound turkey

1 Tb kosher salt
1 Tb. paprika
2 tsp. pepper
1/3 cup  olive oil
2 whole heads garlic, peeled and minced

Mix all ingredients together until you have a paste-like consistency.  It should be red from the paprika and thick, almost like tomato paste.  Rub the garlic mixture on the inside and outside of the turkey and let marinate in fridge overnight.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place turkey in a roasting pan, breast down, with about 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.  Lower heat to 350 degrees.  Continue to add liquid and baste about every 30 minutes.  When turkey is golden brown, turn breast side up and finish roasting. Total baking time is about 3 hours depending on size of the bird.

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

 

Winter Squash filled with Garbanzo Beans, Dried Cranberries, and Caramelized Onions

If  you are the kind of person who looks for changes that occur with each season, even subtle changes, you might notice that the leaves are not as bright as they were during the summer.  Their beauty is not in any way diminished, it is just different.  The Fall palette is everywhere.  Inside my home, autumn is reflected in the color of the tablecloths, candles, floral arrangements, and even in the foods that come from the kitchen.  The bright greens, reds, and yellows of summer vegetables are gone, replaced with oranges, purples, burgundy, and softer shades of green.  The youthfulness of summer is just a memory, overshadowed by a more mature Fall season, a season that presents us with a range of colors, a more complex season.  We leave a certain kind of fun behind, but in its’ stead, we welcome inspiration.  Who can help but sigh when looking out over the Hudson River Valley,  seeing shades of every color, mixed together by Mother Nature, our greatest artist.  We attempt to duplicate her sense of color in our fall kitchen.  We roast root vegetables that mimic the purple and orange leaves that take our breath away, we braise stews and large cuts of meat, reminiscent of the earthy tones of fall, flecked with herbs, like leaves still clinging to the trees.

The shift comes in other ways as well. We slowly move away from outdoor activities to puzzles and board games that we can play in the quiet and warmth of our homes.  Beach Boys give way to “Autumn Leaves.”   I begin to think about new dishes using this palette, celebrating the new season, and welcoming it into our garden, our home, and our landscape.  Like a friend I haven’t seen for a while, I can’t wait to spend time with her and see what we can create, together.

                                                                            Scenes from The Hudson River Valley

Winter Squash Baked with Garbanzo Beans and Dried Cranberries

One large piece of  winter squash, cut, and hollowed it.

2 Tsp cinnamon

1 Tb olive oil

Mix oil and cinnamon and rub into the entire inside surface of the squash.  Bake on parchment paper lined cookie sheet at 350 degrees till flesh is easily pierced with a knife.  About 30 minutes.

Filling

4 brown onions

1/3 cup olive oil

1 cup dried cranberries

1 large can garbanzo beans, drained

2 tsp honey

Pomegranate Molasses

Slice onions in wedges and place in frying pan with enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes.  Drain onions and place  in dry frying pan with the olive oil.  Increase flame to medium heat, add honey, and allow onions to caramelize, lowering heat after several minutes till you achieve the desired golden color.  In a large bowl combine garbanzo beans, dried cranberries, and a dash of salt and pepper.  Add 2-3 Tb pomegranate molasses and adjust seasoning to taste.  Gently spoon filling into hollowed out squash,  gently cover surface with caramelized onions, cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes at 350.  Great side dish for brisket or roast chicken.   Serves  6-8

Enjoy,

Irene

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