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May 27, 2020
Irene Saiger

5 comments

Rosette di Pasta (pasta roses)

It’s been almost three months since we’ve been sheltering at home, and I thought I would share what has become one of the highlights of this crazy time.  I have started following various chefs who are posting cooking demonstrations from the comfort of their home kitchens, sometimes surrounded by their families.  Watching Massimo Bottura almost on a daily basis, and seeing his son who always shows up in his pajamas, his wife who serves as his sous chef, and his daughter who does the filming, feels as close to being invited to a dinner party as I could hope for.  Recently my daughter and I joined Chef Samin Nosrat on Instagram for the Great Lasagne bake-off and we both sat in our respective homes, drinking wine and listening to Samin as she fielded questions from participants and talked about her life.  And now, for the past ten days I have been following The Great Big Jewish Food Fest, which has been an incredible experience, and one I especially recommend if you enjoy learning about Jewish food from around the world.  It’s been such fun watching chef Fanny Gerson make her family recipe for chilaquiles, and then “having tea” with cookbook author Claudia Roden. 

On one  recent episode, Massimo Bottura made Rosetta di Pasta, something I had never before seen.  Similar to lasagne but rolled up so that it looks like a rose, I hoped he would share that recipe, but he didn’t.  So, this morning, based on what I had in my fridge, my pantry, and my garden, I came up with this version. This has been my silver lining, my inspiration,  that watching a family cook together on Instagram provided me with an idea that translated into a meal for my own family. 

One of the many wonderful things I heard during a class from the GBJF was a quote by someone in the food world, ” A recipe without a story is just calories.”  For today, this is my story.  What’s yours?

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Rosette di Pasta

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a small 8 x 8 pan with tall sides to support the pasta rolls. I used a loaf pan.

12 sheets dried lasagne noodles

Simple Tomato Sauce

1-28 can diced tomatoes

3 Tbsp butter

2 cloves garlic

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 tsp chili flakes

Simmer for 20 minutes and let cool, then blend. 

Filling

15 oz whole milk ricotta

1 bunch fresh spinach or any greens of your choice, blanched, chopped and then squeeze excess water out.  I combined greens from a farm box that I can’t identify, and sorrel from my garden.

1/2 cup shredded parmesan

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp chili flakes

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Take 12 sheets of lasagne noodles and lay them in a roasting pan.  Pour boiling water over them so they are submerged for about 15 minutes. Then carefully separate and spread on table or counter.  In the meantime mix ricotta with salt, pepper and chili flakes.  Add chopped greens, cheeses, garlic, and taste to adjust seasoning.  Take a heaping tablespoon of filling, and place some in  the center of each lasagne noodle to make sure you have enough for all.  Then using the back of a spoon spread cheese mixture over the length of the noodle.  Gentle roll up and place in  greased pan.  Pour sauce over top.  Sprinkle with mozzarella and parmesan.

Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes or till top is golden brown and crispy.

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Chag Sameach!

Enjoy,

Irene

 

 

April 27, 2020
Irene Saiger

2 comments

Challah

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I have been making this particular recipe for over 35 years, since my daughter Shira was in pre-school and Rosa, one of the Moms, shared it with me. I used to make challah fairly regularly when the kids were growing up, but then Norm started making it, and I pretty much stopped, other than for the High Holidays. Over the past few weeks, since this pandemic began, I have begun baking again. challah, cinnamon buns, bread, chocolate chip skillet cookies, biscotti, brownie meringues, and that’s just the baking. We are eating well,  maybe too well. That’s my way of coping, and clearly it’s the same for many others. Two weeks ago I did my first challah Zoom call with my daughter and some friends who also wanted to begin baking challah.

My daughter encouraged me to update this blog and repost.  if you haven’t made challah, this is a good, basic recipe. This  past Shabbat I added food coloring to the strands so they had a watercolor effect. I would love to hear how you are filling your time,  and if you are baking and want to share your recipes, we can post them here. If  you do use this recipe, please send photos of what your Challah looks like.  

I try and find inspiration wherever I can find it. I heard Julie Andrews interviewed and she shared something her Mom use to say to her during the war. “Everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end.” Stay home and stay safe.

January 21,  2010

The scent of dough rising in the kitchen can create so many associations.  It can bring us back to the bakeries we frequented as children, holding on to our mothers’ hands, and eating the sprinkle cookie given to us by the woman behind the bakery counter.  It can remind us of a flour covered apron worn by a grandmother making Challah.  My own mother would make blueberry buns from blueberries that I collected with my sister near my Tanta Maricia’s house in Lakewood, New Jersey.  There is something special about working with yeast, it has that distinctive lifelike quality and scent, always recognizable, like an old friend in the kitchen.  My husband has recently started making home-made bagels, hazelnut flutes and artisanal French breads.  They are wonderful, wheatey, warm and yeasty.
January, even in California, is a perfect time to bake.  A warm kitchen is so inviting so go ahead and create a memory that your children will cherish. The scent of yeast.

Here is my tried and true recipe for challah.  Be creative and add some dried cranberries, some chocolate chips, some dried figs or dates and most of all, have fun.

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IMG_1267Challah
½ cup vegetable or canola oil
3 tsp table salt
¾ cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
½ cup cold water
2 packages dried yeast or 4 1/2 teaspoons
1/3 cup warm water
3 eggs
7-8 cups all purpose flour

1 egg, beaten for brushing challah.

Dissolve yeast in 1/3 cup warm water along with a pinch of sugar, and proof for several minutes till bubbly.  Put oil, salt and sugar in a large bowl, add 1 cup boiling water and stir till sugar is dissolved.  Then add ½ cup cold water and stir.  In a small bowl beat 3 eggs and add to cooled oil mixture. Then add yeast and stir.  Add up to 7 cups of flour, one at a time, and stir after each cup.  Add only as much flour as you need to get the right consistency (firm enough to form a ball without being too sticky).  Put dough on floured board and knead for about 10 – 15 minutes. Surface of dough should have a sheen when ready.
Place dough in lightly oiled bowl and rotate so the entire ball of dough is coated , then cover and let rise until doubled, about two hours.  Punch down and knead gently for several minutes.  Divide and make into any shape you like and place on parchment paper covered baking sheet, lightly greased.  Brush with beaten egg.  Let stand for about 45 minutes, or till doubled in size.  Makes 2 large challahs or four medium sized.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes or until brown and also tap bottom of Challah to see if you get a hollow sound.

Enjoy,

Irene

April 6, 2020
Irene Saiger

2 comments

Potato Leek Soup

60729597842__F47CBDC5-6178-4229-B9E0-5453E6E38F8A Passover will be unlike anything that most of us have ever experienced before.  This is what it looks like in my kitchen, so far.  I am cleaning, but not with my usual zeal. I have a fair amount of kosher L’Pesach products, but this year I will be forgiving, and will use substitutions, within reason.  And I am cooking, but not creating.  For me this Pesach is about basics. Over 30 years ago I helped work on a cookbook for my kids’ day school, Sinai Akiba Academy.  It was titled Pesach Potpourri and my old stained and coverless copy comes out of the closet every year.  Yes the recipes are dated and pretty standard, but right now it’s all I need, and this year it will be my main source for Passover cooking.
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Last week I placed two orders of potatoes by mistake, and ended up with 15 pounds.  Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a hardship for someone whose parents were Polish.  I will be serving them mashed, fried and in simple frittatas, but this week I made a big pot of potato leek soup, a standard recipe that I’ve made for years.  I didn’t have leeks so I had to substitute onions. I didn’t have cream, so I used milk, and I decided to make it a little healthier by throwing in some spinach and broccoli.  It’s great soup for Passover because potatoes, and leeks or onions, seem to be plentiful.  It can be served cold, warm, or even room temperature.  I prefer it on the thicker side but you can add as much cream or milk as you want to thin it out.  In Pesach Potpourri there is a similar recipe that calls for 2 cups of grated Cheddar to be added before serving.  It’s a recipe that’s forgiving, and this Passover we could all use some of that.  Chag Sameach.
Basic Potato Leek Soup
4 Tablespoons sweet butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 Leeks, trimmed down till light green part, thinly sliced OR 2 large onions, sliced
3 large Russet potatoes, peeled and diced
5 cups of pareve chicken stock or water
1/2 cup cream or milk
salt and pepper to tast
Add any veggies you want, I added spinach and broccoli.
In a large pot, over a low flame, saute leeks or onions in butter and oil for about five minutes. Add potatoes and broth and simmer till potatoes are very tender, about 30 minutes.  Allow to cool and puree with an immersion blender.  When soup has completely cooled down, add some milk or cream, and adjust seasoning.
Enjoy,
Irene

March 24, 2020
Irene Saiger

2 comments

Cinnamon Rolls

IMG_1294Over the last few weeks, there has been a noticeable shift in my approach to cooking.  Growing up, after having a day or two of leftovers my Mom would toss them out and declare she had eaten enough bad food in her life.  She didn’t repurpose food, she never froze leftovers, frugality was not part of her vocabulary when it came to food.  That’s how I am in general.  But now I feel like I’ve taken on a bit of a wartime mentality.  I am trying to use everything up and make sure nothing goes to waste.  I’ve been blanching vegetables to freeze for later use (just in case), making stocks that I can add different ingredients to the next day, cooking pots of beans that I serve with rice for dinner, and with eggs, melted cheese and hot sauce for breakfast, baking breads, zucchini muffins, corn muffins, pie crusts, and even cinnamon buns.
When I cook with my grandchildren, I always tell them that adding a “pinch” of something means “not too much and not too little, but just enough”.  That’s my new mantra, I try and be productive, and be forgiving when I’m not.  But at the end of the day, it’s nice to sit down with a homemade cinnamon bun, just a little something sweet, not too much and not too little, but just enough.
Stay home, stay healthy.
This recipe is so easy, I’ve already made it twice in the past week.  I’ve stuck to the original but you can play with the filling and add nuts, use a different type of sugar, or even try a savory filling.
Cinnamon Rolls  from Taste of Kosher

1 cup warm water

1 tablespoon instant dry yeast

2 tablespoons white sugar

3 tablespoons oil

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups all-purpose flour

Filling

1 cup brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1/4 cup oil

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour warm water, yeast and sugar into the bowl of a mixer.  Let sit for a few minutes until the yeast starts to bubble.  Add oil, egg, salt, and flour. Using the dough hook , mix till dough is smooth but still sticky.  Cover the bowl with a damp towel and put in a warm place. Let it rise until it’s doubled. Punch dough down and put on a flour-dusted surface. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle.

Combine brown sugar and cinnamon.  Brush the dough with the oil and sprinkle entire surface with the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Starting with the longer side, roll the dough tightly.  Use a sharp knife, cut into 12 pieces. Place the rolls, cut side up, on a lightly greased piece of parchment paper in a 9 x 13 pan.  Cover with a damp towel and put in a warm place. Let it rise till almost double in size.  Bake for about 20 minutes.  Do not over bake.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

March 15, 2020
Irene Saiger

4 comments

Simple Loaf Bread

IMG_1256 (1)Just like many of you, I am staying home, trying to do the right thing, and keep myself and others healthy.  After about four days of reading, watching TV,  and worrying, not in that order, I decided to take on some “projects” to distract myself and be productive at the same time.  I actually spent time thinking of something to do that would be easy and fun.  I decided to bake bread.  I am not a seasoned baker so I found a recipe that was incredibly easy to make and produced 4 loaves, enough to share, hoping it would help us avoid the temptation of going to a bakery or market to pick up “a loaf.”

I thought the texture was excellent. One of my sons  said it had a “perfect crumb” but crust needed work.  My other son called it “white bread” which it is, but still a far cry from Wonder Bread.  Anyone who knows my children, won’t be surprised at their high standards, but I am here to tell you to make it!!!!  It is so easy, I plan to make it again tomorrow and maybe try and mix it with some rye flour or chop in some olives and rosemary.  In the meantime, I am also doing some Japanese mending and working on an Art Deco coloring book, I kid you not.  More baking to come, and maybe even homemade pasta because there can never be too many carbs in a crisis.

I am sure that none of it will be “perfect” but these days, what is.  Stay home, stay healthy.  Bake and cook, and share it.  We may not be able to see each other but we can cook for each other.  If anyone has flour to share, please feel free to drop some off.  Better yet, leave it on my doorstep.  Stay healthy! Stay home!

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Simple Loaf Bread (adapted from NYT)

2 packages dry yeast

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

3 cups warm water

6 1/2 cups flour

cornmeal

Preheat oven to 450.  Add yeast and salt to a large bowl.  Add lukewarm water and flour and mix thoroughly just till combined.  No kneading!!!  Cover with dishtowel and set aside for 2-5 hours. Prepare 2 sheet pans with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Then carefully cut dough into four portions and using a scraper, place one section of dough into your hands.  Round out gently into oval by pulling dough down from top and pinching under.  Imagine stretching plastic wrap over a bowl and sealing on bottom. Place 2 loaves on each sheet and allow to rest for 40 minutes. Then sprinkle with some flour and  slash top of each loaf  3  times with a very sharp knife.   Bake for 20 minutes.

Tip: My husband, who is a baker, suggested that you pre-heat a metal pan  (NOT GLASS) in the oven and then add about one cup of water to it when you place bread in the oven.  Place pan under the shelf that bread is baking on to give it a better crust.

 

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Enjoy,

Irene

December 26, 2019
Irene Saiger

10 comments

Ribollita

IMG_0382 (1)It is the fourth day of Chanukah and, for Los Angeles, it is cold, gray and dreary.  I decided that instead of latkes, I’ll make soup.  One of those hearty filling soups that only needs a good piece of bread to go with it,  and a glass of red wine.

I first tasted this dish many years ago on our first and only trip to Italy.  We had some amazing meals and I still remember the name of two restaurants that we dined in.  One was Cafe Zaza in Florence where we had bowls of Ribollita.  I am sure that was my first taste of kale, and it has never tasted as good as on that night.

So here I am sitting in my kitchen, apron on, radio playing Chanukah music, found by Alexa, with some Yiddish songs thrown in.  In between cooking, I am sewing a gift that was a special request. My Mom was a seamstress, and my Dad a tailor.  My uncle Charlie was a hat maker and my uncle Jack was a furrier.  It should come naturally to me but what I lack in talent, I make up for in determination.  Yes, I have turned into my Mom.  And because the kitchen smells so good and because this soup is so simple and easy to make, I thought you also may want to make it.  Let me know if you do. Wishing you all a Happy Chanukah and a Happy New Year, filled with peace, love and good health.  And don’t forgot the wine. L’Chayim.

Note:  I used pareve chicken broth for a meat meal,  but if I was serving dairy, I would definitely toss in a parmesan rind.

 

Ribollita 

4-5 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 large onion  ( 2 cups) finely diced

2 carrots diced (1 cup)

2 stalks celery diced ( 1 cup)

6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1 bunch Lacinato kale, leaves removed from stem and chopped

3 whole tomatoes removed from can, crushed and chopped

2 cans cannellini beans, drained

1/2 cup white wine

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

6 cups chicken stock (pareve) or vegetarian broth

1/2 bunch Italian parsly chopped

Saute onions in olive oil for about 10 minutes on a low flame.  Do not brown. Season with salt and pepper and add celery, carrots and garlic and continue to saute for another 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes, kale and wine and let flavors combine.  Add beans and broth.  Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for about 15 minutes.  Add chopped parsley.  I am going to serve with toasted thinly sliced baguette rubbed with fresh garlic and placed on top of  each bowl of soup.  If you want it even thicker, use an immersion blender and partially blend.  Or use it for a meat meal by adding Italian sausage.  Serves 4-6

 

Enjoy,

Irene

 

 

 

 

November 20, 2019
Irene Saiger

6 comments

Potato Pierogi

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Even though I should be focusing on Thanksgiving,  yesterday I spent three hours making Pierogi for the first time, and froze them to serve for Shabbat after the big day.  Having eaten some last week in NYC, they have been on my mind ever since. So after having our fill of food that we have adopted as our own,  that Shabbat it is back to Eastern Europe and dinner will include mushroom barley soup, pot roast, and pierogi filled with potatoes and caramelized onions.
Here is what I learned from this experience. Making pierogi is not something to do when you’re in a rush.  It requires patience to roll out the dough to the right thickness, it requires patience to allow the onions to caramelize till they are just the right color, and it requires patience to sit and spoon just the right amount of filling on to each round of dough.  This kind of cooking is nothing short of an act of love.  It’s the kind of cooking my Mom did almost every day, knowing that her food nurtured not only our stomachs but our souls.  And so even though this is not exactly Thanksgiving fare, for all that my Mom instilled in me about the importance of good food and feeding those I love, I am so thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!
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Filling
4 medium sized russet potatoes
1 large onion
canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
Dough
3 cups flour
Approximately 1/2 cup water
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1 tbs pareve margarine or butter
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Put flour in a large bowl and make a well in center.  Add margarine, egg, salt, and water. Using a fork slowly mix in flour until a dough forms.  I added a few  more tablespoons of water slowly as needed.  Place dough on a board dusted with flour, and knead till dough holds together and texture is smooth.  Wrap in saran and let rest for about an hour.
Peel, quarter and boil potatoes till they can be easily pierced with a fork.  Drain and set aside.  Finely chop one large onion and fry in a few tablespoons of canola oil, till dark golden brown.  This usually takes about a half hour.  Mash potatoes with salt and pepper to taste.  Mix in caramelized onions and some of the oil from the frying pan as well, and allow to cool.  Adjust seasoning.
Cut dough in quarters. Roll sections out, one at a time, till pretty thin, less than 1 /4 inch.  Use a small glass to cut out rounds.  I used a 2 1/2″ glass.  Add small amount of potato filling to each round. Dab your finger in water  and pat around one side of the round. Fold dough over and pinch closed with a firm hand!  Boil in water till they rise to the surface which only takes a few minutes.  I plan to serve these with the drippings from the roast but butter and sour cream is also delicious.
Enjoy,
Irene