Sharing Food and Memories with Friends and Family


March 24, 2020
Irene Saiger


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


1 cup brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1/4 cup oil


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.




March 15, 2020
Irene Saiger


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!


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


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.





December 26, 2019
Irene Saiger



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.



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








November 20, 2019
Irene Saiger


Potato Pierogi

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!
4 medium sized russet potatoes
1 large onion
canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups flour
Approximately 1/2 cup water
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1 tbs pareve margarine or butter
IMG_4435 (1)
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.


October 7, 2019
Irene Saiger


Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

IMG_3821Last month we went to Philadelphia for a family wedding.  It was not only great to be there for Beth and Zach, but it was also a reunion of the remaining first cousins of the Graf family.  There were six of us present (including myself and my sister) and after the wedding weekend, five of the six, along with our spouses and four extended family members, drove up to Skytop Lodge in the Poconos.  The fourteen of us gathered for each meal, but during the rest of the day we would split into smaller groups, though these outings were short lived because none of us wanted to be apart for too long.  The six cousins are spread among six states and given that we had started planning this reunion eight years ago, we didn’t take our time together for granted.  At breakfast on our last day, you could feel that we were sad to say goodbye.  There were toasts and speeches, and then the lovely Michel and Danielle Leib,  related to my cousins through their mother’s side,  suggested that the next Graf family reunion take place in their hometown of Avignon, France in 2020.  An appropriate choice as our parents,  Hersh (Harry),  Yankel (Jack), and Chiel (Charlie), all moved to France from Poland, and four of the six cousins were born there.  

I am sure that our father’s would have loved doing something like this. When they did get together, it was not so different.  They ate, they drank, they took shpatzirs (strolls) and they talked about politics which inevitably led to arguments. Not that much has changed. I feel blessed that we had this time together, and as the French cousins would say, a bientot, till we meet again.  

My Mom used to make a version of this soup.  I called my sister to consult and, as usual, we remember it differently.  She thought my Mom thickened it, I don’t remember that.  Anita said my Mom included raisins which I chose to leave out and can’t imagine my Mom using.  In any case, that’s part of being with family, we all experienced not only our own parents differently, but our uncles as well.  Like this soup, our collective memories are sweet, but also peppered with the sadder stories of these three men who survived the war.  May their memories be for a blessing.  G’mar Hatimah Tovah.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

8 cups water

2 onions, diced

4 carrots, cut into coins

1 – 28 oz can whole tomatoes

1 1/4  pounds cabbage, shredded  ( I used 2 – 10 oz pre-shredded bags)

2 Tsp salt

5 Tbs brown sugar

1 Tsp ground pepper

2 Tsp Osem chicken bouillian

Juice of 1 1/2 lemons

Bring water to a boil.  Remove tomatoes from can, coarsley chop and add to water along with whatever sauce is in can. Add remaining ingredients and once it is boiling, slow to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes.  You can serve as is, or add a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt.



September 27, 2019
Irene Saiger



IMG_3738After almost 50 years in the workforce I am finally retiring.  People having been asking how I’ll fill my time, and that is yet to be seen.  I hope to pursue some of the things I have missed, like gardening, having more time to read, taking some trips, seeing friends, and taking better care of myself.  Maybe even doing a little more cooking in the early hours of the day when my energy level is at its highest.  Right now, with just two days left of work, I am excited that this new chapter of my life is coinciding with the New Year, and I pray that G-d grant me the good health to enjoy it.  I look forward to finding out how I will fill my time, and see what it is that I discover doing with that time, which will fill me.

Looking through Rosh Hashana recipes, there are lots of dishes that tend to be on the sweet side.  I decided to make Couscous this year and will be serving it with my homemade Harissa. I think this hot sauce would be equally good with gefilte fish or brisket.  After all what’s life without a little spice.


2 large red peppers

5 dried red chilies

2 cloves garlic

2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup olive oil

Soak dried chilies in hot water till softened, about 20 minutes.  Cut and remove seeds and stems. Roast the peppers on the grill, or as I did over the stove top, till skin is charred.  Let cool and scrape off skin, cut open and remove stems and seeds. Cut and place in blender with the chilies and other dry ingredients.  Slowly add olive oil and puree till smooth.

Shana Tovah!!




July 14, 2019
Irene Saiger


Blueberry Cornmeal Cake


There are so many things that I love about summer, one of them is blueberries.  More than any other fruit, you pretty much can find them in my fridge all summer long. Another is eating outside. As an adult I have discovered how much I love eating outdoors, with the long summer days and warm weather, the backyard becomes an extension of our house.  It also changes everything, people seem to be more relaxed, the meal tends to be less formal, and the children have plenty of room to wander without parents worrying about what they are getting into.  If I am planning to serve dinner outside, then I tend to prepare simpler, more family style, and less fussy meals.  BBQ, hand held appetizers, tacos and corn all require a pile of napkins and not much else.  Dessert?  This blueberry cornmeal cake is rustic, easy to make, and you can dish it out with a big spoon.  A perfect ending for an outdoor summer meal.

Blueberry Cornmeal Cake

2/3  cup sugar, divided

3 cups blueberries

2 large eggs

Grated zest of 1 lime

cup orange juice

cup vegetable oil

½ cup corn meal

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9″ square cake pan, line with parchment paper cut to fit bottom of pan, and grease again.  Sprinkle 1/3 cup sugar over the parchment paper and cover with blueberries.  In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, 1/3 cup of sugar and lime zest. Add orange juice and oil, and whisk until well blended. In a separate bowl, combine cornmeal with flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and stir till flour is incorporated.  Pour into prepared pan. Bake for about 45 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a rack for about 5 minutes. Carefully invert onto a serving plate, and slowly peel off parchment paper.