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July 14, 2019
Irene Saiger

3 comments

Blueberry Cornmeal Cake

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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. 

Enjoy,

Irene

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April 15, 2019
Irene Saiger

8 comments

Susan’s Almond-Lemon Torte

IMG_2554I recently read an article where a chef said that you are never really alone in the kitchen and that is so true.  When I’m cooking, my kitchen is filled with memories of family and friends, and hopefully a creative spirit hanging around to keep me company.  Today, my plan was to  spend a good part of the day cooking for Passover, by myself, when I received a YouTube video from one of my closest friends, Susan Tober.  It was a video of our daughters 2nd grade mock Seder at Sinai Akiba Academy.  Watching the video reminded me of all those years when the Androns and Saigers spent almost every Shabbat together, and most holidays as well.  That’s when I decided to make Susan’s Passover Almond-Lemon Torte, from the Sinai Akiba cookbook that our PTA put out around the same time, 1988.  I remembered the flavor, though I haven’t had it in years.  When I took it out of the oven, I texted a photo of the cake to Susan, to show her I made her recipe, and she  said she hasn’t had it in years either.  As she and her family now spend Pesach in Israel, I am wondering if she’ll end up making one of my recipes, and that way a part of me can be in the kitchen with her!!!  I hope so.  Chag Sameach!   Continue Reading

January 13, 2019
Irene Saiger

2 comments

Funfetti Cake

img_1981We’ve  had a flurry of activity in our family.  It started with Chanukkah, followed by my grandson Phin’s 2nd birthday, a family vacation, Norm’s birthday, and then my granddaughter Manya’s 4th birthday.  That meant lots of cooking and baking.  Not really being a “baker” (too scientific), I realized that if I was going to make three cakes in a short span, I needed something fairly easy, fool-proof, and with kid appeal.  After pouring over recipes, I settled on something I had never tried before, a Funfetti cake. 

My first attempt was not what I had hoped for.  I was impatient, and before the sheet cake had completely cooled, I turned it over.  Pieces of the cake fell on to the platter in large chunks. Not a pretty sight and one that almost brought me to tears.  Luckily my son Micah and daughter-in-law Anna were over and wouldn’t let me throw it away.  The cake was moist, tasted great, and (even in chunks) was so pretty with the sprinkles floating throughout. Using my mother-in-law’s trifle bowl, I alternated mushing the cake into the bowl in two layers, separated by two layers of frosting.  It worked out perfectly, and Phin didn’t seem to mind at all.

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This weekend I decided to avoid the sheet pan and go with two small pans.  I used my mother-in-law’s heart-shaped tins, which are about 8″ in diameter, and buttered and lined the pans with parchment paper for good measure!  Success!

The two pans yielded enough for four layers which was more than I needed, so I took one cake, carefully sliced it horizontally into two, and frosted it with homemade buttercream.  Pink of course,  Manya’s favorite.  It was exactly what I was looking for.

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I actually never did make a cake for Norm, but someone else did! Our friend Marizon delivered a still warm persimmon pudding to our door.  His favorite.  Happy Birthday to all and may 2019 be filled with many more happy occasions. I’ll even bake!!

Funfetti Cake

2 1/2 c flour

1/4 c cornstarch

1 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp baking powder

1 c unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 c sugar

4 large egg whites

1/4 canola oil

1 tb imitation vanilla 

3/4 c whole milk

1/2 c rainbow sprinkles 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I used two heart-shaped tins but it would fit 3  8″ tins more comfortably.  Butter the tins and line with parchment paper.

Let butter and eggs come to room temperature.

Whisk dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.   Using a beater, cream butter till light and fluffy and slowly incorporate sugar. Add oil and beat for a few more minutes till well blended.  Add vanilla. Slowly add flour and milk, alternating between two till batter is smooth.

In a clean bowl beat egg whites till stiff.   Gently fold whites into batter along with sprinkles and carefully combine with spatula.  Pour into prepared pans and bake 35-40 minutes.  Allow to completely cool on a rack before turning out onto board.  Frost and decorate to your “heart’s” content!

Basic Buttercream Frosting

1 cup butter, at room temperature

3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 tb milk but I did add a little more, one drop at a time till I was happy with the consistency

1 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp salt

food coloring of choice

Using mixer, beat butter till creamy.  Add salt and powdered sugar, one cup at a time.  Add milk and vanilla and beat till smooth. Add food coloring.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

 

September 18, 2018
Irene Saiger

4 comments

Cod Fish Cakes

IMG_0583It is 2:00 p.m. and Yom Kippur is quickly approaching, never an easy day, physically or emotionally.  But each year, just days before, I wait in anticipation for this small thing that has become as much a part of my ritual as many other small things that I focus on as the holiday approaches.  I wait for an email, from our friends Fredda and Avrum, inviting us to their home to Break the Fast.

I am grateful that tomorrow night, once again, we will be at their home, surrounded by friends and family, shedding the weight of the day, having my long-awaited cup of coffee, and trying not to overindulge.  This afternoon, I made a pot of Moroccan style fish cakes to share. Cod fillets that I chopped and sautéed,  and which are now simmering in a slightly spicy tomato herb sauce.  Having to prepare a dish for tomorrow night allows me to have some creative time and space in the kitchen, thinking about the things that I hope for in the next year.  Good health is always first, but also the more universal things, like love and peace, happiness, and a better and kinder world.  And, then there are the small things that I look forward to as well, one being that next year, just days before Yom Kippur, an email will once again show up in my in-box, inviting us to come break the fast with family and friends. May it be a good year for all of us.  Shana Tovah and G’mar Hatimah Tovah.

Fish Cakes (adapted from a recipe by Levana)

2 pounds cod fillets

2 eggs

2/3 cup corn flake crumbs

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

Oil for frying

In food processor grind fish till smooth and remove to bowl.  Add eggs, cornflake crumbs, salt and pepper, mix well and form into small balls and then gently flatten.  Saute on both sides in hot oil till golden and set aside.

Tomato Herb Sauce

1 cup water

2 cups finely diced fresh tomatoes

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp red pepper

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

3 bay leaves

1 Tbspn paprika

8 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch parsley, stems removed and coarsely chopped

1 bunch cilantro, stems removed and coarsely chopped

1 whole lemon, thinly sliced

In large pot, add water, diced tomato, olive oil, bay leaves, lemon slices, salt and pepper along with garlic, and herbs.  Simmer for about 20 minutes and gently add fish balls. Place on low heat, cover and allow to cook for about 30 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

 

July 13, 2018
Irene Saiger

13 comments

Kooky Cookies

IMG_4025Remember the song Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer?  Minus the beer, that’s how my childhood summers were spent.   

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
You'll wish that summer could always be here

My cousin Mel came to L.A. last week and after having not seen each other for many years, we had lots of reminiscing to do.  Mel and his partner Alex had just come from San Francisco where they had seen the production of A Walk on the Moon.  The play is set in a bungalow colony in upstate New York, similar to the one Mel’s family went to during our childhood.  Pine Grove Park was located near Monroe, and my Mom, sister, and I would leave the Bronx behind, and go visit and stay with the Blatmans every summer.  Our time there really did feel lazy and crazy.  Not in the adult sense of the word, but crazy in how free and unsupervised we were. There were two choices of activities, either hanging out at the pool or hanging out in the casino (a building with a pinball machine, ping-pong table, and a jukebox). I don’t remember being bored or restless, and somehow we kept busy, stayed out of our mothers’ hair, and didn’t get into trouble. There were no rules and no restrictions.  

While the kids ran around, our Moms mostly played cards, but they must have made time to cook and bake, because we never ate out, and certainly never ordered in. Mel’s Mom was an excellent baker, and I remember her cakes filled with fresh juicy blueberries. 

I still look forward to summer. My work schedule is the same, my responsibilities are the same, and my routine is the same, but somehow it feels different.  No bungalow colonies, not many lazy days, but there are ways that I can still capture that feeling of being carefree.  One of them is baking.  So at the beginning of this summer, I decided to bake cookies with my granddaughter.  Inspired by a show about pastry chef Christina Tosi who owns Milk Bar Bakery, I used a basic cookie dough, and then did something I had never done before.  I put out bowls of Fruit Loops, potato chips, corn flakes, sprinkles, and chocolate chips, all to mix into our dough. No rules and no restrictions. The cookies were fun to make, and fun to eat, and yes, it felt like summer.

Use your favorite cookie dough recipe and add whatever you like.  Something basic and simple.  Preheat oven to 350 and line cookie sheets with parchment paper

Kooky Cookies

1 stick butter left at room temperature till soft

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 cups flour

Cream butter with sugars, vanilla and egg.  In another bowl mix flour with baking soda and then add to butter mixture.  Take tablespoon sized pieces of dough, and add whatever you like!!!  Press down on each cookie, gently, to flatten.  Bake for about 8-10 minutes but don’t allow to brown.  Cool on rack.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

 

 

 

March 16, 2018
Irene Saiger

12 comments

Turkey Cocletten

IMG_3656We hadn’t been back in a decade. As we headed North on route 395 we started reminiscing about all the years we had spent vacationing in Mammoth. We had gone during the summer, but loved it most during the winter. We had stayed in various hotels, motels and condos, until we discovered Tamarack Lodge at Twin Lakes. It’s a magical place with a center lodge complete with a fireplace, comfortable couches, the perfect cabin decor, a great bar and the best deconstructed carrot cake I have ever tasted.  Around the main lodge are cabins nestled among the trees. It’s the kind of place where people sit around for hours drinking cider, toddies, and hot chocolate. The kind of place where strangers talk to each other, happy to share stories of their successes, or their challenges, on the slope that day.

For years, as the only non-skier, I would sit inside Canyon Lodge, adjacent to the ski area, prepared to spend the day alone with my coffee, books and magazines, staring out through the plate-glass window hoping to catch a glimpse of the kids coming down the slope. This time it was no different. 

On our way up, we decided to use Google maps which recommended a new route.  We weren’t that comfortable with the idea, it was dark and we weren’t sure where we would end up.  Norm is, at best, a reluctant user of Google Maps. He likes his Thomas Guide and he likes to go his way, tried and true. But we followed the voice which was redirecting us around the town of Bishop instead of through it. Of course we arrived safely and that was all we really cared about.  

What does all of this have to do with Pesach?  Each year, i start off well before the holiday weighing all the options. New recipes, new readings, new ways of making the Seder relevant and fun. But ultimately, it’s really all about the story that we are gathering to retell and remember. On this recent trip to Mammoth, yes we tried a new route, and maybe it shaved off a little time, but in the end it wasn’t actually about the journey, it was all about the destination.

I am still not sure of my menu for the Seder, still pouring over cookbooks, still wondering if I can actually figure out how to make crispy quinoa (the current rage). I am sure that I am wasting a whole lot of time, because in the end I will most likely go back to what’s tried and true, to the dishes we have come to expect around the Saiger Seder. My older son is always discouraging me from trying new recipes, and encouraging me to perfect the ones I already make. 

My Mom made cocletten all year round and used matzoh meal even when it wasn’t Pesach.  She mixed ground beef with eggs, salt, pepper and matzoh meal. I have added cumin and garlic, and as Norm doesn’t eat beef, I now use ground  turkey.  A friend told me that her Mom always added finely grated zucchini to her cocletten to get some veggies into her grandchildren. I now do the same. 

These are prefect for an easy Pesach lunch or dinner.  They are great with tomato basil salad or would be perfect on top of a bed of crispy quinoa. Let me know if you figure out how to make that.

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Turkey Cocletten

2 1/2 pounds ground turkey thighs

2 large brown onions

2 medium zucchini

2 tsp salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp cumin

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 eggs

handful of Italian parsley, finely chopped

1/2 cup matzoh meal

Olive oil

In a food processor finely mince onions and zucchini.  Add to a large bowl with ground turkey, eggs, salt, cumin, black pepper to taste, minced garlic, chopped parsley and matzoh meal.  Refrigerate for about one hour.  Heat a frying pan with olive oil and saute till cooked through, about 5 minutes on each side.  Makes about 40 cocletten.  Wishing you a Chag Kasher v’Sameach.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

 

 

November 21, 2017
Irene Saiger

6 comments

Shira’s Cornbread

cornAs a child what I remember wanting  most was to be as American as Apple Pie.  I wanted my parents to speak English without an accent, I wanted to have an American style turkey (no idea what that meant) for Thanksgiving dinner, and not one prepared in the same way my Mom made roast chicken on Shabbat, and I definitely wanted to have Barbie dolls like the other girls I knew.  None of those wishes came true.  My parents never lost their accents, my mother only made turkey one way, with garlic, salt and pepper, and she never bought me a Barbie doll.  She wasn’t a great believer in toys in general but I think that if she had agreed to buy me a doll, it would not have looked like  Barbie and it would not have had a boyfriend that was blonde and named Ken.  It was too much to ask. 

At some point, there was some kind of awakening and I realized how lucky I was to be living in the ethnically diverse community that existed in the Bronx in the 50s and 60s.  Now those cultural influences, that I wanted so much to shed, is what I love most about my childhood, and I cherish that my Thanksgiving dinner reflects a cross-section of the people who I have come across in my life.  I now happily pair garlic turkey with the candied sweet potatoes that my mother learned to make from Edie, my cousin’s  African American housekeeper.  I love that my daughter still makes “corn pone” from an Amish cookbook we bought her when she was just a little girl and we were visiting Amish country in Pennsylvania.  ( I did publish this recipe in 2011 but she has changed it and now I call it cornbread) This year my dinner will include a sweet potato pie that I was given by a colleague who is a descendent of slaves and Native Americans. 

My children, all born and raised in Los Angeles have grown up with other culinary influences. Persian, Mexican and Middle Eastern dishes have crept into our kitchens, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one day those influences make an appearance at our Thanksgiving table.  

As I begin my Thanksgiving preparations, I am grateful that my children, daughters-in-law, and now my granddaughter, have helped me, or made on their own, some of the recipes that they have eaten at my table. Mock chopped liver and pumpkin chocolate chip bread are two of the popular ones, and of course cholent as well.  If there was one tradition in my family that I want to pass on, it’s that cooking is an act of love and of Thanksgiving.

Shira’s Cornbread

1 c. sugar

1/2 cup non-dairy margarine or butter

2 eggs

1  1/2 cup stone ground cornmeal

1  1/2 cups flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups non-dairy creamer or milk

1 – 14 oz. can creamed corn

Cream together margarine and sugar, add slightly beaten eggs and mix together well.  In another bowl sift cornmeal with flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk to batter.  Add creamed corn, mix gently and pour into greased and floured 9 x 13 baking dish.  Bake at 450″ for 30-35 minutes.  I  think the texture is better if made the day before.  Serves 8-10

Notes: I prefer a glass Pyrex to a metal baking pan because I think it results in a moister texture.  Don’t over bake or it will be dry.  Try adding something new, like sliced green onions, or jalapeno.

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving,

Irene