Schnitzle

For years now a group of our friends have being going to the Hollywood Bowl to celebrate the Fourth of July.  We arrive early, picnic, and then head over to our seats.  It has all the elements of what I consider to be the perfect night: spending an entire evening outdoors, dining and listening to music surrounded by family and friends.  Among us there are two immigrants, one from Canada and one from England,  two first generation Americans, and the rest are “real” Americans.  We have never discussed how we feel about this particular holiday so I have no idea if the others find it as meaningful as I do.  I have always been very aware that my parents could have ended up anywhere in the world when they left France in 1952.  Fortunately they came to this country and made it their home and mine.

Happy Fourth of July!!

My mother’s version of fried chicken, a  traditional Fourth of July dish, was Schnitzle, pounded boneless chicken breasts, breaded and fried. What a great way to combine the old world with the new.

Schnitzle

1 lb. boneless chicken breast, pounded thin

1/2 cup flour

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup bread crumbs

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup oil or more as needed

Place flour, beaten eggs, and seasoned bread crumbs in three separate shallow bowls. In assembly line order, dip each breast in flour, eggs,  and then seasoned bread crumbs.  Heat oil in frying pan (cast iron is best) till sizzling. Fry schnitzle till golden on each side.

Serves 4

Enjoy,

Irene

http://www.foodista.com/food/SSKFCT7S/chicken-breast/widgets

Sour Cherry Pie

I long for slow, lazy days.  For me that opportunity comes once a week, on Shabbat.  It is the only day when I don’t rush out of bed, I don’t rush to work, I actually don’t rush to do anything other that what I want to do.  The morning starts by going into the kitchen and pouring myself a large fresh cup of the French Press coffee that Norm prepared for me before he departed for shul.  I collect the newspaper, my magazines, whatever book I happen to be reading, and step into  my backyard where I spend the next several hours in a state of bliss.  I stare at the garden, smell the roses, watch a hummingbird or a butterfly, and read.  It feels so luxurious that it is almost sinful.

As a child, after she finished shopping and cooking, I would often find my mother sitting on a chair, leaning on the windowsill and looking out over the Grand Concourse.  Just watching the people pass by.  Or she would visit with her next door neighbor over a cup of coffee, in the middle of the day!  Sometimes she would spend her morning in the kitchen, making home-made noodles or baking cakes or cookies.

How do we recapture the ability to enjoy those lazy days of summer that we so loved and still need?  For me, taking the time to make a homemade pie is a way to slow down.  You can’t rush a pie.  You have to make the dough for the crust, chill it, roll it, prepare the filling and bake it.   I find it increasingly important to take the time out of a busy schedule and doing something in a leisurely way because if we don’t, how will we bake pie?

Sour Cherry Pie

Pastry

1 1/2 sticks butter (or parve margarine)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tbs sugar

2-3 Tbs ice water

Cut cold butter or margarine  into cubes and place in bowl of food processor.  Add flour and sugar.  Start processor and add water through feeder tube but only enough for dough to gather into a ball.  Remove and wrap in saran and refrigeration for two hours or up to two days.  Try to handle dough as little as possible.

Filling

2 lbs. sour cherries, pitted or 2 – 24 oz. jars of sour cherries. (I used the jars and the pie was really good but of course fresh is always better)

2 Tbs tapioca

1 cup sugar

1 Tbsp lemon juice

Place cherries in a bowl and add tapioca, sugar, and lemon juice. Let sit for about fifteen minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Set aside 1/3 of  the dough and roll the remaining 2/3 into a circle slightly larger than your pie dish.  Gentlly place dough into greased pie dish.  Cover dough with a sheet of silver foil and add dry beans as a weight.  Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove foil and  beans and add  cherry filling.  At this point you can roll out the remaining dough.  My personal preference is for a top crust as opposed to lattice.

Brush the top of the pie with either  milk for a dairy dessert or orange juice or soy milk if you want a parve pie. Sprinkle generously with sugar.

Bake for about one hour or until pie has browned.

Enjoy,

Irene

Bialys

This is the first Father’s Day since my father, Harry Graf, passed away.  It feels strange despite the fact that in recent years he was not well enough to really enjoy the celebrations.  He never knew his father and I often wondered what it must have been like for him to grow up without one.  I never asked.  What was most remarkable about my father was his resilience.  He survived his service in the Polish army and he survived the Holocaust. After the war, he and my mother moved to France where they faced a new language and culture.  Five years later, with my sister in tow, they moved to the United States and settled in New York where I was born.  My father had to learn yet another language and adapt to a new country once again.  Determined to have a better life, he studied English and eventually become a stock broker.  Anyone who ever met my father knows that he would shake your hand and then would tell you to “squeeze.”  That word had so much meaning for him.  It stood for strength, determination and a belief that one must live life to the fullest, to squeeze out every drop that you can.  On July 2, 2010 we will have his unveiling and  “squeeze” will be inscribed on his gravestone. May he rest in peace.

One thing that my husband and father had  in common was that they both had Sunday rituals that revolved around the family. When I was growing up my father always made steak and fries on Sundays.  It was his day to cook and it was a treat.  Norm, my husband, has always made Sunday breakfast for our family.  When the children were young, he prepared eggs, hash browns, french toast or pancakes. Now that our children are grown and out of the house, Norm has developed a new Sunday ritual.  He bakes.  He has taken a class with famed artisanal baker Peter Reinhardt and is very serious about his new hobby.  We no longer have big hearty breakfasts but we have bialys, bagels, challahs, artisanal breads, and hazelnut flutes. Both of these men nurtured their families by cooking for them. What a wonderful legacy.

So Happy Father’s Day to all of you and especially to the men who take the time to cook for their family and friends.

Adapted from Peter Reinhardt’s Lean Dough Recipe.

Bialys

2  1/4 cups warm water
2 tsp instant  yeast
3 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
5 1/3 cups bread flour
Flour for dusting
Oil for greasing bowl

Topping:
1 whole onion, minced
2 teaspoons poppy seeds (optional)
1 Tbsp bread crumbs
1 pinch salt

Place minced onion in a bowl and leave on counter for about 30 minutes.  Combine with remaining topping ingredients and set aside.

Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl.  Add warm water and mix thoroughly until dough is formed and comes away from the sides of the bowl.  Allow to rest for five minutes.  Place dough on a floured surface and knead gently for about four minutes. Dough will be sticky.

Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl and turn to coat.  Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to four days.

Take dough out of refrigerator and divide into 16 equal portions, and roll into balls. Gently flatten each ball  into a 3  1/2 inch circle, spacing evenly on a cookie sheet with oiled parchment paper.  Cover with tea towels and allow to rise until puffy, about one hour.

With wet hands, make an indentation in the center of each bialy, leaving a 1″  edge. Then flatten center of bialy with a moistened shot glass by pressing in a circular motion.  Place about 1 tsp of the topping into the hole and press down slightly.

Cover with cloths and allow to rise for another half hour.  Preheat oven to 450°F and bake bialys for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating cookie sheets after 10 minutes.  Bialys are golden on top and crusty on bottom when finished.

Makes 16 Bialys.

Norm’s inspiration to try Bialys came from Mimi Sheraton’s book “The Bialy Eaters: The Story of a Bread and a Lost World”

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

Chicken Fajitas

Anytime I served my mother any kind of ethnic food, her standard response, in Yiddish, was, “we never ate this in Mogielnice.”   I was raised on a strict diet of Eastern European Jewish fare: good, solid, hearty meals.  My mother never made Pad Thai or tacos or stir fry, and just trying to conjure up an image of her standing in the kitchen with a wok makes me smile.  Truth be told, when she did try a new recipe that she was given by a friend or neighbor, my sister and I were typically unhappy about it.  We never wanted to experiment, not in my mother’s kitchen.

Somewhere along the way I discovered that I am drawn to exotic flavors, spices, and aromas more than to burgers, steaks, mac n’ cheese and kugels!  Going to Artesia for vegetarian Indian food is almost as good as reading a book that transports you to Bombay. It is an adventure that you can experience with little effort.  After having lived in Los Angeles for over thirty years, Mexican food is at the top of my list of favorite ethnic foods, simple but incredibly flavorful.  I love the beans, guacamole, salsas and the heat of chiles.

I tend to shy away from cooking ethnic dishes at home. They are often too labor intensive and I don’t usually have the time or the ingredients on hand.  Chicken fajitas are easy.  They are  fast and healthy and don’t require anything complicated in terms of preparation. Served with guacamole, salsa and warm corn tortillas, it’s perfect for a light summer meal and a nice break from roast chicken and potatoes.

Chicken Fajitas

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Marinade

1 large onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbsp olive oil

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp oregano

salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients for marinade, pour over chicken breasts and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Discard marinade.

2 red peppers or 1 red and 1 yellow, sliced

1 large onion, sliced

1 Tbsp olive oil

Heat olive oil in pan ( I prefer a cast iron pan) till hot.  Add onions and sliced peppers and cook over medium high heat until peppers start to caramelize.  Take chicken breasts and slice them into 3/4 inch strips.  Add to peppers and onions and saute, stirring constantly until chicken is cooked.  About ten minutes.  Serve with corn tortillas, salsa, and guacamole.

Serves 4

Enjoy,

Irene