White Strudel

I attended P.S.115, also called E.B.B., Elizabeth Barrett Browning, from K-8.  It was a co-ed elementary school but once we hit middle school the boys were transferred out, and E.B.B was dubbed “everything but boys.”  The school was walking distance from where we lived but there was a crossing guard, a flaming red-head named Irene, to escort the children across the Grand Concourse.  Every morning at 10:00 a.m. classes came to a halt and snack was served.  The teacher, along with a class monitor, would go to the office and bring back a flat of small milk containers and either a box of cookies or a container of pretzel rods.  As much as I liked the pretzel rods, I preferred the cookies.  I can only remember one type of cookie being served, a sandwich cookie with a cream filled center, the top half chocolate and the bottom vanilla.

School was over at 3:00 p.m. and when I arrived home I was served milk and cookies as my afternoon snack. (remember in the 1950s milk was thought to be a miracle food)  The little white bakery bag on the kitchen table held either a Black and White cookie, a brownie with walnuts and chocolate frosting, or a Chinese cookie which was a marbled coffee-colored cookie with a crinkle top and a glob of hard chocolate in the center.  Having milk and cookies at home was always better than at school, the milk was served in a tall glass, straight from the fridge and ice-cold, the way I prefer it.  The cookies were bought fresh every morning in the bakery my mother frequented on Burnside Avenue.  It didn’t seem to matter what season it was, or how low the temperature fell outside, both in school and at home the snack was always the same, and after all what could be better than milk and cookies?

This recipe came from Norm’s grandmother Shaindle Rose, who my daughter Shira is named after.  It is a very 1950s kind of recipe which includes bits of the confection Turkish Delight.  My mother-in-law Lil made it the last time we were in Toronto and told me that Bubbie Shaindle called it White Strudel.
Bubbie Shaindle’s White Strudel

4 cups flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup Crisco

1/2 cup oil

rind of a lemon

 

Filling

Strawberry jam

7 or 8 thin slices of  Turkish Delight, cut into bits

Flaked coconut

Maraschino cherries, cut in half

Golden raisins

Mix together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Using a pastry blender or the tips of your fingers, add the Crisco until the mixture resembles small lumps.  Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the wet ingredients.  Mix gently and add flour if needed. Dough will be very sticky.  Refrigerate dough for one hour which will make it easier to handle but feel free to add extra flour as needed.  Divide the dough into four equal portions.  Roll out one portion at a time on a well floured board into a 9 x 12 rectangle.

Spread a thin layer of strawberry jam over the dough. Then sprinkle Turkish delight, coconut, golden raisins and sliced maraschino cherries over the top.  Using a knife for easier handling, and add more flour as needed, gently roll up dough into a log and place on baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.  Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden. Cool and slice with a serrated knife.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breasts

New Year is approaching and during the course of the week we will greet both friends and strangers with wishes for a Happy New Year.  It is the time of year when we are filled with goodwill, and we extend the hope that a better year lies ahead for all of us.  It is the time of year when everyone is planning celebrations, large and small, simple or lavish, an opportunity to spend an evening with people you care about.

Some of my best memories of New Year’s Eve are of simple dinner parties, like those that my parents hosted when I was growing up in The Bronx.  The silver chafing dishes were polished and shined, the dining room table was beautifully set, and my mother would prepare some of my favorite dishes.  Tender sweetbreads in a mushroom sauce, miniature matzoh balls in mushroom gravy, and farfel with caramalized onions and mushrooms. (it was not till I began writing this post that I realized how many of the dishes included mushrooms)  One wonderful New Year’s Eve was spent in Philadelphia with my cousin Micheline and her family.  Even though there were just a few of us, Micheline wore a full length gown and a tiara on her head. We sat on the carpet in the living room around the coffee table, and dined on cheese, baguettes and champagne.  No matter where I was, we always watched the ball fall in Times Square and listened to Guy Lombardo’s rendition of  Auld Lang Syne, .  That melody speaks volumes.

To all of you, and to my family (old and new) and my friends, I wish you all a very Happy New Year.

Mushroom Stuffed Chicken

There is no recipe for this, but it is simple to make. No exact measurements are required.

Pounded chicken breasts

Shiitake mushrooms

Garlic

Italian Parsley

3-4 Tbs Olive Oil

Eggs

Bread Crumbs

salt and pepper to taste.

Slice Shiitake mushrooms and sauté in olive oil along with minced garlic and chopped parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook till mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat.  Fill each flattened chicken breast with some of the mixture and roll up. Dip in beaten egg and then seasoned bread crumbs.  Return to hot frying pan to which you have added some extra olive oil. Fry till golden on both sides.  Place frying pan in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes till chicken is cooked through. Slice on the diagonal and serve.

Enjoy,

Irene

Mollie’s Mississippi Mud Cake

My friend Lori wanted to share this story and recipe about her mom, Mollie.  I was touched by the request and thrilled that she wanted to honor her Mom!  Last week I spent an afternoon with Lori watching her prepare this family recipe and when the cake was done, we shared a slice.  

My mother Mollie is an amazing cook and baker, but I think she is most renowned
for this simple, easy, delicious, and moist chocolate cake called “Mississippi
Mud”.

This cake has been in my life since I can remember, certainly since I was a
little kid in Norwalk, Connecticut, but it may have entered my life even
earlier, when I was a baby in Stamford, Connecticut.  Frankly I really don’t
remember where the recipe originated or how it came to be my mom’s signature
cake.

What I do know is that Mississippi Mud has graced all my family’s functions for
decades, particularly the birthday parties and Chanukah parties.  And now that
my sister and I have families of our own, Mississippi Mud has also become a
regular dessert at our kids’ parties and other celebratory occasions.  It shows
up in tube pan shape, as cupcakes and mini-cupcakes, and as loaves and mini
loaves.  It freezes well.  For those of us who keep kosher, it’s prepared pareve
for Friday nights, and it rarely lasts through the weekend.  Mississippi Mud
even showed up at all of my mom’s grandkids’ bar and bat mitzvah celebrations.

The Mud has become sort of famous, I think, because since the 1960’s, that cake
has not only become a generational favorite in my family, but the recipe has
been shared coast to coast and throughout North America.

My mom is the connector in our family, the one who stays in touch through telephone
and by mail, and in these high tech times, through email and Skype.  After her
years of hosting and the frequency with which she serves Mississippi Mud for
desert, she’s given the recipe away to countless friends, cousins, siblings,
in-laws and children, who continue the tradition of serving this cake and then
sharing the recipe.  And since her daughters also make Mississippi Mud, we’ve
also become disseminators of this lovely little recipe.

Mississippi Mud is a delicate, dark chocolate, simple cake served plain or with
a light dusting of powdered sugar.  No frosting, no chocolate chips, no layers
are needed to enhance or distract from the pure chocolate silkiness of each
bite.  There was a time when my parents briefly resided in Virginia, and when my
mom showed up with the Mud in hand and no frosting in sight, the sugar-toothed
Southerners scrambled to find some whip cream with which to adorn it.  But
really, no such enhancement is needed for this cake.

Mississippi Mud is part of my family’s history, and now I’m sharing it with you.

Lori Harrison Port

Mollie’s Mississippi Mud Chocolate Cake

Melt together in a sauce pan or microwave:

1 stick of butter (or margarine if making a non-dairy version)
3 squares of unsweetened baker’s chocolate (can use cocoa using the conversion
recipe)
1 ½ cups of very hot water

Pour over:

2 cups sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs
Whisk to blend and cool slightly.   Stir in vanilla and eggs

In a separate small bowl blend

2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda

Add the flour mixture to the chocolate in thirds
Batter will be very thin and there might be some lumps left – that’s okay if they are
small.
Pour into a tube pan (NOT greased or floured)
Bake at 275 for about an hour or until tester comes out clean

Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, running a knife around sides. Remove cake pan
sides.  When cool, run knife around bottom of tube pan and invert on to a
plate.

When cooled, dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Enjoy,

Irene

Meatballs (turkey) in Tomato Sauce

I must confess that there are many things that I love about Christmas.  I love the carols, the movies, and the wonderful decorations that announce the arrival of the holiday season.  My children had to get used to the fact that after Thanksgiving, my car radio was tuned to the station that played Christmas music, and the more sentimental the song, the louder I sang.

Growing up in The Bronx, my neighborhood was filled with Jewish and Italian immigrants, two groups that had a lot in common.  One of my closest friends was Donna Bartolini whose parents had come to New York from Sicily.  Donna and I were classmates and lived around the corner from each other.  If I stopped by after school and she wasn’t there, her mother thought nothing of giving me a shopping list and sending me off to the local Italian butcher to pick up ingredients she needed for dinner. (years later I realized that the random numbers listed on the back of the list was Mrs. B’s way of placing illegal bets)  There was always something wonderful cooking in Mrs. Bartolini’s kitchen, but what I remember most is the rich, thick tomato sauce that simmered for hours.  It was a kitchen you never wanted to leave, a kitchen so inviting that even Donna had a hard time coaxing me to her room.  I remember being invited for Christmas dinner, when the dining table was covered with pasta dishes, platters of sausage and peppers, cheesy lasagnas, and freshly baked breads to mop up the sauce on the bottom of the plates.  There was always a large bowl of meatballs in tomato sauce, the sauce that had cooked for hours.

To this day, when meatballs are cooking in my kitchen, the smell conjures up memories of my Italian neighbors in The Bronx.  On this December night,  my youngest son came home for dinner and was served meatballs and freshly baked bread that Norm made.  As we lovingly put away the Hannukiah, candles and dreidles, Christmas carols are playing on the radio in the background, and I smile at the memories.

Traditionally these meatballs were made with beef but I now often make a lighter version using ground turkey.

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

3 lbs. ground turkey  (or beef)

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 pinch red chili flakes

1 pinch dried oregano

1/2 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

4 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup bread crumbs

Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix well.  Make golf size meatballs and sauté in olive oil, browning both sides.

Tomato Sauce

1 large onion, diced

4 tbs olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

2 tbs tomato paste

1 tsp salt

1 sprig basil

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup dry red wine

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil till translucent. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste and sauté for several minutes. Add seasonings, water and wine and bring sauce to a simmer.  Gently place browned meatballs in sauce, cover pot and allow to cook for about 1 1/2 hours on a low flame.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

 

 

Latkes

The Chanukah of my childhood bears little resemblance to how we now celebrate the holiday.  Growing up there were three ways that a visitor to our home would recognize that it was Chanukah.  Latkes were being fried in the kitchen, a Hanukkiah was prominently placed on the dining room table, and a dreidel or two were lying around the living room.  There were no decorations strung in the apartment, and no wrapped presents to open.  Before the candles were lit, we said the brachot and sang a song or two.  We were then given gelt, money to spend as we wished, (I still remember the white go-go boots that I bought at Alexander’s on Fordham Road) and that was our gift.

Looking back, I don’t feel that the significance of the holiday was in any way diminished, despite the modest way in which it was celebrated. I loved Chanukah and anticipated its arrival each year.  I would come home from school and run to choose the candles, carefully selecting colors and creating patterns.  Alternating blue and white candles one night, assorted colors on another, and my favorite, an entire Hanukkiah filled with white candles.  Chanukah had no religious meaning or overtones in our home.  We knew about the miracle associated with the oil but my parents always emphasized the military victory.

When we were raising our children, Chanukah celebrations became much more elaborate, and the religious significance was emphasized rather than the military history.  There were always parties to host or attend, lots of gifts and decorations, lots of singing and lots of food.  I look forward to seeing the traditions that my children will embrace in their own homes, but for now I am happy to know that all of my children are either hosting Chanukah parties or participating in the celebration. That is the greatest gift.

No matter how we celebrated the holiday one thing always remained the same, the way we make latkes.  I make them exactly as my mother did during those early celebrations, sweet and simple, with a little sugar sprinkled on top.

Happy Chanukah to you and your families!


Latkes

4 large Russet potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks and placed in bowl of cold water.

1 large onion, peeled and cut into chunks

5 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup matzoh meal

salt to taste

Vegetable Oil
Pour enough oil into a large frying pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the pan.  In the meantime, place coarsely chopped potatoes and onion in food processor,  a few at a time, and process till fine.  (we do not use grated potatoes)  Pour into bowl and add beaten eggs, salt, and enough matzoh meal to bind mixture.  When oil is hot, place large spoonfuls of mixture in pan but do not crowd.  Fry about 4-5 latkes at a time.  Fry till golden and flip over. Serve straight from pan.

Enjoy,

Irene