Olive Oil Cake

Having recently read The Girls From Ames, I have been thinking about women and their friendships, and how important those relationships are.  My mother had a habit of sitting at the windowsill looking down over the Concourse, where there were always women strolling arm in arm.  Sitting with her, I would imagine myself as an adult, walking with a friend, our arms intertwined. Unfortunately it is no longer in fashion for women to lock arms as they stroll, and the art of strolling has all but disappeared. What has not changed is the importance of female companionship.

This weekend my daughter came to visit us from NYC.  It just so happened that several of her oldest friends were also in town and were able to join us for various meals.  In different configurations, they came for dinner, lunch, and afternoon tea.  They laughed, talked, rolled their eyes (mostly at their mothers), shared confidences, and exchanged glances that clearly only they understood.  All very accomplished young women, each one passionate and full of life, I loved sitting back and watching them.  We have known two of the girls since birth and one since she was six.  Three now live in NYC and one in Los Angeles but the distances don’t seem to matter, or the time apart.  Having my daughter come home is always special, but knowing that this particular group of friends would be in Los Angeles at the same time, and that we would get to see them, turned the weekend into a celebration.  So, I baked the girls a cake, in the shape of a rose.

I found this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, The Kosher Scene.   Norm said it tasted like a glazed buttermilk doughnut. Moist and delicious.

Olive Oil Cake

1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups orange juice

5  eggs

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1  1/2 tsp kosher salt

3 c. granulated sugar

zest of  3 oranges

Glaze

1 cup confectioners sugar

Approximately 4 tsp of orange juice  (Mix juice with sugar until you have the consistency of a loose glaze, slowly, add more juice if needed)

Mix eggs in a large bowl.  Slowly add sugar, beating till egg mixture is light in color.  Add orange juice and stir till fluffy.  In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt.  Alternating, slowly add olive oil, and then flour,  to egg mixture, and beat until batter is smooth.  Mix in orange zest.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt pan. Add batter and bake for about 1 hour or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on rack for about 20 minutes and remove cake from pan.  Combine ingredients for glaze and drizzle over cake.

Enjoy,

Irene

Moroccan Salmon

My mother always hummed when she cooked.  Typically, the small radio on the kitchen counter was turned to the Yiddish radio station, but if not, there was always a station that played sentimental music, lots of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.  I loved knowing that when I came home, music would be in the air and dinner on the stove.  She didn’t like the sound of silence and I must admit, neither do I.  My ritual is almost identical, with a modern twist.  I walk into my kitchen and head straight for the radio, or my IPOD, and only then do I begin to cook.

I have family members in three different countries this weekend, and so here are my plans for a quiet Friday afternoon.  A glass of wine, some music, and Moroccan Salmon.  It’s raining outside and So Far Away is playing on the IPOD.  Not too bad. Shabbat Shalom.

Moroccan Salmon

1 pound of salmon fillets

salt and pepper to taste

4 thin slices of  lemon

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. harissa

1/4 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika

2 tbs. orange juice

1 can garbanzo beans, drained

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Drizzle some olive oil in the bottom of a small baking dish, large enough to hold fillets in one layer.  Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper, and place into the baking dish.  In a bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, harissa, and smoked paprika.  Spread the mixture over the fish, then cover with the lemon and onion slices.  Add drained garbanzo beans to dish.  Pour the orange juice around the salmon.
Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes.  Turn on broiler and broil the fish for a few minutes to brown.
Enjoy,
Irene

French Roast

Growing up in the sixties, food was not analyzed in the same way as it is today.  As long as the meals were fresh and varied, it was considered healthy.  My mother didn’t serve soup or vegetables from a can, and the only food that ever came from a freezer was the result of my mother’s indulgence in response to accusations that she was unfairly depriving me of  T.V. dinners.  Supper always included cooked vegetables, potatoes or rice, some kind of protein, and a salad.  My mother insisted that we needed two things in our diet, milk and meat, not together of course.

I am on information overload and I am not sure how to reverse the trend.  I remember my friend Susan, a native Californian, turning up her nose when being served “fleish” and other heavy European dishes.  She referred to kugels as “brown food”, introduced our family to sprouts, and was my first friend who analyzed what she served in terms of nutritional value.  At the time we just chalked it up to the fact that she was born in L.A.

Today, every meal is fraught with questions and weighty considerations.  Are the carbohydrates whole grain, the vegetables organic, how many carbon footprints are used to raise cattle, is the chicken free-range, etc. .  How can one possibly enjoy a meal that has been dissected to death.  One friend is always assuring us that the recipe is low-calorie, another no longer serves beef, and this morning I was instructed to “go light” on the cheese as I was preparing a cheese omelette.  What is the point of eating a cheese omelette with barely any cheese?

What I miss is the sense of freedom that went hand in hand with being less informed.  I remember the days when we sat down to dinner, digging into a delicious, perfectly done rib steak, served with mashed potatoes and a salad (made with iceberg lettuce), all enjoyed with abandon and guilt-free.  I am not suggesting that we were healthier, or better off as a society,  it’s  just that sometimes all I want is my meat and potatoes, without a side of commentary.

I made this French Roast last week and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

French Roast

3-4 lb. French Roast

3  Tbs of a Brisket rub of your choice ( I used one I bought in Texas)

Flour

5 Tbs Olive Oil

1 large Onion

1 Parsnip

1 Sprig Thyme

1 Bay Leaf

3/4 cup Dry Red Wine

1 Tbs Tomato Paste

Rub French Roast with spice rub, cover with saran, and refrigerate over night.  The next day coat the roast with a small amount of flour.  Pour olive oil into cast iron pan and heat till VERY HOT.  Sear roast on every side till brown.

Place red wine, bay leaf,  thickly sliced onion,  parsnip cut into chunks, Thyme and tomato paste in roasting pan and mix well.  Add French Roast and place, uncovered, in 325 degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours.  Remove and thinly slice meat. Return to roasting pan, cover and cook an additional 2 hours or until meat is very tender.  Add more wine, or water if necessary.

Enjoy,

Irene

Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges with Black Sesame Seeds

When I was growing up, the sense of community among apartment dwellers was clear.  The building that I lived in on the Grand Concourse functioned as a vertical village, with neighbors pitching in and helping one another.  People watched over each other’s children, helped out with errands, and some even divided their poultry order, as my mother and her closest friend Fanny did (the Pruzans took the dark meat while the Graf family preferred the white) for many years.

Last week I took my first trip to Houston, Texas, and felt that same sense of community.  Although the trip was short, the impressions were long-lasting.

As for the food, I had dinner at a Tex-Mex restaurant where I was introduced to queso, a warm, slightly spicy, cheese dip.  I tasted a pecan pie that may have been the best I have ever eaten, and a jalapeño cheese bread that was equally good.  Other Texas treats included candied pecans tossed in a salad, roasted sweet potato wedges topped with black sesame seeds, a warm pasta dish served in a poblano sauce, a King’s Cake, and an amazing version of strawberry shortcake served on a biscuit and smothered in Creme Anglaise.

In New York the feeling of community went along with a desire to be a “good neighbor.”  In Texas, there is the tradition of Southern hospitality.  My future daughter-in-law, along with her sister and parents, as well as their family friends, made us feel at home in a BIG way, Texas style.

Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges

4 medium sweet potatoes

2 Tbs water
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs sesame oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a cup combine the olive oil, brown sugar, rice vinegar, and water.  Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Cut off ends of sweet potatoes.  Slice sweet potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut each half on the diagonal into slices about an inch thick.

Pour brown sugar mixture over sweet potatoes, stirring so that they are all coated.  Place sweet potatoes on cookie sheet and roast till tender, about one hour.

Garnish with black sesame seeds.

Enjoy,

Irene