Pecan Pie

It is almost November and that means Thanksgiving is around the corner.  My favorite holiday for many reasons: the concept of religious freedom, the story of immigrants arriving in a new land, the traditional American foods that we eat, plus the opportunity to reflect on what we are thankful for.  When my children were small we read Molly’s Pilgrim, a book about a young Russian girl’s experiences in her new school.  The story reminded me of my experience in Kindergarten when my teacher related that we are all descendents of Pilgrims.  I can still remember raising my hand and sharing that my parents were not Pilgrims, they were Polish.

We have hosted Thanksgiving dinners for the past thirty-one years.  Over the years, I have been away for one or two, but I hold on to Thanksgiving tightly because it means so much to me.  As an adult, Thanksgiving makes me think of Emma Lazarus’ poem, knowing that my mother and father arrived in this country on a ship, with their five-year old daughter,  Anie. My sister’s name was soon changed to Anita, something “more” American.  This year our table will be filled with people whose names are German, Russian, English and Polish in origin.  How wonderfully American is that.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus, 1883

Pecan Pie

This recipe was printed in the New York Times many years ago.  It is the only one I use and has never failed me.

1-10″ baked pie shell

1 1/4  cups dark corn syrup

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

4 eggs

1/2 stick butter or pareve margarine, melted

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup pecan halves.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Partially bake your pie shell.  Remove and allow to cool.  Combine the corn syrup and sugar in a heavy pan.  Bring to a boil and stir till sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl.  Mix in cooled syrup, melted butter, chopped pecans and vanilla.  Pour into pie shell.  Decorate the top of pie with pecan halves.  Bake for about 50 minutes.  Cover crust with foil to prevent from over-browning.   Serves 10

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy,

Irene


Poached Quince

Several months ago my daughter sent me an e-mail in which she wrote that she thought I needed an “adventure.”  What she meant was that she wished I would travel more, but there are all kinds of adventures.  Like discovering a new restaurant while out on a stroll, or driving to a concert and along the way realizing that the street you are on is lined with beautiful old homes and majestic trees. (Try Vermont north of Los Feliz)  After many years of contemplating a vegetable garden, last week Norm removed the roses that had lined my garage wall for 25 years (gasp!) to start one.

Just before the holidays, I was walking down the aisle of a Persian market and there was a large display of quince, an odd-shaped fruit that resembles a misshapen pear.  I love quince paste, so I thought why not?  I  bought several to try, did some research, and poached the quince in a sweet liquid.  What I didn’t know was that as quince cooks, the pale cream-colored fresh is transformed into a beautiful shade of rose and the longer it cooked, the more intense the color became.  Sometimes an adventure can take place right in your own kitchen.  Hopefully one day there will be larger scaled adventures, but in the meantime this will do, and I will keep you posted on the new vegetable garden.

Poached Quince  (adapted from David Lebowitz)

This recipe is to taste, make it as sweet or lemony as you like.

5 large quince

4 cups water

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 cinnamon stick

1/4 lemon

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Place the water, sugar, honey, lemon and vanilla bean in a large pot and turn it on to medium heat.  Meanwhile peel, and quarter each quince.  Carefully remove the cores and cut each quarter into thick slices.  Add slices to pot, and cover with parchment paper, trimmed to fit, with a small home in the middle.  Press gently down on paper.  Simmer for about 2 hours.  Quince should keep it’s shape but be very soft.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: This would be a great side to Turkey!

Enjoy,

Irene

Hearty Vegetarian Lasagna

When the boys were little, they used to drag chairs into their bedroom, grab sheets from the linen closet, flashlights from the drawers, and spend hours building forts.  They loved creating something out of nothing and the only limitations were the size of their room and the breadth of their imagination.  Each time they did this the configuration of the fort was just a little different but the basics were the same.  Just like our Sukkah.  The size is determined by the space available and the rest is up to us.  In truth building a Sukkah is not so different than building those forts.  Shortly after Rosh Hashana, Norm orders the Schah, (in Los Angeles we use Palm fronds) and then starts pulling the lumber out of the garage.  A few days later the frame goes up but it doesn’t really look like  anything much at this point.  (If anything it looks like he is planning to build a fort)  Then the lights and a few decorations go up.  That lasts about a week, and finally when the schah is delivered and thrown over the top of the frame, the Sukkah takes on a life of its own.

This year my brother-in-law Jeff will be joining us in our Sukkah for the very first time.  Just like when the kids invited a friend to come play in the fort, a guest gives you an opportunity to show off your handiwork.  For years I have encouraged Norm to buy a Sukkah Kit, or have the patio roof re-done so that all he would have to do is add the walls, in other words to find a way of building a Sukkah that would take less effort.  That will never happen because then he wouldn’t be able to tell Jeff, or any other guest, that “he built it all by himself.”  There is something about boys and their forts.  Chag Sameach.

 

 

This is a vegetarian version of Joy Behar’s lasagna as seen on The Chew.  The soy crumbles and soy Italian sausages worked perfectly.

Hearty Vegetarian Lasagna

2 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 lb soy Italian Sausages, cut into 1/2″ slices

8 oz. soy crumbles

1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1- 6 oz. can tomato paste

1/2 cup basil leaves slicked into slivers

2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp oregano

1/2 box lasagna noodles

1 lb. whole milk ricotta

1 cup grated parmesan

1 extra-large egg

1 lb. whole milk fresh mozzarella

1/4 cup parmesan for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Soak noodles in a casserole dish filled with hot tap water.  Heat olive oil in large pan, add chopped onions and sauté for about 5 minutes.  Add minced garlic and sauté for another minute.  Add soy crumbles and Italian sausage and cook for about 10 minutes.  Then add tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano and basil.  Simmer on low, while preparing filling, for about 10 minutes.

In a bowl mix ricotta with beaten egg and 1 cup parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Take a 9 x 12 baking dish and pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom.  Then cover sauce with half of the soaked noodles.  Cover noodles with 1/3 sauce, 1/2 of the sliced mozzarella and half the ricotta mixture.  Add second layer of noodles, and repeat. Sprinkle with additional 1/4 cup parmesan.  Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.  Serves 6-8

Enjoy,

Irene

 

 

Ktzizot (Hamburgers)

In Aaron Lansky‘s book, Outwitting History,  he relates that in the Conservative synagogue he attended as a young boy, the front rows of the shul were filled with ” American-born professionals” who created an atmosphere that become more decorous each year.  On the other hand, the back of the shul was filled with Eastern European immigrants who spoke Yiddish and almost never stopped talking.  He tells us that by the age of 7 he already preferred” the heymish, home-grown, back of the shul to the highbrow front.”

When I read that passage, I smiled because this past week my friend Fredda and I spent some time standing at the back of the shul, talking and enjoying the casual “heymish” atmosphere.  It was liberating, no shushing and no rules.  I am also a ‘back of the shul” kind of cook.  That was the food I grew up on, simple, unpretentious, nourishing food that would fill your stomach and feed your soul.  My mother used to make pan-fried hamburgers that I thought were too basic and too simple.  Now I know that’s exactly what made them so good.  G’mar Hatimah Tovah.

Ktzizot

1 pound ground turkey, chicken or beef

1 small onion, finely chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2-3 Tbsp. bread crumbs

salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup Vegetable oil

 Place ground meat in a large bowl and add chopped onion, garlic and parsley.  Beat eggs and combine with meat along with bread crumbs, salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Form into oval or round patties.  In a cast iron skillet, heat about 1/3 cup oil till hot.  Fry Ktzizot for several minutes on each side.  Serves 4