Susan’s Mini Corn Muffins

The stoop was not just an architectural feature of many of the buildings in The Bronx, it was much more than that.  In addition to flanking the entryway to the building , it was the place to linger, to hang out and have what my older son refers to as a “stop and chat.”  It even served as a destination because plans were often made to meet up with friends at “the stoop”  The boys played stoop ball and the girls used the same pink Spalding ball to play “A my name,” a children’s game where you continuously bounced the ball and turned your leg over the ball on the word that contained the letter of the alphabet that was being emphasized.   i.e. A my name is Anita and my husband’s name is Al, we come from Alabama and we sell Apples.  It wasn’t until about 7 years ago on a trip to Brooklyn when I bought several “spaldines” and discovered that we had mispronounced Spalding all these years.

My friend Saul likes to make fun of the days I spent hanging out at the stoop but to this day I smile when I am in NYC and see that kids and adults are still doing it.  After spending those hot summer days lingering around the stoop I would go upstairs and have an ice-cold glass of milk with an afternoon snack.  If my mother were here, she would tell you that had the milk been out of the fridge and on the counter for more than one minute, I would refuse to drink it.  The snacks?  My favorite were, iced brownies with walnuts, black and white cookies, Chinese cookies, or a corn muffin split in half and lathered in butter.   The stoops are in The Bronx and I am in L.A. , but the corn muffins are in the kitchen, hot and fresh from the oven, and the milk is still in the fridge.

 

Susan’s Mini Corn Muffins

2 cups yellow cornmeal

2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tb baking powder

2 tsp salt

2/3 cup oil

2 eggs

2 cups milk

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients.  Combine oil, eggs, and milk in a small bowl, and add to dry ingredients till just combined.  Grease mini muffin tins well and fill to the top.  Bake for about 8 minutes using a convection oven or about 10 minutes in a conventional oven.  Makes 24 muffins.

Enjoy,

Irene

Summer Fruit Cobbler

My father had a story to tell but unfortunately I was not ready to hear it when he was alive.  I know that he was the youngest of seven children and that his father died shortly after my father was born.  I don’t recall my father sharing many stories about his siblings, extended family or even his mother.  Perhaps the loss was so painful that he just couldn’t bring himself to speak of them, or maybe he thought his stories couldn’t compete with my mother’s colorful delivery.  Either way, there are holes in the family history and nobody left to ask.

My mother was a storyteller and spoke warmly of her large family and their lives in the small shtetl of Mogielnica.  We grew up hearing about my maternal grandfather’s tannery, about her aunt who owned the bakery in town and whose sisters were also bakers, about her unruly brothers who she clearly adored.  The meals, the food, the holidays, the memories were vivid and sharp and I can recall many of them to this day.

My daughter recently traveled to Germany and realized that she doesn’t know as much about my family as she had thought.  She has asked me to write down what information I have, but I must admit it is very limited.  It is a tall order and it feels like I am trying to recreate something without knowing all the ingredients.  So instead, I spent the afternoon baking a Fruit Cobbler, in memory of all the family bakers that preceded me, and in honor of my daughter who wants to know more and is ready to ask.

 

Fruit Cobbler

1 stick butter

1 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1 Tb baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup milk

4 cups fruit ( I used blackberries and peaches)

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Place butter in a large round baking dish and melt in a 375 degree oven.  In the meantime, mix 1 cup of sugar with the flour, salt, and baking powder.  Add milk, stirring gently but not thoroughly.  Pour batter over melted butter but do not stir.

In a medium pot, cook fruit with sugar and cinnamon for just a few minutes.  Pour over batter and sprinkle with more cinnamon.  Bake for about 45 minutes or till golden brown.  There is liquid in the center even when the cobbler is fully baked, just take the juices and spoon over each serving.  Serves 8

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Italian Sausage and Peppers

Recently I have eaten more hot dogs, hamburgers, and sausages than I normally would in the span of a few weeks, mainly because it’s summertime and everyone is busy grilling.  Typically I would try a bit of everything but as the weeks have gone by I realized that hamburgers (even the Brazilian style burger we made with a pan-fried egg on top) just can’t compete with a really good hot dog or sausage.  When I was growing up franks and sausages were part of the culinary scene among both Jewish and Italian immigrants.  Three preparations come to mind.

The salty scent of frankfurters remind me of Ben’s Kosher Deli which was located on the Concourse and 183rd Street.  The hot dogs were prepared in the front window where they shared center stage with salamis, large and small, suspended from the ceiling, drying.  The hot dog buns were the perfect texture, soft and fresh, the mustard was traditional yellow deli mustard, and the sauerkraut warmed to just the right temperature.  Of course the only suitable drink was a Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda.  The best part of the meal was undoubtedly the first bite, because nothing could compare to that immediate burst of flavor.

Another favorite was a dish my mother made using kosher knockwurst, a larger, plumper hot dog.  According to my sister it was called choucroute and my mother learned to make it in France.  The preparation was simple.  My mother would dice a large onion and brown it in a little vegetable oil in a large pot.  She would then take a jar of sauerkraut and rinse it, and add it to the caramelized onions, along with about 3 cups of water.  To this she would add a few meaty beef bones, season the dish with salt and pepper, cover and cook it for about an hour and a half.  She would then add a package of knockwurst and let simmer for another hour.  It was a hearty winter dish, served steaming hot on top of mashed potatoes.

Finally, if you went to the Bartolinis on a Sunday,  you would get a whiff of the Italian version of frankfurters, Italian Sausage and Peppers.  A simple dish that combined sausages, onions, and green bell peppers, all sautéed till golden brown and piled into a crusty Italian roll.

For those of you would never consider eating hot dogs and sausages, there are now vegetarian, chicken, turkey, tofu and “low-fat” versions.  Personally, I prefer mine fully leaded, with either a cold cream soda or a beer.

Italian Sausage and Peppers

6 Italian sausages, cut in large chunks  (try Jeff’s, Neshama or Jack’s )

2 large brown onions, cut in half and then thinly sliced

2 large green Bell peppers, sliced

3 Tb olive oil

Heat olive oil and over a high flame, browning  sausages.  Add onions and peppers, reduce flame and cook till onions are caramelized and peppers are tender.  Add some chili flakes if you like it hot.  Pile high in a crusty Italian roll.

Enjoy,

Irene

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

In the past two weeks we have had many reasons to celebrate.  Our anniversary marking 36 years of marriage, and our son’s and daughter-in-law’s marking their first year of marriage.  There have also been weddings, engagements, and of course, birthdays.  In an embarrassment of riches the 4th of July almost slipped by unnoticed except that three recent experiences served as reminders of this 236th birthday.

We had the opportunity to tour a plantation in Nashville where we were reminded of one of the darkest periods of America’s past, and then just one week later we were filled with hope at the recent decision of the Supreme Court to uphold President Obama’s Health Care Law.  Then, just a few days ago I read an article in a Temple Bulletin which included an excerpt of a letter that President Washington wrote to the Jews of Newport Rhode Island in 1790.   “May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while everyone shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid….May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.”

I hope you can enjoy the 4th under your own vine or fig tree, but if not, Strawberry-Rhubarb pie with a scoop of French Vanilla ice cream should do.  Happy 4th!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Pastry

1 1/2 sticks butter (or pareve margarine)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tb sugar

2-3 Tb ice water

Cut cold butter in cubes and place in bowl of food processor.  Add flour and sugar.  Start processor and add ice water through feeder tube, but only enough water till dough gathers into a ball.  Remove dough and wrap in Saran wrap.  Refrigeration for two hours or up to two days.  Try to handle dough as little as possible when rolling out.  This yields enough dough for two crusts.

Filling

2 lbs. strawberries, hulled, and sliced in half

4 stalks rhubarb, thinly sliced

1  3/4 cups sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

i tsp vanilla

2/3 cup flour

4 Tb butter

In  a large bowl, mix cut fruit with flour, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Place one pie crust on prepared dish.  Add fruit and dot with bits of butter.  Cover fruit with second crust.  Crimp the crusts together, make slits in the top, and brush with about 2 Tb milk or non-dairy creamer.  Sprinkle with sugar and place in oven to bake.  Place lined cookie sheet on the tray below the pie to catch any drippings.   Bake for  about 50 minutes or till golden.  Tip: If edges brown to quickly, cover with foil collar.

Enjoy,

Irene