My sister is in town, and it isn’t surprising that the conversation often turns to our mother, hers and mine. The discussion typically begins with Anita recalling how, “our mother used to say…” ,”used to prepare…”, “used to pronounce…” or “used to like…”, and ends when I respond by saying, “not my mother.” There are eight years between us and in some ways we did have different mothers. Anita was born and spent her early years in post-war Paris, while I was a child of the 1950s, born in The Bronx. With each of us, our mother was busy adjusting to a new country, culture, language, and cuisine. As the younger sister I must admit that I thoroughly enjoy this verbal sparring but I’m not sure my sister feels the same way.
Preparing for Rosh Hashana, I feel an obligation to make some of the dishes that we both remember, and agree, that our mother served every Yontif. I will make her Chicken Soup with kreplach, garlic chicken with roast potatoes, and make sure to include carrots for a sweet year. The gefilte fish has been eliminated from the menu, as has the honey cake. Instead of Tzimmis, I will prepare a fresh raw salad, colorful and slightly sweet, still using some ingredients that were often found in my mother’s kitchen, but with a new twist.
I remember my mother wishing that the New Year would be at least as good as the last, and no worse. I called my sister to confirm this, and of course, she said that her mother never said that. Luckily, some things never change. Wishing you all a Zisn Yontif, on that we can all agree.
Note: This recipe was adapted from a salad prepared in my home several weeks ago by the chefs from Puzzle Israel.
1/2 cup olive oil
1/ 4 cup lemon or lime juice
1 Tb sesame oil
1 tsp salt
I would add a few drops of honey for some extra sweetness
My children attended Akiba Academy, now known as Sinai Akiba, from grades K-8. When Norm and I chose that particular school, the decision was based on reputation, philosophy, and location. We were young parents and had no idea how that choice would impact not only the lives of our children, but our lives as well. My children made life-long friends at Akiba, (my older son is now related to one of those friends) and some of our closest friends were also found in those classrooms. Our family benefited in ways that we didn’t anticipate, by meeting and becoming friends with Jewish families that came from places like Iran, Mexico, Russia and Egypt. Being Akiba parents influenced our decision to send our children to Camp Ramah, (where our older son met his wife) it exposed us to more observant families, influencing the way we practiced Judaism, it opened our eyes to the benefits of Jewish education which ultimately led to the decision to continue with our children’s Jewish education through Shalhevet and Milken Community High School.
When I look back, I realize how significant those relationships were, in spite of how young our children were at the time. That community of children and parents stood by each other through good times and challenging times, through celebrations and unfortunately, through losses. I love that so many of them and so many of us are still in touch. I love that early this morning my daughter called wanting my recipe for Sumi salad, a salad I first tasted in the Silberman home over 20 years ago, shortly after David and Aaron met in Kindergarten. What better way to celebrate the 4th than with a recipe for a salad that was given to me by a friend I met through Akiba, who was born in Egypt, raised in Israel, and living in America. Happy 4th to all and thank you Sinai Akiba.
Irma’s Sumi Salad
1 head shredded cabbage (or 1 bag)
8 green onions, thinly sliced
2 packages of Ramen noodles or a kosher equivalent. Just use the noodles, not the seasonings
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup frozen apple juice, thawed
1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 Tb dark sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. Take bags or Ramen and without opening them, break noodles in the bag with your hands or a rolling-pin. Add to salad. Mix dressing ingredients and pour over salad no more than 15 minutes before serving so noodles stay somewhat crispy. Serves 6
As a little boy he dreamed of being a cowboy, raised in the era of Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and The Cisco Kid. All Norm wanted was a pony and a six-gun, but the closest he came was horse-back riding, living on Kibbutz and wearing a cowboy hat He even named his bike Trigger. Over the years, there have been purchases of Western attire, showing that deep down the dream still exists. His love of all things Western included the many Cowboy ballads that we spent hours either listening to or singing during the long car trips with our children. Even my mother knew all of the lyrics to The Streets of Laredo and it never failed to bring a tear to her eyes.
Today in honor of Father’s Day, Norm was able to relive a bit of that dream. An afternoon spent at the Gene Autry Museum which included a concert featuring some of the members of the Western Music Association. So here is to fathers everywhere who had to hang up their hat and raise their kids instead. He would never have traded being a Dad for anything, but just to let him dream for a few more hours, I am serving him a bowl of Cowboy Caviar for dinner.
Happy Father’s Day and Happy Trails to you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcYsO890YJY
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 can yellow corn, drained and rinsed or fresh raw corn
1/2 sweet Vidalia onion, diced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1/2 each of an orange and red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro or parsley, depending on your crowd
1/2 cup of canola oil
1 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp cumin
Combine prepared vegetables and place in a large bowl. Combine ingredients for marinade in a pot and heat over low flame for about 10 minutes. Let cool completely and pour over vegetables. Allow to marinade for several hours before serving.
I grew up hearing stories of my grandmothers and their preparations for Passover, most of which began way in advance of the holiday. The walls had to be whitewashed, the geese had to be slaughtered and the goose fat rendered, and the down pillows were opened so that the feathers could be cleaned and re-stuffed into new ticking. Then there was the shopping and cooking. With large families, and no take-out or prepared foods available, everything was made at home. I was told that my maternal grandmother baked an enormous sponge-cake every morning, made with 12 dozen eggs, a cake large enough so everyone could have a piece for breakfast. I wish I knew my grandmothers, these women who worked tirelessly to keep their traditions and whose efforts made lasting impressions on their children and on the grandchildren they never had the chance to meet.
I think of my mother’s preparations for Passover and wonder how much she was influenced by her own childhood experiences. I think of my children and wonder if there are pieces they will choose to keep from their childhood. Do they remember that the glass dishes soaked in the bathtub for days, that they were made to clean their dresser drawers while keeping an eye out for pieces of gum or candy that might have been missed. That the trunk of the car was loaded with all the cutlery, pots and pans that had to be toivled at the synagogue and then driven to the car wash so that the back seats could be lifted and vacuumed? Or my personal favorite which was hiding the chametz around the house and searching for it by candlelight?
I too am starting to think of Passover and I remember specific foods that my mother always had on hand during the holidays. Home-made beet borscht for one, the cold version that had sour cream mixed in which turned it into the color of bubble gum, but which I never did acquire a taste for. When I met my friend Susan T., I discovered a meat version of beet borscht, made with short ribs and served piping hot with a generous dollop of mashed potatoes mixed with fried onions, heaped in the center of the soup bowl and suddenly I discovered how good beets could be. Eventually there were other preparations that I now love, like beets paired with goat cheese and walnuts, or simply roasted and drizzled with an aged balsamic vinegar.
I wish my grandmothers had lived to see how Passover is observed in the homes of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I imagine that they would shep naches knowing that their descendents make an effort to get together for the seders, that we care enough to argue over issues like kitniyot, that we have dishes like beet salad whose ingredients they would still recognize as being familiar, and that no matter how many of us there are, we make sure there is enough cake so that everyone can have a piece for breakfast.
Beet and Blood Orange Salad
5 medium beets, use a combination of red, orange, and yellow.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced, placed in cold water for 1 minute and squeezed out.
5 blood oranges, peeled, and segmented
This week I heard an interview with Professor Udea who published the first Japanese-Yiddish dictionary after spending twenty years of his life dedicated to producing this scholarly work. The NPR interview made me smile, especially when hearing Professor Udea’s Japanese-accented Yiddish. My father used to insist that Yiddish was a dying language and when I find evidence to the contrary, I am delighted. One of my mother’s favorite expressions was that it was a lebidikeh velt, and she was right. Guess what we are having for Shabbat dinner tonight? Japanese inspired Soba Salad. Gut Shabbos.
For those of you who might be interested in learning some Yiddish, take a look at yiddishwordoftheweek.tumblr.com
12 oz. Soba noodles, cooked in boiling water for about 6-8 minutes. Drain and rinse very well, actually washing the noodles in cold water to remove all excess starch. Set aside.
1 red pepper
1 avocado, thinly sliced
1 block firm tofu, cut in cubes
6 oz. shiitake mushrooms sliced
1 bunch of greens of your choice, chard, spinach, steamed
2 Tb olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
Thinly slice red pepper, scallion and avocado and set aside. Slice mushrooms and sauté over high heat for about 5 minutes. Add sesame oil and set aside. Steam spinach.
Last week I turned on the Food Network and Giada De Laurentiis had just blanched a pot of Brussel Sprout leaves. Unfortunately I missed her technique for separating the leaves, but the result looked so appealing that I decided to try to duplicate it. My friend Sheila had invited us over to try a new recipe that she was testing for Passover, Braised Short Ribs, and I thought that a green salad would be a perfect way to balance the richness of the beef. Plus it was fun knowing that we were going to be each other’s taste testers in anticipation of Pesach.
Using a very small paring knife, I cut the bottom of each Brussel Sprout and gently trimmed off each individual leaf. After about 45 minutes, I had enough for a large salad. The leaves were quickly blanched, strained, and thrown into a bowl of ice water. There they were, a bowl of delicate beautiful emerald-green leaves which I tossed with arugula and toasted almonds. The dressing was equal parts olive oil and lemon juice. The salad was refreshing and lemony, and the preparation was a nice alternative to roasting the Brussel Sprouts. The short ribs melted in your mouth.
We won’t be in Los Angeles for Pesach this year, we are heading East at the invitation of our recently married son and daughter-in-law. I will miss our Seder, our friends in L.A., and my sister and brother-in-law, but it will be the first time that both families, (and all the siblings) will join together to celebrate a Chag, and that’s too wonderful an opportunity to pass up.
Spring can’t come soon enough.
Brussel Sprout Leaf, Arugula and Almond Salad
1 lb. Brussel Sprouts, bottoms trimmed and leaves removed
3 cups Baby Arugula
1/2 cup slivered toasted almonds
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and toss in leaves. Boil for one minute, strain, and place in bowl of ice water. Drain and toss Brussel Sprout leaves, arugula and toasted almonds in a large bowl. Dress and serve immediately. Serves 6
By the way, the Braised Short Ribs were as beautiful as they were delicious, just take a look for yourself.
I have something to share about my husband. He has a tendency to reveal the ending of a play or movie plot before the rest of us have seen it, or share the final score of a sports event when others are watching in a different time zone. It is something we joke about, and as a family we often censor him just when we realize from the twinkle in his eye that he is about to spill the beans.
Here is another thing that he loves to do. Every year at this time, Norm comes home from shul and announces that they began to read from the Book of Exodus. Can you guess what the next line is?? He casually adds, “that means Pesach is not far off.” Norm knows that this is not an announcement that elicits a reaction that I might have with a slightly more “fun” piece of news. Don’t misunderstand, I love Passover but he knows that in mid-January thinking about Passover is pretty much an excercise in anxiety.
I am simply refusing to take heed and am putting Passover out of my mind, at least for now. Tu Bishvat is around the corner, and though I don’t really do anything to celebrate this particular holiday, it is a reminder that Spring is not too far off, that in Israel the Almond trees will soon blossom, and that the days are once again getting longer.
Last night I made an eggplant relish and added toasted almonds instead of the pine nuts that were called for in the recipe. (it is an adaptation of an Ina Garten recipe) It would be a good dish to have for a Tu Bishvat Seudah and will be a perfect accompaniment to matzoh. Something to think about.
3 Globe Eggplants
8 oz. Jar of Roasted Red Peppers, diced
2 medium Onions, diced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
4 Tb Tomato Paste
1/3 cup Red Wine Vinegar
4 Tb olive oil
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
salt and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and roast whole eggplants on a cookie sheet until tender, about one hour. In the meantime, sauté chopped onions in olive oil till onions are translucent. Add minced garlic and sauté an additional minute or two. Remove to bowl and add tomato paste, red wine vinegar and a dash of olive oil. After the eggplant has cooled, scoop out the flesh and process for a few minutes before adding to onion mixture. Mix in finely diced red peppers and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and parsley. Serves 8
As a child having an August birthday was always a little disappointing. Children who were born during the school year had typical parties that included games and home-made birthday cakes, but in the heat of the summer not too many kids were hanging around the Bronx. It also stemmed from the fact that my parents were not particularly interested in birthday celebrations. They never quite understood what all the fuss was about, on top of which they believed that once your birthday arrived, that year was over and you were now entering the next year of your life. Telling your friends that you are finally sixteen was somewhat hampered by my Mom who was busy reminding me that I was no longer sixteen, but now in my seventeenth year. We didn’t know my father’s actual birthday till he sent for his Polish birth certificate when he was well into his sixties. We grew up thinking his birthday was December 2nd, and so you can imagine our surprise when the certificate arrived and we realized he was born on February 12th. He hadn’t remembered that the day, rather than the month, is listed first on European documents. My mother often reminded us that birthdays were not marked when she was growing up, but were referred to in proximity to holidays, you were born near Sukkot, or on Passover, and that was the extent to which it was mentioned.
All this by way of saying that I love celebrating birthdays, which is no surprise. It just so happens that there are many August birthdays in our family and one in mid-September, which is close enough. My youngest son turned 24 today or as my mother would have said, has now entered his 25th year. Out of bed early this morning, I am spending the day cooking for his birthday celebration, a picnic and concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Dinner will include slow-roasted tomatoes, cheese (hand delivered from Paris) and a crispy baguette. Then on to baked salmon, pasta with vine-ripened tomatoes, basil and garlic. Sides are grilled artichokes, Chinese Long Bean salad, and a green salad with avocado and hearts of palm. Then champagne grapes, Bing cherries and a home-made two-layer chocolate cake.
Happy birthday Micah,and of course to all of you other August babies, here’s to us!! Special wishes for my Machatenista who has a big celebration coming up, and to Auntie Clara who is turning 100!!
Chinese Long Bean Salad with Creme Fraiche Dressing
1 pound Chinese Long Beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
3-4 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons crème fraîche
Several months ago I had the pleasure of spending the morning at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles listening to several innovative chefs and speakers discuss food. One of the speakers was Michael Stern, the author of Roadfood, who shared humorous stories about his search for great meals while “on the road.” He reflected on the difference between fine dining and dining on local fare, and encouraged the audience to embrace all the small diners, stands, and dives where the ambiance may be lacking, but the food more than makes up for it. Don’t trade taste for a tablecloth. Michael Stern urged us to look for “regional experiences” when travelling, and to try dishes that the city or town is known for. Lobster in Maine, Deep Dish Pizza in Chicago, Mexican Food in Los Angeles, and BBQ in Texas. For some of us that may mean kosher Fried Chicken in Atlanta, vegetarian Dim Sum in NY’s Chinatown, and…. BBQ in Texas…. (where I am spending this weekend.)
In order to do that, you have to be willing to expand your horizons and be open to experience food prepared by people who have been eating and serving those dishes for generations. Food that may be unfamiliar, strange, and different from what you are used to. Allow yourself to have a gastronomic adventure and, who knows, you may just discover that you love cilantro after all.
Here were some of Michael Stern’s tips for hunting out places on the road where you may end up having a memorable meal. Look for police cars or truckers parked outside a restaurant. Use your nose and follow something that smells good till you get to the source. (A close friend of my father’s, who lived in Paris, once told me the same thing) Think about where you are! Do you really want to eat Mexican food in Connecticut?? Be open, leave your judgement and your prejudices at the door, and enjoy!
Grace’s Nopal Salad (Cactus Paddle Salad)
1 pound Nopales (cactus) cooked and sliced (these can be bought pre-prepared in Los Angeles)
1 whole fresh tomato, chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
1 -2 finely chopped Serrano chilis
1/4 tsp dried oregano
3 Tbs olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
Put nopales in a bowl and add green onion and chopped tomato. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over cactus. Serves 4-6.