Chicken Taquitos

IMG_2145Some family patterns are repeated from generation to generation.  When I was growing up it wasn’t unusual for my mother to make three different entrees for the four of us.  My parents would share one main course, but in addition, my mother often prepared whatever it was that my sister and I each craved.  I now see that it was just a “crazy” thing to do, but it is a pattern that I repeated with my own children.  Food was love and nobody was ever expected to eat something they didn’t care for.  Meals were about enjoyment, pleasure, and indulgence.

Last week all four of my adult children were coming to town to attend the wedding of family friends.  Two were arriving in time for Shabbat and not knowing exactly what each one would want for dinner, I covered all the bases.  I prepared enough food for ten, completely unable to cook for four.  I made Matboucha (a Moroccan tomato salad) to start with, followed by chicken soup with matzoh balls.  The main course included shredded brisket that was braised for ten hours, baked honey garlic chicken, roast potatoes, sautéed Bok Choy with shiitake mushrooms, and a green salad.  Dessert was fruit, and brownies covered with a layer of caramel and sea salt, an Ina Garten recipe.  I guess I went overboard, but as a result we had lots of leftovers.  On top of it all, I still had to do something with that soup chicken.  My mother used to serve the soup chicken as a main course (one reason that she was forced to make something different for my sister and me,) and my mother-in-law used it as filling for knishes or shepard’s pie.  I decided to make Chicken Taquitos.

During the course of the weekend, as the kids devoured the Taquitos, they shared some “constructive criticism.”  One son suggested that next time I might consider adding some diced potatoes or chunks of avocado, and another said the Taquitos could   have used more seasoning and cilantro.

On Wednesday morning we woke up to a much quieter household and I decided to get up and clean out the fridge before I left for work.  The leftovers were gone as were three of the four children, and there wasn’t a Taquito in sight.

Chicken Taquitos

4 large cooked chicken breasts

4 green onions, thinly sliced

½ cup chicken broth

24 corn tortillas.  4 1/2 inch size

2 tbsp canola oil plus oil for frying

1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper
In a large bowl, skin, bone, and shred cooked chicken, and set aside.  In 2 tbsp oil, sauté sliced green onions for about 3-4 minutes and add to shredded chicken along with salt and pepper to taste.  At this point you might want to add some diced pre-cooked potatoes, taco seasoning, chopped fresh cilantro, or some avocado chunks.  Add chicken broth to moisten the mixture.  Warm tortillas in microwave, wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel or in a tortilla warmer, till soft enough to roll.  Place about 2 tbsp of chicken mixture at the bottom part of the tortilla and roll tightly.  Place tooth pick through the flap to hold Taquito together.  Add enough oil to a large frying pan so that it is about 2 inches deep.   Place pan over med-high heat till hot, and fry Taquitos till golden brown on one side and then turn.  Cook about 3 minutes per side.  Serve hot with salsa and guacamole.  Serve 2 to 3 Taquitos per person.
Enjoy,

Irene

Estelle’s Thai Chicken Tacos with Cabbage Slaw

IMG_1290As 2012 comes to an end, I want to thank all of you who have continued to give me support and encouragement over the past year.  Some of you send me private e-mails, some of you post comments on the blog, some “like” me on Facebook, and some of you subscribe but never say a word, and that too is appreciated.

My friend Estelle sent me and our friend Susan this e-mail about a Shabbat dinner that she prepared for her family, and because she is an incredible cook I am sure these chicken tacos are as good as she said they were.  More importantly, you will see that she left her comfort zone, not an easy thing to do, whether it be in the kitchen or elsewhere.  May 2013 be filled with health,  happiness, good food, and just enough courage to try something new.

 

” Dear Friends,
Over the past years I have admired many of my friends.  I have been lucky to have been surrounded by women that have given me advice, names of painters, doctors, and recipes that have turned a meal into a memory.  I have forwarded many of those recipes to you, but today I thought I would write a little story along with an incredible recipe, that I served on Shabbat.
 
I have two wonderful friends by the names of Irene and Susie.  I look forward to their blog posts, not only for the delicious recipes, but truly for their stories, and the memories they  share with all of us.  After reading many of Irene’s stories and recipes, I wonder if we are related.   Often times when I make something truly delicious, I always wonder what Irene and Susie would have said about this dish.  
 
Recently I had a lovely lunch with a new friend.  We talked for a long time and then swapped  Shabbat recipes.  I told her I was going to make Thai Chicken Tacos but was not going to serve them with corn tortillas, as the recipe called for.  I explained that I  could hear my dad’s voice saying, ” What is a tortilla?”   But my friend told me that she had done a Mexican themed Shabbat dinner and it was fine.  She gave me “permission” to veer from the norm.  When I came home,  I was still not convinced but then I fondly remembered many Mexican Shabbat dinners at Susie’s house.  Most of them had tortillas that complemented  her delicious menu.  Could I have the courage to do that?   I did it, and our dinner felt both familiar and like an adventure, but most importantly, it still felt like Shabbat.  
Warmest wishes to all, Estelle. “
Thai Chicken Tacos
1 lime, halved
l lb skinless boneless chicken breasts, thighs, or tenders, cut into strips, 1/2″ thick.
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 shallot, sliced
3 cloves garlic minced
2 tsp  soy sauce
1/2 to 1 tsp chili flakes
1/2 to 1 tsp hot sauce
2 Tb vegetable oil
16 corn tortillas heated
1 recipe Cabbage Slaw
Juice one half of a lime.  Cut remaining half in wedges (oops forgot to serve them) and set aside.  In a bowl combine chicken strips, cilantro, shallot, garlic,  lime juice, soy sauce, chili flakes, and hot sauce.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour ( I did it overnight.)  In a large skillet cook chicken in hot oil over medium high till cooked, about 1o minutes, stirring occasionally.  To serve, layer 2 tortillas (we used only one) top with chicken and cabbage slaw.  Serve remaining cabbage slaw and lime wedges on side.
 
CABBAGE SLAW
in a bowl toss 2 cups shredded Napa cabbage, 1/2 cup shredded carrot, 1/2 cup sliced green onion, 1/2 cup sliced radishes (did not use as I forgot to buy them) 1/4 cup chopped cilantro,  and 1/4 cup coarsely chopped peanuts (did not use as my mom is allergic.) Although think it would be better with sliced or slivered almonds.   Add 1/4 cup rice vinegar and toss.
Enjoy,
Irene

Chicken Cacciatore

2012-12-14 17.26.20It is a testament to my parents’ confidence in their ability to transmit their values to my sister and me that they were not threatened by Christmas.  I was allowed to attend Christmas dinner at the Bartolinis, listen to holiday music on the radio, help my neighbor Rosemary decorate her Christmas tree, and go to the Lorenzano brothers home on Christmas Eve for a very small glass of Creme de Menthe.   Maybe they knew it was unavoidable since we attended public school, but their liberal attitudes gave me the freedom to learn about Christmas, see how it was observed, and discover that in the homes of our Italian neighbors and friends, food played a central role at their family gatherings as well. 

This Friday night as the last days of Chanukkah were approaching, and Norm and I had Shabbat dinner by ourselves, all I wanted was Chicken Cacciatore,  the kind of hearty dish that Mrs. Bartolini might have made for Christmas Dinner.  I felt lucky that I had those wonderful memories to call on and as I placed freshly made, piping hot latkes on my husband’s plate, and with no apple sauce in sight, he used the latkes to soak up the sauce of the Chicken Cacciatore.  The next night our friends joined us for a Christmas Concert where Norm was singing in the choir, and afterwards we went to one of our local kosher dairy restaurants for “Toastim.”   Without giving it much thought my parents instilled a love of Judaism that doesn’t prevent me from being able to appreciate the beauty of Christmas. 

Chicken Cacciatore

6 Chicken Thighs, legs attached

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 large red bell peppers, chopped

1 large brown onion, chopped

1 lb. white mushrooms, halved

4 garlic cloves, finely sliced

3/4 cup dry red wine

1 – 28-oz can crushed tomatoes

3/4 cup chicken stock

1 tsp chili flakes

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and then dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, shaking off excess.  In a large pot, heat the oil, add the chicken pieces to the pan and brown over high heat, about 5 minutes per side.  Avoid crowding, browning in two batches if necessary.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.  Add the chopped bell peppers, onion, and garlic to the same pan and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Add the wine, crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, garlic, chili flakes, and oregano.  Add the chicken pieces back to the pot, and the mushrooms,  making sure the sauce covers everything.  Bring the pot to a simmer and cook, covered,  over low heat for about 1 1/2 hours.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serves 4 generously.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

 

Sticky BBQ Chicken

I’ve had the good fortune of living near an ocean all of my life, first the Atlantic and now the Pacific.  My parents loved the beach, and growing up in the Bronx we spent every weekend on hot crowded buses just to get to Orchard Beach, a beach populated by immigrants and locals.  Once we arrived, my parents always sat in the same grassy area with the same group of people.  My mother would bring certain foods along,  blueberry buns, tuna sandwiches made with generously sliced challah, hard-boiled eggs, fruit, and cold beer for my father.  While the adults played cards and discussed politics, we would go off and play by ourselves for hours.  We played in the ocean or on the sand and sometimes we would keep busy by collecting starfish that we dried in the sun.   Our parents didn’t worry because our older siblings would be nearby laying on their blankets listening to music on transistor radios while spending hours sunbathing.  Not only are the memories embedded but so are the foods associated with those memories, and to this day when I bite into a blueberry bun, it tastes like summer.

Yesterday my daughter, Norm and I went to the beach, something we don’t do often enough.  We didn’t bring food, just some cherries for a snack, we didn’t meet up with friends and we didn’t play cards or discuss politics.  We relaxed, read the paper, took naps on the warm blanket, and eventually packed up the car and came home.  By then we were hungry, raided the fridge and ate cold, leftover BBQ chicken.  Sitting at the kitchen table my daughter took a bite, turned to me and said, “it tastes like summer.”

Sticky BBQ Chicken

2 chickens cut in eighths

Sauce

4 cloves garlic

4 Tb ketchup

4 Tb red wine vinegar

1/2 cup soy sauce

1 cup honey

1 tsp red chili flakes

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

Season chicken with salt and pepper and grill over medium heat till done.  This took about 45 minutes on a gas grill that was about 350 degrees.  Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Using a brush, thickly coat chicken pieces on the grill with sauce.  Cook for five minutes, turn over and baste again.  Remove and pour any remaining sauce on top of chicken and it is ready to serve.  You will need plenty of napkins.

Enjoy,

Irene

Moroccan Hamin

It’s been my experience that when my expectations are high, it can sometimes lead to disappointment.  How often have you been seduced by that decadent pastry in the display case only to discover that it was tasteless, or had dinner in a restaurant with a great reputation and left wondering why.  Thankfully, there is also the flip side, the delightful experience of buying food from a street vendor and biting into something truly delicious.  Some of the best dishes I have ever eaten have been from places where the atmosphere may have left something to be desired, but the food did not.  Places where my expectations were low.

Today the range of my dreams is being installed in my kitchen.  This morning Norm asked if I was excited, and although I am, I am also nervous that my expectations are too high.  All I really want is a range that will brown chicken to perfection.  Norm wants a convection oven that will take his baking to the next level.  We will let you know how it all works out but in the meantime I came home last night and thought I had better cook dinner for Shabbat on my old stove, not knowing if there would be a working stove today.  I made a Moroccan version of  Tabit, one of my favorite one-pot meals.  It was in my oven overnight, and this morning when I took it out, I knew it was the last thing that would ever be cooked in that oven.  It was like saying goodbye to a familiar friend who may be cranky, but who you know well and understand.  Shabbat Shalom and a BIG thank you to Anita and Jeff,  for everything, and then some!

Moroccan Hamin

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 chicken cut into eighths plus an extra 4 thighs

3 cups water

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tbsp  paprika

2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 large tomato, diced

2 cups wheat berries, rinsed several times and drained

1 – 14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained

4 dates, pitted and diced

Saute onion in oil till golden.  Add salt and pepper, spices, and chicken,  and brown well.  Then add freshly diced tomato and tomato paste and sauté for several minutes.  Add wheat berries and garbanzo beans to pot along with diced dates.  Add water,  bring to a boil, cover pot, lower heat and place in a preheated 250 degrees oven overnight.  Serves 4-6

NOTE: If  Hamin looks dry when you take it out, add a little more water, if it has too much liquid, leave pot in the oven without lid for another 30 minutes.

Enjoy,

Irene

Greek Lemon Chicken

I met Maria P. at the Shoah Foundation about 15 years ago, when she was hired to catalogue  the testimonies of Greek Jews.  A petite woman, with dark, medium length hair and olive skin, my mother would have described her as being made of “fire and flame.” Maria was from Saloniki and had a Mediterranean temperament.  Warm, passionate, and full of life, she had many of the qualities that I admire.  We once invited Maria to join us for dinner during Sukkot and, when she arrived, she walked into my kitchen and took charge.  I remember her taking off her shoes, donning an apron, and then… she began to cook.  She had the ability to make herself at home in such a way that you never wanted her to leave.  I lost touch with Maria but the dish that she made that night was memorable.  Maria didn’t bother measuring anything, she placed peeled and quartered potatoes around whole chickens  and poured fresh lemon juice and olive oil (half a bottle) over the entire thing.  An hour and a half later we had a delicious Greek dish in a Sukkah in Los Angeles, and tonight, I am serving it for Shabbat.

 

Greek Lemon Chicken

2 whole chickens

juice of 3 large lemons

1/2 cup olive oil

2 Tbs dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

Place whole chickens in roasting pan (breast side down)  and rub salt, pepper and oregano into skin.  Pour lemon juice over both chickens and then drizzle olive oil over top. Refrigerate overnight or for at least several hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and roast chickens for about 1 1/2 hours.  Turn chickens breast side up after about 45 minutes.

Serves 6-8

Enjoy,

Irene

Coconut Macaroons and other favorite Passover recipes

It’s a busy time and cooking has taken a back seat, for now, but I am busy planning menus and hope to have some photos and recipes to share soon.  As requested, here are some links to my favorite Passover recipes.  Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments as I always enjoy hearing from you.  As my mother liked to say,  I wish all of you a sizn Pesach (a sweet Pesach).

 

 

Coconut Macaroons

4 large egg whites

1 cup sugar

3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut

1 Tbs cake meal

1 Tbs potato starch

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate bar (for drizzling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat whites till almost stiff and slowly add sugar and  finish beating till stiff.  Mix all dry ingredients and fold into whites.  Using a teaspoon drop on greased cookie sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes and cool completely.  Melt chocolate bar in double boiler and drizzle over macaroons.

Additional Favorites

Persian Haroset

Appetizers

Marinated Eggplant

Tomato Basil Salad

Your Soup, my Matzoh Balls

Matzoh Balls

Mains and Sides

Garlic Chicken

Mushroom Kugel

Potato Nik (Kugel)

Desserts

Brownie Meringues

Chocolate Chip Mandelbroit

Enjoy,

Irene

Lemon Chicken

Three of us share one office.  Granted it is an executive space, with large  floor to ceiling windows and a great view of the city.  Still, the day I learned that two of my colleagues and I would have to reconfigure this space to accommodate all of us, I was filled with trepidation.  Our jobs (caseworkers) require spending a fair part of the day on the phone, helping parents or volunteers deal with whatever issues they may be grappling with.  How was this ever going to work?

It took a willingness to compromise and talk things over,  but two years later, we are more than just colleagues.  Our different approaches and personalities could have been an obstacle, but it turned out to be our strength.  We support and encourage each other when we need it, we confer with each other when faced with challenging situations, we laugh, one of us cries, and two of us cry from laughter.  We talk about our families, pets, books, movies, vacations, work, and, of course, food.

Barbie’s dad owned the famous Nibblers Restaurant and shares her wonderful memories of growing up there.  A creative cook, Barbie often describes the concoction she had prepared the night before, using whatever she had in the kitchen.  Susan, not so much a foodie, has some dishes that she has perfected and relies on, like Mac N’ Cheese, Butter Tarts and Lemon Chicken.

Some would find our situation impossible.  We spend more time together than we do with anybody else, eight hours a day, five days a week, in close quarters.  There is no privacy, sort of like three children sharing a bedroom, but I must admit, I never really liked having my own room.

Susan’s Lemon Chicken

2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts  (I used strips)

flour for dredging

6 Tbs olive oil

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup white wine

2 cloves minced garlic

juice of 1 1/2 lemons

salt and pepper to taste

Lightly dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess.  Using a frying pan, brown chicken in olive oil and remove from pan, placing in a Pyrex dish.  Add garlic, broth and wine to frying pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add lemon juice, salt and pepper and pour mixture over chicken. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Enjoy,

Irene

Chicken Fajitas

Anytime I served my mother any kind of ethnic food, her standard response, in Yiddish, was, “we never ate this in Mogielnice.”   I was raised on a strict diet of Eastern European Jewish fare: good, solid, hearty meals.  My mother never made Pad Thai or tacos or stir fry, and just trying to conjure up an image of her standing in the kitchen with a wok makes me smile.  Truth be told, when she did try a new recipe that she was given by a friend or neighbor, my sister and I were typically unhappy about it.  We never wanted to experiment, not in my mother’s kitchen.

Somewhere along the way I discovered that I am drawn to exotic flavors, spices, and aromas more than to burgers, steaks, mac n’ cheese and kugels!  Going to Artesia for vegetarian Indian food is almost as good as reading a book that transports you to Bombay. It is an adventure that you can experience with little effort.  After having lived in Los Angeles for over thirty years, Mexican food is at the top of my list of favorite ethnic foods, simple but incredibly flavorful.  I love the beans, guacamole, salsas and the heat of chiles.

I tend to shy away from cooking ethnic dishes at home. They are often too labor intensive and I don’t usually have the time or the ingredients on hand.  Chicken fajitas are easy.  They are  fast and healthy and don’t require anything complicated in terms of preparation. Served with guacamole, salsa and warm corn tortillas, it’s perfect for a light summer meal and a nice break from roast chicken and potatoes.

Chicken Fajitas

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Marinade

1 large onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbsp olive oil

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp oregano

salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients for marinade, pour over chicken breasts and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Discard marinade.

2 red peppers or 1 red and 1 yellow, sliced

1 large onion, sliced

1 Tbsp olive oil

Heat olive oil in pan ( I prefer a cast iron pan) till hot.  Add onions and sliced peppers and cook over medium high heat until peppers start to caramelize.  Take chicken breasts and slice them into 3/4 inch strips.  Add to peppers and onions and saute, stirring constantly until chicken is cooked.  About ten minutes.  Serve with corn tortillas, salsa, and guacamole.

Serves 4

Enjoy,

Irene


Tabit (Iraqi Chicken and Rice)

It is Sunday morning and Norm is making bagels in the kitchen and my daughter Shira is on her way to the Bronx Zoo, both part of the Sunday rituals that I grew up with. Plus it is my sister’s birthday. Happy Birthday Anita!

Last week I went to synagogue to say Yizkor, the prayer service for the departed, and afterwards heard a sermon about a poem written by the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai.  The poem was about faith, God, and the Jewish experience, and the rabbi who delivered the sermon referred to the contents of the poem as “a stew of memories.”  I have been thinking of that sentence ever since.  Naama, my supervisor, once told me that she can remember every outfit she wore from the time she was a child. I cannot say that I remember every meal but I can say that, for me, food evokes memories.  The Bronx of the 1950s and 1960s was truly a melting pot.  You could walk down the Grand Concourse and stop and have a kosher hot dog at the deli owned by two brothers from Poland, pizza from Mario’s, Italian ices from a cart on the street, and the two foods that we considered very American, lemon meringue pie from Sutter’s Bakery and ice cream at Krum’s. The apartment building we lived in was filled with people who spoke foreign languages, had heavy accents in English, and cooked the way they had in their homeland. We lived on the 4th floor and there was no elevator. I remember walking down each flight of stairs and registering the smells that would permeate those halls. People did not have much to share, so they sat around and shared their food and their recipes. My mother learned how to make Fanny’s recipe for tzimmis, Esther’s recipe for sweet potatoes, Ruth’s recipe for pineapple kugel, and Suralayeh’s recipe for baked spaghetti.  As children, my sister and I sometimes complained because we preferred my mothers own recipes and were resistant to change.  I didn’t understand why she would try new dishes when we were perfectly happy with the dishes that we knew and loved.  As an adult and a mom I finally understand.  She had lost her entire family in the war and this was my mother’s way of building new relationships, a way to find a common bond and draw others into her life so that she could create a “stew of memories” for my sister and me.  What a wonderful legacy.

Here is a “stew” that I learned how to make from an Iraqi Jewish family that I met many years ago in Los Angeles.  Place tabit in the oven before Shabbat begins on Friday evening and serve for lunch, a Sephardic alternative to cholent.

Tabit

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 chicken cut into eighths

3 cups water

1 1/2  tsps salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp paprika

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 large tomato, diced

2 cups rice, rinsed several times

1 can garbanzo beans

Saute onion in oil till golden.  Add chicken and brown.  Then add freshly diced tomato and sauté for several minutes.  Place rice around chicken and add water, salt, pepper, paprika, garbanzo beans, and tomato paste.  Stir gently.  Bring to a boil, cover and lower heat and cook for abut 15 minutes.  Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place Tabit in oven overnight.

Enjoy,

Irene

Note: If you are interested in seeing some old photos of the Bronx and the Grand Concourse go to http://www.nostalgictimewarp.com/bronx.html