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

Moussaka

My mother would hang the wet laundry on clothes lines that were strung across the rooftop of our building.  She carried it up the stairs in a laundry basket with her wooden clothespins resting on top.  On her way up she would pass the apartment of an Italian family with a daughter named Rosemary, who was a friend of mine.  Her grandmother, Rose, lived next door to them, and sometimes my mother would stop in to see her and share a small glass of wine.  Rose spoke very little English so I have no idea how she and my mother communicated but it didn’t seem to matter.  With people living in such close proximity language barriers didn’t stand in the way of relationships.

This past week we were invited to friends for Shabbat dinner and I was seated next to a lovely woman in her eighties.  Intrigued by her accent, I asked about her background.  We spent the next three hours talking, and during that time I learned a lot about her life.  An Egyptian Jew, she spoke of her experiences in Israel and the struggles of  Sephardic immigrants in a country governed by Ashkenazim.  She spoke of her husband and children and the ups and downs one has during a lifetime.  Throughout her story, she kept stating that no matter what challenges you are dealt in life, “somehow you adjust.”  As I stood up to leave, she took both of my hands in hers and asked me to please come and visit her.  On our way home, I told Norm all about this woman and then I realized that we never even learned each other’s names.

That interaction made me wonder about my mother and Rose, who I am sure learned less about each other’s lives in the thirteen years that they were neighbors than this woman revealed in the three hours we spent together.  It made me think of friendships and how we define them.  The glass of wine that Rose and my mother shared, was no less significant for them than friendships based on a more intimate knowledge of each other’s lives.  Sometimes, a glass of wine or a dish of Moussaka is enough.

This is the recipe for the Moussaka that we all shared on Shabbat.

Moussaka

4 globe eggplants

olive oil

4 onions, diced

2 pounds ground chicken or turkey

1 tsp each of ginger, turmeric, cumin and paprika

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 14 oz. can of tomato sauce

1 small can of tomato paste

1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped

6 eggs, beaten

Drizzle about 3 Tbs  of olive oil on a cookie sheet and pre-heat sheet in a 350 degree oven. Peel and slice eggplant,  1/2″  thick, sprinkle with salt, and bake in a single layer on cookie sheet till soft. Turn eggplant slices over and bake other side.  (you can fry the eggplant if you prefer but this is a much lighter version)  Heat 3 Tbs olive oil in a large heavy pot and add 4 finely diced onions. Saute till golden. Add ground chicken, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cumin, paprika, and salt and pepper.  With a wooden spoon, continue breaking up ground chicken till seasonings are incorporated and meat is lightly browned.  Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, and cilantro to chicken mixture and cook for about 20 minutes over a low flame, stirring frequently.

Grease a 9 x 13 dish and cover the bottom of the dish with half the meat sauce and add a layer of eggplant. Repeat this so that you end with the eggplant on top.  Beat 6 eggs and pour over dish.  Bake about one hour, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven.

Enjoy,

Irene

Chicken Fricassee

For over eighteen years Norm and I would pile our three kids into the blue Volvo station wagon on Friday afternoons and head down to Palm Springs where Norm’s parents would rent a condo every winter.  Pinnie and Lil were snow-birds, leaving behind their home in Toronto and flying West to enjoy six weeks of sunshine and warm weather and, of course, their grandchildren.  The parents of our close friends vacationed in the same complex which meant that the children had their friends, we had ours, and Bubbie and Zaidie had us all. Some years my sisters-in-law and their families would come in from Canada or Israel, giving the cousins the opportunity to spend time together. Our days were spent sitting at the pool relaxing, and watching the kids play Marco Polo. There were also hikes in Joshua Tree, tennis matches, outings to the local flea market, February birthday celebrations, and of course, many meals. After the inevitably long trip from Los Angeles, we knew that Bubbie and Zadie were waiting on the other end keeping Shabbat dinner warm.  We often made it just in time for supper, and we could predict with a fair amount of certainty what that would be.  It would include either vegetable or chicken soup, cornflake coated chicken, salad, and the all time favorite, chicken fricassee.  I had never heard of fricassee before I met my mother-in-law.  It is a delicious stew of chicken balls and wings, cooked together in a slightly sweetened tomato based sauce and it was the perfect dish to eat after a long, trying car trip.  The chicken balls were tender, the wings would fall apart as you ate them, and the sauce would soak into the mashed potatoes.  As often as I have I made this dish, it never tastes exactly like Lil’s.  I have gone over the recipe with her many times but maybe you have to be a Bubbie to get it just right.  We are going to Toronto in October to visit Bubbie and Zaidie and maybe with a little luck and a BIG hint, we will have fricassee waiting when we arrive.

*August 7th is Lil’s 85th birthday and we all wish you a Happy Birthday!!!  See you soon.

Lil’s Chicken Fricassee

10 chicken wings, cut at the joint

Meatballs

2 lbs. ground chicken

1 large onion, finely diced

1/2 cup bread crumbs

2 eggs

2 Tbsp ketchup

salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and form into balls. Set aside.

Sauce

1- 29 oz. can tomato sauce

1-15 oz. can crushed tomatoes

2 large brown onions, cut in half and thinly sliced

1/4 cup ketchup

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup raisins

salt and pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients for the sauce in a very large pot.  Bring to a boil and stir.  Add wings first and then carefully add chicken balls. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook fricassee for about two hours.

Enjoy,

Irene