Sally’s Cabbage Salad

I have always loved books. When I was growing up in the Bronx, buying books was a luxury we could not afford so my sister, Anita, took me to the local public library every week.  Anita is eight years older than me and as a child I loved going everywhere with her, but our visits to the library were special.  I did own a beautifully illustrated edition of Heidi but my favorite books were Eloise and Madeline. All three books were about young girls in foreign lands and while reading them I was transported to Paris, the Swiss Alps and The Plaza (The Plaza Hotel might as well have been in a foreign country).  To this day my favorite books are set in other countries where I am introduced to new cultures, customs, and food.

When I was hired by a non-profit agency in the same building that housed the Los Angeles Jewish Community Library I was thrilled.  For the past six years the library was my refuge.  It was peaceful and calming and there was a wonderful collection of cookbooks that covered Jewish cuisine in Italy, Greece, Yemen and various other countries.  All of this and Sally.  Sally sat at the front desk greeting everyone who came to the library as she had done for over twenty years.  I never knew what her exact position was but she clearly ran the library.  Originally from India, Sally is a fantastic cook. Whenever my family is invited to her home we are amazed at the range of tastes, textures and scents.  Going to Sally for dinner feels as if you are in the midst of reading a Jewish Indian cookbook. The variety of food that is served is astonishing. With an average of twenty guests each Shabbat dinner, there are at least ten appetizers and an equal number of entrees.  Each dish is infused with cilantro, ginger and garlic.

Several months ago the Jewish Community Library closed.  It was disappointing and sad.  I miss the library and I miss Sally.  I do not see her with nearly the same frequency but I think of her often.  Here is a recipe for a cabbage salad that I have eaten at Sally’s many times.  It is a perfect addition to any meal, Passover or any other time.

Sally’s Cabbage Salad

1 head cabbage, thinly sliced

3 jalapeno chilis, thinly sliced

1 bunch cilantro

2 lemons, juiced

1/2 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and allow to sit for about 20 minutes before serving.

Increase the number of chilis if you prefer spicier foods.  I add lots of cracked pepper!  NOTE: This is hot so reduce the number of jalapeno peppers if you prefer mild AND be careful how you handle the peppers.

Enjoy,

Irene

Quinoa

Shabbat tea worked out perfectly.  We had fresh fruit, a Greek salad and the fallen sponge cake topped with fresh strawberries. Nobody seemed to mind that the cake had fallen, and we finished the whole thing.  Another cake is in the oven and I am planning on letting it cool in the pan for about two hours, a tip I was given by Helene last night. I will keep you posted.

I had prepared some quinoa yesterday and this afternoon I used it to create a healthy, light salad that was full of flavor and color. Quinoa is not something that I grew up eating but it is a great alternative to potatoes or matzoh laden dishes. The trick is to add enough ingredients because the Quinoa itself is very bland.

Quinoa Salad

3 cups Quinoa

1 mango, diced

2 green onions, sliced

1 cup purple cabbage, diced

6 mint leaves, finely chopped

4 basil leaves, sliced

1 small can mandarin oranges, drained

3 beets, roasted, cooled and diced

2 Tbs honey

2 Tbs orange juice

1 Tbs lemon juice

3 Tbs olive oil

1 tsp red chili flakes

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

Rinse quinoa and add to pot with 5 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and cover. Cook for 13 minutes.  Let cool completely.

Prepare beets by cutting off both ends and wrapping in foil. Roast for one hour at 350.  Peel and dice.

Note: I used golden beets.

In a bowl combine remaining ingredients with quinoa and mix.  Serve at room temperature.

Serves 6-8

Enjoy,

Irene

Roasted Asparagus

Each year we get so caught up in the newest Passover products on the market that it is easy to forget that we can enjoy the holiday without sacrificing our health.  We are just a few days into Spring and here in Los Angeles the farmers’ markets are filled with all of the wonderful produce that the season has to offer;  California artichokes, rainbow chard, French radishes, fresh rhubarb, and of course, the ultimate Spring vegetable, asparagus.  This recipe is not new or innovative, it is a reminder that we can all have a healthy and delicious Passover, filled with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Roasted Asparagus

2 bunches asparagus

3 Tbs olive oil

1 Tsp salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

On a flat baking sheet, mix oil with salt, pepper and garlic. Roll asparagus in mixture and spread in a single layer. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and roast asparagus for about 15 minutes.

Enjoy,

Irene

Marinated Eggplant

Many years ago I was a volunteer on Kibbutz Usha in Northern Israel.  I asked to be assigned to the dairy and was given the morning shift, working side by side with an Arab named Hasan, a kind and willing teacher.  It was quite an experience for a girl from New York.  For me, the year I spent on Usha was filled with new experiences, but milking 300 cows a day was one of the highlights.  Another was that Norm and I got engaged that year!  The kibbutznikim were warm and friendly and we still have lifelong friends that we met that year.  One couple in particular, Amitai and Tovchik, became like family to us. Tovchik would marinade eggplants and keep them in a jar in her fridge, ready to serve if you ever stopped by for the typical Israeli 4 pm  meal.  It was a delicious snack, (although definitely not low-cal.) Sadly Tovchik passed away several years ago but it has become my tradition to make her eggplant dish every Passover.  It makes me think of Tovchik and my year at Usha with love and a smile.

Tovchik’s Eggplant
2 eggplants
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
red wine vinegar
vegetable oil

Lay sliced eggplants on a tray in a single layer and salt liberally.  Let them sit for half an hour and then pat off excess  moisture and salt with a paper towel.  Make sure both sides are dry.
Fill a frying pan with about 2″ of oil.  When oil is very hot, fry eggplant till brown, several minutes on each side.
Take a deep dish and cover with a layer of eggplant.  Then slice 2-3 cloves fresh garlic and toss slices over eggplants.  Lightly drizzle with red wine vinegar.  Add another layer of eggplant, more garlic and more vinegar and keep repeating till all eggplant is used.
Refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least 24 hours.  Serve at room temperature

Enjoy,
Irene

Imberlach

This is a Saiger family recipe for a Passover confection called Imberlach.  The recipe was handed down to my mother-in-law from her mother-in-law, Manya Saiger, my children’s great-grandmother.  My mother-in-law once described Imberlach for a Passover cookbook “watch your cavities or fillings, the imberlach are jawbreakers, but oh so good.”

Imberlach
1 1/2 lbs. honey
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 lb. matzoh farfel
1 Tbs. fresh ginger, grated
1 cup chopped walnuts

Bring honey and sugar to a boil, lower heat and cook for five minutes, stirring constantly.  Add farfel slowly and cook an additional five minutes.  Make sure there is still a little liquid in the bottom of the pot.  Add ginger and walnuts and stir for ten minutes until mixture is brown.  Wet a wooden board with cold water and pour mixture on, carefully spreading with a wet knife. Allow to set for several hours and cut to form diamond shapes. Candy is sticky.

Enjoy,
Irene

Mushroom Kugel

 

My mother would saute mushrooms, onions, celery and carrots and either mix them with challah for her Thanksgiving stuffing or with matzot during Passover.  It is a very simple combination but if the onions are caramelized to the perfect stage and the mushrooms are flavorful, you end up with a really good kugel.

Manya’s Mushroom Kugel

1 1/2 lbs. brown mushrooms or a combination of mushrooms
2 large onions
2 large carrots
2 stalks celery
4 eggs, beaten
6 Matzot
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil

Dice onions and sauté in olive oil over low flame until a rich golden color, this can take up to 30 minutes.
Dice carrots and celery and add to onions and sauté for about ten minutes until tender.  Raise heat slightly, add sliced mushrooms and cook an extra 15 minutes.  Allow to cool and place in large mixing bowl.
Soak Matzot in warm water until soft.  Then squeeze matzot and add to mushroom mixture.  Add beaten eggs, salt and pepper.
Prepare 9×13 pan by adding 2-3 Tbsp oil, make sure bottom and sides are well greased and place in 350 degree oven for several minutes.  Take out and immediately pour in vegetable mixture.  Brush with olive oil.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Enjoy,
Irene

Persian Charoset

For the next fourteen days I will be devoting my post to one Passover recipe a day.  Who has time for stories?  Hope you try them and enjoy them.

This recipe for Persian Charoset was given to me by a friend many years ago.  One of the wonderful culinary influences in Los Angeles is that of the large Persian community.  Compared to the benign Ashkenazi Charoset of my childhood, this is full of flavor and texture.

An interior decorator, my friend would shape the Charoset into a Pyramid. We now add a small olive wood camel to the presentation.

Persian Charoset
1/2 cup pistachios
1/2 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup yellow raisins
1 large apple, peeled
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 orange, diced
3/4 cup sweet red wine
1 tsp. cinnamon

Coarsely chop nuts, raisins and fruit in food processor. Combine all ingredients and blend well.

Enjoy,
Irene

Brownie Meringues

We are now three weeks away from Passover.  This is the first time in about twenty years that we will be conducting the Seder in the dining room primarily because twelve of us can fit there.  No need to empty out the living room, order extra tables, rent cloths and napkins.  Yet instead of being happy about shedding all of the planning and angst that can accompany preparing for a large Seder, why are my thoughts drawn to Seders past with longing and nostalgia and to future Seders with something akin to dread.  It has been a difficult year.  My 92-year-old father passed away in September and for the first time, he will not be present at our Seder. Growing up in NYC, Seders were pretty traditional affairs; my father and the other men would stand and chant the Haggadah in unison, with no one else participating.  The wives read along silently and the children wiggled and giggled and waited for dinner.  It was not egalitarian or engaging or educational and yet I have warm and happy memories.  The table was beautifully set, the fine china was brought out, wonderful aromas came from the kitchen, new clothing was purchased, cousins got together and my father and the other men argued about politics all through the meal. Pesach was special. Continue reading

Hamantaschen

It is Sunday morning, March 13th, 2011.  My plan was to bake Hamantachen today, allowing for enough time to ship them to New York and Florida.   I am still going to bake, but things feel different.  In the background the radio is turned to NPR, reporting on the situation in Japan. There is a tradition of giving Tzedakah before Purim, and  I hope that we all continue to bake, and to give…. www.redcross.org

Wishing you a Chag Sameach.

Note: I posted this last year, and the comments I received on the dough recipe ranged from those who said it was much too soft to work with, to those who felt it was perfect.  The trick is to feel the dough, add flour as needed and enjoy!

The Purim of my childhood was not very memorable.  I do not remember dressing up costume, attending Purim carnivals or going to hear the reading of Megillat Esther.  I do not remember my mother making hamantaschen or delivering Mishloach Manot.  Purim was not part of the fabric of my childhood.  My first encounter with hamantaschen was watching my mother-in-law, Lillian Saiger, make them in her home in Toronto.  It made quite an impression on me.  I was 21 years old, a newlywed, still in college, and living in a foreign country.  My in-laws were living in the same home that my husband’s maternal grandparents had owned.  The hub of that house was the kitchen, with windows that faced a backyard filled with lilac trees.  It was a house with history and part of that history included baking hamantaschen. Lil made enough hamantaschen to ship to her children, some of whom were already living outside of Toronto.  She made her own filling, a combination of dried fruits that she stewed and pureed and then gently placed in the center of these circles of dough that she had rolled out and cut.  She pinched three corners together and baked the cookies until they were golden.  They were soft, warm and delicious.  I remember that the hamataschen were kept in a tin, placed in a cupboard next to the breakfast room table.  We would have them with coffee every day, until they were all gone.  I don’t have any idea if they actually lasted till Purim.  We eventually moved to Los Angeles and had three children of our own.  Each Purim, we dressed the kids in costumes, delivered mishloah manot and took them to hear Megillat Esther.  Each year I would make hamantaschen and place them in a tin to have with coffee.  They may not be exactly the same as my mother-in-law’s ( I don’t think she actually used a recipe) but they are close.  Thank you Lil!

P.S. Keep them in a tin.

Lil’s Hamantaschen
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 Tsp. baking powder
2 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup orange juice

Mix dry ingredients in bowl.  Combine eggs and oil and mix well.  Slowly add orange juice and then mix into dry ingredients.  Put mixture onto floured board and handle until soft and pliable.

Filling
6 oz. dried apricots
6 oz. dried pitted prunes
1 1/2 cups raisins
3-4 Tbs sugar
1/2 Tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup water or orange juice

In a small heavy bottomed pot combine all ingredients over low heat and cook until fruit is soft, about 20 minutes.  Add water if needed.  Process mixture in Cuisinart for about 30 seconds until mixture looks like a dark jam. Roll dough out on floured board till about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out small circles and place a teaspoon of filling in the center.  Pinch sides together to form a triangle.  Brush with beaten egg and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until brown.

Enjoy,
Irene

Kasha Stuffed Peppers

One of the things I enjoy is seeing how recipes change after arriving on foreign shores, much like the people who carry those family treasures with them.  Several weeks ago our friends Susan and Isaac stopped by on a Saturday afternoon.  Although our friends were born in Mexico, their parents were immigrants who hailed from Hungary and Poland.  Since I too am of Polish ancestry it is always amusing to see how some of the recipes that both Isaac and I grew up eating either were “Mexicanized” by his family or “Americanized” by mine.  Over the years I have learned that if Isaac comes over for cholent or jellied calves feet, no matter how well I season the dish, he is going to ask for hot sauce.  As I watch him pour this spicy red liquid over my creation I sit and wonder “what my mother would think if she saw him do that.”  I have adapted and even come to love some of the Schmidt family creations.  Gribenes (fried pieces of chicken fat) in a taco with guacamole or chicken soup that smells like mine but is REALLY spicy.

So, when Isaac and Susan came bearing gifts, leftovers from their Shabbat dinner, we knew we were in for a treat.  Susan uncovered the plate which held several chiles, cooked in the style of chile rellenos, something I truly love. Then the surprise.  We cut into the chile and instead of cheese, they were filled with kasha, the grain of my youth.  Plain, simple, hearty kasha stuffed into a pepper and fried.  How delicious.

So here is to old friends, old recipes and new twists.

Chiles stuffed with Kasha


8 fresh green chiles (Poblano or Anaheim (with stems intact, if possible).
Prepare Kasha cooked according to the directions on the box.  I add lots of fried onions.

Batter
3 eggs
3 tbs flour
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp pepper
1/4 cup oil

Stuff each chile with prepared kasha and set aside.  Separate eggs and beat the whites until stiff.  Beat yolks and fold into whites, along with flour, salt and pepper.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet.  Dip stuffed chiles, one at a time, into egg batter to coat, then remove with a large spoon.  Carefully lower coated chiles into hot oil, 3 or 4 at a time.  Fry until golden brown on both sides.  Place in baking dish and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Enjoy,

Irene

Here’s a link to a cookbook project that my friends are working on:
http://mexicanjewish.com