Stuffed Peppers

My first home was an apartment on the corner of 183 St. and The Grand Concourse.  2274 Grand Concourse was a brick pre-war building, a walk-up, with two wings and a center courtyard (perfect for playing handball.)  The apartment had wonderful architectural features that I was too young to appreciate but which clearly made a lasting impression.  There was a dumb-waiter in the kitchen, beautiful French doors that opened into my parents’ bedroom, and parquet floors throughout the house.  The street was lined with Art Deco buildings, one of which was our synagogue,  Concourse Center of Israel.  Others included The Concourse Plaza Hotel, Dollar Savings Bank , and Lowe’s Paradise Theater.   Today, Concourse Center of Israel is the First Union Baptist Church, Dollar Savings Bank is now Emigrant Savings Bank, the Concourse Plaza Hotel is a senior citizen’s residence and Lowe’s Paradise has become a venue for concerts.

The Concourse was modeled after the Champs Elysee but there were no outdoor cafes or brasseries.  It was the Mom and Pop places that dominated the street, and the pizza parlors by far outnumbered the Kosher delis.  If my mother wanted to serve something special, she had to make it herself.  We knew that certain dishes, the ones that were more labor intensive, were only prepared on special occasions or for the holidays.  Dishes like sweet breads, miniature knaidlech with sautéed mushrooms, kreplach, favorkes, gefilte fish (starting with the fish in the bathtub) and stuffed peppers.

Prepared food is readily available in our neighborhood in Los Angeles, but this past Friday, on a quiet summer afternoon, with nobody coming for dinner and no reason to spend time in the kitchen, all I wanted was to leisurely prepare my mother’s Stuffed Peppers while reminiscing about The Bronx.  I must admit that even this recipe has changed.

Stuffed Peppers 

7 assorted red, yellow and orange peppers

2 1/2 pounds ground turkey

2 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 eggs, beaten

2 Tbs olive oil

3 cloves minced garlic

1 tsp cumin

1/4 cup quinoa

1 1/2 cups Ketchup

Mix ground turkey in a large bowl with all of the other ingredients. Combine well.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add whole peppers. Boil for about 10 minutes.  Remove peppers, allow to cool, then core and seed.

Stuff peppers with ground turkey mixture.

In a pot just big enough to snugly hold peppers, drizzle some olive oil on the bottom of the pot, place peppers in pot upright.  Add water to come half way up the side of the peppers and then add ketchup.  Gently stir ketchup into water and baste peppers.  Bring to boil, lower heat and cover pot.  Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours.  Serves 7.

Enjoy,

Irene

Vegetarian Chili

What can I say,  I have been missing in action for a few weeks but I do have a good excuse.  We are heading to Texas where our eldest son is getting married.  Too busy to do much cooking but not too busy to contemplate the importance of sharing food with the people you love.  Good food elevates the spirit, just think about how you feel when you bite into something special and delicious, made for you with loving care. This has been a week when many of us have been preparing food for all the wonderful celebrations that are coming up.  Two of my friends prepared 8 lbs. of sweet and sour meatballs for a Shabbat dinner that they and other close friends are hosting in honor of the newlyweds.  Norm and I did spend some time baking, and everything we baked was made with someone else in mind.  I prepared three pumpkin chocolate chip breads at the request of the bride’s sister and Norm made two Challot at the request of the bride’s brother.  The bride asked for cholent which I will make for Shabbat lunch after they all arrive in town next week.  My daughter asked for a fruit crisp and I am considering blueberries and peaches (now that summer fruit is here.)  The bottom line is, it doesn’t have to be fancy, difficult, or complicated but the simple act of feeding someone is so nurturing and loving.  For those of you with children, my advice is to get started right away because in the blink of an eye they will be standing under the Chuppah.

My daughter has become a great hostess and I love knowing that she too has a passion for good food and feeding her friends.  She made this chili at one of her parties and apparently it was a big hit.

Shira’s Vegetarian Chili

2 Tbs olive oil

1 med onion, chopped

1 red pepper chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup beer

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 15 oz. can red kidney beans

1 15 oz. can black beans

1 Tbs cumin

2 Tbs chili powder

1 tsp kosher salt

1 15 oz can vegetarian refried beans

1 pkg frozen vegetarian crumbles (meat substitute)

Saute peppers and onion in olive oil for several minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer for about two hours.  Serve with tortilla chips, sharp Cheddar cheese and diced green onions.

NOTE: If you like your chili spicy I would add 1 Tbs. Tabasco and/or 1 Tbs. chili powder.

Serves 4-6

Enjoy,

Irene

Hatch Chiles

Last summer my son David was visiting us with his girlfriend Elizabeth.  At one point I looked at her and said
“he can be a challenge” but her immediate response was, “he’s worth it.”  As parents we all want our children to find that person who loves and accepts them for who they are, and if and when that happens it’s pretty wonderful.  A week ago today, my son proposed to Elizabeth and she accepted.  Several days later they arrived in Los Angeles along with Elizabeth’s parents Nancy and Larry, and her sister Irene. My daughter Shira also flew in and together our families celebrated this wonderful occasion. We open our home and our hearts to Elizabeth, Nancy, Larry, Irene and Alexander and welcome them to our family.

They flew in from Houston, Texas, where Elizabeth is from, and arrived bearing gifts.  Salsas, hot sauce and a bag of fresh Hatch Chiles.  I had never seen or heard of a Hatch Chile but I rose to the challenge, did lots of research, and prepared them for Shabbat dinner.  I wasn’t sure if they were mild or hot so I decided to prepare them very simply, wanting to taste the chile without it being overwhelmed by other flavors. I charred them on the grill till the skins were blackened, peeled them, and then sprinkled them with sliced green onions, lemon juice,  fresh diced tomato and salt and pepper.  They were a perfect side to the barbecued chicken but I sat there wondering how they would taste with cheese sprinkled on top or sliced up and mixed into eggs.  I guess this is just the beginning.  Stay tuned or better yet, if you have any Hatch Chile recipes, please share them.

Hatch Chiles

6 Hatch Chiles

3 Tbsp olive oil

2 scallions

1 lemon

1 large tomato

salt and pepper to taste

Rinse chiles and cook whole on grill till completely charred.  Carefully peel skins. Place on platter and sprinkle with thinly sliced scallions. Drizzle with lemon juice, olive oil and a finely diced tomato. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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