Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Mushrooms and Fried Onions

Our life as newlyweds began in Toronto.  There I was, 21 years old, living in a strange city in a foreign country.  I had no idea how to cook, but coming from a family with some very good cooks and bakers, I was determined to learn.  I remember exploring various neighborhoods around the city, my way of getting comfortable, and discovering shops that were more intimate and personal than the local supermarket.  Slowly I developed my  list of “favorites.”  I fell in love with Kensington Market and regularly went there to buy cheese, and sweet butter, cut from an enormous block on top of the counter and wrapped in wax paper,  on Sunday mornings I went to Gryfe’s for bagels, very different from the kind I grew up with but perfect when toasted, and Daiter’s for herring in cream sauce or smoked fish.  On occasion we would go to Markys for a deli sandwich (sadly no longer in business) and sometimes we would make a quick stop at United Bakers for Norm’s favorite local dessert, butter tarts,  a small, individual tart filled with a brown sugar and butter mixture that I prefer runny.

Last week Norm and I traveled to Toronto where we were joined by our sons.  We were there to celebrate my father-in- law Pinnie’s 93rd birthday and during our visit we managed to include a few short trips to our favorite haunts.  We went back to Kensington Market and saw the old cheese shops nestled among the new vegan hot spots and coffee bars, we went to Daiters and bought silky smooth Atlantic smoked salmon to put on our freshly purchased bagels from Gryfe’s.  Of course no trip to Toronto would be complete without at least one butter tart.  We spent time with my mother-in-law Lil, cooking and shopping.  She made stuffed cabbage and chremslech ( similar to a latke but made with leftover mashed potatoes) Norm baked Challot, which really do come out better on the East coast (is it really the water?) and I made Cholent for Shabbat lunch.

Each day we spent time visiting my father-in-law who was in good spirits.  My sons were very entertaining and their grandfather roared with laughter on more than one occasion.   Of course one of the first questions I asked Pinnie was about the food he was  served, and he responded by saying “everything is delicious.”  At the end of each visit we would say, “see you tomorrow” and Pinnie always responded by saying “I hope so.”  Just in time for Thanksgiving, we are so grateful that we were able to celebrate your 93rd birthday together and “hope” to come again next year for your 94th!

One more thing.  In those early days, no matter what I made, as long as it had fried onions, Norm thought it was delicious.  He still feels that way.  Like father, like son.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Mushrooms and Fried Onions

1 pound Brussels Sprouts, tip cut off.

2 large brown onions, chopped

16 oz. assorted mushrooms, sliced (I used a combination of shiitake and portobello)

1/3 cup olive oil

Using double blade, place Brussels Sprouts in food processor and pulse till shredded.  Set aside.  Chop onions in processor and place in frying pan with olive oil.  Allow onions to slowly cook over a low flame till golden brown.  Add sliced mushrooms to pan and sauté for about 10 minutes. Next add shredded sprouts and cook for about 3 or 4 minutes. Do not overcook. You want that beautiful green color and a little crunch.  Salt and pepper to taste. I put a generous amount of pepper in.  Serves 4-6

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Kasha with Mushrooms and Onions (Buckwheat Groats)

Cantor Harry Saiger

Last week my son and daughter-in-law traveled to Toronto to visit my in-laws, Bubbie and Zaidie.  During their visit they went to see an exhibit on the great Cantors of Toronto.  One of the Cantors featured was my husband’s grandfather Harry Saiger.  I can only imagine how touched my father-in-law was knowing that his grandson and wife were going to view the collection but unfortunately it was no longer on display.  The woman in the synagogue was kind enough to give them the photo and biography that had been part of the exhibit and so we too were able to see it.

The elegant photo of Harry Saiger shows him dressed in the dramatic black Cantor’s hat and Tallis.  I stared at it looking for a trace of his features in my children.  I thought about his journey to Canada as a young man, not knowing what his future held.  Harry settled in Toronto, met and married Manya, had five children, and became an accomplished carpenter as well as a Cantor.  I don’t know much else about them (coincidently they shared the same names as my parents, Manya and Harry) but I can imagine that as a cantor he would have been thrilled to know that three generations later his great-grandson became a Rabbi.

I look for those connections because it ties us to our past and keeps our family history alive.  I feel the same way about food.  Preserving the recipes that were handed down from generation to generation and, yes, though we may tempted to update them to our more modern tastes, there is something to be said for preserving the originals, like the photos displayed in the exhibit.

I don’t know what my husband was served on those Shabbat afternoons when he would go visit his Zaidie and Bubie Manya after shul but I imagine that lunch may have included something like Kasha because he seems to love it so much.

Kasha and Mushrooms

1 cup whole Kasha (Buckwheat Groats)

1 egg

2 cups chicken stock

2 large onions

1/2 pound brown mushrooms, sliced

6 oz. bowtie noodles (optional)

2 Tb canola oil

Heat oil in deep sided frying pan and sauté onions till caramelized.  Be patient because this imparts a lot of the flavor to the dish and can take 20-30 minutes before the onions are the right color.  Add sliced mushrooms to onions and sauté for an additional 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove mixture to a bowl.  Beat the egg in a small bowl and add Kasha, stirring till grain is completely coated.  Wipe the pan clean and then add egg-coated Kasha.  Saute for several minutes over low flame till grains separate.  Add hot chicken stock, reduce flame to simmer, cover pan and cook till Kasha is tender, about 10 minutes.  Do not overcook or Kasha will turn into mush.  Add onions and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and serve.  If you want Kasha Varnishkes, then add cooked bowtie noodles to dish.  Serves 4

Kasha coated with egg

Enjoy,

Irene

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 so as we approach the holiday,  I hope you continue to bake, and to give…. http://www.redcross.org

Wishing you a Chag Purim Sameach.

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

Corn Cakes

Summer and fresh corn on the cob are one of those perfect pairings, like peanut butter and jelly, or chocolate cake and milk.  As a child I only remember eating yellow corn which we always bought with the husk on, thinking they were fresher that way.  (I still can’t bring myself to husk the corn at the market even though it would mean less mess in the kitchen) My mother boiled that corn forever, not knowing that it only needed a few minutes to cook.  It certainly never occurred to us that we could eat it raw.  She always told my sister and I that in Poland corn and tomatoes were food for cows, not humans.

When our children were little, we often went to Toronto during the summer to visit their paternal grandparents.  One of the places we enjoyed visiting was Puck’s Farm outside of Toronto.  It was a wonderful old-fashioned farm with a barn,  a few farm animals, bales of hay to jump in, an area where you could pick your own vegetables, and incredible corn that had just been harvested.  The variety they grew was called peaches and cream, alternating white and yellow kernels, and I had never seen anything like it.  The corn was for sale but it was also available to eat right there, steaming hot ears of corn ready to dip into a huge vat of melted butter.  So simple and so good. Boiling is only one of the ways I now prepare corn, and when I do boil it, it is for no more than five minutes.  I often grill it, constantly turning the ears till they get slightly charred.  Sometimes I cut the kernels off the cob and add them to a salad, raw.  Other times, I throw the raw kernels into a hot cast iron pan with olive oil,  salt and pepper, and some shredded basil.  It’s all good but, truth be told, none of it is as sweet as it was on those summer days when we watched our children eating corn on the cob with melted butter dripping down the sides of their smiling faces.

Corn Cakes

3 ears fresh corn

3 eggs

1/2 cup matzoh meal

2 scallions

1/4 cup cilantro

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/4 cup canola oil

Cut corn off cob and put in mixing bowl. Add eggs, slightly beaten, and matzoh meal to bowl. Mix well. Thinly slice scallions and add to mixture along with coarsely chopped cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. In a cast iron pan heat oil till hot. Drop large tablespoons of corn mixture into hot oil. Let cook till golden brown then turn over.

Warning: Corn pops in the frying pan so be careful!!!

Makes 12 corn cakes.

Enjoy,

Irene