• Blueberry Muffins with Oat Streusel Topping

    IMG_2852   These Dairy Free Blueberry Muffins contain: Juicy purple bombs of flavor and color A subtly sweet and tender cake crumb Crunchy granola topping  
    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2/3 cup white sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/3 cup sunflower oil
    • 1 egg
    • 1/3 cup coconut milk
    • 1 cup fresh blueberries, divided
    for Streusel:
    • 1/3 cup flour
    • 1/3 cup sunflower oil
    • 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
    • 1/3 coconut sugar
    1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a muffin tray with 12 baking cups
    2. Combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
    3. Measure out oil in a measuring cup, add egg, coconut milk so liquid measures 1 cup.
    4. Mix into flour mixture.  Once blended, fold in blueberries.
    5. Fill muffin cups to the top.
    6. Combine last 4 ingredients into a small bowl.
    7. Sprinkle top of muffin batter with Oat Streusel topping.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle of muffin comes out clean.
  • Crispy Chinese Hanukkah-mas Noodle Latkes (P)



    Once the Thanksgiving Leftovers were all done I looked at the calendar to see when the next go around was, and noticed a curious quirk: The first night of Hanukkah and Xmas Eve coincide this year.  Oh the  possibilities!   The recipe ideas started to spin out and before long I was pitching a  piece to Tablet Magazine titled What to Eat on Chris-mukkah or Hanukkah-mass: Crispy Chinese Noodle Latkes with a honey-soy dipping sauce and sriracha duck sauce.  Followed by a Hot Chocolate Sauce (dairy and vegan-parve versions) in which to dip your fortune cookies ( or Jelly donuts).   

    I didn’t hear from them for a week, and then I got an “I’ll Pass” email. There was a twinge, but then: Screw it! I’ll just send it out there and whoever is looking for something different, easy, seasonal, and delicious  to serve this Hanukkah-Mas/Chrismukkah will find it.

    ‘Cos maybe you’re having  friends and family over for Hanukkah on Christmas Eve and want to make something to go along with the takeaway you’re ordering? Or maybe you’re celebrating Christmas with  Jewish Friends/Family members  and want to serve them something special for Hanukkah?  Maybe you just want to try a different sort of latke this year?   Or maybe you need an interesting side for your barbecued ribs, salmon, or brisket?  Yes! yes, yes, and totally yes.


    These crispy Chinese Noodle Latkes look like potato latkes and offer the same kind of starchy appeal as potato latkes. They fry up to a deep amber shade,and its edges deliver an enjoyably shattering crunch;  the center is a little softer and chewier and is where the the garlic scallion flavor resides.  The honey- sesame-soy sauce is a sweet and salty foil  and the duck-sriracha sauce adds a sweet-spicy note. Both dips can be made with the sauce packets that rain down plentifully from your local Chinese Takeout joint.

    Crispy Chinese Noodle Latkes (P)
    • 10-12 oz. Chinese egg noodles or any other variety of long thin noodle

    • 1/2 cup sliced green onions (about 2 bunches)

    • 2 garlic cloves, minced (approximately 2 teaspoons)

    • 4 tablespoons canola or avocado oil

    • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

    • 3 tablespoons Mee Tu Garlic Marinade or Hoisin Sauce

    • 2 eggs, beaten

    • Oil for frying

    1.  Boil noodles as directed by package.  Drain and set aside momentarily.

    2. In meantime: In a small bowl combine  green onions and garlic with the oils.

    3. Dump noodles in a large bowl, with a metal spatula or a large metal spoon cut noodles into bite sized pieces.  Pour Green Onion Garlic Oil into cut noodles and combine well.  Fold in Garlic Marinade/Hoisin Sauce.  And then mix in beaten eggs until all the ingredients are well combined.

    4. With a large spoon scoop a small mound of noodles into a skillet of hot oil (med. high). Tamp down with the back of the spoon or spatula and let cook for 2-3 minutes or until the  noodley edges are golden and crispy.  Flip over and repeat process.  Let drain on paper towels.  Serve alone or with dipping sauces (below)

    Recipe yields 12-15 latkes

    *can be made ahead of time, reheat in oven at 300F for 10 minutes.

    Honey Soy Sauce

    • 1/4 cup soy sauce (about 6 packets)

    • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

    • 2 teaspoons honey

    1. Stir everything together in a small bowl.

    Sriracha Duck Sauce

    • 1/4 cup duck sauce (6 packets)

    • 1 tablespoon sriracha

    1. Combine in small bowl

  • Lemon-Strawberry Brioche Toast (D)

    photo 19   Helllloooo Gorgeous! It would be impossible not to think bright and yummy thoughts when faced with this fresh beautiful concoction! A perfect breakfast in bed for that special someone….
    • 4 slices challah or brioche toast (below)
    • lemon curd (below)
    • 8 large strawberries, stemmed and sliced width-wise
    1. Spread lemon curd thickly over each challah toast. Cover evenly with sliced strawberries.
      Lemon Curd
    • ½ cup fresh lemon juice (2 large lemons)
    • 2 teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 3 large eggs
    • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
    1. Whisk together juice, zest, sugar and eggs in medium sized saucepan.
    2. Stir in butter and cook over medium-low heat stirring frequently and rigorously so that the eggs don’t set. Stir until curd is thickened and bubbling slightly (6-7 mins)
    3. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and chill.
    Yields approx. 1 cup   Brioche or Egg Challah Toast
    • 4 x 1-inch thick slices challah or brioche bread
    • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
    • 1 vanilla bean, scraped of seeds
    1. Preheat oven to 400F. In a small bowl combine the softened butter and vanilla.
    2. Spread vanilla butter evenly over the top of challah slices. Space bread out evenly on a baking pan.
    3. Place in oven and bake for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and with a spatula flip over each slice. Return to oven and bake for another minute. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  • Goat Cheese-Onion Confit Toast (D)

     I call this un-French toast.  Great as a light meal,  appetizer, or hors d’oeuvre.  photo 21 Goat Cheese Onion Confit Toastini
    • 4 slices sourdough toast (see below)
    • 5oz. container of herb-infused spreadable goat cheese (such as boursin, alouette)
    • Onion confit  (see below)
    • Fresh chopped parsley (optional)
    1. Spread approximately 2 tablespoons of goat cheese over each toast. Top with onion confit and garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.
    Sourdough Toast
    • 4 x 1-inch thick slices sourdough bread
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • Coarse sea salt
    1. Preheat oven to 400F. Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil. Sprinkle tops with sea salt.
    2. Space slices out evenly on a baking tray, place in oven and bake for 14 minutes. Rotating tray mid-point. Remove from oven and let cool.
      Onion Confit
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 3 onions, cut into thin half-moon slices
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
    • ½ cup water or vegetable stock
    • Salt, to taste
    1. In a large skillet over medium heat melt together butter and olive oil. Add onions and garlic and stir regularly until onions become limp and translucent about 5 minutes.
    2. Mix in apple cider vinegar and brown sugar. Pour water/vegetable stock to onion mixture. Stir well. Reduce heat to low and cover. Allow to cook and reduce for 20-25 minutes, stirring ever so often. Season with salt to taste.
    Yields about 2 cups.  
  • Quinoa-Mushroom Stuffed Cabbage with Rich Red Sauce (P)

    photo 16  
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced (2 tablespoons)
    • ½ onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
    • 8 oz. mushrooms, chopped fine (2 ½ cups)
    • 1 cup prepared quinoa
    • 1 teaspoon paprika
    • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
    • Salt & Pepper, to taste
    • 1 head of cabbage
    1. In a large frying pan heat olive oil over medium heat. When oil is shimmering sautee garlic and onion for approximately 2 minutes, or until garlic is light golden brown and the onion is tender and translucent.
    2. Add finely chopped mushrooms to the frying pan and stir until the mushrooms release their juices and become slightly browned (approximately 3 minutes).
    3. Mix prepared quinoa into the mushrooms, and stir in paprika, and enough salt and pepper to please your taste. Fold in fresh parsley. Remove from heat.
    4. Preheat oven 350F. And prepare cabbage for rolling. Helpful tip: In order to make the cabbage more pliable fill a pot that’s large enough to hold the entire cabbage with water and a pinch or two of salt (it doesn’t have to be to the top, enough so the cabbage is comfortably submerged).  Bring to boil.  In the meantime: take a sharp paring-type knife and cut out the core of cabbage, and remove like a plug.   Once water is at a gentle bubbling  dunk the cabbage in for a few minutes (3-4).  Carefully remove and drain cabbage, the outer leaves should come off easily.
    5.  Taking one cabbage leaf at a time, trim any thick stalks/ribs with a paring knife.  Place a heaping spoonful of the quinoa-mushroom mixture onto the bottom of the cabbage leaf.  Roll over once, and then fold the cabbage leaf on the sides toward the meat pocket.  Roll up into one compact bundle.  Trim for appearance sake, if necessary.
    6. Place cabbage bundles seam-side down in a large baking pan.  After pan is packed and filled snugly  with cabbage bundles pour rich red sauce (recipe below) over the cabbage, sprinkle with red pepper flakes if you want a bit of a spicy kick . Cover and cook for 40-45 minutes. Until cabbage is wilted and semi-translucent. Makes 15 appetizer sized bundles. Recipe may be doubled.
      Rich Red Sauce
    • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
    • ½ onion, chopped fine (1/2 cup)
    • 2 cups tomato sauce
    • ½ cup red wine
    • 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
    • Salt & pepper, to taste
    • Pinch of red pepper flakes, optional
      1. Pour olive oil in medium saucepan and saute chopped onion over medium heat, until translucent and tender about 2 minutes.  Add the tomato sauce, red wine, and brown sugar and give a good stir.  Cover, reduce heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.  Taste, and add salt and pepper.    
  • Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf Silences Mary Gulland

    • Mary Gulland is one resentful, angry, slave-driving wench. This Thanksgiving she had me on a particularly brutal and joy-less schedule. Constantly hissing about the” ingrates and blasphemer’s, gluttons, devil’s handmaidens, rogues, villains, and Lucifer himself. All expectin’ to be stuffed like pigs on the day of Thanksgiving to the Lord”. As soon as dawn broke on Tuesday morning she announced herself: Rise, laggard, rise! Your indolence is profane! The wolves are expectin’ a fine feast, and a fine feast ye’ll be deliverin’! Her wrath and animosity stuffed me full. I scrubbed my face, and then glared angrily at my husband snoring in bed. “Sloth!”.   The disarray of the kitchen from the previous night’s shopping and food prep threw Mary into a tizzy. “Disgraceful Slattern! She flung me ferociously around the kitchen, had me organizing the groceries with a brisk precision. And then furiously scouring last night’s pots and pans, all the while sputtering about eternal damnation and the ingrates, harlots, heathens. The itinery for the day’s cooking stretched ahead like a terminal condition to be suffered through. “Well, get to it. The babe will be sprouting whiskers if you continue at this slovenly pace!” Peeling, chopping, dicing, measuring, stirring, all executed under Mary’s unsparing eye. “Cubes! Cubes! There’ll be none of these chunks! Are you preparin’ slop for the hogs or a feast of Thanksgiving to the Lord!” A lemon chiffon cake that was pulled too soon from the oven, and revealed a soggy bottom, was her inspiration for a merciless tirade. What’re you thinkin’, you silly slattern?! An unforgivable error that even a fool and a novice housemaid could not perpetrate! Your ability in the kitchen would be amusin’ if ‘tweren’t so comical! The sheer gall! Expectin’ to be paid money for such desecrations!” Roughly she set about making a replacement cake, I’m certain that her expression was as harsh as the lemons that she zested into the batter, were sour. The children spilled into the kitchen, each one barely prepared for the school day. A broiling bolt of rage ripped though the room. “Useless sluggards! I’ll give you each a sound whippin’! A pointy reckonin’ to jolt you from your idleness! Do you not see how I tarry for the day of Thanksgiving to the Lord! And you appear in such states of disrepair, expectin’ me to dress you and feed you and treat you as I did when you were but mewling babes! Have you no concept? No clue? Who is going to prepare for our holy Thankgsiving but I? Will you Gabriel? You can’t even accomplish your own chores!   And you Grace?! Heaven’s forbid that you lift a dainty finger for any measure of assistance! A boil on my behind that’s what you are, punishment for my early transgressions! After dispensing orders and harsh directions in a manner that was crushing and cold, the children were turned out into the freshly falling snow to wait for the bus, no doubt feeling infinitely warmer outdoors than in the kitchen.   She yanked me away from both my wobbly remorse and the fogged-up window. “To work! There’s much to do for the holy feast! When I was a girl I was haulin’ water and firewood for miles in blizzards and hailstorms- with nary a peep! The good Lord proclaimed that man and woman must struggle and sweat in penance for Adam and Eve’s grievous sins! Read the holy bible and it will be your knowledge! That night, after all my chores were completed to Mary’s grueling standards, I crumbled into bed. My hands were raw. My back ached, and my fingers were striped with knicks from my “ artless handlin’ of the knife”. Dan rolled closer to me, his deep and even breathing proof of the good night’s sleep he was having.   Mary started whispering into my brain.   “How deeply he sleeps! Like a pup in front of th’ hearth! Without a solitary care in the world! While you are slavin’ in the kitchen” When Dan snuggled closer to me, I hear Mary actually say Harrrumphh as I roughly give him my back. There was not even a slice of gray light in the room when Mary began her wake-up harangue. By the time Jonah came into the kitchen I was sure it was lunch-time, but it was only 9:30. Mary was revving herself up, about to launch into one of sputterin’ diatribes about sloth and good-for-nothin’ tom foolery’ and consortin’ with the devil, but before she could I slammed her out, with a Mary-like ferocity. Jonah asked if he could help me cook in the kitchen for Thankgsiving. Mary is snarlin’ righteously from the other side. He tells me about the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread they made at school, and then he ran to his room to get the recipe out of his school bag when he saw that I wasn’t going to bite his head off. Then Grace joined us in the kitchen. I am looking over their shoulders as they stir the thick batter.   “Scrape the sides, look at all that flour—“ I say impatiently. I stand back and watch them with a just contained apprehension . The dark chocolate chunks they mix in looks as whimsical as polka dots against the deep orange batter. I bet chopped toasted walnuts would be great in there. So we add chopped walnuts into the mix. They scrape the batter into loaf pans, dripping globs of it on the counter and floor as they go along. Mary unfolds in fury. Damnation and infernal hellfires threaten to pour forth.   Instead I grit my teeth, and force out slow, even words: “OK guys, thanks for all your help. Why don’t you go wash your hands, and then you can watch some TV. I’ll call you when we’re ready to take it out of the oven.” The kitchen counter is a landscape of baking mess. Mary is ready to explode, the kind of explosion that makes insides rattle pleasurably with release. But then I catch a whiff of the sweet and spiced pumpkin loafs baking in the oven, and a mellow rivulet of calm funnels through. And Bitch is quiet.  
      •  2cupsall-purposeflour
      • •¾teaspoonsbakings
      • • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
      • 1/4teaspoonsalt
      • •2eggs
      • •1/3cupwater
      • •1½cupsugar
      • •1cupcannedpumpkin
      • •½cupsafflowerorwalnutoilorcoconutoil
      • • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
      • • 1 cup bittersweet choc chips or chunks
      • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
      • 1. Preheat oven to 350F. Coat a 9 x 5” loaf pan with baking spray. In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt until well-blended. 2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and water, add sugar and mix well. Add the canned pumpkin, vegetable oil, and vanilla, blend together. 3. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture bowl and stir until blended and smooth. Fold in chocolate chips. With a spatula scrape the batter into loaf pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the loaf is firm to the touch and when a toothpick inserted into the center
  • Recollecting Gil Marks

      photo (129) I  became aware of Gil Marks from a Shavuot baking class he gave at the JCC on the Upper West Side. I had been married for a couple months, and was really trying to figure my way into Shabbat and holiday cooking and entertaining. We lived a few blocks from the JCC, in a great 5th floor walk-up down the street from the Park and the legendary Dakota Building. The cool old-school Manhattan apartment combined with the giddy exhilaration of being a brand newlywed had me in a convivial mood.   I wanted to celebrate, and create jubilant scenes centering around good music and delicious food.  My ambitions outstripped my abilities and dwarfed my experience. I signed up for the Shavuot cooking class blind. And I was a little surprised when I walked into the kitchen and saw that the instructor was a kippah- wearing, beard-sporting rabbi, with a slight southern accent. He introduced himself as Gil Marks, and briefly told us his culinary origin story. He began his career by teaching at a boy’s yeshivah high school and found it so frustrating that he’d come home and unwind by baking. I often have a hard time relating to rabbis, but here was a rabbi I could understand. He told us about mamaliga and blintzes, but his New Yawk cheesecake was the takeaway, for me at least. Dense, creamy, and just the right amount of sweet, using lots of sour cream and even more cream cheese, real vanilla ( he emphasized real), and fresh lemon juice for those who want to double down on a zingy-tart flavor profile (why not?). I found my cheesecake. I still have the photocopied recipes he handed out, and like all great recipes it’s covered in kitchen shmutz. photo (127) After listening to me enthuse about the class, my Mother gave me The World of Jewish Cooking and The World of Jewish Entertaining, crucial textbooks to my nascent culinary education. When I heard him interviewed on NPR and learned that he was mentioned in glowing terms on the Saveur 100, I felt both proud and a sense of ownership, because I viewed him as my teacher. Eventually I logged in enough time cooking and baking to be able to create my own recipes. Although really are there any completely original recipes? Everything’s based on the flavors and dishes that came before it. Gil Marks’ cookbooks were as close to the source as one could get. I riffed on his Meggy Leves recipe, reimagining it as a sweet-tart summer cocktail. The Shabbat Stew in my cookbook is based on his Yemenite Soup. The observation I heard him make on NPR remains salient:  Jewish cooks are traditionally not culinary inventors, they’re adapters. On one long summer’s Shabbat I stretched out with his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food and read it pretty much cover -to-cover.  His style was knowledgable but not pedantic, historical but not dated, friendly but not cloying.  And after ingesting his extraordinarily definitive work I felt like I had just crammed in 4 units towards my education. Last year I attended a Kosher industry dinner where he was among the honorees. I waited until there was opening for me to gush in a (hopefully) credible manner. He listened to me, and was happy to tell me about what he was working on: American-style Cakes. And believe me I was happy to hear about it. But what was even better was how he was engaged in our conversation about southern layer cakes, listening and considering my opinions and ideas in the way that good rabbis/teachers do. photo (126) This cole slaw is inspired by Gil Marks’ recipe from Olive Trees and Honey for Yemenite Red Cabbage Salad with Tahini. It’s a great thing to put on hot dogs, burgers, or top with grilled chicken. Also great as a flavorful parve side dish for fish. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds or sliced almonds for even more nutty flavor. Cole Slaw
    • ½ small red cabbage (about 3 cups), thinly sliced or shaved
    • ½ small green cabbage (about 3 cups), thinly sliced or shaved
    • Bunch of thinly sliced scallions (about ½ cup)
    • ½ cup fresh chopped parsley
    Tahini- Lemon Dressing:
    • ¼ cup tahini
    • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
    • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 1-2 teaspoons honey or sugar
    • 1-2 teaspoons garlic powder
    • ¼ cup+ 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • Dash (or two or three) hot sauce
    • Salt and pepper
    1. Combine and toss cole slaw ingredients in a large bowl.
    2. In a jar with a screw top lid vigorously mix together tahini, sesame oil, lemon juice, honey or sugar, and garlic powder. Once well combined, drizzle in olive oil, give a few more solid shakes. Season to taste with hot sauce, salt and pepper.
    3. Pour evenly over cole slaw and toss to cover flavorfully.
    Makes 4-6 servings, recipe can be doubled.      
  • Once Upon a Kolooschen

       Once Upon a Kolooschen

    A time honored story offered up with some fresh new flavors

    photo (17)


    Lights up, theme music fades, the cheering audience responds obediently to the “QUIET, please” cue.  Tight shot on the Tall, Dark, Handsome ( and very rich) gentleman in the center of the stage. “As you all know I’ve spent many months getting to know each of these lovely ladies. And I’ve deeply pondered the question of who would be the best first lady not just for me but also for the people of Capital City.  And my choice for First Lady IS…” Mayor Ross Veres breaks for a dramatic beat, which is just enough time for the three finalists to suck in their breath and arrange their smooth faces into benign smiles. “…Estella!   Estella, will you be my first lady?!”  This is the moment the audience has been waiting for.  They cheer raucously as Ross gets down on one knee, reaches into his tuxedo jacket and produces a small red velvet box.  The other two women, the rejects, turn to Estella baring their white teeth as they pull their mouths into big fake smiles, their eyes shining with anger and envy.  Six months! Six months of their lives and all they had to show for it was a  new wardrobe, a couple of facials, some dental work, high-lights and low-lights, and a very cute button nose for the blond standing on Estella’s right.  But they weren’t able to capture the garbanzo bean sized diamond ring.  Or the grandest prize of all- the most eligible bachelor- Ross Veres Mayor of Capital City. All eyes zoom in on Estella.  Lovely, poised, down-to-earth Estella.  Her backstory made her the audience favorite: Orphaned at a young age, and raised by her Uncle Morty.  Pinched from the small steamy-hot, storefront bakery she helped her Uncle run on 4th Street.  She was stirred into a whirl of chauffeur driven limo’s, expensive dinners at the City’s finest eateries, weekends at the Mayor’s country estate, and a  masquerade ball with just the teensiest hint of campy gothic goofiness .  It was on a group date where Estella’s preference for a sexy-yet-tasteful bathing suit in the hot tub proved to the Mayor that she might be worth serious consideration as the City’s first lady. She sat up straight in sober contrast to the garrulous  gaggle of tattooed topless young ladies drunkenly draping themselves over him and each other.


    Estella settled into her life as First Lady of Capital City without a hitch.  Her cause was empowering girls  with a positive message You-Tube campaign.  She also became the spokeswoman for Capital City Humane Society kindly urging people to spay and neuter their cats.  And then there was the social flurry that she was instantly flung into without tripping up even a bit! It was clear that Mayor Veres had made the right choice. Uncle Morty came by a couple of days a week, and she was always glad to see him.  During his visits he filled her in on what was happening in the neighborhood and at the bakery.  One day Morty arrived looking harried and stressed-out.  Estella prepared a pot of hot black coffee to go with Morty’s Famous Kolooschen.  She sipped the potent black coffee, and savored a sweetly scented cookie as she listened to her uncle recount a run in with one of the Mayor’s deputies.  He was checking out all the bakeries in Capital City ”and not in a friendly-dunk-your-donut-in-coffee-visit-kind-of way, if you know what I mean.  He was asking questions, sniffing around like a hungry dog, looking to see what kind of sugar I use and what kind of flour I use….” Estella  asked who the deputy was, maybe she knew him? “H. Ansell Mann” It wasn’t the last time Estella would hear his name.


    Estella was getting ready for the Feed The Hungry Ball at the Capital City Museum.  Her assistant Clovie was helping her dress when Uncle Morty texted that he was on his way and to please alert the front gate guards.  By the time he arrived Estella was elegantly shod in a snug emerald green gown.   She was accessorized in a diamond and emerald choker and matching bracelet.   Her dark brown hair was lightly coiffed. And her face was made up semi-naturalistically to highlight her high cheekbones and fresh cream complexion.  She had only a few minutes, she apologized to Morty, as he entered the room. “You need to talk to the Mayor, your husband.  That deputy of his -Mann -is spreading the word that by Spring-time the cafes, bakeries, and restaurants who serve food with white flour and white sugar are done, finished, kaput.   That means me and all our friends and neighbors.” Estella’s heart jumped into her glittering en-sparkled throat. What would she say?  She was only really starting to get to know her husband, the Mayor.  She wasn’t sure which approach would work best with him.  The pandemonium of their very public courtship and the media crush of their wedding was just beginning to recede.  There were a few spectator- free minutes where she was able to relate to him; over the occasional cup of coffee before his day officially began; in the limo on their way to an engagement.  But she still couldn’t help but view him as a friendly acquaintance that she shared and performed a range of intimate moments and scenarios with. When she contemplated approaching the Mayor, Estella recalled the mean jokes and dark remarks that were attached to his first wife.  Estella was a bookish and artsy-craftsy teenager who ignored most of the internet and all of the twitterverse, but she remembered the neighborhood busy- beaks, poking around for any kind of flavorful gossip to devour with their morning coffee and pastry.  Varelle, the ex-first lady was always making news for doing just as she pleased, even if it was at the expense of her husband, the Mayor.    When asked why she was a no-show at the Mayor’s Esteemed Supporters ball, she flicked off any possibility of socializing with that assortment of “boring corporate stiffs”.  She was banished from Capital City soon after, and has since opened a vintage clothing store in a flat-yet-quirky midland city.


    The news that Mann was pushing to eradicate white sugar and flour started to rise pretty quickly through the bakeries and cafes of Capital City, and completely infuriated the Foodies ; those in the food service sector, and the people who loved them (and their products) . Well, everyone except the Health Food-niks who were either validated by the news, or didn’t care much because it didn’t affect them. “How could Mann?! I make my living off of cupcakes that are made of nothing but white flour and sugar…OK fat and food coloring too- which you know will be the next thing on this bitter villain’s hit list.  Don’t kid yourself that it will end with sugar and flour.  He’s just getting started!” “Who does he think he is? Some kind of Healthy Living dictator- tellin’ everybody what’s good for them.  If I want to kill myself by eating a whole coconut layer cake, or a ginormous bowl of pasta every goddam day- what’s it to him?!  The best part of being an adult is that you can eat whatever you want, goddammit!  Believe me, I did my time with all that good-for-you-holier-than-thou-hippie food growing up with my Mom!” Diatribes knocked about over cups of coffee and in between bites of sweetly spiced cookies; moist dense slices of pound cakes,  bread rolls with glossy golden brown  crusts that gave way to warm, soft, and fluffy white interiors,  the ideal place for a layer of soft butter to yield meltingly. “There’s only one answer here, Morty, and you know what it is.” warned Zimmy of the I-Scream Parlor next door. “Morty, ya gotta! We’re gonna be run out of town, or worse: I’ll have to change the name of my place to the Spelt Café or something fruity like that!” sputtered Petzin of Petz’s Pretz’s “OK, OK, I’ll talk to her” said Morty to his cohorts “..again” he muttered to himself.


    Estella inhaled deeply as she entered the dark wood antechamber.  Unspoken Rule #1 at Cap Mansion on Empire Street: The Mayor must not be disturbed when in his office.  She twigged onto this bit of protocol pretty quickly.  Nevertheless, she tapped lightly on the door to the “inner-sanctum”.  He had been out of the City on official business for a week prior, and was due to depart for another trip imminently, she needed an audience with him asap, if only to get Morty out of her hair. “Yes?” he responded. In her steadiest voice and with a smile she wrestled onto her face she said: “Good morning Ross, it’s Estella, may I come in? I haven’t seen you in a while.” “Ahh Estella!  Come in, come in” he grandly called out He was sitting at his desk and smiled warmly when she entered the room “What’s up?  Anything you want—it’s yours” “Ross, I know from the itinerary that you’ll be leaving tonight for a few more days.  I was hoping I could prepare a meal for you when you get back and that maybe you can invite H. Ansell Mann to join us?” was Estella’s innocent request. A smile poured over the Mayor’s face.  “That’s right! You’re a wonderful cook. I remember from our first  one-on-one date.  Yes, great.  You’re right Ansell deserves an invitation.  A reward for his loyalty and good work.” “Do you have any requests or restrictions for the menu?” Estella asked betraying more timidity than she intended. “No, No, whatever you make will be delicious .”  And that’s when she knew that her husband, the Mayor, was clueless.


    The soup plates were being cleared, but Mann’s praise was still flowing: “And the texture! Velvety smooth, thick without being chunky or coarse. Estella, you are an artist!” Estella smiled and uttered her thousandth “thank you, so nice of you to say” Mann’s eyes followed Estella as she coordinated with Lazlo, the Mayor’s butler and overseer of the domestic staff.  Catching his gaze, she shuddered at the beady blackness of his eyes. “And the fresh, light flavor!  Perfectly balanced with the sweetness of the corn and the warmth of the saffron.  And those delicious crunchy pops of spice from the za’atar popcorn- you’re a genius Estella!”  Mann’s smile revealed a gap between his large square front teeth. The Mayor beamed.  “Yes, Estella this chowder is incredible. The color is so rich.“ Estella smiled and nodded “It’s from the saffron and the corn.  Yellow is my favorite color so I love making this dish.  It always makes me happy” “ Being with you makes me happy” The Mayor winked intimately at Estella as Lazlo refilled his wineglass. The wait staff entered the dining room bearing the Second Course. “Savory Herb French Toast with Scallion Shallot Yogurt Sauce” She announced as Mann’s plate was placed before him.  Estella perceived the slight twitch of displeasure that briefly furrowed Mann’s high forehead.  “Made with Challah Bread from the best bakery in the City!” she continued blithely. Mann stole a quick look at the Mayor, and then explained to Estella in his silkiest tone: “Madame Mayor, it looks delicious, and it smells divine!” He inhaled theatrically, but the hungry look in his eyes was real.  “Unfortunately I’m going to have to forgo this delight.  My Doctors have put me on a strict diet, I used to be obscenely overweight you see, and white flour, sugar, dairy are a no-no for me, Doctor’s orders” Estella pushed ahead “Oh come now, Mr. Mann a bite or two won’t kill you.  The fresh herbs as well as the scallions in this dish are all locally sourced from a rooftop hydroponic farm right here in Capital City.  I’m sure you agree with the Mayor and myself about the importance of supporting local business.” “Oh yes, of course I do. The Mayor knows there’s hardly a more ardent supporter of local commerce than myself.  Please forgive me Madame Mayor, but I am like a recovering addict when it comes to white flour and sugar.   I enjoy it so much that just a nibble will result in a disastrous tumble off the wagon.” Her even tone didn’t betray the anger surging through her: “I understand, Mr. Mann.  If you can’t have it no one can.” Mann stole a look at the Mayor “I’m not sure what you mean, Madame Mayor?” “You know exactly what I mean” Her icy words broke through the polite conversation. The Mayor looked at her quizzically. “Ross, you’ve been so busy trying to bring the Olympics  to Capital City , and working so hard on Memorial Village downtown .  But while you’ve been working for the City, your loyal deputy here has been putting together his scheme to rid the City of white flour and white sugar by Spring-time .  Do you know how many businesses and people will be affected by his categorical ban?” “It’s for the good of the City! White flour and sugar are terrible for you, please believe me. You and the First Lady are both fortunate to be blessed with naturally slim proportions, so you don’t have to worry about this.” H. Ansell Mann declared unctuously. “My Uncle Morty makes delicious bread and pastry in his bakery on 4th Street. His bakery is an important part of neighborhood life.  It’s an important part of my life.  The food that he makes, and the food that the people I grew up with make, really makes people happy.   Banning ingredients and the food shaming that he’s doing is nothing but bad for my Uncle Morty and our community and the City in general. ” Estella held the Mayor in her view, and never even gave Mann a sideways look. “Did you think you’d just squeeze this little piece of legislation by while I wasn’t looking? Maybe I’d be too busy to notice?” The Mayor addressed his deputy with scorn.  While Mann sputtered his protest Ross dipped a forkful of French Toast into the green onion-shallot yogurt sauce, and then placed it into his mouth.  The Mayor’s eyes closed as he savored the flavors of the dish.  The Mmmmmm that followed  came from the pit of his soul. “ It is for the good of the City! A Healthy Living campaign would surely reflect well on you with the electorate!”  Squeaked Mann desperately.


    Mann was a sweat-stained mess by the time a platter of Kolooschen cookies was placed on the table.  Lazlo poured coffee into the Mayor’s cup, as Mann wiped his brow for the umpteenth time. “Cookie, Ansell?” asked the Mayor wryly. Mann smiled weakly . “Delicious meal, Darling.  These cookies are great.  I love the cardamom, and the sour cherry filling is a real treat. I understand what you mean about them making people happy” Ross turned to H. Ansell Mann, his features tightening into a frown. “You’re out.  Done.  I want your resignation on my desk by tomorrow morning.  You wasted valuable time and resources on this personal vendetta of yours.  We have much bigger problems around here than cookies…Lazlo, please escort Mr. Mann out”


    Tight shot of a steaming pot. Camera slowly pans out to reveal Estella stirring the pot .  She looks up and smiles at the camera.  “Welcome back to What’s Cooking at Cap Mansion.  I’m Estella Veres.  Ok, so, while the stew is stewing, we can go ahead and cook our cookies…” With casual grace she shifts over to the butcher block island in the center of the kitchen.  The camera lingers on her smiling face as she discusses the ingredients arrayed before her, gradually zooming in on the small heap of dried cherries; a tiny bowl of “warm and citrusy” cardamom, an exotic looking bottle of rosewater that smells like  a “an English country garden”. She tidily cracks eggs with a sharp tap into the bowl of creamed coconut oil and sugar.  Next, in a separate bowl, she whisks flour with an expert flick of the wrist.  While she executes these steps she chats amiably with the camera.  “I grew up making these cookies, Kolooschen, at my Uncle’s bakery on 4th Street.  And it was a game changer once I made them for the Mayor.   I won’t bore you with the whole megillah, but trust me these cookies are good!”
  • A Very Jewy Christmas

    photo (408)
    The Zelinsky’s: A Very Jewy Christmas What you get when you mix the Cooking Channel with Fiddler on the Roof, a laugh track,  a visit  from a Holiday Spirit, and a recipe for Salami & Eggs Fried Rice! SCENE 1 Chef cooking wok ‘Twas the night before Christmas  and something’s cooking in the Zelinsky kitchen.  KARINNE ZELINSKY 41, Mom, Wife, sometime Actress sits at the kitchen table habitually smoothing down her stick-straight honey-butter blond hair (courtesy of Blaise from Cheveaux D’Or Salon and Blow Bar).   Across from her is LILA ZELINSKY 13, and JED ZELINSKY, 10.  One glance at the full lather of dark curls that loftily tumble from Lila’s head makes it clear that Like Mother Like Daughter clearly does not apply. Jed hunches over a Sports Illustrated and twists sections of his curly mop into tight spirals he demands to know why they have to wait so long for their dinner?  The three of them are hungry and bored as ETHAN ZELINSKY 43, Dad, Husband, Lawyer-by-trade and Chef-by-hobby, moves around the kitchen in a series of quick and ungraceful lunges.  He grabs ingredients, frenetically stirs, and clumsily chops, as if possessed by the spirit of a one-armed chef riding a sugar high. Ethan  presents  the food he has been preparing for most of the afternoon to his family.  “So what did you make this year, Dad? Dan-Dan noodles? dumplings? Ask Lila and Jed.  With a dramatic, somewhat herky-jerky flourish, Ethan  uncovers a wok and offers it to his wife and kids to inspect.  “It’s the 11th Commandment to have Chinese Food on Christmas, right?”   Which prompts Karinne’s  line: “I don’t know why can’t we just go to the  Chinese restaurant like our ancestors did before us?” to a fading laugh track Scene 2 chinese-banquet Zelinsky family sitting around a table that is laden with steaming-hot Chinese dishes; glossy  heaps of Chicken & Broccoli, Sweet & Sour Beef, Ma Pao Tofu, Fried Rice, Garlic String Beans all served on colorful platters and bowls.  Ethan hands each person a red and green Christmas striped paper plate.  They pass the platters, serve each other and themselves, and then they dig in.  Karinne delares her love for Christmas, and then a conversation begins about how wonderful Christmas is.  Lila notes how everyone is in a good mood, Jed mentions something about how great it is to have no school, Karinne marvels at the a-ma-zing  sales, and of course Ethan rhapsodizes about the food,  but then somewhat guiltily adds “My grandfather Yudl would be doing somersaults in his grave if he saw this scene” Karinne doesn’t understand this, her grandparents were aces with chopsticks and happily participated in Chinese Restaurant Christmas Eves until the end.  “My Grandpa Ben always ordered the same things every Christmas Eve: Shrimp Szechuan and Orange Beef” She says mistily. Lila thinks for a beat and then says “Dad, your Uncle Moishe in Brooklyn probably wouldn’t be too into our Christmas-loving traditions either” Jed agrees, but thinks that Moishe’s fat grandson Yitzchok would totally be into the Chinese food feast Ethan just cooked up. And bets that he would inhale Karinn’s eggnog cheesecake afterwards. And to that Ethan raises his glass, says “L’Chaim!” – and they clink glasses. And what happens next is scarcely to be believed, but for the magic of  television! Perched on a stool in the dark corner of the room appears an old pious Jew is traditional garb, payes (sidelocks) and a long gray beard which he rhythmically drags his fingers through. The Zelinsky’s all stare at the old Jew and then each other in shocked confusion.  He breaks the silence and tosses off a “Nu? You don’t know who I am?” in Ethan’s direction.  More confusion ensues, Lila is yelling “Yiddish ghost! Yiddish ghost!” Jed pulls out his phone and starts taking video.  Karinne squints and strains to make out the old man.  Ethan is trying to figure out if he looks familiar. “Ach! I’m Yudl” he says accusingly. As Ethan revealed earlier, his grandfather’s name was Yudl.  Zayde? He asks fearfully.                    “No, you shaygetz.  I’m Yudl your grandfather’s grandfather”.  As if reading their incredulous minds he tells them that the four of them said his full name out loud: Yudl ben Moishe Yitzchok and then said L’Chaim (to life) and clinked glasses.  “nu, so here I am, but to be honest, if you want the emes, I wish I didn’t come” he says disapprovingly as he scans the tabletop.  He focuses on the hill of Salami and Eggs Fried Rice in the center of the table.  “Treyf! Chazer!” He spits out. Ethan gets defensive: “Not pork! It’s salami and eggs fried rice” and he marches into a pedantic description of the salami and eggs his mother would make for him every Sunday night and how he incorporated it into a popular Chinese American dish.  The kids groan.  Lila appropriates some Disney Channel-style snark: “Really, Dad? You’re boring the Yiddish ghost!” Reb Yudl launches into a rusty diatribe about how in his day Jews spent Christmas hiding and trembling in anxiety.  “And to see you celebrating like a goy!”   The Zelinsky’s are appalled, they all yell out at once in protest: “This is America! We live in New York!” “What’s a goy?” “It’s not like we have a tree, or anything” “Chinese Food on Christmas for American Jews is a tradition.  Because it was only the Chinese restaurants that were open on Christmas for the non-participants.” Of course this comes from Ethan. With a dismissive sweep of his hand in the direction of the Jewish-Chinese-American Feast, Reb Yudl is undeterred in his disapproval.  His accent is heavy, his voice is brittle, but he bitterly soldiers on: This is not the way of our forefathers, this is not the ways of our sacred tradition, you vant holidays—ve got plenty! You don’t have enough to celebrate so you take theirs too?!  America is such a place that Jews are free to celebrate Christmas- Vat do you eat on Easter? A salami ham? (roar of a laughtrack) SCENE 3 The Zelinsky’s are still in their same places around the table.  The untidy scraps of the Chinese feast and the clutter of used chopsticks, cutlery and napkins that litter the table tell of the several well-fed hours that have passed.  Reb Yudl sits at the table, clutching a glass of tea, it signals a softening of his stance.  Ethan has finally found an audience for his discourse on Chinese food. Reb Yudl listens, rhythmically nods his head as he drags his fingers through his long beard.  He lifts a wiry eyebrow every so often.  The kids are zoned out on their devices and Karinne is underlining a script. Ethan tells Reb Yudl about how Cantonese-style Chinese Food  typically has a sweet and sour flavor profile, uses a lot of garlic and onions and  over-cooks the vegetables to a comforting tenderness.  Perhaps the kind of food you can relate to, Reb Yudl? And while yes, there’s plenty of pork and shellfish to be had in Chinese cuisine, there’s never any mixing of meat and milk together…because there is no dairy in Chinese cuisine. Reb Yudl’s sigh comes from his depths.  He looks around the table at Ethan and his family and tugs the corner of his mouth into a twinge of a smile.  Yes, he says at last.  Yes I understand, why not make a celebration out of every time your family can be together, say a few brochas and enjoy the delicacies that are served so plentifully in this land.  Why not?  Life is too short and is hard enough. Ethan smiles widely and is visibly relieved and says… and besides how can I not celebrate the celebration of the world’s most favorite Jew? Big laugh and then applause.  Theme song and credits. Zelinsky family voice-over: For more information on Jewish- American-Chinese Christmas Recipes please visit:  www.Reciperachel.com      
  • Elegy for my Narrow Galley Kitchen (2002-2013)

    My narrow galley kitchen has finally worn itself out.photo (402) My starting point, my launching pad, my comfort zone, my cooking lab. Site of several  triumphs, and  many moments of doubt. Once it was new and sparkly.  Now broken-down and drab.   I first entered the kitchen seems like  a lifetime ago Newly-wed, newly-preg’d, not really sure what I was good for Hub was skeptical of it’s dimensions, perhaps he did know? I insisted: “Small kitchen, small mess” (my organizational skills are poor).   It wasn’t long before it became my spot; my own little patch A place to retreat and to recharge, how I returned to myself.photo (403) Skills began to grow.  Dreams started to hatch. A lot of time spent indoors -which was not so good for my health.   Some have said: You’ve come so far you’ve done so much And nice as those words are,  they’re not 100% true I’m still a little  jumbled, a bit of a kitchen klutz But the mess will be bigger flavor’d  because my workshop will soon be new.      
  • The continuing relevance of chocolate cake

        I appraise the two chocolate cakes in their round baking pans. Taking a kitchen knife I pry the side from one of the tins,  it is rock hard. I prod the center and the knife sinks into a swampy middle. Irritation rises in my chest- and angry thoughts whisk through my head: Chuck it in the garbage. But then there’ll be no birthday cake. But if I bring it everyone will know I messed up the minute they taste it. This is going to be bad,  this whole party idea is a ginormous mistake. They don’t like me -they think I’m a weirdo – a total spazz. This savage inner-dialogue  forces my hand and very ungently the cake breaks apart. Now what do I do? It’s a total mess! I can’t bring this. Panic subsides a bit when I focus at the second tin. Like it’s devastated twin it is too hard and too soft all at once, but at least it is whole, I think bitterly. Not taking another chance I decide to leave it in the round baking tin. I shellack it with some of the runny cocoa frosting I just mixed up, trying to smooth out the unpleasant cocoa rocks in the process.  


      I’m at the beach lugging around 3 clunky shopping bags. My board shorts with big orange mangoes on it are loose around the middle and keep sliding down my hips. The girls are standing around in their bathing suits, and the boys are in a group looking at the girls out of the corner of their eyes. Marisa, the birthday girl and guest of honor, is yet to arrive with Gati, her best friend. The weather is warm but the sky is gray, the surf looks like dirty dishwater, and there is sand everywhere.   With nothing really going on Austin starts up: “Hey Giganta! You look like you have huge orange birth marks all over your arse!” The boys snicker, snortle, snigger in concert. What am I doing? This was such a bad idea, none of the girls are even talking to me. I’m a dag. I look like a huge moron in these shorts. I briefly consider which would be worse- staying in the ugly dumb shorts and lame orange t. shirt or revealing my big boobs and fat thighs. I decide to keep my shorts and t shirt on. And then Marisa arrives, because it’s a surprise party Gati’s hand is clamped over her eyes. They are both perfect little girls. Their cutoffs look cute and their chests are flat in their bathing suits and their legs are thin. Surprise! Everyone yells out. “I thought we were going to The Drugstore”. Marisa rolls her eyes and pouts a bit when she sees we’re at the beach.  There is no mistaking her disappointment. I messed up and I‘m a huge loser. What a fucking nerd, I will never be like them. I will never be in the popular group. What’s left to do but serve the cake? I take it out of the bag. Austin grabs it out of my hand, and tosses it over to Roddy who scoops up a handful of sand and sprinkles it almost daintily over the cake. As they play Cake Frisbee, Marisa and the girls make a plan to go to the Drugstore.  The boys decide to go to Austin’s pool. I gather my stuff and shove the shame-filled tears way down. “I love the beach!” a friendly voice announces from the surf. I focus in on Dotty. Why is she still here? How come she didn’t go to the Drugstore with the rest of them? But Dotty isn’t really part of the “in” crowd, more of a casual acquaintance to the powers-that-be. I am both glad and embarrassed to see her. – Everyone left to go to the Drugstore.  I call out. “I know. They’re idiots. The beach is so much more fun than going to the Drugstore. The owner is such a mean dickhead!” -Well, Marisa wanted her birthday party there, I guess? I say to Dotty as she plonks herself down on her beach towel. “I hardly ever get the chance to go to the beach on my birthday, because it’s in September” Dotty looks totally cool in her sunglasses. – My birthday is in September too, I’m going to be thirteen!” “I’m on the 15th”. -I’ll make us a cake to have together for our joint birthday?  I offer her. “Yum! I love anything chocolate” she accepts.  


    photo (257)

      The cake  before me on the counter is a dark thing of beauty. The warm  fresh-baked chocolate aroma  welcomes me back to the moment.  I lightly press the firm center of the cake and note triumphantly the way it softly springs back to its smooth sloping shape. It’s not a party unless there’s chocolate cake I take out my phone and snap a picture- with it’s thick ganache glaze pooling splendidly on the white porcelain cake platter, I know they will love it, not be able to stop themselves from loving it, and will come back again and again.    
  • Lemon Blueberry Maddies (P)

    Here’s an American and dairy-free spin on a French classic.  One of these days I’m gonna substitute the lemon for orange and the blueberries for mini chocolate chips, et le voila- Choco-Orange Maddies! 1.  Preheat oven to 375°.  Grease a 12-cup madeleine pan.  Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a small bowl- set aside. 2.  With an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and creamy, and when you lift the beaters ribbons of batter result.  Fold in the lemon zest and juice. 3.  Starting with the flour mixture, alternately fold in the flour and the melted coconut oil spread in three allotments.  Let the mixture stand for 3 or4 minutes and then carefully dpoon batter into the pan.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of a maddie comes out clean.  
  • Fraiche Neu Eating

      After a few months of gluten-free, lean-protein, low-carb, whole-grain, raw-food living; the Taste Buds began to cry out indignantly “Why does everything taste the same?! Why do we have to be so healthy? Why can’t we have pizza?  If we have to eat another leafy green salad dressed in olive oil and vinegar we’re going revolt! We don’t care if you’re turning 40.… Oatmeal for Sunday brunch?! Oatmeal with almond milk and a drizzle of honey – this you call a treat?!” cereal-oatmeal1-300x206 Part of it was that brown rice and beans were just so darn easy to prepare blahhh.  So was oatmeal Ho-hum.  And shaking up a weekly jar of olive oil vinaigrette was just no big deal zzzzzzz.  The wholesome dishes were a habit, removing the guesswork– and flavor after a while.  It was health-conscious eating, but mindful masticating? Not so much. Something had to give.  And it better be giving something different and delicious demanded the Taste Buds. At a Sunday Brunch party inspired by memories of thinly sliced smoked salmon and lox, baskets of bagels, tubs of cream cheeses: plain and flavored, and  plates of sliced veggies; flavor returned in the form of a Fraiche Neu Salad. It began as many meals had with a layer of the leafy green-of-choice: arugula, for its sharp herby-ness.  But then it really started to get good with a few boiled new potatoes tossed in for a tender bite and some toothsome heft. Salty-oily slivers of smoked salmon or lox draped louchely on the leafy bed. Thin ribbons of sweet-tangy pickled red onions layered on more color and exciting flavor. A scattering of capers for even more salty-savoriness. And then a few well-toasted pumpernickel squares added in for a dizzyingly pleasing crunch.  It all ended tastily with a piquant drizzle of Horseradish-Dill Crème Fraiche dressing (avowed health-nuts can easily substitute Greek yogurt). Composed salad? Deconstructed BLC  (Bagels Lox Creamcheese)? Whatever!Yippee!! Flavor! Color! Texture!  And while it might not be as high on the health-o-meter as steel-cut oatmeal or brown rice and beans, it’s still in keeping with the balanced eating regime; Enough already! sometimes we just need a little love and a lot of flavor. photo (323)  
  • L’Shana Tova

    May your New Year be sweet  
    Crème Brulee Truffle

    Crème Brulee Truffle

      And overflowing with golden opportunities
    Caramellow Heaven

    Caramellow Heaven

      May there be love
    Cookiegirl Valentine

    Cookiegirl Valentine

      And connection
     Embrace by A. Rodin

    Embrace by A. Rodin

      And simple moments of beauty  
    perfect tomatoes

    perfect tomatoes

      And then every so often something so completely awesome
    Louis' Hall at the Louvre

    Louis’ Hall at the Louvre

      But don’t  forget the FUN!
    DIY Chocolate Bars in Houston

    DIY Chocolate Bars in Houston

      And what’s life without laughter?


        Wishing you plenty of leafy green
    Crunchy Spinach Salad

    Crunchy Spinach Salad

        Not to mention good health
    Crisp Apple-a-day Salad with Pickled Red Onions

    Crisp Apple-a-day Salad with Pickled Red Onions

      A year that adds  to your  knowledge
    Used bookstore+ time= Heaven

    Used bookstore+ time= Heaven

    And here’s to a ripening wisdom
    It's said it was a fig that Eve ate

    It’s said that it was a fig that Eve ate

      And even amidst all the chaos and disorder


      The continuing hope for peace
    A beautiful summer's day in Upstate New York

    Upstate New York

  • Favorite Israeli Eats Menu

    BREAKFAST: It’s never too early in the day to begin it the taïm way! Challah with Guava Jam and Butter: Sweet, fruity and faintly exotic guava jelly, a thin layer of fresh salted butter 521928_540387742683618_1071126905_n (3)slathered on a thick slice of spongy challah that could well double as cake. It’s a simply sweet way to start your bright sunny morning in the very cool outdoor Shaffa Café in the very hip and authentic neighborhood of Jaffa. Café Americano: Because “Nescafe” leaves you limp, and  “drip” is strictly a plumber’s domain in Israel. The easy choice for those in search of a no-frills jolt of caffeine.  Two shots of espresso  and enough hot water to fill a mug– leave room for a drop of milk. SNACKS: Because wherever you are in Israel there’s always something delicious to nibble on Cheese Borekas: The original hot pocket!  A market fave from Levinsky in Tel Aviv. Soft, salty, tangy, creamy filling folded in a steamy-hot buttery flaky crust studded with toasty sesame seeds..  
    Cheese Borekas from Levinsky Market

    Cheese Borekas from Levinsky Market

    Hazelnut Mushroom Focaccia @ Dallal

    Hazelnut Mushroom Focaccia @ Dallal

    Hazelnut Mushroom Focaccia: A multi-textured savory snack of toasted chopped hazelnuts, slippery umami mushrooms, sharp and creamy Roquefort crumbles, and sautéed diced onions all heaped on a soft and crispy tile of focaccia. Nibbles of this focaccia, between sips of a tall and foamy iced coffee, during a loose and easy hang-out session with your brother and his lovely wife at an outdoor café, on a beautiful summer’s day at Dallal in  Neve Tzedek, is really what vacation is all about.         LUNCH: The meal between snacks Mahane Yehudah Pizza: Definitely the best slice enjoyed in Israel– thin crispy crust with a fragrant herb-blend folded into the dough, sauce that strikes the right balance between sweet and savory, and a layer of string-a-licious cheese baked to just the right doneness.  People-watching in the reknown Mahane Yehudah shuk while munching on your slice…?  Priceless.
    Pizza from Mahane Yehudah Market

    Pizza from Mahane Yehudah Market

    Beet Ravioli stuffed with Goat Cheese: The logical choice at the restaurant on a goat farm.  Sweet, deep-purple hued ravioli stuffed with delicious “locally sourced” goat cheese  and languishing in a puddle of rich red herb-flecked pasta sauce with a light smattering of grated parmesan.  It was metsuyan! Sabich: The fluffy pita, the crunchy salad, the sliced hard boiled eggs, the slippery slices of fried eggplant, with  generous  dollops of hummus and tehina, and just the slightest drizzle of bright orange umba (mango chutney)- easy on the fresh parsley.  Score another one for Mahane Yehuda Market! Yahaloma’s Corner An unassuming storefront tucked quietly into Levinsky Market in Tel Aviv.  A vegetarian restaurant turning out inventive and tasty riffs on Middle Eastern fare.
    Yahaloma's Rocket Salad

    Yahaloma’s Rocket Salad

    Rocket Salad : Take your tastebuds to the moon! Beautiful, sweet, firm rrripe crimson tomatoes cut into wedges on a bed of peppery rocket  (arugula), globs of rich and creamy burrata mozzarella, chunks of  buttery avocado, and strewn with lima beans-cooked to this  side of al dente. All finished with high quality olive oil and a bit of sea salt and pepper. Bringing home (again) the notion that simple is best when done with excellent ingredients. Falafel Samosa’s with Sweet Potato Chutney: Bite-sized mashed falafel spiced chick peas swaddled in a tender oven-baked crust. Served with a sweet and slightly tangy chutney dipping sauce. Roasted Eggplant & Tehina Gnocchi: Soft and sumptuous  pillows of exotically flavored gnocchi.  An example of fusion food that is relevant and well executed.
    Roasted Eggplant Tehina Gnocchi

    Roasted Eggplant Tehina Gnocchi

      FRUIT: Nobody makes candy better than nature Figs: Palm-sized, smooth-skinned, dark violet on the outside. Sweet, delicate, and yielding on the inside. Another delight available in bulk at  Mahane Yehudah.
     Give a Fig

    Give a Fig

    Watermelon at the height of its power

    Watermelon at the height of its power

    Watermelon: Everything you’re looking for in a wedge of watermelon can be found in an Israeli supermarket. Color: Deep blush pink that verges on bright flush red.  Texture: Offers a wonderfully pleasing snap to the bite. Flavor: Sweeter than the sweetest candy.  More refreshing than a gallon of water.           SWEETS: Gotta have ’em:
    Nutella Focaccia

    Nutella Focaccia

    Nutella Focaccia: La Lasagne in Tel Aviv is known for its lasagna natch, but its Nutella Focaccia definitely rates a mention. The melted nutella that oozes dreamily out of the crunchy toasted focaccia bread with the sprinkling of powdered sugar on top is a gorgeous specimen of sweetness.  And another example of how simplicity with a little inspiration can go a long (and delicious) way. Nectarine Sorbet: Are you sure this is dairy-free? Really sure?  Because this sorbet tastes creamy and smooth and like sweet nectarines.  And it has the density of ice cream- real dairy ice cream.  And licking it while strolling along the promenade at Tel Aviv Beach takes it to the next level of refreshing.   DINNER: One last bite: Sineya & Fries: A spicy, juicy, sloppy joe-style burger with piquant zig-zags of flavored mayo all enveloped in a custom made pita that is soft enough to the bite but sturdy enough to withstand sogginess.  Served up by a scrappy Israeli who had a dream of opening up his own place right off of he main drag in Jerusalem (Ben Yehudah Street).  It’s called “Just Meat”- but the fries are pretty damn good too- crispy, stubby, and well-salted! Duck Burger: No, not a burger made out of minced duck meat (there’s an idea), but still a really good burger topped  with a  slice of  duck proscuitto and a nice sharp shmear of Dijon.  Another great chance for people-watching on Dizengoff in Tel Aviv.  Popular with brothers, husbands, and sons….      
  • Paris From Beyond

    Millefeuille Brulee

    Millefeuille Brulee

    Salade a la Paul Bert

    Salade a la Paul Bert

    Angelina's Legendary Hot Chocolate

    Angelina’s Legendary Hot Chocolate

    Paul Herme's artful offerings

    Paul Herme’s artful offerings

        SCENE: A  bustling party in a long hall with a marble floor and mother-of-pearl tinted walls, grand multi-tiered crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling filling the room with incandescent prismatic light.  The space is thick with figures all engaged in pockets of conversation. Enter Rachel, mouth slightly agape, eyes scanning the scene before her with excitement and incredulity. Rachel (whispering  in amazement): No way! Is that Julia Child?! … That is Julia Child! Julia Child looks over at Rachel, smiles cheerfully and gamely approaches. Julia (exuberantly): Welcome dearie! Rachel (dumbfounded): This is heaven? Julia: Yes precisely. Not what you were expecting? Rachel: Actually, pretty much exactly… But how? Julia: How did you get here? Rachel: No- I know. I  always said once I visited Paris I could die in peace…Didn’t know it would be taken so literally Julia: Yes. well you know what they say “be careful what you wish for” Rachel: It was Pierre Hermé that did me in. That place is a well-lit sweet treats art gallery  their chocolates and macarons are displayed like beautiful gems and  I just could not decide between the banana yogurt macaron or the apricot pistachio or the salted caramel. Julia: Yes  a dilemma I completely understand…me? I probably would have gone for the chocolate Rachel( a little shamefully): Yeah.. I ended up getting all three.  They were all so gorgeous and I really couldn’t choose between them.  The last one I ate was the best – the banana-yogurt  sooo good with just the slightest edge of tartness from the yogurt.  I couldn’t stop myself from swallowing it whole…and choking on it. Julia: Well at least you died while tasting something delicious in Paris- dearie. Rachel: I tasted a lot of delicious things in Paris.  But I don’t need to tell you about all the delicious things there are to taste in Paris- Julia: No, but go on anyway I love hearing it. Rachel:  The Millefeuille Brulee at Angelina – Gawd! the caramelized pastry was so delicate and flakey and the cream in between the layers was so rich and smooth.  and sweet. but not overly sweet that it detracted from subtle burnt flavor of the pastry mmmmm Julia: What about the hot chocolate? It’s known for the best hot chocolate in Paris. Rachel:  Beyond amazing! So thick I drank it with a spoon like soup…And then there was the great meal we had Bistrot Paul Bert.  You would’ve loved it Julia: Do tell! I haven’t had a good meal since I got here. No food in heaven- a contradiction in terms if you ask me. Rachel: I read about it in Bon Appetit.  And it was just as you’d expect a French bistro to be right down to the tiled floor distressed mirrors marble bar top and chalkboard menu in French. Julia: Sounds like the bistro down the street that Paul and I used to have dinner in at least twice a week when we were living in Paris. How we loved that place! Their poulet roti was ne plus ultra! Rachel: I ordered a tomato-herb salad as a starter- talk about ultra to the max.  Fresh ripe and juicy tomatoes cut into bite-sized pieces with thin strips of fresh basil and minced shallots and crispy croutons- thrown in for a nice crrrrunch.  All doused in good olive oil and finished with just the right amount of sea salt and a shpritz of lemon juice…It was a revelation  how good a simple salad can be if  the components are perfect. Julia (in a faraway voice) : Every meal was a celebration of good food… Rachel: Yes that you pay through the wazoo for especially since  it was one and a half dollars to the euro.  I guess it was all part of the Parisian experience Julia: Hem’s right when he says that Paris is a moveable feast. Did you notice how wherever you went  people were enjoying al fresco meals? Rachel: YES!!  And I saw that even something as low-brow as a McDonald’s burger took on the sheen of a precious banquet when eaten on a bench in the Luxembourg Gardens. At this point a woman dressed in fine formal wear stiffly approaches Julia (under her breath): Oh drat…. (out loud to woman) Oh hullo Edith! We were just talking about one of the many subjects you’re well-versed in- gardens in Paris Edith Wharton: French landscapes would be  more accurate- but true, Parisian Gardens do fall into that category Rachel : Yes- we were just talking about how beautiful the gardens are.  The way they were situated alongside and in front of breathtaking palaces and ornate structures and are filled with classical sculptures…  Walking through them must really take the edge off of daily life Edith: Yes, I quite agree with that.  The beauty and civilized pace of life in Paris and France in general is in large part why I left New York. Rachel: I loved  Paris —  The  bridges.  and  museums. and architecture. and of course the food. and I especially loved  the way that the Parisians would arrange themselves in the outdoor cafes with a glass of wine at their elbows and a cigarette dangling casually from their fingers-  like they were living  art. Edith: Exactement! La Belle Vie. Living a civilized life amidst civilized people Julia is slowly and steadily backing away from this conversation.  Rachel:  But- I never for a minute ever wished that I could move there and set up a life as a Parisienne —  New York never felt inferior to me. Edith: Then the question is which do you prefer the Tuileries or Central Park? The Metropolitan or the D’Orsay -nothing the world over can compare with the Louvre, of that I am sure. Rachel: But for me it is more about the people. Edith: Parisians have a true reverence for Beauty and Art  that is not common to New Yorkers.  They understand the art of living. Rachel: And they’re super-chic too! On the metro to Montmartre we sat across a young woman who had her hair pulled back in a ponytail she had on a bit of eyeliner a simple white t. shirt black skinny jeans and black pumps and she was like a modern day Audrey Hepburn! Incredibly chic! But they were all well turned out like that Edith: Yes French  women do have the dignity to care about how they look and take the trouble to groom themselves appropriately. Another aspect that New Yorkers and Americans are sorely lacking. Rachel (tentatively):Well  here it goes- I didn’t feel like there was an appreciation for the “other” in Paris like there is in New York. Edith(coldly): You mean immigrants and foreigners. Rachel: Well that’s only part of it.  I mean- the elements that are different, the outsiders. Edith (rolls eyes): What you really mean are social climbing arrivistes and  ill-bred immigrants. The glut of them are what drove me from New York to France. Rachel: But that’s what makes New York so great!  Its  openness to the new the different the other the foreign!  It creates an incredible energy – la vie electrique! Edith: I prefer the Parisian code of politesse and refined hauteur. Rachel: Oh please! New Yorkers can be just as snarky and as imperious as the Parisians- but at the bottom of it all there is an off-beat sense of  brotherhood with all humanity that runs through the streets and avenues of  New York City that I just didn’t feel in Paris. Edith: You might be better served conversing with Emma Lazarus …or that gauche couple over there (dismissively points to a couple in the remote vicinity)  the Fitzgerald’s- they spent some time  in Paris and were drunk for the extent of it. Loutish  American poseurs disguised as bohemian artists. Rachel:  He only happens to be one of the greatest American writers of the 20th Century! Edith: who made his name by writing about climbers and poseurs. A tall, thin, dark man with an intense stare approaches. Edith (hurriedly): well then here’s my cue to leave…You two will have much to discuss. Henry! With that Edith traipses off in the direction of Henry James, leaving Rachel with this dark slightly deranged looking man. Soutine (sneering in Wharton’s direction): Gai en drerde… She deserves to hang and burn like those chandeliers. Assholes and  Anti-Semites even in the after-life! Rachel: Pardon me but who are you? Soutine: Jew and Painter  Soutine. Rachel: Oh right. Wow!  I was really taken with your paintings at L’Orangerie.  You and Modigliani were my most favorite art discoveries on the trip Soutine: “The two most fucked-up Jewish painters in all of Paris.” Rachel: …and the sculpture of Diana at the Louvre definitely rates a mention too. Soutine: They’ll never put us in the Louvre Rachel: Because you’re Jewish? Soutine: Yes- because I’m Jewish. What d’you think?! They’d hang Chaim Sutin’s painting of a bleeding animal carcass next to one of their glorious crucifixion scenes? Rachel(quickly looking around): Ok as long as we’re talking about it let’s talk about the rue des Rosiers. Soutine: I didn’t live in  le Marais with the Jews I lived in Montparnasse with the artists-  until the French Nazi Motherfuckers ran me out of town and into hiding Rachel:   Le Marais is a very hip  cool  high-end neighborhood. While we were promenading around we took a turn onto the rue des Rosiers and it was like stepping into a portal of hidden Jewish life. Soutine: Did you have an expensive kosher meal served with just the right amount of bourgeoise self-satisfaction? Rachel: I’m not really sure what that means- but it sounds like an insult…But actually we did have a really awesome falafel at L’as du Fellafel.  And of course I had to check out Korcarz Bakery and try their cheesecake- But I’m sticking with the New York kind…not as sweet and much firmer. Soutine (softly): My mother used to make cheesecake for Shavuos. Rachel: Did she use farmer cheese or cream cheese? Soutine (exasperated): I don’t know! All I know was that it was good  and that we’d only get it once a year on Shavuos- The ten of us would  fight over the crumbs like little rats. Rachel: It was a charming street filled with kosher restaurants and people-Jews- openly wearing kippot and showing other outward displays of their Jewishness.  Once we took a left turn off the rue de Rosiers I never saw another kippah or any other obvious signs of Jewishness the whole time I was in Paris. It was really weird and kinda spooky Soutine: Look here you’re not going to hear me defend the French against anti-Semitism.  They were only too happy to hand us over to the Nazi’s- didn’t have to ask twice… Had me hiding in the forests like a worthless animal! Rachel: That’s awful.  Did you regret leaving your family and life for Paris? Soutine: Never! They were all slaughtered in Russia by the cocksuckers. At least I got out of the shtetl- saw a little of the world. Lived in Montparnasse with other artists- we talked about painting.  We drank ’til we were shit-faced.  We made great art in a great city of art– Come with me (he grabs Rachel’s arm) let’s go find Sartre, he’s just the guy to talk about this crap with    
    Korcarz Cheesecake

    Korcarz Cheesecake

    On the rue des Rosiers

    On the rue des Rosiers

    A stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens

    A stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens

    Portrait of Emile Lejeune by Chaim Soutine

    Portrait of Emile Lejeune by Chaim Soutine

  • My Darling Madeleine

    I whipped up the confectioner’s sugar into the eggs, and voila! my thoughts returned to the last time I made madeleines.  I want to be Julia Child.  I want to live in Paris in the 50’s.  Go to le Cordon Bleu, and be an all-around great dame who understands the merits of real butter and lots of it.  Gawd! Meryl Streep is a genius is there anyone she cannot play?  Julia Child was a genius, an American original who was resolutely herself every step of the way.   She was dazzling and delightful.  And the city of Paris appeared almost mythical.  After Julia, it was my favorite character in “Julie and Julia”.  I gotta get there, soon.  Before I turn forty.  And after these madeleines, it’s onto beurre blanc…   photo (283) julia-child-with-rolling-pinsMeryl Streep as "Julia Child" in Columbia Pictures' Julie & Julia. Paris became a part-time obsession.  The food! The chocolate! The pastry! The art! The bridges! The echoes of literary giants in boho cafes! The je ne sais quoi-ness of it all!  Paris was a symbol for artful style and quality that I needed to observe and experience in order to grow. imagesCAUVMIWV However, the littlest kiddle was still a baby, and the other two weren’t much bigger.  The concept of international travel sans les bebes was far-flung and rather unlikely.  Plus “Paris is sooo expensive!” Nevertheless, I declared often that I would visit Paris before I turned 40. 589361-original I made a tin of madeleines after seeing Julie & Julia, as a way of living the movie, and declaring my dream.  This batch of madeleines are a celebration of a dream about to come true two months shy of my 40th birthday.  I’m going to knock back a few glasses of wine in honor of Julia, and then a few more just because I’m in Paris.  I will tear into my fair share of baguettes, devour delicate pastries, sample a whole lot of  chocolate and a bunch of bon bons.  I will gorge myself on museums until I overdose on art, and then I’ll plant myself in a café and  summon the ghosts of Hemingway and Fitzgerald.  I will cross bridges in half-light, and swoon at the well-trodden sights….  6-8-04NotreDame_lgcartier-bresson  
  • Exploring Korean Cuisine

    Inspired by two interesting articles, a few memorable conversations, and one great meal- an interest in Korean cuisine emerges. Korean Cuisine: Salty-sweet-spicy, with a deeply pleasing u-mmmmm-ami appeal.  Barbecued meats like galbi and bulgogi provide the basis of the meals, but the variety of side dishes, banchan, served around the mains add an enormous amount of flavor and texture. Pickled cucumbers, cabbage, daikon radishes, garlic, spinach offer a jolt of refreshing acid and lovely swathes of green to counter the heft and rich fattiness of the meat dishes. Reminds me of: A Korean table reminds me of my Iraqi Grandmother’s table where the entire surface is covered by a series of serving plattersKorean.food-Hanjungsik-01 heaped with meats, fish, and then the accompanying small plates and bowls brimming with colorful pickles and sauces, dishes of rice or noodles, and other assorted homestyle tid-bits.         photo (255)The Source:  A field trip to H Mart in Fort Lee, NJ  was like being in a foreign country.  There was aisle upon aisle of exotic-never-seen-before items in bright packages covered in unfamiliar script.  As well as a whole  array of fantastical vegetables and herbs, in strange and wonderful shapes , sizes, and scents.  And  lucky for me  a few sweet Korean Grandmas who were happy to point me in the right direction, and offer a little advice.       Kimchi experiments: Made a big jar of cabbage kimchi, and a couple of jars of cucumber kimchi.  Used a lot of salt, and allowed it to ferment in a cool dark spot in my kitchen for a few days.  photo (259) The results: “Epic fail!” Kiddle #1 declared, as he flailed around for water.   The saltiness was unbearable.  And the cucumber kimchi was even worse than the cabbage… mushy and completely unappetizing. However… The Barbecue Bonanza: To make galbi I marinated a few pounds of boneless flanken  all day in a solution of chopped garlic, pineapple juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, and then flash grilled it on both sides.  It was so delicious and so easy.  Bulgogi features a thinner cut of beef (I used skirt steak) and is not as salty-sweet as the galbi, it’s flavored mainly with garlic and soy sauce.  After figuring out that mool yut is malt syrup I made a marinade that was sweet, salty (soy sauce) and garlicky and submerged a few boneless skinless chicken breasts in it for several hours.  It was my favorite barbecue dish of the meal.photo (276)   Flavor notes:  Garlic is essential in Korean cuisine along with gochugaro- finely ground red pepper flakes that deliver a hot and spicy zetz to the taste buds. Veggie-Heaven:  Korean food is not just for carnivores, vegetarians get much love too. Successfully combined a couple of recipes and came up with a Sesame-Soy Pan Seared Tofu- with Gochugaro Salsa.  The Jap Chae noodles were beautiful looking and a subtle foil to the strident kimchi flavor as well as the heavily flavored beef and protein dishes.  Plus it’s an interesting slightly chewy texture, the transparent noodles take on a glassy appearance when slicked with a bit of sesame oil. photo (275)   photo (258)   photo (280) …Meanwhile at the Fancy Food Show: Last Sunday amidst  the altars of chocolate,  the cobblestone countertops of gluten- free crackers, there was a heap of mushroom truffles that emitted the most pleasingly pungent aroma from 10 feet away and there were a few  kimchi brands distributing samples.  My favorite was Mama O’s Kimchi www.kimchirules.com ,  they offer great prepared kimchi at various levels of heat.  They also carry  a handy DIY kit for those of us who have delusions of authenticity.IMG_1481 Kimchi Take Two:  Sliced Persian cucumbers in a salty-sweet-spicy solution, retained their crunch, and were a tangy-sweet-spicy addition to our 4th of July fare.  Tried a different (read: more labor intensive) kimchi recipe, this version directed me to cut the napa cabbage  lengthwise into quarters and rub the gochugaro-scallion-daikon-garlic paste between each leaf, and fold up the cabbage into rolls and stuffing them into the gallon jar.  Definitely an improvement from the first attempt, but not there yet.   photo (279)Anecdote:  While immersing myself in Korean  cuisine I have been reading The Family Moskat by Isaac Bashevis Singer.  This  may seem like an incongruous pairing,  but as I hand grated a large Korean daikon, a mental image of my grandmother grating a large similarly shaped horseradish root for her homemade chraine (horseradish relish that is served with gefilte fish) played through my memory.photo (278)         My cousin Sharon from my father’s side commented on how my jars of kimchi made her think of our Nana Aziza’s Chakla B’akla (Iraqi pickled veggies).  Mothers and Grandmothers seem to be an important theme in Korean cuisine as well.  Two out of the three kimchi brands  at the Fancy Food Show referenced Mothers and Mother-in-laws in their company names.  I sense that there is a similarity and affinity between Jewish culture and Korean culture, that begins with the  dinner table as the locale for celebration and family life in general, and extends to homecooked meals = love. And  I suspect it might go even further than that. Crossing-over: The fusion of gochugaro powder, daikon radish, garlic- lots of garlic- in the kitchen with Isaac Bashevis Singer’s   words and images  has me  conjuring a whole roster of Kosher-Korean recipes such as kimchi reuben,  gochugaro matzah balls,  sweet and spicy roast chicken, braised gochujang brisket with daikon radish. Prediction: It won’t be long before Korean Barbecue will be a regular stop on the shmorg circuit at bar/bat mitzvah’s and weddings across the tri-state region- placed right in between the sushi stand and the deli carving station. And the Kimchi Bar will be located next to the Israeli Salads. The Takeaway: Korean Cuisine is not overly complicated and it’s not technically difficult.  It is a satisfying sort of home cooking that will please all kinds of eaters and palates, with lots of colorful flourishes and substantial flavors. The fair amount of busy work in the form of chopping and mincing (garlic, ginger, spring onions), sautéing (tofu, spinach), boiling (potato starch noodles), marinading and  grilling  (the meat) only serves to create a whole tabletop of flavors ranging from  intensely umami to fifty shades of spice, with offerings of delicate subtlety placed alongside for balance and variety.photo (274)  
  • Fantasy Baking Project

    photo (248) Creating flavor-bombs for occasions that are destined to be remembered in family folklore and photos, really thrills me. So when I received a text from a friend asking me to create a dessert menu/buffet for her son’s pre-wedding Shabbat celebration, that simply read:  “Do whatever u want. trust u” I was giddy with the possibilities. Some people prefer having parameters and restrictions when embarking on a project- it gives them a point to start at.  I do not fall into that category.  The more open-ended the project the more fantastical the results, is my way of thinking.  So I began my fantasy baking project by flipping through the stacks of magazines and cookbooks that cover my side of the room.  I also skimmed through my memory and imagination, checking out all the ideas that I put away because they were too over-the-top for everyday eating. Blah, blah, blah…Nu, big talker – what’s on the menu when  the world is your mixing bowl?! I  started at chocolate.  There are always a few Chocoholics in the room, and I knew I had to give ’em something good.  Something that they would approach wistfully, and with a little trepidation due to the possibility that this dessert could fulfill all their deepest and darkest chocolate desires. It had to showcase all the features that makes chocolate so darn irresistible- especially to Chocoholics, who in their hearts believe that when it comes to dessert there is nothing but chocolate.  For them I made a Triple Chocolate Tart.  Its base layer was made up of crushed dark chocolate biscuits.  The middle layer featured a generous spread of rich and silky-smooth chocolate ganache.  And to round it all out darkly, a small saucepan of glossy melted chocolate was poured over the top, and tilted and turned at every angle to ensure that every area of space was covered thickly in the stuff. It’s a lot of chocolate, maybe even too much for the casual cacao enthusiast, but for the die-hard chocolate lovers, the people who are almost religious in their devotion, it would hit ’em just right. photo (241)   After the mandatory chocolate option was executed, I was free to explore other sweet regions.  I figured that at a dessert party populated by traditional New Yawk-ers, there had to be cheesecake, of course cheesecake!  I decided to double-down on the New York-iness of the dessert by adding a nice jab of coffee flavor to it.  The  cheesecake stood on a cinnamon-ey ‘Nilla wafer crust and was topped by sweet sour-cream foam and a sifting of cocoa powder.  The cheesecake was NY flavor and attitude by the forkin’ spoonful. New Yawker's Cheesecake   ….And then there was the Caramel Cake.  I’ve been waiting a while to trot out this luscious, sweet slattern of a dessert.  The first time I made it, I discovered my true identity as a Caramellow.  Caramel is sweet and soft and is the flavor equivalent ofa mellow time spent in a warm and sunny kitchen.  This Southern-style layer cake is a revelation in caramel.  The icing needs to simmer in a heavy pot for a couple hours so that it can get to the consistency of loose pudding.  It’s runny and it’s rich and it’s gooey and it’s messy- a sweet and beautiful mess.  It spreads itself slowly over the three layers of yellow cake, pooling lushly at the bottom of the plate, so  it’s impossible not to scoop up a lick with your finger, and if you’re a Caramellow the  sweetness will flood through you and fill you with warmth and joy. caramellow's cake   The Tres Leches Coconut-Pineapple Cake was my designated experiment in this Fantasy Baking Project.  I’ve been working with coconut milk a lot lately, for both my sweet and savory recipes.  I love how rich and creamy it is, and that it is dairy free is an incredible bonus when you’re kosher-conscious.  I poked bullet-sized holes into the sturdy yellow cake layer with the back end of a wooden spoon, and then mixed together condensed milk, coconut milk, and regular milk with a shot of rum and poured it over the cake.  On top of the soaked cake layer was fluffy lightly sweetened whipped cream, and then with the taste of a piña colada guiding me  I marinated fresh slices of ripe pineapple in rum, and roasted them until they were slightly charred around the edges. It was a free-standing, tropical, and slightly boozy trifle, that I could not resist dotting with dabs of the leftover caramel. This cake was for the Islanders, people whose souls and hearts belong to the beach and whose taste buds seek out its sun-drenched and exotic flavors. Islander's Tres Leches Cake   I wanted to offer a dairy-free option,  my never-fail Kuchen-Buckle is simple and homely-looking compared with the diva desserts I had spent several days primping and coddling. But  I knew it would hold its own in flavor. Its uncomplicated appeal  lies in a simple cake lightly flavored with nut milk and slices of fresh summer fruit that sink into the batter as it bakes, and provides a lovely burst of flavor, texture, and color.  Ms. Kuchen-Buckle will never be the most spectacular beauty at the party, often she’s overlooked and ignored in everyone’s haste to get to the chocolate tart, or the well-formed cheesecake, or the  golden brown stacked caramel cake.  But for those with an appreciation for simple and uncomplicated  beautiful flavor, this cake is a winner.  It’s  ability to adapt to different flavorings and fruit toppings, makes it different every time, which  is a virtue in itself. photo (242) photo (244)   I dropped the cakes off on Friday, handed them over with a silent blessing that they would each accomplish what I hoped for them: a sweet, soulful, and celebratory connection with every kind of dessert-lover present at the party… Then I went  home to eat a bag of salty potato chips.            
  • Smoked Salmon Patties (P) with Egg-Caper Relish (P)

    5/30: This recipe is  a cross between a latke and a seafood cake or patty.  It is also a fantastically flavorful way to utilize leftover salmon.  The egg-caper relish is really just a tricked-out über yum version of egg salad, it is not essential to the success of this dish- but it sure don’t hurt either. Looking forward to making this again and again and figuring out new flavor additions… Just off the top of my head I’m thinking there’ll be a  Tzatziki -Smoked Salmon Patty sandwich sometime soon…  
    • 1 large potato, peeled and coarsely grated (about 1 cup)photo (223)
    • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
    • 4 oz. smoked salmon, coarsely chopped
    • 2-3 cups cooked salmon, flaked into small shreds with a fork
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
    • 2 tablespoons matzah meal, panko, or dried bread crumbs
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
    • generous squirt of fresh lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup canola or safflower oil
    1. Place grated potatoes in a clean cloth and squeeze out the liquid.  Place in a large bowl with the onions.  Mix in smoked salmon and flaked salmon. 2. Fold in mustard, and mayo.  Mix in matzah meal.  Sprinkle in ground pepper and fresh lemon juice. 3. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan.  Shape salmon mixture into palm sized patties, and carefully slip them into the hot oil pan-frying for approximately 2-3 minutes on each side. 4. Remove from pan and allow to drain on paper bag or paper towels Yields approximately 8-10 patties Egg & Caper Relish (can be doubled or tripled)
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • 3 hard boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
    • 1 tablespoon minced red onion
    • 2 tablespoons capers, drained and coarsely chopped
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
    • 1 teaspoon prepared white horseradish
    1. Combine all ingredients together in a medium sized bowl, allow flavors to meld for at least a half-hour.  
  • Memorial Day Weekend & Other Celebrationist Stories

    photoCA4GY7EO   I immediately seized on the chance to get away for the long weekend, when Hub floated the idea of renting a cabin outside of Hancock, NY on Thursday morning.   I was eager to take a break from testing and trying out recipes, fretting over deadlines, and the general routine that makes  family life  functional, but leaves me feeling dull and  sanded-down.  I saw us spending lots of free-flowing family time together, there’d be a few cookouts too-where someone else was in charge of the food for a change. There’d absolutely be some sleeping in, and possibly  cover-to-cover reading time!  And  maybe I’d even go to Whole Foods to pick up some artisanal chocolate for a special holiday weekend treat (what else can justify charging $8 for thin a slab of chocolate other than that it is crafted by artistes…).  “Yes, yes! Great idea! Let’s go away this weekend!” Hub, spurred on by images of rivers teeming with trout, turned to the Catskill region due to its diverse trout fishing rivers and the possibility of catching a “big, giant brown trout” and  imagining the good fight that the wild native fish put up. All right then, let’s do it, we said.  By Thursday evening the cabin had been rented, and I was preparing a platter of schnitzel, great served hot or cold, soy-sesame green beans, rice, and peach kuchen to bring up and reheat for Friday night Shabbat dinner.  And that would be my last cooking act for a few days. I culinary curated the weekend with the word HOLIDAY in mind.  Holidays are fun, freewheeling, and flavorful- like a big scoop of pink or blue  bubblegum ice cream.  I remember a family vacation in Mt. Shasta, CA we took when I was 11. We spent one evening at a Pizza-Ice Cream Parlor/Video Arcade.  My brothers were locked in front of the hulking video games, my mother and father were drinking coffee and discussing parent-stuff, and I was sitting near the jukebox spending all my quarters on my favorite pop songs, nursing a root beer-bubblegum ice cream float (?), and perfectly happy in my own space in this loud and bright new scene, with my family.  I think of this family trip often.   I want to give my kids times that they can happily return to in their memories.  And the thing is, it doesn’t take much,  after ditching the routine and schedule you’re halfway there. I kicked reasonable everyday thinking soundly in the butt at the supermarket  when I was getting supplies for the weekend.  As if under a contact sugar high and with a gleefulness that bordered on mania I threw  boxes of cookie crisp cereal, Oreo double stuff’s into my shopping cart. I pitched in bags of  bright orange cheese puffs and bright yellow cheese crackers.  And finally, a cross-section of regular sized candy bars because the stingy snack sized ones never fully scratch the itch.   It was like Supermarket Sweep: The Munchies episode. Next up- the bookstore. I bought them each a book  and splurged on the new hardcover Meg Wolitzer book “The Interestings” for myself.   I could not resist getting another cookbook for my collection: The Modern Table by Kim Kushner.  I was compelled by the beautiful, large, glossy photo’s.  Her recipes are modern in appearance and presented in the Yotam Ottolenghi  style: colorful and textured  heaps of fruits and veggies and grains assembled generously and artfully, allowing the natural ingredients take center stage against a stark white background.  It’s sort of like the slow food/organic movement’s foodie-porn.  I had to have this kosher cookbook version, despite  it costing almost as much as the hardcover novel.  Celebrationist Holiday thinking prevailed, of course. Then onto Whole Foods, or, Holy Crap, how expensive is this Food?! Where I was so dazzled by the displays of fresh summer fruits that I completely forgot about my $8 chocolate bar.  I was swooning over piles of  plump heart-shaped Rainier cherries, and beautiful tender apricots. The car was packed up with our mixed bags of guilty-pleasure junk food, Tupperware containing a home cooked meal, expensive and flawless organic produce. As well as bikes, board games and cards, and fishing rods that reached over the tops of the kids heads.  And off we went in the unseasonably chilly rain toward  venerable and gently sloping Catskill Mountains. Scene after opening the door to the cabin: Rachel (entering the cabin and looking around, right away zeroing in on the clean and modern kitchen area):Yes, this is great….Let’s get the food into the fridge, I don’t want the schnitzels to go off. Kiddle1 (rushing past Rachel, and bounding up stairs): Look! Look! There’s a loft up here for us. Kiddle 2 (steps behind): This is awesome! I get that bed! Hub (to Rachel): Nice, clean… Where’s the heat? It’s a little cold in here. Kiddle3 (rifling through box of groceries): How many Oreo’s do I get after dinner? The weekend was slow, lazy, and fun, yummy, and  easy.  It was sunny and warm on the last two days – so  we took full advantage, emerged from the cozy cabin and rode our bikes and rolled around on the grass .  We played cards, we read our books, they watched a movie on tv, and played with their devices, we snoozed. The weekend included a root beer float as well as bubble gum ice cream (seems I have passed down my tastes to my children-imagine that!), and me feeding all my quarters into a juke box as the kiddles and hub played in the game parlor of the small town tavern.   It was a Memorial Day weekend that celebrated the little pleasures of life;  family, food, free-time.   photo (219)            
  • Every bitter has its sweet

    photo (191)
    Ever have a week where you feel like you lived a lifetime within its confines. Well not quite a lifetime but maybe a few years? I moved into Monday April 15 and attended to its usual needs: Article and meal planning, supermarket run. Carpool.  The Boston Marathon Explosions.  I drove through drop off in a light funk of shock, surreptitiously listening to the news, while chattering absently with the kids.  Little League was spontaneously ditched we learned soon after game time.  What was happening? Hub and I were glued to the television.  I was watching the bomb blast on a loop and having a conversation via Messenger with a College flat-mate who heard the explosions from his office in downtown Boston.  It felt just like the conversations I had with my brothers in Israel after bus blasts, restaurant explosions a few years ago.  Shock, confusion, anger, helplessness. Defiance. Thankfully our lives went on as planned, I celebrated being spared from this round of chaos with routine and normalcy.  I made the Chermoula Salmon that I served at our second seder and have been promising to post ever since.  The ridiculous ease of this bright, exotic, and satisfyingly full-some dish is not even the best thing about it, and that is saying a lot. Then I had an article due for Mother’s Day/Shavuot.  Bread Pudding, sweet and savory, was what I came up with.  For the sweet: a chocolate-chip almond bread pudding with a dark cherry sauce.  For the savory: a pizza bread casserole.  I coined a word in that piece: challeftovers- the odds and ends of challah after Shabbat.  I’m always looking for something to do with all that gluten.  Bread puddings are a great (economical) thing to serve on Sundays.     Soon after forwarding the piece with pics to Heidi, my editor.  I hopped on the train bound for the big City.  It was my second visit to Breads Bakery the Manhattan outpost to the Tel Aviv Bakery.  And as soon as I saw the sesame sprinkled Financiers at the cash register, my pulse started to quicken.  The classic French cookie/sponge cake with a middle eastern twist…Now we’re talking!  The coffee was so great I had two cups! Which made me bright and alert.  Maybe a little too much for the low-key Manhattan-ites who were just in it for their morning fix, hold the ode-to-baked-goods, thanks.  After my meetings, I walked for a bit, sucking in the flow and energy of the city in great big gulps.  I stopped for a Cucumber Labneh sandwich at some precious little French Boulangerie, whose Femme de Counteur (counter-girl) was a precious snark.  Which kinda ruined an otherwise decent sandwich.  And an hour later I was deposited back into my Mom Life.  Still no new info on the Boston marathon terror explosions, but just as much coverage.   I went back to New York the next morning to have breakfast with Jessica.  I met Jessica when I responded to her ad for an apartment share on the 103rd.  I was honest with her about my limitations as a roommate, but she offered me a room regardless.  After I moved in with my cat, Fitz, I realized how lucky I got.  Not a cat person, at all, she welcomed in Fitz and even fed him all those times that I was too wrapped up in my life and boyfriend (now Hub) to pay attention.  Long story short (don’t you hate that bridge, it’s so not true…) Jessica is moving from NYC to Chicago on Monday.  I wanted to take her out for a last delicious NY blast. As soon as I saw Norma’s menu online, I knew I had to go.  The menu is a fanciful and completely decadent take on breakfast, my most favorite meal of the day.  The orange juice itself was a victory of sweet, fresh and pure simplicity.  The coffee was smooth and bitter and rich, and smelled like dark chocolate.  Jessica ordered crispy French toast that I will do my best to replicate right down to its heartbreakingly perfect caramel sauce.  I ordered Artychoke Benedict.  Man! …Wow! I could tell you about the artichoke heart that cradled the perfectly poached egg, covered in a truffle-porcini hollandaise sauce, that covered the cubed roasted potatoes, but who cares?  You can’t taste words.  I’m not 100% sure what the word resplendent means but I’m pretty sure this meal was resplendent. I skipped onto the subway downtown and noticed that I was dressed as a real live New York girl with my black skinnies and colorful flatties.  Funny how trends are, I thought as I walked into the light, spacious, uncluttered House of Cupcakes that opened for business that day. The cupcakes behind the walls of glass display cases, are impeccable.  They are a civilized size (ie normal), and are frosted and decorated generously, but with restraint and moderation in mind.  I was compelled to buy a six piece box as it was their first day of business.  I shared them with a few avid cookie girls, and we were most impressed by their version of a hostess cupcake. My  resplendent Norma’s breakfast/cupcake interlude was intruded upon by the very real reminders of the dangerous world we live in.  The police presence was obvious on the streets, avenues, and subways of Manhattan.  It returned me to the days after 9/11, and the understanding that things had changed.  That night the FBI released the video of the suspects.  Hub remarked how the one in the white, turned-back hat looked like a friend-of-a-friend from our City days.  I said he looked like the Russian janitor that used to work at my gym.  I wanted to do something.  Make something, I was feeling a little nervous.  I remembered the boston cream pie donut I used to get from Dunkin’ Donuts when I was in college in Waltham,  right outside of Boston.  I made mini-boston cream pies based on a solid recipe from the kitchn, and really, it’s true, nothing brings naïve happiness, and goofy excitement more than a homemade sweet treat.  Hopefully I’ll remember this on my trip to Houston, where on tuesday I’ll be making all sorts of fun and yummy stuff at the Day School all day-long.  In a bitter, sour, harsh world sometimes even a drop of sweetness and positive enthusiasm can go pretty far.    
  • Mini Boston Cream Pies

    photo (189)
    I went to college outside of Boston, and really enjoyed my time in the area.  I am shocked and depressed by what happened at the marathon on Monday. Mini Boston Cream Pies are a sweet refutation of the dark bitterness in our midst.  Adapted from a recipe in theKitchn.com.
    • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 cup butter, at room temp
    • 1 cup white sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2/3 cup buttermilk
    • Custard Creme Filling
    • 1/4 cup white sugar
    • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 2/3 cup milk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • Chocolate Ganache
    • 1/4 cup heavy cream
    • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    1. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin really well.  Preheat the oven to 375F 2.  Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl. Set aside momentarily. 3. In a large bowl, with a handheld mixer (or a standing mixer) on medium speed cream the butter with the sugar, until light and fluffy looking (about 2 minutes). Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one.   Slowly dribble in vanilla extract and mix in. 4.  With a kitchen spoon, generously scoop batter into the muffin cups (fill about 3/4’s full).  Place in preheated and bake for 22 minutes, or until a toothick inserted in center of a cake comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely.   In The Meanwhile… The Custard Crème …   1. In a small bowl combine the sugar, flour, and egg yolks.  It will have the consistency of a rough paste. 2. Over medium flame heat milk in a saucepan.  Once it starts to boil, you can tell by the rising steam, pour a quarter of the hot milk into the egg mixture. And Stir vigorously into smoothness, ensuring egg does not set and make lumps. Pour rest of hot milk in and mix well. 3. Transfer back to saucepan on the stove, and stir constantly over medium heat until big bubbles start to pop on the surface.  Remove from heat, mix in vanilla, cover on top with a film of plastic wrap.  Allow to cool completely. Assemblage 1.  When mini-cakes are cool, gently remove from tin, cut in half width-wise with a serrated knife.  Sandwich tablespoons of custard crème between the mini-cake  tops and bottoms. And now for the gananche… 1.  In yet another saucepan, heat heavy cream until it starts to bubble around the sides.  Mix in chocolate chips, remove from heat and stir well until the chocolate is smooth, thick, and glossy. 2. Drip spoonfuls of gananche over the tops of the mini cream cakes (pies)…let set for a few minutes or take a bite right away…it’s wicked good.                    
  • Los Angeles: Words, images, and flavors.

    photo (141)
      Winter was dragging on in a small town outside New York City.  A lowness was settling in.     A craving for a  brilliant change of scene took hold and inflamed the desire for something new, bright, and warm.   A plan was consrtucted.   A trip home to Mom and Dad’s for a few days.   Arrangements were made with my wonderful and amazing cousins, Ella and Sharon,  for a Cooking/Baking tour once in Los Angeles.   This is what it looked like the morning I left for the airport.   They thrice de-iced the plane- but at last we were off,  and my spirit and the plane were in perfect synchronicity.   This month’s non-cookbook reading assignment kept me pretty busy, and more than a little confused  over the next five hours of flying time.   And this is what greeted me on the other end.  I took a deep breath, shed my winter coat, and began to smile.   Although I’m a confirmed New York/East Coast convert, Los Angeles just makes me smile.   I was constantly reminded of the gracious California sun.  And marveled over the leafy green trees whose branches held onto beautiful bright colored fruit along residential sidewalks.   Shabbat dinner at Ella’s house was delicious.  She is a Friday-night-dinner expert, and everything was perfect.  Her dishes contain the flavors of my childhood, and are made with a perfectionist’s eye and palette.  After a few hours with Ella and her family, I longed to move next door and raise my family near hers to grow old in close proximity.       Worked out the final touches for the Chocolate Matzah Brei Pudding recipe for www.kveller.com.   Which got me in a chocolate mood that lasted my entire LA trip (with a brief butterscotch interlude-more on that later…)     Sunday afternoon is Family Fun Day at the Zimmer Children’s Museum.  On the schedule 3/10/13: DIY Chocolate Bark.     Sometimes a picture says much more than a sentence choc-full of words.     I packed up, wiped the chocolate off my chin and cheek, put on a pair of heels and met Streus, college roomie and all around great pal.  We got a table at Mozza, a pizzeria whose buzz I heard all the way from New York.  Started with a really excellent chickpea small plate appetizer.  The potatoes that topped the dish were shaved to whisper-thin ribbons and fried to a satisfying crunch.  The chickpeas were doused with a vinaigrette that was both herbal and cumin-spiced, it was savory, well-spiced, and totally delicious, and as I  enjoyed every forkful I resolved to recreate it at home.   Next up- the pizza course.  We decided on the Squash Blossoms, Tomato, and Burrata.  And the Long Cooked Broccoli and Chilli’s.  The Squash pizza was OK, the Broccoli was really good.  However, I think I can fairly say that Los Angeles’ best pizza cannot compete with New York’s best.  Salad is another story.     And so is this Butterscotch Budino with Sea Salt that I just knew I had to have once I spied it on the menu.  And man! It was goooood.  Just the right amount of sweet, just the right balance of  burnt sugar bitterness, and then a nice dash of sea salt for a really enjoyable taste contrast.     After recounting my adventures in donuteering,  Streus took me to Fonuts.  Baked Donuts that are all the rage ’round town.  (Fun fact:  The pink donut on the Saveur donut cover was from Fonuts…for this reason alone I had to check it out).   I ordered a Red Velvet.  The truth? Mehhh…   On Monday morning Chocolate-for-Passover demo preparations began in earnest.  My mother’s kitchen became a macaroon factory, intermittently  churning out  flourless chocolate tortes between the baking sheets of chocolate macaroons that aromatically emerged from the oven.   I arrived at my cousin Sharon’s house early, so that we would have time to catch up before the guests arrived, and I could stare at her dumbfounded as she arranged fruit and cheese platters, directed her kids, prepared dinner for her husband- TWO days after having back surgery!  Pretty soon her dining room was filled with women.  Every single one lovely and friendly.  I demo’d the macaroon recipe, and served samples of that and the flourless chocolate cake to enthusiastic reviews.   Next day: Amidst my Chocolate-For-Passover baking, and a big bowl of Moroccan Quinoa Salad, thrown in for healthy measure, I took lunch with my bro at Bodhi a Kosher Thai Vegan Restaurant.  We started off with a tofu salad and some coconut water to wash it all down…Salad was refreshing, I’m still working on developing a taste for coconut water. Before long I was installed in the light-filled, spacious, and beautiful kitchen at the home of the very gracious Gill family.  I demonstrated the Moroccan Quinoa Salad, Flourless Chocolate Cake, and Chocolate Macaroons to approximately 25 women gathered around a long kitchen island, which has me fantasizing about renovations for my own kitchen. The most fun thing about doing these Cooking Celebration Demonstrations is meeting so many different people, learning about their cooking experiences, their best dishes, and reminiscing about favorite flavor memories.   I am now back home in my small town outside New York City, though, somewhat changed from when I left.  Lifted up by the California sun, warmed by the friendly ways of the natives, sated by the delicious and fresh flavors I sampled, and heartened by renewed connections.                            
  • Apple Spice Donut with Dulce de Leche Glaze

    photo (117)
    Who doesn’t love a donut to dunk in their morning joe?  Heck, a  fresh homemade donut is great for just about whenever!  This cake donut is subtle in its sweetness and spice, but the caramel glaze is over-the-top awesome in it’s warm and gooey sweetness.  Serving suggestion: Best served on the day they’re made, but still pretty darn good the day after that (and the day after that).  Always be mindful when dealing with hot sputtering oil (I learned this the second-degree-burn/hard way) Apple Spice Cake Donut  (makes 12-14 donuts) 1 large apple. peeled and coarsely grated 6 tablespoons apple butter 4 cups bread flour, sifted 1 tablespoon baking powder 1 teaspoon Apple Pie spice 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 cup sugar 4 tablespoons butter, melted 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 cup of milk (I used 2%) 1 egg, beaten Canola oil for frying, begin with 3 cups add more as needed to reduce oil temperature 1.  Combine grated apple and the apple butter in a bowl, and set aside for a moment. 2. Whisk flour, baking powder, Apple Pie spice, salt in another bowl, set this aside too. 3.  In a large bowl combine sugar, butter, and vanilla  and beat on medium speed until smooth.  Add apple mixture, then the milk, and egg; and beat until combined. 4. While still beating slowly add the flour mixture, and combine until a soft sticky dough results. 5. Heat oil in a large and heavy pot, until thermometer reads 370F.  Lightly spray your hands and roll a large matzah-ball sized scoop of batter, and then flatten into a disk.  Make a thumb-sized  hole in the center, and if you can’t be graceful be careful as you slip the donuts into the hot oil. 6. After 90 seconds flip over donut with chopsticks and let cook for another 90 seconds until it gets deep golden brown and puffy.  Gently remove from hot oil with a metal slotted spatula and let cool on a wire rack.   Dulce de Leche Glaze 1/2 cup evaporated milk 1 can sweetened condensed milk 1/2 cup heavy cream 2 teaspoons cornstarch 1 teaspoon Apple Pie spice 1. Bring everything to a boil in a heavy non-stick saucepan.  Reduce heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally until thick and rich caramel in color (about 1 hour). 2. Allow to briefly cool and strain out lumps.  Submerge the top half of the donut in the glaze.  Yum! *Wrap in wax paper to transport or store.
  • GoNuts for Donuts Diary

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    I started out with the full intention of making Cake Truffles.   I visited The Momofuko Milk Bar @ midtown, nyc  a year  or so ago.  It was dark and sleek and compact and professional.  In contrast the gorgeous sweets they sold were homey and warm and slightly nostalgic of afternoon baking projects in your kitchen, but taken to the highest level.  I remember the Garbage cookie, the lemony Corn cookie, the Candy Bar pie, but the memory of their cake truffle remains most steady.  Layer Cake crumbs mixed with frosting to a compacted bite of decadent layer cake flavor; my definition of sweets heaven. …And then the March issue of Saveur Magazine arrived, offering it’s gorgeous donuts on the cover.  And my head was turned. Purim Goodie Bags are always a great excuse and opportunity to flex the baking muscle, give it a bit of a work out and then mix in a little experimentation for fun.  Past Purim Mishloach Manots have featured scones, muffins, marshmallows, tube cakes, cookies, some more successful than others.  I usually learn a lesson along the way (big one: “chocolate____” is pretty much always appreciated).   I decided it was time for Donut 101.  Saveur’s Donut Article, convinced me it was a worthy sweets goal. It went on to show that many cultures have a version of fried dough donuts (Hanukkah jelly filled sufganiyot).  And that American cuisine has really embraced it, and layered it with flavor and varieties. Who doesn’t love a delicious donut with their morning coffee? For most sensible adults  only a  special occasion would warrant the calories and fat of a crispy-soft donut, but Purim was coming up.  Purim is all about celebration and  silly, delicious, noisy fun.  Hamantaschen are the sweets that get Purim play time, but here’s my true-and-guilty-confession… don’t love hamantaschen (although I did write a piece on savory hamantachen  www.kveller.com).   A sketch of a plan  began to formulate.  I figured on an Apple Spice cake donut based on Saveur’s Blueberry Donut (recipe to follow).  And then decided on the Dulce de Leche glaze from the  icing buffet that was  arrayed on the next page.   I took their advice on the canola oil, and found my candy thermometer, I brazenly took a set of chopsticks from the local Chinese restaurant. I set out my ingredients and read the recipe through before setting off. Getting the oil to 370F, and then keeping it there was my biggest challenge.  I was often pouring in additional oil to cool the temperature down, so that the donuts wouldn’t get singed on the outside while being doughy and unappealing on the inside.  I’ve resisted Hub’s regular pleas for a deep-fryer, but I have to admit it may be the more healthful and effective option.  Also a timer that counts seconds is pretty much essential.  Like they warned in the piece, the dough was pretty sticky, and spraying my hands with baking spray really did  help.  It’s messy work, and can be dangerous if you’re less than zen.  I’m sporting a second degree burn on my shin because I was distracted and lazy. The Dulce de Leche glaze was very gooey and sweet and for a Caramellow, quite awesome. I substituted Apple Pie Spice for the cinnamon, which I hoped would bring the donut full circle in flavor.  Two hours was the suggested time for the milks to  boil down to a rich blanket of soft caramel, I only had an hour, and was happy with the consistency and flavor.  I didn’t take the suggestion of straining out the little pudding-like lumps (strainer in dishwasher), and I’m sorry for my haste-  it didn’t affect flavor, but distracted from the appearance (almost as important).  It was tasty though. Remembering that chocolate_____ is always appreciated, I tried out the Devil’s Food donuts.  And they were beauties, especially with their deep dark sheen of  mocha glaze.   Chocolate always upstages everything else, with it’s dark and glossy beauty, but the Apple Spice  Dulce de Leche, deserve some love.  The flavors were really great: a spiced apple subtly sweet  interior dunked and cooled  in a thick glaze of warm and  slightly spiced  sweetness. Sweets Lesson Learned: It’s quite important to concentrate and be prepared when playing with hot oil.  And, just as important:  donuts are best enjoyed on the day they’re made.  Because there were 20 Purim Goodie Bags to prepare, I made them a couple days ahead of their due date.  They were still flavorful and enjoyable, but didn’t yield as nicely, they were much chewier on the second day. I was pleased with the results of my GoNuts for Donuts experiment.  And  better for the lessons learned (Vitamin E is great for burns, so is, curiously, mustard and egg whites…?).     * Filed under Desserts & Other Fun Stuff, Snacks, Recipe Archive        

  • Superbowl Sunday Highs and Lows

    Today was a great eating day.  The tastes ran from blini, caviar, and smoked fish engagement party finger-food to down-home-and-dirty Superbowl tucker.  I have to submit my complete delight for the late- afternoon  party I visited. There, a blini bar was found, stocked with bottles of ice cold vodka, coin-sized blini’s, layers of soft and oily pink salmon, and little glass bowls purveying diced egg yolks and whites, red onion, capers.  Especially exciting, because it coincided with me finishing my  non-cook book reading assignment of Anna Karenina, set in pre-Communist Revolution Russia.  Food wasn’t really of interest to Leo Tolstoy, which is my main criticism of the book, that, and it’s about 50 pages too long.  But I imagined the sumptuous fare that the Russian aristocracy enjoyed;   Slavic food prepared in a French manner – potatoes, beets, sour cream or crème fraiche.  Horseradish, dill.  Jam, wine, vodka.  The atmosphere was enhanced by the bride-to-be’s sophisticated flounces, and the foreign accents that bounced around the room. Had me returning to my idea for a cold salad that presents these Slavic flavors in a light and fresh way.  Something that Vronsky would serve at one of his impeccable late Spring lunches or dinners.  But once I returned home from the blini bar, fine and light and delicate had to be stowed away, in order to churn out some good ‘n tasty Superbowl fare.  All weeklong I was preparing for a dish I called “Ivrito’s-Hebrew for nachos”.  I decided that the pita chips would be homemade (unnecessary), make an Israeli style tomato-eggplant salsa (adapted from a Claudia Roden recipe), pile kufte spiced ground lamb on top, and then cover it in a layer of tehina, and scatter it with chopped green olives and charif peppers.  Post Script: The dish has promise, but it needs improvement, a little too heavy, perhaps make it vegetarian with herby chickpea’s replacing the lamb(?) Hub smoked a lamb roast and it was delicious.  The salty-spicy-pastrami-like crust was very flavorful, and cut through the fat.  I usually don’t go in for the heavy stuff, but it was Superbowl and the celebrating is in sitting on the couch and chowing down. It proved to be the most enjoyed dish at our friend’s fun superbowl party. The upcoming week will hopefully continue on with  flavor.  Tomorrow my piece on Seitan Reuben Melts comes out on www.Koshereye.com.  I have to begin a large batch of Chocolate Espresso truffles for a Valentine’s Day order for the 76 House in Tappan, New York’s oldest tavern (George Washington drank here).  The special treat at the end of the week will be my brothers briefly visiting from Israel.  And to mark the celebration a Shabbat gathering of course, where maybe I’ll crowd-test the Pastrami Egg Rolls and Crunchy Hoisin Vinaigrette Salad with Omelette Spirals? Post Script (2/19): Ground lamb was hearty and substantial, but it became unappetizing and stodgy when it cooled to room- temperature.  The chickpeas offer substance and protein in a light, flavorful,  vegetarian way.  
  • Hanukkah Rewind

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    To Do List: B4 end of world – 12/21/12: *Record our Hanukkah happenings. *Do a load (2?  if there’s time) of laundry. * Birthday card for Mom. *Finish the  book I’m reading  Read last chapter of book.   8 Crispy-Fried Hanukkah Nights , or, What Hanukkah Means To Me:  Night #1:Hanukkah began on Saturday night, and even though we went to our shul’s Hanukkah Bash, I couldn’t resist frying up a batch or two of my Souper Traditional Potato Latkes.   Kiddles all thrilled with their presents, Hub happy with the buttery soft leather gloves I got him.   Night#2: Latke demo  at the Princeton JCC.  Fried up several batches of Souper Potato Latkes as well as Onion Ring Latkes, which were well received, along with the crock pot applesauce and horseradish sour cream dipping sauces that went along with them. After a lifetime of discontent over the quality of the Hanukkah chocolate, I decided to do something about it and made my own gelt in 3 flavors: cookies ‘ n cream, toffee chip, and rice crispy crunch.  Kids were quite content. Night #3: Made Onion Bhajee Latkes, aka Onion Ring Latkes, Onion Fritter Latkes, Bloomin’ Onion Latkes, these fried delights look like golden suns and are absolutely delicious.  Served them as a side dish for the turkey burgers that night, along with some slightly spicy chutney dipping sauce.  Yippee!  We heart Hanukkah! How awesome is it that there’s a holiday where you are encouraged to eat fried food?! I’m totally in…     Night#4: Artichoke Latkefritto’s- recipe is a riff on the well loved Roman dish Carciofi alla Guidia (Artichokes prepared in the Jewish style), Hub’s most requested birthday dish.  Decide that serving it with a crisp salad might be a good idea. Insides are starting to feel…starchy.   Night#5:  Made a sensible dinner, and as a reward made crispy-fried chocolate cheesecake eggrolls with a sour cherry dipping sauce for dessert….Started to entertain the thought that I might have a  problem. Night#6: Problem confirmed when I insisted on making a batch of crunchy-fried pickles.  But really,  fried kosher dill pickle chips for Hanukkah- it just makes sense.  Right?   Malevich.black-square (2) Night#7:  No appetite. No holiday joy.  The Hanukkah  menorah is almost completely lit, but it’s so dark.  Newtown shooting.  Latkes taste like cardboard. Night 8 Revelation: Hanukkah is more than eating yummy fried foods and scrumptious sweets, although it’s a happy perk, its essence is about bringing light and warmth to a cold and dark world.     ***And now to the laundry.   Mom always said to wear clean socks and underwear – you never know what the day will bring….            
  • Thanksgiving’s Greatest Hits

      Thanksgiving MenuThis Thanksgiving I allowed myself to experiment and  mess around with several recipes I’d been thinking about for a while.  It is tough to put aside the reluctance that comes with the possibility that the dishes might not work , or, flop spectacularly.  Added to the mixing bowl of ideas, flavors, recipes,  was the perceived expectations  of a houseful of guests, hungry for a grand slam Thanksgiving Feast who would be  disappointed if the fare was… mehhh. I love Thanksgiving, and undertake its preparation with the sincerity and ardor of a pilgrim.   Having spent my early life Down Under, I came to the holiday a little later, but have taken to it like a pumpkin to pie, turkey to stuffing, cranberry to sauce….OK I’ll stop now.  Thanksgiving is largely about tradition and family.  I wanted the menu I put together to celebrate  the flavors and dishes that my family enjoy and are growing up on.  I also wanted the menu to tell a tasty story about us, our background, traditions, and the places we’ve travelled to together.  Kind of like a yummy scrapbook, or a delicious slide show. Butternut Squash Kreplach with Sage & HazelnutsHub and I went out for dinner a few weeks ago, when he adroitly ordered a dish that was love at first bite for my taste buds: Butternut Squash and Sage Ravioli in a Brown Butter sauce.   Five words:  Nutty, sweet, herbal, creamy, delicious.  The smooth mellow butternut squash filling combined with shreds of  woodsy sage clearly suggested “Thanksgiving” to me- to the point that I could not hear anything  but the words “…must make for Thanksgiving” .  Of course, alterations and modifications had to be considered, the browned butter sauce, which was heavenly, would have to go, seeing that due to the turkey the meal would be inescapably Meat, or fleishig.   Which got me thinking about how kreplach are the Ashkenazic Jewish version of ravioli, and maybe flash-frying these butternut squash kreplach in olive oil for a crispy texture that would be great as an  hors d’oeuvre.  I added a few tablespoons of  toasted ground hazelnuts to the butternut squash and finely chopped the sage leaves, mixed it all together and placed spoonfuls of it in the middle of a wonton wrapper, sealed it up into a tight triangle and then flash-fried them on each side for about 30 seconds, along with a few sage leaves, to a golden crisp-ness.  They were gone before the Cajun-spice rubbed turkey made its appearance on the table. Mini Chicken Pot PiesI served mini chicken pot pies in the hopes of  summoning the eating enthusiasm that my brothers display whenever I cook for them.  If they couldn’t be with us in person at least they were with us in flavor.  It is just the sort of thing they’d gather around as they watched football or their various sports competitions on the tube, the discarded tin trays littering the coffee table along with their soda cans and greasy bowls of chips .  This homemade version of pot pie is made with coconut milk for a thick and creamy  filling in which the blackened spiced chicken pieces and finely chopped veggies are  piquantly suspended. They would have not left even one for the guests, which I would’ve yelled at them for …then they would’ve made fun of the way my nose flares when I yell, and  I would end up in my room behind a slammed door, and the guests would  be embarrassed (and hungry).  So maybe it’s better that they weren’t there. For the kiddles? It had to be hot dogs and meatballs.  I couldn’t bring myself to buy the frozen pig ‘n blankets that they adore , mainly because they would take up valuable oven space.  Instead, I picked up a couple packets of mini dogs dumped them in a crock pot and mixed together a tangy sauce made from honey, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce and let it simmer.  It had a good taste, and the pot was cleaned out by the end of the evening, but the texture of the sauce needs more work.  The honey separated from the mustard and it wasn’t  pretty.  Maybe next time I’ll substitute brown sugar for the honey? The meatballs  went down pretty well too.  I made a thick barbecue sauce that I submerged the browned meatballs in.  They were just the thing, saucily sandwiched in a dinner roll, as I ran around making sure that everything was on track, and that the kids weren’t watching Showtime . And then there was dessert…If there’s something to be culinarily thankful for, it has to be dessert, right?  There was the expected pumpkin pie, and a bar version of my mother-in-law’s pecan pie.  Both are pleasing, none-too-thrilling, reliable standards.  For a fine ending, I wanted to flood my guests palates with  lush sweetness and  then knock ’em out with  a spirited punch of flavor.  Enter Chocolate Bourbon Bundt with a caramel  glaze- wham, bam, thank you ma’am! But the path to dessert nirvana is not so simple.  I had to overcome the butter issue, as well as the cream for the caramel conundrum. I’m skeptical about dairy-free baking, and usually err on the side of “forget it” if a recipe requires large amounts of butter or cream, rather than convert it with margarine and ersatz milk.  God invented dairy for a reason- i.e. to make heavenly sweets with, but  this Thanksgiving the two ingredients I am most thankful for are coconut oil spread and coconut milk.  The cake was soft and tender with a lovely crumb, that was not compromised at all by the coconut oil spread, and flavor-wise gave the cake just the right hint of coconuttiness, which played nicely with the chocolate and bourbon.   I used coconut milk for the cake’s caramel glaze, full disclosure: it was a bit thin and runny but the flavor was on target, and it soaked the cake with another layer of sweet and smoky flavor. This summer my sweet tooth developed a sweet tooth after our trip to the South.  Down there there is no such thing as “too sweet” as a  sip of sweet tea will prove .  The desserts and candy  I sampled in the South gave my Grandmother’s honey-rosewater soaked baklava a sweet run for its money, which got me thinking…Baklava featuring the classic American flavors of maple syrup, cinnamon and pecans cut through with some bourbon for a nice bite.  I’m not brazen enough to make this root-canal-on-a-dessert-dish any old day, but for Thanksgiving it just felt right.  It’s a great counterpoint to a shot of espresso or a cup of black coffee.  It was sweet but not cloying.  Which  describes our Thanksgiving pretty well too. Pecan Pie Bar & Maple Walnut Bourbon Baklava
  • Sandy & A Trip To Texas

    I prepared for Sandy’s arrival by searching unsuccessfully for D batteries, stocking up on canned goods and other non-perishables, and baking a Banana Peanut Butter Crumble Loaf.  The electricity cut out at 4:00 on Monday afternoon,  I responded by swinging into Survivalist Cook mode and stirring up a Rice ‘n Beans dish for dinner that night.  Natural disasters definitely go down better with a home cooked meal, that’s one  thing I took away from my Sandy experience.  Of course, the kids couldn’t be more pleased: no school for an entire week! A continually burning fire! and bunking together throughout it all made it feel like a camping adventure for them. But for us grown-ups it was a  bleaker picture:  Our area was a mess of fallen trees and dangling wires.  Having no power for an extended amount of time makes for a grim and gloomy atmosphere.  The gas shortage and long lines and all around misery made everything seem  desperate and slightly apocalyptic.    And then on  Friday 5 days after Sandy’s arrival  I left for Houston.  The change of scenery couldn’t be more startling.  The Evelyn Rubinstein JCC in Houston had scheduled a cooking demonstration/book signing with me for their Book Fair back in June.   I was feeling more than a little guilty when I was greeted in Houston with beautiful sunny weather, abundant electricity,  and bright smiles. But the text I got from my next door neighbor back home,  shortly before sun-down on Friday,  informing me that electricity was back up felt like a miracle, and then I was ready to relax and have some fun. Houston is a huge, sprawling,  flat city.  Driving from one side to another can take hours, and will show you the wide range of ethnic neighborhoods that fill the city- from Indian to Muslim to Jewish to Hispanic.  Texas hospitality is more than a cliche.  My hosts from the JCC went out of their way to make sure I was comfortable and well-taken care of.  The hotel I stayed at was large and bustling and was hosting a couple of high school football teams, and a dance competition and  the competitors (and their Moms) in  their sparkles, glitter, and pep.  After a shabbat shalom spent mainly in my room reading and napping and basically decompressing from Sandy’s visit, I was ready to sample some  delicious Texan fare. I learned about Hugo’s Mexican restaurant in my foodie mags, and was really excited to visit. And was not disappointed. Beginning with a crisp green salad with cotija cheese and dressed in a pomegranate vinaigrette, and  moving on to smoky grilled tuna tacos, and ending with crispy cinnamon-ey churros with  dulce de leche and chocolate dipping sauces.  Every bite was delicioso.

    Doni and I @ ERJCC Houston, TX

    Sunday was show time y’all!  We started the program with a fun and rowdy Mama Doni concert- Yeehaw! Then it was my turn, we decided on a  Kosher Thanksgiving-themed program.  All the recipes came from the book, of course, and began with Barbecue Snack Mix, because what else do you do on Thanksgiving while the big meal is being prepped and all the cooks are busy in the kitchen fretting and fuming, but watch football and the Macy’s Day Parade on the tube.   And you can’t do that without having a yummy snack to munch on, right?   And then because we’re in Texas we made a pan of cornbread, which is perfect for stuffing, or to make crunchy croutons for your salad with, or to just eat plain alongside the turkey and all the fixin’s.  And for dessert? Why Pumpkin Pie of course! What makes these recipes different from all other recipes?  I asked the assembled group. ” There’s no bacon?” piped up one of the kids.  Yes, true, absolutely, but these are recipes that usually require some kind of dairy ingredient to make it  yummy.  Instead of butter in the snack mix we use olive oil.  Cornbread usually needs buttermilk or cream and butter to make it moist and tasty- but my secret ingredient is creamed corn.  I gave them a hint regarding the secret ingredient in the pumpkin pie…it is a milk but it’s not dairy.   Condensed milk?….umm no.  Soy milk? getting closer.  Coconut milk! It was hands on, and lots of fun.  As we cooked we came up with a Stirring song, and a sorta-dance to go along with it.  Stir it up, stir it up, stir it up…combined with  wide  butter-churning arm motions.  Even the grown-ups got into it.  The catering staff at the JCC had made a few batches of each recipe, so everyone got to try what we were making right there and then. In between the cooking demo and the next Mama Doni concert we took a brief field trip to the

    Now that’s a cake!

    Chocolate Bar.  This place is my idea of heaven.  I was fixated on the super-sized layer cakes splendidly displayed for all to dreamily stare at.  I love cake-  it’s my favorite  sweet treat, but these Texas sized slices, were too much even for me.  I settled on a couple of chocolate covered cereal bonbons (cinnamon toast crunch and cap’n crunch) and a truffle- all delectable. We zoomed back to the JCC for another rollicking good time concert,  a book signing, and then before I knew it I was back in New York.   Back into the thick of it all, with a few ideas brewing thanks to my Texas trip.  Still feeling the warmth of down-home Texas hospitality.  And remembering as I survey the damage that Sandy wrought, that crazy storms are a semi regular occurrence down South, and that if you have your friends and family (and some cake) you’re doing pretty well.      
  • Chocolate ‘n Cookie Booky Party

      Once upon an overcast mid-Autumn day, in a bright and whimsical cookie bakeshop in the heart of New City, there was a cookie girl and a cookbook girl.  After assiduous plotting and planning between the two, the day finally arrived for Le Grand Cookbook Fete .  Sheets of cookie covered chocolate bark were crafted, and then broken up into numerous artful shards.  A bowl of rich chocolate ganache was stirred up, and then piped into thumbprinted  butter cookies.  A cauldron of warm and fragrant chai tea brewed on the hot plate.  And the clear tones of Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington, and Ella Fitzgerald filled the air…. The JCC Metrowest event in West Orange a few weeks ago was the official launch of the cookbook.  But this past Thursday was the scene of the book party Stacey and I had been planning since I started writing the book.  Stacey and I met in a first time Mommy support group when our boys were little more than newborns.    We were both refugees from the City, and were emitting strong Jew-girl vibes in the  church basement where the gatherings were held. We clicked immediately and bonded over shared anxieties and creative endeavors.

    Cookie Girl Autumn Bouquet

    Fast forward several years and Stacey opens a bakeshop- Cookie Girl, where she creates gorgeous works of edible art everyday. I’d escape to her warm and cozy and aromatic little shop whenever it got to be too much.  I’d walk through the door, take a deep cookie-scented breath.  Then take in the colorful and fanciful cookie bouquets that lined the walls.  I’d appraise the bakeshop classics like chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, behind the display case and all was magically right with the world again.  We started planning the cookies ‘n chocolate book launch party soon after I submitted the second draft for the book in the middle of winter.   I spent the day greeting friends and acquaintances, signing cookbooks, offering platters of chocolate bark and truffle filled cookies, and ladling out cupfuls of steaming chai lattes.  Chatting with Stacey during the occasional lulls rounded out the busy day and added a nostalgic note, bringing me back to the time when we would spend all day together with our new babies- talking, sampling each others sweet treats, and just trying to figure it all out.
  • Chocolate Covered Book Launch/Hybrid Sunday Night Dinner

    Chocolate Bark
    So the day arrived.  Book Release Day.  I spent all last year working on and adjusting the recipes during the day, and  finding the right words for the copy at night.  Throughout it all  whenever I needed a break, I would imagine how great it would feel to page through my cookbook.  And it is great.  I flip through my cookbook  just for fun-whenever I want, relishing the delicious thrill of a dream come true, every time. We launched the cookbook very fittingly with a Mama Doni Concert at JCC Metrowest in West Orange, with a couple Recipe Rachel cooking spots sprinkled into the mix.  I demo’d the   Chocolate Bark from the Tu B’Shvat chapter.  It was fun to be so silly, and give my inner Willy Wonka some play time.  And I think I may have left a few smudgy chocolate fingerprints on a few of the cookbooks I signed. For party favors I made a few batches of chocolate bark, which I broke into hundreds of shards and neatly wrapped  in cellophane. I wanted to show restraint, and not scare off the adults, so I made a Breakfast Bark that utilized cornflakes, dried strawberries and banana chips as toppings on a 3:1 milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate base.  Then because I was in a whimsical mood, I crushed a few sugar cones and scattered them across the white chocolate bark along with a few handfuls of mini semi sweet chips and a scattering of sweet-tart dried cherries.  It tasted like ice cream flavored chocolate. Vanilla Sunday Cone Bark.   When I got home half the family was splayed out on the couch watching their various sports competitions, and the other half were at the Park.  I knew it was just a matter of time before everyone would converge on me pleading for something good to eat because they were “starving“.  After my high energy day, I was  ready to crash, and was thinking  Chinese takeout, but instead decided to rummage through the fridge, and give myself a quickfire challenge a la Top Chef.  It’s more of a bother but much cheaper.

    Sunday Night Salami & Eggs Fried Rice

    When I was growing up, every so often my mother would make us a dinner of fried eggs and salami.  Probably on those Sunday nights when she didn’t feel like cooking, but was too sensible to pack us all in the car to pick up dinner. I remembered her salami and eggs as I was taking inventory of my fridge, and came across half a salami.  The left- over cartons of rice from a purchased Chinese meal earlier in the week brought it all together: Salami & Eggs Fried Rice.  I fried the salami slivers to a golden brown toastiness, and was sure the eggs were well set before cutting them into strips.   I made a sauce out of spicy brown mustard, soy sauce, honey, garlic, and sesame oil.  Somehow the dish tasted both Jewish and Asian at the same time.  And it was a fine Sunday night meal, although in truth all I really wanted to do was order take out .      

    Vanilla Sunday Cone Bark

    Chocolate Bark 4 cups chocolate chips 2 cups your favorite toppings (eg: chopped nuts, dried fruits, crushed pretzels, cookie crumbs, mini chips, toffee bits….) 1. Melt the chips in a heatproof bowl placed over a pan of simmering water.  Stir until chocolate is smooth.  Alternately, you can microwave chocolate for two minutes, remove and stir, and then return to microwave for another minute.  Remove and stir until chocolate is completely melted. 2.  Fit parchment paper over a baking sheet and with a spatula spread the melted chocolate evenly over parchment paper. 3.  Cover the entire surface of the chocolate with your toppings.  Or, if you prefer the French method: mix the toppings directly into the melted chocolate and then spread evenly over baking sheet. Saying Zut Alors! all the way to le fridge. 4. Refrigerate for two ours or until firm.  Break the chocolate into bite sized pieces.

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Bissel (bis-sul)Yiddish: A bit, a little.
B'Tayavon (be-teya-von) Hebrew: Bon Appetit! Enjoy (in reference to a meal/dish)
Faux-sher Food (fo-shure) Rachelese: Kosher food in disguise. The minute Judy bit into the krab kake she was a fauxsher food fan.
Taim (tay-yim) Hebrew: yummy, delicious
Zetz (zets) Yiddish: smack