Monthly Archives: May 2010
Remember my first post, the one that launched this blog? I still can’t pronounce the name of that volcano. It seems that I am not alone, and am, in fact, in the overwhelming majority. If you really want to try, you can jump over to this website and actually hear it being pronounced. I have to admit, after hearing the name over and over again, I think I’m still going to call it “That Volcano With the Unpronounceable Name.”
I’ve pretty much forgotten all about Eyjafjallajoekull (thank God for cut and paste there), and Ju-boy’s story of being stranded in England has also been demoted to the family apocrypha (he only tells it about once a day now). This morning, however, I couldn’t help but be amazed at a time-lapse video posted on my friend Avital’s blog, This and That. Avital is a talented amateur photographer. She blogs about her various hobbies and I have to admit I certainly envy her needlework.
This morning, with coffee cup in hand, I watched this video several times. Such a pretty little volcano, does it even realize the havoc it caused a few weeks ago?
I’ve actually been to Iceland, it’s aptly named. We were there in the summer of 1970 and there are pictures of my brother and me running around in shorts and heavy sweaters. Watching this video brought back memories of freezing in the summer, so I was grateful for the cup of coffee in hand.
I used to be a major coffee snob, buying the best beans, grinding them myself, looking down my nose at people who drank instant coffee. But my taste in coffee has deteriorated over the years. I still buy good coffee, but now it’s of the instant variety. How the snobby have fallen! Back in 2003 I was on a no-carb diet. It worked wonderfully, but makes you very cranky. Coffee helped me get through the day. Back then I posted this recipe on Recipezaar, but that mug of coffee has evolved to what I drink today.
Luscious Mug of Coffee (the Miriyummy version, 2010)
1 heaping teaspoon instant espresso (I use a tablespoon, actually, but am being gentle with you)
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup cream (not milk, not skim milk, real cream)
- Place coffee in mug.
- Add boiling water.
- Add sugar to taste (I like my coffee without sugar).
- Add cream.
Birds of a feather flock together. Opposites attract.
Ju-boy and I are very similar. And so different. We have the same taste in music, but differ on favorite groups. We each love to cook, but argue over technique and presentation. We both love to entertain, but have differing opinions as to whom to invite, and when. We enjoy the same television programs, but argue over character and plot. The Tom Baker vs David Tennant debate will one day lead to violence (although we are both on the fence regarding Matt Smith).
One area where there is no common ground is spontaneity. Ju-boy meticulously plans his life, including the spontaneous moments, while I intend to plan (but God laughs, so I usually give up). He will go over the menu for Shabbat several times on a Friday morning, while I decide to cook something at the last minute. Even supermarket shopping is an exact science, but I enjoy making Ju-boy’s eyes roll as I haphazardly toss unnecessary items into the cart. Still, it works for me. I am a kite and will go where the wind takes me, held in place by the supportive anchor that is my husband.
Many times my tendency for spontaneity takes the form of either watching a cooking show or reading a foodie blog and then I simply must make whatever dish has at that moment captured my fancy. Such was the case the other week when I was reading my Zaar friend Marie Alice Joan Rayner’s blog, The English Kitchen. She posted a recipe for something she calls Magic Pie. Her description of the pie, her photography, her use of the words “presto chango” just ignited a spark in me, and I quickly scribbled down ingredients and instructions and into the kitchen I went. Ju-boy was off at work planning the rest of his day and there was no one to stop me.
Of course, I had to play around with the recipe, based on the ingredients I had on hand and also based on the fact that I can never leave a recipe alone (not even my own). I also made this a non-dairy recipe. For the authentic recipe I suggest that you check out Marie Alice’s post (linked above). Here is what happened in our house…..
Magic Pie (the Miriyummy version)
1/2 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (although I really didn’t measure this)
1/2 cup melted margarine
1/2 cup coarsely ground pecans (original recipe calls for flaked almonds, but Ju-boy claims to be deathly allergic)
2 cups soy milk
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 F).
- Grease a deep 9 1/2 inch pie or flan dish well and set aside (I actually used a rectangular Pyrex dish).
- Whisk the flour, sugar, coconut, eggs, vanilla, margarine and the nuts together in a large bowl.
- Slowly whisk in the soy milk, stirring until completely combined.
- Pour into the prepared dish and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven to a wire rack to cool.
- Serve cut into wedges along with some fruit.
Ju-boy hadn’t planned to have this for dessert when he came home from work, but I have a habit of derailing his plans.
Ju-boy claims that I make friends quickly. He doesn’t mean this as a compliment.
Let me clarify. The man claims that the Brits take years to cultivate a friendship. Anyone that he has known for less than twenty years is merely an acquaintance. Friendship is reserved for those loyal enough to have stuck with him for a score of years. My opinion? If you’ve managed to be friends with my at (most) times ascerbic husband, you deserve a medal and a rubber room. Actually, my experience with British friends are that they are a loyal bunch. Unfortunately, in my life I have had the chance to see fair-weather friends at play, and really can’t count a Brit among them.
But Ju-boy is correct, I do make friends quickly. What he considers a liability I consider a gift. When I first moved to Stepford Teaneck Ra’anana I was fortunate that Ju-boy came with his own set of friends (befriend one, get the whole set). But I also made my own friends in the community, and one of them is Vida. Vida had made aliya to Israel a few years before I moved to Ra’anana, and she is one of the most interesting (and vocal) people I have ever met. What started out as basically a stepmom support group for two became a valid friendship. Vida has a blog of her own, feel free to check it out.
The other day she asked me if I would blog about spelt bread. As she said, it’s now in fashion, and what do a I think about it? I didn’t think anything about it, I’ve never been fashionable, and had never even eaten spelt bread before. But I’m always up for a challenge, and this past week was in Eden Teva Market and bought a kilo of organic whole spelt flour. Wow, that’s some expensive flour! I tried to cut corners and looked for non-organic refined spelt flour, but there doesn’t appear to be such an animal. If there is, not one of the “in” health food stores in the area carried it.
I’ve been told never to experiment in the kitchen when guests are coming, but I usually do. In this case, however, I was a little hesitant. With just family here for Shabbat (including a visit from Scarlet and Sasquatch) I thought this would be a good venue to premiere my spelt challah. Being such a spelt newbie I first asked my buddies over at israel-food, and they were very helpful, helpful in confusing me! Reduce liquids, add more liquid, don’t overmix, add gluten, don’t let it rise too much. A lot of this also contradicted with the instructions for making spelt bread on the flour package itself. The recipe had lots of water and said to mix the dough for 10 minutes. My food guru Ruth said to use less water and don’t mix for over 4 minutes.
Good thing I listened to Ruth. This spelt dough was quite the little diva. It doesn’t like being handled too much, nor does it like being left alone. The instruction on the flour package said to let the dough rise for an hour and a half, shape into loaves and then let it rise again at another hour and a half. The first rise went well, but 30 minutes into the second rise that dough was knock knock knockin’ on my kitchen door. I heard that if you let the diva dough rise too much it thrown a hissy fit and deflates, so I quickly preheated the oven and threw it in there. 35 minutes later they were already cooling. One loaf I saved for dinner tonight, but Ju-boy and I just had to do a little quality control with loaf #2. The jury is still out on this one. It produces a really crumby (not crummy) loaf. I think the recipe would have benefited from an egg or two. Slathered in butter it’s delicious, but a bit heavy as a stand-alone slice.
Okay, Vida, you happy now?
Spelt Challah (recipe adapted from the Adama brand whole spelt organic flour package)
1 kilo (2.2. pounds, roughly 7 cups) whole spelt flour
2 tablespoons dried yeast
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
- Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Lastly, add the water and olive oil.
- Knead for 4 minutes (the package says 10 minutes, don’t listen to it).
- Let the dough rise for about an hour and a half in the bowl, until doubled. Keep the bowl covered with a damp towel.
- Punch the dough to release the air trapped inside and shape into loaves. The dough is sticky.
- Let it rise again. The package says another hour and a half, but after half an hour my dough was ready to pack its bags and run away from home. Again, cover the rising dough with a damp towel.
- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F). Bake at this temperature for 10 minutes, then lower your oven to 180 degrees C (350 F) and bake for another 35 minutes (my loaves were ready in 25).
Normally I’m a fearless challah baker, but actually was a bit trepidacious in the face of this challenge. I suppose if I actually had one recipe instead of several ones that all contradicted each other (the Internet isn’t always the most helpful tool) things would have gone a little more smoothly. I don’t know if I’ll make this again. I don’t suffer divas lightly. And in the end, this was quite a heavy diva.
I always used to get a kick out of mentioning my cousins in Hong Kong. Doesn’t that sound exotic? Back when I was in high school it used to engender visions that I had relatives who were part of the ten lost tribes. In its most unembellished version, they at least had a great recipe for dim sum. In truth, my wonderfully foreign and mysterious family are Israeli. I still get a kick out of saying I have cousins in Hong Kong. I used to have cousins in Sri Lanka as well, but they got boring and moved to Hong Kong.
Ifat is my first cousin Moti’s daughter. Her grandmother, Zipora, is my most favorite aunt in the world, my father’s baby sister. She’s not so exotic, she lives in Kfar Saba, but she’s the best second mother a teen let loose in Israel could have. Thirty years later she’s still the best second mother you could ever imagine. Back in 1979 we were here for my brother’s Bar Mitzvah, and so was Ifat, only in utero. I couldn’t wait for her to be born, but little diva that she is, she waited, and waited, and waited, driving her mother insane in the Israeli heat, and finally made her appearance… the day after we went back to the States. Great timing, girl.
Ifat and Ste have been together for the longest time, and last year they finally made it official in not one, not two, but three weddings. These are very thorough people. One civil wedding in Hong Kong, one Jewish wedding in Los Angeles, and one total blowout wedding to end all weddings in Phuket. My Aunt Zipora flew out for that one and she said it was absolutely beautiful. We got to meet Ste on the many occasions that Ifat has shlepped him out to Israel. The man has a yummy British accent. And now that they have the official blessing of the Chinese government, the California rabbinate and the Thai tourist board, they’ve decided to kick it up a notch. That’s the notch at the top of this post, due in about six months.
Despite Ifat’s slim figure, the girl likes her food. I’ve seen her attack a plate of hummus, inhale broiled chicken breast and make giant inroads in some chocolate mousse cake. On one of our more recent Facebook chats we were discussing some of her favorite foods, cheese, fruit and chocolate. I got an idea for some lovely little pregnant pillows to honor Ifat, Black Forest Blintzes. I’ve been kicking a few ideas around the last two weeks or so, and with Shavuot on the horizon, made up a batch of these babies this afternoon.
Black Forest Blintzes
20 blintz leaves (you can make them yourself, I buy mine frozen) (can use crepes)
750 grams (3 packages) (1 1/2 pounds) white baking cheese — in Israel I use Tuv Tam by Tara Dairies, in the States you could sub farmer cheese
1 box instant vanilla pudding (80 grams, 3 1/2 ounces)
1 cup dried cherries, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes
Butter for frying
- Prepare the blintz leaves according to your favorite recipe, or, in my case, defrost them.
- Mix the cheese, eggs and vanila pudding until well combined. Drain the cherries well and add them to the cheese mixture.
- Place about a tablespoonful of cheese/cherry mixture in the center of the blintz leaf. Fold over the edges to create a square, a nice little pregnant pillow of yummy cheesiness.
- Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fry the blintzes first folded side down to meld the edges together. When the bottom has browned nicely, flip the blintzes over and fry on the other side.
- Serve hot with chocolate syrup.
!חג שבועות שמח
It was a given, I was going to live in Jerusalem. You could say that from the time I was born my parents raised me to be a Zionist, and Jerusalem was the shining star, the focus, the Holy Grail of my Zionism. I got my first dose of Jerusalem at the Shabbat table, my father recounting my parents’ visit in the Fifties. Then, Jerusalem was a divided city, half Israeli, half Jordanian. I remember my father’s sadness that he couldn’t visit the Old City, the capital of one of his heroes, King David.
As the years went by, Jerusalem was always there. I remember my father rejoicing in 1967 when Jerusalem was once again made whole. In the summer of ’79 we traveled as a family to Israel to celebrate my brother’s Bar Mitzvah. I will always remember the look on my father’s face, the tears of joy in his eyes, as we entered the Western Wall Plaza and approached the Kotel, the first time our family did so in two thousand years. In one of those too-weird-not-to-be-true moments, my father found this little old man, older than old, a wizened, ancient rabbi who just happened to have been my grandfather’s friend back in Hungary.
So I was just following the script of my life when I made aliya in 1983 and moved to a single immigrant hostel in Jerusalem, down the block from the famous Monster Slide. I spent six years living in Jerusalem itself, and then another 16 years living in the burbs, a ten minute drive from the outskirts, with the most amazing view of the city on the way in.
So, if I was always meant to live in Jerusalem, what am I doing in Ra’anana? It seems that God didn’t get the memo, and it so happens that you can have more than one love in your life. While Jerusalem represents an ethereal love, a more earthly plan has led me to what I have come to think of as Stepfordwifeville, or Teaneck East. Yes, I do knock Ra’anana, but it’s only sour grapes because life is not going according to plan. Sometimes plans get changed for you. And I do have to say, if I can’t live even within the Jerusalem area code, then let it be Ra’anana. And who knows, just as Jerusalem has its own day of reunification, hopefully one day I will have my own private reunion with the most beautiful city I know.
Yom Yerushalayim same’ach! Happy Jerusalem Day!
One of the other things that have not gone according to plan is that I married a kugel-hater. I adore kugel, so this is practically a Shakespearean tragedy. One of the kugels that I love the most is Yerushalmi Kugel, or Jerusalem Kugel in English. This isn’t your regular mushy veggie kugel, this one has wonderfully caramelized noodles, heavily spiced with black pepper. The kugel was originally brought to Jerusalem by Eastern European Hassidic Jews, and is usually served for kiddush after Shabbat morning prayers. Once upon a time, in my previous, Jerusalem life, I made Yerushalmi kugel at least once a month, and as far as I was concerned, the more peppery, the better. Sadly, since moving to Ra’anana in general and Ju-boy’s house in particular, I no longer make it, but do gleefully partake at any kiddush where it’s served.
I’ve tried many different recipes for Jerusalem kugel, but the recipe I always went back to comes from Faye Levy’s International Jewish Cookbook.
Jerusalem Noodle Kugel
12 ounces fine egg noodles (about 350 grams)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (divided)
1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
few pinches of cayenne pepper
- Cook the noodles in large pot of boiling salted water for about five minutes or until barely tender. Drain well, return to the pot and toss briefly with 1/4 cup of the oil. Keep the pot on the stove so the noodles remain warm, but do not cover.
- Pour the remaining 1/4 cup of oil into a heavy saucepan and then add the sugar. Heat over low flame without stirring, and shake the pan gently from time to time. This is a good exercise in patience. Cook until the sugar turns dark brown, this can take between 15 and 25 minutes. Be alert, this mixture can go from perfectly caramelized to burnt and ruined in the space of a few seconds. Gradually add this mixture to the warmish noodles, mixing well with tongs.
- You really do want to make sure the noodles are warm, because if you add the caramel mixture to cold noodles you will get chipped gunky noodles.
- Beat the eggs with the salt, pepper and cayenne. Add to the noodles and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning. That one teaspoon of pepper can elicit reactions from are-you-trying-to-kill-me? to isn’t-this-supposed-to-be-spicy?
- Transfer to a greased round 7 or 8 cup baking pan. One with a hole in the middle works perfectly, and will help when it comes to slicing and serving. Cover with foil. At this point the kugel can be kept in the refrigerator for a few hours.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees F (around 90 C). Bake this kugel overnight, or for about 14 hours. Remember, this is a Shabbat morning dish, not something for the fan of 30 minute meals.
- Slice a knife around the edge to loosen, and turn out onto a round platter. Serve hot.
- For those who like shortcuts — you can bake this uncovered in a 350 F (180 C) oven for one hour. It will not be as deep brown, but will still taste good.
- For those who like even shorter cuts — don’t even think about cheating and using brown sugar. I tried this one and didn’t get the results (or the compliments) I was looking for.
When I was two years old my mom and I would sit side by side in ancient beach chairs on top of a mountain in the Catskills and soak up the sun and she would tell me stories of what it was like to be a little girl in the Vilna Ghetto. I just loved hanging out with my mom.
When I was six years old and had a friend over to play my mom would peek her head into the bedroom, disrupting whatever drama was unfolding in the Barbie house, I wished my mom would go back into the kitchen where she belonged.
When I was 10 years old and my mom came to my school for Parents Day and she was the only mom dressed there in pants (and polyester pants, noch!) I just wanted to keep on asking for the bathroom pass and leave the room for the whole day.
When I was 13 and we were back in the Catskill Mountains and all my cool friends where sneaking off to smoke cigarettes in the woods and my mom insisted I come and sit with her and my grandmother in the shade of our bungalow and work on my knitting. I had such a crush on Leon but so did Debbie and she was out there with him and I was stuck with my mom knitting and my life was over. “But, Ma, everybody is there!” “You’re not everybody!” was her answer, always her answer….
When I was 16 and we were all going to go down to Rockefeller Center to go ice skating, and it’s only $25 dollars for 15 minutes, and it’s just two hours on the subway (that stops every five minutes in the South Bronx and in Harlem) and my mom didn’t let me go. “But Ma, everybody is going!” And my mother would reply, as always, “You’re not everybody!”
And then I was 20 and leaving home forever and moving to Israel. My parents came with me to the airport and both cried but I was too excited to get on the plane to notice. A few months later my parents themselves made the trip when I married The X. They smiled and hugged and let me have my Bridezilla moments, all the while not liking the person I with whom I had chosen to spend the rest of my life. But they smiled, because deep down my mom had a secret — I am not everybody.
And then I was 28 and the mother of four darling daughters, and I started taking them to New York to visit their grandparents. “Don’t take them to the zoo,” my mother warned, “it’s dangerous.” She didn’t let me introduce them to the narishkeit (nonsense) of my life and made sure I fed them healthy food instead of Entenman’s donuts for breakfast. When I wanted to drag my then 14 and 13 year old daughters down to Fifth Avenue to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade (in the rain), she put a stop to that. “But, Ma, everybody needs to go down there at least once!” And her reply, “You are not everybody!”
And then I was 41 and my father had just died the year before, and I was going through a divorce, my mom was the most supportive mother in the world. I discovered many secrets that year that she didn’t want me to know, and through it all, when I wanted to go and yell out my anger and frustration to the world, my mom put a gentle hand on my arm and said, “You are not everybody.”
And then I was 42, and getting married to a man that I just know my father would have adored, getting married to a man who would treat my mother with respect (even though she never could get his name right), and my mom was too weak and too scared to make the flight out to Israel for the wedding. “But, Ma, everybody’s mother comes out for their wedding.” And you know, by now, what my mother would have said to that.
Six months ago I was proudly shlepping my husband out to finally meet my mom. I don’t know who was more nervous, but this meeting was finally going to happen. And then, Man plans, God laughs. The night before our flight we got the news that my mom had died quietly in her sleep, a burst aortic aneurism. She went in death as she never would have in life, quietly, no fuss, just a small sigh while she slept.
And she is so right — I am not everybody! So to commemorate my first Mother’s Day without my mom, I offer you her recipe for shmaltz. This stuff accompanied me throughout my childhood, always there, ready to support whatever meal my mother placed in front of me. Always there, ready to support, just like my mom.
You can see my mom’s recipe for shmaltz as I originally posted it on Recipezaar in 2004. I wish I made it more often. I wish I had a picture of the stuff to show you, but I don’t, and thanks to widening family waistlines, I won’t be making this anytime soon. But if I ever do think of shmaltz, it always brings back wonderful memories of my mother.
… make Mirjam Juice! What is Mirjam Juice, you ask? Go ahead, ask it. You’re going to get the answer in any case, so you might as well ask. Urgh, I just had a horrible visual of a pointy lemon juicer stuck in my belly button…
When I married Ju-boy I acquired several things the minute his foot crushed that glass under the chuppah. I acquired 4 step-children, one step-dog, a fantastic turbo oven, a blue kitchen… and his friends. His huge group of friends. Sometimes I refer to them as my friends-in-law. Sometimes I refer to them, usually in the middle of an argument, as “your friends,” and sometimes he accuses me of being friendlier with them than he is. They’re a rowdy, loyal, supportive bunch, and they like my cooking, so I LOVE them!
One friend in particular, Yummy Mummy (let’s call her YM for short), is a successful business woman who must have been Peter Roget in a previous life. She doesn’t get drunk, she gets sloshed, she gets tipsy, she gets inebriated, she becomes three sheets to the wind. I mean, why use a long word when you can use a dimunitive one? Face it, a few sips and she’s tanked. But I have the highest respect for YM, even in her potted state, for she is feeling no pain on what she has dubbed Mirjam Juice.
And what is Mirjam Juice, you ask? (It’s deja vu all over again…)
I’d like to introduce you to a concoction of mine — Lemon Cream Liqueur. A total girly drink, but I can count a few manly single malt drinkers amongst its fans. If you want to try some of this, you’re welcome to come over for a sip, just call first so I can inform YM and she can come and we’ll have a party. You’ll need some lemons, a bottle of really cheap vodka or plain grain alcohol (drinking, not medicinal), a little patience, and a Microplane zester. It’s one of my most handy kitchen tools. When I say I married Ju-boy for his oven, well, he married me for my zester.
One other thing you’ll need is patience. You need at least a week for the lemon zest to steep in the alcohol, unless, if you’re like me, you forget you left it steeping in a pitcher on top of the fridge and only discover it three months later. It’s still good, if not better. But a week will do for those with less patience or a better memory.
This recipe was originally posted on Recipezaar. I use soy milk in my recipe to make this non-dairy (and parve), but you can also use milk, or milk and cream, for a blissful dairy experience.
Lemon Cream Liqueur
1 liter grain alcohol (or really cheap vodka)
6 lemons (scrubbed well and dried)
2 liters soymilk
1 1/2 kilos (3.3 pounds) sugar
- Zest the lemons into a jug (this is where you praise the inventor of the Microplane).
- Pour the alcohol/vodka into the jug.
- You can then juice the lemons, but the lemon juice is not part of this recipe. Do whatever you want with the juice. I usually freeze the juice in ice cube trays or let Shy-boy make lemonade.
- Cover the jug and hide it somewhere for at least a week. Remember where you hid it.
- After a week (or month, or entire winter), drain the alcohol.
- Bring the soymilk and sugar to a boil and let bubble away for about 20 minutes. You need to babysit this, because the minute you turn your back on it, it will bubble over!
- Mix the lemony alcohol together with the sugary soymilk and let cool.
- Bottle this stuff up. I save strong plastic water bottles (1 1/2 liter size) just for this purpose.
- I store this in my freezer. Because of the alcohol it won’t freeze, but become thick, slushy and creamy. The perfect tipple for a hot evening.
If you plan on making several batches of this at once, I have a story for you. I once decided to make a quintuple batch to give out as gifts. I was in the supermarket shopping for the ingredients and pulled up to the checkout line just behind the town gossip. I was going through my divorce at the time, and she took one look at my shopping cart with its 30 lemons, 10 kilos of sugar, and 5 liters of vodka and said in one of those bitchy, condescending voices, “How are you coping, dear?” No, she didn’t get some as a gift.
I got my back scratched today, in the form of an interview posting on one of my favorite blogs, Cooking Manager. Why don’t you head on over there and give my friend Hannah’s blog a look-see (that’s me giving Hannah’s back a scratch back). The post includes my favorite recipe for challah, which I’ll be posting here soon.
There’s also a plug for Recipezaar, check them out as well, while you’re at it.