Category Archives: Citrus

Sweet Summer

I grew up in New York City.  The Bronx, to be specific.  Freezing cold winters, hot and shvitzy summers.  My parents, like most of the New York Jews of the 50s, 60s and 70s, would pack up a small version of their entire house, pots, pans, bedding and birdcages, and shlep up to the Catskill Mountains for over two months of fresh air and the chance to experience a unique sub-culture.

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Tangerine Trees and Marmalade Tithes

 

Grandpa surrounded by family

When Ju-Boy and I were dating we played the “Where Is Your Family From?” game.  My father was Hungarian, my mother Lithuanian.  His mother was Irish, and his father was Viennese.  Not Austrian, Viennese.  He was very exact about that.

Sharing a joke with Optimus Prime and The Rani at their wedding

Grandpa was a true gem.  I only came to know him late in his life and I could see that I missed out on years of entertainment.  He had a true love of life, music, wine, women and song.  He left Vienna as a child and moved to London, but despite his many years in England he had a certain Viennese flavor, a je n’ai sais quoi, or rather, an ich habe irgendetwas.  He was never without a twinkle in his eye.  He spoke softly and carried a big stick, and was full of humor, the same dry humor he passed on to his son.  Being in the room with the two of them could be painful, you had to constantly be on your toes because you were never sure if they were being serious or not.

Like his sons and his grandsons, the man loved fruit.  When he came to visit the house was filled with fruit.  Actually, the house is always filled with fruit.  But when Grandpa came to visit we made sure there was even more fruit than usual.  Another thing we always made sure to have for Grandpa’s visit was a jar of store-bought marmalde.  He loved marmalade.  It used to irk me a bit, I make a mean jar of the stuff, but Grandpa usually came to visit in the warmer months of the year, and oranges are a winter fruit in Israel.  I never did manage to have a jar of the homemade stuff available when he came through the door.

Father and son -- this is one of my favorite photos

Three years ago Grandpa came out to Israel during the winter.  He came specifically for Optimus Prime’s wedding to the Rani.  With all the insanity of the festivities, the Shabbat chatan, the oofroof and the sheva brachot, I didn’t even think to make him some marmalade.  There was always next year.

But next year never came.  Grandpa was fortunate enough to see his first grandchild married.  He went home to London and based on some pretty racy photos, celebrated Purim, big time.  He celebrated his English 81st birthday on a Sunday, his Hebrew 81st birthday on Monday night, and died on Tuesday.

It’s been almost three years since Grandpa died, and he is missed.  These days, every time I make some orange marmalade I get a bittersweet feeling in my heart.  I wish I had made him a jar.

Enter Aussie Elie.  If Grandpa’s passing saddens me whenever I make a batch of marmalade, Elie manages to put a smile on my face.  He loves the stuff.  I can’t even make a batch anymore without putting aside some for what has come to be known as Ma’aser Elie (Elie’s tithe).  This winter alone I’ve made two or three batches, and no matter what time of night it’s done and jarred, Elie is at my door, ready for his dosage of sticky, orange goop.

One of the rules in my house is that you are not allowed to eat anything unless I’ve taken a picture of it.  Ju-Boy knows this, the kids know this, but Aussie Elie sweeps in and swoops down and absconds with my marmalade before I can even photograph it.  Enter Better-Half Hindy to save the day.  The girl can be quite handy with a camera.  And she’s quick, too, since I understand Elie can eat the stuff pretty fast and it’s gone before you know it.

Elie’s Marmalade

Yeah, why not name it after Elie?

Photo courtesy of Hindy Lederman

  • 6 large oranges
  • 1 kilogram sugar (2.2 pounds, 5 cups)
  1. Wash the fruit well.  Really well.  Cut away any blemishes.
  2. Cut into quarters, and then cut those quarters into half.  Remove any pits.
  3. Place the orange pieces, skin and all, in the food processor and zhuzz around until finely chopped.  You can leave in a few larger pieces for artistic interpretation.  Depending on the size of your food processor, you may have to do this in two or three batches.
  4. You can add some crystallized ginger while zhuzzing, but I never have.  I adore the stuff, but not everyone does.
  5. Dump the zhuzzed oranges into a heavy pot, and then dump the whole kilo of sugar on top.
  6. Bring to the boil, then lower the flame to medium.  Cook for 20 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.  It can splatter, so be careful.

Do not double the ingredients.  Rather, make two batches.

This never goes dark and can last for six months in the fridge without any need to sterilize the jars.  Six months, or one Elie.

 

Photo courtesy of Erin R. of Recipezaar

 

It’s My Birthday And I’ll Bake If I Want To…

Today is my birthday, and I’m shlepping a cake into work.  Yes, I’m the one bringing in my own birthday cake.  Doesn’t that sound ridiculous?  While I never “officially” worked in the States (does camp counselor and JCC dance teacher count?), I do know (because I watch The Office), that you don’t throw your own birthday parties at work in the States.  You have the PPC, the Party Planning Committee do it for you.  There are balloons, cake and maybe even a speech by the boss.

Remember those dogs that you had everyone sign? I think I got 5 for my 10th birthday.

Not so in Israel.  The birthday girl or boy has to bring in the refreshments.  There’s always the cake, sometimes there’s ice cream, and if you’re lucky, you get a present.  Wait, there is a PPC.  I have always been the PPC, because I’ve always been the office manager.  When I wasn’t the office manager I was the only woman in the office, and the job fell to me then as well.  It’s a weird custom that always throws the Anglo immigrants for a loop, but they get into the swing of it quickly enough.  And when they have completely gone over to the Dark Side, and have gone totally Israeli, they do what a lot of Israelis do for their birthday, they take the day off.

Yeah, right, the Bar Mitzvah birthday boy gets the really BIG candles...

I’ve been here for almost 28 years, since I was 20 (now you know how old I am), and I’m Israeli enough to bring in my own cake, but not Israeli enough to take the day off.  And that’s why I’m shlepping the cake in to work today.  I baked it last night, and I really enjoyed myself.  I’m going to enjoy myself even more today when I treat myself to sushi for lunch.  And I wonder what Ju-Boy has up his sleeve as far as presents go.  I’ve already given him several hints, even suggesting that you, my dear readers, pass the hint on to him as well.  Some of you actually have.  This Shabbat we’re going away for the weekend with two other couples whose wives are also celebrating birthdays this week.  But tonight, what I really want, is just a quiet evening at home with my Ju-Boy, maybe watching one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride, which was another birthday present once upon a time.

I’m baking one of my favorite cakes, Orange Poppy Seed Cake, which is from Levana Kirschenbaum’s cookbook, Levana’s Table.  The first time I saw Levana Kirschenbaum was on some obscure cooking show where some huge woman with an almost incomprehensible Jamaican accent strolled the streets of New York extolling the joys of Jewish cooking.  She and Levana prepared latkes in the basement of Levana’s synagogue on the Upper West Side.  The second time I saw Levana Kirschenbaum was in Zabar’s in the cheese section.  I was in New York with my cousin Rivka and she introduced me.  As it turns out, Rivka and Levana go to the same shul, and Levana even catered a kiddush Rivka threw to celebrate her return to good health after an illness that had the whole family worried.  I mentioned the TV show to Levana and she told me she could barely understand that woman as well.

So it’s my birthday, and I’m in the office, and I’m heading in to the office with the cake.  I hope they like it, and if they don’t, I do.

Levana’s Orange Poppy Seed Cake

Cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 3/4 cup poppy seeds

Syrup

  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F.)
  2. To make the cake: In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and orange zest.  Set aside.
  3. In an electric mixer, combine the eggs and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the oil and vanilla and beat until just combined.
  4. Beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the 3/4 cup orange juice.  Mix slightly after each addition, just to incorporate.
  5. Add the poppy seeds and mix to incorporate the seeds into the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into a greased 10-inch springform pan.
  7. Bake for 1 hour, or until the point of a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. To make the syrup: While the cake is baking, place the syrup ingredients into a small saucepan and heat until thickened, about 3-4 minutes.
  9. When the cake is done, immediately unmold it from the springform pan.  Prick it all over with a skewer and brush the syrup all over the top and sides of the cake while it is still hot. The cake will absorb all the syrup.
  10. Let the cake cool completely before serving.

Do you think I'm going to cut up my cake before work just to get this shot? Think again. This was taken by Evie* of food.com

When Life Gives You Lemons…

… 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…)

Microplane zester and some balded lemons

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. 

Get some cheap vodka, really cheap vodka...

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.

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