Category Archives: Side Dishes
Yes, it’s that time of year again — glowing lights, fried foods and sweet little presents. To help us get in the mood here is the latest collection of Chanuka videos going viral this year. Who’s your favorite? Those sweet-toned YU boys in the Maccabeats, or the cool kids in the Fountainheads ? Or maybe you have another favorite? Check them out and let me know.
It’s been a slow summer for me. I don’t do well in the humid heat of Ra’anana. I feel sluggish, ponderous, as sticky as thick honey. All that, and a bout of pneumonia last week, has left me full of ennui and it hasn’t helped the blogging much either. I haven’t been in much of a mood to cook, or to write about cooking. Pity this hasn’t extended to my appetite, that’s been as healthy as ever, in the most unhealthy of ways.
It took my friend Abby to get me out of my funk. Well, not totally out of it, just to nudge me a bit. She’s been asking me about Rosh Hashana menus. I haven’t really thought about the holiday yet, I mean, it’s not Rosh Hashana until next year…
Meet Leah Schapira. I didn’t find Leah, she found me. She must have one of the coolest jobs around, writing about food and also starting up her new recipe-sharing website, Cook Kosher. Leah is good for my ego, asking me to write little bits and pieces for the site. I’m so glad she agreed to be interviewed, so come and learn all about Leah with me!
This Friday Ju-Boy and I are celebrating having survived six years shackled to each other in matrimony.
I once read somewhere, back when blogdom was in its infancy, that one kitchen diva’s nightmare was that guests would arrive and there wouldn’t be anything on the table they were willing to eat. Haven’t most of us had that nightmare? You know what I mean… you invite guests over for Shabbat lunch and it turns out they are macrobiotic raw foodists who don’t want to go near your cholent, or snaggle-toothed carnivores who turn up their noses at your tofu curry. You just can’t win with some people.
I used to be one of those guests, once. I was a vegan for 5 years back in the mid-90s, eschewing meat, eggs, dairy, any kinds of animal product. I totally freaked my friends out. It’s not that I was being kind to animals, it was that animals weren’t kind to me, I had problems digesting animal protein and a vegan diet was the only one that worked for me back then. These days I’m my old carnivorous self again, although I love catering for veggie guests. When veggie friends come over I can whip some tofu curry as good as any card-carrying PETA member. Ju-Boy gets a bit miffed, though, when they reciprocate but don’t sacrifice a cow for his dietary preferences.
Once upon a time, before my vegan days, I had a friend from back in the hood, Goldie From The Block. Goldie and her very own SugarBear had recently made aliya and I invited them over for dinner. “You know we’re vegan,” announced Goldie. My first reaction? Oy! I spent two weeks researching a vegan menu worthy of Goldie and SugarBear. After all, I wanted that meal to be perfect! I had invited another couple over for dinner as well, and the X (I was married to the X then) said, “This other couple are not used to this alien food, you should make something dairy as well, just as a backup.”
So our guests showed up for dinner, and I started to bring food out on to the table. Potato and leek soup, lentil pie, tofu and sweet potato curry, couscous and salad. I had a fruit salad chilling in the fridge for dessert, to be topped with a forest fruits sorbet. Not a single animal had been harmed or taken advantage of for this meal. Except for when I brought out the quiche. If I was going to cater to the vegans, I’d cater to the non-vegans as well, and I had made a small tomato and onion quiche with lots of cheddar cheese, eggs and cream. As I placed this dairy masterpiece on the table I said, “Everything here is vegan, except for the quiche.”
“Quiche!” exclaimed Goldieblox and her Bear. “Quiche, we love quiche!” and they helped themselves to giant portions of enslaved animal products. “B-b-b-b-b-but,” I blubbered, “you guys are vegans!” “Yes,” said Goldie, “but we don’t expect people to cater for us when we go out!” Goldie may have been married to a Bear, but I was the one who growled then.
But what’s a little oppressed animal cuisine among friends? Although Goldie from the Block and SugarBear have given up their vegan ways, they still are very kind to animals and other living things in the guise of lacto-ovo vegetarians. They live on the other side of town with their three cubs. Goldie had a birthday the other day, and her friends all got together to throw her a party. We all brought something to eat, and in memory of those vegan days I brought along a dish of edamame hummous. No animals were harmed, exploited or taken advantage of in that dish of green. As Goldie tried some on a cracker she told me that it was “juuuuuuust right!”
Don’t let the fact that this is healthy or vegan deter you, it’s yummy, and a nice alternative to chickpea hummous.
- 1 bag (400 grams, about 13 ounces) frozen, shelled edamame
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoon tahini
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Bring the edamame to boil in a pot of water for about 3 minutes. You can also nuke them in the microwave for about 5-7 minutes, until hot. Drain them in a colander and rinse under running water.
- Place the beans in the food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and give it all a good zhuzz until the mixture is the consistency of guacamole. If it’s too thick add a teaspoon of water, one at a time, until the right consistency.
- Taste and correct seasonings.
- Cover and refrigerate until party time!
Famous Israeli saying:
אמא יש רק אחת
You only have one mother
True, or false?
Most people go through life with only one mother. I feel sorry for them, in a way. It’s wonderful to have a loving mother who nurtures you, loves you, spoils you… But what’s even better is two women who would do this for you.
I’m fortunate to have been blessed with two mothers. Okay, we’re not even going to go into the whole adoption issue, that’s doesn’t even enter into the equation here. First, there’s my mom. She may not have carried me under her heart for nine months, but she brought me home from the hospital, and that’s my mom.
When I was seven we spent a considerable time in Norway, and my Aunt Zipora, my father’s baby sister, came up from Israel to visit us. My father had told me stories about all his brothers and sisters back in Hungary, and I was thrilled to meet the aunt he spoke of so fondly. She brought me a book in Hebrew and we spent a lot of time reading the stories together.
When I was 16 we came out to Israel for the summer, for my brother’s Bar Mitzvah. I was a rebellious teen, and you could have imagine just how embarrassed I was by my mom. She kept trying to get me to pose for pictures, she kept trying to buy me dorky clothes, she kept trying to keep me safe. How embarrassing! My Aunt Zipora, on the other hand, convinced my mom to let me go off to the beach by myself. She bought me the sandals that were the “in thing” back in 1979 Tel Aviv, and she taught me curse words in Hungarian!
Throughout the years, while I was in Israel as a kibbutz volunteer, a university student, a new immigrant, a new mom, a new divorcee, my Aunt Zipora was always there to support me in any decision. She became like a second mother to me. Since my girls didn’t have grandmothers who lived nearby — my mother lived in New York, their other grandmother in London — Zipora became a grandmother to them. When my father died in 2002 I went to the States for the funeral, and after my mother and I comforted each other I flew back to Israel and my aunt and I had another good cry together. When my mother died in 2009 my aunt was there to tell me stories of my parents’ early life together, pre-Miriyummy.
In 2005 I married for the second time. My mother couldn’t come out for the wedding, so I had the oddest pleasure in being walked down the aisle to the chuppah by my oldest daughter Sassy and my Aunt Zipora.
I grew up eating Hungarian food, but my Lithuanian mother used to drive me insane giving me recipes. You put in a bit of this, a bit of that. There were no measurements in my mother’s cooking style. With the help of my Aunt Zipora, who actually writes things down, I was able to approximate one of my favorite dishes:
This dish went by the name of káposztás tészta. I never managed to pronounce the second word correctly, and it all got shortened to Capostash when I put it into our Shabbat rotation. No one else seems to want to call it that, so Hungarian Noodles it is. Purists will rise up in outrage when they read what I’ve done to the recipe, but this is my blog, and my bastardized recipe, and I’m serving it at my table, so this is my Capostash!
Leave out the shmaltz and the kabanas to make this dish vegetarian/vegan.
- 500 grams bow-tie noodles, cooked until al dente
- 2 huge onions, coarsly shredded
- a few glugs of olive oil, or a chlop of shmaltz
- 1/2 head of green cabbage, coarsely shredded
- salt, pepper and paprika to taste
- 2 heaping tablespoons poppy seeds
- Optional: 3 kabanas, preferably by Tirat Zvi, cut up (thin, dried sausage)
- Caramelize the onions in the olive oil or shmaltz until darkly golden and soft.
- Add the cabbage and toss together with the onions until softened.
- Add the noodles and mix. You may need to add 1/4 – 1/3 cup of water to get it mixable. Add the salt, pepper and paprika and taste. When you have it juuuuuust right, add the poppy seeds and mix together. (Add the kabanas.) Serve hot.
- If you add the cut up kabanas it takes this dish to a whole new level. It’s not authentically Hungarian, but it’s authentically delicious!
One of the things I love about Judaism, and being Jewish, is the subjectivity of it all. Yes, there are rules that say do this, don’t do that, but there is also a lot that is open to interpretation. How you go about your relationship with God, your relationship with your family and your community is left up to you. Within the circle you have chosen to live in, your religion is your own.
Growing up in my parents’ house I was shown both side of the religious coin. My father grew up ultra-Orthodox, he had the requisite peyot (side curls), the right intonation when he prayed and he was a rabbi who taught small children to love the Torah. He lived in a small village in Hungary where everyone knew everyone else. And then his entire world was ripped apart. He lost his family, he lost his community, his livelihood, and as the Holocaust did to so many, he lost his religion. He took off his hat, cut off his peyot, and lost his faith in God.
My mother, on the other hand, grew up in a home that didn’t have the relationship with God that my father had. My mother grew up in a secular household, where there was a Jewish tradition, but as they say, it was more of a guideline than a rule. She lived in Vilna, the capital of Lithuania and the center of Litvak culture, a cosmopolitan town. And then her entire world was ripped apart. She lost her family, she lost her childhood, and she lost her trust in everyone, especially in God. The Nazis did such horrible things to my mother, that when she was liberated she was malnourished, ill, and would never be able to have children.
She and my father were both refugees in Sweden. How they met has become family legend. My mother was keeping house for my grandfather, a furrier. My father was living with his 4 surviving brothers and sisters and they decided to get my Aunt Toby a fur collar for her coat for her birthday. My father was the one who stopped by my grandfather’s house to place the order. He saw a picture of my mother on the hall table, and my grandfather couldn’t help but boast of his daughter who took care of him and cooked him the most amazing meals. My father was told to come back a week later… which he did… at dinner time. My parents were married a year later.
For 13 years they took the ashes of their lives and rebuilt them into a life together. They immigrated to the States in the late 50s, and then, one day, I arrived in their lives. The adoption of a daughter changed them forever, and my father, who had lost his faith, found it again. But my mother, who didn’t start out on the same page religiously, was not ready to follow. My father let her be, and she let him be. I grew up in a home where religion, as well as secularism, was not only tolerated, but respected. My mother kept a kosher home for my father, and he let her live her life in the way she felt she needed to live. I have very interesting memories of my mother making the blessing on the Shabbat candles, and then lighting her cigarette off those very candles. There are those who will be shocked at this, but in our house, that was how we all got along.
What happens when two irresistible forces meet? The forces can’t resist each other, so they combine into one irresistible force. This irresistible force became our family, and the interpretation of religion in the end always centered around the table. My mom was the most amazing cook, and no matter how you felt about God, Judaism or life in general, her dinners took you to heaven.
This past Shabbat was the first yahrzeit (anniversary) of my mother’s death. I’ve written before how I’ve subjectively taken this year of mourning to be meaningful to me. My father died eight years ago and every year on his yahrzeit I celebrate his life with a Hungarian dinner. This year, the first yahrzeit for my mother, I cooked a dinner in her honor which I hope would make her proud of me. We had good friends over for dinner on Friday night, my daughters Tinky and Didi were there, and Ju-Boy gave a wonderful speech about a woman he never met in life, but knew so well through the love of cooking she passed on to me. He mentioned how the irresistible force of my father’s faith and the irresistible force of my mother’s lack of belief met together to create an irresistible force of respect. My father taught me to love books, my mother taught me to love cooking (and feeding), but together they taught me to respect your partner, your children, your family and your fellow travelers in life.
My mother served this at least every other Shabbat. The wonderful nutty flavor of kasha (buckwheat) will always bring me back instantly to the warm Friday night table, candles lit, my father making kiddush on annoyingly sweet wine and my mother hovering over the stove, ready to serve up her amazing food. I suppose you could say she found her religion in the kitchen.
- 2-3 tablespoons oil (my mother used shmaltz)
- 2 large onions, diced
- 1 cup kasha
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 cups chicken soup
- salt and pepper to taste
- 8 ounces (250 grams) bow tie pasta, cooked
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot. Add the onions and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until brown and caramelized, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cover to keep warm. Do not clean the pot.
- Combine the kasha with the beaten egg until completely coated. Heat the pot over medium heat and add the egg-coated kasha. Keep stirring to keep the grains separate and cook for about 3-4 minutes until the kasha becomes dry and toasted.
- Add the chicken soup and stir. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat and cook for about 10-15 minutes until the kasha is tender and all the water has been absorbed. Stir with a fork to fluff.
- Add the onions and mix well. Add in the cooked bow ties. Toss well and serve.
One of my subjective interpretations of Judaism was how I went about my year of mourning. One of the traditions I took upon myself was not to cut my hair for the whole year. When my mother died my hair really needed cutting to start with, so you can imagine how long it grew. Tonight my daughter Tinky cut my hair. She’s been studying hairdressing at one of the most prestigious schools in Israel, and since I’ve been paying the tuition I suppose you could say this was my most expensive haircut ever…
I gave up many thing when I married Ju-Boy. I gave up the Jerusalem mountain air. I gave up quiet streets and living in a town with no stoplights. I gave up a certain amount of my independence. What I feel the most, however, is that I gave up my friends. Okay, they are still my friends, but because I now live a one-hour’s drive away (long distance in the Israeli psyche), I don’t get to see them often, or at all. I don’t get to bump into them at the grocery store, wave to them as I take my evening power-walk (oh yeah, I also gave up power-walks), I don’t get to exchange gossip outside the synagogue, and I don’t get to just hang out with them, either at the Shabbat table or for a coffee evening during the week. I miss them.
I gained many things when I married Ju-Boy. I gained a house with stairs (my first time living in a house, not an apartment). I gained living in a somewhat cosmopolitan city with a main street full of fun shops. I gained the Cooking Channel (the X said we couldn’t afford it because we were already paying the cable company a ton for all his sports channels). I gained the use of Ju-Boy’s amazing turbo oven, and I gained his friends.
When we spoke about them I used to call them “your friends,” and he would always correct me and say “our friends.” But, tachles, they started out as his friends, and I then began to refer to them as my friends-in-law. Regardless of the fact that I even knew some of them longer than he did, they were his friends. But little by little, I have taken over. Shar calls on the phone and Ju-Boy is ready for a chat, but she wants to speak to me! Yummy Mummy calls my cell phone for the Shabbat meal invitation. Most of them read my blog, but how many of them even know he has one, huh?
I like his, erm, my friends, they’re good people, and they make sure that with all the hustle and bustle of busy families, smachot, grandchildren and life in general, that we still get together for a laugh. We make sheva brachot celebrations together for our children, we try to go away together for a Shabbat here or there, we drink Marc’s whisky and eat Yummy Mummy’s cake creations. We’re in and out of each other’s houses on Shabbatot for meals, and a few times a year we get together for holiday potlucks.
It was the annual Simchat Torah potluck that made me go headless chicken. I had just started a new job and needed to put in some time on erev chag. Shar was hosting the event at her house (at least 50 people were expected) and Ju-Boy had volunteered four dishes — challah, fish pie, couscous salad and chocolate babka. Isn’t he the most altruistic husband you can imagine? Four dishes, when most people were making only two. But both of us cook, so that makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is that all four dishes are MY specialities. Ju-Boy helped by giving a running critique of my fish-skinning skills. Brave boy, I was holding a sharp knife…
So it’s erev chag and I have four dishes to make in two hours. I didn’t get a chance to make any the night before because we were out late (visiting one of my, erm, our friends from my Jerusalem days), and that morning my boss decided he needed just one more email, just one more thing, just one more… aaaaaaarrrrrrrgggggghhhhhh! I got home from the office, saw the mess in the kitchen, the mayhem in the rest of the house, and that’s when I went headless chicken!
like a headless chicken (British) also like a chicken with its head cut off (American)if you do something like a headless chicken, you do it very quickly and without thinking carefully about what you are doing (usually in continuous tenses) I’ve got so much work to do – I’ve been running around like a headless chicken all week. He was racing around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to do the work of two people.Definition thanks to The Free Dictionary
- 350 grams couscous (1 package)
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon soup mix
- 1 lemon
- 1 bunch parsley
- 5 carrots, peeled and quartered
- 2 teaspoons grated gingerroot (or to taste, I use almost a tablespoon)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- Pour the couscous into a large bowl. Mix in the soup powder and olive oil, stir well to combine (I use a fork). Add the boiling water and let soak until all the water has been absorbed.
- Place the carrots and parsley in a food processor (steel knife). Zest the lemon with a Microplane and add it to the food processor. Process until a minced finely. Add the juice from the lemon, olive oil, ginger and pepper. Process until a paste has been formed.
- Add paste to the ready couscous and mix together.
- Add the chickpeas and mix together.
- Turn into a salad bowl and chill for at least two hours.
This is a great dish to serve on Saturday lunch, or to take to a potluck with 50 of your best and newest friends.
When you consider yourself to be a decent cook, adroit in the kitchen, you take certain things for granted. Ju-boy, the technical writer, has always told me that you write for your audience. Sometimes it’s difficult to gauge exactly who makes up your audience. Do I discuss the intricacies of proofing yeast, or am I wasting your time, and even worse, word count? Am I talking above your head, or treating you like a culinary child? Where exactly do I start to take things for granted?
Which brings me to a little piece of high school apocrypha. The story I am about to relate may or may not be true. Even the participants don’t remember the exact details. But in the mumble mumble years since 11th grade this story has grown wings and taken flight, becoming an urban legend within the limited demographic in which it took place.
Back in the Seventies SW and her family were refugees from South Africa. Her parents saw what was happening to the country in general and the Jewish community in particular and moved the family across the ocean to another hemisphere, and settled in New York. South Africa’s loss was my gain, she and I became friends. And so begins the legend.
In our New York eyes SW had grown up in a very priviledged state. We studied apartheid in school and whatever propagaganda we heard led us to believe that our friend was a modern day Scarlet O’Hara, with her own personal staff to tie her shoes, fetch her breakfast, brush her hair. One day one of our little group (no one remembers whom anymore) received a phone call…
SW: I’m alone in the house and I want to make some tea.
SW’s Friend: That’s nice.
SW: Urm, I’ve never done this before, how do you make tea?
SWF: You put the tea bag in the cup, and then you add boiling water.
SW: Urm, how do you boil water?
If this is the case with some of you, then perhaps my recipes are a little too complicated. Do you really need me to hold your hand and tell you how to cook pasta or peel a potato? Just in case you are a total newbie cook, Recipezaar has two wonderful recipes just for you: Boiled Water and Ice Cubes.
So whatever happened to SW? We’re still friends, so many mumble mumble years later. I’d like to tell you that she went on to master boiling water and is now a famous Food Network chef, but my good friend does not count cooking among her hobbies. She views it as something she *has* to do. Every now and then I will get a frantic phone call with SW on the other end of the line, “The family is coming over for dinner, what can I do with a tub of cottage cheese and an onion?” Miriyummy to save the day! Actually, I exaggerate for the sake of what I hope passes as humor. SW is an excellent, if unwilling, vegetarian cook. I was at her house a few weeks ago and she made me a great cup of instant coffee, and I can vouch that she boiled the water beautifully.
I actually had SW in mind the other week when I started playing around with some vegetables and cheese. As I may have mentioned before, I’m low carbing it at the moment, and came up with this version of lasagne that doesn’t involve noodles. Those of you that dread recipes that start out with the words “one pound of pasta, cooked” may now breathe a sigh of relief.
Pasta Free La Sag Nee (Lasagne)
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, grated
olive oil for sauteeing
1 largish eggplant, unpeeled and thinly sliced into rounds
2 medium zucchini, unpeeled and thinly sliced into rounds
3 cups of your favorite pasta sauce (buy it, make it from scratch, borrow from your neighbor, you get to choose)
400 grams (1 pound) grated cheese (again, you get to choose, I use a mix of mozzarella and the Israeli Gilboa, an Edam-like cheese)
oregano, basil, salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).
- Saute the onion in the olive oil until golden. Add the grated carrots and saute for one minute or two more. Remove from heat and leave to cool.
- Coat the bottom of a 13″ x 9″ (33 x 23 cm) pan with a bit of the pasta sauce. This is to prevent the food from sticking to the pan. It will still stick a bit, but at least you tried.
- Layer half of the eggplant rounds on the bottom of the pan. Add the carroty-onions and spread evenly over the eggplant.
- Add a layer of sauce and then a layer of cheese. Sprinkle with oregano, basil, salt and pepper, to taste.
- Layer the zucchini rounds next. Add another layer of sauce, then another layer of cheese. Sprinkle with oregano, basil, salt and pepper, to taste.
- Add a last layer of eggplant rounds. Now add the cheese, and then the sauce. This is to prevent the cheese from burning and sticking to the silver foil that you will use to cover the whole thing.
- Cover the whole thing with silver foil (for those who didn’t bother to read the above instruction).
- Bake for about 50 minutes.
Let it cool for a bit before slicing into servings. In fact, this serves up prettiest when completely cooled in the fridge and then cut into neat, serving-size squares which are then reheated in the microwave. If you like your food fresh and messy, then serve up straight from the oven. When low carbing it I usually make up a batch of this stuff and eat it throughout the week. This also freezes well.
SW! I’m coming over, put the kettle on!