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Chatting With Miriyummy: Toby Curwin

Meet Toby Curwin. Even though I met her only once, and for a few minutes at that, I feel like I’ve known her forever!

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Bloggers’ Day Out — Gush Etzion — July 2011

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an able foodie in possession of a good blog, must be in want of a nosh…

…unashamedly paraphrased from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

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Make It So!

Look at that guy, isn’t he divine?  I’ve been a Trekkie since the first grade or so, and out of all the captains at the helm of the USS Enterprise, this one is the yummiest!  I think it may have something to do with my aural fixation, I just love a guy with an English accent.  And the fact that he can take me where no man has gone before, well, that’s an added plus.

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Arsenic and Old Lace

How can something be so delicious, so delicate, so yummy, and yet so deadly?

Sometimes the stories that shape my life happen without me, and have nothing to do with me.  Such is the case of Ju-Boy and the Deadly Almond.  It happened before we met, but for the last almost-seven years has shaped the way I’ve cooked, or haven’t cooked, to be precise.

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Kosher Cooking Carnival — The VeNahafoch Hu Edition

Welcome to the Adar II 5771 issue of the Kosher Cooking Carnival, the Purim edition, where you can party like it’s 3338 (or 423 BCE)!  And just as Haman’s edict against the Jews was turned upside down (venahafoch hu), so is this blog post!  From this point onward, the Kosher Cooking Carnival will be

so start from the bottom, and enjoy…

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Dancing Queen

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up.  Lots of little girls want to be ballerinas, but very few actually do grow up and wear their tutus professionally.  I was determined to be one of the few who did.  Okay, not an actual ballerina, but I wanted to dance.  I loved to dance.  I went to one of those all girl high schools that didn’t have much of a gym program.  For us, gym was folk dancing.  Mrs. Chertoff was one of my favorite teachers, mixing Israeli folk dance with modern interpretive, square dancing with disco.  Occasionally we would be forced out into the sunlight and fresh air to throw a few tennis balls at each other, but most of the time we were in the gym dancing to Erev Ba or trying to remember the steps to Pippin’s Magic to Do.

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Old Country

I grew up in the Bronx, which if you don’t know, is part of New York.  Outside my house was one of the most amazing cities in the world, but step through the doors and you would find yourself on the set of Yentl.  My parents were immigrants, Holocaust survivors who felt most comfortable with the familiarity of their original environment.  Our house may have been furnished with La-Z-Boy recliners and dinette sets bought on Jerome Avenue, but my parents brought their own Old Country touches to the house — a samovar here, European-style dishware there (no Corelle for my mom, nuh huh).  And nothing personified the shtetl atmosphere of the house more than the food that was served up every day of the week.  My parents may have moved their bodies to the States, but their souls were steadfastly left behind in Vilna and Hungary.

Dessert in our house was always compote, or some other stewed fruit, never this jiggly American standard

I would watch TV with my brother, afternoon programming aimed at the kids — Gilligan’s Island, The Addams Family, Batman (kerpow!), and then the commercials would come on, commercials aimed at kids watching afterschool television.  Yes, you too can be popular if you drink Dr Pepper, stuff your face with Yodels and sit down to the wonderful family dinner of Swanson’s frozen mystery meat and peas.  My brother and I begged for a yodel or two, and my mother smiled at us as she served up her stuffed cabbage and or her gebroteneh (braised) chicken. Tea was served in a glass, sweetened with a spoon of strawberry jam.  I wanted to be American, I wanted to be a Pepper, and my parents insisted on all this Old Country food in the house.  I remember one time having a teenage rant, claiming my parents refused to embrace their new country by not buying junk food.

We brought back three of these boxes from England last time. Yes, there are 240 tea bags in each box.

At the age of 20 I left my Old Country behind and moved to Israel, where I could finally eat my fill of American junk food.  Yes, you read that right.  You see, Anglo immigrants may move their bodies to Israel, but go into their kitchens and you’ll find that a part of their culinary souls have refused to make aliya.  Anglos in Israel love their Old Country foods.  Americans who go back for a visit always return with a suitcase full of chocolate and other yummies from Shop Rite.  Brits smuggle in PG Tips and Marmite.  They’re even selling Entenmann’s donuts in Meatland in Ra’anana, charging a whopping NIS 50 (about 14 dollars).  We all do it, and I am guilty as well.  I remember one trip where I got caught at Kennedy airport with one suitcase full of chocolate and junk food (it was right after Halloween and everything was on sale) and another suitcase full of Slim Fast.  The woman x-raying my luggage commented, “Let me guess, first you eat everything in this suitcase, then you eat everything in that suitcase.”  Yup, that was the plan.

My precious box of Splenda

Come into the Miriyummy household and you will see hummus, za’atar, Telma cereals and Pri-Gat juice.  You will also see a huge box of PG Tips tea, a jar of Marmite, an occasional bottle of Newman’s Own salad dressing and my hoarded box of Splenda.  Ju-Boy brought me back a large box of baking Splenda on one of his trip to the States and I have been hoarding it, sparingly baking with it.  I want to use it, but I don’t want to use it up.  Can you understand my logic?

Didi and bestest friend Hilaly

Back in this post I wrote how my Didi has a bunch of friends who want me to name a Miriyummy creation after them.  One of Didi’s very bestest friends is Hilaly, who happily noshes on the Hadar Bars and Luscious Lambies in spite of the fact that these babies are packed full of sugar and she’s diabetic.  It drives her mom crazy!  It was time for Hilaly to have a confection of her own, and one she could indulge in without guilt or parental angst.  So when I asked her what she would prefer in her namesake nosh, she so very responsibly said, “Coffee, and Splenda!”  Oh no, not my Splenda!  She wants me to use up my Splenda!

Could you say no to these sweet darlings?

But I do have a soft spot for Hilaly, and I don’t want her getting into sugar trouble because of me, so I dug out my precious Splenda and came up with…

Hilaly Dollies

  • 1 cup (200 grams) butter or margarine
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons instant coffee (I use instant espresso powder, which makes these Dollies lethal!)
  • 1 1/3 cup baking Splenda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 300 grams sugar-free bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely

Cookies or science experiment?

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (350 degrees F).  Grease cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper.  Actually, forget about the greasing, just use parchment paper.  There’s something in the Splenda that makes these cookies look like a science experiment while they bake.  Trust me, it’s ugly, and messy, and you’ll thank me later for that parchment paper advice.
  2. Cream together the butter, Splenda and coffee.
  3. Beat in the eggs, vanilla and flour.  Mix until well blended.
  4. Add the chocolate bits and combine with a wooden spoon.
  5. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.  Don’t be afraid of them when they come out of the oven and look like rabid cookies foaming at the mouth.  They calm down after they cool off.

If you have these with a cup of joe on the side you may go into a coffee coma.  But what a way to go, huh?  Brits will enjoy this with a cup of tea, if they can bear to part with one of their PG Tips.

 

Green-Eyed Monster

Jealousy can be a terrible thing.  I developed an Electra Complex at a very early age.  I was a Daddy’s Girl, he was my quiet hero, telling me stories of an innocent childhood in rural Hungary before the Holocaust.  He was my knight in leather-bound armor, showing me the wonders of his collection of books, teaching me to read Hebrew before I entered the first grade and properly learned English.  How dare he smile up at my mother like that as she serves him his stuffed cabbage!

Jealousy can be a terrible thing.  I was the Little Princess, the much wanted and finally adopted heiress to my parents’ meager possessions.  The interloper was my brother, Skeezix.  All of a sudden, this mewling, pooping boy was taking up my parents’ time.  Take him back, I know you have the receipt!

Jealousy can be a terrible thing.  Mewling and pooping turned into obnoxious and wild (wild being the 60s and 70s term for today’s ADHD).  Skeezix would draw his space wars in my pristine Partridge Family notebook.  He would take his orange Hot Wheels race tracks and whap me with them while I was mooning over Captain Kirk on TV.  How many times did I have to tell my parents to take that kid back?!?!

Jealousy can be a terrible thing.  I went to an all-girls high school which taught that each and every one of us was unqiue.  They taught us this wonderful lesson while all the girls sat in their seats wearing rugby shirts, flair jeans skirts and Frye boots.  Or argyle socks and clogs.  Or Huckapoo print blouses and skirts with Jordache written on the back pocket.  Everyone but me.  My mom believed in hand-me-downs from my cousin from the Sixties instead of the brand new fashions of the Seventies.  Not fair, I wanted to be unique like everyone else!

I want this kitchen!

Jealous can be a terrible thing.  I want the kitchen that you see on the Food Network.  I want two giant stainless steel sinks.  I want an island big enough for both Ju-Boy and me to cook together without one of us elbowing the other into a pot of boiling water.  I want gleaming copper pots hanging overhead and a cozy little nook with overstuffed armchairs surrounded by my ever-growing cookbook collection.  I want a kitchen worthy of the Food Network star I am inside!

Jealousy can be a terrible thing!  I’ve created Hadar Bars for Hadar, Luscious Lambies for Leah, and Dalia Bars for, well, Dalia, of course.  But the requests for fame keep coming, even though that person already has a Miriyummy confection named after her.  So, at the behest of someone who loves to be immortalized in sugar and spice, I futzed around in the kitchen just to keep a certain green-eyed monster at bay, or at least in a cinnamon coma.

These little mouthfuls of cinnamon are yummy.  Jealousy can be a wonderful thing…

Mini-Cini Bites (alias, You Know Who Bars)

 

Photo taken by baskerville_gal -- I tried to photograph these babies but they were gobbled up before I could and I have to make them again, but it's difficult to keep up, so many people want me to name recipes after them, hmmmmm...

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • powdered sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and the sugar.
  3. Add the egg and beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Combine the flour, cinnamon and salt.  Add to the creamed mixture and beat until smooth.  Stir in the pecans.
  5. Spread into a greased 8 inch (20 cm) greased (or parchment paper lined) square pan.
  6. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Cut into small squares while still warm and dredge in powdered sugar.

Reality Bites

I used to define myself as agressively Jewish.  When I lived in New York I did everything I could to let everyone I know that my head and my heart lay in a cocoon of Jewish life.  I wore Hebrew t-shirts, was never without some kind of Jewish or Israeli jewelry, I joined Jewish and Zionist youth groups and was obnoxiously Zionist.  I was a second generation Holocaust survivor with a chip on my shoulder the size of Bergen Belsen.

 

Bus in Jerusalem wishing everyone a good year

All this agressive sentiment disappeared when I made aliya (immigrated to Israel).  I didn’t need to show the world how Jewish I was.  I was living the life I always wanted to live.  I was in a country that when the bus driver wished me a happy holiday he meant one with apples and honey, not eggnog and mistletoe.  I was in a country where the local convenience store was open 24/6.  I was in a country where I didn’t have to vote based on the American candidate’s foreign policy toward Israel, but on the political party’s internal policy toward the piece of land I called home.  I was home!

To define myself politically I could use one word:  right-wing.  Okay, two words, but they’re hyphenated.  I used to think of myself as rabid right-wing on the Israeli political spectrum (ironically, I think of myself as left-wing when it comes to American internal policy).  I even lived, by choice, over the Green Line.  I was a settler, from my head covering down to my Naot sandals.

Ju-Boy and I had been dating for about three months when we had our first political discussion.  Good thing I was wearing a seatbelt at the time, because I might have just jumped out of the car speeding through Jerusalem.  Ju-Boy, the man who was on the same page as I was in so many ways, turn out to be an evil left-winger who would sell the country down the Jordan River for peace on a piece of paper.  “Well, Sweet, ” I said, “it’s been fun, but I have to break up with you now.”

By the time he got me home (I at this point was surprised that he didn’t break out in hives as we crossed the Green Line) he had managed to calm me down, claiming we still were on the same page.  According to Ju-Boy, what sounded like left-wing garbage coming out of his mouth was more centrist than I thought.  And, according to Ju-Boy, what sounded like the patriotic Zionist truth coming out of my mouth was more centrist than I thought.  Couldn’t I see that my reality was skewed?  We were both Centrist Zionists with different leanings.  Yeah, right, he would give away my home right from under me for an about-to-be-broken promise.

As you all know, we didn’t break up.  But from that day forward, a new rule was forged — no politics.  Some rules are meant to be broken but we mostly keep to this one, especially at the Shabbat table.

Miriyummy and Ju-Boy -- still together in spite of the line that divides them

Hebrew Slang Lesson of the Day — חי בסרט — chai baseret — literally, to live in the movie, but colloquially it means not to live in reality.  I think that politically, my Ju-Boy lives in the movies.  I sure with him the feeling is mutual.

Am Yisra'el Chai Baseret!

So Ju-Boy and I are living happily ever after, ever politically opposed, yet in harmony amity, two opposites co-existing as one, which is the best way I could come up with to segue into this post’s recipe…

Black and Whites

Growing up in New York one of my most favorite bakery treats was when my mother bought me a huge black and white cookie.  They were huge back then, but I think they’ve stayed the same size, but my mouth has just gotten bigger…  I think the only place you can get them in Israel is at the Brooklyn Bakery in Jerusalem.  If you’re not headed that way, you probably have to make your own.

Cookie Bit:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (I use soy milk with a dash of vinegar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg

Black and White Icing Bit:

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon clear corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon water (you may not need all of it)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180° C).
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl.
  3. In a small bowl or cup, mix together the buttermilk and vanilla.
  4. Beat the butter and the white sugar together in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes or until evenly distributed.
  5. Add the egg to butter and sugar mixture, and beat until blended.  You may have to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice.
  6. Gradually beat in the flour mixture one cup at a time, and add in buttermilk mixture between each cup of flour, and mix until smooth. This time you really will have to scrape down the sides of the bowl while mixing.
  7. Spoon batter in 1/4 cup size servings onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  8. Bake on the middle rack for about 15-17 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and spring back when touched.
  9. Place on a cooling rack, and allow to cool completely before icing.
  10. Stir together the confectioner’s sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, vanilla, and 1/2 teablespoon of water in bowl until smooth.
  11. Place half of the mixture into separate bowl and add cocoa powder, and remaining water bit by bit until it is the same consistency as the white icing. If the icing is too runny, add more confectioner’s sugar until it is smooth and spreadable.
  12. Turn cooled cookies flat side up, and spread icing with pastry spatula, or butter knife. The cookies are meant to be domed on the bottom, flat on the top.  Spread the white icing over one half, chocolate over the other. The icing does not set solid on these cookies, and does not harden.  I don’t know what they put into the icing in New York to harden it.  I’m not sure I want to know.

I haven't made these in a while. In fact, I prefer to actually deny myself the pleasure and only indulge when in New York. So we'll have to make do with a Googled graphic, sorry...

Cheddar Salvation

Life can be good, even with danger lurking behind you

It’s a good thing I hang out with Ju-Boy, because he always sees the glass as half-full.  I tend to be a bit more pessimistic, having been disappointed on many occasions.  I was recently reminded of a joke I heard back in a university psych 101 class:

Mr. and Mrs. Smith have twin boys, Billy and Bobby.  Billy goes through life crying over every little thing, while Bobby is irritatingly optimistic.  They take the twins to a pediatric psychologist who asks that they leave the kids with him for 24 hours and he promises overnight success. 

The next evening they meet the psychologist at the door and he looks like he’s been through hell.  “I don’t know what I was thinking,” he tells the parents, “but your kids have broken the mold.  I put Billy in a room full of toys, thinking that would cheer him up, but…”

As they walk down the corridor they hear the sound of a little boy weeping.  They enter the room and there is Billy, sitting in the middle of as many toys as a boy would want, and he’s crying his eyes out.  “Billy, sweetie, what’s the matter?” asks his mother.  “Look at all these wonderful toys, why are you crying?  Why don’t you play with them?”

“Because if I play with the toys, I’ll break them!” came Billy’s answer.

“You think that’s strange, wait until you see Bobby,” said the psychologist.  As they walk down the corridor to Bobby’s room they are assailed by the most horrible smell of horse manure, and as they get closer to the room, the see that the door is open.  They can hear Bobby whistling while he flings handful after handful of horse manure into the corridor.  “I put your son in a room full of horse poo to try to get him down a little off his permanent high, but it doesn’t seems to be working.”

“Bobby, sweetie,” cried his mother, “why are you so happy playing in all this horse manure?”  Bobby’s answer?  “Because somewhere under all this horse poo, there’s got to be a pony!”

And that sums up my husband.  He’s always looking for the pony.  God loves him, how can life be bad, even when it looks bad?  Me?  I’m not crying, I just like to call myself realistic.  When things are going well, I want them to always be like that.  I don’t want the glass to be half-full if I’m enjoying the wine, I WANT A FULL GLASS OF WINE!!!!!!!!!!!

Lately I’ve come across a blog that I enjoy reading — Pancakes and French Fries.  It seems that the blogger, Jules, was having a bad month.  A month full of ill children, supermarket mishaps, balded dogs and finally, what can only be the epitome of bad experiences, and here I quote Jules verbatim, “Shortly before we left for the store I slipped in a puddle of urine, and it wasn’t mine.”

Okay, I’ve been having a bad month.  Actually, a bad summer.  Come to think of it, it’s been a bad year.  But then I start to think about Ju-Boy’s conviction that God loves him, and maybe I should hitch a ride on his star.  And while I’m not slipping around in someone else’s wee, I can take a leaf from Jules, at least I can comfort myself with these amazing chewy cheesy cookies.

Cheddar Salvation

The original recipe as per Jules can be found in her blog entry.  She calls them Cheddar Pecan Crisps.  But my version has no pecans, and I’ve played around with it a bit more, but they’ve made this day a glass half-full.

 

 

  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (8 ounces, 225 grams) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon za’atar (or oregano)
  • 2/3 cup (100 grams) pine nuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (325 degrees F).
  2. In a mixer, combine the butter and cheddar cheese.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until combined.  Do not overmix.
  4. With wet hands (to prevent sticking), pinch off some of the dough, about a heaping teaspoon’s worth, and roll into a ball.  Place the balls about an inch apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Flatten down the balls with the tines of a fork.  It helps to dip the fork in flour because the dough is very sticky.
  5. Bake for 15-18 minutes until brown.  Remove to cool.
  6. As Jules claims, these little cheddary bites of salvation are crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside.  Serve with a full glass of wine. 

     

     

Cheddar Salvation -- is the glass half-empty or half-full?

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