The wonderful holiday of Shavuot is coming up, it starts tomorrow night, culminating with cheesecake overload on Wednesday night. And then you have just a mere 48 hours before you begin to stuff yourselves with the wonders of Shabbat. Ju-Boy and I have been planning our menu for a while now…
You’ve heard of the phrase “Two Jews, three opinions?” If there’s one thing that unites the Jewish people it’s dissention.
It’s Mother’s Day today, and I miss my mom. Just thought you should know…
Before I start my discussion of the P word, the good and the bad of it, I just wanted to mention that yesterday was one year since Miriyummy came into being, all because Ju-Boy got trapped in England due to a volcano. So if you love or hate my blog, you can all Blame It On The Volcano.
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.
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.
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.
Yeah, why not name it after Elie?
- 6 large oranges
- 1 kilogram sugar (2.2 pounds, 5 cups)
- Wash the fruit well. Really well. Cut away any blemishes.
- Cut into quarters, and then cut those quarters into half. Remove any pits.
- 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.
- You can add some crystallized ginger while zhuzzing, but I never have. I adore the stuff, but not everyone does.
- Dump the zhuzzed oranges into a heavy pot, and then dump the whole kilo of sugar on top.
- 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.
Once upon a time About three months ago I had a birthday. I woke up to presents, birthday cards, and even baked my own cake. But way off yonder, in the Frozen North (London), my daughter Sassy and her Sabraman had their own idea for a present. In the most clandestine of operations, money was transferred into Ju-Boy’s bank account, and he was supposed to take me out for dinner. It was meant to be a surprise. And… it was meant to be for my birthday.
As is the case of most of my life, man plans and God laughs. Dinner plans were made. First I canceled, then Ju-Boy canceled, then I canceled again. At one point Ju-Boy decided to almost fly over the handlebars of his bicycle, and instead of going out to dinner I watched him get a few stitches in his leg (he asked the nurse for a lollipop for being such a brave boy). What I didn’t know was that all this time Sassy was waiting for a report as to how I enjoyed her birthday present. Ju-Boy finally confessed, and plans were made again, and canceled, and made again. And canceled…
Do you have a wish list? I do. Spending a few days at the Carmel Forest Spa was at the top of the list. That’s been checked off. I’d been wanting for years to go to Stonehenge. Ju-Boy made that dream come true in 2005. One of my mini-holy grails has been to eat at MC², a gourmet vegetarian restaurant in Bitan Aharon, just north of Netanya. Reservations were made, and canceled, made again, canceled again. Finally, this past Monday, which just happened to be Valentine’s Day, it looked like this was going to get checked off my list as well. We don’t normally celebrate Valentine’s Day, Jews have their own lovers’ holiday, Tu Be’Av, and we celebrated that back in August. But I wasn’t going to let a little kid in diapers carrying a bow and arrow ruin my birthday evening, no matter how many months after my birthday it was.
The restarant was offering a special chef’s tasting menu that night in honor of Valentine’s Day — 15 courses. We thought we were going to be in for a night of gluttinous gorging, but the courses were small, tiny, even miniscule, and yet by the end we were stuffed. And so it began:
Each table had a menu printed out specifying each of the courses. At this point, consulting the list, we realized that the restaurant had skipped a course, the almond pate. We asked the waitress and she said she would bring it immediately.
It seems that we thought immediately meant right now. The waitress wasn’t using our dictionary, it seems.
Did I mention that each course, each tiny course, was brought to us and then cleared away before they brought the next course? It started out as cute. By the time the goat cheese dish had arrived we were losing patience.
Um… we’ve just had our palettes cleared by the sorbet, we’re ready for the main part of the meal, but where’s that almond pate? Once again, we asked a passing waiter. He promised to bring it out…. immediately.
At this point Ju-Boy decided to excuse himself (you know what that euphemism is for). He came back and told me I just had to check out the restroom, so I went to freshen up (yet another euphemism).
I returned to our table to find that the soup had been cleared away and that Ju-Boy had inquired yet again about the almond pate. It was coming… immediately.
It was just about now that a very large and beautiful beetle crawled across our table. It was very colorful and looked like a piece of Egyptian scarab jewelry. It was quickly whisked off our table by our waiter who apologized and said, “That’s what happens when you are right in the middle of a nature preserve.” I was fascinated, but unfortunately, our unexpected dinner guest was gone before I could take a picture.
Dessert was not listed as a course on the menu, but we knew it was coming, and we were ready!
We had started our meal with a nice glass of shiraz each, which I didn’t photograph. Ju-Boy ended his meal with an “upside-down” coffee. We well-fed and ready to go home.
On the way home, cozy and warm in the car which was lightly pelted with rain, I called Sassy and Sabraman to thank them for my birthday present. It’s nice to still celebrate your birthday three months after the fact. Do you think I can drag the event out for the whole year?
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!
I grew up in an Eastern European household with the Yiddish flowing like Manischewitz wine, the wine flowing over our kiddush cups every Shabbat, and every Shabbat flowing with chicken soup with matzah balls and my mother’s gehakteh leber.
I loved my mother’s gehakteh leber (that’s chopped liver to those of you (most of you) who didn’t grow up speaking Yiddish). She made it in a large wooden bowl with a double-bladed chopper called a hakmesser. The sound of her chopping the liver and hard boiled eggs greeted me every Friday when I came home from school, along with the smell of onions slowly caramelizing in shmaltz. On Friday night we would start every meal with challah and gehakteh leber, topped with crunchy gribenes (chicken crackling). It was a delicious heart attack waiting to happen. My father actually had four of those heart attacks, eventually dying of complications due to quadruple bypass surgery, but I’m sure that if he could, he would tell you that it was worth it, just to have some of my mother’s wonderful chopped liver. It was, as he often said, geshmak!
Over the years I’ve tried to replicate my mother’s amazing recipe. I’ve come close, but it always eludes me. Perhaps nothings tastes as wonderful as a memory. Perhaps it’s the enthusiasm of the eaters, or rather, the lack of. Not a single member of my family’s joy of liver comes close to mine, or my father’s. A few friends have loved it, the X tolerated it and the kids won’t go near it. Ju-Boy can be counted among those who are not fans, but I’m not insulted, since he won’t eat liver or any kind of offal, in any form. It’s not like he’s cheating on me with someone else’s chopped liver, phew!
He does, however, like my vegetarian paté. It’s almost as labor-intensive as the original, almost, but not quite. With no liver to kasher and chop, the only real work is the caramelizing of the onions and the cleaning up of the food processor afterwards. No wooden bowl and hakmesser to give it that authentic Eastern European je ne sais quoi, or as they say in Yiddish, epes geshmak!
Miriyummy’s Vegetarian Paté
- 4 huge onions
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 hard boiled eggs
- 100 grams (4 ounces) walnuts
- 2 cups canned peas (1 largish can, must be canned peas), drained
- salt, pepper and paprika to taste
- Chop the onions medium fine. Heat the oil in a large pan and slowly caramelize the onions. This can take up to an hour. Don’t try to rush it, this is what gives the paté its authentic flavor. The onions will cook down to next to nothing. When the onions are a gorgeous caramel brown take them off the heat and let cool.
- Place the walnuts in the bowl of the food processor fitted with the steel knife. Zhuzz until finely ground.
- Add the peas and zhuzz again.
- Add the hard boiled eggs and the onions (scraping every last drop of oil into the mix) and give it a good zhuzz until you get the paté consistency you’re looking for.
- Add salt, pepper and paprika to taste. Turn into a serving bowl or Tupperware and chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
- Serve with challah, crackers or fancy shmacy little toast points.
- Can be frozen.
A lot of Food Network chefs have a catch phrase all their own that you instantly recognize when you hear it. Emeril has his Bam! Rachael Ray has her Yummo! (BTW, I can’t stand Rachael Ray, when I hear her say yummo, or EVOO, I just cringe, and quite possibly a small part of me dies.) Even Martha will tell you that “it’s a good thing!” I don’t have a special Miriyummy phrase, yet…
Hmmmmm, what’s the phrase that I say most in the kitchen?
Turn up the music! — No, that doesn’t have anything to do with food, but it does have everything to do with cooking. I love to cook to Jackson Browne, Barry White, even ABBA. Not Bruce Springsteen, though. His music is best for cleaning the house.
Bugger, I just cut my finger again! — No, that one doesn’t encourage much faith in my kitchen skills.
Argh! I just dropped an egg, will someone get the dog in here to clean it up? — Forget it, that one is so not made for Food TV!
How about… This rocks! I say that a lot after I taste something. A little hubris-y, I admit, but hey, it does rock!
Okay, so I don’t have my own cooking show (yet), but I’m getting there, one Dalia Bar at a time! The other day I posted some of my food pics to Facebook. My friend Debza, who’s been through thick and thin with me since the 8th grade, commented on one picture and said, “Wow, who knew you were Martha Stewart?” Okay, I’ll take that one as a compliment, although I would much rather be compared to Nigella Lawson or Carine Goren. Just don’t liken me to Rachael Ray or I’ll gouge your eyes out with a Microplane zester, okay?
Yes, I will admit, I can be a bit Martha-ish in the kitchen. I bake my own challah for Shabbat, I distill my own liqueurs, I can bubble up some loquat chutney (it rocked, FYI), I’ve made my own marmalade and a while back, thanks to one of my favorite blog reads, Matkonation, I made some Cherry Tomato Jam. Organic Cherry Tomato Jam, thank you very much…
It’s actually quite simple to make, it set like a dream, and was very yummy at several BBQs we’ve thrown since I first Martha-ed up this concoction. We spread it on grilled chicken, have it with toasted pita, I’ve even drizzled it on my corn muffins. It’s a good recipe. And you know what?
Cherry Tomato Jam
- 1 kilo (2 pounds) cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 500 grams (1 pound) sugar
- Wash and dry the cherry tomatoes. Place them in a large pot and add the lemon juice. Using medium heat, bring it up to a boil. Don’t worry that there’s no additional liquid in there, the tomatoes break down relatively quickly. Once they’ve come to the boil, lower the heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Add the sugar. Turn the heat up back to medium and let the stuff come to a boil again, and then turn the heat back down to low and simmer for another 45 minutes to one hour.
- To check if the jam is ready place a small amount on a cold plate (I put a plate in the fridge when I started cooking, especially as it was a hot day). You then put the plate in the freezer for about 2-3 minutes. When you remove it from the freezer, draw a line through the jam with your finger. If the line remains, the jam is ready to be poured into your jars. If not, return the pot to the heat and retest after a few minutes.