Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mustard Cabbage

There are so many things to love about this vegetable, also called Chinese kale, Chinese broccoli, and gai4 lan2. The leaves, stems and buds are all so perfectly proportioned that they cook up perfectly at exactly the same moment. You can just trim the very bottoms and throw the whole plant into the pot. Then you can take your time deciding how to cut it up. This time, I just ate a few spears, or stems, or whatever the units of mustard cabbage are, with my fingers.

For Sweetnicks, good for all forms of recovery.

Heimishe Porn

Heimishe Porn
Hebrew Chard
Pork Salad

Are three of the more interesting Google queries that have brought you here, dear readers. Of the three, only "pork salad" has been addressed here so far, but I hope In Mol Araan has provided at least some gratification.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Another Coconut Cornbread

I am always bewildered when I hear people complain about cooking for folks observing special diets. The truth is I love cooking to accommodate people’s restrictions. I hope that doesn’t make it sound like I would in a million years wish any kind of restriction on anybody heaven forbid, but here we are, fragile, edible, organic creatures ourselves, and we’re doing the best we can.

What I have found is that more restrictions I need to observe, the more wildly creative energy goes into the recipe. Some of you already know that I have a special fondness for the Jewish holiday of Peysekh (Passover), a time of year when we are “allowed to go crazy” to quote one rabbi of my acquaintance, with regard to the intensity of our efforts. There are many recipes I am delighted to use all year that I would never have dreamed up if not for the many restrictions of the Peysekh season, which is coming, I am just saying, much sooner than any of us think.

Which brings me to this recipe. I have been baking lots of cornbread lately—all minor variations of this one, but I thought this particular recipe might interest you. It’s for a bunch of folks who, when you add them all together, avoid wheat, milk, nuts, sugar, eggs, soy, and yeast. Who’d have guessed it turns out that you can make cornbread without any of those things. Life is good.

Coconut Cornbread with Kabocha and Amaranth

3 tablespoons coconut oil
2 cups Iroquois white corn flour or other cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
12 ounces coconut milk
2 tablespoons cooked whole grain amaranth
¼ cup cooked orange sweet potato or cooked winter squash such as kabocha
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon bamboo honey, buckwheat honey or other darkish honey.
½ cup corn kernels, optional (I will allow frozen in this case)

Preheat oven to 400.

Melt the coconut oil in a small (eight or nine inch) cast iron skillet or other baking pan. Mix together cornmeal and baking powder in a medium bowl.

Place coconut milk, cooked amaranth, cooked sweet potato or squash, salt and honey into a blender or processor and blend very thoroughly.

Make a well in the center of the cornmeal. Pour in the liquid ingredients and mix gently.

Add almost all the corn kernels if you are using them, and combine. I saved a few to sprinkle on top. Pour in the hot coconut oil and mix quickly. Pour the batter back into the skillet, and sprinkle a few reserved corn kernels on top, if desired. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and bake another 10 to 15 minutes or until golden around the edges and firm in the center.

I got my cast iron cookware and wooden spoons from the Lehman’s non-electric catalog. They do have a website to accommodate their non-Amish clients. Be careful; once you look at this site, you will realize that you have always wanted to grind coffee by hand, and that’s just the beginning.

About those oven temperatures, I should probably admit that last year, in a frenzy of Peysekh cleaning, I scrubbed the numbers off the dial. I have a thermometer, and I marked the spot that most reliably gets the oven to 350, and on either side of that, I’m flying by the seat of my pants.

I learned about adding the pureed cooked amaranth to bind the batter from a very talented chef when I was baking at a vegan restaurant. Lots of stories.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Amaranth


The tiny little amaranth grains are smaller than poppy seeds, but you can cook them just like rice. So delicious!


Bring two cups of water to the boil. Add ½ teaspoon salt and stir in one cup whole amaranth grains. You will need to stir a lot a first—they will try to clump up on you. When you are satisfied that everything is well-stirred, cover lightly and cook over low heat for just about twenty-five minutes. Allow it to rest in the pot a few minutes. Now you can:

1. Eat it as is, with or without milk, salt, butter, or sugar

2. Mix about one part cooked amaranth with three parts cooked brown short-grain rice merely to provide corroborative detail, you know.

3. Remember to set aside two tablespoons for my new coconut cornbread recipe, coming soon.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

בלעטער־בוריק

פֿון בערנשטײן׃

בעסער דאָס ביטערע בלאַט פֿון גאָט אײדער דאָס זיסע פֿון מענטשן.

עירובֿין י"ח, ב

בלעטער־בוריק
chard, swiss chard, silverbeet

Better a bitter leaf from God than a sweet one from mankind

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Ma makes Hominy

Illustration by Garth Williams from Little House in the Big Woods

This weekend I lifted my nose from the grindstone only long enough to read Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I found that there are passages I remember almost verbatim (They eat a bear; Mary wants a drumstick. The children make maple candy in the snow), and others that I had forgotten entirely. Among the latter, a detailed explanation of the making of hominy:

The first day, Ma cleaned and brushed the ashes out of the cookstove. Then she burned some clean bright hardwood, and saved its ashes. She put the hardwood ashes in a little cloth bag. . . .

Early the next day Ma put the shelled corn and the bag of ashes into the big iron kettle. She filled the kettle with water, and kept it boiling a long time. At last the kernels of corn began to swell, and they swelled and swelled until their skins split open and began to peel off. . . .

With her hands she rubbed and scrubbed the corn until the hulls came off and floated on top of the water. . . .She never splashed a drop of water on her pretty dress.

When all the corn was done, Ma put the white kernels in a big jar in the pantry. Then, at last, they had hulled corn and milk for supper.

Hominy hominy hominy!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Horse Cake?

Maurice Schwartz as Tevye

Well, I was looking for more cheese sandwiches, but I found something else I just have to tell you about right this minute. H. Braun’s 1914 Familyen kokh bukh, has a gingerbread recipe called “horse cake.” The book is a compilation of 694 recipes in Yiddish culled and translated from “American, French, German and Italian cookbooks” with a twenty-one page “English supplement.” The English section includes an explanation of the Jewish dietary laws, presumably not needed in the Yiddish section, and a selection of the simplest recipes (“Coffee in a pot”), and those most markedly Jewish (“Kugel (Sabbath Pudding)”). The Yiddish section is encyclopedic. There are recipes for peanut brittle, dandelion, cheese sandwiches, “Beefsteak pie,” “Goose pastrami,” and hominy! Regrettably, the compiler never indicates from which cookbooks she selected the recipes, and in some cases it is very difficult to guess. Here’s my translation of the horse cake recipe:

Horse cake

This is called “horse cake” in English, but it is in fact for people, not horses.

Take a quart of flour, a pint of molasses, a cup of sugar, a cup of sour-cream in which you have earlier dissolved two teaspoons soda, three tablespoons ginger and half a tablespoon Crisco. This mixture makes a cake which everyone loves and children adore.

Everything must be very well-mixed and smooth.

Why is this called “horse cake”? Because it used to be baked in horse-shaped molds. In fact, you can bake it in any kind of pan.

This cake is clearly similar to the well-known Jewish honey-cake, but it is considerably better.

Some modest googling led to countless horse-shaped cakes for children, none of which seemed to fit the recipe. Horse cake did not turn up in any flips through the indices of several old American and English cookbooks within an arm’s reach. I did however find a very similar recipe in What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking called “Old-Time Ginger Cake” Mrs. Fisher’s recipe calls for sour milk rather than sour cream, and butter rather than Crisco. Mrs. Fisher’s recipe also has three eggs, which I think would improve this recipe enormously. A few details about the two recipes, particularly that in both the measure for flour is a quart, made me think the Yiddish recipe may have been copied from this or another African American source. A search for “horse cake” and “African American history” yielded these morsels:

The cake turns up in this narrative by a former slave. Two books, both published in 1907, mention horse cake. Bonnie Belmont is the only source I have found so far that mentions ginger as an ingredient. This 1907 book from the North Carolina History and Fiction Digital Library mentions horse cake in a parable.

The texts in this small and possibly non-representative sample all seem to understand horse cake as a humble food associated with slavery. It may be that this cake was more likely to have resembled the eggless, butterless version offered by Braun, and that Mrs. Fisher, a former slave, improved the recipe once she was cooking and baking in San Francisco. I don’t know what to make of Braun’s explanation that the cake was baked in a horse-shaped pan, or her assertion that it is “considerably better” than Jewish honey cake. Reasonable men may differ on the honey cake issue, but the pan explanation seems unlikely. I am afraid it might be likelier that the cake did resemble mixtures made for horses, as this horse nutrition website indicates.

You do want to read What Mrs. Fisher Knows, the first American cookbook known to be by an African American woman, available in facsimile with notes by Karen Hess.

Braun, H. Jewish Cook Book. New York: Hebrew Publishing Company, 1928.

Braun, H., Alexander Harkavy, and David Moses Hermalin. Dos Familyen Kokh-Bukh: Bearbaytet Nokh Amerikanishe, Frantsoyzishe...Kokh-Bikher. Nyu York: Hibru poblishing kompani, 1914.

Cochran, John Salisbury. Bonnie Belmont. Wheeling, W.Va.: Press of Wheeling news lith. co., 1907.

Fisher, Abby, and Karen Hess. What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking: Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc.: In Facsimile with Historical Notes. Bedford, Mass.: Applewood Books, 1995.

Fisher, Abby, and Katherine Golden Bitting Collection on Gastronomy (Library of Congress). What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc. San Francisco: Women's Co-operative Printing Office, 1881.


Friday, February 17, 2006

Signs and Wonders


Here’s another. This one may be my favorite of all. The larger banner says “Crown Coat Front Co.” and the smaller sign to the right reads “mfgr’s of civilian and military coat fronts A clear enough message, but so much more is left unsaid. Why mfgr coat fronts and not the whole coat? Were there other companies that made coat backs? Does coat mfgr remain as highly specialized today? I’m just getting started.

שמות אין ניו־יאָרק

מיר געפֿעלן זײער די אַלטע רעקלאַמעס דאָ אין שטאָט: מער נישט לײנעװדיק, אָבער נאָך נישט אױסגעמעקט אין גאַנצן.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Cheese Sandwich in Yiddish Publishing History

For reasons I am too pie-eyed to explain just now, I have been searching my Yiddish cookbooks for historically relevant cheese sandwich recipes. Here’s the recipe from the Mishulu cookbook we’ve been looking at the last few days:

Cheese sandwich

Cream cheese, homemade cheese, grated Dutch (American) cheese or thin slices of Swiss cheese, covered with lettuce or spinach leaves on whole wheat bread spread with butter.

(I think they out a verb. You still get the idea)

Yiddish Vegetable Burgers 1926



Summary for Anglolects:

This 1926 Yiddish cookbook has fifty-one recipes for what now would be called (sigh) “veggie burgers,” including one very similar to one of Mark Bittman’s recipes in yesterday’s Times.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

די ערשטע װעדזשי־בורגערס


אינעם הײַנטיק ניו־יאָרק טײַומז שרײַבט מאַרק ביטמאַן װעגן װעגעטאַרישע קאָטלעטן, אָדער „װעדזשי־בורגערס“ װי זײ הײסן אַצינד. מע האָט אַפֿילו אַ װידעאָ־שפּיל אין װעלכן אַ ייִד װאָס איז דאַכט זיך מיר מאַרק ביטמאַן אַלײן גרײט אָן די װעדזשי־בורגערס און עסט זײ מיט גרױסע התלהבֿות.

איך האָב נאָך נישט גמאכט ביטמאַנס „װעדזשי־בורגער“ רעצעפּטן, אָבער „װעדזשי־בורגערס“ זענען געװען גוט באַקאַנט בײַ ייִדן שוין אין 1926 אױב נישט נאָך פֿריער. דער װעגעטאַרישער קאָך בוך „ראַציאָנאַלע נאַהרונג“ פֿון א. ב. מישואָװ און שפֿרה י. מישולאָװ האָט 51 רעצעפּטן פֿאַר בראַטנס, קאָטלעטן, און קראָקעטן. דאָס איז זײער אַן אינטערעסאַנט בוך, און די װעגעטאַרישע געפֿילטע פֿיש האָב איך געמאַכט מער װי אײן מאָל.

אָט אַזױ מאַכן מיר אונדז „האַמבורג קאָטלעטן“

½ 1 גלאָז געקאָכטע צעריבענע לינדזען (לענטילס)
½ גלאָז צעריבענע האָלאַנדער (אַמעריקען) קעז
2 לעפֿל צעריבענע מאַנדלען אָדער פּיגנאָליאַ ניס
ברױט ברעקלעך אָדער מצה־מעל
זיסע פּאַפּריקע, קנאָבל אױב איר װילט
2 אײער, אָפּגעשלאָגענע
2 לעפֿל פּוטער
1 גרױסע רױע ציבעלע
סעלערי־זאַלץ, זאַלץ

צערײַבט די געקאָכטע לינדזען, ניס, ציבעלע, און קעז, אין דעם שפּײַז־מילכל; שלאָגאױף די אײער, מישט צונױף אַלעס אין אײנעם; באַזאַלצט, פֿאַרפּראַװעט. אױב איר װילט אַ ביסל קנאָבל, רײַבט עס אָן זײער דין, און רײַבט עס פֿונאַנדער מיט אַ ביסעלע פֿון דעם שטאָף און נאָך דעם מישט עס אױס גוט מיט אַלעס אין אײנעם, מאַכט עס גאַנץ געדיכט מיט די ברױט־ברעקלעך אאָדער מצה־מעל. מאַכט ניט גאָר קײן גרױסע קױלעטן. טונקט איבער אין אײ און ברױט ברעקלעך, און פּרעגלט אָדער באַקט אין אױװן, און דערלאַנגט מיט אַ סאָס.

נו, גאָרנישט ערגער װי ביטמאַנס פֿאַסאָליע בורגערס.

מיר איז אנטערעסאנט אַז זײ האָבן געװוסט פֿון פּיגנאָליאַ ניס אין 1926!

האַמבורג קאָטלעטן
“Hamburger Cutlets” “veggie burgers”

פּיגנאָליאַ ניס
pine nuts

פֿאַרפּראַװען
To season, to flavor

Mishulow, Abraham B., and Shifrah I. Mishulow. Vegetarishe Koch Buch. New York, 1926.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What May a Rutabaga Reasonably Ask?

Turnips two ways

For a long time I’ve done roasted turnips this way: I cut the turnips into wedges, peeled the garlic cloves, droped both into boiling water for about ten minutes, and then laid them in a shallow ovenproof pan, drizzled with oil, and roasted at 400 for about 40 minutes. This is everything a roasted turnip should be, but this week it occurred to me that it might be just a bit easier to steam the turnips and garlic covered in the oven and then remove the cover halfway through. Smashing results. This time I used rutabagas instead of white turnips and added lemon juice towards the end. A rutabaga can reasonably ask no more than this.

Oven-Roasted Rutabagas

2 or 3 rutabagas
5-7 whole garlic cloves, peeled
olive oil (about 2 or 3 tablespoons)
juice of one lemon
salt

Peel the rutabagas and cut them into wedges—about the size wedges you would cut from an apple or orange.

Place the rutabagas and the peeled garlic in a shallow pan. A pyrex pie plate was just right for this. Salt lightly, drizzle with oil, and add about ½ cup water. Cover the pan tightly with foil and place in a 400-degree oven. If you have a cake or something that needs to bake at 350, let it be 350. After 30 minutes, remove the foil, stir the vegetables around a little, and add the lemon juice. Roast for another 30 minutes, stirring once or twice along the way, until the rutabagas are nicely brown along the edges and the garlic cloves are perfect juicy little caramelized pearls of silken desire.

For Sweetnicks. Welcome home, sweetie.

A Kindusu of Artichokes אַ קונדסא מיט אַרטישאָקן

Thanks to Ben from Positive Anymore for making my day, and quite possibly my year, with the information that there is a word in the Talmud which is a unit measure for artichokes. Here’s the quote:

Jastrow does indeed have the word קונדסא, but it is a unit of measurement used for artichokes. Seriously. The word is a corruption of קינרס "artichoke," from the Greek κινάρες (accusative plural), cognate with the word for 'artichoke' in many languages, and familiar to me from my days working in a liquor store, where we sold (though no one bought) Cynar, an Italian apero (bitter apéritif) flavored with artichokes.


The word is “kundoso” “kundasa”or “kindusu” in Central Yiddish pronunciation.

The Talmud has a measure word for artichokes! I have been skipping around humming for the past few days because of this word. I still need to find out, though:

HOW MANY ARTICHOKES ARE THERE IN A KINDUSU???!!!??.

Here is a digitalized version of Jastrow’s dictionary (heartfelt thanks to Mr. Chocolate Lady for finding this).

דער אַרטישאָק (ן), דער קאַרטשאָק (ן)

Artichoke

Jastrow, Marcus. A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midraschic Literature. London, New York: Luzac & co; G. P. Putnam's sons, 1903.

Monday, February 13, 2006

תּיקון־טעות


תּיקון־טעות

די יוגנטרוף קלאַסן װעלן אָנהײבן 6:30 אין אָװנט, נישט 6:00 װי פֿריער געמאָלדן!

דעם פֿרילינג־זמן װעל איך לערנען צװײ ייִדיש-קורסן:

בײַ יוגנטרוף, מיטעלע ייִדיש: 8 קלאַסן; דאָנערשטיק אין אָװנט–6:30-8:00 אָנהײבנדיק דעם 16טנ פֿעברואַר.

אין איװ יאָכנאָװיצס מיטען קלאַס, װעלן סטודענטן זיך פֿאַרשטאַרקן אין רעדן, שרײַבן, לײענען און פֿאַרשטײן. מיר װעלן לײענען ייִדישע קלאַסישע און מאָדערנע טעקסטן װאָס שפּיגלען אָפּ דאָס לעבן און קולטור פֿון אַשכּנזישע ייִדן אי אין אַמעריקע, אי אין דער אַלטער הײם. נאָך פּרטים קלינגט מירע מניעװסקין אין ביוראָ:

212-889-0381

אָדער שרײַבט.

בײַם ייִװאָ׃ דער רעצעפּט׃ אַ ייִדישער ליטעראַרישער זשאַנער: 3 קלאַסן; מאָנטיק אין אָװנט–6:45-8:15 דעם 6טנ, 20טנ, און 27טן מאַרץ (דער 13ער איז דאָך פּורים).

דער קורס װעט זײַן אַ ביסל אװאַנסירט–סטודענטן װעלן לײענען אַ סך לאַנג־באַהאַלטענע אוצרות אױף ייִדיש

קלינגט אין ביוראָ׃

212-294-6139

אָדער שרײַבט.


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Sunday, February 12, 2006

אונדז האָבן מיר ליב דעם שנײ

קוקטס נאָר װי שײן!




אונדז שפּילן מיר זיך. . .





אונדז מאַכן מיר בילדער. . .

און אינדז טוען מיר בײדע מיט אַ מאָל!!

Stems



For Weekend Herb Blogging: Are these not pretty? These stems and a frittata made with the chard leaves contrast nicely. The stems are spicy, acid, and a little crunchy; the leaves soft, sweet and mild.


Braised chard stems with oregano and chile

Stems from one bunch chard
Olive oil
2 or 3 whole garlic cloves
Flakes from one small dried red chile
1/3 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
sugar and salt to taste

Slice the stems crosswise about one quarter inch thick. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add the whole cloves and sliced stems. Crumble the oregano in your fingers and add to the skillet. Add the crumbled chile, but be careful about getting chile on your fingers. Stir and cook over medium high heat for a few minutes until the garlic is pale gold. Add ¼ cup each water and balsamic vinegar and a pinch each sugar and salt. Cook until the liquids are absorbed. Taste for seasonings.


Dill and Chard Frittata

Well, I have no chard pictures, but here’s the dill. You have guessed by now that I really love these herbal eggy things. The Persian herb pie is the purest variation, and this spinach and herb cake is more maximalist. The chard frittata is somewhere in the middle. I was trying for something a milder and creamier this time. The dill, chard leaves, and pine nuts were always meant to be together. This is the other half of this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging.

Dill and Chard Frittata

Leaves from one bunch chard (also called Swiss chard or silverbeet)
Olive oil
One large onion, thinly sliced
Six eggs
8 ounces feta
16 ounces ricotta
black pepper (you will not need added salt, the cheese has enough)
One small bunch dill, snipped
A few sprigs of parsley, if you happen to have some as well
2 tablespoons pine nuts

Preheat oven to 350. Wash the chard leaves and steam them in a large pot in the water that clings to the leaves. Remove the leaves from the pot and chop them roughly as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Heat the olive oil in an iron skillet. Add the sliced onion and cook until gold and softened. Add the chopped leaves to the onions and continue cooking a few minutes more. Allow to cool.


Beat the eggs with a fork. Stir in crumbled feta, ricotta, snipped dill, and minced parsley. Add a few grindings of black pepper. Stir in the cooked onion and chard mixture and mix. Pour a little more olive oil into the same skillet and set over heat. Pour the egg and chard batter into the skillet, scatter pine nuts over the top and place in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes or until puffed and beautifully colored.

Providentially, the stems make a nicely contrasting dish.




Labels:

אַדיעקטיװן פֿון משה נאַדיר

J. V. Sickler, Der Teutscher Obstgaerner 1794-1804
Cited in H. Frederic Janson, Pomona's Harvest 1996 Portland Oregon: Timber Press.

אַז מײַנע סטודענטן באַקענען זיך מיט ייִדישע קאָנװערבן, האָב איך ליב צו לערנען דאָס שײן ליד װעגן באָטאַניק און גראַמאַטיק.

אַ גוטן חמישה־עשׂר אײַך אַלעמען!

אַדיעקטיװן
משה נאַדיר

שײנע קאַרשן אױפֿן בױם, װילט איר אָפּרײַסן זיך פֿון אײַער מוטערצװײַג?
שײנע קאַרשן שװײַגן.
רױטע קאַרשן אױפֿן בױם, װילט איר אין מײַנע אױסגעשפּרײטע הענט אַרײַנפֿאַלן?
רױטע קאַרשן שװײַגן.
ליבע קאַרשן אױפֿן בױם, װילט איר װילדע פֿױגל זאָלן אײַערע יונגע לײַבער אױסשטעכן?
ליבע קאַרשן שװײַגן.
פֿײַנע קאַרשן אױפֿן בױם, װילט איר די זון זאָל אײַער שמעקנדיק בלוט פֿון די אָדערן אױסטרינקען?
פֿײַנע קאַרשן שװײַגן.
צײַטיקע קאַרשן אױפֿן בױם, װילט איר דער װינט זאָל אײַך אין אַ פֿרעמד לאַנד פֿאַרװאָרפֿן?
צײַטיקע קאַרשן שװײַגן.
זאַפֿטיקע קאַרשן אױפֿן בױם, װילט איר ערלעכע װערעם זאָלן אײַערע רױטע הערצלעך דורכפֿרעסן?
זאַפֿטיקע קאַרשן ציטערן אױף און פֿאַלן אױף מײַנע ליפּן אַרױף.

חמישה־עשׂר
Khamishòser; Tu Bishvat, the 15th day of Shebat, New Year’s Day for trees

דער װאָרעם (װערעם)
Worm

צײַטיק
Ripe

זאַפֿטיק
Juicy, plump

ציטערן
Shiver, shudder, tremble

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Friday, February 10, 2006

The Cook, Part I


I’m not that thin, and I’m not going to dress that quail, but where is my saucepan? That’s just about right.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Chocolate Lady’s 2002 Vegetarian Peysekh Survival Guide

Asparagus Peeler


I am so sorry to have disappeared for a week immediately after alarming some of you about my feet-situation. My feet, borekhashem, are getting better every day, but where is my brain? I just tore up a bunch of fabulous chard leaves without first photographing them! I am not sure what I will do with the chard, but it will probably involve dill and feta--just the sort of thing deeply appreciated at Peysekh. In the meantime, have a look at


The Chocolate Lady’s 2002 Vegetarian Peysekh Survival Guide

Cherished khevre,

The joyous Peysekh season is at our throats once again. In spite of the many restrictions associated with this holiday, it is an auspicious time eagerly anticipated. Here are some of the things I am especially anticipating this year. Don’t you feel sorry for the poor people who eat the same food all year round, and on the same dishes? What kind of life is that?

Sources

It is already several years since Leibl Bestritski’s Peysekh store at 39 Essex Street closed down leaving Manhattanites homeless (in the retail sense) for the holidays. In the years since Bestritsky’s has been closed I have omitted it from the survival guide, but for those who have not had the pleasure I would just like to recall this wonderful place that seemed to defy the laws of thermodynamics. The store was so narrow that two could not stand side by side, but somehow he had everything you needed, including sweetened baked farmers’ cheese. If anyone knows where to find something like this please let me know.

This year I ordered wine from Skyview through www.kosherfinder.com. I went to Kadouri and Sons on Hester Street for Rakusen’s matzos, and nuts, teas and spices of all kinds.

Ingredients

Stocking up: You probably need more eggs that you are guessing, and less matse meal. Last year I bought 9 dozen eggs (I gave some away) and would have used more if I had had more. While it is true that I rely on eggs and milkhiks at Peysekh, I insist that it is possible to be a vegan at Peysekh as well. I even insist that you can do it without potatoes, though I would not choose to.

There are some things I don’t use during Peysekh for practical reasons. I found I am much happier if I don’t bother with tomatoes during peysekh. I also don’t use many spices. We have just had a wonderful winter filled with sauces of every kind and we are looking forward to the first fresh tomatoes of summer. This is a time to concentrate on the cooler greener flavors of artichokes, asparagus, turnip greens, locinto kale, celery, parsley and dill, and the intriguing flavors of chocolate, pistachios, beets, all sorts of potatoes and strawberries.

Recipes

Tea eggs

This recipe is not a staple of the peysekh repertoire, but I associate both tea and eggs with the season, and it is great fun.

Simmer eggs for seven minutes. Gently tap the eggs all over so that the shells are lightly cracked all over. Cook the eggs for another several minutes in strong, salted tea. Leave the eggs to cool in the water with the tea leaves. When you peel the eggs, they will have a lovely marble pattern on their whites.

Another version

Lucia Ruedenberg Wright told me that she recalled making a version of colored eggs in her family by laying delicately shaped leaves such as herbs on the eggshells and then wrapping the eggs in onion skins, tying them with twine and boiling. When you remove the skins, the silhouettes of the leaves remain.

Matzo Balls and soup

One of the most urgent goals for vegetarians at Peysekh is the search for a matzo-ballogenic medium. This recipe is a work-in-progress meant more as a bit of inspiration than prescription.

My matzo ball soup

In a large soup pot, make stock by cooking carrots, potatoes, celery, celeriac, onions, garlic, parsnip and parsley root in boiling salted water for 30 minutes. Strain and set aside.

Cover the bottom of a large pot with extra virgin olive oil. Add lots of thinly sliced onions and cook over low heat until they begin to turn soft and translucent. Add a couple of slivered carrots and celery and cook for a few minutes more. Add thinly sliced garlic and thinly sliced yellow peppers. I peel the peppers but you are allowed to skip this step. (I realize I am not being very helpful with the quantities here. I make a BIG pot of soup with about six medium onions, two carrots, four celeries, a whole head of garlic and six to eight peppers). Cook until the vegetables are relaxed and golden and fill the pot with the hot broth. Cook for a while and de-scum the surface. While the soup cooks, chop and add one bundle each parsley and dill. Season with salt, pepper, paprika and dried green herbs to taste. Before serving float a few “eyes” of olive oil on the surface. This soup is a very happy home for matzo balls.

Make lots of matzo balls. More than you think you will possibly need. You do not even need soup to enjoy matzo balls. Lora Brody suggests eating them cold with butter. I like them grilled. You may also cut them into cubes and use as a peysekhdik tofu-substitute.

Matzo Balls

Break one dozen eggs into a large bowl. Season lavishly with salt, pepper, red pepper and paprika. Add 1 cup or so seltzer and some melted butter or olive oil. Beat the eggs and slowly add while beating enough Streit’s Matzo meal to make a very loose muddy mixture. Slightly less than one pound. Refrigerate overnight. Bring a large pot of wildly salted water to a boil. Roll dough into balls and cook, covered, with no peeking, for 40 minutes.

Cookbooks

The Unplugged Kitchen by Viana La Place

I am afraid I am going to have to insist that you buy this book. When I first read it, I was so impressed that I went around for weeks accosting perfect strangers on the street (narrowly avoiding arrest on two occasions) to tell them they needed to buy The Unplugged Kitchen. The recipes are exquisite and many are particularly suited to Peysekh, even though it is not specifically a Peysekh cookbook. TUK is devoted to recipes that can be made by hand, which I also find especially helpful during Peysekh, when I am working with a much more limited batterie de cuisine.

Try the layered saffron potatoes on page 222 (oh, this is so good), the artichokes and potatoes on pages 199 and 201 and the wonderful Persian herb pie on page 83. The celery stew with almonds is also lovely and it is a good austere dish to make when you are recovering from lots of festive food. This year I might try the romaine soup, without the bread of course, the beet and lemon broth, and maybe the beet and pepper salad. While I am on the subject, I also recommend all of La Place’s books. Verdura is sensuous and thrilling, and Cucina Fresca, written with Evan Kleinman, is a collection of dishes that can be prepared in advance and served at room temperature, which is very helpful for shabes and sikes.

The Heimishe Kitchen Pesach Cookbook

This is a community cookbook put together by the Ladies’ Auxiliary of Nitra, and this is what people are REALLY cooking for Peysekh. I have always been intrigued by the recipe for french fries kugel on page 86, but so far have not dared try it. Maybe this year I will.

The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison and Edward Espe Brown

A recipe I love at any time of year is The Greens’ Potatoes and Chanterelles baked in cream (page 210)

Bitter Almonds by Maria Grammatico and Mary Taylor Simeti

You wouldn’t guess that a book about growing up in a convent would turn out to be such an important Passover resource, but many of the pastries herein are based on almond dough and ideal for peysekh. This year I hope to try the dolcetti al liquore, spirit-soaked grapes in marzipan tartlets dipped in dark chocolate. Bitter Almonds also has a few recipes that use citron (esrik) preserves, for which a recipe is also provided, making it handy for sikes as well.

Equipment

As I noted above, you are using much less kitchen equipment that usual, and probably finding that you can do more than you thought, but one thing you do need is an asparagus peeler. This is a ‘V’ shaped peeler that cradles the spear to peel without snapping.

Peel your asparagus. Life is good.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Back on my feet


Feet photo from Chocolate Fantasies

Today was my second day walking without the splint. I am thrilled to be out on my own two feet again, but also a bit scared and wobbly. Having shed my protective shell, I’m afraid they shouldn’t catch me and make me into a crab cake.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Using up the Herbs

Some of my Weekend Herb Blogging comrades who were kind enough to comment on the avocado and cilantro salad noted that as wonderful as cilantro is, there is all too brief an interval between lush and verdant leafiness, and some truly revolting slime. If you buy a bunch of herbs and use a half dozen sprigs or so in a recipe, the only thing for it is to have in mind a strategy for using the rest of the bunch within a day or so. I frequently use one or more bunches of herbs in soups, but that is because I make some big pots of soup. For situations in which the time and refrigerator space for a big soup project is lacking, I can suggest a small-scale recipe that uses piles of herbs and provides, as Jeeves would say, uniform satisfaction.

Tonight I prepared a recipe called Persian Herb Pie from Viana La Place’s exquisite and indispensable book The Unplugged Kitchen. The recipe calls for one cup each (about one bunch each) minced parsley and cilantro, and a half cup each “slivered” lettuce and snipped chives. You beat six eggs, and mix in the minced herbs, two minced garlic cloves, and salt and pepper. Pour the eggs into a hot skillet or baking pan with some olive oil and bake in a moderate oven for about twenty minutes or until set.

This time, I made the Persian Herb Pie with all my remaining herbs from the week, which added up to ½ cup each dill and parsley, one cup cilantro, 3 garlic cloves, and no lettuce or chives. It’s a forgiving recipe as long as the egg-to-herb ratio is about right and the herbs include at least some parsley. This pie is deeply satisfying and vividly herbal.

Herb enthusiasts will also want to try La Place’s Eggs Stuffed with Herbs and Nasturtiums, Purslane Salad, and really, just about every other recipe in this book.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

ציבעלעס



דער בעסטער אופֿן צו האַלטן ציבעלעס איז זײ אַרײַנצושטעלן אין אַ נײַלאָנענעם זאָק. מאַכטס קניפּלעך צװישן די ציבעלעס אינעם זאָק. שנײַדטס אָפּ װיפֿל עץ דאַרפֿטס פֿון אונטן. די ערשטע ציבעלעס װאָס מע לײגט אַרײַן װערן די ערשטע אַרױס. נאָר זאָקן אַרבעטן צו דעם; „פּענטיהאָז“ טױגן נישט. אַז עץ טראָגטס קײן מאָל נישט קײן זאָקן, װײס איך נישט אױב ס'לױנט זיך צו קױפֿן זאָקן נאָר לטובֿת די ציבעלעס.

אַלע זענען באַקאַנט מיטן באַרימטן ייִדישן שפּריכװאָרט׃

האָבן מיר נישט געװאָלט עסן מן אין דער מידבר, מוזן מיר אַצינד עסן ציבעלעס.

We did not want to eat manna in the wilderness, (so) now we have to eat onions.

ציבעלעס, צוזאַמען מיט קנאָבל, אוגערקעס, און פֿיש, זענען געװען די מאכלים װאָס די ייִדן אין מדבר האָבן שטאַרק געבענקט נאָך זײ–איכ'ל שרײַבן װײַטער װעגן דעם צו פּרשת בשלח, מערטשעם. דאָס שפּריכװאָרט דערמאָנט איראָניש אַז איצטער האָבן ייִדן ציבעלעס אָן אַ שיעור, אָבער מן פֿון הימל נישט. נישט אַלע װײסן אָבער, אַז די פּאָליאַקן פֿון אַ מאָל האָבן געהאַט כּמעט דאָס זעלביקע שפּריכװאָרט, אָבער אינעם צװײטן פּערזאָן׃

Nie chciałeś Żydzie manny, jedzże czosnek

ייִד, האָסט נישט געװאָלט עסן מן, עסטו איצטער קנאָבל.

Jew, you did not want manna; now you eat garlic.

דאָס שפּריכװאָרט װאָס איז געװען איראָניש אױף ייִדיש איז איראָניש אױך אױף פּױליש, אָבער מיט אַן אַנדערן טעם אין גאַנצן. װיכטיק איז עס אָבער אַז מע זאָל נישט מײנען אַז דאָס פּױלישע שפּריכװאָרט איז אַנטיסעמיטיש, אָדער נישט נאָר אַנטיסעמיטיש. עס װײַזט אָן אַז די פּאָליאַקן פֿון אַ מאָל האָבן געקענט מער ייִדישקײט װי די הײַנטיקע ייִדן.

Bernstein, Ignacy, and Binjamin Wolf Segel. Yudishe Shprikhverter Un Redensarten. Warsaw, 1908.

Krzyzanowski, Julian. Nowa Ksiega Przyslów I Wyrazen Przyslowiowych Polskich. Warsaw, 1969-1979.

Sitarz, Magdalena. "Equivalent Yiddish and Polish Proverbs." Paper presented at Ashkenaz: Theory and Nation, Krakow 1998.

זײַטס מוחל! מײַן ביבליאָגראַפֿיש װײכװאַרג האָט אױסגעמעקט אַלע דיאַקריטשע סמנים!

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