Monday, August 22, 2005

The Chocolate Lady’s Shabes Nakhamu Survival Guide

It looks like this week’s survival guide will be late as well. I hope very much you are all surviving until I can get this done. This week I had the great pleasure not only to visit with the lady I call Ms Natasha Isakova, but to be there while she was making latkes. As always, I learned many new things, most surprisingly, that I have been grating potatoes incorrectly lo these many years.

The correct method for grating potatoes ala Isakova

First of all, a box grater makes shreds that are too coarse. You need a wire grater to grate the potatoes into mush. These wire graters are not too easy to come by, but Natasha suggests trying hardware stores in Jewish neighborhoods. The second important point is that the potato must be grated in the correct order. You must first grip the potato by what I’ll call its North Pole and start grating the South Pole. Continue grating until you get to the equator. At this point, rotate the potato so that you are grating parallel to the axis and the longitudinal lines, and grate on four sides so that you now have a four-sided plinth with a rounded top. Grip the rounded top and grate all the way down until you are left with the smallest possible spud nubbins. The Latke recipe will be in a subsequent issue.

This week, I have been reading Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s THE ITALIAN COUNTRY TABLE with great interest. I made the spicy spinach recipe in which you combine wilted spinach with onions, garlic, tomato and a chile pepper. I make something similar to this with collard greens, but it had not occurred to me that it would work so well with spinach. I had it with some whole-wheat pasta, one araucana egg, a few grindings of pepper and parmesan over the egg, and a rare mid-week glass of wine (Cốtes du Rhone).

I was especially interested to read Kasper’s comments on peeling tomatoes. I have always plunged tomatoes briefly into boiling water to loosen the skins, but Kasper says that you lose too much tomato flavor this way and suggests either blistering the tomatoes over a gas flame, or just cooking them together with their skins and then putting them through a food mill.

I tried the blistering method, but the tomatoes got a little too cooked, so I’m sticking with the imperfect scalding method for now. I have found that you can peel certain very ripe tomatoes without any scalding or blistering at all.

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"The Chocolate Lady’s Shabes Nakhamu Survival Guide" is protected by copyright, and is provided at no cost, for your personal use only. You may share it with folks if you like, but only in its entirety including this notice. Any other form of republication, unless with prior written permission of the author, is strictly prohibited. Copyright © 2005 by Eve Jochnowitz.

Questions? Comments? ASK THE CHOCOLATE LADY!

Kasper, Lynne Rossetto. The Italian Country Table : Home Cooking from Italy's Farmhouse Kitchens. New York: Scribner, 1999.



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