Friday, March 27, 2009

Baked Plantains געבאַקנע קאכבאנאנען

Baked Plantains

Heat oven to 400F. Place whole ripe plantains on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes. They will split open at exactly the right moment all by themselves. Serve with butter, coarse salt, and sour cream (or, if you prefer, butter, brown sugar, and sour cream

These are perfect for Passover. The Yiddish word for plantain is kokhbanan קאכבאנאַן

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Red Pepper Puree סאָס פֿון רױטע פֿעפֿערן

סאָס פֿון רױטע פֿעפֿערן פֿאַר אַספּאַראַגוס (און אַנדערע זאַכן)

2 רױטע פֿעפֿערן

1 הײס פֿעפֿערל (אױב מע װיל)

½ טעפּל מאַסלינע בױמל

¼ טעפּל באַלסאַמישער עסיק


לײגט'ץ די פֿעפֿערן אױף אַ שטיק זילבערנער פּאַפּיר און בראָט זײ אָפּ אונטערן פֿלאַם פֿון אױװן, דער איבערפֿלאַך זאָל װערן אין גאַנצן שװאַרץ. װיקל זײ אײַן אינעם זילבערנעם פּאַפּיר ביז קיל גענוג, און שײלט'ץ זײ אָפּ מיט די פֿינגער און נעמט'ץ אַראָפּ די קערעלעך. מאָלט'ץ אָפּ די פֿעפֿערן מיט בױמל, עסיק, זאַלץ און הײסע פֿעפֿערלעך אין אַ פּראָצעסירער. דאָס איז זײער געשמאַק מיט (אָפּגעשײלטע) אַספּאַראַגוס.

Red Pepper Puree for Asparagus (or Other Things)

2 red bell peppers

1 fresh chile pepper (optional)

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar


Place the peppers on a sheet of aluminum foil and cook them under the broiler, turning a few times, until the skin is charred all over. Wrap them in the foil until they are cool enough to handle. Peel the peppers and remove the seeds. Puree them with the oil, vinegar and seasonings. Lovely with fresh steamed (peeled!) asparagus)

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Monday, March 16, 2009

שבֿט ניע בראַט; אָדר ניע ברודער

שבֿט ניע בראַט; אָדר ניע ברודער

דאָס „ייִדישע שפּריכװאָרט“ איז באמת נישט אױף ייִדיש. דער גראַמאַטיק איז רוסיש און דער זאַץ איז דערפֿאַר אַ רוסישער כאָטש מיט ייִדישע אותיות. עס מײנט „דער חודש שבֿט איז נישט קײן ברודער און דער חודש אָדר אױכעט נישט“ ד"ה, דער װעטער בלײַבט נאָך קאַלט און רעגנדיק. אָדע איז זײער אַ פֿרײלעכער חודש, אָבער אַ קאַלטער, און דער ליבער יום־טובֿ פּסח איז שױן אױף דער נאָז.

The Yiddish saying “Shvat nye brat’; Uder nye Bruder” (The month of Shvat is no brother, and neither is the month of Adar) is in fact not in Yiddish. The grammar is Russian, so the whole sentence Russian, Yiddish letters notwithstanding. The saying refers to the lingering cold in these early months of spring. The month of Adar is joyful, but cold, and the beloved holiday of peysekh is already on one’s nose.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Uppåkra (Swedish Butter Cookies with Potato Starch )

This week I got an extremely urgent message from my gal Lori, the Yiddish Chantoosie. Apparently, I had to drop everything and make this recipe for Swedish butter cookies she found on the side of a box of Swan's potato starch. These cookies, I was informed, needed to be made so urgently because they would come close to reproducing something called “Brown-Edge Wafers” a commercial cookie long discontinued but, in some quarters at least, never forgotten. I resisted this suggestion at first because my feeling about cookies is that they fall into two categories: chocolate chip, and who cares? And anyway, Brown-Edge what?

But it was the day before Purim, and the antic air that surrounds our festive feast of inversion made this plan suddenly seem like the most logical course of action in the world. Besides, I had almost a full box of potato starch from last Passover. Every year I go buy a box of potato starch, and I use maybe one tablespoon, and then the next year I do it again, because even though I am pretty sure I won’t be needing any potato starch, what if I suddenly really do need some potato starch during peysekh, and every single box in the city is taken? This is the kind of thing I worry about. Potato starch in my home plays pretty much the same role as the symbolic foods on the Seder Plate. You don’t eat them, exactly, but you have to have them.

Well, from now on I will be doing everything Lori tells me to. These cookies are really something special. They are shatteringly crisp and meltingly tender, and the flavor of the butter really shines. I am thinking of trying a peysekhdic version with cake meal, but this would involve getting more potato starch before peysekh, and that is just insane. This recipe is adapted from the Swan's box and Maida Heatter's Uppakra recipe.

Uppåkra (Swedish Butter Cookies)

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup potato starch
1 cup flour
Cream together butter and sugar in a mixer or with a pastry blender. Beat in the salt, egg and vanilla. Sift together the flour and potato starch; add to butter mixture and beat until combined. Chill dough for about an hour. Roll into small balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheets. Press each ball gently with the heel of your hand or the bottom of a glass to flatten. These cookies will spread less than you expect during baking, so go ahead and flatten with some muscle. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes or until edges are brown. You will have enough for about four half-sheet pans.

The smaller you make the cookies, the more edge-to-middle ratio you will have, and these little guys are all about edge.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Winter Weather and Mushroom Risotto


I really thought the winter was over last week right up until the fat, sugary snowflakes of our biggest and prettiest snowstorm of the season came האָפּקענען װי נאָר אױף אַ חתונה hopkenen vi nor af a khasene (dancing as one does only at a wedding). It made me remember one of my favorite Lithuanian words, "dribsniai" (flakes). We had vast lakes of slush at every intersection, but my boots, praise the Lord, remained watertight, and my luxuriant socks warm and dry.
I remember one day like this when I was in high school. I found myself stranded at an intersection with all two hundred seventy degrees blocked by a vast, slushy bog knee deep and yards wide. I was reluctant to muddy my pale suede boots. I would never buy such boots now, but back then I thought they looked pretty swell. I was observed by an amiably drunk lout who said:

Hey baby, no problem; I’ll carry you across!

Now this offer was not in earnest, and I was ready to ignore it with the stony silence I usually used to insulate myself from the whole “hey baby” crowd, but really, there was no other way across the street, and wasn’t about time for someone to call one of these lumps on their swaggering bravado?

All right then, I said.

He was startled, but recovered quickly. My cavalier put his left arm around my back, scooped up my knees with his right, and waded into the icy swamp. It occurred to me that he might drop me halfway across, and I maintained an iron grip around his neck, thinking at least I would not go down alone, but in fact, he could not have been more chivalrous. He set me down gently on the yaboshe and took his leave demanding no further liberties.

The other thing I remember on slushy days is this recipe inspired by my friend Hippo Girl, a wonderful cook but delinquent blogger. Hippo Girl found that you can achieve risotto-nirvana with brown rice if you start with cooked rice and add some kind of starch to the water. I found myself with lots of cooked brown rice and some pasta water and decided this was crazy enough to try. Wow. Brown rice risotto is wonderful and easier than the classical version. I did not happen to have any dried mushrooms on hand, but I am sure they would be welcome here. Normally I would insist that the onions and mushrooms be cut into perfect little brunoise cubes, like the vegetables for this lentil salad, but I am doing one-handed cooking while my hand heals, so I just used the food processor to mince everything.

Brown Rice Mushroom Risotto

6 tablespoons butter (more or less; be liberal)
1 large onion, minced or chopped (I used one onion, two might have been good too)
12 ounces white mushrooms, minced or chopped
12 ounces cremini mushrooms, minced or chopped
6 cups cooked short-grain brown rice
1 cup red wine (or as much as you have left in the bottle)
4 cups pasta water (you might not need to use it all. If you have not recently made pasta, make a slurry of water with a few teaspoons of cornstarch or potato starch)
salt (even though you cooked the rice and pasta in lavishly salted water, you will need to add quite a lot of salt)
Black pepper
4 sprigs parsley, minced, if you have some
any amount of grated parmesan, if you have some
Heat the butter in a heavy kettle, like a Colombian clay pot or something cast iron. Add the onions and simmer over low heat for several minutes until they are soft and transparent. Be patient. Add the mushrooms and raise the heat a little. Continue cooking and stirring as they become dry and fragrant, at least twelve minutes, maybe more. It takes time, but it is not as if you could go out on a day like today in any case. Now add the rice, salt and wine, and stir and cook. As the rice becomes dry, begin adding the starchy water, about half a cup at a time, while continuing to stir and cook the rice. When everything is perfectly done, add some grindings of black pepper. You can serve the risotto as is, or stir in parsley and parmesan.
Have some for breakfast with an egg. Just right.
yaboshe dry land
In Yiddish the word yaboshe refers specifically to dry land in the context of a body of water, for instance the dry land on which the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea.