Friday, November 27, 2015

Food Friday–Post Thanksgiving edition

There are many glorious things about being a guest instead of a host of Thanksgiving. We ate a pretty spectacular meal yesterday at my dear friend’s home. We came home to a clean house.

What we don’t have is left overs. My youngest is home from college and is starved for meat. I decided to satisfy this need ( Although I assume that yesterday’s consumption of vast amounts of brisket and turkey put something of a dent in his meat debt.)

Tonight’s dinner features a veritable Pu-Pu platter of beef. We have it in sliced London broil form with a smoky ,vinegary home made barbecue sauce.


We also have ribs.


There are also some kofta which are not pictured.  I assume that after dinner there might be a couple of scraps of meat left, but then again, perhaps not.

The Thanksgiving flavors of pumpkin and maple syrup and cranberry for me are as much part of the fall season as leaves turning color. My daughter is particularly fond of pumpkin.

The Pilgrims used to serve the pies as part of the main course. I made this


kind of a hybrid pumpkin pie/kugel/pudding to serve as our starch for tonight’s dinner. It’s not quite as sweet as a dessert pie and I strewed bulgher wheat on the bottom of the pan to serve as a crude crust. It’s spiced like a typical New England pumpkin pie. A homely dish for the season.

I also made another batch of cranberry chocolate tarts.


A cookie crust is topped with chocolate and then cranberries and sugar. This is one of my favorite flavor combinations and the color is amazing.

A cabbage salad still needs to be made. No, there are no salad fairies who will make the salad while I nap, but a girl can dream.


I am looking forward to our full table tonight and am still thinking about the very full table I sat at yesterday that was filled with love and beautiful dishes and beautiful food.


Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Tutorial for Sandy

Sandy had asked me to put together a recipe for the sour dough corn bread. So, here it is more or less.

This gloppy stuff is my starter. It began life as a loose  bread dough yesterday. I didn’t measure, but I think I may have started with about two cups of water, a teaspoon of yeast, a table spoon of salt and one of brown sugar. Most of it got turned into yesterday’s excellent fennel loaf.


The remainder has been sitting in a small plastic bowl covered by a plastic shower cap in my fridge.You can see that I have added an assortment of grains to this starter. I can’t remember for sure but I think there is wheat germ and bran in there.


I then took out a lump of the starter to begin my next loaf. Most of the rest of the starter went back into the fridge after I added a bit more flour and water to the bowl.

I then got to work on the new loaf of bread.  I added another tablespoon of brown sugar to starter in the bowl.


And then I added a tablespoon of salt.


I then added about a cup and a half or water.


Next in was about a cup of cornmeal.SAM_5619 I kept adding flour and kneading  until I had a coherent dough.  It was a pretty heavy and dense dough. I covered it with a towel and let it rise for several hours.


A bread made with a commercial yeast will need two hours for the first rise. I have found that using the starter the bread does better with a long slow rise. I set up the dough after breakfast and didn’t form the dough until late in the afternoon.


I got a little fancy and rolled the dough into a rectangle, coated the surface with olive oil and then sprinkled Herbes Provencal on the dough and then rolled the bread up into a tight roll. I covered the dough with the towel and let it rise again for another couple of hours.

I baked it at 385 after coating the crust with oil.


This bread is crazy-good.


It’s now mostly gone. I had one slice. The bread eaters in this house went wild.

Making this bread takes a few sessions of about five minutes each over the course of the day. The loaf bakes for about 40 minutes. I suppose that I could pretend to my family that it is a huge undertaking to bake this bread or it’s many variants. There aren’t too many things in life that give so great a reward with so little effort.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Food Friday–Challah Anxiety edition

I am feeling a bit of uncharacteristic challah anxiety today. Tonight we are invited to a friend’s house. One of the other guests is my friend Alan, a serious cook. Alan has been playing, (actually that’s the wrong word, when it comes to food Alan doesn’t play, he works seriously and analytically at food) at making sour dough challah.

Alan’s challot are great.They are very different than my challot and they are fabulous. I have been playing with my rough approximation of sour dough. My version of sour dough is basically letting a loose wet dough hang out for a few days in the fridge and then using that as the leavening agent instead of dry yeast.


I have enjoyed doing it. It has been a nice lazy way to bake. Each time I want to bake bread I take a slobbery plop of the stuff and use it to start my dough. I thought I had the magic touch, until today.


These are my challot before baking.


They haven’t risen all that much.  I am feeling challah anxiety.


I had made a caraway flavored corn bread, like the kind they serve at old Jewish bakeries, that rose well.


I think the challot needed a longer rise. But Shabbat starts early and they just won’t have enough time to fully rise.

I just pulled them out of the oven.


They are smaller and denser than usual. I assume they will get eaten anyway. I also assume that Alan and I will have a long discussion about rising times and how much honey and oil I had in the dough…


Shabbat Shalom!

Two untimely deaths



Today, my head has been full of the deaths of two young people who both died far too young.

Yesterday, Ezra Schwartz, 18 was murdered in Israel. I don’t know Ezra but he comes out of a world that I am deeply familiar with. This June he graduated the same Jewish day school that I attended. It’s a small school. It’s small enough that you know kids several years younger and older than you are.

I probably went to school with the parents of Ezra’s grieving classmates. Ezra, like my son chose to do a gap year in Israel. Those gap year programs are transformative. Usually your child comes home transformed, matured.


Ezra unfortunately was killed by someone who found his existence on the planet and more specifically in Israel, to be unbearable.

When I was in college I worked at the Lemberg Day Care center at Brandeis.At Lemberg we spent lots of time teaching our kids how to solve conflicts. We taught them how to explain how their feelings were hurt and how to work out solutions that were satisfying for both hurt parties.


In an ideal world, the lessons and techniques of Circle Time would be used to solve world conflict. Unfortunately the utopia that exists in my head is not how the world works.

The other death that is very much on my mind today is of my grand mother’s sister, my Great Aunt Feige. I had first heard of my grandmother’s sister during the 1970’s. My mother had watched Roots and decided to find out more about our family.

My mother was many years younger than her siblings. My Aunt Sheva would visit us every summer from Israel. Inspired by Roots, my mother began asking her sister Sheva to remember people and events from her childhood.

One of the stories that Sheva told was about how When she was a little girl she looked out of the window and saw her father walking home from the subway. Sheva them leaned out of the window and started waving and calling out to her father. Sheva expected Papa to smile and wave back.SAM_4888

Instead, Papa turned white,  and yelled at Sheva to get out of the window. When he got upstairs to their apartment he (uncharacteristically for him) slapped Sheva and told her to never ever lean out of a window again. He then cried, hugged Sheva and told her that Mama had a sister who had fallen out of a window to her death. That was the only time Sheva had heard of mama’s sister. Papa never mentioned a name.

I wondered if my grandmother’s sister had committed suicide or if she was just a little girl who had fallen out a window to her death.


A few years ago I found my grandmother’s Ellis island record. I saw that she had come to New York with her mother, Brana, and her little sister Vechna, my mother’s beloved Aunt Becky. I also saw a name I had never seen before, Feige. This was the mystery sister who had fallen or jumped out the window. SAM_5537

My mother was named Feige Tzivia. We all assumed that she was named for my grandfather’s sister who had died in childbirth. I realized when I saw that Ellis Island record that my mother was also named for her mother’s sister.

I still didn’t know if Feige had fallen to her death or had committed suicide. A few weeks ago I decided to pug Feige’s name into a database supplied to me by my son’s kindergarten teacher who is an amateur genealogist.

I discovered that Feige was twelve when she died on November 26, 1904, less than two years after she had arrived in New York. We mark yarhzeits, the anniversary of a death, on the date on the Jewish calendar. Today was Feige’s yarhzeit. Today I recited El maleh Rachamim   for Feige bat Chaim v’Brana. SAM_5534

Feige’s father, Chaim died in 1918 at the tail end of the flu epidemic. I would venture to guess that the El maleh Rachamim  hasn’t been recited for Feige since 1918.

The scars of a loss of one who died too long have a long long half life.Those scars leave their marks on circles far beyond those immediately marked by that loss.


Today, my head is filled with the death of two children that I didn’t know.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Views of and from Broadway

I usually take my camera with me when I go out. Sunday, I had gone to the movies with a friend and then I walked back from 72nd street.

Is I walked north I just loved the golden late afternoon light.

on broadway (2)

I made several stops as I walked north on Broadway and the sky turned rosy.

on broadway (3)

on broadway (4)

I know one doesn’t normally think of the intersection of Broadway and 96th street as a place filled with lyrical gorgeous light, but sometimes it is.

on broadway (5)

Looking south as I turned into to my block I loved the crescent moon over Broadway.

on broadway (6)

on broadway (1)

This morning as I was working out I was distracted by the beautiful light and had to take a break from aerobics to take these photos.


It had been grey and nasty when I had been out earlier and the sun had begun to come out.  I have always been in love with sunlight bouncing off of clouds.SAM_5580

I also love the layering of the not meant for public view backs of the buildings on the east side of West End Avenue  with the fancy facades from the west side of the street.SAM_5581

I love how the functional parts of the building across the street create such a great pile of shapes.



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What you see and the path to getting there

What you see here is a knit pencil skirt with a paisley print. it looks completely simple, a no brainer.


The fabric for this skirt came in a Fabric Mart mystery bundle. It was a 3/4 yard length of a print that was bright in two areas of the fabric and faded to dark. There wasn’t enough yardage for a dress. I had some fabrics that I could possibly marry to this one to create a dress. the other complicating factor what the placement of the lighter areas of the print.


I kept the fabric near my sewing machine ad every once in a while would take it out, look at it, wrap the fabric around my body and realize that I still hadn’t figured out what to do. Finally, last week the light bulb went off in my head. If I cut the skirt with the lightest areas front and center (and also at the center back) I could end up with a skirt that didn’t look like it was made by a blind seamstress.



The skirt came together quickly after the months of mulling. The solution seems obvious. maybe it would have been to someone else, but to me, it wasn’t so easy.

This is another dress that was head bangingly difficult to figure out how to cut.

I had become besotted with a black knit with a yellow and white stripe, again the fabric was from Fabric Mart. The stripe appeared at an awkward point in the yardage. The fabric itself actually has kind of a nasty hand, it feels a bit like the sort of fabric one might use to make uniforms for fast food workers, a poly pique’. I loved how the fabric looked like Charlie Brown’s shirt. After a few false starts I ended up with this,


A dress a Boston Bruins fan could wear to a game. I love the early 1970’s vibe. No, I don’t have the chunky white patent leather shoes to wear with this dress. It’s another dress that is completely simple in execution but took lots of thinking to make happen.

Next up is a sweater that I purchased but it comes with a long back story. For my mother nothing beat the elegance of a cashmere sweater.  When I was really little my mother had a grey one. I was with her, a pre-schooler when she bought it’s replacement a pale blue one.  My mother gave me that sweater when I was in my 20’s and I wore that blue sweater to death, until it was to ragged to wear.

I have inherited the oatmeal colored cashmere sweater my mother bought my grandmother for her 70th birthday. I love the sweater, and the idea of the sweater but the color is dreadful on me so I wear it rarely.

My mother favored “classic tailored” clothing over fashionable or flashy clothing.  The ultimate place to get the sorts of tweedy clothes my mother felt was the height of elegance was Peck & Peck. I think that Peck & Peck  closed it’s door in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s.  My mother was sad when they closed their doors.

About 15 years ago my friend  Marcia was dying of cancer. During those difficult times I was Marcia’s source for dumb stuff that would make her feel better.  One of the things on Marcia's list was a “lipstick pink cashmere sweater”. While I was able to buy her affordable cashmere sweaters, I couldn’t find exactly what she wanted.


The other day in the thrift store I found this.


It’s more of a lipstick orange-red than a lipstick pink. But an elbow sleeved cashmere sweater from Peck & Peck.


It was $10. I took it home with me. I am wearing the sweater as I type this and I remember Marcia and I remember my mother.

I am also putting in work on the piece that has taken me the longest.



Like the Boston Bruins dress and the paisley skirt the solutions to this project have come only after lots and lots of mulling. I can see the light and the end of the tunnel on this one.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Food Friday–the healing qualities of food edition

I grew up in a family where food was used to express love. My husband grew up in a family where his mother was an anxious and mostly terrible cook.  My brother in law famously  tells that he didn’t know food was supposed to taste good until he left home. My husband didn’t find out about salad dressing until he left for college.

I found eating at my mother in law’s table to be a highly anxiety provoking experience. We would be called to the table for a meal  I would sit down. Whoops! the table wasn’t set. I would attempt to set the table. I would locate the paper plates and the broken straw paper plate holders (this was after all a company meal!). My mother in law would be yelling at everyone to sit down and I would try to locate enough silverware to set the table.


We would sit down. Whoops! We had to clear the stacks of newspapers off of the chairs so people could sit at the table. Perhaps we had to go into a bed room to find a chair and bring that to the table. The leg of the chair might be broken and my father in law would take out string and paper clips and Mc Guyver a repair that would work, but only if you sat in one particular position.

Finally most of us would be sitting. My mother in law would bring a pot to the table, stab the contents with a fork and put it on your plate. Oh no! tragedy had struck! She had forgotten a dish!. She would scurry back to the kitchen and get that dish.

Food had to be in motion at the table for my mother in law to be happy. The meal was less about actually eating but more about passing food that seemed to appear during the meal in no apparent order.There were usually three or four different varieties of protein. There might be four different starches. You would be asked which one you wanted. You would make a choice and them my mother in law would suggest a different choice. You would be full but my mother in law would remember that she had bought knishes and you must eat them now.


Meals were not relaxing but were instead fights to maintain one’s sense of self. Not surprisingly, my husband was suspicious of meals I made for him to show my love.


My husband is going through a bit of a difficult time connected with his work life. It’s one of those crises that leave one feeling cranky and funky. Last night I mentioned to my husband what I had planned to make for Shabbat,  (meatballs) and the guests we had planned to invite. My husband then began to complain that he didn’t think that our guest would think that meatballs were appropriate Shabbat food and I ought to make chicken instead.

After we hung up I realized that my husband was actually not so worried about our guests but was feeling in need of the specific comfort he gets from chicken.


I pulled the chickens out the freezer and made the chopped meat that had already defrosted into meatloaf for last night’s dinner. When I told my husband about the change in menu he was just so pleased that I realized that my hunch was right. So, I made the chicken with smoked paprika so it tastes like a classier version of the take out chicken that was a constant at my mother in law’s table.SAM_5547

This morning my husband asked what else I would be making for Shabbat. He mentioned that he loved roasted potato wedges  that he associates with a Father’s Day dinner the kids had made for him. My husband is feeling bummed.  But he knows that food made with love will make him feel loved. He looked so wistful when he talked about the potato wedges that I ran out and bought potatoes.


So in the end, I guess I have over time shown my husband, who out of a sense of self protection, thought of food as fuel, that food can also be a way to express and receive comfort and love.  My husband has learned  that food can be part of a language of listening and hearing of caring and of giving.


Shabbat Shalom!