Friday, September 19, 2014

Cooking and sewing my way into the New Year

My building is converting from oil to gas heat on Monday. The boilers will be off in my building so I won’t be able to cook. I decided to do much of my cooking today and serve some of it for Shabbat dinner.

My family traditions are often a bit idiosyncratic, to say the least. Apparently Sukkot and Purim are the traditional times to serve stuffed cabbage.  In my family, that’s what we ate on Rosh HaShanah. Tzimmis is a traditional Sukkot food, in our house it shows up to mark the beginning of the Jewish year. My grandmother used red dishtowels for dairy dishes and blue for meat unlike the rest of the known kosher homes in the universe. I don’t follow all family traditions slavishly but when the High Holiday season approaches I NEED stuffed cabbage and tzimmis.

Lyear I made a memorable tzimmis with flanken bones. This year I cut up London broil into chunks for the tzimmis.


I make tzimmis in the turkey roasting pan. I’m telling you this so you get a sense of the sheer volume of meat and vegetables that I cut up. this pan can hold a 30 lb turkey. It took 90 minutes to get everything chopped up.


Here is the sky-cam view.


After everything is cut up you cook it covered, and then uncovered to dry up the juices.  I put two gallons into the freezer and we are eating the rest tonight.


I also made stuffed cabbage.


Getting the leaves off the cabbage is usually the worst part of the job. I know that some of you will write to me telling me that if I put the cabbage in the freezer for a few days the leaves will peel off like the bark off a birch tree. I don’t think I ever have room for a large head of cabbage in my freezer, especially not before a holiday. I actually tried the frozen cabbage method a couple of times and it did not work for me. I used the old fashioned steam the cabbage in a big pot method. I did a serious job of coring the cabbage before steaming and that seemed to make a huge difference.

I got every leaf unwrapped.

I mixed the chop meat with rice, lots of spices, including a bit of cayenne pepper this year.


I know that my buddy Ann will look at the mixture above and tell me that it looks great except for the raisins. I think the raisins are mandatory.  Ann, if I ever make you stuffed cabbage, I will leave out the raisins, but only because you are a good friend.


All stuffed and rolled up foods are done the same way. You plop the filling in the middle, fold the east and west sides of the wrapper over the filling and then roll up.



You then stew all of the cabbage rolls in a sweet and sour tomato sauce. Thanks to my friend Alan Divak the sour is provided by sour-salt rather than by vinegar.


I ran out of cabbage leaves and just tossed a few meat balls on top of the pot.


Stuffed cabbage is pesky food. It does make my kids, at least the two who love to eat, really happy so I make it for them.

We need to eat well during the holiday but a girl also needs a new dress or two for the new year.

Both dresses were made with the same sort of irrational fabric-love that those of us who sew occasionally fall victim to.


I fell for this orange textured knit.


It looks like what adults were wearing in the early 1970’s. I wish I had white low heeled pumps with thick heels and lots of brass hardware to wear with this dress. If I had a matching pillbox I could be a stewardess for a Florida airline.

The next dress recalls the late 1950’s. I bought the fabric at P+S Fabrics while I was on jury duty. It was on the 75% off rack.


Unlike my usual quick and dirty dressmaking methods, this dress is underlined  to give the silk a bit more body. I also had stitched the armholes and the neckline.


Yes, it needs a serious pressing. I also have to hem the dress. It’s a dress that wants to be worn with pearls.


Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Baking my way towards the New Year

There were a few cakes that my mother always baked. At any point in time over a period of decades you could probably pull a rectangle of this honey cake out of my mother’s freezer.


My mother got this recipe from the Kehillath Israel sisterhood cookbook.  This honey cake was submitted by Jen Margolis. Jen was one of the grande-dames of Boston Jewry. Jen was older than my mother, beautiful and smart. My mother really admired Jen.


My mother always topped this cake with  a paving of sliced almonds. The white almonds are beautiful on top of the cake and add a really nice crunch, but one of my kids is allergic to almonds so I skipped the almonds this time.

This is an easy cake to put together.  You could ask your fifth grader to bake it if they were reasonably comfortable following a recipe. It’s a step up, and not a very big step up from a cake mix cake.

Jen Margolis Honey Cake

preheat oven to 325


Prepare a 9x13 pan, I used parchment paper but you can grease and flour a pan if you don’t have parchment paper. You can also bake this cake in loaf pans, but you have to figure out the math for the yields and numbers of loaf pans.



beat four eggs in a large bowl until  light in color.


add 1 cup sugar and continue beating


put 2 T of oil in a measuring cup and then add to eggs. Then measure 1cup honey into the oily measuring cup and add honey to eggs.

Continue beating until the mixture is thick


Make a  double strong cup of coffee. If you are my mother add 2 tsp of instant coffee to a cup of hot water. Add a tsp of fresh orange or lemon rind to the coffee. Add a tsp of booze with flavor…the original recipe called for wine. My mother used to use Manishevitz, I believe that this is a post Prohibition addition, The original probably called for whiskey, I used rum because I had some handy. If you are a teetotaler, add vanilla.


Sift the following dry ingredients into a bowl

2 -3/4 Cups flour

I see reading over the ingredient list that I used the wrong amount of leavening, but it came out great, so I will give you what I put in, 1 tsp baking powder-

Jen called for adding  1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp of baking soda. So add either amount


Then add the spices, and it’s a tsp of each one, ginger, cinnamon, allspice  and cloves


Alternating adding the wet mixture and the dry mixture into the egg mixture. Beat well after each addition.


bake for 50-60 minutes, until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. This cake freezes well. It’s perfect with tea. I used to dribble hot tea on my slice of cake until it made my cake soggy. It was wonderful.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

For an Audience of One

My son mentioned that he he feeling a bit homesick.

I took these photos for him. They are of our immediate neighborhood.





I hope this holds my son until he comes home next week.

See This Show


godot 001

I don’t have to say another word.

Just see it.

I’m done.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Food Friday and a Poltergeist

I started my cooking right after breakfast. This is the mixture I put on our chicken. I added, sumac, smoked paprika, regular paprika a bit of cayenne pepper and not pictured, a few grinds of black pepper.


Chicken and beef tastes better if one massages the spices into the flesh. I guess if you are squeamish you could wear exam gloves or put plastic bags over your hands as you worked.  I just wash may hands really well before and after I massage the chicken.



The house smells really, really good as this cooks. My mother in law loved serving Mauzone Chicken, that is rotisserie chicken from the local kosher deli.SAM_2951 

The chicken from Mauzone was consistent. It wasn’t wonderful and it came covered in orange glop. For my husband it tastes like home and love. This is a classed up version of Mauzone Chicken.


I also made roasted eggplant.


Thinly sliced eggplant was put in a  roasting pan with olive oil, a can of diced tomato and lots of za’atar. When it was cooked I squeezed a lemon over  the whole thing.


I’m serving a watercress salad. Our guests are my cousin and his girlfriend. My cousin’s grandmother, my aunt, loved watercress. Whenever my aunt used to come to vist my mother always bought lots of watercress.


And now for the poltergeist. My son set the table and then left the room. I was on the phone in the kitchen and I heard  the sound of breaking glass from the dining room.


One of our glasses exploded.SAM_2958


I have had kitchenware commit suicide before. I have never had kitchenware spontaneously explode before.

Shabbat Shalom!


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Replacing the imposter

Not long after my husband and I married, my parents wanted to buy us a gift. They asked me what I wanted, and I told them that I wanted a challah knife.


My parents asked me about the sort of challah knife I wanted and I told them that what I hankered after was the one that they had.


My parents’ challah knife had a handle that  was shaped depending on how you looked at it, either like a loaf of challah or like a stalk of wheat. My parents shopped and shopped but their challah knife that was ubiquitous in the mid 1950’s was no longer being sold in the 1980’s.


So instead, they bought us this challah knife.


My parents gave it to me and said that they weren’t delighted with this challah knife but it  would do for the moment. I like the stalk of wheat but this is not a comfortable knife to hold in the hand. Those sharp corners do not make for comfortable cutting.


When I went to buy the tzitzit for Mike’s tallit at my local Judaica store they had the challah knife of my dreams.

It wasn’t sterling silver like the knife I grew up with. But the design and shape were what I had been missing. I bought it. This is the wheat side.


And here is the set Shabbat table side.


And here is the imposter with the REAL challah knife.


I look forward to using it tomorrow night.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Truly Complete



Mike came by today to tie his tzitzit and pick up his tallit.  I had set up the tallit on my dressmaking form so Mike could see it as soon as he came into my apartment. It’s always good to see a client completely happy.

When I first started making tallitot I used to tie the tzitzit myself.Over the years I have gone from tying the tzitzit myself, to offering to tie tzitzit with my clients to just insisting that my clients tie the tzitzit.


Having my clients tie the tzitzit accomplishes several things. It’s useful from a purely educational perspective. How often can one do the mitzvah of tying tzitzit?  It’s a nice opportunity to learn a new skill. I have also found that when clients have time to interact with the tallit and spend not just their money, but also their time, and their efforts they  really fall in love with their tallit as they tie the tzitzit on each corner.

I find that the process of tying the tallit also ends up transferring ownership of the tallit from me to my client. By the time the fourth one is tied the tallit is no longer mine.SAM_2932

Mike was at first a little concerned about doing a good job. But he caught on fairly quickly.

Mike loved that the wool fibers tend to grip one another. That means that the tallit can stay on his shoulders without much fuss.



Each time my husband saw this tallit he would ask if I would be adding stripes. Mike was so very clear about NOT wanting stripes. This tallit, more than I think any other tallit I have made is all about the tzitzit. Mike’s vision  for his tallit was so pure. I’m glad that I could help make it happen.



Working with Mike was such a pleasure.


We sit near Mike in synagogue during the High holidays. I love that it will be right within my sightlines  throughout the holiday season.

Another video to prepare for the season.