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Filtering by Category: Handwritten Recipes

Anise Cookies • Anne James

Brett Rawson

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A note from curator Rozanne Gold: There are few more poignant daughter-and-father rituals than this evocative memory shared by Anne James, an Associate Professor of Voice and Movement in the Department of Theatre & Dance at California State University, Fullerton . Anne heard me on Heritage Radio on “A Taste of the Past,” a popular program hosted by culinary historian Linda Pelaccio.  Afterward, Anne wrote, “I was so moved by your project that I wondered how I would go about contributing a handwritten recipe that my grandmother passed on to me?”  That, of course, goes right to the essence of this column:  The reawakening of memory through the swerves and curves of a penned recipe.  And her writing is beautiful… “When he popped open the tin, the sweet, distinct aroma caught him off guard. My father looked at me, stunned. As he unfolded the tissue paper, he tossed back his…” We are grateful to have Anne’s original recipe and wonderful photos of the story’s compelling characters. 

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Anise Cookies by Anne James

My beloved grandmother, Florence “Flo” James, was a good old-fashioned English cook.  The knee-buckling aromatics of roasted potatoes, sage, and braised meat permeated every corner of my grandparent’s Yucaipa, California home.  The upholstery smelled like pastry.  Baking was her true love. 

Flo was stout, with a fluff of white, curly hair and flushed cheeks, and resembled Mrs. Claus.  Her cookie preparation for the holidays began as early as mid-October.  Clad in her favorite pink gingham apron, she’d happily hand-beat batch after batch.  By Christmas Day she would have plated over a dozen different delicacies: Ginger Snaps, Date Balls, Hazelnut Puffs, Walnut Stars, Coco Krispy Crunches, and Wedding Cakes (with her signature whole maraschino cherry tucked inside!).  Don’t even get me started on her Fruit Cake.

And then there were her signature Anise Cookies.  Flo baked these just for her son, George (my father).  These particular sweets were a maternal gesture that began in the mid-1930s and stretched into my Dad’s adulthood.  One whiff of their licorice scent transformed my father, an internationally renowned watercolorist and professor, into a giddy, little kid.  Holding up a precious nugget as if to expose its facets to the light, he would annually rhapsodize on the elements of the perfect Anise Cookie; the separation of the milky white meringue from the caramelized, caked bottom; the bouquet released with each bite; their miraculous transformation as they aged into a delectable granite-like shard.

Often at my Grandma’s hip, I would be mesmerized while she prepared English staples; steak and kidney pie, Cornish pasties, Yorkshire pudding.  She compiled her favorite recipes into a small, handwritten cookbook that she gifted to me, her only granddaughter.  Thankfully, all of her cookie recipes were included. Then thirteen, I cradled the micro-tome in my hands, awed that she had entrusted me with her culinary secrets.

Grandma passed away in the late 1980s.  Our family stumbled to fill the void left by our own Mrs. Claus.  A decade later, as a graduate student crafting inexpensive Christmas gifts, I remembered the cookbook.

Flipping through the pages, there it was:  her Anise Cookie recipe. The words, “Dad’s Favorite,” were carefully written in my teenage script at the top of the page.  Grandma’s swirly, red-penciled handwriting talked me through it.  Anise liquid was an exotic splurge.  Beat the eggs “until fluffy for 45 minutes.” She mixed these by hand? “Let stand overnight”— I opted to chill them instead.  That was my first handwritten contribution to her recipe.

Christmas morning, I presented my Dad with the tin.  Though eye-ing his toddling granddaughter, he accepted it and distractedly popped open the lid.  That sweet, distinctive scent escaped.  His attention snapped back to the metal box.

He looked at me stunned.

Unfolding the tissue paper, he tossed back his head and let out a soft sob.  Carefully, he picked up one of the creamy gems. He marveled at it for a moment and then took a bite. 

With a deep exhale, he slowly chewed and grinned.  The chaos of Christmas morning swirled on.  But, there he sat, the open tin perched on his lap, blissfully transported: A son unexpectedly basking in the spirit of his mother.  

I baked Anise Cookies for my Dad every Christmas after that.  Before the mayhem of presents, I’d find a quiet moment to slip him his stash.  It became one of our favorite father/daughter rituals.  He’d pop a cookie into his mouth and hum with delight.  We’d study that year’s batch, noting the subtle differences in texture, color, and fragrance. Then, he’d happily scurry away to hide his cookie booty.

I built on Grandma’s recipe, finessing her instructions with each pass; noting the impact of egg size, humidity, and parchment paper vs. aluminum foil.  I tracked them, year by year, on attached Post-It notes.  My last comment was dated December, 2014.

My Dad passed away in March of 2015.  Though his appetite was diminished from years of chemotherapy treatments, he managed to nibble a cookie a day that final holiday season.  It was a touchstone of a well-lived life; one that began simply enough, as a holiday treat baked by a young mother for her cherished first born and, unwittingly, setting into motion an unbroken streak that spanned over fifty years.

I didn't bake this last Christmas.  It is still too painful.  A well-meaning friend, however, knowing of our tradition, baked me a batch of my father’s beloved cookies.  I graciously accepted, but waited until I was alone to open them. 

One whiff of that licorice scent triggered a searing ache of grief.  Too soon.  Maybe next year.

Florence James’ Anise Cookies
My notes are in italics – A.J.

 2 eggs – cold
1 c. sugar
1 ½ cups of sifted flour (I used organic flour)
¼ t. cream of tartar (bought fresh every year – found made a significant difference)
½ t. Anise Extract (ordered yearly from Spice House in Chicago, IL)
(Sometimes I added a touch more. But not too much or else it makes the dough droopy)

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Beat eggs until fluffy. (Until really fluffy-at least 10 min or so). Add sugar gradually. Beat for 45 minutes.

Sift together flour, baking powder and cream of tartar. Fold into egg mixture. Drop by teaspoon onto a greased and floured cookie sheet (I used parchment paper). Dough will be sticky.

Let stand overnight – Do Not Cover (I chilled in my fridge overnight uncovered). Chill for at least 10-12 hours. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. A cake forms on top if made right. I’d say the top is crunchy with a cake bottom. I used to make a double batch that my Dad would ration through January. But this is my Grandma’s original recipe. These measurements make about a dozen


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Butter Tart • Kari Macknight Dearborn

Brett Rawson

A Note from Curator Rozanne Gold: This fascinating article by Kari Macknight Dearborn comes just in time for Canada’s huge 150th birthday party celebration on July 1st.  Canada Day festivities take place throughout the country and wherever Canadians live abroad.  Here, Kari shares her own glorious family history, and that of Canada’s edible icon.  Her step-by-step photos for making the country's beloved butter tarts are at once mouthwatering and instructive. Kari, a senior producer at the Toronto advertising firm, Zulu Alpha Kilo, Inc., is a board member of Slow Food Canada and is currently studying  for her WSET Diploma.  She lives in Ontario with her husband, Paul, and two Hungarian Puli dogs, Luna and Tisza. Many thanks to Allison Radecki for securing Kari’s memories for us...and just in time for the party!  Happy Birthday, Canada.

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BUTTER TARTS BY KARI MACKNIGHT DEARBORN

As so many of my fellow Canucks count down to July 1st, and to what probably will be the largest national party of my lifetime — Canada’s sesquicentennial celebration of Confederation — we are daily bombarded, and in every conceivable medium, with Canadiana.

This fervor has never been seen in our land of quiet pride and polite patriotism, and it’s odd and awesome at the same time.   Images of beavers and moose, maple leaves, hockey, and all other symbols of my native land, are everywhere this year.  The entire country is red, white, and bleeding nostalgia.

Canada officially came into being July 1, 1867, in case you were wondering what the fuss is about, by being granted a confusing level of freedom from the British Empire. It’s complicated.   Americans went about it slightly differently, I know.  Canada’s separation from Britain was a lot less bloody, and our connection to the ‘Empire’ is still strong today as a result.

We remain a country with very British and French influences because these countries created Canada.  We have two official languages and we’ve raised a bunch of the funny and talented famous people you love.  But my story is not exactly meant to be a lesson in Canadian history.

Instead it is a story about a singular confection; a quintessential Canadian dessert, made with basic pantry staples — the butter tart.  How it came to be such a part of Canada’s cultural identity, and my own, is at the heart of my handwritten recipe.

I was raised in Northern Ontario on the North Shore of Lake Huron, as a consequence of my father’s employ in the mining industry.  My grandmother was an English war bride who married my Canadian soldier grandfather and came to Canada shortly after the end of the Second World War. They settled very close to what would become my hometown of Elliot Lake.

My mother comes from hard-working Scottish Hebridean farmers of the Presbyterian persuasion, many of whom were displaced by the Highland Clearances. They ultimately settled in the rich agricultural areas north of Toronto that resemble, topographically at least, their ancestral homeland, minus the blasting winds from the North Atlantic.

It was in these enclaves of fellow immigrant Scots, and other erstwhile Brits, where these folks baked for weddings, picnics, and church events with the humble ingredients they could most easily procure.

Canadian food historians claim the butter tart’s certain influences from the Scottish Ecclefechan tart and early Québecois pie recipes made with maple syrup and maple sugar, as well as Southern recipes for pecan pie.  These reasons all make sense given our country’s history and the oral tradition of sharing recipes.  The main difference with the butter tart seems to be the individual serving size.  Additionally, butter tarts are runnier than pecan pie given the lack of cornstarch.

The earliest published recipe for the butter tart is from Barrie, Ontario, from 1900 in the Women’s Auxiliary of the Royal Victoria Hospital Cookbook, attributed to one Mrs. Malcolm (Mary) MacLeod.  Since my mother’s Aunt Marion was part of the auxiliary in Barrie in the post-war era, the written recipe here, in my mother’s hand, naturally resembles it.

These tarts were a precious part of my childhood at family gatherings but contained many (to me) vile raisins that I would meticulously remove one by one, wiping my hands on my clothes.  For my wedding in 2008, since I am not fond of cake and my husband adores my mother’s version, I asked my mother to make dozens of mini butter tarts for my guests.  Some of the tarts were even made sans raisins just for me, making it easier to keep my dress free of the gooey filling.  My stance on raisins has since softened.  And if the trend of butter tart wedding cakes ever takes off, you know where it began.

This recipe is classic, unfussy, and consistent but with a slightly loopy script. It’s sweet, and it has that nothing-extraneous Scottishness about it that I rely on.  It’s my mum in pastry form.

My mum, a retired nurse, mailed me the original recipe to use for this piece, but I also have the email she sent me years ago when she transcribed it.  Her recipe for the pastry dough (pate brisee) isn’t written down because it’s burned into her memory, and is also used for her amazing apple pies and much-beloved tourtière.   

Butter tarts have become big tourist draws.  We have a Butter Tart Tour in the Kawarthas area near where my mum grew up, and a Butter Tart Trail near the city of Guelph.  Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival and Contest is held in Midland, Ontario, annually.  Whether you add raisins or not, walnuts or pecans, nobody can really agree.  Maple bacon versions and some containing coconut are popular variations on the traditional.  Since I am a purist, I prefer mine with walnuts since pecans are not native to Canada, and would not have been cheap or easy to find here 100 years ago. 

Happy Canada Day!

Butter Tarts (yields 12 tarts)

Note:  You can use your own pastry dough recipe or purchase pie crusts.

 Ingredients

Pastry for 2 pie crusts
2 eggs
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp white vinegar
½ cup melted butter
¾ cup raisins
¾ cup chopped walnuts

Directions

1. Set oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Grease 12 – 3” pie pans (muffin tins)
3. Roll pastry and place in pans
4. In a large bowl, beat eggs. Beat in brown sugar. Stir in vanilla and vinegar. Mix well and stir in melted butter. Fold in raisins and walnuts.
5. Spoon mixture into pans. Place pan on cookie sheet.
6. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce to 350 and bake for another 25-30 minutes. Let cool.

Lemon Pound Cake • Kelly Spivey

Brett Rawson

A note from Curator Rozanne Gold: In this beautiful story about a memorable lemon cake (and Brunswick stew), Kelly shares her experience as both a pastry chef and as a devoted member of a tight-knit family.  Kelly’s love of food led her to drop out of graduate school where she was pursuing a Master of Fine Arts to study baking (a girl after my own heart, I also dropped out of grad school long ago to pursue a career in New York’s food world.  I later went back to get an MFA — who knows — so might Kelly). After ten years as pastry chef, Kelly now works at a specialty coffee roaster and coffee bar in Memphis, Tennessee, while she researches and writes about the history of baking and pastry in the south. Southern food ways are so in vogue that I await her gorgeous prose.

In the South, our relatives are our people.

My people come from North Carolina. They were farmers and owners of a general store. They lived in Northampton County, almost at the border of Virginia, where the pine trees were just as much a commodity as the peanuts and cotton. 

My grandmother, Elizabeth Braswell Spivey, was born in Northampton County in 1925.  She lived on a farm very far out in the country.

On the property was a long, rectangular cook-house and an adjoining family room with a fireplace, couches, and games. The cook-house had a large wood-fired brick oven that housed two large cast iron pots, and a cast iron, gas-fueled fryer that only was used for cornbread.    

Starting somewhere in the ‘30s or ‘40s, my family has held a Brunswick Stew every year in the Fall.  We would wake up early for an hour drive to my grandparents’ house, usually arriving around seven. The men hauled firewood to the brick oven and lit the fire. The women gathered in the cookhouse family room to peel pounds and pounds potatoes, and to empty huge cans of tomatoes into the cast iron pots.  

Generally, the men did all the stirring with wooden paddles the size of boat oars, but as a defiant teenage girl, I refused to peel potatoes and insisted on stirring instead. I would sit on top of the warm bricks, next to the cast iron pots, and stir for hours. After three hours it was time to “take up the stew” and fry the cornbread.

I loved how we all came together and took hands as we gathered in a large circle. The head of the family (my grandfather and after he passed, my father), would lead us in giving thanks and each joined hand would gently squeeze the other before letting go.

Finally, we could reap the rewards for our work. Plates were filled with Brunswick stew, pulled pork, slaw, and fried cornbread. Then they filled again with brownies, pig pickin' cake, lemon pound cake, thick slices of pie, and occasionally, ice cream.

We made between 200 - 250 quarts of stew each year, to be shared with family and friends. It was kept in the freezer and sustained us all winter.   

After my grandmother's death in 2013, I received boxes of her cookbooks and recipes jotted down on envelopes or advertisements for fertilizer. Some were just newspaper clippings. I received all of this during a time when, as a pastry chef, I was beginning to delve into my own history and re-create the desserts of my people. 

The earlier recipes are written in cursive so neat you can almost see the lines of the grade school primer it was practiced in. The later recipes become smaller, cramped, and more hurried, making them illegible to the untrained eye. Sometimes there were just notes denoting "good" recipes.

As I worked my way through the scraps of paper and fragile books, I put the ingredients together in my head, tasting every dessert on the sideboard at Christmas and every contribution from my aunts at the annual Brunswick stew.  But it was my grandmother’s lemon pound cake that was in evidence at every gathering.  

The first bite was so good — the tart-sugary glaze on the pillowy, yellow-tasting cake.  The second bite was to make sure that yes, you can taste yellow. To this day, it is the only cake my brother will eat.

My assumption that this cake was a made-from-scratch triumph was quickly shattered when I asked my mother for her copy of the recipe and saw that a box of Duncan Hines yellow cake mix and instant yellow pudding were two of the key ingredients.  I wanted to make the legendary cake for my brother's birthday.  This was years before my grandmother had passed and I was at the very beginning of my pastry career.  (I’m now 33). 

I tried to reverse-engineer it — omitting the instant pudding and cake mix (the horror!) and adding in real lemon zest and juice — but the results were never as good.  Some things are best left alone.  My grandmother understood, after all, that a cake is just a reason to gather together.

Lemon Pound Cake

Note:  Kelly says that she often uses a Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachment and beats the batter for 8 minutes.  Her grandmother did it by hand for 10.  Pour the batter into a large loaf pan that has been brushed with oil and lightly floured.  Although the handwritten recipe does not include instructions for icing, Kelly prepares a thin glaze made from 1 cup of sifted powdered sugar and 2 to 4 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.    

INGREDIENTS: 

1 box Duncan Hines yellow cake mix
1 box instant lemon pudding
2/3 cups water
1/2 cup Mazola oil
4 eggs
Lemon flavoring to taste

DIRECTIONS:
Put in mixing bowl and beat for 10 min.
Preheat oven at 325. Cook for 1 hour
Does better if you do not open the oven door until the hour is up.
Makes 1 cake

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Kelly Spivey (left) and her grandmother, Elizabeth Braswell Spivey (above)

A Mother’s Day Reflection • Interview with Rozanne Gold by Allison Radecki

Brett Rawson

A note from curator Rozanne Gold: It is Sunday morning, Mother’s Day, 2017 and I am missing my mother terribly.  It is especially poignant, then, to be writing this curator’s note.  I am grateful to Allison Radecki for conducting this interview with me about my beloved “Ma.”  Always, “Ma.”  Marion Gold, my best friend, soul mate, guiding light.  She died in 2006 and never got to meet my daughter, Shayna, whom we adopted at age 11-1/2 less than a year after my mother died.  They would have loved each other deeply.  My mother’s love of food was infectious, but it was another level of nourishment — of a more spiritual, humanistic nature — that fed me best.  It is also meaningful to write this today (our 30th feature) on the first-year anniversary of “Handwritten Recipes."   

ALLISON RADECKI: Since the first handwritten recipe profiled in this column was one that you penned and framed as a gift to your own mother, Marion Gold, for Mother’s Day in 1980, it seems fitting that we feature one of her own recipes today.  Which handwritten recipe of your mother’s were you drawn to as you approached this holiday weekend?

ROZANNE GOLD: I have a recipe for my mother’s Garlic Broiled Shrimp — with a debatable “s” at the end.  She really never said “shrimps,” but she might have questioned herself while writing the title. Her handwriting is as elegant and finum (a Hungarian word for refined that she often used) as she was.

I was excited about the clarity and straightforward simplicity of this dish.  Although I never follow a recipe — ever — I followed this one with great results.  Michael (my husband) and I ate the whole thing standing up at the counter and were almost giddy from its clean, pure flavors, its stunning plainness.  The second time I made it, I embellished a bit — a bit of tarragon and a splash of wine — and ruined it. 

That day, with great intention, I summoned her up so that I could see her standing in her kitchen in Queens.  There was a smile at the edge of her lips, her shoulders gently sloping, like the curve of her “m” in minced.  She minced fresh garlic with her small, favorite knife that was never sharp enough.  Would she peel and de-vein the shrimp? I imagine her long piano fingers delicately removing the black vein along the curve of each shrimp’s back.  And there was all that curly parsley, meant to be finely chopped.  I mean, curly parsley!  When was the last time I bought curly parsley?  This was a dish for company meant to be served with rice.  A box of Carolina Rice was as iconic to me as a Warhol soup can. 

RADECKI: Where did your Mom keep her recipes?  And where do you now keep hers?  

GOLD: My mother kept her recipes in a blue kitchen binder decorated with simple and colorful illustrations of kitchen utensils and ingredients. It has large yellow envelopes as dividers in which you could stuff too many recipe cards.  After she died, I found a stash of additional recipes in an old-fashioned tin, filled with blue-lined index cards all in her graceful handwriting festooned with her beautiful swoops and swishes: chicken cutlets, fresh string beans, sour cream coffee cake.  The binder and tin now nestle together in the drawer of my pine kitchen table.  

RADECKI: Did your mom like to cook?  Did she cook often?  What do you remember about her cooking?

GOLD: Every night.  She cooked every night and made the things we loved.  Cabbage and noodles, another dish of stunning simplicity, was my comfort food growing up. Mornings were made special with her apricot-filled ultra-thin crepes called palascintas; meatloaf was always in the shape of a heart.  

My mother also made something she called “Tunk-a-lee,” soft scrambled eggs with tomato, pepper, and onion — very Hungarian flavors — but every culture seems to have a version.  Another dish I loved was a stew of hot dogs, cut on the bias, with potatoes and onions in a ketchup-y broth.   And pot roast.  She made the most fabulous pot roast with so many onions, a bay leaf, and splash of dry vermouth.  She made it all the time and later revealed that she hated pot roast. 

My mother loved to entertain.  She’d take white bread, cut the crusts off, and roll it paper-thin with a rolling pin — so thin, it became like pastry.  She’d then cover each slice with creamy blue cheese spread and put a fat canned asparagus on it.  They would get rolled up tight, brushed with melted butter, and baked.  Oh, how many of these I used to eat before company came! Lethal.

RADECKI: How would you describe your relationship with your mother?

GOLD: Ours was an amazing love story.  It would be impossible to describe all the joys in our life together, but there was lots of sadness and loss, turmoil and drama, too.  But there was also lots of happiness that we shared in big and small ways. I liked the small ways best.  Laughing until we cried, playing scrabble; cooking, doing things to please or surprise each other, or just talking ten times a day on the phone.  There were trips and travels and innumerable nights of splendor at The Rainbow Room and Windows on the World.  There were victories and milestones to celebrate. And I got a chance to write about her in many of my books and magazine articles, too.  She was modest and never believed in "tooting her own horn,” and told me never to toot my own.  But, nothing came close just to being together. 

RADECKI: You have often said that your mother was “More Zsa Zsa than Julia.”  Can you paint a picture of the mom you see in your mind’s eye? 

GOLD: My mother was a seeker of wisdom and beauty.  She was such a beautiful woman.  She loved people. She loved children.  It always felt like she was doing something special, wanting to please.

She grew up in Florida in a tiny town called Belle Glade, near Pahokee.  It was just her, her mom, and her dad.  They were poor, but she didn’t know it.  She grew up happy.  She was always a tall drink of water, though her bosomy mother was only four foot ten. 

Mom escaped to the University of Miami, back when it was just one building.  Her parents died in her early thirties within six weeks of each other.  My mother told me that when her mother died, she felt as though her heart had broken. She carried a lot of sadness.  There were deep feelings.   

She was a teacher, a hospital volunteer and a medical assistant, but I think she wanted to be an actress.  She could be the most glamorous person; a bit like Zsa Zsa.

On her 80th birthday, three weeks before she died, it took her quite a while to get ready.  We weren’t going anywhere but she wanted to make it a special occasion.  She was so weak but spent hours in her bedroom getting ready.   When she finally came out, there were high heels, a mink jacket, and sequined glasses.  She could hardly breathe, but she dressed up like a movie star.  This is how she wanted us to remember her.

RADECKI:  You and I often talk about how recipes — especially handwritten ones — ignite connections.  In the spirit of sparking a memory or two, let’s play a quick game.  Tell me the first thing that comes to mind about your mother when I say:

Scent:  Onions and her own sweet perfume.  We each had our own scent.  I wore Rive Gauche.  She was a sexy, sensual woman. 

Sight: It’s summertime, and she’s in the backyard drinking an iced cold Heineken.  It’s so out of character, but that’s what I see.   

Sayings: "Kickups." If I acted out, she would say, "kickups." As in, "Watch out. You’re about to head into trouble."

Right before she died my mother said the most amazing things.  Look deep inside your heart and you will find the answer.  Have the courage of your convictions, even if you are wrong.  Have more faith in life.  Have fun!  And love and care will make everything all right.  That one is most important. I still keep them with me: in my wallet, handwritten down.

RADECKI:  When, do you think, was your mom proudest of you?

GOLD: One night, we had a real New York City evening planned.  She came to meet me in the city to hear Michael Feinstein at the Regency.  She came in by taxi from Queens.  It was a real moment, to see us together in that way, dressed to the nines.  We became elegant and adult together.  Yet it was a moment of exquisite recognition of our separateness.  

RADECKI: When were you proudest of your mom?

GOLD: Although we could get so angry with one another, there was never a time I was not proud of her.  That may be my deepest connection to her.  I always felt so proud of her.

RADECKIYou’ve credited your mother for recognizing that you had a future in food, and urging you to pursue that passion, even at a time when women were not prominent in professional kitchens.  How did she see your path and encourage you to do what you loved?

GOLD: When I was in college at Tufts, I got a phone call from my mom.  She had just heard an interview with the Hungarian restaurateur George Lang.  That was the very first time I heard the idea of a restaurant consultant.  I was a dual major in psych and education, but the food, she knew.  I mean, she let me become a bartender at age sixteen, when she knew it wasn’t legal.

My mother was the one to see that I was spending more time cooking in the kitchen than working on my Masters degree.  I dropped out of graduate school and became the first chef to New York Mayor Ed Koch when I was twenty-three. She enjoyed visiting me at Gracie Mansion, but felt bad about the grueling hours.

Again, always wanting to please. There was a restaurant, Villa Secondo, in Queens where my parents would always go.  But, one day my mother called me to say, “Rozanne!  Secondo, it’s gotten so much better!”  Years later, I found out who the new chef was.  It was Lidia Bastianich.  She knew!  My Mom just knew.  She had that food sense.

RADECKI: In 2009, a few years after your mother’s death, you bought and saved over six thousand cookbooks from the library of Gourmet Magazine and donated them to the N.Y.U. Fales Library in your mother’s name.  What does it mean to you to see her name Marion Gold on the nameplate of every book in that Gourmet collection?

GOLD: It felt so full circle…so right.

Garlic Broiled Shrimp

Note:  You can buy large cleaned, deveined shrimp.  Reduce cooking time depending on size of shrimp.  Do not overcook. 

INGREDIENTS:

Two lbs. raw shrimps
½ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tsp. salt
½ cup chopped parsley
Lemon wedges

DIRECTIONS:

Arrange shrimps in shallow baking pan.  Sprinkle with olive oil, garlic, salt, and half of parsley.

Broil about 4 inches from source of heat for 5 to 7 minutes on each side – Sprinkle with remaining parsley and serve with lemon wedges. 

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To see the rest of Rozanne Gold's "Handwritten Recipes," click here.

Pasta alla Norma • Allison Radecki

Brett Rawson

A Note from Curator Rozanne Gold: This dreamy essay comes from food writer and fabulous home cook, Allison Radecki, who describes her recent trip to Sicily in such a way that we experience an intimacy with her.  Through her eyes we taste the pleasures of food and friendship, and get an up-close view of one of the world’s largest religious processions, La Festa di Sant’Agata, celebrated annually in Catania (Sicily’s second largest city) from Feb. 3rd-5th with the heart and soul of an entire community.  Sant’Agata, the city’s patron saint, is also lovingly known as “La Santuzza” — the little saint — in the local Catanese dialect.  Allison’s beloved friend, Mario, whose family home is in the Canalicchio neighborhood, teaches cooking at Catania’s“Piazza dei Mestieri,” preparing high school students to enter the restaurant world.  They met while attending The University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy’s Piedmont region, years ago.  Pasta alla Norma, Sicily’s quintessential dish is something Mario and Allison make every time they are together — a ritual they share whether in New Jersey or in Italy.  I, too, remember eating Pasta alla Norma every day when my husband and I travelled to Sicily — an island of volcanic pleasures.  Grazie mille to Allison for her beautiful handwritten recipe, and for the joy that accompanies it.  

BY ALLISON RADECKI

All you needed to see were the words “Flash sale to Europe” in your e-mail inbox, and you started to daydream. In a swirl of logistics and calculations you manage to free up a few days of freedom and click on two words that always forecast adventure:  BUY TICKET.  

And you’re off.  

The plane goes up and down and up and down again until you land at Catania-Fontanarossa Airport.  And there he is, your brother from another mother, who just happened to be born in the shadow of Europe’s largest volcano, beside the sea.  You stare at each other, in disbelief; with excitement; with love. After all, you have just made the seemingly impossible possible (at this particular moment in your life) and have three of the world’s greatest gifts before you: Friendship.  Time.  Sicilian food.  

You are really here, on this island kicked into the Mediterranean by the toe of Italy’s boot.  Mario’s car winds through the port, past freighters and petrol tanks. Soon, you are offered a taste of this new place, at a kiosk that overlooks a bobbing fleet of docked boats.  With a press, a squirt, and a stir, you sip your first glass of “selz, limone e sale.” It tickles your lips and tastes like the marriage of a lemon grove and the salt water before you.      

At home in New Jersey, you wrapped your neck in a heavy scarf and scattered salt on your steps to stop from sliding on the ice.  But here, the sun is strong.   You sit and sip espresso together in the shadow of stone buildings as Mario attempts to explain what you are about to experience.  You contemplate what this street will look like for the next three days as the city stops to honors its patron saint, whose bones will be pulled on a silver carriage — up hills and down thoroughfares — drawn by an endless ribbon of white-clad devotees, as it happens every year.  That very night, you twirl your fork in a bowl of spaghetti, cooked al dente, in an attempt to catch every creamy bit of sea urchin that remains in your bowl.  

The next day is electric.  Brass bands chase towering candelabras through crowds.  Velvet curtains hang from high balconies. The saint’s face is visible everywhere, on street corner magnet stands and balloons that fly overhead.  Amidst the call of trumpets and the shouts of candle sellers, you duck into a crowded bar and are handed “la raviola,” fried half-moons filled with sweetened ricotta.  Powdered sugar snows down on your shirt and sleeves and you laugh.  

The following morning begins at 4 a.m. with a long walk to the Piazza Duomo (parking during the Festa di Sant’Agata is — as you can imagine — a holy mess).  And though the city is still in darkness, the streets are alive with footsteps, voices, and the whirr of the milk frothing for cappuccinos to be sipped by men and women dressed in white.   At the mass at dawn, handkerchiefs wave and a city sings out to welcome its protector.  That afternoon, you watch from a high perch, surrounded by Mario’s family and friends — Giogió, Saro, Claudia, Daniele, Daria — and nibble fat, golden arrancini, as the saint sails past on the street below.  

That night, at his family table, Mario, an exemplary teacher, cooks “La Norma," the pasta dish of his city, named after the operatic masterpiece of Bellini, another jewel in Catania’s crown.  And, even though he regrets that it is not eggplant season, (“when they will be sweeter and more delicious”) you try to memorize the way in which the slices are bathed in salty water to release their bitterness, and how he unites the pasta, tomato sauce, basil, fried eggplant and shavings of ricotta salata, so that the result seems to echo Mt. Etna, which smokes in the distance.  

After a night where massive candles, like tree trunks, line the sidewalks of the city, the saint says her final farewell.  That is, until next year, when it will all begin again.  And soon, with a final coffee and a bear hug of an embrace, you board the plane to return home.  

Domani.  You wake up to a snowstorm which cancels work and offers you an unexpected day of rest.  You are thankful.  And, though you can hear the scrape of shovels on sidewalks as you slowly acclimate to the new time and your old life, you dream of eggplants and basil and start to think about dinner.

PASTA ALLA NORMA
Adapted from a recipe by J. Kenji López Alt

Note:  The ricotta salata sold in the USA is not aged anywhere enough for the true flavor of this dish. Seek out an imported ricotta salata from Italy at a specialty market or combine equal parts sheep’s milk feta with grated Pecorino Romano cheese. 

INGREDIENTS

• Extra-virgin olive oil, for frying and more for drizzling
• 2-3 small Italian or Japanese eggplants, the skins roughly peeled, tops and bottoms trimmed, cut lengthwise into ½ inch thick slices
• Kosher salt
• 3 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly crushed with the side of a large knife
• 1 (25 oz.) jar passata (tomato puree)
• 1 pound dry rigatoni or penne rigate
• A large handful of fresh basil leaves (for the sauce), as well as another handful of roughly torn large leaves for garnishing.
• Aged ricotta salata, finely grated

DIRECTIONS

1. Place eggplant slices in a large bowl and fill with cold water.  Add enough salt to the water and swirl with your hands so that the water tastes like the sea.  Allow the eggplant to soak in the salted water for half and hour.  This will both flavor the slices and allow the eggplant’s bitter flavors to drain out into the salted water.  Drain the slices and pat dry with paper towels.

2. Heat a thumb’s thickness of olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Add as much eggplant as fits in a single layer without overlapping.  Cook until the eggplant is browned on both sides (but not dark brown or   burnt).  Transfer eggplant to a plate and set aside. Repeat with remaining eggplant, adding olive oil as necessary, until all eggplant is browned.

3. Heat remaining oil until it shimmers. Add garlic cloves to the oil and cook, until fragrant, but not browned.  Remove cloves from the oil and discard. 

4. Add the tomato puree to the oil and cook, stirring constantly until evenly incorporated. Bring to a boil, and add a large handful of basil (stems and all) to cook into the sauce.

5. Reduce to a bare simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is thickened into a sauce-like consistency, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt.  When no one is looking, add a tsp. of sugar to add sweetness, if necessary.  Remove the cooked basil from the sauce and discard.

6. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the ‘al dente’ package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid. Return pasta to the pot.

7. Add the sauce to pasta and toss to coat, adding reserved pasta water if necessary to thin sauce to desired consistency. Add eggplant slices and toss to combine.

8. Serve pasta immediately, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and garnished with grated ricotta salata and a handful of torn basil leaves.   Serves 6

9. Think of Sicily.

Gwen Beinart's Teiglach • Charlene Beinart

Brett Rawson

Note from Curator Rozanne Gold: What a lovely surprise to receive this beautiful story all the way from New Zealand.  Psychologist Charlene Beinart learned about “Handwritten Recipes” while listening to a podcast of “A Taste of the Past,” hosted by culinary historian Linda Pelaccio. The show, recorded in a hip studio at Roberta’s restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn, managed to tickle the tastebuds of a childhood in Durban (South Africa.)  How I love that connection! Teiglach (also spelled taiglach) is a sweet treat eaten on Jewish holidays, but most popular for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year).  This recipe is particularly fascinating to me because the teiglach of my youth were small balls of pastry boiled in honey and stuck together in pyramids with bits of candied fruit.  Gwen’s teiglach are, instead, large, oval rings of pastry afloat in amber syrup. Who needs to wait for a holiday?    

BY CHARLENE BEINART

My mom, Gwen Beinart (nee Sackstein), born in 1936, has always been the heartbeat of my love for baking. Over her lifetime she gathered a collection of recipes handwritten onto small cards — some her own, and others gathered from family and friends, tested, tasted, and kept as part of her core repertoire.

Of Lithuanian and German Jewish heritage, I am the second generation born in South Africa, and the youngest of three girls.  A typical Jewish immigrant history, my grandparents on both sides came to South Africa looking for a better life. They were very poor and my parents wanted nothing more than to give us the best possible life and education. My father was a self-made businessman and my mother was a very creative homemaker.

Of all of her recipes, there’s one that brings back the most vivid memories of delicious family time: Teiglach.  Syrupy, crunchy, chewy donut-shaped biscuits, these sweet offerings were at the centre of every gathering and a symbol of the importance of the occasion being celebrated.  This recipe was what my mother was best known for.  My emotional attachment to it was so profound that it took me more than 20 years after her death to make them. 

I am remembering, from my childhood in Durban, all the many conditions needed to make perfect teiglach.  First: the weather.  It must be a humid-less, sunny day, because the teiglach got dried out on my parents’ brick-paved patio before being boiled in syrup. Next: the equipment. You had to have the right pot, with a heavy metal lid and a brick placed on top to make it completely airtight. Then: no draughts! My sisters and I knew to never open the kitchen door and let in a draught when the teiglach were boiling on the stovetop!

I was always excited when my mom made them because it meant something important was happening!  Most likely, we were going to Johannesburg to be with my aunts, uncles, and cousins for Rosh Hashanah or Pesach.  Huge round Tupperware containers would be filled with my mom's teiglach and offered as gifts.  Everyone made a fuss: teiglach were considered a great delicacy.  Best of all, the containers were never returned empty — my aunts filled them to the brim with treats for our long car journey back to Durban.

After my mom passed away in 1991, we (my husband, three sons, and I) moved to New Zealand.  Naturally, my mother’s treasured box of handwritten recipe cards came with us.  But making teiglach felt far too daunting (emotionally and otherwise) to do on my own. Good results never seemed attainable. 

Just a few years ago, when my sister Kerry visited from London, we agreed to set aside a day to (finally!) make my mom’s teiglach. We had her Kenwood mixer, the right heavy-lidded pot, her lengthy handwritten recipe, and we felt her loving guidance — along with that of our other sister Elona, supporting us from England.

The family was well briefed: no opening the kitchen door, no draughts!    

Kerry and I put our memories together and got started.  Kerry remembered the teigel shape and we molded the dough before setting them out to dry in the sun. I remembered the three-step process to stir the teiglach once they were boiling in the pot: lift the lid, wipe off the condensation, and stir. Do this all quickly (remember, no draughts!) Of course this resulted in many hot syrup burns — scars I wear with pride!

While I always knew making teiglach was far more than following a recipe, I was not prepared for the overwhelming feeling I experienced when we opened the pot of the boiling treats for the first of six stirs.  The sweet, syrupy smell flooded me with lifelong memories of love, happiness, and of our beloved mom.    

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Mommy’s Teiglach (Gwen Beinart)
Note: Adjustments for gas stove made by Charlene

 A Photo of Charlene's mother, Gwen Beinart

A Photo of Charlene's mother, Gwen Beinart

Ingredients:

6 eggs
1 Tablespoon Oil
1 Tablespoon Brandy
Pinch salt
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
½ teaspoon baking powder

Flour: 3 cups to start
Syrup: 2 lbs or 1 kilo tin golden syrup,
3 cups sugar, and 2 ½ cups water

Directions:

1. Slightly beat 6 eggs with oil, add brandy, salt, orange rind and then baking powder.

2. Add 3 cups flour sifted (one at a time).

3. Take a little bit on a small heap of flour and work in flour until dough is soft, slightly sticky but pliable. Roll into shapes in floured hands.

4. Put into floured tray to dry – preferably in sun for approximately 20 minutes, s turning over after 10 minutes

5. In the meantime, put syrup, sugar and water on to boil in large heavy pot (or weighted lid).

6. When boiling fast add teiglach. Close lid and boil on high for 5 mins

7. Then turn down to medium/high (low to medium on gas) to boil for 30-35 mins (26 – 30 on gas) before lifting lid. (Very important to weigh down the lid!)

8. Wipe lid and stir in quick motion every 5 mins until done (an additional approximately 20-30 minutes, or six stirs). Total time on the stove is 1 hour 10 mins according to Mommy but on gas probably a total of 55 mins)

9. Special note for gas : after 1st 5 min fast boil move pot to medium size plate on medium gas for 30 mins. Then do the lid/wipe/stir @ 5 min interval either 5 or 6 times in total.

10. When done take off 1 ½ cups of syrup for next batch

11. Then put in 1 heaped teaspoon ground ginger andhalf to ¾ cup boiling water down the side of the pot.

12. Stir until bubbling stops and take out teiglach onto damp board or plate. Leave to cool.

13. Can roll in chopped nuts if desired.

14. Store in plastic air tight container.

15. If making further batch add ½ used syrup and ½ new to same other ingredients – usually better

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Charlene Beinart works as a psychologist in private practice and her husband is a university lecturer. She writes, "Our sons have turned out to be far better cooks than me, and their interest in food history has captured my own. We are regular listeners of Linda Pelaccio's podcast, A Taste of the Past. Our oldest son is currently a MA student at Hebrew University, researching the lives and stories of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants to South Africa through the cookbooks they created and the recipes they passed down to their children."

Pumpkin Fritters • Jonathan Paul Katz

Brett Rawson

A note from curator Rozanne Gold: Anna Freiman, native of Lithuania, speaker of nine languages, and devotee of Russian literature, herself sounds like an elegant character in a Dostoevsky novel. After surviving the horrors of the Holocaust, she joined her older brothers in South Africa, and later emigrated to Israel. Her grandson Jonathan, a writer (and creator of a Jewish historical cooking blog), found Annushka’s recipe for pumpkin fritters in a red binder his mother has kept for thirty years. With great affection he says, “As a teacher, my grandmother’s handwriting in both Latin and Hebrew scripts was crisp and exact; the fluidity of the cursive was unmistakably correct and undoubtedly all her own.” Jonathan, whose roots spread from South Africa, Israel, Chicago and New York, expresses his cooking “as deeply Jewish and totally unboxed” — just like his exceptional grandmother. You can enjoy more of his writing and extensive research at www.flavorsofdiaspora.com

BY JONATHAN PAUL KATZ

Every fall and winter, I see advertisements and signboards for pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice lattés, pumpkin doughnuts — but none for the pumpkin dessert of my childhood: Pumpkin fritters — a popular dish from my native South Africa. This recipe, lovingly written by my late grandmother Anna “Annushka” Freiman (née Smit), is at the heart of this story.

Annushka died in 1999, but her legacy lives on in the tales about her and in the recipes she left behind. In the 1980s, she typed out a cookbook for the family — including her famous dill soup, fish curry, and the meat stews she learned to make in South Africa. In addition, she blessed everyone dear to her with dozens of handwritten recipes. Those given to my mother on her visits to Annushka in Israel, were gathered in a treasured red binder — one that would forever sit alongside the typed recipe book. These tastes of my childhood became a priceless link to the life of an extraordinary woman.

My grandmother was born in Panevezys, Lithuania in 1917, in the famous yeshiva town known in Yiddish as Ponevezh. She was one of nine children in a well-off family who made their living as bottlers of Pilsner beer. Like many well-educated Lithuanian Jews, she grew up in a multilingual environment — High German, Hebrew, Lithuanian, and Russian were spoken at school, while Yiddish was spoken at home. And she learned English and Polish at some point along the way. Annushka survived the Holocaust in the Kaunas Ghetto and Bergen-Belsen, but tragically lost her first daughter, her first husband, and most of her siblings. After the war, she moved to South Africa, remarried and had three children, including my mother. In the mid-1960s, she moved to Israel and taught Hebrew.

Soon enough, Annushka became well-known for her prowess in the kitchen. The dishes she made were hardly traditional — she had a love for Middle Eastern cuisine and the Afrikaner and Indian specialties she learned in South Africa. Other recipes harkened back to her roots: Gefilte fish — peppery, in the Lithuanian tradition — or her aromatic dill soup.

She brought many recipes from Lithuania, but mostly enjoyed the black rye bread and farmer’s cheese that were the mainstays of the Lithuanian Jewish diet for centuries. I am certain that the tastes of her childhood carried over into her cooking — hence her pumpkin fritters are less sweet than many of their counterparts among other South African communities. They are also far more elegant — befitting a literary woman who could read, write, and speak nine languages and was known for her elegant demeanor. (As a young woman, she was also known as “Annushka di Sheine,” Annushka the Beautiful, for her elegance and beauty.).

My grandmother spoke in allusions with frequent references to Dostoyevsky. Ten hours of her mellifluous words are available at the Yale University Library as proof. Her descriptions of the detritus of everyday life recalled the great works of Yiddish and Russian literature, imbued with a folk wisdom all her own. But her recipes begged for a bit of wisdom of one’s own — be it the dollop of sour cream to add to the dill soup, or ingredients, or measurements, which had been omitted or simply “forgotten.”

My grandmother died when I was a child, but I distinctly remember making her pumpkin fritters with my mother in our family’s cramped New York City kitchen. (I “helped” by putting things into the bowl). My mother was always looking at the recipe on the counter as she mixed the batter, and the smoke from the cooking oil filled the apartment with a sweetly burnished smell that I still associate with autumn. On one very rainy day, I remember how the smoke looked like an extension of the cloud outside the window.

When I was 20, I spent a few months in South Africa doing archival research in winter which, in South Africa, takes place June through August. While there, I had the chance to eat pampoenkoekies – Afrikaner-style pumpkin fritters — at a coffee shop in the Cape Town neighborhood of Rondebosch. And though they did not taste exactly the same as the dish of my youth — they were a good deal sweeter, with a touch of clove — the bite pulled me into a Proustian reverie.

Poignantly, I, too, have just discovered that Annushka had “forgotten” an ingredient — and I struggled to make the recipe as written, watching the fritters disintegrate before my eyes. My mother advised that my grandmother always included flour in the mixture, but alas, there was none in the recipe. I marveled to find this omission and Annushka immediately came to life. (Handwriting is so often indicative of what is not written.) And as I slowly stirred the flour into the bowl, I felt a small nudge, and heard her whisper “Enjoy in good health.”

The recipe, as written in Annushka’s teacher’s hand, with my additions in parentheses.

Pumpkin Fritters • Your loving “Sheine”

Ingredients:

2 pounds raw pumpkin
[1-1/2 cups sifted flour]
3 eggs
1 heaped tablespoon sugar
½ level teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence [author note: vanilla extract]
1 level teaspoon cinnamon
2 [level teaspoons] baking powder

Directions:

Peel and slice pumpkin. Cook slowly in very little water till soft (about 20 minutes). Strain off water and mash up very well into a pulp. Cool it completely.

When cool, add slightly beaten eggs (just with a fork) and then add the balance of the ingredients, but the baking powder is added last.

Drop tablespoonful[s] into shallow oil (not too hot, as they burn quickly). Fry till golden brown on both sides. Makes 40-50 fritters.

Note: The fritters make a delicious dessert and can be served with cinnamon and sugar. They keep well in the fridge for quite a few days – if not eaten up immediately.
Bete’avon ulabri’ut! [Bon appétit and to your health!]

Gramm's Banana Bread • Safiya Oni Brown

Brett Rawson

bananabread1.jpg

A Note from Curator Rozanne Gold: Allison Radecki first met Safiya Oni Brown during a baby-wearing workshop for new moms with wriggly infants in their arms. Allison, with her newborn Tabitha, sat in a circle while Safiya, a holistic health counselor and child whisperer, demonstrated how baby-wearing could calm even the crankiest kid into a happy state. Years later, their paths crossed over a  kombucha drink that Safiya had prepared, and Allison asked for a healthy recipe for the New Year. Gramms’ banana bread was reborn.  Her original is here (prepared and photographed by me), along with Safiya’s update.  I love the verve of Safiya’s powerful penmanship, and of the story told.

BY SAFIYA ONI BROWN

This recipe was given to me by my Gramms, Cecilia Sylvester Jett, who, after my husband, was my favorite person in the world.  Gramms, my mother’s mother, was an amazing cook.  But after becoming a vegetarian, she focused more on health and less on aesthetics, and in later years was known for her nut and celery loaf (a holiday favorite), and her famous banana bread.

Gramms was born in Detroit and enjoyed clipping recipes from the Sunday Detroit Free Press. Because we are a family of foodies, she often invited me to her room to explore a recipe she found in the paper.  I remember going through the Betty Crocker Children’s Cook Book, from which I made every recipe that did not involve meat.

My parents became fascinated with health and nutrition after visiting a Seventh-day Adventist Church in the early 1970s. They switched their diets almost immediately, and when they returned to Michigan, my Mom was glowing with all the knowledge she had accumulated.  It made sense to both of my uncles who were in the medical field, and they became vegetarians, too.

Gramms was beautiful. She carried herself with authority and lent a helping hand to many people, whether they were renters at her different properties or just folks in her neighborhood.  She was a social worker while raising her seven children. She cherished everything involving her grandchildren. Until I was ten, she gathered all thirteen of us to enjoy at least a week together as a family, going on trips and spending holidays at her house.  

For decades, I kept her recipe for banana bread on top of my fridge, hidden, so that it didn’t get lost. The original recipe, from the Detroit Free Press, is scribbled in my own writing.  I took it down during a phone call to Gramms before one of the many dinner parties I loved to throw in high school and college.  

This banana bread was the spark-plug for a small business idea that generated extra money after college. I also used her recipe as a base for zucchini-and-carrot spice bread that became a great seller as part of a line of all natural, organic sweet breads. I sold them to juice bars, cafes, and all-natural eateries. Eventually I gave this up because it was lots of work and barely profitable, but it was fun, and certainly a wonderful connection to my grandmother.  It spurred me to study at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  

In addition to the intoxicating perfume of the wonderful banana bread that would waft from her kitchen, I am reminded of another favorite fragrance as I write this: that of sun-warmed tomatoes, straight from her garden.  We would eat them sliced in sandwiches, lightly salted and peppered, with a farm-fresh egg on Ezekiel bread. No doubt, these vivid memories informed my career choice later on — linking food and well-being.  

Gramms died when my son, who is now 8, was just six months old. She was on her deathbed when I got a frantic call from my mom.  She feared Gramms would die before I could see her. That night we drove nine and a half hours to Detroit to share her last moments.  As I gently performed reiki on her frail body, I could feel all of the hurt and gnarled memories evaporate.  She died in peace seven minutes later.

I now make Gramms’ banana bread during winter holidays but also whenever I want to bring an edible gift somewhere.  The reaction is the same every time: “OMG this is so good, can I please have the recipe?”  

Here it is. And, Happy New Year. 

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Safiya’s Banana Bread

Ingredients:

½ cup whole wheat flour or spelt flour
½ cup flax meal
½ cup oat bran
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup organic butter (at room temperature)
8 tablespoons date sugar
1 egg
1-¼ cup mashed bananas
¼ cup organic yogurt
8 tablespoons date sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In one bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together first five ingredients.  In another bowl blend together the butter, date sugar, and egg.  Mash bananas, measure yogurt and set aside.  Alternate mixing the creamed sugar mixture, mashed bananas, and the yogurt into the flour mixture until the batter is incorporated. Pour mixture into an ungreased 9 x 5 x 3 in. loaf pan. Bake 50 to 60 minutes.  For muffins, bake 30 minutes.  

Suggestions: Add 1 cup of crushed walnuts. When bananas become too bruised, throw them in the freezer for your next batch of banana bread.  

Safiya Oni Brown is a Quantum Healer, Whole Food Family Counselor, Child Whisperer, Universal Life Minister, Baby-Wearing Aficionado, Fermentation Expert, Holistic Health Counselor and the Co-Owner of Quantum Kombucha & Dr. Brown’s Healing Water. She specializes in stress reduction, illness recovery, and natural family rearing through whole food preparation, fermentation, and Quantum healing.  For more information on Safiya visit www.radiantalchemy.org  

Krautsalat (Cabbage Slaw) • Sonya Gropman

Brett Rawson

Note from curator Rozanne Gold:  We are delighted to have this beloved recipe for Emma Marx’s cabbage slaw, translated and submitted by her great granddaughter, Sonya Gropman. It is but one of more than 100 recipes to be published next year in “The German-Jewish Cookbook: Recipes and History of a Cuisine,” co-written by Sonya and her mother, Gabrielle Rossmer Gropman (University Press of New England). The gorgeous narrative, spanning the kitchens of four generations, is part of the HBI Series on Jewish Women (the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute.)  I especially love the photo of Emma’s old-fashioned wooden mandolin that was used to shred cabbage, cucumbers, and onions.  And you will no doubt enjoy preparing the dish, faithfully, just as much as I did. We look forward to the book’s publication in September 2017. 

Krautsalat (Cabbage Slaw) by Sonya Gropman

My mother grew up in a household where three adults cooked on a regular basis her mother, grandmother, and father (her grandfather, who also lived with them, didn’t cook). The family had fled Nazi Germany in 1939, when my mother was a one-year old baby and settled in Washington Heights, a neighborhood in upper Manhattan that was home to approximately 20,000 German-Jews. German was frequently heard spoken by people on the street and there were many businesses that catered to the community, including food shops. Thus, it was easy for people to continue eating the same foods they had eaten in Germany.

Many German-Jewish families arrived in the U.S. with a household worth of personal belongings. Unlike most other refugees who might arrive with just a single bag or suitcase after fleeing their homeland German-Jews often brought the entire contents of their homes, which had been packed into enormous wooden crates called a lift van. This box of possessions included all the usual items that fill a household, both big and small from furniture, to clothing, to cookware, and everything in between.  That this happened was due to a perverse policy of the Nazis. It was a way for them to collect taxes on everything Jews packed, and it also demonstrated their imminent departure from Germany.

Much of the cookware and dishes brought by our family, which dates from the early 1900s to the 1930s, survives and is still in use by both me in my kitchen, and by my mother in hers. There are family objects that I use on a daily basis, including knives, a colander, and sauce pans.  It is a testament to how well-made these objects are and still functional many decades later.     

My mother has a wooden mandolin that belonged to her grandmother, Emma. By today’s standards, it seems very basic as it lacks folding legs to prop up the blade (instead it must be held at an angle with one’s hand), and is has a fixed blade, so that the thickness of the slices is not adjustable. To our knowledge, the blade has never been sharpened, yet it remains quite sharp. My mother uses it regularly to slice vegetables such as cucumbers and onions. She also uses it to shred green cabbage in order to make Green Cabbage Slaw, or Krautsalat, a dish that her grandmother frequently made for holiday meals during her childhood.  It accompanied any number of meat meals, such as roast duck or goose, tongue, or veal roast. It was a favorite dish of my mother’s and she was thrilled to find the recipe in a cookbook her grandmother had handwritten when she attended cooking school in Germany before she was married in the early 1900s. My mother set about making the recipe, but the finished dish didn’t quite match her memory of how it tasted during her childhood. She tinkered with the recipe, comparing the list of ingredients and the written instructions with her memory of it. She realized that even though the written recipe included onion, Emma had not used it in her version. Eventually she came up with a recipe for the dish that tasted exactly the way she remembered it. 

When I first saw the recipe, I was struck by my great-grandmother’s beautiful, fluid script, written in a form of Old German that is very difficult to read. I then noticed a translation for “salt water” written in blue ink, jotted down by a frustrated translator (my mom), who was relieved to figure out the word. At first I was sorry to see the page marred by contemporary writing, but I later realized that it adds another layer to the history of the recipe, keeping it alive and in the present. 

This recipe is remarkable in that a short list of ingredients is transformed, seemingly through a bit of alchemy, into something so addictively delicious. Falling somewhere between coleslaw and sauerkraut, it uses boiling salt water to break down the shredded cabbage into a slightly wilted and softened state.  A light vinaigrette dresses the cabbage, while brightening its taste with the acidity of vinegar.

 

Cabbage Slaw (Krautsalat)

8-10 servings

This dish is best if the cabbage is finely shredded. If you do not have a mandolin, use the long blade on a box grater, the slicer attachment on a food processor, or a sharp knife to slice the cabbage as thinly as possible. This recipe is the original version, but feel free to try the variation we discovered below which uses a few non-traditional additions.

1 medium sized head of green cabbage
1 quart of water
2 tablespoons of salt + extra if needed
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
ground white, or black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola or safflower

Prepare the cabbage:

Shred the cabbage into a large glass, ceramic, or stainless steel bowl. Boil the water with the salt. Pour the boiling saltwater over the shredded cabbage. Let it sit until the water is cool, between 30 minutes to 1 hour. Pour the cabbage into a colander set in the sink to drain the water. Press down with a plate that is slightly smaller than the colander to press out as much water as possible. Put the shredded cabbage in a serving bowl. 

Make the Vinaigrette: 

Pour the vinegar and pepper into a small bowl. Slowly add the oil, while whisking, until blended. Pour the vinaigrette over the cabbage, tossing to coat evenly. Taste for salt, adding more if needed. 

Serve:

The slaw will be ready to eat immediately, though the taste and texture will mellow and improve if allowed to stand for an hour or more. Serve chilled, or at room temperature.

Variation: Prepare cabbage as in step #1 above, adding some or all of the following ingredients to the drained cabbage in the bowl: 

2 carrots, shredded on large holes of a box grater
1 small shallot, minced
1 bunch arugula, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs, such as marjoram, parsley, or thyme  
Continue with steps #2 and #3

© 2016 Gabrielle Rossmer Gropman & Sonya Gropman The German-Jewish Cookbook: Recipes and History of a Cuisine

*HBI is the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, an academic center at Brandeis University which promotes scholarly research, artistic projects and public engagement.   

 

The Declaration of Dessert • Allison Radecki

Brett Rawson

Note from curator Rozanne Gold: Election Day cake (once known as Muster Cake) has gone viral.  Although this remarkable story, researched and recounted by food writer Allison Radecki, is geared for Election Day 2016, it ties together the history of food and politics better than anything could. Surely it will carry us into future elections.  This particular journey begins in Asheville and snakes its way to Montclair, New Jersey.  Feel free to adapt the recipe given here (courtesy of Susannah Gebhart for O.W.L. Bakery in Asheville, NC) to reflect your own tastes, family food culture, place, or historical curiosity.  For more information on Election Cake and The Montclair Bread Company, visit: http://www.owlbakery.com/electioncake/ and http://www.montclairbread.com.  A major salute to Ms. Radecki for bringing #makeamericacakeagain — a great culinary campaign — to our attention.  (photos: by A. Radecki).

Election Cake and Election Doughnuts 2016 by Allison Radecki

America, we’re going to the polls.  

For some, Election Day may spark a memory of winding lines of waiting voters or the distinctive swish of the privacy curtain that separates personal choice from the hum of activity outside. But to me, Election Day once meant meat pies; specifically, Jamaican patties butternut-hued, half-moon pockets, filled with ground beef and a wallop of spice.   

My earliest voting memories involved standing, waist-level by my mother’s side, in the confines of a tiny booth, and then purchasing patties from the polling station food table after her vote was cast.  Flakes of the buttery, curry-tinged dough always accompanied us home; sometimes within the brown paper bags in which they were wrapped, or else scattered on our shirts if we just couldn’t wait to take a post-ballot bite.

I have been thinking a lot about those Jamaican patties lately as I listen to the news, perhaps because I want to reach for anything that might mollify the taste of such a bitterly fought presidential campaign. 

I am not the only one with this desire.  

As a way to celebrate American culinary history, shine a light on voter rights and access, and link a scattered village of professional and home bakers, Susannah Gebhart and Maia Surdam, proprietors of Old World Levain (O.W.L.) Bakery in Asheville, North Carolina, are calling on their country to “Make America Cake Again.”

This project focuses upon historical Election Cakes, whose boozy, fruit-and-spice-filled recipe dates back to the early days of the 13 Colonies and the first baby steps of American Independence.  

These New England-based confections, originally named Muster Cakes, were made by Colonial women for the men called upon for military training or “mustered’ by order of the English Crown. A close relation to the great cakes of England, these monstrously huge sweets were made to feed the masses of people gathered (and encourage turnout) at important civic events.  Revelers would tear off a bit of the enormous cake to sustain them as they trained, debated, and congregated.

After the American Revolution, Muster Cakes became known as Election Cakes, and played a central role in the rowdy gatherings at the polls.  Unlike today, the original American election days were national holidays marked by festive community celebrations that served plenty of food, wine, and spirits. 

Within the first known cookbook written by an American, Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery (published in 1796), the Election Cake recipe calls for “thirty quarts flour, ten pounds butter, fourteen pounds sugar, twelve pounds raisins, three dozen eggs, one pint wine, one quart brandy…” along with loads of spices such as cinnamon and allspice. We’re definitely not talking about a puny pan here.

Long before American women were granted the right to vote, they would meet at community ovens across the colonies to bake these gigantic cakes as a way to participate in the democratic process.  

In the spirit of highlighting the community aspect of this tradition and to encourage debate on today’s issues, the owners of O.W.L. Bakery have asked bakers across the country to riff on this old recipe and post their locally flavored results to social media using the hashtags #makeamericacakeagain and #electioncake.  

A few participating bakeries will have their own interpretations of election cake for sale on November 8th, 2016.  A percentage of proceeds from these sales will be donated to the League of Women Voters, a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to fair voting access, education, and policy. 

Though my beloved Jamaican patties may be but a spicy memory, I am blessed on voting day, once again.  My local bakery, the Montclair Bread Company, in Montclair, New Jersey, is a creative participant in the Election Cake project. 

Rachel Crampsey, head baker and owner of the Montclair Bread Co., met O.W.L. bakery’s Susannah Gebhart this past summer at a ‘honey summit’ for professional bakers.  Along with a group of other historical recipe fans, the gathered bakers found themselves discussing Muster Cake and the idea for the Election Cake project took flight. 

Working from a base recipe, researched and adapted by Richard Miscovich of Johnson and Wales University, Susannah asked Rachel if she would be interested in baking for November 8th.  She eagerly signed on.  

Rachel’s twist?  She’s doing it in doughnut form.

“I like old recipes,” said Rachel, as she lowered a pan of speckled and glazed election doughnuts from a nearby cooling rack to the table before me. She sees this project as “a way to connect with fellow bakers and crafters.  It might be obvious but we don’t get to spend much time together.”  Along with civic involvement and sparking conversation, this crowd-sourced project is also a way to unite artisans who usually work alone amidst clanging pans and whirring mixers. 

Montclair residents are familiar with Rachel’s decadent creations; maple bacon and Tres Leches donuts are two of my favorites, along with the summertime Margarita special, which contains tequila and features a salted rim.  Her doughnuts have a cult following, with snaking lines that extend down the block on holidays and farmers market mornings. 

To adapt the historic recipe into an Election Cake Doughnut, Rachel took inspiration from a family recipe for Barnbrack (báirín breac), a traditional Irish bread/cake, dotted with raisins.  The resulting doughnut, whose dough is completely different than Montclair Bread Co.’s signature brioche, contains whiskey, currants, candied oranges and lemons. The fruit is soaked in black tea before being mixed in.  Dense, glazed, and dunkable, I enjoy it most with a cup of milky tea.  

The Election Cake doughnut will only be available at the Montclair Bread Company on November 8th, 2016, along with a range of other patriotically clad brioche doughnuts.  

“Food, in general, is a way to unite people,” reflected Rachel, as we chatted about the the role of bakers and connecting the community.  “It is no surprise that, for centuries, there was a village baker and community ovens where everybody brought their raw dough. In a way, baking was a civic duty.  As a business owner, I try to abstain from expressing political views. But, this (non-partisan) project allows me to be involved, so that every member of the community can participate.”  

Rachel, an accomplished runner, is no stranger to community building.  Between founding the local Welcome to Walnut Street street fair, celebrating National Doughnut Day (with doughnut story time and donut decorating for local children) and launching the Fueled by Doughnuts Running Club (“a running club with a doughnut addiction”), she is constantly bringing people together.

Now, please, get out and vote! Bake a cake. And, maybe, eat a doughnut, too.

 

Election Cake Recipe & Directions:

Day 1 (Prepare Preferment):

Using Sourdough Starter:
240 ml whole milk ~70º F (280 g)
¼ cup active starter — 100% hydrated (75 g)
2 ¼ cups All Purpose or whole wheat pastry flour (280 g)

OR

Using Instant Yeast:
275 ml milk ~70º F (320 g)
¼ tsp instant yeast (1 g)
2 ¼ cups plus 2 Tbsp All Purpose or whole wheat pastry flour (320 g)

Combine milk and sourdough starter or yeast and mix thoroughly until starter or yeast is well dispersed in the milk mixture. Add flour and mix vigorously until the starter is consistent and smooth. Scrape the sides of your bowl and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Allow your starter to ferment for 8-12 hours at room temperature. When ready to use, your preferment will have bubbles covering the surface.

Soak Dried Fruits:

If you plan to use dried fruits in your cake, we recommend soaking them overnight, or for several days beforehand. Measure out your dried fruit and cover with your liquor or liquid of choice (for non-alcoholic options, try apple cider/juice, other fruit juices, or steeped teas) in a small sauce pot. Warm over low heat for a few minutes, remove from the heat, and allow to soak, covered, overnight or for several hours. 

Before incorporating into your cake, strain the liquid off of the fruit. Use this fruit flavored liquid as a cordial or to make a simple glaze after the cake is baked.

Day 2 (Prepare Final Dough, Proof, and Bake):
           
1 cup unsalted butter (226 g)
¾ cup unrefined sugar (155 g)
2 eggs (100 g)
1/3 cup whole-milk yogurt  (85 g)
¼ cup sorghum or honey (60 g)
Preferment (560 / 635 g)

2 ¼ cups All Purpose or whole wheat pastry flour* (280 g)
2 Tbsp spice blend** (12 g)
¼ tsp ground coriander (1 g)
¼ tsp ground black pepper (1 g)
2 tsp salt (12 g)
2 Tbsp sherry or another  - optional (30 g)
2 cups rehydrated fruit (300 g)

1. With a paddle attachment in a stand mixer, cream the butter very well, then add sugar, mixing until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time on medium speed. Mix in the sorghum/honey and yogurt.

2. Exchange the paddle with a dough hook. Add the preferment (starter or sponge) and mix until just incorporated. Combine all of the dry ingredients before adding them to liquid ingredients and mix until just incorporated, being careful not to over-mix. Gently fold in the sherry (optional) and rehydrated fruit. 

3. Divide evenly into a bundt pan or cake rounds that have been buttered and lightly floured. OWL Bakery uses mini bundt pans, which yields 8-10 cakes. Proof for 2-4 hours, until the cake has risen by about ⅓ of its volume. 

4. Bake at 375° F (190° C) for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° F (177° C) and continue baking for about 25-30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting and eating. You may enjoy this cake plain or topped with a simple glaze. 

Notes:

* Choose high extraction flour if possible
* Create a spice mixture with warm spices like ground cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove, star anise, or mace. OWL Bakery’s house spice blend is a combination of 8 spices.
* Adapted by Susannah Gebhart for O.W.L. Bakery from Richard Miscovich’s formula. Note: OWL Bakery’s version of election cake reflects their place in the southern Appalachian Mountains. They use flour that has been grown and stone-milled locally by Carolina Ground and local, grass-fed milk. Additional ingredients are sourced close to home as well — bourbon, dried apples, and sorghum molasses — flavors that evoke   the bounty of the food landscape of their region.
 Feel free to adapt this version to reflect your own tastes, family food culture, place, or historical curiosity! 

 

Grandma Rozie’s Pot Roast • Tina Barry

Brett Rawson

Note from curator Rozanne Gold:  Tina Barry, poet, writer, and former restaurant critic for the Brooklyn Paper is a woman of myriad talents.  Her poems and micro-fiction have appeared in numerous literary magazines and two pieces in her poetry book, Mall Flower, were nominated for Pushcart prizes.  But her biggest prize may be the generational embrace she nurtures with her 91-year old mother, Roz (the creator of this story’s succulent pot roast), her beautiful 26-year old daughter Anya, and the precocious Vera, nearly two years old.  A writer of great warmth and wit, Tina extends these qualities to everything she touches her joie and appreciation for whiskey sours, the empowerment of women, great design, and great meals (especially in France).  An evening at her upstate New York home includes feasting from husband Bob Barry’s exquisite handmade ceramic plates.  Tina is a teaching artist at the Poetry Barn in West Hurley, New York, and is an editor for the restaurant and fashion industry.  Many bows to her for this beautiful story.

Grandma Rozie’s Pot Roast by Tina Barry

My mother, Roz Ehlin, the daughter of Russian immigrants, cooked four dishes perfectly: pot roast, stuffed cabbage, roast chicken and chicken soup. She broiled lamb chops, boiled frozen vegetables. Mashed potatoes came from the box. She has never, and, at 91 years old, has no intention of ever owning measuring cups or spoons. “I’m creative,” she told my sister and me when we were children, “creative people don’t measure.”

As limited in variety as our meals were, everything she cooked tasted great to us. That was a good thing. Divorced with a full-time job, she didn’t have time for elaborate dishes and she didn’t tolerate picky eaters. A friend of mine, who asked for her food separated on the plate so nothing touched, was never asked back for dinner. 

My mother may have kept her repertoire of meals well edited, but she loved, and still loves food, was curious about culinary trends and enjoyed reading recipes. Once a month she’d visit the library and, after perusing the latest Vogue and Cosmopolitan, head home with a stack of cookbooks. After dinner, she’d sit on the couch with a cookbook on her lap, my sister on one side, me on the other, and slowly turn the pages. 

“Look at that,” she’d say. My sister and I sighed over quivering Jell-O molds, bubbling pots of fondue, crisp pastry shells cradling Chicken á la King. Pineapple Upside Down Cake left us speechless. “One day,” we’d say, staring at a delicately browned dome of Baked Alaska.

On our kitchen shelf she kept Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cook Book; my mother appreciated Bracken’s dry wit. The other book was a tiny collection of recipes that my sister and I scribbled all over with purple crayon. One recipe for potted shrimp, turned up in my second grade class’s holiday cookbook, rechristened “Shrimp á la Ehlin.” She didn’t have a single handwritten recipe.

Out of the house and into my own kitchen, I vowed to cook and cook well. I bought measuring cups and spoons and used them. I baked apple pies and layer cakes, whisked batter for wisp-thin crepes. I mastered the perfect omelet. 

I was not, though, “creative” the way my mother was. I needed recipes, at least in the beginning while I learned the basics. Recipe or not, I was determined to nail her pot roast. First attempts were okay, if lacking the joie de vivre of her dish. One trial produced tender meat but a sauce without much flavor; I should have used broth, not water. Once I added too many tomatoes, turning the dish into a kind of pot roast ragu. I overcooked the potatoes; my mother’s potatoes were soft, not mushy. It took awhile but one glorious night, I served a pot roast identical to my mother’s.  

My daughter Anya married recently. She has asked me for recipes for the dishes she loves. I emailed them to her, until she requested Grandma Rozie’s Pot Roast. I have the recipe in my computer but I couldn’t bring myself to send it. Something so weighted with memories, so redolent of good times at the table, deserves more than clicks on the computer to attach and download. 

Her pot roast recipe is a part of our history: my mother’s, daughter’s and mine. And will be a part of my granddaughter Vera’s history, too. When Anya cooks for Vera, my mother will be with them in all the flavors on the plate. There will be a little of me, too, in the slant of my “t,” the dot that never quite caps the “i.” That’s what a recipe does, especially one that’s handwritten: it brings loved ones closer with the proof of their hand on paper, the memory of clangs and chatter, the perfume of onions cooking slowly on the stove. 

Roz Ehlin’s Pot Roast

1.5-2 lbs. chuck roast (with or without bone)
garlic powder, salt and pepper
1-1/2-2 tbs. olive oil
2 medium onions sliced thin
1 large, thinly sliced garlic clove
2-1/2 to 3 cups beef broth
5 14.5 oz. cans, whole tomatoes
(with 2 Tbs. of their juice)
1.5 large Idaho potatoes
(unpeeled, cut into large chunks)

1 bay leaf

 

 

1. Season the meat on both sides with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Heat the oil in a Dutch oven. When it’s very hot, add the meat to the pot and sear on all sides until dark. Set aside.

2. Turn heat to low. Add the sliced onions and garlic to the fat. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft and browned, about 15 minutes.

3. Return the meat and any juice collected on the plate to the pot with the onions. Add the tomatoes to the pot with the 2 Tbs. juice from the can. Add beef broth so about 1/2 of the meat is submerged. Add bay leaf. Cover and simmer for about 1.5 hours, then turn the meat to finish cooking. 

4. After about 2 hours, add more broth if necessary; you want enough liquid to make a nice sauce. Crush tomatoes with side of spoon. Add potatoes. Cook for about 30-45 minutes. Remove potatoes when they’re soft. If meat is still chewy, cook until tender. Return potatoes to pot to warm. Cook for a few minutes. Spoon off fat from sauce. Remove bay leaf and serve. My mother always served pot roast with egg noodles.

 

Stuffed Cabbage, Hungarian-Style • Jolie Mansky

Brett Rawson

Note from curator Rozanne Gold:  Jolie Mansky’s memories of her grandmother’s stuffed cabbage are mouthwatering.  The same can be said of the recipe I enjoyed making so much knowing I would serve it sometime during this year’s Rosh Hashanah holiday (year 5777), and well into the wintery months. Appropriately seasoned with sweetness (apples, raisins, honey, brown sugar and onions) and quite in contrast to the sauerkraut-y flavors of my own Hungarian mother’s version, its dulcet notes are perfectly in tune.  Jolie, an ebullient New Yorker, is the proprietor of Urban Concierge U.S., a company that enables others to “fulfill a desire or a dream from the perfect meal or sold-out event ticket, to a unique getaway day trip or global vacation.” I would say she should add sharing treasured recipes to that list and I encourage her to turn her family memoir First, You Brown the Onions, into a cookbook for a wider audience. Thanks, too, to Allison Radecki for her editing prowess.  

Stuffed Cabbage, Hungarian-style by Jolie Mansky

I have many memories of cabbage — from my Mom’s cabbage soup to the stuffed leaves featured here.  But it is this recipe, unbelievably delicious, schmaltzy, tasting both sweet and tart, that brings back incredible memories of childhood: Family gatherings, holidays, the powerful aroma of onions and tomatoes slowly cooking, that first taste of sweet-and-sour flavors, and being at my grandparents’ home joined by many cousins.   

All the women in my family (great-grandmother, maternal grandmother, great aunts, mother, and aunts) made this dish for the holidays.  It particularly links me to the three generations of women that came before me: my mother, Sherry Stauber Roberts, my grandmother, Lillian Adler Stauber, and Mechlya Popovitz Adler-Weiss, my great grandmother.

Sherry was born at home in Brooklyn; Lillian in 1905 in Viseu de Sus, Romania (or Hungary, depending on who you ask and who was in power); Mechlya was born in Hungary-Romania in 1883.  

Mechlya was a midwife and became a professional caterer in the U.S.  I don’t know that she loved to do anything.  She was just constantly busy doing what she had to do.

Lilly was an amazing balaboosta (the Yiddish term for the perfect housewife and someone who provides sustenance to the family); she cooked, she cleaned, she hosted.  Besides having and maintaining a beautiful home, Lilly also loved to play cards.

Sherry, my mother, is also a fantastic balaboosta.  At age 90, a retired buyer, she now loves to read, knit, play Lexulous online, watch HGTV (Bobby Flay and Cook or Con) and follow everyone on Facebook. My mother has written this recipe out for me for over thirty years.  Not surprisingly, the recipe changes a bit each time.  

When I compiled a family memoir called First, You Brown the Onions, I made sure to include a copy of this dish within its pages.  I also have several copies of my mother’s handwritten “originals.”       

I have always been fascinated how different cultures make similar dishes with what is available.  I love stuffed grape leaves.  The Iranian version, cooked in a pomegranate reduction, is divine.  Then, there is the Levant, where every conceivable vegetable is stuffed, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, and even onions.

My earliest recollections of my grandparents’ home involve food and ritual.  I remember my grandfather, Izzie, getting up at the crack of dawn and faithfully laining his tefillin, putting on the black leather boxes which contain Hebrew parchment scrolls.  He would mumble his prayers rapidly and say “shah” if anyone interrupted.  

My grandmother, Lilly, was always cooking, even after a stroke rendered her partially paralyzed at age 58.  She had to cut the vegetables perfectly even then.  Lilly had set menus for every night of the week, which must have made life easier. Everything she made was delicious.

To this day, I can still lovingly detect a Jewish-Romanian accent.  When I hear this accent, and see the sparkling gold teeth of immigrants, I close my eyes and remember the love I felt as a child. 

STUFFED CABBAGE (Hungarian Style)

SOFTEN CABBAGE LEAVES (can be done in one of two ways):

1. Cut out, core and wash cabbage. Cover in plastic wrap and place in freezer overnight.  When thawed, leaves are soft and ready to take off.  –OR- 
2. Cut out core and place cabbage in large pot of boiling water.  Steam until soft enough to remove leaves.  You may have to put it in boiling water a few times.

SAUCE:  In bottom of large pot:

Shred cabbage (all leaves not used for filling)
2 Onions, chopped
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1-2 sliced apples
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup brown sugar & 3 Tbsp. sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
(Adjust seasoning during cooking)
Salt & pepper
2 Tbsp. honey
2 cups water - watch if more needed

FILLING:

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
Salt & pepper
Bread crumbs (or Matzo meal)
3 Tbsp. of prepared sauce
1 grated onion
1/2 cup raw rice (rinsed)

COOKING:

  1. Place cabbage rolls - rolled with 2 ends tucked in (they hold closed) on top of sauce.
  2. Simmer to a slow boil.  Cover and cook about 2 hours.
  3. During cooking, watch to make sure that the rolls are not sticking to the bottom of the pot. Gently shake pot to keep rolls from sticking.
  4. I separate the prepared sauce into two parts and pour the last half over the cabbage rolls.
  5. When cooled, place the cooked rolls in a baking pan, in rows.  Dribble a little honey over the cabbage rolls and brown before serving. 

Beatrice Nisenson’s Prune Cake • Evan Nisenson

Brett Rawson

"I noticed there were additional comments made in red, and a wine jelly stain, somewhat faded in the upper right-hand page corner, which came from a syrup that was poured over the cake. I also found a typed version that had been altered slightly, most likely by my grandmother, evolving with the taste buds of time."

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My Mom’s Bread Pudding • Rosie Nelson

Brett Rawson

Note from curator Rozanne Gold:  What a charming story from Rosie Nelson, who shares with us not only a delicious recipe, but a delightful, warm, and unexpected peek into a family holiday.  And what a family it is.  Her mother, Dr. Judy Nelson is Chief of Palliative Care at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in NY, her dad Eric is a crackerjack lawyer, and Rosie, a recent college grad, is an advertising exec, with an exuberant passion for food and…bread pudding. You’ll find out why, here. Thank you, Rosie.  (p.s. Rosie was one of the teen sous-chefs who helped test recipes and had a starring role in my book “Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs, Bloomsbury, 2009.)  

My Mom's Bread Pudding by Rosie Nelson

I was about ten years old, I came home the day before Passover (a holiday where one eats matzoh) only to find a gigantic homemade bread pudding sitting in the kitchen. 

Having a few years of Hebrew school under my belt, if I had learned anything about Judaism, it was that we do not eat leavened bread during the eight day-period that Passover is celebrated. Why then had my mom, who had spent many more Passovers than my ten, listening to her father (my grandpa) retell the story of the Jews’ hasty exodus from Egypt, put together this soon-to-be forbidden pudding that we would no longer be able to enjoy?

My mother, a renowned doctor, had a logical response:  She didn't want the three loaves of bread remaining in the kitchen to go to waste.  So she made bread pudding; and the three of us enjoyed a warm delicious dessert that night.  Naturally, the majority of the pudding was left in the dish, staring at me every time I walked into the kitchen.  What could I do but take another bite?  Was that a bit of Grand Marnier, I tasted?  The texture was so creamy.  The raisins were so plump and sweet. The holiday had begun, the pudding now off-limits, and I remained taunted by my mother’s great baking skills.  Restraint is not one of my virtues. How sad to have that gorgeous pudding go to waste.  But as the bread pudding sat-in-state as the holiday progressed, the only choice was to throw it away! My mom's seemingly logical plan to avoid being wasteful no longer seemed as logical — now that along with the bread, the milk, spices, sugar, eggs, and raisins now also had to be trashed, not to mention the hour of work she spent making it.

As a ten-year-old, little did I know that bread pudding would create lifelong memories of holidays past, family gatherings, thrifty meals and, unpredictably, of Buenos Aires, where I spent six months studying during a semester of college. To say that food and cuisine were central aspects of Argentine culture is an understatement.  My wonderful host mother, Monica, made countless memorable meals over which we discussed everything — from politics to art to cooking. I loved the experience so much that, one year later, I returned with my friend Shanen and stayed for a month.  

On our first night, Shanen and I walked the local streets to a steakhouse, where we found ourselves five more times during our stay.  After a huge meal, the panqueques con dulce de leche (crepes filled with dulce de leche) caught Shanen’s eye while the Budín (bread pudding), caught mine.  We polished off all of it, only to find out that the bread pudding was a portion meant for four!  But we ordered it again, and again.    
 
I think of bread pudding every Spring, the time of year when Jews all over the world share a traditional Seder meal.  But I think of my mother every time I see bread pudding on a restaurant menu.  It is now fifteen years since the Passover bread pudding story began but I know the memory of the forbidden dessert will make the holiday seem a little bit sweeter next year.     

The recipe is written in my mother’s handwriting.  Sometimes we make it with fresh blueberries, and sometimes we make it with chocolate chips.  And sometimes we bake it as is (and not in a water bath).   

 

My Mom’s Bread Pudding

Serves 8

Butter for greasing pan
4 - 5 cups stale white bread cubes
¾ cup raisins
4 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Spread the bread cubes in a buttered 2-quart baking dish.  Scatter raisins (or blueberries or chocolate chips) over the bread.

2. Thoroughly whisk together: eggs, sugar, vanilla, Grand Marnier, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Whisk in milk.  

3. Pour the liquid mxture over the bread and let stand 30 minutes, periodically pressing bread down with spatula for absorption.  Please dish in a water bath (fill pan about ½ up sides of the dish – use scalding hot tap water.)  Bake until puffy and firm in the center – about 1-1/4 hours.  Serve warm, room temperature or cold.  

Note by RG: Although Rosie’s story is related to Passover, the bread pudding recipe is wonderful all year long. Top with fresh blueberries or peaches in summer; ripe pears in the fall, or bittersweet chocolate, any time.  

 

Hilde’s “Overdue” Carrot Soup • Ruth Zamoyta

Brett Rawson

Note from curator Rozanne Gold: This recipe, rumored to induce labor, was lovingly shared with me by Ruth Zamoyta who is the Development & Communications Director at New Jersey Theatre Alliance, a published poet and playwright.  The recipe was written by Ruth’s South African friend, Hildegarde Webber.  Hilde and Ruth’s husbands were both students at Yale’s School of Management in New Haven, Connecticut in the early 1990s.  Ruth keeps this piece of handwritten history in a recipe box that her mom, Carolyn Zamoyta, gave her – “a box overflowing with ingredients scribbled on index cards, cut from newspapers, magazines, mayonnaise jar labels, and sugar boxes.”  I made the soup; it is delicious.  

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Hilde’s “Overdue” Carrot Soup by Ruth Zamoyta

My baby was due December 7th, 1994.  I had planned ahead.  All the Christmas presents had been bought, wrapped, and placed under the tree by November 30th, in case he arrived early.

Ha.

By December 15th, I was dragging my 40-pound-overweight body around downtown New Haven, Connecticut, trying the old wives’ remedy for over-dueness: walking. In the Yale bookstore I ran into my friend Woody who was studying midwifery. I told her that I was trying to induce labor by walking. 

“It’s actually the opposite,” she said. “Your uterus needs to relax and store up some energy.  Go home and take a nap.”  So, I retraced my steps back home to graduate family housing — one whole mile — and collapsed in my bed. I woke up around three o’clock.  No contractions.  That’s when my friend Hilde called.  She sighed and said, “You need the soup.” I asked her to explain. 

Hilde said that when she was overdue with her son, a friend had given her a special carrot soup recipe known to induce labor instantly in the most wretched and piteous of overdue mothers. I told her I was desperate and would try anything, so she drove over and gave me this recipe, transcribed in pencil, on an 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper. Note the bottom line: "If all else fails, try castor oil!" 

The ingredients were pretty standard, except for the heavy cream, so I had my husband run out and get that. As I sliced the carrots, I instinctively knew that this would work. I threw everything in the pot and stirred occasionally, envisioning holding a baby in my arms the next morning. I glanced at the front door of the apartment, to make sure my overnight bag was at its side, ready to grab and go. I looked in the freezer and made sure the pre-made dinners were still there. I glanced at the tree, twinkling in the living room. 

Soon the soup was ready.  I filled a bowl for myself (my husband wouldn’t touch it) and ate the last spoonful.  It was time to go to the hospital. 

It was a fairytale birth, a long but happy pain, and the biggest surprise was when I was on the delivery table, waiting for the next urge to push, and I pushed, and the baby crested, and the nurse down below exclaimed, “He has red hair!”  My husband (brown hair) and I (a blonde) looked at each other incredulously. Minutes later, when I held my little son to my chest, I looked down and saw that it was true: I had given birth to a carrot top.  

There are some other interesting phenomena surrounding my son, Colm O’Toole’s, birth and hair. When we heard that red hair must come from both sides of the family, my husband and I had to do some investigating. It turns out that my grandfather's mother had red hair, and on Sean's side, his grandmother had had red hair, though it was already white by the time Sean was born, so he hadn't known. 

It just so happens that Colm was born on December 17th, Sean's grandmother's birthday — the granny with the red hair. Also, if you count back 9 months from December 17th, you get March 17th — St Patrick's day.  Colm is now 21, and my other children Róisín O'Toole, 24, and Liadain O’Toole, 12.  No soup was required. 

 

Hilde’s “Overdue” Carrot Soup by Ruth Zamoyta

 Serves 6

Hilde’s “Overdue” Carrot Soup
4 tablespoons butter (unsalted)
1 onion, chopped (5 oz. onion)
4 carrots, peeled and sliced (about 10 oz.) 
1 stalk celery with leaves, chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled & diced (about 10 oz.) 
2 sprigs parsley
5 cups chicken stock (or canned broth)
1 cup heavy cream
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large pot, add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the potatoes and parsley and stir two minutes.  

Stir in the stock and cook, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.  Put through a strainer or vegetable mill or puree in a blend or food processor.  

Return to the pot, stir in the cream, add salt and pepper to taste and reheat without boiling.  Serve hot or cold (Can also add paprika and other spices to taste.)  (If all else fails, try castor oil!!!)    

** Note from Rozanne: I added a large pinch of garam masala and used fresh thyme from my window box, instead of parsley.

 

Pizza da Vovó (Grandma’s Pizza) • Ligia Mostazo

Brett Rawson

Note from Curator Rozanne Gold:  I met Brazilian journalist Ligia Mostazo one evening at the New School where I was guest lecturer during Stacey Harwood-Lehman’s “Food Narrative” class.  Ligia is a currently a student, honing her prowess as an essayist and food writer.  I was quite happy that she wanted to share a part of her history, but was even more impressed that in addition to perfecting her storytelling skills, she tested her recipe several times before sending it to us.  I know from personal experience how challenging it can be to make pizza dough in a home oven!  Many, many thanks to Ligia. 

Note from Ligia:  I am journalist. Although I have worked in hard news, I prefer texts that are more enduring. That’s why I became a screenwriter and editor of documentaries.  In the Summer of 2014 I moved from São Paulo, Brazil, to live in New York, where my journalist husband is working as an international correspondent for a Brazilian Broadcast news service.  We have two sons: João is 24 and is a graduate student in Literature. Thiago, who’s 22, lived for one year in New York with us, and went back to Brazil, where he’s an undergraduate student in journalism (one more!). They both now live together in São Paulo.  I always loved to cook and as I have to cook almost every day here in New York, I decided to explore new flavors, ingredients and recipes. Surfing the internet, I found the Food Narratives classes at The New School, where I was introduced to this lovely “Handwritten” project.

Pizza da Vovó by Ligia Mostazo

This pizza recipe is considered one of my family’s treasures. The tradition to bake began with my great grandfather, Manoel Mostazo, who moved to Brazil in the early 1900s from Periana, a small city in the south of Spain.  He left his hometown after an earthquake devastated the city and his family. Manoel was a young man with an entrepreneurial spirit and soon started his own business, a bakery. 

This bakery was the first in Santo Andre, a city nearby São Paulo where my family grew up, and became a business passed down from generation to generation. My great-grandfather learned to make pizza, cookies, and many varieties of bread from the best bakers he knew. He taught my grandfather, Antonio, who taught my father, Walter, from whom I inherited the love and respect for all things that grow with yeast and turn into food in the oven.

My father owned his own bakery, but it did not survive the Brazilian economic crisis in the 1970s. With three kids to raise, my mother, Elza, had the brilliant idea to sell homemade pizza dough, their bakery’s signature dish. The first clients were friends and family who already knew the delicious pizzas from the Saturday dinners in our house. Local rotisseries and restaurants became clients as well. We adapted our garage to house a professional oven, a big table, and other tools. My siblings and I helped my parents attend to clients. We usually had to make more than 500 pizza discs per week.
 
For more than fifteen years this was our job. Working together, we were able to afford the bills and keep the legacy of our family alive. Eventually, my siblings and I went different ways.  None of us became bakers. But pizza is still a great reason to gather the family around the table. 

Our favorite toppings continue to be mozzarella, simple and delicious; smoked sausage and onions; caned tuna, corn and onions. All of these sit upon a layer of fresh tomatoe and are finished with oregano and olive oil as soon as they come out of the oven.

In the early 2000s, when my father was teaching my sons how to make the best pizza dough, we decided to write the recipe down. In honor of my mother, we called the recipe Pizza da Vovó, which means, Grandma’s Pizza. I think this moment was the first time the recipe was written down! Although we now have the recipe, we never made pizza without my parents around. 

I had my first experience baking pizza alone in New York, far from my parents, far from home, and far from my country. I did it to take the pictures that you see here. My first attempt was frustrating. The dough was too soft. I called my father, who did not answer the phone. I didn’t have much time because the yeast was working fast. I was nervous. It was my sister-in-law who saved me with a simple piece of advice. “Follow your instinct,” she said, “add flour and try to remember how you felt the dough in your hands when you used to make it with your parents.”  

I recovered my self-confidence, but it did not work very well. After baking, the dough was too harsh. When I finally got to talk to my father he said the same: “follow your feelings and add the flour slowly, you will know when it is good.” 

The second time, the recipe worked and I could make the recipe adjustments needed to give you the correct quantities. Now that this recipe has been tested and approved, it can go on to nourish future generations.

 

Grandma’s Pizza

(translated from Portuguese by the author)

1-kilo (2.2 lbs) all-purpose flour
100 grams fresh yeast
200 ml vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
500 ml water

Step 1. Crumble the fresh yeast in a big bowl and add sugar. Wait until the yeast dissolves and then add water, salt and oil. Mix the ingredients well and add the flour little by little.  Mix until the dough is smooth and unglued from the bowl

Step 2. Sprinkle a work surface with flour. Reshape the dough into seven balls of the same size and put them on a lightly floured surface. Cover the dough and let it rest about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, put six to eight (it depends on the size) ripe tomatoes in a blender, process quickly and rest in the refrigerator. 

Step 3. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Press one dough ball at a time on the work surface with your hands, adding flour as needed to roll the dough until it is as thin as you want.** Fold the flat dough in a half and transfer to the baking sheet.  Unfold the dough and press down around the edges. Transfer the processed tomatoes into a colander with a plate underneath so it does not retain water. Sprinkle salt to taste, mix and spread a thin layer of tomato over the dough. Bake for about 5 minutes. The idea is to make a pre-baked dough.  It will be ready when the lower part is baked and light in color. The pre-baked dough can be used immediately, refrigerated for a week, or frozen for up to six months.

Step 4. Heat the oven to 350-400 degrees. Spread your favorite pizza toppings on the pre-baked dough and bake for an additional 10 minutes. 

** If you want to make mini-pizzas, divide the ball into four parts and open each of them by hand doing a small edge. Then follow the same steps listed above.

 

My Babcia’s Mizeria (Polish Cucumber Salad) • Allison Radecki

Brett Rawson

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Note from curator Rozanne Gold: I’ve been reading a lot about cucumbers recently and so was delighted to get this wonderful recipe and memory jolt from food writer and cohort, Allison Radecki. The recipe is from her beloved Polish grandmother, her Babcia (pronounced BOB-cha), and it comes with a detailed history of a vanquished, but riveting, way of life.  The handwriting belongs to Allison and the recipe has been handed down from at least three generations.  Allison’s daughter, Tabitha, will no doubt be the fourth.  She’s only five but will be making cucumber salad soon enough. After all, it’s fun to run the tines of the fork down the length of a cucumber to make a design before slicing. Cucumbers, by the way, belong to the cucurbitaceae family as do melons, squash, zucchini and pumpkin and contain potent anti-cancer compounds. Thank you to Allison, and to Babcia Genevieve.  

My Babcia's Mizeria (Polish Cucumber Salad) by Allison Radecki 

My Polish grandmother’s 1970s American kitchen was a place of transformation. The Formica countertops (whose pastel boomerang pattern always made me think of scattered rubber bands) were surfaces where wooden spoons, mason jars, and stoneware crocks reigned.  This was a zone where things freshly picked from the backyard were crafted into dishes of incredible simplicity and deliciousness.  There was always a soup bubbling on the stove or something caramelizing in a pan, just waiting for a hungry grandchild to say, “Babcia, I’m hungry.”  To this day the scent of frying onions brings me back there, in a heartbeat.  

Standing at her kitchen sink in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, my Babcia, Genevieve Baranowski, could survey her domain.  Her backyard was a rolling expanse of grass and trees, complete with a stream (great for crayfish hunting), a goldfish pond, and a substantial vegetable garden, which was where the magic began.

Babcia’s first miraculous act was to transform red clay into black gold.  Nothing in her kitchen was ever wasted.  She knew how to incorporate peeled vegetable skins, coffee grounds, and eggshells into the soil, a spell which resulted in zucchini as large as baseball bats, and heirloom tomatoes you could barely palm with your hand.  Every skunk, opossum, and raccoon within a ten-mile radius was drawn to her vegetal treasures, against which she continuously waged war.

Spending time in her kitchen came with a specific vocabulary: szczaw (sorrel), buraki (beets) and, of course, the mighty kapusta (cabbage), which she fermented in her basement with the help of river stones, used to weigh down the shredded leaves in the brine.

Trips to a Polish family friend’s dairy farm were quite common.  The return journeys (with her wood-paneled station wagon’s windows rolled all the way down) not only brought raw milk back to her home, but also the finest dried cow manure, which she credited with the spectacular blooms on her roses and peonies.  

Since my Babcia and her family were keepers of secrets, her detailed history is still murky.  We know that she was born in Niagara Falls, New York, in November of 1913.  Her family made the bad decision to sell the profitable family glove factory and tavern and return to Poland in the early 1920s.  After an forced unwanted marriage in rural Poland, she ran away, boarding the M.S. Batory, an ocean liner of the Polish Merchant fleet, to return to the country of her birth during the Great Depression.  Before the beginning of World War II, she managed to bring her two sisters, also natural-born citizens, back to America, where they all worked as wartime riveters on the East Coast.  

Where and how my Grandmother learned to cook is still a mystery.  She knew how to braise, how to roast, and could craft an encyclopedia of sauces from memory.  Since my Great-Grandmother’s homemade donuts were rumored to break your toes if they fell on your foot, my Babcia’s skills were definitely not passed down the maternal line. My mother’s theory is that while working in Rockaway Beach, Queens as a domestic servant, her mother must have picked up on lessons taught in her employer’s kitchen.

Mizeria, a cold Polish salad of wilted cucumbers, sour cream, salt, and fresh dill, was a popular dish in my Babcia’s summertime kitchen.  In recent days, with East Coast temperatures rising to high levels, I have turned to it for its refreshing properties as a side dish, as well as for the family memories that accompany it.  It is perfect to bring along to a barbecue, guaranteed to cool off the heat of a summer afternoon.  

Though its gloomy name, Mizeria, is said to echo the fact that a Polish peasant’s life was full of misery, the dish leaves me with the opposite impression.   

When I taste it, I think of lazy days in the backyard.  I can see my grandmother, scented from tomato plant leaves, coming towards me from her garden with a basket of cucumbers.  We have a lot of peeling to do.    

Ingredients

- 2 large seedless English cucumbers (about 3 cups sliced)
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

Directions. 

Peel the cucumbers.  Run the tines of a fork, lengthwise, down the entire outside of the peeled cucumber, so that it is scored with the points of the fork (this action will give the slices a pretty scalloped edge -- see below).

Slice the cucumber as thinly as possible (so you can see a knife through the slices) and place in a bowl.  Sprinkle slices with 1½ teaspoons salt and let sit for 30 minutes.

Drain water from the salted cucumbers and gently squeeze to expel remaining water.  Pat cucumber slices dry with paper towels.  

Toss cucumber slices in a medium bowl with sour cream, vinegar and dill.  Allow the salad to marinate in the refrigerator for about one hour.  Taste, adjust with salt and freshly ground pepper and serve. 

Mr. L’s Onion Soup • Alan Seidman

Brett Rawson

Note from Curator Rozanne Gold: Alan Seidman, former legislator from Orange County District 12 in upstate New York, embodies what it means to be a distinguished citizen.  Countless man-of-the year awards and lifetime-achievement awards do not do justice to the thousands of people he has helped through his philanthropic and professional endeavors.  His personal journey – graduating with a master of science degree from Emerson College in speech, to owning a liquor store, a variety store, an ambulette company, to the ranks as Chairman of the Orange County Legislature, makes him one of the more interesting people I have met.  Just last month this serial entrepreneur chaired an event for the Purple Heart Award with General Petraeus and more than 550 attendees to raise money for the “Purple Heart Hall of Honor” Museum.  I'm a better person for knowing him.    

Mr. L’s Onion Soup by Alan Seidman

It’s the beginning of June and hardly the time one stops to consider a bowl of onion soup but, nonetheless, it is what I made this week for my son Adam who is just home from college.  A rising junior at Elon University in North Carolina, he is generally away at school during cooler weather and never gets to enjoy this soup anymore.  Adam grew up loving this recipe, one I learned to make from the elderly gentleman who I transported to and from dialysis appointments three times a week in my shiny then-new ambulette more than 25 years ago.  

Mr. L. was an elegant man who was born and raised in Pennsylvania and worked his entire career for one employer here in the Hudson Valley, where I live.  In spite of his physical challenges, he remained upbeat and we had great discussions during the trips…some of those chats were about our shared love of cooking. He held his recipes “close to the vest,” but I managed to get him to share a recipe for French onion soup.  I’m not sure if it was his not wanting to divulge everything or wanting to make me do some experimenting, but he was never clear about the cup or crock measurement for bouillon, so I split the difference in his slightly oblique instructions. (I use eight bouillon cubes for twelve cups of water.)  One thing Mr. L. was very specific about, however, was that the bouillon had to be Knorr’s Beef Bouillon or, he admonished, it would not come out right.  I once tried it with another brand and it did not taste the same (nor was it as good).  I even tried it with my own homemade beef broth long ago but, it too, was lacking in character.  

The recipe is written in Mr. L’s own handwriting, since mine is rather illegible. It is prepared with the requisite slice of toasted French bread and topped with melted Swiss cheese.  It is something I make frequently when we entertain over the winter and it is always a hit with our guests.  I think it is the generous amount of Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry that makes it sing.  (At times I have noted that a generous amount of this sherry also makes me sing.)

I had been an active member of the Cornwall volunteer Ambulance Corps. for decades and had my own transportation business for more than a dozen years, and I think about the thousands of wonderful people I met during those times.  There is a quick intimacy that develops
in stressful times and a vulnerability that ensues when one is elderly or dealing with illness.
Mr. L. and I became good pals over the years.  His handwritten recipe is now well-worn with   numerous Xeroxed copies all over my kitchen.

(By the way, I am informed by Ms. Gold, that the original recipe for onion soup contained no broth whatsoever, because the French peasants who devised it could no way have afforded rich beef stock and one needed a saint's patience to darkly caramelize a massive quantity onions in order to get the right color and flavor.)   

The first spoonful tastes a bit salty, but with the addition of booze it reaches perfection. I thought about what I might drink with the soup to make it more compatible for imbibing in warmer weather (I owned a liquor store for years) and thought a full-bodied rose from Bandol or a cellar-temperature pinot noir from Oregon might do.  But I think Adam and I will drink a few beers instead.

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Onion Soup

adapted by RG from Mr. L's recipe

Serves 6 - 8

Ingredients

5 to 6 medium onions (about 2 pounds)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 (extra-large) Knorr beef bouillon cubes (2.3 oz. pkg.) 

12 cups water

6 tablespoons Harvey’s Bristol Cream sherry

6 or 8 slices toasted French bread (cut 1-1/2 inch thick) 

6 or 8 slices Swiss cheese

Note: a jigger is a measure of 3 tablespoons or 1-1/2 ounces.

Directions.

Peel and thinly slice onions. (Cut them in half lengthwise and then across into half circles.)  Melt butter in a very large pan.  Cook onions until very dark brown, stirring often, about 25 minutes. Do not scorch.  

In a large pot, put bouillon cubes, 12 cups water, and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, then whisk over low heat until bouillon dissolves.  Add cooked onions to bouillon and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to medium-low and cook 30 minutes.  Add cream sherry.  Put soup into individual serving crocks.  Add a slice of toasted French bread, and put a slice of cheese on top.  Put in a preheated 275 degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. (You can put under the broiler for a minute to brown.) Serve while hot. 

Mrs. Cubbard’s Raisin-Stuffed Cookies • Marie Simmons

Brett Rawson

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Note from curator Rozanne Gold: Marie is a trove of handwritten recipes and stories.  An award-winning cookbook author and food writer, Marie Simmons wrote Bon Appetit’s “Cooking for Health” column for many years, and is the author of more than 20 cookbooks, including the wildly popular 365 Ways to Make Pasta, The Good Egg, and Lighter Quicker Better. Marie, a self-proclaimed story teller, is alight with thoughts of her mother and grandmother.  She says, “These two family cooks taught me how important it is to make sure everyone has something good to eat. I hear their words, and I do the same.”      

Mrs. Cubbard’s Raisin-Stuffed Cookies by Marie Simmons

Some children have play dates with friends.  My play dates were with my grandmother Nana and we had them every Saturday morning. We made stuffed cookies from a recipe from a lady, whom I can’t quite visual anymore, by the name of Mrs. Cubbard. She was a neighbor who had a boarding house and Nana helped her in the kitchen.

Nana and I needed to keep her large dark-blue canning pot filled to the brim with Mrs. Cubbard’s signature cookies.  You never knew when someone might stop by for coffee or iced tea or a   glass of cold milk.  What a smile it would bring to her face to know that sixty years later, I still keep a large container of cookie stuffing in my freezer so that I can prepare these nostalgic treats in a moment’s notice. 

Nana and I had an assembly line going as we sat at her big round table in the center of her kitchen. (She, cutting out the dough, and me, stuffing the cookies.) The cabinets were painted a deep Greek sea blue.  My Aunt Tess, the “decorator,” loved color so much that she filled her kitchen with her water colors and oil paintings and hung them on brightly-painted walls, making it quite festive. Imagine, ruffled white calico curtains billowing around the high-set windows that wrapped around the porch...and an apple pie cooling on the porch railing.

We began our morning by sipping weak tea.  We always shared a tea bag. And we chatted. Nana said I inherited her gift for gab and anyone who has met me knows that can’t be denied. I sure do like — make that LOVE — to talk. I seem to always have a story to share.

Mrs. Cubbard’s (Stuffed Cookie) Recipe is a basic sugar cookie made with shortening (shortening is so 1950s!) and sugar, milk, nutmeg, vanilla and egg. I still make it with shortening, somehow surviving the nutrition police. The recipe calls for a “stuffing” of raisins, lemon sugar, and chopped lemon.  I have updated the recipe with a filling of fig and prune.  Nana would roll the dough on her big flannel-covered table top. Her rolling pin was a long broom handle she bought at the hardware store. She would use the rim of a glass dipped in flour to press out rounds for the cookies.  It was my job to use her worn thimble (long misplaced, which makes me very sad) to cut out a circle out from the top of each round. Nana spread the raisin filling on the base of the rounds. I would carefully remove the thimble cut-out and hide it in my apron pocket so I could eat them later. Nana of course warned me, “Don’t eat the raw dough…you’ll get a tummy ache.” But I loved the taste of the raw dough. So I snuck it into my pocket and worried about the tummy ache later.  

My Saturday morning play dates with Nana, my mentor, my soul mate, taught me to think about food, to love the taste and feel of food, to write about food and to make me want to be a cookbook author.  I have now written more than twenty cookbooks with my latest, Whole World Vegetarian (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), just published this month.  I think I’ll make a batch of Mrs. Cubbard’s cookies…and celebrate.   

 

Mrs. Cubbard’s Raisin-Stuffed Cookies

Makes approximately 12 cookies   

3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons shortening or butter
1 egg
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1-3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
Several tablespoons milk, if needed

Filling:
1 cup chopped raisins
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
2 tablespoons flour (dissolved in 2 tablespoons water)
Grated zest of 1 lemon (or 1 teaspoon lemon juice) 

Filling:  Put raisins in small saucepan with sugar and water. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil 2 minutes. Add dissolved flour and lower heat to medium.  Cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture is soft, thick and dry.  Stir in lemon zest or juice.  Set aside and cool completely.       

To make cookies:  Beat together sugar and shortening (or butter.)  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Sift together flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Fold into wet mixture.  Add enough milk, as needed, to make a roll-able dough.  Roll out onto floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness.  Cut with 2 or 2-1/2-inch round cutter.  Place on oiled cookie sheet and add 1 tablespoon raisin mixture to each cookie.  Top with another round cookie (the center cut out with thimble!) and pinch sides together.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until just starting to brown. Let cool.

Note from RG: Instead of using a thimble to cut a small round from the top cookie, I used a tiny melon baller. 

 

Nana's Cookies • Marie Simmons

Brett Rawson

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Note from curator Rozanne Gold: Marie Simmons, a star in the culinary galaxy, shares reminiscences and recipes so vivid that we decided to feature her story in two parts. Part I includes a beautiful essay about her Italian family at the turn of last century and illustrates a cherished view of life – one that included hard work, strong familial ties and values, great meals, and a slew of handwritten recipes dictated by Marie’s grandmother and penned by her mother. The culmination of this is Marie’s love of cooking and her status in the food world. She is an award-winning author of numerous cookbooks and a beloved cooking teacher.  Originally from New York, Marie now lives in Eugene, Oregon, a place she considers “paradise.” She bicycles everywhere and is smitten with the vast amount of culture that Eugene provides. The timing for our connection is fortuitous. Marie’s newest cookbook, Whole World Vegetarian (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), is just out this week. Never mind that Nana’s addictive pepper cookies (known as taralli) are made with lard! Thank you, Marie, and congratulations on the publication of another wonderful cookbook. 

Nana's Cookies by Marie Simmons

Antonette Abbruzzese, my grandmother, (I was named Marie Antonette for Nana) was born on the lower East Side of Manhattan on December 19, 1890.  Her husband, my Grandpa, was a gentle, sweet man who was very proud of being able to read the daily English newspaper. He was born on January 20, 1880 in the village of Forenza in the remote region of Basilicata the area of Southern Italy often referred to as the boot. His father died when Grandpa was a small boy and he eventually moved to live near relatives in New York City with his older brother Michael and his mother. Grandpa became a barber for a military installation on Long Island. 

Nana and Grandpa maintained a small backyard farm where Grandpa sold produce, honey, fruit, fresh eggs, and beautifully grown vegetables. It was in a small Italian immigrant community in the Hudson Valley village of Milton, New York. 

Nana enjoyed cooking healthful meals for her extended family of 9:  She had 8 children: Marie Louise, (Tessie) Maria Theresa (Tessie taught school and never married), Grace, Rita, Joseph, Emmaline, and an adopted daughter Maggie, orphaned at the age of 9 and raised by Nana and Grandpa. Their home was always open to family and friends and many of the recipes in my cookbooks describe the hearty meals prepared there. I especially loved the big platter called Aunt Milie’s Cannellini Beans and Rice that made its way into my book, Rice the Amazing Grain. (page 132). It makes me hungry today even thinking about it.

My grandfather was remarkable in that he firmly believed in educating his daughters. (His son Joseph was in the Marines in the Pacific during the war.)  Grandpa’s three oldest daughters all went to school and became teachers. But Aunt Rita, evidently extremely bright, obtained a scholarship to Cornell University when she was only 16 years old. Marie and Tessie borrowed money to help pay for books (they were teachers by now) and got Rita settled into her school year at Cornell. What I find amazing about this saga is how open minded my grandfather was.  I remember a family saying: You give your children your love and the love of God and you give them wings. You let them fly. And, that is what they did.

My mother, Marie Louise, was a retired school teacher and a “super” organizer! She, along with Aunt Tess and Aunt Rita, ran a tight ship.  Our family gatherings were always punctuated by “You, sit here; you, sit there.”  No one sat on their own volition You just waited to be told where!

Now to the handwritten recipes: Most of the recipes were printed by Mom as they were dictated by Nana. I retested many for accuracy.  After all, Nana measured her ingredients with a large chipped ceramic mug.  She would dip deep down into a big vat of flour and skimmed off the excess with the back of her hand. Not the most accurate measuring, I’d say, but the most immediate.  I’d worked most of my life in the magazine test kitchen at Woman’s Day magazine and so I had precision and accuracy pounded into my head. After Woman’s Day I moved on to be Food Editor at Cuisine magazine and then cookbook author, so I thought I knew a little about recipe testing, and accuracy.

Now where to begin in the saga of Mom and Nana’s recipes?  Nana’s Pepper Cookies are tiny savory rings made with yeast and lard and studded with coarse ground black pepper and fennel seeds. I discovered, later in life, how delicious they are with a glass of red wine. I have retested it, but here it is in its original form as written by Nana.

Ingredients

Nana's Pepper Cookies (as edited by Marie)
2-1/2 lbs. flour
2 tsp. dry yeast (add 1 tsp. sugar and warm water)
1 lb. lard
1 tbsp. salt mixed in 1/2 cup water
4 heaping tbsp. coarse black pepper
1 tbsp. fennel seed
2 cups lukewarm water

Directions

Mix flour, pepper, fennel seeds.  Dissolve yeast (and sugar) in lukewarm water.  Stir in flour mixture.  Melt lard (warm) and add to mixture then add all to mixture with the cups of water a bit at a time. have a bowl of warm water nearby and as you knead dough wet your hands.  Work 10-15 minutes.  Cover and put out of drafts (Mom put hers in oven or covered on a chair.) Let rise for 3 hours. Roll in strip about 8" inches and as fat as 2nd finger.  Cut into small rings.  Seal.  Bake 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.