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Filtering by Tag: Food

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.

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."

Read More

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.