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Handwritten is a place and space for pen and paper. We showcase things in handwriting, but also on handwriting. And so, you'll see dated letters and distant postcards alongside recent studies and typed stories. 

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Filtering by Tag: Rozanne Gold

Anise Cookies • Anne James

Brett Rawson

Anne James - Recipe Anise         Cookies.jpg

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.

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.

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. 

bananabreadrecipe.jpg

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.   

 

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."

Read More

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. 

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. 

 

Vodka Sauce • Allison Radecki

Brett Rawson

Note from Curator Rozanne Gold: This touching story focuses on the re-kindling of father-daughter memories through the unexpected discovery of a handwritten recipe. It is testament to the emotional power that “chicken scratches” can hold. Told by Allison Radecki, a food writer and culinary tour guide, the poignant tale is as much character study as it is a love story. Allison’s neighborhood-based walks in Brownstone Brooklyn trace the history of immigration and culinary change, with each footstep an invocation of her dad’s love of food and people. This hastily scribbled handwritten note on a random piece of paper acts as a time machine to past meals. Over the years, other family members have added comments and drawings to the recipe’s edges, serving to preserve a multi-generational bond and all the memories it holds. Thank you, Allison. 

Vodka Sauce By Allison Radecki

I always assume that everyone’s kitchen contains a recipe archive; a repository stuffed with newspaper clippings, ripped pages from notebooks and other treasured bits of chicken scratch. My collection lives in a practically un-openable kitchen drawer — a space stuffed so tightly, papers burst out at you like a canister of spring-loaded plastic snakes.   

Sure, it would make more sense to gather these papers into a book, slip them within plastic sleeves for easier organization. Yet, for me, the rummaging is the process: the touching of old newsprint, the disarray, the bits of spiral edges that flutter to the kitchen floor like New Year’s confetti in Times Square. Each archive excavation unearths an unexpected relic that can awaken a vivid memory. This is what happened when I uncovered my father’s scrawled instructions for vodka sauce while rooting around for something completely different.

My father, Joseph Radecki, did not cook. He relied on a few simple dishes — scrambled eggs, plain pizza by the slice, ‘veal parm.’ He adored a good prime rib. “The man needs instructions to boil water,’ was my mother’s classic line. This was technically, not true. The only thing I remember him cooking at the stovetop were boiled ‘tube steaks,’ or hot dogs, as they are known to the rest of the world.  

A former police detective and taxi driver, he stumbled into a post-retirement business of showing people “his NYC.” To his clients he was ‘Joe the Cop’, storyteller, procurer of hard-to-get tickets, scholar of city history. “I could get you a seat at the Last Supper if it happens again in New York,” was part of his spiel. I believed him.  Many did, for good reason, and sent their friends to find him.

This recipe for vodka sauce, served with penne pasta, comes from a small, Manhattan dining room, Da Tommaso, with no more than 20 seats. There, the Albanian chef, raised in Italy, prepares classic, Italian meals and does it well.

My Dad used this restaurant as his second office (his first, being the fax-strewn passenger seat of his Chevy Suburban).  He’d bring clients in to dine and used it as a pick-up location for purchases from ticket scalpers. And it was the site of countless family meals. Long after the post-theater diners had paid their checks, we’d stay late and gossip with the host and waiters as they loosened their white jackets, hearing the list of stars that were glimpsed in the dining room that week. If you spoke the words, “Joe the Cop sent me,” (or were recognized as one of his daughters), you never needed a reservation to get in the door, regardless of the time of day.

When my sister discovered the magic that occurred when tomato, vodka, and cream came together, she would rarely order anything else. After nudging my Dad to see if the chef would share his recipe, he came home with this rough outline. Fittingly, it is written on the back of a printed fax from a couple from Louisville, Kentucky, asking for transportation to the Plaza Hotel and suggestions for “things to see in the Big Apple."

Over the years, this recipe became a family collaboration. My mother, a gold medalist in the sport of highlighting, couldn’t resist illuminating words in fluorescent yellow. Her comments (“guard w/ your life!”) and queries (“sauce,” “1/4 cup?”) are scattered about the page of vague instructions.  My sister’s doodles are the tell-tale sign of her presence. Perhaps she was imagining the meals to come.

I look at this recipe and I can hear my father’s pen. The short, solid motions he made when jotting down flight numbers from his ever-present Dictaphone.  As a “graduate of the school of Hard Knocks,” but never college, he was self-conscious about his writing. Not once did I see him use cursive.  Often, he would ask me or my sister to write the last names of clients on his airport arrival signs. When he discovered word-processing (and stopped fighting with the computer printer), he never looked back. “No one wants to see my boxy letters,” he would say.

I do. It’s been over two years since he died. I miss him terribly. I even miss his scattered papers. How unexpected it was to reconnect with him through his block print and this recipe.

Vodka Sauce

Virgin olive oil
Let oil get hot
Throw a little shallots
Speck of red pepper
Little vodka (1/2 shot)
Tomato
Touch of Cream

Candied Cranberries • Rozanne Gold

Brett Rawson

Candied Cranberries by Rozanne Gold

My cousin, Josh Rovner, knew more about food when he was twelve than most of my friends do now — and this was before the age of non-stop TV cooking shows. He was sophisticated in his taste and whenever this gastronaut's family came to New York, Josh had a knowing list of restaurants that had to be visited. He yearned to be a chef, but I believed my ambitious cousin from North Canton, Ohio, should extend his reach beyond the kitchen. So he went to Cornell and wound up being a big deal "revenue management guru" with Hilton Hotels.

So, I was surprised to receive this exceedingly simple recipe from him, but it is one he treasures. It had been handwritten to Josh by his Nana Gold (my Aunt Helen), sometime around 2000. Helen died at the age of 94 in 2006.

Naturally, Josh has upheld the quintessential American family tradition of serving them at Thanksgiving, but he now makes the sweet-and-tart syrupy confection all year long to spoon over a daily helping of yogurt. Josh keeps the recipe on the side of his refrigerator, so it always is in easy reach.  I didn't remember Helen cooking. She was married to my father's brother, Leslie Gold, and they traveled all over the world. They lived in Avon, Massachusetts, not far from my own grandmother, Lottie Gold, who was a fantastic baker.  I think of Helen as a solid New Englander with a hankering for lobster and my grandmother's ethereal blueberry muffins.  

Josh is now married, lives in Texas, has a beautiful young daughter, and cooks dinner almost every night. He is a total foodie and up to date with every chef and kitchen trend.  Aunt Helen's candied cranberries recipe is unusually precise, including altering some ingredient quantities for various batch sizes. Josh always makes the largest amount so he is guaranteed lots of leftovers. Nowadays, he recreates the recipe with a bit of grated orange zest at the end for depth of flavor— “not too much to mask the cranberry, but just enough to enhance and harmonize,” he adds. That said, he quietly confesses that his mother prefers the original recipe. Judging by the photo Josh sent of the finished product, his Nana’s cranberries indeed do  look “candied” and glistening.

This is an effect I’ve always wanted but have failed to achieve! It was lovely to learn more about Helen through her recipe and Josh’s remembrance.  That's the magic of handwritten.

 

"Wash cranberries. Drain. Pour in pot. Add sugar. Stir thoroughly. Add water. Stir over medium to high heat. Be careful not to burn. Lower heat and boil for about 15 - 20 minutes. Once berries begin to boil DO NOT STIR. Skim carefully once berries boil. Let cool before transferring to container. Once cool, store in refrigerator!"

 

Caramel Custard • Rozanne Gold

Brett Rawson

Photograph taken by Shayna DePersia

Photograph taken by Shayna DePersia

BY ROZANNE GOLD

When I was in my mid-twenties, I penned this recipe as a gift for my beautiful mother Marion on Mother’s Day 1980. I placed it in a Lucite frame and she nailed it to the wall of her apartment kitchen in Fresh Meadows, Queens. My mother loved this custard, in all its simplicity, but could never quite remember how to make it. I thought these words would guide her when I was not around, but she never followed the instructions. Instead of the classic swirl of liquid caramel that coats the custard after baking, my mother skipped this step and dusted grated nutmeg on top. A whiff of memory? And she preferred to eat the custard directly from its little glass cup, instead of flipping it onto a plate so that the caramel would pool all around.  

My mother and I were extraordinarily close. Too close, if that’s possible. She encouraged me to become a chef when women were anathema in professional kitchens. I dropped out of graduate school and became the first chef to New York Mayor Ed Koch when I was twenty-three. Being in the kitchen with my mother was the happiest place in the world for me. She would occasionally visit me in the kitchen of Gracie Mansion, and years later came to my kitchen in Park Slope, and yes, we’d make caramel custard together.  

Our deep connection was expressed by cooking special things for each other. Custard for her, and for me she made cabbage and noodles – a homey Hungarian standard that she, too, ate in her childhood. It was the comfort food that connected us to previous generations of Hungarian women and also to each other. I have learned since that some recipes, even more than photographs, can provide the most intimate transfer of memory from mothers to daughters.  

One grey day in October eight years ago, I removed the recipe now faded and worn, twenty-six years after I wrote it.  And now my daughter makes custard for me. 

Caramel Custard

3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
pinch salt
2 cups milk, scalded
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

 

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Heat 1/2 cup sugar slowly in heavy small skillet stirring constantly with wooden spoon until sugar melts and is light caramel in color. Pour spoonful in each five custard cups and let is cool slightly. 
3. Beat eggs with remaining sugar and salt. Add milk slowly, while stirring. Add vanilla. Strain and pour carefully into cups. 
4. Place cups in pan of hot water (level with top of cups). Bake about 40 minutes, or until knife comes out clean. 
5. Chill, and turn out to serve.

 

Rozanne Gold Joins Handwritten as Curator of Handwritten Recipes

Brett Rawson

Handwritten is full of happiness to announce its newest curator, world-renowned chef and food-writer Rozanne Gold, to the team. She will be dishing up a new column, Handwritten Recipes. 

The column comes from a lifetime of experience: from the age of five, Rozanne was rarely without a cookbook in hand. Fast forwarding to now, she has written thirteen of her own, earning her international recognition, a collection of awards, and thousands of original recipes.

Rozanne Gold with Mayor Ed Koch, 1980

Rozanne Gold with Mayor Ed Koch, 1980

She's worked in some of the most legendary kitchens in New York City, such as Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center and Windows of the World, and just so happened to be the first executive chef for New York Mayor Ed Koch when she was only twenty-four years of age.

She's done just about everything, from creating her own catering business (Catering Artistique) to cooking up trend-setting concepts: as Chef-Director of Baum + Whiteman worldwide, she created the three-star Hudson River Club, New York's first pan-Mediterranean restaurant Cafe Greco, the highly-sought after "Cocktails and Little Meals" at the Rainbow Room, and her book Recipes 1-2-3, which gave rise to "The Minimalist Column" in The New York Times, turned into the internationally acclaimed series of 1-2-3 cookbooks. Her writing and recipes have surfaced in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Gourmet, Oprah, Bon Appetit, FoodArts and More), and she doesn't seem to be letting up: she's currently a guest columnist for Cooking Light and blogger for Huffington Post. It isn't surprising then to know Rozanne has been described as "New York's first lady of food" and "the food expert's expert."

Rozanne's Recipes, stacked together.

Rozanne's Recipes, stacked together.

On top of all this, Rozanne is an end-of-life doula, philanthropist, trustee of The New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, and a poet. She is currently finishing up an MFA at The New School Creative Writing Program. Where she finds the time to make so many meals, we wish to know: a frequent guest on National Public Radio (earning Leonard Lopate a James Beard Award), Rozanne is a sought-after moderator – most recently of the New School’s 2015 program “Gotham on a Plate,” and “The Next Big Bite,” created by Les Dames d’Escoffier, a professional organization of women in food and wine, where Rozanne is a past President.

She's also a philanthropist: she saved Gourmet magazine's library by purchasing it and donating it to NYU, and after Hurricane Sandy, she established up a pop-up kitchen in Brooklyn to prepare and deliver 185,000 meals to those in need. Believing in the power of food to create community, she was one of Israel’s first “Women Chefs for Peace” and the recipient of the Jewish National Fund’s “Olive Tree Award” for her efforts in promoting Israel’s food and wine industry. 

As creator and curator of this column, Handwritten Recipes, Rozanne hopes to re-ignite the connection between generations through the exploration of food, cooking, and memory  most profoundly and poignantly though the power of the pen. The first recipe will launch February 1st. What will it be? A caramel custard, which she wrote in 1980 for her mother.  

To sign up for Rozanne's column, enter your email address below, and prepare your inbox for delicious, handwritten treats. Or, to submit your own recipe to Handwritten Recipes, email Rozanne at rozannegold@mindspring.com.