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Filtering by Tag: Secret Ingredients

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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Gwen Beinart's Teiglach • Charlene Beinart

Brett Rawson

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

BY CHARLENE BEINART

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Photo of Charlene's mother, Gwen Beinart

A Photo of Charlene's mother, Gwen Beinart

Ingredients:

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

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13. Can roll in chopped nuts if desired.

14. Store in plastic air tight container.

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

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

Pumpkin Fritters • Jonathan Paul Katz

Brett Rawson

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

BY JONATHAN PAUL KATZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pumpkin Fritters • Your loving “Sheine”

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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.   

 

Stuffed Cabbage, Hungarian-Style • Jolie Mansky

Brett Rawson

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

Stuffed Cabbage, Hungarian-style by Jolie Mansky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STUFFED CABBAGE (Hungarian Style)

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

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

SAUCE:  In bottom of large pot:

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

FILLING:

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

COOKING:

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

Beatrice Nisenson’s Prune Cake • Evan Nisenson

Brett Rawson

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

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Gina's Aunt's Rice Pudding • Stacey Harwood-Lehman

Brett Rawson

Note from curator Rozanne Gold: Gina’s Aunt’s Rice Pudding recipe comes to us by way of New York’s Poet Laureate of the Greenmarkets, Stacey Harwood-Lehman. I’m certain Stacey would love to garnish the rice pudding each seasonperhaps a strawberry-rhubarb-ginger compote right now at the height of Spring? Poached pears and star anise in Fall?  Either way, hers is a lovely story with a quixotic recipe scribbled in her own handwriting on a hotel pad of paper. I love it because it’s real…with a missing word or two, the very shorthand that makes cooking mysterious and sometimes serendipitous. Gina’s Aunt’s recipe is very sweet and could use a little scraping of fresh vanilla bean. It could feed your whole block. I messed around with a simple version of my own (see below), inspired by Stacey’s love of rice pudding!  

Gina's Aunt's Rice Pudding By Stacey Harwood-Lehman

Gina and I had been working together for several years when she started dating Tony, a new employee in our agency’s IT department. Soon after Tony joined the staff, I noticed that the usually tech-savvy Gina seemed to be having an uncharacteristically difficult time mastering the new computer system and that Tony was making many visits to our floor to help her. Within a couple of months she announced their engagement. I was among the lucky few of her colleagues to be invited to the wedding. 

At the time I was working in Albany, NY, as a policy analyst for the government agency that regulates gas, electric, water, and telephone utilities. I grew up in a suburb of New York City and had relocated to Albany to attend the state university. It wasn’t my intention to remain in Albany after college but there was a boyfriend and a job, so I stayed.

Gina’s work-station was situated near mine and we became friends even though when she joined the department she was only 19 — quite a bit younger than I was — and right out of secretarial school. She had a terrific fashion sense along with a lively sense of humor and an easy laugh. I was flattered that she liked to take a seat in my work cubicle to dish about office romances and such. 

Gina liked to listen to the radio while she worked and I could hear her singing along, softly and slightly out of key, with the hits. A local rock station played the same two songs every Friday to usher in the weekend: Todd Rundgren’s “Bang on the Drum” (“I don’t wanna work; I wanna bang on the drum all day”) and Four in Legion’s “Party in My Pants,” the lyrics of which Gina heard as “There’s a party at my parents’, and you’re invited,” the perfect mondegreen to reveal her youthful innocence. 

My proximity to Gina made me privy to her wedding plans. But before there was a wedding, there was a wedding shower to be held at the Italian Fraternal Club in Green Island, a small town roughly eight miles north of the state capitol. I was seated at a table of strangers, all of whom seemed to have known each other for decades. My attempts to enter the conversation mostly failed, until I learned that Gina’s aunt, who was seated across from me, had owned a small restaurant that she had recently closed in order to retire. The menu was red-sauce Italian and among her specialties was her rice pudding. I love rice pudding. Would she share her recipe? 

Gina’s aunt was no-nonsense, someone you could imagine at the helm of a busy kitchen where everything was made from scratch and where the menu was likely the same from the day it opened until the day it closed. She explained that the recipe would feed a crowd, a large crowd, so unless I was planning to throw a big party, I shouldn’t bother with it. Never mind, I said. I want to give it try. 

Something in her manner as she spoke, communicated doubt; doubt that I would be able to make a success of it. It was her rice pudding, after all.  She dictated the recipe as I scribbled on a pad that I’d picked up from a hotel where I’d stayed during a recent trip. 

That was decades ago. Gina had two children and divorced Tony. The recipe has been with me through several moves and life changes, stashed in an envelope stuffed with other recipes, some torn from magazines, others written hastily on scraps of paper.  

When I ran into Gina’s aunt at the wedding, she asked if I had tried her recipe. I hadn’t. I was waiting for the right occasion. I’m still waiting.

 

Gina’s Aunt’s Rice Pudding

2 lbs. rice
½ gallon milk
5 cups sugar
18 eggs
½ box of raisins
1 stick butter

Cook rice 15 minutes. Drain in colander. Rinse. Beat eggs. Stir eggs over rice. Stir. Add sugar, stir, milk, stir. Put in stick of butter. Stir. Put in oven @350 covered with Reynolds wrap for 1 hour. Remove cover. Stir. Top w/nutmeg. Put back in oven until solid. 

Creamy Rice Pudding
(without eggs)  

1 quart 2%, or whole, milk
6 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or scraping of vanilla bean)
2/3 cup long or medium-grain rice
1/3 cup raisins
Grated nutmeg and/or cinnamon

Put milk in a 3-quart saucepan. Add sugar, salt, vanilla, and rice. Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and boil, stirring 3 minutes. Lower heat to simmer (tiny bubbles steady on top). Cook 20 to 25 minutes, stirring frequently. Add raisins and cook several minutes until rice is very soft and mixture is thick but still soupy. Will firm upon cooling. Pour into a deep dish. Sprinkle with nutmeg and/or cinnamon. Cover and chill. Serves 4 to 6

 

Braised Short Ribs with Fennel, Carrots, and Orange • William Poole

Brett Rawson

Note from curator Rozanne Gold: I was thrilled to get an email from Mr. William Poole, a stranger to me who has been enjoying reading Handwritten Recipes. Mr. Poole is a professional chef who specializes in pastry and confectionery and has extensive knowledge and experience working all over the world, including Slovenia. Naturally, I expected a nice recipe for strudel or some European baked good, but what I got instead was a fabulous recipe for short ribs perfumed with fennel, carrots, and orange. Only one teaspoon of sugar in sight. Bravo to Mr. Poole, who not only managed to devise such a lusty main course, but did so in his hotel room one night. And thanks to Allison Radecki for making the recipe and saving some for me. This handwritten recipe is an homage to William’s grandparents who inspired him to live life full tilt.

BY WILLIAM POOLE  

I am from Eastern Nebraska, growing up in Omaha and moving to Phoenix in my early teens. My families are largely from Eastern Europe, the Bohemia region of what we now know as the Czech Republic, and settled in Nebraska in the late 19th century. 

Afternoons after school, I would be glued to the television, watching the Great Chef's Series, The Frugal Gourmet and, of course, Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. They all influenced me in developing my cooking style, and to understand that the world, in a culinary sense, is a pretty large place. 

I am a professional cook, specializing in pastry and confectionery. My career has taken me all over the states (restaurants, hotels, even a private luxury train) and to Europe, where I worked for a large catering company in Slovenia. I have kept many notebooks over the years that contain recipes, notes, techniques, and even drawings of the things that influence me, or inspire me to cook. 

The recipe I am sharing comes from my latest notebook, Jokati z Babico (shedding tears with Grandmother). It is an homage to my biggest inspirations, my grandparents, Claire and William Pycha. The phrase Jokati z Babico is a term that represents the passing on of traditions, good ones that make you remember people who have passed on before you, sharing stories, eyes filled with joyful and melancholy tears.  

My grandparents taught me to be adventurous in all things. My grandmother Pycha, all smiles and billowy (like a character in a Truman Capote novel), was always one to point out what was good to use in the yard for cooking; she would show me where the wild chives grew behind the garage, the spearmint below the low porch off the kitchen, and how to dry the picked bundles to make tea.  She taught me how long to boil the potatoes we pulled earlier from the garden and how much butter, dill seed, salt and parsley to use when preparing them. 

My grandfather, in addition to his great baking skills (kolache, dinner rolls and cinnamon buns were his best) had a strong talent in the arts.  He painted in oils, in addition to painting yearly pisanki (colored Easter eggs with traditional or pastoral vignettes). I think of him (and thank him often) whenever I’m drawing out a new confection design, or composing a plate for a menu. 

This handwritten recipe resulted from my recent travels when I learned that you can make something extraordinary with limited resources. 

My partner of twenty-eight years had accepted a job that relocated us to the East Coast, but required nearly 100% travel. The neat part about this was that his company would fly me to his destination/base as needed for as long as I needed. This was great, as I was taking some time off while considering a location and menu for my new chocolate and confectionery company. 

I found myself in Atlanta, Georgia, for most of 2014, in a residence hotel, the Hilton Midtown, which offered a refrigerator, basic cooking utensils, pans, a coffee maker, and a two- burner electric stove top, which to me, is a perfect challenge. This setup allowed me to cook nearly every night, using fresh ingredients, exploring farmer's markets and regional food shops so I could create great meals. A few times, seeing me carrying bags of fresh food back to my room, the hotel maids would ask what I would be making that day, and started asking me cooking questions. I guess they were intrigued by the aromas wafting into the hallway.

I created this recipe in October of 2014. It was raining the day I stepped out to make groceries (my partner is a New Orleans native, hence the regional expression...). It was balmy, but I knew that it would get colder later, and wanted to make something that was comforting and perfect for the evening ahead. At the market, a few blocks away, I found all the ingredients I needed;    meaty short ribs, some baby carrots, a head of fennel, a can of low-sodium beef broth, and an orange. Back at the hotel, I had on hand a few cloves of garlic, onion, and some left over coffee. I borrowed a little apple cider vinegar and flour from the hotel kitchen. 

This recipe always reminds me of my grandparents, a hearty and flavorful combination of aromas and textures, and a one-pot technique which is frugality at its best. The flavors of the fennel, carrot, and onion, with the delicate orange and coffee, are all scents that remind me of time at my grandparents’ house in Omaha, and a way of keeping their memory with me wherever I go. 

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Braised Short Ribs with Fennel, Carrot and Orange

This recipe is can feed four easily, or two people for a few days

4-6 beef short ribs**  
2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
1⁄2 large onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, smashed and coarsely chopped
1 large fennel bulb, cored and sliced thinly
1 bag baby carrots, rinsed
1 orange, juiced (about ¼ cup) 
1-1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth  
¼ to ½ cup of brewed coffee
¼ cup apple cider vinegar

  1. Heat oil in a deep, lidded pot, over medium high heat until it shimmers.  
  2. Without crowding, add the short ribs, browning on all sides; remove to a plate. 
  3. Add a touch more oil if needed, and sauté the vegetables until they begin to take color, adding the garlic last.
  4. Add the stock, vinegar, coffee and orange juice and bring to a boil. Nest the ribs into the liquid and vegetables, reduce the heat to low and cover for two hours until the meat is tender.  Remove short ribs and vegetables to a platter.  Boil juices in pan until thick and syrupy and pour over meat.   

** dusted in a mixture “dry rub” of salt, pepper, flour and a little sugar (the only sugar I had on hand were there sugar packs in the hotel room, which reminded me of my grandparents again, as my grandmother used to sneak a pack or two home from the restaurant every time we went, as a memento). A dry rub is a personal choice for “how much”, but I generally use 1 cup flour, with 2 teaspoons each salt and pepper, and 1 teaspoon sugar).

 

Connie Love’s Irish Soda Bread • Allison Radecki

Brett Rawson

Note from curator Rozanne Gold: I adore Irish Soda Bread and don’t eat it often enough.  That will certainly change now that I have this fabulous recipe from Connie Love.  Not only is her version filled with love and lore, but is lovingly written by Allison Radecki, who interviewed Connie for this story.  It’s “Handwritten” doing what it does best. The recipe is written in Connie’s hand on thin, yellowed paper which she keeps protected, slipped into a small plastic sleeve. It is marked with lines and revisions. Many thanks to Connie, Allison, and her mother, Joanna.   

Connie Love's Irish Soda Break by Allison Radecki

There are some homes where everything you see has a story attached to it; a place where life is lived in the company of objects that keep the memories of loved ones alive and where the spirit of a bygone era is still gloriously vibrant.   

Such is the home of Connie Love, a close family friend with whom I have been lucky enough to share friendship, much kindness, and lots of laughter in both easy days and tough times over the years. A lover of recipes and a wonderful cook, Connie is the type of friend who will call you to say that there is an extra jar of homemade minestrone with your name on it, waiting for you on her front stoop. “Just remember to stop by and pick it up.”  

My mother, Joanna, worked alongside Connie for many years as a realtor in Montclair, New Jersey, and benefited from many such surprises that emerged from Connie’s generous kitchen. Since Connie’s retirement, the two of them still manage to share adventures, whether it is an impromptu movie night or a game of Pickleball, the fantastically named hybrid of tennis and ping-pong, at the local YMCA.

In celebration of various holidays, Connie’s baked goods would appear in our home and soon be reduced to a plate of crumbs. This is how I first encountered her Irish soda bread, which often accompanied the first days of Spring and the Saint Patrick’s day season.

One afternoon this March, my mother and I sat down in Connie’s meticulous kitchen to talk about her soda bread recipe and found ourselves engaged in a whirlwind of memories, photographs, and stories. The recipe for her soda bread came from her mother, Amelia Malanga Ianucci (known as Minnie).  Minnie, one of 14 children, was born in Newark, NJ, in 1895. She received this recipe as 17-year old bride from Mrs. Pollack, an Irish neighbor whose apartment shared a door to the same fire escape in a Newark tenement building. The recipe was said to be ‘the poor man’s soda bread’ since it did not use eggs or butter.

“My mother and Mrs. Pollack socialized on the balcony. Their apartments were side-by-side.  The basement was filled with crocks with pickles and peppers. They kept the coal in the basements for the coal stoves.” Connie (Columbia Ianucci) and her twin sister, Betty (Elizabeth) were born in the midst of The Great Depression on Clifton Avenue in Newark, not far from The Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. “No one had a cookbook. No one had measurements. They just knew,” said Connie. “My mother knew the dough for knots.  She knew the sweet crusts for Easter pies.  My sister said, ‘we didn’t make an effort to know, so we didn’t know.’” Because of this, Connie, herself a young bride, had her mother dictate her soda bread process as she committed the steps to paper. Connie figures that she wrote the recipe down in the 1950s when she was already married and running her own house.  

“The tenements smelled, not of garlic and food, but of bleach. The women would bleach the wooden floors until they were almost white.” Bleach was delivered to the women in the tenements by the bleach salesman. “These women didn’t have cars. They didn’t go to the stores.”  She remembers the Jewish peddlers who sold linens, which her mother would buy — a tablecloth here, a sheet there — slowly stocking the Hope Chest for her and her sister. “The Stanley guys sold brooms, house products…brushes. The insurance guy came by to collect the insurance premiums — ten cents, twenty cents.”  

A network of other relatives lived close by. Connie’s Grandmother’s tenement was on Stone Street. Aunt Tilly lived downstairs. Uncle Arthur and Aunt Ella lived in different tenements in the area. Connie’s father, Stephen Ianucci, was born in Italy in 1890. Connie remembers that at night, her father would read the paper out-loud and her mother would correct him, in an effort to erase his Italian accent. Dinner was always served at 5:30 p.m.

Connie reminisced some more.  How she and her sister would harmonize with their mother as they washed the dishes -- “we had no tv and the radio was on top of the fridge. The Green Hornet, music, all sorts of shows.”  And she remembered the big black stove with the chrome piece which she would have to polish when her grandmother said “Vieni qua."

Sadly, it was time for us to go. But I’ve got Connie’s recipe and an invitation to come back again. There would be more stories to tell. 

 

 Connie Love’s Irish Soda Bread

8 cups flour
3/4 cup of sugar
4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
2 cups of raisins
1 tsp. caraway seeds
About 4 cups of sour milk
(buttermilk or whole milk with one
tablespoon of lemon juice mixed in)

1. Sift dry ingredients together. Add 2 cups of raisins and caraway seeds, if desired. Add 4 to 5 cups of buttermilk (or whole milk with lemon juice). Mix to hold together.  

2. Knead for 1 minute or just mix (not too soft, although never fails, whatever the texture). 

3. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes until golden brown (loaf pans or a cake pan). 

This recipe makes 3 loaves, which freeze well and are delicious when toasted.

 

Bettymarie's Peach Meringue (Schaum Torte) • Lari Robling

Brett Rawson

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A Note from Curator Rozanne Gold: This engaging story comes from Lari Robling, an independent radio producer and writer, currently producing “Voices in the Family” with Dr. Dan Gottlieb for WHYY in Philadelphia. A special pot of tea, carefully placed next to a handwritten recipe card, sets the scene to unlock the secrets to Bettymarie’s Peach Meringue. The card’s yellowed hue and tell-tale splotches hints at past mishaps, while a faded cursive “what’s cookin,” specifies Mom as the author, even calling her by name. Yet the story is not all peaches and cream. The cracked exterior of the cake becomes the metaphor for a complicated mother-daughter relationship, whose sweetness and love stand the test of time. A former restaurant critic for the Philadelphia Daily News, Lari is the author of a wonderful cookbook, Endangered Recipes, published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang. Lari believes that nostalgic memories created by food are the most evocative and compelling of all, especially if they’re handwritten. Thank you, Lari. Twitter handle @larirobling.

Bettymarie's Peach Meringue By Lari Robling 

My mother was a terrible cook. I was about eight years old when I realized that calling the fire department wasn't a step in a recipe. Her impoverished cooking skills were always a puzzle because her mother, my grandmother, was an amazing cook. Grog's pies were legendary and people would find a reason to stop by around dinner — there was always enough food in the pot, and enough room around the table to set another place, or two, or even four! Yet, my mother left that home sadly lacking the ability to put a simple meal on the table. Maybe it’s no coincidence that I became passionate about food later in life.  

There were, however, one or two things she did learn from my grandmother, and my brother and I were grateful for them. One such confection was a mass of fluffy whiteness covered in whipped topping and decorated with fruit. Despite its light texture, and much to our mother's chagrin, we called it Cement Cake. Although she took this as one of endless insults attached to her skill-less cooking, it was an apt description of what the cake looked like prior to being dressed up with fruit and cream — a cracked sidewalk. 

This dessert is Pavlova-like (sometimes called Pavlov), and baked in a spring-form pan rather than laboriously piped out of a pastry bag.  Preparing it this way results in a dreamy, marshmallow-like interior encased in a brittle shell. 

The original version came from my grandmother's neighbor and called for “tinned peaches.” Over time, we swapped the canned peaches for fresh, or sometimes substituted fresh strawberries or blueberries, or other fruit in season. I've even used kiwi, which adds a nice tart contrast to what is basically a very sweet meringue. But the most exciting version was the one I made with the gooseberries from my backyard bush.

Eventually, the non-dairy whipped topping gave way to whipped heavy cream.  And what I’ve learned is that the recipe is almost foolproof, as even my mother could make it reliably.

I was always curious about the origin of this recipe — did some cook lack a pastry bag and plop a Pavlov into a spring-form pan? Was this dish a regional Ohio thing where I was from? I finally found the answer when researching my book, Endangered Recipes and read The Molly Goldberg Jewish Cookbook. There it was — Schaum Torte, a flour-less cake for Passover (that explained the non-dairy topping!).

I wonder how many countless handwritten recipes such as this one were passed over fences or across clothes lines over the years?  From neighbor to neighbor, from mother-to-daughter, and now mother-to-son (my son Ben devours it anytime I make this cake), it is a beautiful testament to the nurturing bonds we share.

It’s nice to have a sweet memory of my mother to mollify our sometimes contentious relationship.  And I don’t call it Cement Cake any more. 

 

Bettymarie’s Peach Meringue 

Cake

6 egg whites
2 cups, sugar
2 teaspoons, vanilla extract
2 teaspoons, apple cider vinegar

Topping

2 cups, heavy cream
1 pint, fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
(reserve some whole for garnish)
or fresh fruit of your choice.

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

2. To make the cake: Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff. Add sugar slowly while beating at slow speed. Blend in vanilla and vinegar. Spoon batter into a 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove cake from oven and let cool (it will deflate and crack; don't worry you cover the whole affair up).

3. To make the topping: Just before serving, whip cream. Arrange fruit on top of cake, reserving some for garnish. Spread the cream on the top and sides of the cake. 

 
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Spinach Pie • Rozanne Gold

Brett Rawson

Note from Curator Rozanne Gold: I am grateful to Steve North and his mother Bunny North for sending me this wonderful recipe belonging to Grace Cohen.  Steve is one of my oldest friends and an award-winning journalist, and Bunny is one of the best bakers I know.  Grace and Bunny were close friends for years. This poignant story was told to me by Michael Cohen, whose mother Grace was the owner/creator/handwriter of this delicious recipe. Thank you to Steve, Bunny, and Michael Cohen for the heartfelt memories. 

Spinach Pie by Rozanne Gold

Imagine starting your day by breaking bread with both sets of grandparents and eating the same dish for seven consecutive years. Michael Cohen did. Talking (and thinking) about this handwritten recipe for spinach pie brought back memories of these breakfasts and illuminated an immigrant history that connected the Ottoman empire with the New World.

“I was so excited by this,” said Michael to me about receiving my phone call to discuss his mother’s handwritten recipe. “I called my sister, Sarita, immediately.”  

Michael’s mother, Grace Cohen (née Matalon), came from a Sephardic Jewish family whose origins were rooted in Turkey and Greece.  

Grace’s mother, Anna, was born in Istanbul. Anna attended the Alliance Française in her birthplace and spoke six languages: Spanish, Greek, Turkish, French, English and Ladino.  Ladino, also known as Judeo-Spanish, was a Romance language derived from Old Spanish that was once the common language of the Jews who lived in the region of the Adriatic Sea, the Balkans, and the Middle-East. Grace's father, Meyer, was born in Salonika (also known as Thessaloniki) a port city located in Northern Greece.  

Meyer and Anna met on a boat in the early 1900s en voyage to New York. They settled on the Lower East Side where a large Sephardic community gravitated towards each other and supported new immigrants. This was a time of no social welfare, so the community was quite insular and tightly knit. They were not very religious but the Sephardim leaned towards traditions.

Anna and Meyer eventually moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn and had Grace, who was an only child. Grace married Michael's father, Sam Cohen, (who is now ninety-three and lives in Coconut Creek, Florida). Grace was 22 when she married Sam at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.

Grace and Samuel moved to Queens after Michael and his sister was born. Sarita has two children, Matthew and Gayle. Michael Cohen and his wife Marcia have one daughter, named Grace, who is seventeen. 

Michael remembers his mother as a housewife and a very good cook. Grace passed away when he was thirty years old, more than three decades ago. He says that feeling never goes away.  

"Whatever she cooked, we all ate and loved it. But actually, both of my grandmothers, Anna and Sara, made this dish. They called it desayuno and it was eaten for desayuno (which means breakfast.) Every day there was spinach pie, bourekas stuffed with cheeses or eggplant, and watermelon, fruits, figs, olives, feta cheese—every day! The only eggs we had were brown eggs boiled overnight on a low flame.”  

Michael's paternal grandparents were also from Salonika. They all lived near each other for years in a bungalow in the Rockaways where they would share this glorious repast.  

Ladino was spoken all the time. Michael doesn't speak it well but understands it. After all the grandparents died there was no more spinach pie for breakfast. 

Since being reacquainted with this recipe, however, thanks to Michael's friend Steve North and his mother, Bunny North, who is the keeper of Grace's handwritten recipe, Michael is excited to make his mother's spinach pie again (…just maybe not every day). Sarita is the one who still makes it often.

The Sfongato or Fritada is like a pie, solid, and baked in a large tin. It is served warm and cut into large squares.

See the recipe made recently by Allison Radecki. 

 

Spinach Pie
Fritada Sfongato

2 packages, 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach
4 eggs
1/2 cup Matzo meal
1/2 cup water
3/4 lb. feta cheese or farmer cheese**
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
About 4 Tablespoons oil

1. Thaw the spinach. Press out water from frozen spinach.

2. Mix all ingredients together.

3. Put about 4 Tablespoons of oil in a baking pan. When oil gets very hot, sprinkle some matzo meal in pan. It should sizzle and get brown.

4. Pour mixture into hot pan and spread evenly.

5. Bake at 375 for about 1 hour or until the top and sides are brown.

**Even though Grace wrote farmer's in the recipe, it is much tastier made with feta. Bunny North said that feta wasn't that readily available 40 years ago, or that "kosher for Passover" feta wasn't available at all back then. And she always makes this recipe during Passover (as well as during the rest of the year).

 

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!"