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My Mom’s Bread Pudding • Rosie Nelson

Brett Rawson

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

My Mom's Bread Pudding by Rosie Nelson

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

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

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

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

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

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


My Mom’s Bread Pudding

Serves 8

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

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

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

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

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


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.


Mr. L’s Onion Soup • Alan Seidman

Brett Rawson

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

Mr. L’s Onion Soup by Alan Seidman

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

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

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

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

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

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


Onion Soup

adapted by RG from Mr. L's recipe

Serves 6 - 8


5 to 6 medium onions (about 2 pounds)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

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

12 cups water

6 tablespoons Harvey’s Bristol Cream sherry

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

6 or 8 slices Swiss cheese

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


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

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

The Talloczy Family’s Hungarian Stuffed Peppers • Allison Radecki

Brett Rawson

Note from curator Rozanne Gold: This week’s recipe comes to us via New York City caterer, professional chef, and former restaurateur Irene Khin Wong. It is an old Hungarian recipe, inherited without modifications, from the family of her Hungarian partner, Zsolt Talloczy. Three generations of Hungarian women have embraced this recipe, beginning with Zsolt’s great grandmother, Franciska, his grandmother, Anna, and his mother Agnes Zatonyi Talloczy. It is lovingly fastened to Zsolt and Irene’s refrigerator door. With that, a fourth generation now makes the treasured recipe in late spring and early summer, when tomatoes and wax peppers are freshly available. I especially love the grace and styling of Agnes’ European handwriting. With thanks to Irene and Zsolt for sharing this recipe — one that reminds me of my own childhood with my own beautiful Hungarian mother.

The Talloczy Family's Hungarian Stuffed Peppers By Allison Radecki

These lusty stuffed peppers remind Zsolt Talloczy of a cherished childhood and memories of his mother and grandmother. When he prepares them, he wistfully said, “It smells like spring and lazy sunny afternoons in Budapest.” Whiffs of the dish also dish trigger thoughts of his wife Irene’s first trip with him to Budapest and his parents’ home nearly 10 years ago.

Irene and Zsolt first made each other’s acquaintance while waiting to pick up tennis permits within a sporting goods store off of New York City’s Union Square. Zsolt, a trained scientist who now works in microbiology, was studying at Columbia University at the time. 

“I wearing pajamas on a Saturday afternoon,” remembers Irene. “I had worked a late night, until 3 am, and just threw on a long jacket to accompany my eager friend to fill out the permit forms. ‘Who cares if you’re wearing pajamas,’ said my friend. WHO is going to see you?’”

A quick chat about tennis skills led Zsolt to offer Irene his e-mail address (“he didn’t even have a cell phone”). After a few e-mail exchanges, they met up to play. Irene then proposed that they meet up another day at the iconic Jewish appetizing store, Russ and Daughters, before trying out courts on the Lower East side.  

“I figured that everyone in New York knew Russ and Daughters,” said Irene, who originally hails from Burma, “but Zsolt never arrived. I couldn’t call him, he had no cell phone, so I waited.  Sitting in front, while eating my bagel and whitefish, I saw him running by. I almost missed him. I think I gave him the wrong address.”  After an extended trip to Asia together (“four countries in six weeks and we never had an argument”) the couple realized that they had found a rare match, indeed. 

A trip to Budapest was next on the horizon. “I remember thinking how Budapest was almost like Paris—but in the 1960s. Zsolt’s father, Imre, would buy trays and trays of different types of pastries—the most incredible pastries — it was like something you would get in Paris or Vienna.” 

Zsolt’s mother, Àgnes, made these stuffed peppers for Irene to welcome her to Budapest. “Zsolt knows that I can eat spicy. They were so flavorful. It reminded me of home.”

The prototype for this family dish originated in Hungary and is based on a traditional recipe with some German-Hungarian influence from Budapest’s ninth district, Ferencvaros/Franzstadt. This zone was considered the ‘stomach of Budapest’ with a multitude of blooming family businesses, restaurants, butcher shops, and bakeries. It was the neighborhood where Budapest’s first chocolate factory, and famous brandy factory (Zwack Liqueur, maker of the beloved national digestive herbal drink, Unicum) were located, as well as the capital’s central slaughter house. 
The typical pepper used in its preparation is the Hungarian Hot Wax Pepper variety, which is fragrant, smooth and ripens like the sunset from yellow to orange to red. This pepper, or paprika, as it is called in Hungarian, is usually harvested before maturity when its skin exhibits a yellow-greenish hue. It is easy to stuff and peel and produces fruits whose ends taper to a rounded point. Alternatively, you can make it with green bell peppers. 
As anyone who has visited Hungary knows, you can hardly walk ten feet without encountering this pepper — whether it is threaded onto strings and hung from balconies to dry in its reddest, most mature state, piled high in a fragrant yellow tower in a food market, or taking its traditional place, in its red, pulverized version (as the ground spice, paprika) alongside the salt and pepper shaker on most Hungarian tabletops.

Zsolt is the chef when it comes to this family stuffed pepper dish which he cooks for Irene, so they both can remember their flavors of home. A yearly import of two kilos of Hungarian paprika, which his parents buy directly from a small producer in the nation’s Szeged region (and Zsolt carries back to New York on the plane) allows him to truly capture those authentic flavors. Zsolt also regularly imports frozen portions of his mother’s home-cooked stuffed peppers for his wife when she can not accompany him back to Budapest for his yearly visit  “Àgnes freezes the peppers in a container, which she then wraps in three or four Ziploc bags,” describes Irene. “The dish is still cold by the time the plane lands.” Talk about take away.

As the famous Hungarian restaurateur and restaurant consultant, George Lang, wrote in his book, The Cuisine of Hungary, "Paprika is to the Hungarian cuisine as wit is to conversation- not just a superficial garnish, but an integral element…the marriage of paprika and Hungarian cooking was almost predestined." Considering that the wax pepper originated in the New World and made its way into to Hungary by way of the Turkish invasion in the 1500s, it covered a lot of ground before reaching its most famous culinary destination.


Hungarian Stuffed Peppers 

For the Stuffing (to be prepared first):

1-3/4 pounds ground pork   
Scant ½ cup raw rice      
2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
1 hot pepper (jalapeño will do), finely chopped   
2 tablespoons smoked bacon, chopped      
1 teaspoon of Hungarian hot paprika
A pinch of dried marjoram
A pinch of ground cumin
1 whole egg, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste

For the peppers and cooking liquid:

6 tablespoons flour  
Pork lard or oil
4 cloves of garlic
¼ cup Hungarian paprika powder (sweet or hot)
2 liters of tomato juice
8-10 Hungarian wax peppers (with seeds and stems removed)

1. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients for the stuffing and set aside. 

2. Brown flour in melted lard or oil until it turns light brown in the pot. Add chopped garlic and cook several minutes until soft (but not brown.)  Add ¼ cup paprika to begin (add as much as you like according to taste – a mixture of sweet and hot paprika) and immediately remove pot from flame to avoid burning the paprika. 
3. Pour in 2 liters of tomato juice and break up any clumps of flour by stirring. Simmer on low heat for 5 minutes to concentrate
4. Cut the Hungarian waxed peppers (8-10) around at the stem and pull out the seeds. 

5. Fill the peppers with the stuffing. Any leftover stuffing can be rolled into meat balls. Add stuffed peppers to a separate pot from the tomato liquid, add any ‘naked,’ leftover meat balls a bit later to the pot. Fill the pot with water to cover all peppers.  Salt and simmer for 30-40 minutes
6. When the stuffing in the peppers is cooked through the middle (cut and test to see when ready), transfer them to the tomato liquid pot and fill up with some chicken or beef broth as needed. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes while constantly stirring to finish.