Celebrity Recipes

olive

Many years ago, while I was still working as a journalist, I did a story about the favorite Jewish foods of celebrities. What fun that was! I remember that golf great Jack Nicklaus wrote to tell me how much he liked bagels, and TV legend Aaron Spelling told me he loved blintzes. I also heard from Dick Clark, Mr. “American Bandstand,” who sent me his recipe for brisket.
I’m a vegetarian, but everyone for whom I prepare this absolutely adores it. I use the same recipe for tofu, and it works well, too.

Dick Clark’s Brisket

2 packets onion soup mix
2 Tbsp. each oil (any kind), red vinegar, sugar, dry mustard and paprika
4 cloves garlic, minced

Mix all ingredients and spread on both sides of the meat. Wrap meat in foil so that it is thoroughly covered on all sides.
Refrigerate overnight.

The next day:
Slice four onions. Add to the meat, then reseal foil, making certain it’s tight.

Place in a 350-degree oven for four-five hours. Meat will be very tender!

Note: You should check on the meat about halfway into the cooking time. If necessary, add a bit of water, though probably the meat will be doing just fine in its own juices.

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The Best Potato Kugel You Will Ever Eat

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So Pesach (Passover) ended last week. It’s a pretty demanding holiday if you do it right (which is why I haven’t been posting anything). Clean, cook, eat – that was basically my schedule for eight days.
But I loved the seders, held the first two nights, when we tell the story of the exodus from Egypt. All my children were here, and we stayed up talking late into the night. (Well, they stayed up, anyway; I’m always the first to fall asleep.)
Most people know about matzah and Pesach, but for me, the potato is the most important food of the holiday. It substitutes for everything (like pizza crust), there are a zillion ways to prepare those babies, and who doesn’t like potatoes?
Potato kugel is one of my favorite fool-proof Pesach recipes. We also often enjoy this on Friday night, for Shabbat.

The Best Potato Kugel You Will Ever Eat

½ cup oil (we like olive, but you can use just about any kind)
8 medium potatoes, peeled
1 small onion
2 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
3 Tbs. sugar
5 large eggs, beaten (or you can whip them up in a food processor, which is what I like to do)

Preheat oven to 425-degrees.
Place oil in a 9×13” baking pan and set in the oven.
Meanwhile, puree onions and potatoes in a food processor, then add other ingredients and mix until just combined.
Once the oil is sizzling hot, carefully remove from the oven.
THIS IS THE CRITICAL STEP: Carefully (I can’t say that enough, obviously) pour potatoes into the hot oil (yes, oil MUST be hot) and gently stir until oil is absorbed into mixture. This hot oil is what makes the kugel soft and fluffy.
Cook uncovered for one hour.

Sweets for Little Sweets

I found this recipe in Hadassah magazine, which adapted it from the Naomi Cookbook.
It’s very sweet, but also yummy.
According to the magazine, this candy was made in Ukrainian orphanages during WWII, using condensed milk sent by Jews from the United States.

Ukrainian Orphan Candy

1 12-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Place sweetened condensed milk in a non-stick, 10” sauté pan. Add salt, then sift cocoa over pan. Stir to incorporate. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring until cocoa is dissolved, then until liquid thickens and becomes difficult to stir (about 12-14 minutes). Remove from heat, add walnuts and completely cool mixture, about 30 minutes. Working in batches, roll about 3 Tablespoons of cooled mixture in confectioners’ sugar. Form into a ball, then roll out on lightly sugared countertop, forming 1” longs. Cut logs into 1” pieces.

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Chomp, Chomp, Chomp

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When you’ve got a really monstrous appetite but don’t want to consume, say, an entire woman from the 1950s, here’s a great salad (and I do mean great!) with a long history.
This recipe is more than 100 years old, and the story is that it first became popular with men working the iron furnaces in Pennsylvania. What a terrible job that must have been, spending all day in the charcoal dust and smoke and heat.
At lunch, finally, a break – and this salad would have been the perfect treat. Supposedly the name for Chomp comes from the sound made when consuming it.

Chomp

2 large cucumbers, sliced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 green pepper, diced
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup water
½ cup vinegar
¼ tsp. thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine vegetables. Mix remaining ingredients for dressing, then add to vegetables. Chill at least an hour before serving.

hoover

Herbert Hoover was not the most popular president, but he had good taste when it came to soups.
This was one of his favorite recipes, and it’s both easy to prepare and delicious.

President Hoover’s Favorite Mushroom Soup

1 pound mushrooms, diced very small
1 cups cold water
2 cups stock, seasoned to taste
2 cups light cream
1 Tbsp. flour
Cold milk
3 Tbsp. whipped cream
Paprika

Immerse mushrooms in cold water for two hours, then simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes. Strain liquid and add seasoned stock. Blend cream and flour with a little cold milk until perfectly smooth. Add to mushrooms and stock. Sieve through a very fine strainer. Serve cold or hot.

A Yellow Weed That Tells of Love

dandelion

I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and attended Kingswood Elementary School.
(I was sad to learn recently that the school had been torn down.)
I walked to school to each day – usually with my friends, or not, if we had a fight.
In sixth grade I fell in love with a fifth grader. I don’t even remember his name, but once he gave a flower to one of my friends, to give to me. I was swooning all day.
I had a teacher named Mrs. White and another named Mr. Friend.
I got a lot of “Talks too much” on my report card, and my favorite thing was stopping at a little store to buy candy treats on my way home from school.
My lovely summer afternoons were spent in our backyard, where there was a worn-down playhouse and an apple tree. I had picnics with friends and played with Barbies at the park and imagined which rock star I would marry one day.
Recently I came across this old legend about dandelions, which reminded me of the kinds of games I would play when I was little:

Pick a dandelion puff and turn in the direction where your beloved lives. Blow once on the flower. If even a single seed remains, it means the one you care for thinks of you, too. Then pick a second dandelion and blow again; the number of seeds that remains foretells the number of children you will have.

Sailor, Artist, Grandfather

Comic

My grandfather fought in the Navy during WWII. One of my favorite photos shows him in his Navy uniform; he’s holding my grandmother, his wife, whose back is to the camera, and he’s winking.
He was a bit cantankerous, my grandfather. I’m sure he’d had a terribly hard life as a child, and that made him a hard man. Whenever I went to visit my grandparents, he was pretty much quiet and kept to himself. He had a favorite chair where he liked to sit, he chewed tobacco, and he loved to play Dominoes.

My grandfather had absolutely nothing to do with religion. I have perhaps never met a man who had less to do with religion, in fact. But about 35 years ago, when my brother was bar mitzvah, he wrote me a letter that included a joke about a bar mitzvah boy (from Readers Digest, I believe). It was the only letter he ever sent me.

I have two items that had belonged to my grandfather. One is a five-piece collection of his drawings on the backs of envelopes, all showing comics that I’m sure were slightly risque. He sent these to my grandmother during WWII, and he was a very talented artist.
The other is a red sweater with braided leather buttons. For many years I kept this in a closet downstairs, to preserve it. But then my eldest daughter Adina found the sweater and wanted to keep and wear it, and I said, of course.

Last night was difficult, as my middle daughter Talya is in the hospital. Adina and I went to visit her, and I noticed that Adina had on that red sweater. My grandfather would have been thrilled to know how much she loves it. And that she chose to wear it last night seemed like my grandfather was winking at me, giving me a thumbs-up, just like the photo, and whispering, “Be brave.”