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.
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.
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.
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.”
In addition to being a computer genius (I even call him from work for help with Facebook), my son is a wonderful cook. Last night he and I were in the kitchen, listening to Dave Brubeck and Duke Ellington and making food, and I had a spectacular time. I didn’t even mind washing the dishes.
One of the items we made was Lil’s Rice Casserole, which I found in an old cookbook. It’s really good!
Lil’s Rice Casserole
1-1/2 cups rice
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
3 cups hot vegetable or chicken broth (must be hot)
1 Tbsp. oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4-8 sliced mushrooms (depending on how much you like mushrooms)
1 small package of peas, thawed
Cook onions until soft. Add mushrooms, tomatoes and rice and mix. Add hot stock, salt and pepper to taste.
Pour mixture into a pot and place in a 400-degree oven. Cook 20 minutes. Add peas and cook five more minutes.
Everyone should have a sister like Rebecca (pictured here).
She’s my kid sister, and our interests are so different it’s hard to believe we grew up in the same home. She likes yoga and books about spirituality. I only do exercise when I feel I absolutely must, and then I whine about it for hours, and I like reading about history.
Still, Becca is the only one I can really talk to about life’s big challenges like motherhood – and our own mother, who we love but who drives us totally crazy.
One time I was looking through Becca’s favorite recipes and I found one for salmon. A little girl, the daughter of guests to whom she had served this dish, called it “gooder than delicious.” Becca thought that was cute; it made me want to throw up.
Still, it’s a very good fish recipe, so give it a try.
6 salmon fillets
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 Tbsp. melted butter or margarine
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. white wine or water
Mix last five ingredients, then pour over fish. Marinate for an hour or more.
Cook on middle rack in oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
I am always humbled when I see how homemakers in WWII Britain managed to make breakfast, lunch and dinner for their families. Really, what did they have to fix three decent meals a day?
SPAM, of course, and while that takes its share of abuse, dried eggs are what leave me taken aback.
So I am very grateful when I go to the grocery store and pick up as many fresh eggs as I like.
Here’s a recipe for a salad that my husband created. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s delicious and simple!
2 avocados, peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed
5 hard-boiled eggs, diced
¼ cup Italian salad dressing
Combine and add salt to taste. (Ingredients can be adjusted, but these are the quantities we prefer).
||Some years ago I worked as a reporter, and I once created a family section that included recipes from WWII.
I wanted to include a few dishes from We’ll Eat Again, by Marguerite Patten, which contains recipes and food tips from WWII. So I wrote to Ms. Patten and asked permission to reprint a recipe or two.
What a lovely person she is! She was so gracious and responsive. Not only did she allow me to reprint the recipes, she sent me a copy of her second cookbook, which focuses on food after the war, and wrote me a wonderful letter. (To thank her, I sent her a kosher cookbook which, I’m happy to say, I think she really enjoyed.)
You may have seen Marguerite Patten on the BBC’s “The 1940s House” or heard of her books. If not, please be sure to take a look at We’ll Eat Again. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Meanwhile, here’s a recipe from the cookbook:
4 oz. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs (2 level tablespoons dried egg mixed with 4 tablespoons water)
1/2 pint milk
4 oz. grated cheese
salt to taste
fat for frying
Method: Blend the flour, baking powder and mixed eggs smoothly, add sufficient milk to make a thick, smooth batter. Beat for 10 minutes. Add rest of milk, the grated cheese and salt. Heat a little fat in the frying pan till smoking hot, pour in a thin layer of batter, fry until golden brown on both sides. Turn out, roll, serve with a sprinkling of shredded cheese. Continue until all the batter is used.