♦ Keeping Your Parents Entertained

Dear Shaina,

I loved all the pictures of the menorahs in glass boxes…so different from here where we are constantly trying to explain that Chanukah is a minor holiday…as if that isn’t obvious enough in this world of Santa Clauses and reindeers.

I so missed having you here for the holidays. You always bring something fresh and fun…like the time you mandated that we could only bring a used or new gift from our house (no shopping at the store) to exchange at our family/friends Chanukah party…and that people could steal someone else’s if they liked it better than the one they chose. It was hysterical! We vowed to do it every year, but you haven’t been home on Chanukah since and the rest of us just can’t seem to get it together. We did, however, eat enough latkes to last the whole year and…yes, I finally hung Chanukah lights…and you weren’t even here!

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Two couch surfers stayed with us last week, thanks to your offer of our house.  Apparently, you are on some listserve of socially conscious young people and saw a request for couches along their route across the country. Once you checked her out and learned that she worked with one of your friends in DC, you told her she could get a reference on us from him.  Your DC friend, and a group of thirteen college kids he had led on a spring break work trip to New Orleans several years back, had stayed with us on their way home, again, per your coordination.  Dad and I decided that we would have led pretty boring lives if you hadn’t been born.

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I am serious. You have led us to countries we would never have visited, you exposed us to foreign flavors and cultures and you introduced people into our lives who, like you, have stimulated us and provided us with a measure of hope for the future. We thank you for letting us horn in on your adventures and giving us a glimpse of a world we most likely would’ve missed had it not been for you.

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I know it can feel like a burden to be an only child and I don’t want to add to that burden in any way by suggesting that you are responsible for filling our lives. Your engagement in your own life and your commitment to your own pursuit of happiness is gift enough to us.

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Plus, we get all the collateral benefits without the risks, challenges or hardships.  So, thanks! Keep up the good work of keeping your old parents entertained.

Thanks for sending Tan’s herbed rice recipe. I had some fennel I had to use so I tried it.  It was so delicious! Dad wants to know when I am making it again. I made it with preserved lemons (Nahum’s recipe) instead of lemon juice. Preserved lemons are my new favorite food discovery…you get all the lemon freshness, without the sharpness. I use it in everything that calls for lemon. It seems like we get a little taste of Israel every day.

After a brief heat wave, we got really cold weather. Dad dragged all the plants inside, started splitting wood and stoked up the wood stove…and I started cooking a huge pot of veggie chili…same as always.

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I hope you’re staying warm. Miss you and love you.

Love,

Mom

xoxoxooxooxoxoxoxo

Nahum’s Preserved Lemons

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This is a great way to use up a lot of lemons and have them on hand for a variety of uses. I use them in anything savory that calls for lemon juice and zest. Although they are layered in salt, they don’t seem to add a salty flavor, only the true essence of lemon..

  • 3-4 smooth medium skinned lemons, washed thoroughly (if the skin is too thin, they will be mushy, if too thick, they will be bitter)
  • Coarse Kosher salt
  • 1 glass pint jar

Slice off ends of lemon and discard.  Cut lemon into very thin slices and remove seeds. Layer in a glass pint jar, sprinkling Kosher salt between each layer. Pack the lemons tightly in the jar until it is full and put the lid on tightly.

Leave it in room temperature. Once brine starts to accumulate in the jar, turn it upside down.

After three to five days it will be ready.  It can be refrigerated at this point and used for a couple of weeks.  The longer it stays, the more picklish (and less “fruity”) it will be.

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If you want to spice it up, add sweet or hot paprika to the Kosher salt and you will have Moroccan Preserved Lemons

Tan’s Tomato Salad

I served this at Thanksgiving dinner and people went back for seconds. I used Kumato (Brown tomatoes) and Campari tomatoes. It is a ridiculously easy recipe and is light, flavorful and satisfying…and I even forgot to add the olive oil!

  • 1 pound of your favorite tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped green or purple onions (optional- I added these)
  • Preserved lemons or Moroccan Preserved Lemons
  • salt and pepper to taste

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Just combine coarsely chopped tomatoes (any kind) with finely cut up preserved lemon, black olives and some salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for a while and add some olive oil before serving.

One Pot Vegetarian Chili (a big pot)

No matter how I start out, this chili always ends up making enough for a huge crowd with leftovers to be frozen for later use.  This combination of vegetables reflects what I had in my refrigerator plus a few things I picked up at the grocery store.  The recipe and quantities are very flexible and accommodating to individual tastes and desires, so don’t feel like you have to follow this recipe precisely.  Just get out your biggest soup pot (6-8 quarts) and start creating!

  • Image2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 package tofu ground “beef”, regular or taco flavored
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, cut up
  • 1-2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 fresh peppers, green, red, yellow or orange, cut up
  • 1/2 pound baby portabello mushrooms, cut up
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 5-6 cans (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes
  • 4 zucchinis, cut up
  • 4 yellow crookneck squash, cut up
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 2 cans black beans, drained (or you can cook your own dried beans, any kind you like)
  • 2 cans red kidney beans, drained
  • Cumin, Chili powder, garlic and salt to taste ( a good taco or chili seasoning mix can be used)
  • Aged Cheddar Cheese for topping (optional)

Cut up all vegetables in small or bite sized chunks.

Heat oil in a large 6-8 quart soup pot. Sauté tofu, onions, carrots, celery, peppers, mushrooms and garlic in olive oil.

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Add canned diced tomatoes and remaining vegetables and beans and cook at medium heat until thoroughly heated.  Add spices to taste. Lower the heat and cook until liquids are reduced and mixture is thickened. This could take a couple hours.  Taste and adjust seasoning frequently.

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This chili can be eaten as a thick soup or placed in a casserole and topped with cheese and rebaked in the oven at 350° for about 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Serve with a salad, French rolls or fresh cornbread and you have a hearty winter meal.

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