♦ I Worry

Dear Shaina,

I don’t even know where to begin…When you watch your child transform into the adult that they were always meant to be, it is awe-inspiring, humbling and terrifying all at once.

I started writing this weeks ago…after you told me you had been to Gaza and back…you hadn’t told me before you went to prevent me from worrying.

Dad and I met you en route to a scuba diving adventure the two of you had planned. Gaza barely registered a blip on my worry radar in the shadow of my scuba diving dread.

You survived both…a momentary comfort blunted by the understanding that I have no control over the ever-present lurking dangers in the world that you may encounter by chance or intention. Your beliefs, decisions and actions are beyond the purview of me or anyone else.

How did this happen; that you should own your life so completely, that you could transform your fearfulness into fearlessness, that you are able to trust and challenge your own voice?

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I guess there were clues all along the way. Before you were born I, with the naiveté of a first time mother-to-be, eagerly awaited the arrival of my “mini-me” daughter.

The first time I laid my eyes on you, you looked directly back into my eyes. I saw your father’s penetrating, but self-contained gaze and I knew in my gut you were not a “mini-me”.

You were a quiet and calm baby…some might say passive. I could put you on the carpet in the living room and you would amuse yourself by staring at the beams on the ceiling 20 feet above. You cried rarely, but let me know clearly if some need was not being met.

In preschool, you were shy, but attentive. Your cubby was always next to the most out-of-control child in the class…maybe because you had a calming  effect…maybe because you were tolerant…maybe because you never got caught up in the fracas.

A teacher gave all the children the same colored cut-out pieces of paper and instructed them to paste them onto their sheet of paper to create the shape of the flower she displayed. You placed your colored pieces of paper onto your sheet creating a flower design of your own making. Some of the other children liked your variations and tried their own. You led without intention or demand.

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At age 5, I enrolled you in soccer. You hated it. I made you go twice. You sat down in the middle of the field during a game. I took you home and we never went back. I signed you up for swimming and you swam almost everyday. You refused to participate in swim meets. I let you skip them.

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In your own unassuming way, you continued to assert yourself. I maintained the illusion that I was in charge, but I knew the truth early on. I learned to respect your needs, to trust your instincts and to understand that you knew better than I did what was best for you.

Bubbe used to say, “When you have little children, you have little worries. When you have big children, you have big worries.” So I’m a big worrier…a proud worrier. You are an amazing kid who is worth all the worry I withstand on your behalf. I may not own your life, but that doesn’t stop me from petitioning the universe daily…may you be safe and healthy and happy… and may the harshness you encounter on your life’s journey be minimal.

India Allen All 3 09 695 (1)Love,
Mom
xoxoxoxoxooxoxoo

Green Beans with Tomatoes and Chick Peas

There is no end to the excess of summertime garden veggies. This recipe accomplishes the goal of using up two surplus veggies (plus fresh basil which you can never have an excess of) in one easy-to-prepare dish. It can be served as a vegetarian meal over pasta or rice or as a side dish with any meal.  It can be prepared ahead of time, made in large quantities and served hot or at room temperature.  All measurements are flexible and subject to individual taste.

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  • 1 large onion, cut in thin wedges
  • Olive oil as needed
  • 5 garlic gloves (or to taste), coarsely minced
  • Green Beans – about a pound or as many as you have of any variety, ends cut off and strings removed
  • Tomatoes – about a pound or more of fresh tomatoes cut up or a couple boxes of processed chopped tomatoes
  • Fresh basil – a couple of handfuls chopped or a couple teaspoons of dried basil
  • 1 can of Chick peas
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Calmata olives (optional

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Heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet and add sliced onions.  Sauté until edges are lightly browned. Add minced garlic and continue sautéing for a few minutes.

Add green beans to onions and continue sautéing until green beans, onions and garlic are slightly browned and mixed together. Cover the skillet and continue cooking over medium heat until the beans are almost done.

Add the chopped tomatoes and half of the fresh basil or dried basil to the beans and continue cooking. I use about equal parts of tomatoes and green beans. If I want a more tomato based saucy dish, I add more tomatoes.

Continue cooking until liquid from tomatoes is reduced and thoroughly blended with the beans.

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Add the chick peas, salt and pepper and more basil and continue to cook until all flavors are blended together. Adjust seasonings to taste.  If desired, add calamata olives.

Garnish with fresh basil.

This dish gets better everytime you reheat it so make enough to have leftovers and don’t be afraid to add more tomatoes and basil.

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♦ Traditions and Memorials

Dear Shaina,

Bubbe would be kvelling (bursting with pride), and so am I, at your adaptation of her much loved food memories. I can hear her tasting your radishes and onions and eggs and proclaiming that they are better than what she had as a child. She would declare you a Balabusta (a homemaker of the highest order) and if you attempted to credit her with the inspiration she would pooh-pooh you and exclaim that you were a much better cook than she ever was.

Esther 512Mb cf card 12 03 08 262I was lucky to grow up with a mother who took pride in my accomplishments rather than feeling threatened or competitive as some mothers are. Bubbe and Zayde called it naches fun di kinder (pleasure, pride from the children). It is what they lived for and what no material gift could ever equal. I completely get it! Of course, you actually are a better cook than me, not to mention all the other things you have accomplished that I am so very proud of!

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It’s hard to think about or prepare food without Bubbe’s presence hovering over my shoulder. Jews have always emphasized the remembrance of the dead. We observe annual anniversary prayers (Yahrsteit) and holiday memorial services (Yizkor), but nothing seems nearly as effective or enduring as food memorials. Yahrsteits can be forgotten. Yizkors can be skipped. But the smell of frying onions, the magic of butter-soft arthritically molded fingers stretching and rolling dough, the taste of a freshly fried blintz in too much butter, the insistent urging to eat and eat more and the inevitable question, “Are they edible?” , are indelible memories that make daily appearances. No wonder food is such a big deal forJews. At least in our family…

I am getting ready for Chanukah and your homecoming. I remember Bubbe grating potatoes with the classic box grater and straining her homemade applesauce through those hand grinders that look like a pot with holes in the bottom and a big handle that rotates large blades at the bottom pushing the mashed applesauce through the holes leaving the seeds and skins to be discarded. There was no fancy motorized equipment, just simple tools powered by the willingness of loving hands (not that she wasn’t amazed when we gave her a Cuisinart that could grind raw meat in 30 seconds and grate enough potatoes and onions for latkes for 20 in minutes without shedding a tear or losing a knuckle).IMG_1534

My applesauce is already done and in the freezer. I peel and core my apples before cooking so there is no need for straining. I am planning on making three varieties of latkes this year…traditional, sweet potato and corn-squash…all with the aid of my Cuisinart. I scheduled your hair appointment for Friday, the masseuse for Saturday (I am liking this new tradition) and leaving Sunday and Monday for any last minute preparations for your trip to Israel and to bake cheesecakes for the annual South Carolina Christmas pilgrimage.

The traditions have evolved, morphed and adapted for a new generation of memories…and memorials of the future.

By the way, LLOL may not be a thing right now, but new traditions are born everyday! Laughing Lots Out Loud!!

Love,
Mom
xoxoxoxooxoxoxxoox

 

Grilled Caesar Salad

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I have been wanting to make this salad since having it at a restaurant in a Casino in the middle of nowhere in northern California. I had never heard of grilling lettuce and to my surprise, it was the best Caesar salad I ever had! It was served with traditional Caesar dressing on the side (although it didn’t need any) along with crusty french bread croutons and shaved parmesan. I decided to make it last night before it got too cold outside to grill. It seemed the perfect accompaniment for filet mignon for Shabbat dinner with a couple of friends. I incorporated a ripe avocado and the seeds from a pomegranate that was close to the end of its viable use. I made a dressing in case anyone wanted it and improvised the rest. It was again, surprisingly, delicious and simple to prepare.

Yield: 4 servings

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Grilled Caesar Salad

  • 2 stalks of Romaine lettuce hearts cut in half lengthwise
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Garlic powder (optional)
  • Shaved or grated parmesan cheese
  • Sliced fresh avocado
  • Pomegranate seeds

 

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Dressing (optional)

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Juice from half lemon
  • 1 clove fresh garlic finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
With Dressing

With Dressing

Turn on a gas grill to the highest temperature or light up a charcoal grill.

Cut the romaine heart in half lengthwise keeping the stem of the stalk attached.
Brush olive oil lightly all over the cut edge of the lettuce.
Sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic powder over the oiled area.
Place the lettuce stalks on a very hot grill with the cut and seasoned side down. Grill for about a minute, uncovered, until slightly charred grill lines show on the cut side of the lettuce. The stalk should remain intact.

Remove from the grill and place grilled side up on individual plates.

Garnish with avocado, parmesan and pomegranate seeds or wherever your imagination takes you.

To make the dressing, blend all ingredients thoroughly adjusting seasonings to taste. Serve on the side.

This salad can also be served on a large platter. Cut the stalks diagonally in one inch strips to serve family style.

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Guest Post from a Cousin

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Dear Esther,

After returning bloody, bruised, and blistered from our Yam L’Yam Shvis Shvil, Shaina and I were determined to cook a Shvis Shabbat feast (Shvis = Shavuot in Bubbe language). We wanted to remember Bubbe, but didn’t have the time or energy to make her blintzes – we could barely walk after 75 kilometers of climbing steep hills, walking through dry wadis and scurrying around (or into) boulders in just one and two half days! So, we opted for her sweet kugel instead.

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Finding the right kind of noodles was the first challenge. FYI, there are no Manischewitz brand “wide egg noodles” here in Israel. The closest thing I could find was a slightly different, thicker type of egg noodle, which I think ended up making the kugel a bit denser than I would have liked. Long story short, this recipe is easy, but if you try making it healthy-“ish” it just doesn’t work (as we learned the hard way!). Bubbe didn’t skimp out on her use of “hoil” and eggs – neither should you if you attempt to make this one at home.

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Shaina,

What am I going to do without you, my kambuchi kitchen goddess, next year? I’m already getting sad you are leaving in just 2 months. On the upside, I know great things are about to come your way! And with that, here’s to more Schuster-Shealy Israeli adventures both in and outside of the kitchen!

Love, Naomi.

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Bubbe’s Sweet Kugel 

  • 2 packages Wide Egg Noodles (Manischewitz brand is preferable, if available)
  • 1 lemon (juice and zest)
  • 1 orange (juice and zest)
  • 3 green apples, diced (I used 4, some green, some red—depends if you like tart or sweet and what is in
  • season)
  • 1-2 cups raisins (Bubbe didn’t actually ever measure—so just eyeball it)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs, beaten (I used 2 eggs and 4 egg whites but the egg whites didn’t hold the kugel together so
  • well…)
  • 4-5 tsps. Vanilla (once again, according to personal preference)
  • Cinnamon to taste (I use A LOT!!)
  • Canola Oil (for pan) and maybe add some to kugel as well if you want to truly cook like Bubbe!

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Boil noodles until a little less than fully cooked (they shouldn’t be hard but not so soft they are falling apart); Drain. In a separate bowl mix together diced apples, raisins, sugar, lemon zest, and orange zest. Add noodles to this mixture. Then add lemon juice, orange juice, vanilla, and cinnamon. Stir in eggs.

Heat a tablespoon or two of oil (canola) in bottom of 13 x 9 x 2 glass baking dish for a few minutes until it starts to bubble/pop. Pour noodle mixture into prepared ban. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for approximately 30 minutes. Let cool. Can be served at room temperature or re-heated in the microwave.

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