◊ #Blessed

DSCF2076

Dear mom,

#blessed #food #childhoodobseity #notreally

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 10.44.55 PM

#Bubbe. Bubbe interacted with us, her grandkids, almost solely via food. She fried blintzes for us, she peeled potatoes with us, she scooped us ice cream, she counted the chocolate chips that went into each cookie she force-fed us. We schlepped her to the grocery store, we brought her butter, we enlisted her in apple-chopping, we ate and ate and ate.

Bubbe showered us with indulgence. She conveyed gratitude, love, power, comfort, something, everything, through food. We — I — inherited this mechanism to cope with my own gratitude, power, drive, something. It feels good to make things.

But why so much?

DSCF2062

Why do you make over 300 hamantachen at once? Why do I cook for 20 when I’m hosting a dinner for 5? Why are the only posts in our family whatsapp group pictures of food and injuries from pushing ourselves too hard? Is it genetic that we, the grandkids, can’t sit still… that we thrive off of extremes? That we wake up one day and decide that baking 99 recipes will be fun? Your inheritance was an appetite for survival… is it part of ours too?

Our #blessings are also our neuroses.

Yes, food is metaphor. Our approach to it reflects our anxieties, values, loyalties. It shows our evolution.

Xo,

Shaina

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 10.46.03 PM

Around this time of year during my childhood, I’d be sick from Bubbe’s hamantaschen. As soon as the latke parties ended, she’d bust out the flour, jam and “hoil.” In her later years, she made Valentines Day cookies out of hamantachen material. She’d shape the dough into little hearts that she copied from playing cards, and topped them with strawberry jam and chocolate chips. I know she copied the heart shape from playing cards because one year she messed up and made cookies in the shape of spades. She still called them hearts. It was like how she used to make pizza with Velveta cheese.

I decided to pull a Bubbe and mix two cultures into one: I made traditional Persian cookies and added my own “filling” to retain the feel of hamantaschen.

DSCF2078

These cookies, called Nan-e Nokhodchi, are delicate gluten-free Persian cookies, usually decorated with a single pistachio. They are a perfect accompaniment to normal hamantaschen or a holiday alternative for those who keep a gluten-free diet.

DSCF2068Cardamom Scented Persian Cookies with Date Filling

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 5 tbs ground cardamom
  • 2 Tbs. rose water (the kind for baking)
  • 4 ½ cups fine chickpea flour
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt

Garnish:

  • 1 cup dates
  • ½ cup raw almonds
  • 1 tbs ground cardamom
  • 1 tbs rose water
  • pinch of sea salt
  • ¼ cup raw pistachios

DSCF2070

Cream butter with sugar, egg yolk, cardamom, and rose water in bowl. Add chickpea flour and mix well until lumps dissolve. Cover the bowl with foil or plastic wrap, and place in fridge to sit for at least one hour.

In the meantime, combine almonds, dates, cardamom, rose water and sea salt in a food processor until a paste forms.

When dough has sat for one hour, preheat oven to 300 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a teaspoon, scoop a spoonful of dough from the bowl and place into your hand. Roll the dough gently forming a ball in your hands. Press your thumb into the middle of the ball to form a dip in the cookie. This will flatten the cookie.

Fill each “thumbprint” with the date and almond paste and top with a single pistachio.  Line the cookies onto baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes until edges are brown.

DSCF2063

Advertisements

♦ Debriefing

IMG_2229

Dear Shaina,

I know it sounded like I got you all wrong, but really, I didn’t. I am proud of your creative resourcefulness, in all matters. I am in awe of your comfort with your being by yourself, your ability to structure your time and accomplish what you set out to do without any prodding from anyone other than yourself…and then turn around and organize a social outing with a few close friends or 80 friends of friends because you’re ready for some fun. You seem to be able to manage what most of us still find very challenging…meeting our alone needs and our social needs without expecting someone else to do it for us. I am proud of you…and of me and Dad for providing the nurturance and opportunities that gave you the space to take your life wherever you chose. And you have chosen well. We are proud!

IMG_1812

My getting it wrong didn’t really have anything to do with you. Every mother has their own vision of the ideal mother they want to be and believe they can be. It doesn’t necessarily comply with the actuality of their mothering or the vision their children have of them. In truth, I never imagined myself as a working mother. My fantasy was that I would be the PTA organizing, cookie baking, field trip driving mom who was always there and never missed a mom-beat. Instead, I was an overbearing, impatient, overprotective worried mother who was pretty bored with the do-the-laundry-while-the-baby-is-taking-a-nap routine. I realized pretty early on that I needed to go to work for your sake and mine. I don’t regret my decision. It proved to help both of us grow into independent, productive and fun-loving women.10257145_10201836219616231_363673777101131976_n

That doesn’t mean that I am immune to the pangs of guilt that all working mothers have, especially when their children are home alone sick. The sticky remnants of our idealized mother-image gnaws at our hearts. If only I had been there…how much I missed not being there…how much I missed even when I was there… It’s never perfect and we keep wishing it were.

IMG_1815

Shaina, each time you come home from whatever far-away adventure you are currently on, I have the sense of meeting someone deeply familiar, yet subtly altered. You seem more settled and happy. The kind of happy that eases a mother’s mind. This Passover was one of our best ever…and not just because all the food was the best ever (even the gefilte fish). Your consistently gentle essence breezed in and drew us into late night talks, kitchen marathons and momentary peeks into the ever evolving world of Shaina. Being with you, shopping with you, debriefing our days (a new habit you picked up from a housemate…thank you thank you!), even cooking with you, was perfect!

IMG_3463

So Shaina, memory is selective and the timing of memories is especially altered. I remember the blue jello dreidles and the green poop and the witches games and the mud pies and all the mac n cheese you ate as a little girl. I remember. I was there. I remember the kitchen experiments when you got older, although more vaguely, because I wasn’t always there. The trashed kitchen memories were vivid as they awaited me when I did get there.

IMG_1796IMG_1804

Today, mother and daughter, we are here together creating new memories….memories that may supersede other memories in their poignancy, their pleasure and in their immediacy…or not. It’s been an incredible holiday and I can’t wait to do it again!

Love,
Mom
xoxooxoxxoxoxoxo

IMG_3453

 

Passover Sponge Cake

IMG_2224

Shaina, who knew that this was your all time favorite cake, Passover or not?! I have spent the last three years trying to perfect it. Not the recipe. That’s standard…the same cake Bubbe made every Passover since I have been conscious…the recipe on the back of the Manischewitz Potato Starch can. Every year Bubbe would exclaim at the height of her cakes…the higher the better…it has to do with the egg whites. I started making them the last couple years of her life as she sat in my kitchen directing my efforts. They didn’t come out as high as hers and invariably one would fall apart when I took it out of the pan and I would have to make another one, using the crumbled one for strawberry trifle (your Dad’s favorite). One year, I remember making three cakes before I finally got one to hold together…not that anyone was complaining.

IMG_2218

IMG_3442

This year, another miracle of Passover occurred. I produced two fully intact, respectably high (although in my memory, Bubbe’s were higher) Passover sponge cakes. And you revealed that this was your favorite all time cake. Will wonders never cease?!

It turns out that this cake is also gluten-free and makes a perfect cake all year round for those gluten free people in your life. It makes delicious strawberry shortcake and goes well with homemade lemon curd (a recipe from a friend).

I guess I’ll be making a third sponge cake again this year for your birthday, Shaina…the day after Passover ends.

Manischewitz Passover Sponge Cake
(from the back of the Manischewitz Potato Starch Can)

  • 7 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup Manischewitz potato starch, sifted
  • dash of salt

Separate 6 of the eggs. Beat the six egg yolks and one whole egg until light and frothy. The key here is to use a regular stand mixer (not a hand-held) and really beat those eggs until they actual change color and become lighter.

Gradually add the sifted sugar and beat thoroughly. Continue beating while adding the lemon juice and zest ( I usually add a little more zest and juice than the recipe calls for up to two teaspoons of zest and two tablespoons of juice). Beat thoroughly together.

Gradually add the sifted potato starch, stirring constantly to ensure thorough blending.

Beat egg whites with salt until stiff but not dry. Fold gently but thoroughly into egg yolk mixture. The key here is to make sure there is not even a drop of egg yolk in the egg whites and that you use a separate clean bowl and beaters. I use a hand held for the white and always keep them far away from the yolk mixture when preparing this cake.

Place in and ungreased tube pan (I like the tube pans that have the detachable bottom). Bake in a 350° oven about 55 minutes or until cake springs back when touched gently with fingers. I bake this cake for 56 -58 minutes. The top should be brown but not burned and a little crusty.

IMG_1776

Invert pan and cool thoroughly before removing cake from pan.  Once you invert the pan (I use wine bottles), do not even attempt to remove the cake until it is absolutely stone cold. Use a sharp knife to go around the edges of the pan and the tube in the center of the pan.

IMG_3446

If the cake does happen to fall apart, it will still be delicious and no one will notice when you serve it layered in a trifle bowl with strawberries or lemon curd or both.

IMG_2201

 

Passover Potato Knishes

IMG_3432

Bubbe used to make special Passover Potato knishes that looked like round balls of potato with a glossy outside but no dough. They tasted a little liker the insides of her regulars potato knishes. I never bothered to get the recipe because there were always so many other things to make on Passover. This year I wanted to make a gluten free Passover appetizer and decided I would try to replicate at least the concept of a Passover Potato Knish. The don’t look or feel like my Mom’s but they were such a huge hit, I think Bubbe would be proud!

  • 2 pounds sweet yellow onions
  • oil for sautéing onions
  • 5 pounds red potatoes
  • Lots of salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 4 eggs*
  • oil for brushing tops

*Egg whites can be substituted for whole eggs. Use 2 egg whites for every egg called for. I usually do half and half.

 

Chop onions and sauté in olive or Canola oil until very browned and reduced. This step can be done ahead of time. When I have a big cooking event coming up, I will chop up a whole bag of onions and sauté them and put them in the fridge. As I am cooking over the next few days I have a ready supply of sautéed onions for any recipe that calls for them.
Boil whole potatoes in salted water until done.
Rinse in cold water and peel off skins while potatoes are still hot, but you are able to handle them. I usually skin them while rinsing them under the cold water.
Mash the potatoes, adding in 1/4 cup canola oil, sautéed onions to taste (the more the bettering our household) and plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Lightly beat eggs and add to potato mixture, blending thoroughly.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Wet hands with water and spoon potato mixture into hands to form a golf-ball sized potato mound. Place potato balls onto baking sheet. brush tops of balls very lightly with a little oil.
If serving at a later time, bake at 375° for about 15- 20 minutes until firm and lightly browned. Let cool completely and remove with a spatula. Store in a sealed container separating the layers with waxed or parchment paper. they can be frozen. To reheat, return to baking sheets covered with parchment paper and reheat in a 375° oven until browned and crisp around the edges, about 15 minutes.
If serving immediately, bake in 375° oven for 25 minutes or until browned and slightly crisp.

◊ I’m Back

IMG_8766_Fotor

Dear mom,

I don’t have much to say. Being back home is weird. I dither around preparations towards next steps, and my friends from high school are doctors and lawyers and married. I returned from a time warp – why do things progress without me? – and I am nothing.

My job-for-now is my saving grace (though it seems just opposite for you). I prepare meals for a friend braving chemotherapy. Her dietary shift omits dairy, processed foods, soy, various legumes, cruciferous vegetables, etc, and she only eats organic. I drift through my days assembling creative menus and exploring new ingredients that yield foods tasty and healthy. It’s indispensably meditative as I mull over how I’ll get to where I need to be next (on time) and what that means exactly.

IMG_8639

But I know my presence in your kitchen has totally rocked your boat: you take every opportunity to complain about me completely trashing your house and destroying your kitchen. I leave my sneakers and gym bag in the hallway; plates and jars are out of place; my clothes are on the bathroom floor; there is crusted yogurt on the fridge door-handle and drops of almond butter in hard to reach places; the salt is in the wrong cubby. There’s a reason that our site’s tagline ends with the word distance.

It’s usually my job to initiate distance, but you stole away on your West Coast adventure yesterday. How does it feel? I perceived some guilt (or fear?) as you left me to man the kitchen all by myself. But that’s your problem. For me, it’s a dream come true. Even though I’m weary about navigating your kitchen drawers without you (it took me 30 minutes to find the box grater this morning!), the space is welcomed. Please, conquer your retirement unsullied by guilt, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I won’t have to go to the basement while you’re away (still the scariest place I’ve ever been).

Back to the kitchen! I’ll try to minimize the havoc as much as possible.

xo,
Shaina
IMG_8802_Fotor

Roasted Cherry Almond Millet Mini Muffins (gluten and dairy free!)
Prep time: 45 minutes
Serves 10 – 15

  • 1  cup almond mealIMG_8751_Fotor
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal (i like to use blue cornmeal)
  • 1/2 c flax meal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp (sea) salt
  • 1/3 c molasses
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 c almond milk
  • 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup millet, lightly toasted*
  • 1 cup roasted cherries*

Last time I wrecked the kitchen, these crunchy, gluten-free Roasted Cherry Almond Millet Muffins were born –slightly sweet and perfect for a filling breakfast or a satisfying midday snack, they were inspired by a search for a healthy treat that I could make for my new “client.”  Now I’m hooked on millet! A crunchy muffin is like ice cream with sprinkles.. eating it is just more fun! Top these gems with almond butter or yogurt in the morning for a healthy, fiber-full, protein-packed start to the day.

IMG_8843

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the almond meal, cornmeal, flax meal, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, molasses, olive oil, almond milk, honey, almond and vanilla extracts together.  Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until loose batter is formed. Gently fold in the millet and cherries until combined. Fill the muffin liners and bake on middle rack for 15 – 20 minutes. Let cool before serving.

IMG_8732
*Roasted Cherries: Toss 2 cups of halved and pitted cherries with a pinch of salt, 2 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp honey and splash of lemon. Spread them evenly on parchment paper and roast for 20 – 25 minutes on 350 degrees. For the purpose of this recipe, feel free to substitute strawberries, peaches or other summer fruits for cherries.
*Toasted millet: Spread millet evenly on baking sheet and stick in oven or toaster oven at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes. To make sure your millet muffins are perfectly crunchy, toast it half an hour (at least) before using it for baking so that it can cool… It becomes more firm once it’s cool.

IMG_8775
IMG_8646

Blueberry Almond Galette
Serves 6
Prep time: 40 min
Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen’s Cherry Almond Galette

IMG_8634

IMG_2248

Ingredients for Dough:

  • 3/4 cup red hard wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup rye flour
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 4 oz. / 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut in cubes
  • 2 tsp. lemon juicephoto 2(6)
  • 2 Tbsp. yogurt
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 3 Tbsp. ice water

Ingredients for Filling:

  • 3 cups blueberries
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp. corn starch, almond flour or wheat flour
  • dash fresh grated nutmeg
  • dash cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup raw sugar
  • 1 egg
  • splash of water
  • turbinado sugar, optional

Our blueberry picking venture was pathetic… My memories of bushes generously bearing cloyingly sweet, plump blueberries were tainted by this season’s scarce branches. I blame this season’s monsoon-like weather for our meager bucket of water-logged, almost rotting berries. Usually, I’d season freshly picked berries with lemon juice and spices and bake them under a simple oat crumble.

But this summer’s berry batch needed hardcore TLC. I was drawn to a galette recipe on Sprouted Kitchen because of the almond extract in the dough recipe. So I substituted rye and hard red wheat flour for their spelt and white flour combo, and, duh, blueberries + appropriate spices instead of cherries.
The dough turned out delish and, served with ice cream, the galette eased my distress over this summer’s wretched crop. But I still prefer my berries sweetened by the earth and sun – simple, ample, untouched and undoctored. Oh well.. there’s always next summer.

IMG_8624

IMG_8644
First, mix all dry ingredients. Second, quickly work the cold butter into the flour mixture. One tip that my mom taught me is to shred the frozen butter into the flour with a cheese grater. It makes it easier to combine in with the flour. Smush the butter into the flour with your fingers, making small pea-sized clumps. In a separate dish, mix lemon juice, yogurt, almond extract and water, and add it to the dough mixture until combined. Do not over-mix! Form a ball and wrap it up – chill in the fridge for at least an hour or a day or two in advance.
Heat the oven to 400′ and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash blueberries and mix with spices, salt, lemon juice, flour and sugar.

IMG_2255
On a floured surface, roll out the tough to a a 12 inch circle (doesn’t have to be perfect… clearly). Put the dough on a baking sheet and pile the blueberries in the center (leave roughly 2-3 inches of the outer dough empty). Fold the dough towards the center, pinching it together to make it stick. Pull it tight and thin.
Mix egg and brush it on the outside of the dough. Then sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake on the middle rack for 40 – 45 minutes until browned. Serve with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of almond butter.

IMG_8642

♦ From Down the Hall

Dear Shaina,

It is really odd to be writing a letter to you when you are just down the hall and we are crossing paths in the kitchen, preparing lists for almost daily grocery store excursions, merging dirty clothes in the washing machine and…exchanging words (not always so nicely) face to face.

IMG_1305

So here I sit struggling to do my assignment, “mom, do ur blog” instructions in a text from you, following a text that said, “having din w friends, will b home later.”

Parenting is not an easy business at any age…of any aged child. It is perplexing and daunting and evokes anxieties and insecurities from the depths of your core. Shaina, lest you think this is about you, believe me, it is not! You are, and have been, a relatively easy child. I do know how fortunate I am to have the privilege of being your parent.

I am immensely proud of your accomplishments, your bravery and self-awareness, your independence and your many ever-emerging talents.  Not to mention the bonuses of having a child who travels to exotic places, always has another exciting option up her sleeve and provides us with never-ending tales to share with family and friends.

IMG_1636

The challenges of parenting are not about you, or any kid, I suspect.  It’s about what and who we bring to the game. You think you’ve escaped the ghosts you tried so hard to release in your own life…and all of a sudden, you have become your mother…and those shreds of familiarity are chilling.

IMG_1633

There were so many things that Bubbe and Zayde did intuitively, as parents, that were right. They had no expectations of who we should become.  They only wanted us to be healthy and happy and able to take care of ourselves.  They insisted on the absolute importance of love and family.  I think that was it…and all that flowed from that. Any screaming and arguing was just another tactic to ensure those principles.

I think it worked, but with it came the whole package…the sense of obligation, the persistent quest for happiness, the need to leave home and find my place in the world.  I did that in my own way.

I know some parents who think their job is to control their children in an attempt to produce the desired product.

IMG_1289

My understanding of parenting is more about powerlessness and staying out of the way of the inevitable. Neither approach is easy or foolproof…and I have made errors on both ends of the spectrum.

Having you home brings all the players out of the closet…yours and mine.  All in all, I think we are okay. You are a child any mother would be proud to claim…as I am.  We are just both doing what we both need to do…hanging on and getting away!

Thank God for food…the grains that bind us!  I have learned so much from you, although I am not sure I will ever be able to replicate your style. You prepared an amazing Indian feast for Shabbat dinner…dishes that even our Indian guests loved!

Watching you create recipes for a friend who is undergoing chemo has made me appreciate what a unique gift you have.

sss & es in kitchen 072313

Your food is creative and delicious, elaborate and healing…and remarkably beautiful and awe-inspiring.

Indian dishes.072313.sss

I am also impressed at how much your kitchen maintenance has improved! Thank you!

I don’t know how long you’ll be here, but I am glad to be in these moments with you. My wishes for you are simple…to be healthy and happy…to remember the importance of family…to find your place in the world and…to be safe.

Love,

Mom

xoxoxoxoxoxo

Browned Butter Halibut
Although I am intimidated by your creations. I still have to cook dinner occasionally,at least when I am not throwing together all your tasty leftover morsels into a humongous salad. This is a very simple fish recipe that Dad really enjoyed.

Add a simple green summer salad and baked sweet potatoes, plus the dessert below,  and you have a satisfying quick and easy dinner.

IMG_1338

Yield: 4 servings

  •  1 – 1½ pounds of fresh wild caught halibut (4-6 ounces per person)
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, garlic to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and zest from one lemon (or lime juice and zest)
  • Garnish with fresh chopped dill, parsley or tarragon and lemon wedges if desired

Salt and pepper fish generously on both sides. Add fresh finely chopped or thinly sliced garlic.

Lime Juice and zest...a great substitute for lemon.

Lime Juice and zest…a great substitute for lemon.

Marinate in lemon juice with zest plus 1 teaspoon olive oil for a half hour.

IMG_1337

Heat a sauté pan large enough to hold all the fish over medium heat.

Put oil and butter in the pan and heat until lightly browned.   Add fish immediately to browned butter and cook 3 – 5 minutes (depending on thickness of fish) on each side.  Fish is done when it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

Serve with lemon wedges. Add salt, pepper and fresh herbs to taste.  Serve immediately.

 

Blueberry Oatmeal-Buckwheat Crumble

IMG_1336
This lightly sweetened blueberry crumble recipe is inspired by your healthy crunchy-grainy approach to food…and all those gallons of late summer blueberries we picked.

IMG_1312

Blueberry Filling

  • 5-6 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon potato starch or corn starch
  • Zest and lemon juice from small lemon
  • ¾ cup chopped dried fruit (apricots, dates, figs, raisins or any dried fruit)
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar or to taste (agave or honey can be substituted)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Wash blueberries and place them in a pot with the next four ingredients for the blueberry filling.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally throughout the cooking process.  Turn the heat down and simmer for about forty-five more minutes or until blueberry mixture is slightly thickened and reduced by half, but still liquidy.  Add the almond extract and stir.  Cool slightly.

Oatmeal-Buckwheat Crust and Topping

  • 1¼ cup uncooked rolled oats
  • ½ cup almond flour
  • ½ cup buckwheat flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup butter, melted (margarine or coconut oil can be substituted)
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 T raw sugar or agave

IMG_1319While berries are cooking, prepare crust by whisking together the oats, flour and salt in a bowl. Add the melted butter or margarine to the oat mixture and stir until crumbly. Reserve ¾ cup of this mixture in a separate bowl for the topping.

Preheat oven to 350°

Grease an 8” x 10” baking dish and pat the remaining oat crumb crust mixture onto the bottom of the baking dish.

Prepare the topping by adding ¾ cup of chopped nuts and 1 tablespoon of raw sugar to the reserved oat mixture.  More sugar can be added if you like a sweeter topping.  Mix thoroughly.

Bake at 350° for 35 – 45 minutes or until oats and nuts are lightly browned and blueberries are bubbling.Pour the slightly cooled blueberry filling over the crust in the baking dish.  Sprinkle the oat-nut topping mixture evenly over the berries.

IMG_1331

Eat warm with ice cream or serve cold as a fruit snack or breakfast treat.