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Apologies!

14 Aug

I apologize to my food followers. Obviously my last post was meant for my OTHER blog. My husband and I are at the Chautauqua Institution all summer, and as you probably know, there was a horrific attack on Salman Rushdie on Friday. So that’s what this is all about.

Bobbie

Tremendous relief

13 Aug

(I published this on the wrong blog! Sorry for the confusion!)

One of our guests was walking around earlier and came across a man struggling with two large bags of groceries. He offered to help the guy, and learned that he was one of the first ones who leaped onto the stage after Rushdie was attacked. Another man had his fingers on Rushdie’s neck, trying to stanch the blood, and he told the grocery guy to hold his head up and talk to him softly and calmly.

Somehow the FBI got wind of this and came over to the house to interview our guest. (They took our names too, though we told them we weren’t close enough to see anything.) We were expecting guys in suits, but they were wearing jeans and tee shirts; I’m guessing they wanted to blend in with the rest of the community. You would never have known they were feds, but they did show us their badges.

The Institution decided that tonight’s entertainment — the Washington Ballet accompanied by the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra — should go on as scheduled. The Amp was as full as usual, and before the program started, CHQ President Michael Hill came out and was greeted with cheers and a standing ovation. He announced that the orchestra would start with Bach’s Adagio for strings before the regular program. And then at intermission he came out again to say that Salman Rushdie was off the ventilator and talking — resulting in another round of tremendous applause and cheers.

I thought you might like to see the message Michael sent to the entire community earlier today.

——————————————————–

By now you have likely heard we suffered a terrible tragedy at Chautauqua yesterday. What we experienced is unlike anything in our 150-year history. It was an act of violence, an act of hatred and a violation of one of the things we have always cherished most: the safety and tranquility of our grounds and our ability to convene the most important conversations, even if those conversations are difficult.

Chautauqua is a community of people of all faiths and none. Our collective family is holding Salman Rushdie and Henry Reese, as well their families, close in prayer and close to our hearts. We have been in touch with their loved ones, and I was grateful to spend a very brief amount of time with Mr. Reese yesterday evening. 

But yesterday was also an attack on an ideal we cherish: that freedom of speech and freedom of expression are hallmarks to our society and to our democracy, they are the very underpinnings of who we are and what we believe, what we cherish most. 

We are called to take on fear and the worst of all human traits – hate.  And let’s be clear: what many of us witnessed was a violent expression of hate that shook us to our core. We saw it with our own eyes and in our faces. 

But we also saw something else that I don’t want us to forget. We saw some of the best of humanity in the response of all those who ran toward danger to halt it. 

I watched a member of our staff hurl themselves at the attacker.  

I saw Chautauquans rush the stage to help secure the perpetrator, making it possible for police to remove him. 

I saw Chautauquans who are doctors and nurses rush to provide selfless care while the ambulance arrived. 

I saw what our Chaplain of the week, Terri Hord Owens, called us to possess: a generous, radical love for each other and this community. 

So where do we go from here? How do we think about the days that follow? When hatred shows its ugliness… 

The response must be love, of course, but also action. We must return to our podiums and pulpits. We must continue to convene the critical conversations that can help build empathy; obviously, this is more important now than ever. 

There will be time in the days and weeks ahead to reflect on all we’ve experienced, and we have already been working on how to adapt to yesterday’s horror to ensure our conversations continue. We will soon share operational details about how we will proceed through the remainder of the 2022 Summer Assembly.

At this time, we are called to double down on our prayers for Mr. Rushdie and Mr. Reese and all those who love them. We are called to stand witness that this Chautauqua has but one choice: to ensure that the voices that have the power to change our world continue to have a home in which to be heard. That is ours to do. 

We can take the experience of hatred and reflect on what it means. Or we can come together even more strongly as a community who takes what happened yesterday and commits to not allowing that hatred be any part of our own hearts.  

I know this community and I know that you will make a choice for hope and goodness.

Cauliflower Gratin with Leeks and White Cheddar

19 May

I’m pretty well convinced that nothing made with heavy cream can be bad. When I saw this recipe in the New York Times I knew I had to make it, because I happened to have a half a large leek (which I figured was the equivalent of the small leek called for) and a package of white cheddar cheese in my fridge. Of course I had to go out and buy a cauliflower and the heavy cream, but it was worth a little effort! Give it a try — it could be your new definition of “comfort food”!

Ingredients:

1 smallish head cauliflower (about 2 lb), green leaves removed
Olive oil, for drizzling
1 small leek, white and light green part only, very thinly sliced
kosher salt and black pepper
¾ cup heavy cream
6 oz. sharp white cheddar, grated (about 1½ cups)

Directions:

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Slice cauliflower head lengthwise into half-inch thick slices, including the core and inner leaves. Save any small bits that fall away.

Drizzle olive oil onto the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish (round, oval, square or rectangular). Layer about a third of the cauliflower along the bottom, and about a third of the leeks. Season with salt and pepper and repeat until all the cauliflower and leeks are used. Toss in any “crumbs” of cauliflower you have left on your cutting board.

Season with salt and pepper and drizzle the cream over the cauliflower and leeks. Scatter the cheese on top and season again with salt and pepper. Cover ligjtly with foil and place in the oven.

Bake until the cauliflower is nearly tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cream has thickened and reduced nearly completely and the top is golden brown and crisp, 35 to 40 minutes. If you want a little extra crunch, scatter some breadcrumbs tossed in olive oil over the top after you remove the foil.

Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes before serving

Serves 4

Caramelized Shallot Pasta

19 Jan

Here’s another tasty pasta recipe from the New York Times — it was one of their most-requested for 2020. It took me awhile to make this after I clipped it, because shallots and fresh parsley are not things I normally have on hand and I had to wait until I got to a store that carried them. Peeling and slicing the shallots and garlic and pulling the leaves off the parsley stems were the most labor-intensive parts of this effort! (I chopped the parsley in the food processor after de-stemming it.)

The recipe for the sauce makes enough for two four-person servings of pasta, using 10 oz. of pasta. Since we’re only two here, and the recipe didn’t look like it would make a huge amount of sauce, I divided it into three instead of two, and used 6 oz. of pasta, saving the other two portions of sauce for another time. I had already chopped up and measured out the parsley by then, so I used the whole cup, setting some aside for future meals.

Ingredients:

¼ cup olive oil
6 large shallots, very thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves – 4 thinly sliced, 1 finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1 (2-oz.) can anchovy fillets, drained
1 (4.5-oz.) tube or (6-oz.) can tomato paste
10 oz. pasta
1 cup parsley leaves, chopped
Flaky sea salt

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add shallots and the thinly-sliced garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots have become totally softened and caramelized with golden-brown fried edges, 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the red pepper flakes and anchovies. Stir until the anchovies melt into the shallots, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and season with salt and pepper (though the anchovies are so salty I did not add any additional salt). Cook, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, until the tomatoe paste has started to cook in the oil a bit, caramelizing at the edges and going from bright red to a deeper brick color, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer half to a reusable container. Use these leftovers for another batch of pasta, or with roasted vegetables, over fried eggs, or under crispy chicken thighs.

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions until very al dente (a bit more than usual). Save 1 cup of the pasta water before you drain it. Transfer the pasta to the Dutch oven or a skillet with the shallot mixture and the cup of pasta water.

Cook over medium-high heat, swirling the skillet to coat each piece of pasta and scraping up any bits of sauce at the bottom, until the pasta is thick and the sauce has reduced, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Combine the parsley and the finely chopped garlic and season with flaky salt and pepper. Divide the pasta among bowls or transfer to one large serving dish, and top with parsley mixture and a little more red pepper flakes if you like.

Serve 4

Date-Nut Bars

17 Nov

This is a nice recipe to indulge yourself with while you’re blue about having to stay indoors and isolate yourself during the pandemic. Especially if you were ever seduced by those big bags of pitted dates at Costco and are now wondering what the heck to do with all of them. They’re easy to make and really delicious.

Ingredients:

¾ cup flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup chopped nuts
1 cup sliced dates
1 tsp. vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Beat eggs, and beat in sugar gradually. Stir in the nuts, dates and vanilla, and then the dry ingredients.

Grease an 8 x 8-inch baking pan and line the bottom with a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper. Spread the batter in the pan. Bake about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Invert onto a wire rack and peel off the waxed or parchment paper. Cut into strips about 2 inches by 1 inch.

Makes 32 bars

Peanut kale

18 Aug

Kale is super-plentiful right now, maybe in your backyard garden, in your friends’ gardens, or — if you must — in farm markets and supermarkets. This easy and tasty recipe can be served either as a side dish or as a salad, either warm or at room temperature. It’s adapted from a recipe by Kathy Patalsky that I found online when I was looking for something to do with a big bunch of kale.

Ingredients:

4 cups of kale, chopped, stems removed (1 large bunch)
1 Tbs. peanut butter
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. brown rice syrup, agave nectar, honey or maple syrup
Ground black pepper to taste
½ cup red or white sweet onion, thinly sliced|
Optional (but recommended):
½ tsp. chopped ginger
A few dashes cayenne pepper
½ tsp. chopped garlic

Directions:

 Put all ingredients except kale in a large pot and stir to combine. Add the kale, cover the pot, and heat over high flame for just a minute or two until the small amount of liquid starts to boil. Turn off the heat, and shake the pot a few times with the lid on. Wait a minute, then remove the lid and stir well (but gently). The steam will have wilted the kale enough to make it tender; stir just enough to make sure all of it has come in contact with the sauce.

Serve immediately or keep for a few hours and serve at room temperature.

Serves 2

Fried Rice

13 Jul

Fried rice

This is more a method than a recipe, so take the amounts given below a little loosely.

Basically this is a great way to use up leftover rice and vegetables — and also chicken or beef, though those are not essential.

In my house, there are usually only two of us for dinner and it’s hard to make some things in small amounts. Stir-fried vegetables is one of those things, since you need a decent variety of veggies, and by the time to slice up even a small amount of half-a-dozen kinds of vegetable,  you’ve got more than you need for two side-dish servings.

Ditto with rice. My go-to rice-making method calls for 1 cup of rice, which makes enough for 4 servings, so we almost always have leftovers.

The other day I served rice and stir-fried veggies and I intentionally prepared more vegetables than I’d need so that I’d have some to use the next day with the leftover rice in a dish of fried rice. I used a small onion (sliced vertically), a few strips of red pepper, a quarter-pound of sliced mushrooms, a small summer squash (sliced), about a cup and a half of snow peas and three stalks of bok choy (sliced).

I also used bean sprouts, but I didn’t add them in with the other vegetables because they cook so quickly and get overcooked easily. When the vegetables for the first night’s dinner were almost done, I took out and set aside half of them for use the next day in the fried rice. Then I added the bean sprouts to my dish of stir-fried veg. and cooked for just a minute or so more The next day, when I made the fried rice, I added some fresh bean sprouts (and also a sliced scallion) to the leftover stir-fried vegetables.

Use any combination of vegetables that appeals to you; good choices include onion, mushrooms, snow peas, red pepper, broccoli, sliced bok choy, zucchini, sliced celery, matchstick carrots. Chop the vegetables into small pices. Stir-fry the veggies according to how much cooking time they need; start with the onion, followed by mushrooms, then do broccoli, red pepper, snow peas, celery, bok choy, carrots, etc. If you use bean sprouts and scallion, add them last because they take next-to-no-time to cook.

Make a thin pancake out of a beaten egg and slice it into threads. Alternately, you can scramble the egg and chop the cooked egg into small pieces.

The fried rice comes together very quickly as you heat a little bit of oil then fry up the cooked rice, the cooked veggies and the egg shreds. Finish with a little soy sauce and you’ve got a great supper!

Ingredients

1 egg
1½ to 2 cups cooked white or brown rice
2 cups chopped mixed stir-fried vegetables
1 cup leftover chicken or thinly-sliced cooked beef (optional)
1-2 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 Tbs. soy sauce

Directions

Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat. Whisk the egg, and when the pan is hot, add a few teaspoons of oil and heat for 10 seconds, then add the egg and swirl it into a pancake. When it is firm but not brown, flip it quickly to set the other side and then slide out onto a plate. Roll the flat sheet of egg into a tube and slice. Set aside.

Heat the rest of the oil and add the rice, stirring quickly to coat it with the oil. Add in the vegetables and the chicken or beef if you use it, and the egg slices and stir to heat everything evenly. Add the soy sauce and stir for another minute or so to coat everything in the pan, then serve.

Serves 2

 

Mushroom-Barley Soup

2 Jun

This is a quintesential comfort food, so it’s been a great panedemic recipe. Leftovers will keep for a week or more in the fridge.

The last time I made it I realized as I was getting started that I had no fresh mushrooms! That didn’t matter much — what’s really essential is the dried mushrooms. We once got a huge jar of them at Costco, and it lasted us about 10 years. Sadly, Costco no longer carries the product. You can find dried mushrooms in bulk food stores and some supermarkets. Or you can buy them online. Don’t freak out at the sky-high per-pound price; you need very little and they weigh next to nothing, so an ounce or two will last you a long time (and they don’t spoil).

If you have porcini mushroom caps, use 3 to 5 of them. If your dried mushrooms are in bits and flakes, measure out about 3 tablespoons of pieces.

Ingredients:

3 to 5 dried porcini mushrooms or 3 tbs. dried mushroom pieces
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1-2 carrots, chopped
1-2 stalks celery, chopped
4 – 8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
6 cups stock (vegetable, beef, chicken)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can Great Northern or cannelini beans
1 bay leaf
¼ cup fresh chopped parsley or 1 Tbs. dried parsley
½ cup pearled barley
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Soak the dried mushrooms in boiling water to cover for a half hour.

Heat the oil in a large pot and sautee the chopped onions for about 2 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and continue cooking until the vegetables are soft, another 3-5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook until soft.

Add the stock and the canned tomatoes and stir.

Drain the dried mushrooms, slice them thin and add to the pot. (You can use the liquid that you drain off, but put it through a strainer first.)

Add the canned beans, bayleaf and parsley.

Bring the soup to the boil, then add the barley. Return to the boil, Reduce to a simmer, and cook, covered, for about 30 minutes.

The soup is better if you make it at least several hours before you want to serve it and reheat.

Serves 8

Stuffed cabbage

4 Oct

stuffed cabbage

Sukkot, the 7-day Jewish holiday of Sukkot that commemorates the ancient Israelites’ wandering in the desert and also celebrates the fall harvest, starts on the evening of October 13 this year. It’s traditional to serve fall-harvested vegetables, and stuffed cabbage is one of my favorite Sukkot dishes. It reminds me of my Polish- and Russian-born grandmothers. They called the rolls prakas. Others called them holischkes.

How can something that smells so awful taste so delicious? Cooked cabbage is a that cliche of novels and movies about immigrants in tenement houses. I will be the first to admit that the scent of cooking cabbage is not up there with fresh bread and popcorn as an enticing aroma. Cooking it as stuffed cabbage is not as bad, because you also get the bouquet of cooking meat and tomato sauce. But don’t be put off by the fear of cooking cabbage! The end result is well worth it. (When you’re done you can burn a nice-smelling candle to deodorize your kitchen.)

Lots of recipes tell you to boil the head of cabbage and then separate the leaves. This is a mess, because you need a huge pot, and then you have to handle a hot head of cabbage. Others say to cut the leaves off the head of cabbage and parboil them. This is also unsatisfactory, because it’s very hard to get intact leaves off a raw head of cabbage—and then you still have to deal with hot cabbage leaves dripping hot water all over your kitchen.

I have a better way, which I learned from my beloved late Aunt Lili. The only drawback is it takes some planning. At least a week before the holiday, buy your cabbage, wrap it well in foil, and stick it in the freezer. A few days later,  take it from the freezer and put it in your fridge. A block of frozen cabbage takes a long time to defrost, so allow at least five days! You can speed up the process by defrosting it on your counter, but you’ll still need a day or two. Put the frozen cabbage into a large bowl or deep platter, because a lot of water will seep out as it defrosts.

When the cabbage is completely defrosted, cut out the core, and the leaves will just fall away, nice and soft and ready for rolling.

Some people like to make “unstuffed cabbage” by chopping up the cabbage and making meatballs out of the stuffing, then cooking it all together in the tomato sauce. This may be slightly less work, but honestly, the taste is not as good, and you still have to roll the meatballs. The only excuse for doing it this way is if you forget to freeze and thaw your cabbage.

Six years ago I was writing another food blog called Feed the Spirit, part of an online magazine called Read the Spirit, which is still published weekly. I wrote about the Sukkot holiday and included this recipe for stuffed cabbage, and I made this little video to show how easy it is to stuff the leaves.

Ingredients

One large, green cabbage, frozen and then defrosted
2 lb. ground beef
1 cup cooked white rice
1 small onion, chopped fine, or 2 Tbs. dehydrated onion flakes
Garlic powder to taste
1 egg
6 oz. can tomato paste
2 cups water (use the the tomato paste can to measure so you can rinse out the paste that sticks after you spoon it out)
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. brown sugar
½ tsp. salt or to taste
Black pepper to taste
A handful of black raisins

Directions

Combine the ground beef, rice, onion, garlic and egg. Mix well.

Cut the core out of the cabbage and separate the leaves. Cut off any really hard core pieces from the bottom of each leaf, but save the pieces you cut off. Pile the leaves on a plate and set aside.

Place a cabbage leaf on a cutting board or counter and place a few tablespoons of the meat mixture on the leaf near the bottom; mold it into a log shape. Fold the bottom of the leaf up around the filling, then fold in the sides and roll up the leaf into a neat package. Set the filled rolls aside, seam side down, on a plate or cutting board.

When you’ve used up all the meat, chop up any remaining cabbage and put it, together with the pieces you cut from the bottom of the leaves, into a large Dutch oven or slow cooker. Place the cabbage rolls, seam side down, over the chopped-up cabbage.

Combine the tomato paste, water, lemon juice, brown sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. The sauce should be fairly thick. Take a tiny taste to see if you like the balance, and add more lemon juice, brown sugar or salt and pepper if necessary.

Pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls. Try to cover the tops of all the rolls with sauce, but the rolls won’t be submerged in sauce yet. The cabbage and meat will produce a lot of “juice” and increase the volume of sauce, so don’t fill your pot or slow cooker to the very brim. You may need to use two pots.

Throw a handful of raisins into the pot(s) after you’ve put in the sauce.

If you use a slow cooker, cook the dish on “high” for at least six hours. If you use a Dutch oven, cover the pot and heat on a medium-high flame until the liquid boils. Now you have a choice: you can continue to cook on the stovetop at a simmer, or you can put the pot in a 300-degree oven. Either way, you will need to cook the stuffed cabbage for about three hours.

You can probably use an Instant Pot, but I haven’t done so and I can’t advise you on how long to cook it — probably about an hour.

Another suggestion, useful if you plan to freeze the cabbage rolls: place the cabbage rolls, seam side down, in an oblong aluminum foil baking pan and pour the sauce over. Cover with foil and cook in the oven. Then you can just pop the whole pan into the freezer after it cools.

Check periodically to be sure the tops of the cabbage rolls aren’t getting too dry and that nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add water as necessary. As the cabbage cooks, the sauce should get much thinner in consistency.

This amount of meat, rice and cabbage will make about 20 cabbage rolls of varying sizes.

The cabbage rolls will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. They also freeze very well.

Instant Pot Chicken Soup

27 Mar

Chicken SoupI’m not one of those rabid Instant Pot fans, but I have been pleased with the results the few times I’ve used it.

A few months ago, when I couldn’t find a satisfactory recipe, I decided to invent my own way to make chicken soup in the Instant Pot. I found it was even easier and even tastier than my standby “Cheater’s Chicken Soup.”

Please note that this is not a recipe as much as a method. The exact ingredients may vary.

I had a package of frozen “chicken bits” in my freezer — wing tips, backs, tails, necks and other stuff cut from fresh chicken that no one eats.

To add to that, I went to the local kosher supermarket hoping for some chicken feet. When we lived in England when we were first married, the butchers threw the feet in with the chickens, and they really fortified a soup. But they’re very hard to find nowadays. The local kosher mart had them — but they cost more than actual fresh chicken! I decided to skip the feet but found a package of chicken bones neatly tied up in a cheesecloth bag — also exorbitantly priced considering they were bones, but a lot cheaper than the feet. If you can find reasonably priced chicken feet, I highly recommend them.

I tied my defrosted “chicken bitsInstant Pot chicken soup 1” up in a cheesecloth package as well, and did the same with some chunked veggies: onion, carrot, celery, dill and parsley. You could also include a parsnip or turnip.

I put all three cheesecloth packages into the Instant Pot and mooshed them down a bit so everything was below the “fill” line. This time I added a cupful of leftover chicken soup and another cup or so of “chicken juice” from the last roast chicken we made — but don’t worry if you don’t have these on hand, they are totally optional. The “chicken bits” and bones are more important.

I added water up to the Instant Pot fill line, closed the lid, hit the “Soup/Broth” button, and an hour later had a potful of delicious soup — about three quarts. That hour included the time needed to get the pressure up, the cooking time, and the time to release the pressure. And the kitchen smelled great!

After cooling the contents of the pot, I removed and discarded the cheesecloth bags. Depending on what your “chicken bits” consist of, you may find some chunks of meat you can pull off and add to the soup. The veggies will be too mushy to save; if you want to serve carrots, celery, turnip or the like with your soup, cook them when you reheat the soup before serving.

The first time I made soup this way, when I didn’t add any leftover soup or “chicken juice,” I needed to add just a teaspoon or so of chicken stock powder to make it sufficiently strong. (Alternatively, I could have boiled it for awhile to concentrate the flavor.) The second time it was fine as it was.

Instant Pot chicken soup 2You may want to strain the soup into a Dutch oven or soup pot but if you use cheesecloth bags for your ingredients, there’s really no need. It is a good idea to let the soup sit in the fridge overnight so that any excess fat can rise to the top to be skimmed off.

Add salt and pepper to taste (if you use kosher chicken bits, juice, etc. you probably won’t need salt, but a little ground black pepper is nice.) You can also add dill and parsley at this point if you didn’t put them in your vegetable cheesecloth package.

Serve with cooked noodles, matzoh balls, kreplach, gyoza or any other kind of dumpling.