Archive for November 23, 2009

Surviving Chanukah

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Raising three sons is not unlike living on the Galapagos Islands–you know–where Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest is demonstrated best? Those finches with the really sharp beaks are a whole lot better at cracking open nuts than their round-beaked cousins.

Sometimes the competition to survive in our household was akin to that. Instead of beaks, picture head locks and other wrestling games that required the weakest to scream “uncle” repeatedly.

So I wasn’t all that surprised–even on the day after Thanksgiving –that the usual competitive urges were being demonstrated for my benefit. Now, instead of head locks, there was a bit of verbal jousting going on as we sat around the table eating delicious leftovers. My youngest son Mike rubbed it in to my oldest son Sam that he, Sam wouldn’t be home for the first night of Hanukkah. Sam, Mike explained, would miss out on the following:

1. Mom’s challah stuffing
2. Harry’s crispy Golden Latkes complete with home-made apple sauce and cold, delicious sour cream.
3. Roasted Chicken
4.blue and white cookies.
5. Gelt
6. The first night gift.

“Too bad for you,” Mike said through a mouthful of leftover Thanksgiving turkey. “Aren’t you going to be taking finals that week?”

Sam nodded glumly.

“All the more for me,” Harry chimed in. “Mmmm, I can’t wait to hog down some latkes. Last year I think I set a record.”

My husband Josh said, “I think you made it to 12. It was kind of horrifying to watch.”

“I can’t help it if I appreciate my own cooking,” Harry protested, helping himself to more cranberry sauce.  It was true; Harry had become an expert latke maker, cooking golden brown latkes to perfection in an enormous frying pan given to our family by none other than my mom, Becky Mark.

Sam, 19 years old and usually high up there on the whole Survival of The Fittest thing, was looking pretty upset.

It was time for an intervention.

“Actually, Mike, Harry…I happen to have a lot of great Hanukkah presents for college students. And I’m pretty sure Sam will be getting something in the mail. Cookies to keep his energy up while he studies, plus lots of other goodies to help him celebrate.”

Sam instantly brightened.

“Thanks, Mom.”

I still hadn’t delivered my coup de grace. “And Sam, remember you mentioned your hillel was having a Chanukah party? We’re actually sending blue and white cookies for it. And challah.”

“Cool!”

Mike looked up from his plate. “Mom! There’s not going to be enough left for us.”

I smiled sweetly at him, my round-beaked finch. “Well, Sam is out there on his own. We have to make sure he’s taken care of.”

It was Mike’s turn to look sad.

I relented. “But there are plenty of Chanukah goodies for everyone.”  han56mirlg

It was Westport, after all, not The Galapagos Islands. We could do more than survive Chanukah. We could share the celebration, even hundreds of miles apart.

Happy Chanukah!

Jane

p.s. And sure enough, Sam headed back to college with a carload of challah and blue and white cookies!

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The Original “Green” Mom

Going green is the buzzword of the day.
But I hate to break the news to you. My mother was green long ago…and she didn’t even know it. She called it “cooking.” She’s Old School, where nothing but nothing goes to waste. To understand, you’d need to peek into my mother’s freezer. I once did. Then never again. In there, Mom had orange peels, egg shells, fish heads, chicken…things, bananas beyond the deep brown suitable for banana bread.

Don’t get me wrong. My mother is an intuitive, fabulous cook. Her all American name, Becky Mark, is in contrast to her Sephardic (Mediterranean) roots–half Greek and half Turkish–but her knowledge of spices is proof. Her kitchen is fragrant with spices–turmeric, garlic and onion mingle with cinnamon and mint in heavenly combinations. Invitations to dine at her table are coveted and fiercely lied about among my four siblings.

“What are you doing for dinner on Sunday night?” my sister might ask me on the phone.

“Oh, nothing, maybe some Chinese,” I might reply evasively, trying to cover up the fact that I plan to be gorging myself on one of my Mom’s luscious eggplant lasagna.

I love her cooking now, and I loved in when I was growing up in the 1960s. Every single night my mother served a delicious meal. She went through phases, too. One of my favorite’s was her chicken phase. Just saying the phrase Chicken Marbella (yes, the famous Silver Palate recipe) makes my mouth water, and I will cancel plans if she tells me she’s making Chicken Veronique. She also had a delicious beef phase (Julia Child’s Beef Bourgignon as translated by Mom was to die for) as well as an Italian phase (fresh tomato sauce, herbed meatballs).

I’m grateful to my mother for not just feeding me but teaching my sisters and me how to cook. Of course, none of us approach her mastery, and when she’s cooking, clear out of the kitchen (you wouldn’t ask Einstein to share his chalkboard or Elvis to move off the stage, right?).

Even though one time Josh and I cleaned out her freezer (shudder) when my parents were away, I’m proud of Mom for being able to transform orange peels into duck a la orange, potato peels into steaming broth, and me, a hungry child, into a Mom who can nourish her own family with good food.

Below, Mom has graciously allowed me to share the recipe for her Easy and Delicious Fruit Tart. Enjoy!

Best,

Jane Moritz, Challah Connection Owner

Becky’s Easy and Delicious Fruit Tart

Becky is my Mom, who is a truly excellent baker and cook. Her challah, brisket, bourekas, spanikotopica (she is Sephardic), apple pie and this tart are some of my favorites.

Prepare a 10″ (11″ ok too) pan with removable rim by buttering bottom and sides. Preheat oven to 350.

Peel 4 large apples [about 4 cups or so] or pears or peaches or combination of any fruit you’d normally want to bake. If it’s more than 4 cups it’s okay…

Put in the bowl of a cuisinart:

1/2 stick of unsalted butter

1 cup sugar + 1 cup flour

1 ts baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt

Pulse a few times until it has an oatmeal consistency, then add 1 large egg and pulse to mix.

Dump the entire mixture into the prepared pan and push it around until it covers the bottom of the pan. Now put the fruit on top (if you have the patience you can do a concentric circle, but this is not necessary) and push some of the fruit into the mix.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes

For the topping, which is put on after the tart has baked for 45 minutes, mix in the food processor:

1 egg

1/2 stick of butter

1/3 cup of sugar

1 rounded tsp cinnamon

Bake and additional 1/2 hour.

If you use wet fruit, such as blueberries and peachs, bake a bit longer, especially on the second round.

Copyright 2009, Challah Connection

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