Shabbat Dinner for 60 by Susie

Susie with the dishes right before they go out the door (sorry it’s not a great photo)

Hello everyone — Alex here.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted but I just had to on this auspicious occasion because I don’t think my Mom will brag about it enough! I am so proud of her because she just sent off dinner for 60 people for her first catering job. The event is a young Jewish professionals Shabbat dinner in Santa Monica. Here’s what’s on the menu:

– Best Guacamole & Spicy Salsa Verde

– Fideos (Mexican Lokshen)

– Aztec Portobello & Corn

– Breaded Cauliflower in Tomato Sauce

– Hungarian Roasted Paprika Chicken

– Classic Salad with Red Wine Vinegar Dressing

We will update with photos of the dishes once we receive them after the event.

60 people isn’t too much more than my Mom has done here at the house for one of our Sukkot dinners, so she has the organization before such an event down pat. No hectic moments. It was very cool (and a little odd) to pack it all up in aluminum, label it and send it off. But it was a very happy and proud moment.

Also: I’d like to announce that this is the beginning of our availability as caterers for certain select events around the Los Angeles area!  Please get in touch if you want to discuss at 

Thanks as always for reading and sticking with us through our Mexican Jewish journey.

Last post of Comfort Food Week: Coffee Cake, Chocolate Chip Cookies & Thank you’s

We’re going to end Comfort Food Week — a tribute to the food-centric help we got when my grandmother passed away last month — with a list of thank you’s and 2 dessert recipes. Thank you for sticking with us during this difficult period, and please stay tuned as we resume regularly scheduled programming (very soon).

While we couldn’t do a post about every single dish people brought, we were overwhelmed by everything we did receive would like to say thank you to the following people,  who contributed in many ways — we love you all:
Julie Platt, Gail Nussen, Sara Aftergood, Marci Spitzer, Patti Felker, Dawn Smalberg, Helen Weston, Rita Segal, Estelle Ashkenazi, Ahoova Zeffren, Debi and Elie Benaron, Jory Goldman, Rena Horowitz, Jan Zakowski, Sherre Hirsh, Molly Matthieson, Brigitte Rosenberg, May Huang and J. Sikura, Erica Tucker, Susie Chodakiewitz, Elie Nankin, Lois Hellman and Sunda Zafrin.


And, for the concluding recipes of Comfort Food Week, we bring you SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE and LOWFAT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES. The delicious cake came from Donna Nadel, and the cookies from Lesley Wolman. (Don’t be fooled by the low fat thing, though — the cookies tasted sinfully good. Really.)


3/4 c.walnuts, finely chopped

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/3 c. sugar


3/4 c. butter or margarine

1-1/2 c. sugar

3 c. all-purpose flour

1-1/2 c. sour cream

3 eggs

1-1/2 tsp. baking powder

1-1/2 tsp. baking soda

1-1/2 tsp. vanilla

Heat oven to 350°F.  Grease 10-inch tube pan.  In small bowl, combine walnuts, cinnamon and 1/2 c. sugar.  Use about 1/3 of this mixture to “dust” inside of tube pan.  Set the rest aside for use later.  In large bowl with mixer at medium speed, beat butter or margarine with 1-1/2 c. sugar until light and fluffy.  Add flour and remaining ingredients (do not include saved nut and sugar mixture); beat at low speed until blended, constantly scraping bowl with rubber spatula.  Increase speed to medium; beat 3 minutes.   Spread half of batter in pan; sprinkle with half of reserved nut mixture.  Spoon in remaining batter, then sprinkle with remaining nut mixture.  Bake 60 to 65 minutes, until cake pulls away from sides of pan.  Cool cake in pan completely on wire rack.  Makes 20 servings.


1/2 C canola oil

1 C brown sugar

3/4 C white sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 1/2 C flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

 Mix canola oil, white sugar and brown sugar until well blended. Beat in 2 egg whites and 1 egg. Add baking soda, salt, flour and mix well. Add vanilla extract. Fold in 1 pkg. semi sweet pareve chocolate chips (Trader Joe’s are the best!) Arrange teaspoonfuls of dough on baking sheets lightly sprayed with non stick cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Do not over bake! Let cool, (or not), devour and enjoy!

Comfort Food Week: Cornbread & Cholent

Jewish comfort food + Southern comfort food = one giant dose of comfort.
This fusion pairing of cornbread and cholent comes from our friend Sheila Leibovic, who hails from the great southern city of Atlanta. Cholent is one of those quintessentially Jewish dishes that we typically think goes so well with some spiciness — serrano peppers, say, or red chili flakes thrown in. During the time of mourning, though, adding extra flavors for enhancement felt a little…off. So we were grateful for these simple and hardy dishes on their own. Thank you, Sheila!


2 cups self rising white cornmeal

1\4 cup vegetable oil

1 1\2 cups non dairy soy or silk or milk if you prefer

1 egg lightly beaten

Mix all ingredients and pour into pre-heated iron skillet (with 4 tablespoons vegetable oil heated) or use muffin pans (nonstick). Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake 20 minutes.


Prepare and cook in crock pot the night before serving.

2 lbs beef ribs cut up with bone-in (Kosher butchers will know what you need)

2\3 cup dried lima beans

2\3 cup dried pinto beans

2\3 cup dried pearl barley

1 cubed potato

1 chopped white or yellow onion

1\4 cup vegetable oil

1-2 tablespoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Prepare cholent early evening (around 5 or 6 ). Pour oil in bottom of crock pot. Add beef, chopped onion, washed and dried beans. Pour 5 cups water over ingredients. Cook on high until 10 or 11pm. Cook on low until lunch next day. Ready to eat  anytime after 10:00 am. 

Comfort Food Week: Zereshk Rice and Meat & Eggplant Stew

These Persian recipes came our way deliciously cooked by Jackie Ahdout. Growing up at Sinai Temple, Persian foods like tadig and kabob were something my family and I grew up with. So, even though they’re not our own culture, in a funny way, they are comfort foods for us. Plus, it’s impossible not to feel comforted by a hot stew. We love how healthy these particular comfort foods are.

Jackie also included a recipe for white rice (polo), below.


White Rice (polo) 

Ingredients: (4 servings)

Basmati rice, 500 grams
Cooking oil
Saffron, 1/2 teaspoon

Wash rice twice and soak it in salted warm water for 3-4 hours. Drain the
water. Pour fresh water in a large non-stick pot until it is half-full and bring
it to a boil. Add rice and one heaping tablespoon of salt and continue
boiling until rice slightly softens. Pour rice into a colander and wash it
gently with slightly warm water.
Pour 3 tablespoons of water and a few spoonfuls of cooking oil into the
pan and add the rice. Let it cook on a high heat for ten minutes. Pour a few
more spoonfuls of oil over rice. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for
about 20 minutes. If cooking time is increased, a delicious crispy layer of
rice (called ta-dig) will form at the bottom of the pan.
Once its ready serve it on a large platter. Mix the saffron with ½ cup hot
water. Add some rice to the saffron and add it to the rice for garnish.


Zereshk-polo (Berry Rice)

Ingredients: (4 Servings)

Basmati or long-grain rice, 500 grams (Cook and serve it on a platter)
Cooking oil
Dried Berries (assorted), four spoons (Zereshk, cranberries, currents)
Saffron, 1/2 teaspoon
Black pepper


Wash berries twice with cold water and drain the water. Add oil to the frying pan
(butter optional) and fry the berries over medium heat for about five minutes.

Pour saffron in a small bowl. Pour in 2-3 spoons of hot water and mix. Fill the bowl
with rice and mix well. Add saffron-rice and barberries to the rest of the rice and

Can be served with roasted chicken or stew. 


Eggplant Stew (Khorshte Bademjoon)

Ingredients: (6 servings)

Veal or beef, 400 grams
Small eggplants, 8
Medium onions, 2
Tomato paste, 2 table spoons
Cherry tomatoes, small basket
Fresh lime juice, 2 spoons or sour grapes, one cup
Cooking oil
Black pepper


Cut meat into small pieces and cook the meat with water in a large pan and bring
it to boil. Once it started boiling, drain and wash the meat. Peel onions and slice
thinly. Fry in oil until slightly golden. Add the meat to the onions and brown. Add
turmeric, salt, pepper and ½ cup sour grapes (optional). Bring 2-3 glasses of water
to a boil, and add to meat and onions and cook over medium heat for about one
hour. When meat is cooked, there should be about one glass of water left.

Fry the tomato paste in a frying pan over a medium heat, add cherry tomatoes and
a half cup sour grapes or limejuice. Add the mixture to the meat and let it simmer.

Peel eggplants and slice length-wise or cube to a thickness of 2”. Add salt on both
sides and let it sit for five to ten minutes in warm water. Wash the eggplants, pat
them dry and fry in oil on both sides over medium/low heat until golden. Once
the eggplants are ready, add them to the meat and let it simmer for another ten

Comfort Food Week: Corn Pie and Cheese Blintz Souffle

The Corn Pie is from Celia Szew, and the Cheese Blintz Souffle is from Laurie Levenson. Incidentally, Celia is from Argentina, and we suspect the corn pie is a dish that reminds her of “home.” Turns out, the idea of home has a lot to do with comfort food: one definition of it is food that has a nostalgic memory to it. While Wikipedia doesn’t list Argentina (or Mexico’s) comfort foods, we do know, of course, that every culture has particularly homey or nostalgic dishes.

Thank you to Celia and Laurie!



1 Pie Crust

1 can Whole corn kernel

1 can Creamed corn

2 large eggs

1 cup Shredded mozzella cheese

1 wedge Laughing Cow Original Creamy Cheese

1/2 a cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

Half a teaspoon salt

Half a teaspoon white pepper

Heat oven (350). Put empty crust on a shallow round baking dish, pierce all over with a fork and bake until cooked (not completely done).

In the meantime, mix together all the other ingredients. Remember to cut the wedge in thin slices.

Pour the mixture into the baked pie crust and put back in oven until done (about 20 min).


1 sm. container sour cream

1 pkg. blintzes

2 eggs, beaten

Pinch of salt

2 tbsp. orange juice

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 stick butter, melted

Put frozen blintzes in casserole dish. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over blintzes. Bake 45-60 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with sour cream, if desired. Serve warm or cold.

NOTE: Recipe can be doubled. Cherry and blueberry blintzes can also be used and are delicious.

Can substitute plain yogurt and egg beaters to lower fat and cholesterol in recipe.

Comfort Food Week: Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

We didn't have the foresight to photograph the actual dishes, but this is a pretty good representation.

The first recipe of Comfort Food Week is…Meatballs in Tomato Sauce.

Irene Saiger brought over this dish, together with Sheila Spiwak, plus spaghetti, garlic bread and salad. As mentioned, Irene is a truly gourmet chef (be sure to check out her blog). Seeing Irene and Sheila that first night, foil wrapped food in tow, was like a big blanket around our shoulders. Just what is it about pasta and meat that’s so comforting? To ponder…


3 lbs. ground turkey  (or beef)

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 1/2 tsps red chili flakes

1 tspn dried oregano

1/4 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

4 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup bread crumbs

Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix well.  Make golf size
meatballs and sauté in olive oil, browning both sides.

Tomato Sauce

1 large onion, diced

4 tbs olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp chili flakes

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

2 tbs tomato paste

1 tsp salt

1 sprig basil

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup dry red wine

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil till translucent. Add diced
tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste and sauté for several minutes.
Add seasonings, water and wine and bring sauce to a simmer.  Gently
place browned meatballs in sauce, cover pot and allow to cook for
about 1 1/2 hours on a low flame.

Comfort Food Week (not exactly happy, but approaching your regularly scheduled programming)

Our family is lucky to be part of a special community that went into action the moment my Grandmother got ill. Meals were coordinated, and every day for well over a week, many caring friends were over at my parents’ home at all hours. Since that time, we’ve been pretty silent on this blog (it’s hard to start back up), but we want to try and get back into the swing of things. SO, without further ado, we present:

COMFORT FOOD WEEK, in which we will share some of the delicious recipes our friends brought over during our down moments.

The week of Shiva (the traditional Jewish week of mourning) is a difficult  period. But the idea is to try and comfort mourners in 2 very important ways:
–  Be there
– Provide for physical needs

My Mom didn’t have much of an appetite. You could see the prepared meals as an effort by the community to help her regain it.  And while maybe the food itself couldn’t console, the love and caring with which it was prepared very much did.   In times of sorrow, when words fail in their ability to express how much we care,  we prepare food to help comfort .

Tomorrow, the first recipe we share will be TURKEY MEATBALLS in TOMATO SAUCE, by our dear friend and cooking role model, Irene Saiger (AKA Bamitbach).

Stay tuned.

Remembering one who loved to eat

Hi friends and dear readers,

Alex here. We have some sad news to share with you today. My maternal grandmother, Martha Schneider, passed away late last week. You may have heard her mentioned on this blog before. Martha Schlesinger was born in Budapest in 1923, moved to Tampico, Mexico at age 4, to Mexico City at age 18, to New York at age 24, back to Mexico at age 27, and finally to Los Angeles at age 41, where she lived and raised her 3 children (including my Mom, Susie) until she passed away on January 13th. If you caught the NPR story I did involving my grandparents, you got to hear her voice.

Martha Schlesinger, left, and her little sister Edith, c. 1928

My grandmother, like me, was not someone who particularly enjoyed cooking. She was fiercely focused on work, deciding to go to college at a time and place where it was unusual for women to do so. Eventually, she built an impressive career in fashion, first opening her own retail shops in Mexico, and later as a buyer for Bullocks near the company’s peak. Preparing meals wasn’t a big priority for her.

When I’d drive up the mountain to my grandparents’ home, with its bright blue pool and views all the way to the beach, my grandma would heat tortillas, warm some refried beans and whip up a bit of guacamole — similar to what  you might find me eating when I’m sitting in my apartment starving away. But, like me, she loved to eat. Some of her favorites were steak and veal, standard old tacos, slowly sipping on a little shot glass of tequila, and the Hungarian dishes that my mother prepares, chicken paprikash and nockedli. When we’d have dobosh for dessert at Shabbat, it was always a cause for celebration.

Of all the places my grandmother lived and the cuisines she sampled, Mexican food was perhaps the strongest through line for her. I don’t think that’s too surprising. While much Eastern European food certainly is delicious, there’s a whole other rainbow of colors in Mexican cooking that can open up your palette. Those colors were scary  for my grandmother at first, as the little girl and her littler sister, Edith, stepped tenuously into the streets of the Mexican port city where her family docked. But eventually, she found she couldn’t imagine life without those tastes.

There are so many “takeaways” from my grandmother’s life, but when it comes to food, here are mine:

You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to be a big part of the food life of your family, and you don’t have to enjoy cooking, either, for food to mean a lot. Loving food is a sign of someone who loves life and, in my grandmother’s case, it was a proxy for love of family. To her, a meal was always an excuse for us to “enjoy” — which, come to think of it, is one of the words she said most throughout her life.

Grandma, I’m remembering you and the food you loved — today, and always.

Food & Memory on NPR

Happy Tuesday, and hopefully you’re still deep in holiday season relaxation. Alex here.

Just a heads up for the people who missed it: I did a story about the connections between food and memory, and Mexican and Jewish cooking, and it ran Sunday on NPR’s Weekend Edition (Christmas Day). Here’s the link. It was cool to hear our family on the air, but of course we may be slightly biased.

Some of you folks may be reading this blog because you heard the story on NPR. To you I say, thanks for listening, reading, and subscribing!

I thought it would be cool to share some other pictures from the trip to Mexico City during which I reported the story. (I asked for help crowdsourcing cookbook research for that trip, and many people shared comments and suggestions — more on that soon, as the NPR piece has kept  me busy.) Happy Holidays to you and your families! All photos are credited to my lovely sister, Anita Schmidt.

Justo Sierra Street in downtown Mexico City. The doors of the synagogue are visible on the left.

Inner courtyard of the Nidjei Israel Temple in downtown Mexico City

The interior of the temple has been beautifully preserved. Anita and I are standing with our grandmother where she greeted guests at her wedding (higher quality image fortcoming).

Ceiling of the temple (higher quality image forthcoming)

Me and my grandmother in the old temple kitchen where Mrs. Shlejter cooked her delicacies. You can see grease stains on the walls and ceiling.

Me in the old temple restaurant where my great grandfather looked forward to eating when he visited Mexico from New York. Shout out to Anita (again) for a very cool shot.

Crowdsourcing Cookbook Research (in other words: Help!)

Alex again here, with exciting news: I’m going to Mexico City! Soon!

I haven’t visited my paternal grandmother (Bobe) and the rest of my family in Mexico for over a year, and I’m due. While down there, I want to take some pictures and ask Bobe questions about her life, as I always do when I see her.

The problem: I feel like I’m out of questions.

You know when you think about something or work on it for so long that it gets blurry and you can’t see it anymore? That’s how I feel about the interviews I’ve done with my grandmother. I know there are a million more interesting things I could ask, and just as many things she could tell me. I just don’t know what those things are.

So, I have a question I’d like to ask you:

Food is part of all our identities, whether we grew up eating tacos, gefilte fish, tofu or kale. If you could turn back time and ask a grandparent about the food in his or her life, what would you ask? 

Or really, if there’s anything you’d want to ask your grandparents, feel free to share that as well. My siblings and I are lucky to have 3 grandparents living and there’s always more we could be learning from them.


Bobe in L.A., shredding chicken