Chiles Rellenos

Click on the link to view my newest video recipe for delicious Chiles Rellenos.

It is said that actions speak louder than words, but in my case inaction has spoken even louder.  For  the last four months I have neglected this incredible blog due to a lack of spirit, for it was drained from me when I endured the loss of my mother.

But a little bit like a boxer who has momentarily had the wind knocked out of her, I am back.  Gradually, I have regained my spirit and with it, the energy and desire to start blogging once more, and I so appreciate the patience of all of you, my incredible readers and subscribers.  I truly am excited because I am filled with ideas for many delicious recipes for you.

I start here, with Chiles Rellenos, one of my all time favorite Mexican recipes.  Chiles Rellenos are Pasilla (also known as Poblano) chili peppers, which can be stuffed with either cheese or ground beef or as in this recipe, vegan shredded cheese.

Chiles Rellenos

  • 4 Pasilla (AKA Poblano) chili peppers
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Canola oil

Sauce

  • 2 large tomatoes quartered
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Additional 1/4 onion sliced
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Method

Broil chili peppers for 7 minutes or until skin is blackened, turn over and broil on opposite side for seven more minutes.  Allow the peppers to cool a bit and then gently remove the skin.  You will notice a small slit (if there isn’t one, then make one),  remove the seeds and any excess skin under gently running water and set aside, (using gloves is optional).

Take about 1/4 cup shredded vegan cheese or regular cheese and stuff each pepper, then secure the pepper with a long toothpick to keep the stuffing from falling out during the frying process.

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until peaks form.  Add the yolks into the egg whites and mix thoroughly with mixer.

Spread the flour on a plate, then lightly and evenly coat each pepper with flour.

Heat 3 tablespoons of canola oil over medium heat, dip a stuffed chili pepper into the egg batter and place in the pan with the hot oil,  fry two peppers at a time, allowing the edges to turn golden brown before gently turning the peppers over.  When each pepper is evenly golden all over, remove to drain on paper towels, and pat the peppers with additional paper towel to absorb excess oil.  Place the peppers on a nice serving plate, and REMOVE toothpicks.

The Sauce

Place water, tomatoes, quarter onion, garlic cloves and the optional chili pepper in a blender, and liquefy thoroughly.

Heat the tablespoon of canola oil on high heat, then add the additional sliced onion and mix constantly until it begins to turn golden.   Add the sauce from the blender, bring it to a boil and allow it to boil for three minutes.  Add the oregano, salt and pepper, mix in and allow to boil 2 more minutes.  Sauce is ready.  With a large spoon bathe each chili pepper with the sauce.

Serve hot, accompany with sliced avocado or a full meal and enjoy!

Thoughts Of My Mom At Passover

It’s Passover.  It’s been three months since I last saw you Mom.

There are days when I say, “Alright already, enough of this Ma, I want to see your face, I want to hear your voice, I want to feel your love”.  I still can’t conceive that I never will again.

And so it’s time to clean the mud off of the heels I wore the day I bade you goodbye.  I kept that mud on those heels because somehow it kept me closer to a time when I still had you.

You are so far away from me now, you are eons away.  Time takes on a different texture now, it is heavier than before.

My heart is a trunk full of gratitude for all that I have, and for all that you gave me.  I go on, I move on in life, I know what to do because you taught me so well, but I miss you.

It’s Passover and as I make the Matzoh balls for the soup, I hear you telling me that I make the best soup, that there is nothing like my soup.

We sit down for the Seder, it is a fine Seder, we sing, we laugh, we tell the story and have our four cups of wine.  But you’re not sitting next to me Mom, and I miss you.

Succulent Spicy Cauliflower

Succulent Spicy Cauliflower

This recipe has 3 key things going for it:  It’s Passover friendly, it’s vegetarian, and it’s a delicious way to spice up any meal. Since we’re so limited at Passover, when we get tired of the typical starches and kugels, this is a very refreshing taste. It’s a unique recipe that neither I nor my family has seen in any restaurant. I learned it from Doña Tere, a beloved housekeeper who had a place in both my and my mother’s home for over 20 years.

A note from Alex, the eager cooking student:

There are a few key parts to this recipe, and they’re all about frying. First, pat the florets very dry. This is to make sure the batter sticks. Second, be ready to start frying the florets as soon as possible after the batter is made. And third, keep the temperature of the oil right while frying.

Having the pan with hot oil ready before you start dipping the florets in batter is the best way to do this. That way, you just drop each floret in the pan as you go (the longer you let the batter sit, the more it loses its consistency). As far as temperature, while I was making the recipe, my Mom would constantly adjust the stove up, then down, then up, then down. I couldn’t understand what she was after – then it clicked: the flame has to go up and down to keep the oil at the temperature it should be, just lightly popping the entire time. Using wooden spoons with soft edges helped me keep the texture uniform on the florets, with the perfect mix of golden color and fluffy consistency.

Succulent Spicy Cauliflower

  • 1 large cauliflower washed and cut into florets
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon salt for water
  • 5 large or 6 small eggs – separated
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt for egg batter
  • 3/4 cup of Canola oil for frying
  • 1 cup onion finely chopped
  • 3 large tomatoes finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

Cut the cauliflower in half, separate the florets cutting the large ones in half or even in thirds (See video demonstration).  Discard the stem.  In a medium pot bring the salted water to a boil.  Add the florets and boil for 6-8 minutes…until tender, but not too soft.  Do not over boil! Remove from heat to a strainer, rinse under gently running cold water, and set aside.

Place egg whites, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt into a bowl and beat with hand mixer until firm.  Gradually add the egg yolks into the beaten egg whites,  and continue to beat with mixer until mixture is fully incorporated .  Heat 3 tablespoons of oil.  Place 1 cup of the batter into a separate smaller bowl and dip one floret at a time in the egg batter (from smaller bowl), placing each coated floret into pan with hot oil.  Make  two – three batches…one batch  will contain 5-7 florets.  As soon as the lower edges of the florets begin to brown,   turn them over.   You will  need a pair of tongs to fry the sides of each piece.  When golden on all sides, remove each floret and place on a paper towel to absorb extra oil.   You will have to add oil to pan between batches.


Sauce preparation:
In the same saucepan where you have finished frying florets, place diced onions and allow them to fry until they glisten.  Add the diced tomatoes, bring to a simmer, then add water.  Mix continuously with a spatula allowing mixture to simmer for about 3 more minutes.  Add  crushed red pepper and salt and stir for another 2 minutes, until you get a somewhat thick consistency.
Place battered cauliflower in serving dish and spoon sauce mixture evenly on top of florets.  Serve hot and enjoy!
Serves  10-12

Bobe’s Passover Gefilte Fish

Click on the link to see behind the scenes, raucous kitchen outtakes of our experience preparing Bobe’s Passover Gefilte Fish.  Follow our written recipe for full instructions.

Writing recipes is not something that you just know how to do. As we’ve tried to document both our recipes and those of other home cooks, it’s been a learning curve to figure the whole thing out.

Last spring, we had a professional recipe consultant, Margaret Ferrazzi, come to our home to give us a little guidance in our recipe writing undertaking. While most of our videos show recipes in a neat little succession, what happens behind the scenes (measuring, discussing, timing, writing everything down) is quite different. The video above is a fun, blooper-type look, filmed by Alex, of my Mother-in-Law Dora cooking gefilte fish from scratch before Passover, me writing down her recipe, and Margaret guiding us through it all. We had a lot of fun in the kitchen and the finished product was amazing.

Bobe’s Passover Gefilte Fish

Fish broth

1/2 large onion sliced thinly
3 medium carrots sliced into rounds
3 celery ribs whole
Fish bones from 4 pounds of carp

Place all of the broth ingredients in an eight to ten quart saucepan, and bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Remove from heat and then remove the bones from the broth, keeping the broth hot on low heat, while you make the fish mixture.

Fish Mixture

4 pounds ground carp
2 pounds ground red snapper
3 medium carrots – peeled and ground
½ large onion – peeled and ground
4 large eggs
¾ cup matzoh meal
1-½ tablespoons fine sea salt
1-½ teaspoons white pepper

Place all of the ground fish, carrot and onion in a large bowl and mix.
Add matzoh meal, eggs, salt and pepper and with hands mix gently but thoroughly, until fish is light in texture and holds its shape.

Using damp hands take about 1/3-1/2 cup quantities of the fish mixture, shape into oval patties, and gently drop into the fish broth, which is hot but not boiling. When you have dropped the last fish patty into the broth, raise the heat and simmer for 1 -1/2 hours.

After the Gefilte Fish has simmered for 1-1/2 hours in the fish broth, remove from heat and allow to cool.  When room temperature, transfer the fish loaves to a serving dish, and Retain the carrots from the fish broth for garnish.  Arrange the fish patties on a serving platter, and garnish with the cooked carrots and fresh parsley.

Serve as an appetizer accompanied by red or white horseradish.

Recipe may be prepared a day in advance and refrigerated.

Recipe serves 24 and may easily be cut in half.

Enjoy!

Bobe’s Delicious Passover Apple Cake

This Passover our family is fortunate to have my dear mother-in-law, Dora Schmidt, visiting from Mexico City.  In Mexico  Bubbies are called Bobe, (pronounced – baubeh), and that is what  my kids have always lovingly called her.  Many years ago, Dora taught me to make this wonderful Passover apple cake.   It is easy  to make and the truth is that it is great for dessert any time of year.  When my friend Irene invited us over for Shabbat dinner last Friday, she requested that we bring this cake.  It was a big hit!

Bobe’s Passover Apple Cake

Apple Filling

  • 6 Large Rome Beauty Apples (or any good baking apples), peeled, cored and quartered
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Batter

  • 1 cup matzoh meal
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon water

Topping

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.                                                                                                                                                                                 Thinly slice the apples in a food processor, and place them in a large bowl.  Add the lemon juice and the sugar, mix well, and set aside.  In a separate bowl mix all of the batter  ingredients with a hand mixer.  When thoroughly mixed, spread a little more than one-third of the batter over the bottom (it will be a very thin layer) of a deep baking dish (We used an aluminum foil pan as shown in the photo).  Gently add all of the sliced apple mix over the batter, and evenly spread the remaining two-thirds of batter over the apple filling.  Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and bake for 1 hour. 

Serves 16

Enjoy!

Madame Ilonka and the Hairdresser

There was nothing worse than having to go to posture classes with Madame Ilonka.  Her studio was in a building next to where my mother had her hair done.  My mother had beautiful hair and she took very good care of it.  While my mother’s hair was being washed, then rinsed with beer, rinsed again, conditioned, and then styled, I would have to go see Madame Ilonka.

You see, my mother had scoliosis as did both  her parents,  and although she knew that scoliosis was an inherited trait, she hoped that by sending me to posture class it would increase the chances of preventing scoliosis in me.

I felt even smaller than my 9-year-old self,  when the redheaded Madame Ilonka would come to the door in  her black leotard top and black pedal pusher pants.  I hated going to posture class and had to keep from rolling my eyes when she would say “ it’s now time for us to do the camel.”   She would make me get down on all fours on a thick rubber mat, and say in Spanish accented with her heavy Hungarian accent, “uno dos y tres, espalda abajo, uno dos y tres, espalda arriba como un camello.”  This all meant “one two and three back down and arched, one two and three back up like a camel.”

Looking radiant and beautiful, 

my mother would come knocking at the door as I was on the verge of running  out of there before class was over.  My mother with her fresh hairdo would pay Madame Ilonka, and would mix Hungarian with Spanish and say  “visontlatash, hasta la proxima.”  Goodbye, until next time…and I would be thinking oy vey,  HELP!

From The Taco Stands of Mexico City To Canter’s Deli On Fairfax

“Susie” my mom said to me, “Vamos a taquear. Let’s go get some great tacos, who knows when we’ll be able to get a good taco next?”  I was always my mom’s willing companion, so we happily went off to eat the best meal in the world — the fresh tacos at the stands by the university (we didn’t keep kosher in those days).  We happily smothered our tacos in spicy sauces and topped them off with mountains of cilantro and onions.

That was on the eve of December 4, 1964, the day my mother and I caught the last flight of the day from Mexico City to Los Angeles.  The only places I had ever been outside of Mexico City were Acapulco and Cuernavaca.  I didn’t want to leave Mexico, but I was only eleven and a half and I had no say in where I was to live.

I carried with me my most precious possessions.  In one hand I had the real looking baby doll on whom I had once performed surgery to see exactly how she made that crying sound.  After the surgery, she never cried again and still bore the old scar.  In my other hand I held my favorite stuffed animal — a small, light brown squirrel.  My squirrel held a bouquet of flowers in its paw.  The flowers were really miniature colorful light bulbs that lit up when you squeezed the squirrel’s tail.  Every night after my mother tucked me in and turned off the light, I would pull the covers up over my head and light up my little squirrel.  It was cozy and safe under there.

On the plane, I felt so lucky to be sitting by the window.  Once we were high in the air, I asked my mother if I could open the window;  I really thought you could.  The excitement of being on an airplane and the prospect that our family would soon be together again made me forget, for a while, that I was leaving my home forever.  The place where I was born would now be far away from me.

The L. A. Airport was so big and clean. Even the air had a different scent.  The buzzing sound of English all around me was new and strange.  I did speak some English because my father was born in New York, and had spoken it to us as we were growing up, but I wasn’t used to it being spoken all around me.

“There they are,” I screamed as I spotted my father and two brothers.  We all hugged each other, we cried and cried, then we laughed and cried again.  As we walked to the exit we all clung to each other, never again wanting to let go. We had been separated so long.

Six months before, after loading his and my brothers’ suitcases into the car, my father filled the rest of the small black Renault Dauphine with the ladies’ leather handbags he had left over after closing his factory.  I cried as I stood there with my mother, watching my father slowly back out, and sadly wave goodbye.  He drove away and headed north for the border, and a new life in Los Angeles.

Back at the airport, we all said we were starving.   My father said he knew of a great delicatessen.  I had never heard the word before.  He took us straight to Canter’s on Fairfax Avenue.  I saw things on the menu that were considered gourmet because there were very few, if any places in Mexico that served lox, bagels and cream cheese, chopped liver, gefilte fish or herring, or pastrami or corned beef sandwiches.  My family loved these foods just as much as we loved a great taco, albeit in a completely different and unique category.

I was amazed when our server spoke to us in English.  As she walked away after taking our order, I turned to my mother and said, “Hasta las meseras hablan ingles?” Even the waitresses speak English?  My parents lovingly chuckled at my innocence.

This was my Mexican-Jewish cultural crash landing when I first arrived in L.A.  47 years ago.  I was in for a long adjustment period…about 3 years.

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.)

SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE

3/4 c.walnuts, finely chopped

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/3 c. sugar

CAKE BATTER:

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.

LESLEY’S LOW FAT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

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!

Cornbread

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.


Cholent

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
Salt
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
Butter
Dried Berries (assorted), four spoons (Zereshk, cranberries, currents)
Saffron, 1/2 teaspoon
Salt
Black pepper

Directions:

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
enjoy.

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
Salt
Black pepper

Directions:

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
minutes.