Monthly Archives: July 2011

Hot and cold

I may have used the word “hot” about 20 times in last week’s post, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that it’s still hot out.  And that this weekend, Marc, Aliza, and I have all had colds.  Turns out, a congested baby is one of the saddest things on earth, though the situation is made slightly better by the use of the gruesome yet unbelievably effective Nosefrida (if I know you and you ever have a baby, watch out, ‘cuz you’re getting one of these).  I blew my nose nine times in the amount of time it took me to write this paragraph.  Nonetheless, we had a great Shabbat, and I managed not to start experiencing cold symptoms until it was almost over.

Friday night, I went to Ilana’s new place for dinner, while Marc and Aliza stayed home recuperating.


I was a little afraid I would no longer be a welcome guest without a cute baby, but my friends still talked to me.  Thank goodness.  And, dare I admit, it was really nice to spend a few hours sans baby.

As I said last week, Ilana’s apartment is really fantastic, and the meal was a great match for the decor.  I was especially impressed with her treatment of zucchini, which actually made me want seconds.  She roasted zucchini along with yellow summer squash, then added it to sauteed onions, tomatoes, and a healthy dose of crushed red pepper.  Also, though Ilana often makes great brownies, this batch was something special.

Saturday, we made our own sushi with Beverly and Naomi.  Though I knew, in theory, this is something people do, it was neat to see it happen from start to finish.  I’m sorry we don’t have any pictures, because it was quite pretty, especially the rolls with beets in them.

I made blueberry crisp for dessert, and we finished it between the four of us.  Typically, I follow the original Joy of Cooking crisp recipe, but since I was just kind of winging it this time, I added in a few random things.  But, pretty much, baked fruit + sugar = great dessert.

Blueberry Crisp of the hour (vegan)

Cover the bottom of whatever baking dish you’re using with fruit (if it’s berries, leave them whole, or peel and thinly slice peaches, plums, or apples).  Sprinkle with lemon juice.

In a small bowl, mix together equal-ish parts oats and brown sugar and a healthy sprinkle of cinnamon.  Then mix in oil, almond extract, and brandy until there’s no dry sugar left and it’s kind of crumbly but not wet.

Bake at 350 until all bubbly and good looking.  See the before and after pictures for my definition of “all bubbly and good looking.”  (The brandy bottle is just for effect.)  Alternatively, in this heat, bake until you can’t bear to have the oven on any longer.  It’ll taste good, I promise.

Before

After

Before I go back to blowing my nose, a few words of blog housekeeping:

1.  I’m going back to work on Monday.  Only quarter-time, but still, it means that I’m going to start going to (and writing about) Grad Network dinners again, at least sometimes.

2. If you want to be in the blog but haven’t yet come over for a meal or hosted us for a meal, there’s still time.  (Warren, I’m talking to you!)  Just let me know.  But, taken with item 1, we may have to plan ahead a little bit.

3. Though there are still months to go, I’m announcing now that there will be a late-December end-of-blog Shabbat meal extravaganza.  We’ll probably complain about the cold weather at that point, but hopefully we won’t also have colds.

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Mazel tov and freezepops

I tend to think blog posts are most successful when they stick to one subject.  This will not be one of those posts.  So, to help you find your way through, and in honor of all the recently-graduated law students about to take the bar, here’s an outline:

I. Hot
….A. Aliza as editorial assistant
….B. Party dresses and poop
….C. Moonshine and Hillbillies
II. Mazel tov!!
….A. Matchmaking
….B. Dinner
….C. Hot (it’s just implicit in this section)
III. Tikvah (two years of it, as a matter of fact)
….A. Hot
….B. Then cold (for some people, myself not included)
….C. Freezepops and lunch
….D. Pictures of cups and freezepops
….E.   Is anyone actually reading the post after reading this outline?!

I. Hot
As anyone reading this pretty much anywhere knows, this Shabbos was hot.  Over 100 degrees hot.  Lucky for me, I wasn’t cooking.  And lucky for Aliza, temperatures don’t seem to affect her too much, so she let me put her in a fancy pink party dress (thanks Cousin Sandy!).  (Note: Aliza and I are home alone right now, and I’m trying to keep her awake until Marc gets home and we can give her a bath, so I’m reading out loud to her as I type.  If I devolve into babble, you’ll forgive me.).

The Minyan Tikvah Organizing Committee had a pre-Shabbos meeting at Ilana’s awesome new apartment.  Aliza was very helpful at the meeting, especially if you consider crying to be helpful, and then she pooped all over her pretty new dress.  (Food blog and poop stories don’t mix so well, but I have a two month old.  Again, you’ll forgive me.)  So we got her undressed, washed the dress in the sink, realized we’d forgotten wipes and a change of clothes, put her in her stroller (which made her cry), and then Marc carried her in her diaper the rest of the way to dinner.

The whole carrying a mostly-naked baby through the city streets in 100 degree weather felt very sepia-toned-Depression-era, like Marc should have had a jug of moonshine in the other hand.  (You may have wondered about that part of the outline).  I can’t mention moonshine without noting that my high school mascot, the Fredonia Hillbilly, had his moonshine taken away while I was in middle school to be more appropriate for teenagers (he kept his rifle).  Upon google image searching to show you the creepy, wiry, not-at-all appropriate or intimidating mascot I grew up with, I learned that someone has remade the Hillbilly’s image.  You never can go home again.)

II. Mazel tov!
After that ridiculous walk, it was quite a relief to arrive at Jonathan’s (not-at-all Depression-era) air-conditioned apartment.  And this was no ordinary dinner, but a very special occasion celebrating Jonathan and Alex’s engagement.  I am typically quite excited by engagements, but as I’m partially responsible for the two of them meeting in the first place, I’m even more excited than usual.  My role in GradMatch has been on hold during maternity leave, so this was just the boost I needed to feel legit calling myself a matchmaker.  But much more importantly, Alex and Jonathan are both wonderful people that I’ve known independently for several years, and seeing them make each other so happy honestly fills me with joy and, in this particular instance, really amazing food.

I first got to know both Alex and Jonathan because of their roles as leaders in the Grad Network.  I got to know them better as friends, and, more recently, as cooks.  Alex made dinner on Friday, and Jonathan said that, hands down, he thinks she’s a better cook.  That comment speaks volumes about their compatibility, their love, and the undoubtedly delicious future they’ll share.  Everything we ate was phenomenal, from the cold cucumber soup to the stone fruit cobbler, but the fact that Alex made crackers deserves a special mention.  She made crackers.  And they were awesome.  Part of me wants to make a love/food pun, but the other part just wants to say, wow.  My friends are getting married.  They kind of met through me.  I am so, so happy for them.

III. Tikvah
August 1 will be the 2 year anniversary of Minyan Tikvah, and we’re going strong and growing.  On a 100 degree day to have such a spirited crowd, several new people, and celebrations for both the previously-mentioned engagement and Alicia’s birthday, bodes well for our future.

Beverly and Naomi hosted lunch, with an appetizer of freezepops.  Speaking of which, I got a text message from Susan on Friday afternoon asking where to buy freezepops in bulk.  I guess I really do talk about them that much!  I think I had three at lunch, but I also had chana masala, sesame noodles, kale and tomatoes, and cabbage salad, plus some chocolate-y, buttery, yummy desserts.  And then another round of freezepops.

I love Tikvah for lots of reasons, but one is our commitment to reducing waste.  That translates into me washing cups and plates most months after services.  The cups are pretty.  So are freezepops.  It was a really feel-good, feel-hot Shabbat.  I’m finally starting to cool down.

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4 vegan meals

Saturday night at midnight, as I stood over the stove frying an egg, I realized all my Shabbat meals this week had been vegan, and that explained the protein craving as intense as the one that first got me to eat meat back in the early days of pregnancy.   It’s a shame, really, since all the food we ate over Shabbat was beautiful, fresh, and light: perfect for the weather, perfect in so many ways, but not perfect in its protein content.  Alas.

Marc, Aliza, and I spent most of Friday afternoon together in the kitchen.  I had Aliza in the sling and actually managed not to drop any food on her head this time.  About half of what we served came from our CSA, and the menu for Friday night was gazpacho (from Yael, thankfully, since gazpacho always tastes better when anyone other than me makes it), zucchini slaw (previously called Random Summer Slaw, but this time with pear instead of apple, onion instead of garlic scapes, and a much less meticulous julienne to the veggies), black bean and corn salad, curried mashed sweet potatoes, and pesto pizza, with almond milk vanilla ice cream and snickerdoodles (from Naomi) for dessert.

Marc is turning out to be quite the baker, and he made the pizza dough, some of which became rolls for motzi.  It tasted amazing in both forms.  I like pesto, though I don’t actually like pine nuts or parmesan, so I’m always looking for things like pesto, but with ingredients I feel more affinity towards.  I’ve often made a pesto with tofu, but this week I tried a new recipe, and I’m kind of in love.  Slathered on the freshly baked pizza dough and topped with tomatoes, this was the epitome of summertime homemade goodness.

Sweet Basil Pesto Tapenade, from Veganomicon

3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup walnut pieces (I used almonds)
2-4 garlic cloves
1/3 olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup walnut oil (I just used more olive oil, but not quite that much more)
1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
black pepper

Chop the basil, nuts, and garlic in a food processor until chunky.  Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl frequently.  Add the oils, maple syrup, and zest, and process until thick and creamy.  Season with salt and pepper.

I’ve been relying on the following formula a lot, and it worked for the corn and beans, for the zucchini, and is helping me work through the CSA lettuce: combine a lot of good veggies including some onion or garlic and add some dressing that includes some acid and some oil and maybe some sweetness.  This makes using the CSA veggies a lot less daunting and a lot more satisfying, and it’s hard to mess up.

I ate leftovers for breakfast and lunch on Saturday.  I enjoyed it.  Thoroughly.

Beverly and Naomi hosted seudah shlishit, the so-called “third meal,” and there were lots of delicious things, including a whole ton of dessert yumminess.  With Shabbat lasting so long these days, it’s nice to have someplace to go and something to do, and that something might as well involve food, good company, and a reclining couch.

Ilana said she could see future Shabbat meals with all of and a lot more kids joining Aliza, and all of us in each other’s lives for a long time to come, and it’s a pretty beautiful thing to consider our friendships and our community in that light.  Not that I’m rushing anyone on the kid front…

Time does fly, though, and those future meals might not be too far away.  Speaking of time flying, well, you read the sign.

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A long nap

I love cooking.  I mean I really love it.  That might be obvious, but as it’s gotten harder and harder to make the time to cook and less and less common for me to have both hands free, when I do have the time, I relish it in a totally new way.

Heymish Minyan was meeting this week, but we decided a Friday night outing was going to be too much for us this time around.  So, as a consolation prize, I decided I was going to cook an Indian feast just for Marc and me.  And the longer Aliza napped, the more I cooked.

I started with the previously-mentioned zucchini cornbread.  Not Indian-themed at all, but delicious, and this second batch did not disappoint.  Next, I mixed dough for roti, a kind of flatbread.  While that was rising, I started a pot of rice and made onion chutney, which came out looking just like the red condiment you get with papadums in Indian restaurants and tasting similar enough to make me beam.  (Keep reading – all recipes at the end)

Then I got to work on the chana  masala, which was the inspiration for this whole night of cooking.  As much as I love cooking, if I had to choose between concocting a homemade meal every night and eating spicy chickpeas every night, it would truly be a toss-up.  Finding the right chana masala recipe would create a perfect synergy in my culinary life.  After this week, I think we’re getting close.  And, since I was feeling so flush with time, I also took a lot of pictures of the chana in process.

Just onions

Spices added

Plus tomatoes

And chickpeas!

With everything going so smoothly, I proceeded to make a scallion raita as well, but, as is only fair, when half the roti were cooked, Aliza woke up, more than ready to eat.  I’ll use that as my excuse for my hasty plating.

For lunch on Saturday, I went to Rittenhouse Square for the Grad Network’s potluck picnic lunch.  The weather was perfect, the crowd was lovely, and, oh yeah, I actually ate a huge bowl of chana masala before leaving the house, so I didn’t really eat…

After leaving the picnic, I went over to Sara’s house, and by then I was ready for another meal, which was lucky because Sara had made an unbelievable quantity of incredibly fresh, beautiful food.  Eggplant and zucchini often go together in my book as “slimy things in vegetarian wraps that no one really wants to eat,” but Sara’s grilled eggplant was phenomenal.  I ate seconds.  Then thirds.  Then snuck into the kitchen during a game of Settlers to eat just a little bit more.

Roti, from Entertaining for a Veggie Planet

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 minced garlic cloves
2 tablespoons canola oil, or more as needed

In a large bowl, stir together everything but the oil.  Add 1 1/4 cups of water, blending to form a soft dough (I found the dough too soft, so I recommend either more flour or less water).  Divide the dough into 8 balls.  On a floured surface, roll out each ball as thinly as possible to form eight 6-inch circles.  In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Fry one at a time until bubbles form on the surface.  Flip and cook until browned on the second side.  Drain on paper towels and serve.

Scallion Raita, from Entertaining for a Veggie Planet

So, I’m not actually going to copy this recipe.  Mix together some plain yogurt, some finely chopped scallions, sugar, salt, and sriracha or other hot sauce.  Taste and adjust.  Don’t burn yourself.

Onion chutney, from some website that was quoting another website quoting another website, then I changed it anyway, so it’s not quite plagiarized, but I wouldn’t turn it into an English teacher as my own work either

Finely mince onions.  Add a generous amount of paprika, a bit of cumin, a small spoonful of tomato paste, some salt, and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.  Let sit at least a half hour.  Taste and adjust seasonings before serving.

Chana masala, from Smitten Kitchen

It’s worth reading the original post that I took the recipe from even though I’ve copied and pasted it below.  I’m including the changes I made and writing in my notes here, she wrote in her notes there, and it’s cool to see how recipes adjust and change.  I feel like those kinds of developments used to happen mostly across families and in tight-knit communities, and now the internet has made us one big happy recipe sharing crew.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 fresh, hot green chili pepper, minced (I left this out, and it was still plenty spicy)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or to taste depending on how much you like spicy food)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala (Marc’s homemade blend)
2 cups tomatoes, chopped small or 1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes with their juices, chopped small
2/3 cup water
4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice of half a lemon or lime

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic, ginger and pepper and sauté over medium heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn heat down to medium-low and add all the spices. Cook onion mixture with spiced for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes and any accumulated juices, scraping up any bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the water and chickpeas. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, then stir in salt and lemon juice.

Serve over rice and/or with roti and at least a couple of different sauces.  Eat in the flickering light of Shabbat candles with your husband and baby daughter around the table with you, or some good friends, or alone if you can’t stand to share  your favorite food with anyone.  Refill your water glass several times, since it is kind of spicy.  Alternate with a couple sips of Manischewitz for some sweetness.  Lie on the couch in an Indian-food-induced coma until it’s time for dessert.  Eat cornbread and freezepops until bedtime, which is earlier and earlier every night.  Sleep until a crying baby wakes you.  Feed her.  Resist the urge to go downstairs for some leftovers.  Go back to sleep.  Repeat.  Actually eat some cornbread by the light of day.  Eat chana masala right before going to lunch.  See above for how that all fits together.  Hang out with friends.  Watch a sleeping baby.  Type and type and type because you can’t believe you still have both hands free.  Then type some more.  And a little more.  Resist the urge to pick up and inevitably wake the baby.  Admire the baby.  Eat another freezepop.  Finally stop typing.

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Halfway there

Being that Friday was July 1 and this is a year-long project, I’m halfway there!  I’m already cooking up schemes (yes, pun intended) about future writing projects, but I’m also open to suggestions.

Friday night, Marc and I ate the last of the frozen brisket that his mom made for Passover.  It’s a good thing we were heating up something that made the house smell glorious, since while Marc was prepping dinner, I opened our compost bucket and unleashed the worst smell of all time, unseating our previous top two in that category.  Do other people keep lists of such things?

Anyway, the brisket was delicious, and we were sad to see it go.  On the side, we had mashed potatoes, solely for the purpose of sopping up the gravy.  We also ate the last of the frozen challah that people generously brought over right after Aliza was born.  That also soaked up gravy pretty well.

Even after all these months of gradually accepting that I’m not actually vegetarian anymore, I still can’t believe we had meat and potatoes for dinner.

I was seriously grateful for our short walk to lunch at Beverly and Naomi’s because it was wickedly hot out, and, as is only appropriate under such circumstances, lunch started off with a freeze pop course.    There were four couples at lunch, and as much as I think I don’t distinguish between my friends who are partnered and those who aren’t, it turns out there was a very different dynamic to just having couples around. There’s no value judgment there about better or worse; it was just noticeable.

We ate quinoa salad, cabbage salad, BBQ tofu, Asian tofu, and beet dip.  For dessert, we had chocolate pumpkin soup, and I made the zucchini chocolate chip cookies I mentioned last week, pictured below.  Some brown sugar got  stuck to the bottom of the mixing bowl, so the last few that I made had a sort of caramel on top, and those are the ones that look darker in the picture.

Not so surprisingly, lunch turned into board games, which turned into more hanging out and noshing, then havdalah, and finally, a late-night dinner.  It was a lovely Shabbat.

I wish my halfway-through-the-year post had some crazy story in it, or some revelatory halfway-summarizing remarks on the experience, or the best most fabulous new food I’ve ever made.  But no, it was simply a lovely Shabbat.  And, even though I thought about it, I wouldn’t want to ruin that by sharing the harrowing tales of the second and third worst smells of all time.  I’ll just say thanks for reading so far and for all the comments and feedback both online and in person that have let me know people care, even a little bit, about what I’m eating for Shabbat.  And, if we haven’t had a meal together yet this year, there’s still  plenty of time!

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