Monthly Archives: March 2012

Better late than never

It’s been quite the week.  This past Shabbat was the big Penn dinner that you might remember from last year, and in recovering from that event, I never quite got around to publishing Rebecca’s post. But since Rebecca was also running late, we were in good company.  Though she is the first person to blog twice this year, hopefully she won’t be the last.  And, since I’m publishing this on Thursday, I may as well say Shabbat shalom!

Well Ya’ll the title may say it all, this past week, I guess it’s almost two now has been crazily busy, and not helped by the fact that I’ve spent the majority of the past 10 days in pain (it started as a really horrid toothache), followed by a whole lot of a different kind of pain (when I had an emergency tooth extraction, followed by a dry socket), and well with that and the rest of the chaos we tend to call life, I totally forgot that I signed up to write for the blog again this week.   So, oops, but of course I can just blame the tooth for that, right, I mean why should this night be any different than the last 10 or so?

So, for those of you who might have read my first guest blog post, this past Shabbat I finally had the opportunity to go with my friend Eve (a rabbinical student), up to her internship pulpit in Norwich, NY.  In case you’re wondering Norwich is about a 4 hour drive and located somewhere between Syracuse and Binghamton and a little bit to the East, or for those of you who like me are less familiar with NY geography, aka: the middle of nowhere [Miriam’s note: Being that I am from middle of nowhere New York, but further west than Syracuse, I both take offense and totally sympathize with this characterization.].  Truthfully, it kind of reminded me of  the Texas Hill Country!!!  The building which houses the Norwich Jewish Center is a historical building and the community it is a very heymish shul.  Friday night about 2/3 of the community (approx 8 people) gathered for services and oneg, we were joined by the confirmation class from one of the local churches, and all present had the opportunity to talk and think about our prayer services, what they mean to us, and how they may appear to others, as well as answer and ask questions about what we do and why?  And of course one kid stumped us all when he asked,  “What the origin of the shape of the “Magen David”/Star of David is?”

Since, following my tooth extraction, I have been on a diet of well  lots of soup and other mushy foods, which is not particularly exciting, in lieu of a menu of more overcooked pasta, and mashed potatoes we decided to pick up take-out for our Shabbat Meals! And sometimes, well, take-out is just right, particularliy when there happens to be a plethora of tasty and Kosher take-out options available, which there are in Long Island (and of course coolers and ice packs to take it on the road!  So for Friday night dinner, following an oneg of cookies for all, we enjoyed a fleish dinner of chicken soup w/matzah balls, chicken pot pie, smoked turkey and roast beef!

Saturday morning, we woke up to go to the Jewish Center of Norwich, for a study session.  In preparation of Passover (it’s less than 2 weeks away now!) we had an exciting and pretty lively discussion about the Four Children in the Passover Haggadah, using many different artistic and visual representations of the four children to inspire and help guide the conversation; Are they individual personalities?  Perhaps four characteristics of one person?  And what about that “Wicked” or “Rebelious” or “Alienated” Child? –well let’s just say that one led to a rather heated discussion…  Following our morning study we walked through town, (a few blocks) back to the hotel, where we enjoyed lunch consisting of  Egg Salad, Seafood Salad, and Summer Tuna Salad and grapes courtesy of Bagel Boss.  If you’ve never been to Bagel Boss, and you like tuna, I can’t recommend this tuna salad enough, it’s absolutely delicious, I don’t have the recipe for it, but I think they must whip it, and then it’s got dried cranberries and apples in it, seriously, if you’re ever near a Bagel Boss, stop in, have some for lunch, w/or w/out a Bagel, if you like tuna, or maybe even if you don’t, you won’t regret it!  The remainder of Shabbat afternoon was spent relaxing, reading, playing cards and going for a swim in the hotel’s indoor pool, all in all a nice 25 hours in the country!

Unfortunately since I didn’t cook anything I don’t have a recipe from Shabbat, so here’s one of my regular favorites, (hint sometimes I double it for a potluck)!

Cheesey Polenta w/tomatoes!

1 cup of corn grits to 3 cups of liquid (I usually do half milk, half water)
garlic (optional, but delicious)
Salt, pepper, fresh basil, and/or other herbs
Fresh grated parmesan or other cheeses (btw 1-3 cups, depending on your mood or cheese craving J
Sliced tomatoes and optional minced fresh basil

*If using garlic, sauté in a bit of oil first, add liquid and bring to a slight boil, add corn grits/polenta and stir until thickened, (it will pop at you quite a bit), takes about 5-6 minutes, remove from heat and add fresh herbs, salt, pepper and cheese to taste, top with a couple of slices of butter and bake @ 350 for about 20-25 minutes, till golden brown, then top with tomatoes, fresh basil, and more cheese and bake till cheese is melted to perfection, let cool so you can cut and enjoy!



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Make your own Shabbat

Even though Susan and I don’t work together anymore, she continues to be a great friend, a wonderful resource, and a really helpful g-chat buddy.  Her dinner sounds super yummy and fun, plus she stepped in at the last minute to make sure there was a blog this week!  Speaking of which, please help make sure there are blogs in the weeks to come, and sign up here. 

I used to lament not being an artistic type– until I realized that I express my creativity through cooking, especially for other people.   I feel like a dinner party is my little version of a gallery opening or a sculptural unveiling.  I have a great time envisioning, cooking, and serving the meal, and then revel in other peoples’ enjoyment of it.

So… When my boyfriend, Cody, suggested that we make our Shabbat dinner a “Make Your Own Pizza Night,” I was pretty apprehensive.

Cody lives at Moishe House Philadelphia with three other people.  It is a great house, both community-wise and space-wise.  With four housemates, it’s pretty rare that Cody gets the house to himself.  The others were going out of town this weekend, so we thought it would be a great chance to host our own Shabbat dinner there.  “Make Your Own Pizza Night” was not exactly what I had in mind, but he was so excited about the idea that I decided to go along with it.

As it turns out, it was really fun, and really tasty!  We made two kinds of dough– whole wheat and garlic herb— and portioned them out into individual sizes.  We chopped up all kinds of toppings… tomatoes, basil, olives, pineapple, jalapenos, etc.  To make it easier, we (gasp) had storebought marinara sauce and pesto.  We pre-baked the dough, so once people put their toppings on they went on aluminum foil in the oven for about 15 minutes.

While they baked, people ate the two salads we made– a mushroom salad (recipe below– seriously, try it even if you hate mushrooms like I do) and a St. Louis (my hometown) staple, Pasta House Salad.  For dessert, Cody made really tasty chocolate chip cookies, and Laurel made amazing date coconut bites that she paired with local SNAP liquor.  Keep your eye out for bites like this at Cafe Olam Philly!

3 big lessons come from this Shabbat:
1) Sometimes boyfriends have excellent ideas that are worth following.
2) It’s actually really nice to end a dinner party not feeling completely exhausted from a full day of cooking.
3) As much as I love expressing my own creativity through cooking, it’s pretty neat to empower other people to do the same thing, and then to watch their reactions when they take their first bite!

Mushroom Salad-– adapted from a recipe by Katie Cavuto Boyle

I absolutely hate mushrooms– but this salad is an exception… It’s magic.  And a great potluck dish because it is really quick to throw together! (If you’re making it ahead of time, don’t toss it with the dressing or put the cheese on top until right before you serve it.) [Miriam’s note: When Susan brought this to the blogstravaganza part 1, I was “a bad host by refusing to try it,” but I’m glad it makes her so happy!]
  • 1 pound regular old button mushrooms– trimmed, cleaned, and thinly sliced (I always get the presliced ones)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1-2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano (must be fresh!)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 oz piece of parmesan cheese

In a medium salad bowl, mix together the mushrooms, parsley, and oregano. In a small bowl, whisk together the Dijon, oil, and lemon juice until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the oil mixture to the salad bowl and toss until all ingredients are coated. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the Parmesan on top and serve.

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Mommy Blog

It’s fun to be a mommy writing a blog, but it’s even more fun when my own mommy guest blogs!  My mom advises me on everything from Shabbat dinner menus to what to feed Aliza, and even things that don’t pertain to food.  Basically, she’s the best mom ever. Also, for the record, and perhaps it’s fair since I didn’t eat meat for so long, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen my bubbe’s brisket recipe.

I really enjoyed reading Miriam’s blog all last year for many reasons: great recipes, exciting Jewish Philly scene, beautiful pictures of my adorable granddaughter and much more. I continue to enjoy reading the blog entries this year. When I signed up to write about celebrating Shabbos in Fredonia I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to make this special day sound interesting given that there are only about four people currently in town who actually celebrate Shabbos (and that includes my husband and me.)

We have joined a wonderful synagogue in Buffalo and spend many weekends there and are often invited for Shabbos dinner (and I was hoping this would be such a Shabbos so that I would be able to describe an exciting Shabbos dinner.) Luckily for us and you, the blog readers, Marion and Harvey invited us for dinner and what a wonderful dinner it was! Not knowing for sure what would be served I decided to include a recipe from my mother’s kitchen, sort of making this a three generation blog entry.

Mary Kenshur’s Amazing Brisket
1 or 2 thinly sliced onions (enough to cover the bottom of a dutch oven)
Place single layer of brisket on top of onions (depending on size of brisket you might need 2 pots)
Cover and cook on low heat until juices from brisket mix with onions
Then add a couple cans of tomato sauce or marinara sauce to cover brisket (I also add some ketchup sometimes)
Add some garlic powder and sweet kosher wine and keep cooking until super tender (a couple hours)
Cool and slice with electric knife against the grain

Now, let me share some highlights from our amazing Shabbos dinner. The first course was a wonderful zucchini soup. (I wish I had known this recipe when Ted and I used to grow more zucchini than we could handle and added it to every conceivable dish, like potato latkes and brownies.) [Miriam’s note: See this post for my own thoughts on using up zucchini.] Next came the salads—too many to list— all delicious, but my very favorite was avocado with hearts of palm. The main course consisted of chicken breasts with roasted sweet onions, squash kugel, roasted sweet and white potatoes (brought by the other guests), very tender asparagus, and the most delicious and vegetarian lasagna I ever tasted. The lasagna should have its own blog since it was so amazing, but let me just say there was no dairy cheese but there was soy cheese that actually melted, and the lasagna was made with rice noodles.

And then there was dessert and even though I was so pleasantly satiated, I managed to eat. There were peanut butter cookies, brownies, hamentashen, wheat free banana cake and fruit.

Lest you think I only care about food, let me tell you the dinner conversations were lively, interesting and wide-ranging. The other guests were Lilia, Sergey and their bright multi-lingual daughters. Surrounded by friends we felt warm on a cold Buffalo night.

Hi Grammy!

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Aileen and I have known each other a long time. We’ve shared a lot of meals in a couple of cities spanning two decades or so, and though she’s not in Philly anymore, it’s kind of like she still is.

Reading the weekly entries on 25×52 connects me to a community that I love and treasured being a part of, so I am super excited and honored to be contributing this week. Reading about the plethora of Shabbat options in Philly each week sometimes makes me homesick (and jealous!), but also inspires us to find new ways to create a Shabbat community here. Ithaca, New York is a relatively small college town of 30,000, but with two synagogues and a thriving Jewish campus life at Cornell and Ithaca College, we are slowly finding our niche.

We took advantage of a week when Brian did not have to work on campus and we would not be eating at 104West (CU Kosher Dining Hall). I spent Thursday night combing through cookbooks and magazines, determined to live up to the expectations that the Philly-gang set forth. On Friday I started with the soup, making good use of an immersion blender. Step two was slicing potatoes for the top of a casserole, and I decided to use our mandolin slicer, which had remained in the box since our wedding. Half a potato into the task, my hand slipped, causing a trip to the ER.  [Miriam’s note: my mouth just fell open. Holy cow! Cooking adventures! So glad it wasn’t more serious!] I returned home less than two hours later, with no stitches, but a very heavily bandaged thumb, creating some interesting challenges in producing the rest of the meal.

Jocelyn and her friend Josh showed up first with Wine and Raspberry Lambic (I was a bad host and saved the Lambic for later), and we started our meal with a snack of sliced (by Brian!) Pears and Brie, while we waited for our friends Jessica and Ian. We typically buy our challah from the Challah for Hunger group on campus, which raises money for AJWS, and this week we added to that a challah given to Brian by a co-worker. Our first course was a Butternut Squash Soup, seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg. Our main course was a Sweet and Sour Bean Casserole, Baked Sesame Tofu, and a Field Green Salad with Beets and Polenta Croutons. The croutons were the hit of the evening and I cannot wait to make them again just for a snack. I had planned to bake a pear tart, but instead I bought an Apple Pie at Ithaca Bakery on the way home from the ER, served with a Fruit Salad from Jessica.

Shabbat morning is the one day that neither of us have to be out of the house before 8:30, so we tend to sleep in, rather than rush to services. Since we will cook on Shabbat, it is also a wonderful opportunity to have a real breakfast, my favorite food. With nineteen fingers working together, we made a great Shabbat brunch for two of Greek Yogurt Pancakes with a Raspberry Sauce and a Spinach Parmesan Omelet.

Shabbat afternoon we walked to Rabbi Glass’s house for Tea and Talmud. It was the first time we had attended the bi-weekly study sessions and we’ll probably go back again. We then headed up the hill to Cornell for Clock Tower Havdallah, a joint service sponsored by the Jewish student groups. Almost 40 students gathered at the base of the McGraw Tower for havdallah, followed by an impromptu Purim song session. Then many of the students climbed the 161 steps to the top of the clock tower for a first-hand look at the chimes in the tower and a concert. The Chimester on duty that night entertained anyone within earshot of the tower with a “Best of Jewish Music,” including Hava Negillah and Hinei Ma Tov. It was a fun and uniquely Ithaca way to end Shabbat.

I hope that we will be able to take the inspiration we found this week to create a restful and meaningful 25 hours of Shabbat and bring it to every week. We are two Jewish professionals, relatively plugged into the Jewish community here in Ithaca, and if we find it challenging to find a Shabbat niche, it makes me think about fellow Jews in smaller communities or people who move somewhere new with fewer automatic connections. The Shabbat culture that Miriam, Grad Network, Minyan Tikvah, Heymish, and others have created in the Center City community is a great gift to both long-time residents and newcomers to Philly. [Miriam’s note: awww] We cannot wait to read what you eat next week!

Sweet and Sour Bean Casserole

1 pound unpeeled potatoes
1 tbs olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 ¼ cups tomato sauce
2/3 cup unsweetened apple juice
¼ cup each light brown sugar, ketchup, dry sherry, cider vinegar, and soy sauce
14 oz can lima beans
14 oz can navy beans
14 oz can chickpeas
6 oz green beans (chopped and blanched)
8 oz shallots
8 oz mushrooms
1 tbs thyme and marjoram


1) Preheat oven to 400. Thinly slice the potatoes and par-boil them for 4 minuts. Drain the potatoes thoroughly. Toss them in oil so they are lightly coated and set aside.

2) Place the butter, flour, tomato sauce, apple juice, sugar, ketchup, sherry, vinegar, and soy sauce in a saucepan. Heat gently, whisking constantly until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Simmer gently for 3 minutes. Keep warm.

3) Rinse and drain the beans and add to the sauce with remaining ingredients.

4) Spoon mixture into a casserole dish.

5) Arrange the potato slices over the top of the dish, overlapping them slightly and completely covering the mixture.

6) Cover the casserole with foil and bake for about 1 hour, until the potatoes are tender. Remove foil for the last 20 minutes of cooking time to lightly brown the potatoes.

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