Celebrate!

Here’s one of my all-time favorite posts, reposted from July 4, 2010:

 

It’s the fourth of July today, and my sibs and I have converged on the family home for the great annual bash. On and off since yesterday evening, five strapping grandsons have been carrying cartons of beer, wine, soda, water, and iced tea up to the deck, where great drums of ice stand ready to receive them all.

I walked upstairs this morning to see my mother arranging a mountain of rolls, just collected from the local Italian bakery, in a huge, blue-striped-cloth-napkin-lined basket. My dad was outside using his kaboda, a mini-tractor, to position grills, chairs, and recycling bins. Tall piles of burgers (from our own steer) were thawing in the kitchen, and my mother’s delicious homemade cole slaw and potato salad were blending their flavors in the refrigerator. The gorgeous, cool green cabbages for the cole slaw were harvested from my mom’s garden last night. An early morning, last-minute trip down to the vegetable garden has yielded the last of the season’s lettuce greens. My assignment is to cut and arrange trays of peaches, plums, and mangos for the celebration. I have blueberries, raspberries and cherries to add, too. Raspberries are ripening all over my parents’ farm this time of year.

Across the street, our neighbors Connie & Duane are in the process of composing several magnificent marinated salads, and my mouth is watering as I contemplate the taste of them. Just the other night, to give you an example of the spectacles for which Connie & Duane are known, they arrived for a different meal with a large tray laden with mounds of marinated asparagus on one side, haricot verts on the other, triangles of sharp Parmigiana, leaves of basil and lettuce, and thickly cut tomatoes sprinkled with fresh oregano and fresh black pepper. Humble and generous, they would have you believe they tossed it together in just a few minutes. Connie is the daughter of a fireworks scion from the Midwest, a fact which always makes me feel like we have fourth-of-July royalty in our midst.

I like to embed recipes in my stories, and here’s one for a delicious homemade ranch dressing without secret ingredients: Add the following to a blender or food processor: 6 Tbsp. sour cream, 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise, 1 chopped green onion, 1 tsp. each honey and mustard, 1 Tbsp. chopped celery leaves, 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh Italian parsley, 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar, 2 chopped garlic cloves, and salt and fresh pepper to taste. Puree the ingredients for a minute, and add shredded Parmesan for more taste if desired. This dressing may be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

In a few hours, the holiday table will be piled high with cornucopias of plenty. I saw the fixings for a gallon of black bean, corn, and cilantro salsa on my sister-in-law’s counter yesterday morning. If we’re lucky, Aunt Gerda will show with a bowl of the same creamy arborio rice pudding she brought to my wedding 30 years ago. Libby always brings one of her beautiful fruit pies, some years peach and other years strawberry-rhubarb, and sometimes she brings her guitar, too. My sister, a cantor, has also invited a bunch of her musician friends. So in addition to the great sights and smells, there should also be some great sounds coming from here in a little while. Food is not the only thing by which we will be nourished today. The music, food and friendship should last late into the night.

I indulged a desire for a bucket of silly bands to share with all the children we’re expecting today, and I picked out a few of the red, white and blue ones for myself. Ever since the grandparents taught a bunch of their grandchildren to play cribbage a few years ago, and then began to attend competitions together, the big kids have been honing their skills. So some of them will definitely be spending the afternoon playing cribbage inside, in the air-conditioned living room. The annual soccer game will convene down in the field, and it will most likely end with a large influx of young people doing cannonballs right into the pool. I expect that the pool will see even more activity than usual today, with temperatures expected to reach the mid 90’s.

I hope you enjoy your celebrations, large and small, this week.

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When we no longer have good cooking in the world, we will have no literature, nor high and sharp intelligence, nor friendly gatherings, nor social harmony.  Marie-Antoine Carême

Eat wonderful meals brimming with taste. Dance, drink, laugh, love. Think Zorba the Greek meets Julia Child.
W.C. Willett

Eating with the fullest pleasure — pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance — is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.  Wendell Berry

Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.  Erma Bombeck

 


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Haminados for Passover!

Haminados are one of my all-time favorite Passover recipes! Simple, sublime and delicious, they have been a staple at the Passover tables of Mediterranean Jewish communities for millennia! Check out this recipe and you’ll see why. Whether you make this dish in your crockpot or oven, it takes just a few minutes to toss it together and get things cooking.

12 whole eggs, in their shells
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. Kosher salt
4 whole onions, including their skins
1 tsp. olive oil
1-2 quarts cool water

Slice the whole onions, skins and all, into quarters. Pack the eggs and onions into a crock pot or a medium-sized, tightly covered dish. Add salt, pepper and olive oil. Pour in cool water to cover the eggs completely, and turn heat to low (crockpot) or 200 F (oven). Cook at least 8 hours, or up to 12 hours if you’re busy. Check the water periodically to make sure it stays at or close to the top of the eggs. When you’re ready, drain, rinse and peel the eggs you’re planning to eat right away, and refrigerate the rest for later. Discard the onions, hopefully in your compost pile if you’ve got one!


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Lebanese Potato Kugel

Once again, my dear friend and talented cook Judith has outdone herself. Potato kugel (translated loosely as “pudding,” but much more Yorkshire than chocolate), was a mainstay of my childhood. Last weekend she completely surprised (!) me, creating her own version of this recipe that is so familiar and dear to me, and which I grew up eating on many holidays and other special occasions. My Grandma Rosie had her own special way of making potato kugel; she taught my mom to make it, and that’s how I learned. Grandma Rosie’s version would have you heating the oil in a square glass Pyrex pan in the oven, carefully pouring the potato batter directly into the hot pan with spitting hot olive oil, and then sprinkling a little more oil on top prior to cooking it, but Judith’s version gives you a little more control over the crust.

This is one of those recipes whose flavor creates a memory that stays with you for years. As my grandma Rosie would have put it, it takes a little bit of potchky-ing (fussing) but, as Judith puts it, it’s “A labor of love you won’t regret.”

3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, shredded
2 large eggs
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/3 cup garbanzo or fava bean flour
1/2 cup cilantro (plus more for garnish if desired), chopped coarsely
1/2 cup green onion, finely sliced
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. fresh black pepper
water to mix

1. Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, except the water.
2. Add water as needed to absorb chick pea flour, so that the mixture is wet but sticks together (fairly solid). Too wet is better than too dry, fyi, so if you are unsure, err on the side of more water.
3. Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add a generous slick of olive oil (approx 2 Tbsp.), and spoon potato mixture into the pan, spreading it into an even layer. Allow to cook 3-4 minutes, reduce flame to medium, and allow to brown.
4. Preheat oven to 375 F. Once the sides of the kugel begin to crisp, slide a knife around the edge of the skillet to loosen, reduce the flame to low, and allow to cook 10-15 minutes more. This time, slide a sharp spatula under and around the edges to loosen it from the pan.
5. Flip the kugel by placing a serving plate atop the skillet, and then flipping so the cooked side faces up. Return empty skillet to the fire, turn up heat to medium-high. Add remaining olive oil, allow to heat thoroughly, and slide kugel, now raw side down, back into the skillet. Allow to cook over medium heat for 4 minutes, and
6. Transfer the entire skillet to the preheated oven. Cook 15-20 minutes until done. Use a sharp knife to check the center of the kugel for doneness.
7. Flip the kugel onto a cutting board or platter, and slice into 8 or more wedges. Serve with a few slices of brisket, a squeeze of lime, more fresh chopped cilantro, a sprinkle of salt, a crumble of queso fresca, a drizzle of Mexican crema, or straight up. Your choice.

Thank you, Judith. Hearty appetite!


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Huevos Haminados (Slow-roasted Eggs)

Haminados are one of my all-time favorite Passover recipes! Simple, sublime and delicious, they have been a staple at the Passover tables of Mediterranean Jewish communities for millennia! Check out this recipe and you’ll see why. Whether you make this dish in your crockpot or oven, it takes just a few minutes to toss it together and get it cooking. Continue reading