Category Archives: recipes

Recalling Childhood Memories Through Food

When I’m sick I don’t tend to get whiney and whimpy. I’m more than able to take care of myself. But I do tend to crave food from my childhood. Sadly, this can be a challenge as I either can’t get the foods since I’m not in Jersey or because I never learned how to cook or bake our Hungarian specialties (and in my childlike, bastardized Hungarian, I only seem to mutilate the words, so I can’t even google the recipes – trust me, I’ve tried). Well, as luck would have it, last night we decided to go to one of the local (major), Jewish deli’s, Jerry’s for some chicken noodle soup.

Imagine my surprise when along with our pickles came pickled green tomatoes!!! Dude, I was totally craving these just the other day wondering where I could find green tomatoes so I could try my hand at pickling. Granted, they weren’t quite like my grandmothers (far too much vinegar, and too hard), but it worked.

I also lucked out and remembered that Jerry’s has stuffed cabbage on the menu! Again, not nearly as good as my grandmothers (a bit too dry and sweet), but damn, it hit the spot. I mean, I haven’t had stuffed cabbage in close to 20 or so years. FWIW, the chicken noodle tasted just as good as my grandmothers (especially once I loaded it up on salt – one of the few things outside of eggs, fries and enchiladas that I will salt). Totally grubbing food. And the cherry vodka, cherry coke was kickass as well – and no, my grandmother never made cherry vodka cokes (she was a screwdriver kind of gal!)

As we perused the menu, I got excited once again thinking that I might have some apricot hamantashen (YUM!). Only I recalled the state of the bakery counter and realized that along with all the other traditional Jewish cakes and pastries, due to Rosh Hashanah, they were sold out of everything. Even today, when I sent the hubby back for still more chicken noodle soup, I asked about the hamantashen and nope, all out of the apricot, but I didn’t feel like prune or poppyseed (but I did get some chocolate rugalah as a consolation prize). I’ve got to search this out further though, as I probably haven’t had hamantashen in over 20 years since my grandmother couldn’t make it nearly as well as her mother or her sister, she never tried (and instead excelled at another kind of cookie that I can’t for the life of me remember the name of).

I was basically raised as a Catholic girl eating Hungarian ethnic foods – I know nothing of my mother’s Irish or Scottish heritage. I realized, after visiting Jerry’s that it really doesn’t matter much if one is Polish, Chechz, Hungarian or any other Slavic-Russian state, it’s all pretty much the same food and the same terms, just slightly different recipes. In fact, it’s not so much about being from one country or another it’s all pretty regional. Funny how out here in CA (or I’d guess anyone not familiar with the eastern European communities), it’s really just all considered “Jewish” food regardless of nationality.

EIther way, it was a nice way to indulge in some comfort food from my childhood. And dammit, I’m going get me some apricot hamantashen before the month is out! If Jerry’s is out, I’ll try Art’s or Canters. Worse case, I’ll hit up every Jewish bakery on Fairfax. Now that I know it’s not just a Hungarian thing, I’m sure I can find it.

Here’s a photo of the apricot hamantashen – though in our family it was made in a thin, “bowtie” shape and dusted with powder sugar.

Now can someone please tell me what the poppyseed “strudel” thing is called (though I liked the prune one better). And if anyone has any idea how to make Hungarian Chicken and Rice (with paprika) I’ll be your best friend forever and ever.

Giada, How Could We Have Never Met?

I’ve just recently starting watching Giada De Laurentiis and Everything Italian. In fact, I first started watching her just this past week after stumbling on the Weekend Getaway episode when she was up in Santa Barbara (I’ve only been to SB twice now and I’ve yet to really do anything touristy so I’m always open to new ideas and suggestions).

Previously, I just to live by whatever everyone’s gal, Rachael Ray said. But then, she just got a little too much going on and was everywhere and started to get on my nerves a bit. And well, let’s face it, she can be a bit extreme with that exuberant personality of hers. But I have to say, she really taught me to get comfortable in the kitchen and I have her cookbooks to prove it – LOL. And because I feel like I’m in the sharing kind of mood, here’s my go to, non-summer, RR recipe, Mini Meatball Soup – though by now, I just improvise.

Nowadays though, I’m spending some time getting to know Giada and letting her teach me a few new tricks in the kitchen. She really has some simple, easy recipes with minimal ingredients. She’s mind kind of gal too, she loves her cheese! I’m not so sure how she can manage to keep her clothes so spot-free without an apron, but whatever.

Really how good does this, Caramelized Pancetta and Fennel Salad sound? I’m always looking for new simple, yet tasty salad ideas and the simpler, the better. I think this would be just perfect for book club or a potluck.

Caramelized Pancetta and Fennel Salad

Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
User Rating: 5 Stars

1 bulb fennel, halved and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
5 slices pancetta
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 ounces (about 6 to 7 cups) mixed salad greens
Red Wine Vinaigrette, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, toss together fennel, pancetta, garlic, brown sugar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the ingredients on the baking sheet in a single layer. Cook until the pancetta is crisp and the fennel is caramelized, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, place the salad greens, crumbled pancetta, and caramelized fennel. Toss the salad with the Red Wine Vinaigrette and serve immediately.

Red Wine Vinaigrette:
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running gradually blend in the oil. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Yield: scant 1/2 cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes