Friday, January 30, 2015

Food Friday–Birthday edition

We are celebrating my husband’s birthday tonight. This morning when I spoke to my mother I asked her how old she thought my husband was. She thought for a long, long time and then came up with an answer, 42.
My husband is youthful, but 42 was a long time ago. My husband has ambivalent feelings about celebrating birthdays. He tends not to like stuff. So I haven’t bought him a big gift.

I have carefully planned tonight’s meal. There are elements of the meal that I will not be writing about because my husband is an occasional reader of this blog and I don’t want to spoil any surprises. I am willing to talk about two elements of the meal.

There has been a bit of buzz in the internet lately about “bone broth”.   It’s soup. Tonight I made a chicken soup with several trays of chicken necks and a tray of chicken gizzards. I also put  a couple of mammoth parsnips, some skinny carrots and onions and whole spices in a cheese cloth envelope in the crock pot. I put everything into the crock-pot yesterday afternoon. I put it on the low setting and let it cook away.

This morning it smelled amazing. I could have just let the crock-pot bubble away all day and then just serve the soup for dinner. But this was a special dinner so  I made this a more refined soup.

First I smashed all of the vegetables through my new strainer.  Having a strainer that does not have a giant rip feels like a major luxury.  Our old strainer developed a rip about a dozen years ago.  My husband used to remind me that it worked great for straining noodles.  For pureeing soup, not so much. I had been lusting after a “Chinese Hat” strainer but could not justify shelling out the cash for it. I found a wonderful  sturdy bowl shaped strainer in China town and am delighted with my purchase.

I left the vegetables whole and mashed them through the strainer.

I just added the puree back into the soup.
The soup is now hanging out in the fridge so all of the fat will rise to the top of the pot. There are times when large amounts of chicken fat are welcome. I find it less than pleasant on top of a soup bowl.  The birthday celebrant really hates  a soup topped with a thick layer of fat.
I usually serve simply. Tonight in addition to the soup we will have two secret starters.

On days like today I am really glad that I have been reading old cookbooks for so many years. I am making a more complicated dessert than usual.
I was thinking about this meal as I was shopping for it. I noticed a bottle of Key West lime juice at our grocery. We spent part of our honeymoon in Key West. We discovered the joy of Key limes during out honeymoon.   I thought that making Key lime sorbet/parve ice cream would be perfect.
My husband once spent the better part of a year living in Paris. When he was there he discovered, and fell in love with blood oranges. Blood oranges tend to come to market every year right around my husband’s birthday so I will usually include them in the birthday meal.

I clearly have spent far too much of my life reading cookbooks from  early in the 20th century.  I decided to make an ice cream bombe, that is ice cream frozen into a shape.

I thought it would be a nice touch to line the bowl with slices of blood oranges. Clearly I have read too many fussy cookbooks.  So I thought that just slicing the oranges would not be right. So, I made a simple sugar syrup. ( that’s a cup of sugar, I used brown with a cup of water boil until it’s fully dissolved. It takes longer than you would think)

I boiled slices of the blood orange in the syrup.
When the rinds were translucent I set them to dry on a parchment paper covered plate.

After all of the orange slices were boiled, I used the simple syrup as the base for my ice cream adding a can of coconut milk,  lots of lime juice and a bit more sugar and a couple of table spoons of corn starch.The blood orange had stained the mixture pink.  I stirred until the mixture came to a boil and then put the lime custard into the ice cream maker.
The lime custard was really tart.  I thought it might be improved with a dollop of this New England favorite.
Adding the fluff also turns the ice cream into de-constructed Key lime pie. I added the fluff at the very end of the mixing process.

Then I lined a round bowl with plastic wrap  and then arranged the candied orange slices inside of the bowl.
Then I carefully arranged the still soft ice cream over the candied blood oranges.

I even measured the volume of the bowl before I committed to using it. This sort of planning is so outside of my usual cooking methods.

The ice cream bombe is now setting in the freezer.
When it is time to serve dessert, I will invert the bombe onto a plate and remove all of the plastic wrap.
This looks like a dessert that would have been served in 1922.

If you ask me next week I will tell you about the other things that I served.

Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A snow diary




I love the line of nearly identical cars in bright colors..SAM_3724


Just a dusting on the building across the street,


and in the intersection the UPD man is busy delivering packages.


Later in the day, navigating the corner gets a bit more difficult.



There is just a dusting of snow in the air conditioners and window sills in the courtyard.


Last night only emergency vehicles were allowed on the street.





Kids head to the now open park to go sledding.


The streets have been plowed, but as usual the corners are tricky to negotiate.


Snow capped air conditioners.



Even the water tanks are snow capped today.



After several hours with no heat or hot water, things are back to being cozy in our apartment. Time to get back to work.

Friday, January 23, 2015

What isn’t there

I spent the last couple of days in Boston with my mother. My mother has had a series of strokes that have left her both physically and mentally diminished.


My mother chose her apartment for the views.


I’m not sure how much of those views she actually takes in these days.

While I was there I was struck by the quality of the  winter light.


While my mother is usually pretty well oriented, at one point she asked me in Hebrew whose apartment she was in and who was paying the rent.  I told her that it was her apartment and that she was paying the rent. She was surprised that she lived in such a large apartment.



I keep taking pictures of my mother’s things on her window sill. These objects collected over the years, some purchased by my parents, others gifts to them  are as much a portrait of my mother as an actual image of my mother. SAM_3715SAM_3719SAM_3720SAM_3721




I am so looking forward to Shabbat with my family. one of our guests is a college friend who I don’t think I have seen since the 1980’s. Both of us have had stressful weeks. I imagine that there will be lots of laughing around the dinner table.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Non identical twins

I have been working on the non identical tallitot for the non identical but  similar twins.



This is the atara for one of the twins.

I lay the atara on top of a piece of couched embroidery so you can see another example of couching.



The beams of light that come out of the Hebrew word for light will be further emphasized with more embroidery.


I like how this photo shows clearly how the silver thread is stitched down to the blue gros-grain  ribbon with tiny blue stitches. This twin wants a really simple tallit.


Her sister wanted a tallit that is a bit more visually complex, but in the same colors of blue and silver.

This is the text I’m using from Psalm 104.


The twin’s grandmother is making the bags for the tallitot. I had a really lovely conversation with her this morning talking through the process of how to make the bags. I think she will do a wonderful job. She sounded a bit worried so I suggested that she make a sample bag first. She seemed really relieved when I suggested a trial bag.


This has been an interesting project for me. Each of the generations involved with this tallit has a strong voice. They do not al want exactly the same thing but I am doing my best to hear each voice and to create something that leaves arch participant satisfied with the end result.


After each client meeting I replay the conversations  in my head  to try and understand what each person is really saying, to figure out what their real needs are.


These two tallitot are all about restraint. Although often my work is of the “more is more” school. I do actually understand how to do quiet.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Food Friday–Guest Edition

Our dear friend Marcia invited us for Shabbat dinner.  It’s been a hard week.  Marcia figured that it would be and invited us, and our house guest for dinner.  When we eat together it is always a bit of a pot luck. Marcia is doing most of the meal.


I’m bringing flanken ribs.  It’s my youngest’s last Shabbat at home before he goes back to school. I mixed pomegranate molasses, mustard, tamarind paste, liquid smoke and balsamic vinegar in a bwol and rolled each piece of meat in the sauce before cooking it. When I heat the heat up I will put more sauce over the meat.  I expect no left overs.


I am also in charge of dessert. Marcia’s husband loves chocolate. So I made a chocolate custard spiked with ground coffee that I then put into the ice cream maker.  Here are the dry ingredients in the pot.


Here is an action shot of me pouring coconut milk into the dry ingredients ( cocoa, sugar, cornstarch and a pinch of salt)SAM_3686

Yes that IS a gorilla  in my whisk. The whisk was a gift from my sister. The gorilla is not necessary for making a good custard, but a whisk keeps lumps to a minimum.SAM_3687

I also added some pecans to the mix and some dried cranberries along with some shavings of really good bittersweet chocolate. After the mixture reached a boil I turned it off and then put it into the ice cream maker.


I also made some ginger parve ice cream. You are looking at LOTS of minced ginger, maybe two inches of a fat root well minced, about a teaspoon of fresh orange rind, a cup of sugar, a can of coconut milk, half a can of water, a pinch of salt, lots of ground ginger, a shot of ginger brandy, and some vanilla. I simmered the mixture for about an hour to extract maximum ginger taste and then added two tablespoons of cornstarch. ( I did a corn starch slurry with the hot liquid before adding the starch to the pot.)The mixture got heated to just boiling and then it went into the ice cream maker which had been well cleaned out by my older son.



After doing time in the ice cream maker it looked like this.The ginger flavor emerges twice as you eat the ice cream, at first gently and then you get an extra hit of gingery goodness.


having my son around to help means that I can work on one of the next tallitot on my plate.



This chunk of lettering is done.


I also machine embroidered ribbon for some of the stripes. There is a LOT of this .


I have to press the ribbons after Shabbat. The blue and silver work is for a set of two similar but not identical tallitot for a set of similar but not identical twins. They both want their tallitot to be visually simple. There are lots of pieces of prep work I need to do before I get down to actual construction. This will be a working weekend. Hopefully I can post more progress soon.


Shabbat Shalom!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Busy, busy, busy

With this and that.

This is some of the this, adding color to Isabel’s invitations, and the reply cards, and the thank you notes.


This is more of the this…



Couching silver cord to cover letters for an atara.



The cord is too fragile to use for embroidery, so I’m hand couching it. I could have done the couching by machine, but ultimately it is easier to work in small spaces when you work by hand.


Couching is a fancy word for stitching down  decorative cording with tiny stitches.


And an inexplicable that:

I have tried three times to purchase the Family Circle book from this series that is about clothing. Each time I have gotten this volume from the series….


on gardening. No, this is not all that useful for me living six flights above ground level.  I am going to put it in the give away bookshelf in my building’s basement.

And this is the breakfast I have been eating most mornings.


It’s sort of the opposite of a smoothie. I guess you can call it a roughie. It’s an orange, some almonds cranberries and a couple of dates, and it’s delicious.


I am incredibly grateful that my dear friend, Marcia has invited us for Shabbat. It has been a hard week. It’s so good to have a friend call up, acknowledge that it has been a hard week and then extend an invitation. There will be some cooking tomorrow, just not a giant escapade of cookery.

Monday, January 12, 2015

עטרת ראשנו נפלה מעלינו

This morning, just as I was taking these photos from my living room window, my friend Herta breathed her last breaths.


Herta was 95, she would have turned 96 in August.


I met Herta in 1986 when I began working at my synagogue. I was warned about Herta before I met her. I was told that she would find every error that I would make and call me on it. I was also told that when she complained she was nearly always right, and that it made good sense for me to listen to her.

The advice I was given was correct. At first, frankly, Herta terrified me. Eventually she became fond of me. I always thanked her for correcting my errors. SAM_3672

Herta was born in Berlin. Yesterday her  niece told me that in the family they used to say that Herta was brought up by the German army, that is her mother and her aunt, who were much fiercer than Herta was.


Herta’s Hebrew tutor was Regina Jonas. Regina Jonas asked Herta if she wanted to have a bat-mitzvah. It would have been the first bat- mitzvah in Germany. Herta declined. She said “ What do I need to do it for? The presents? Forget it!”

After Hitler came to power Herta’s father  got the family to Shanghai where Herta lived from the time she was 18 until she was 28. While there were many hardships during her time there. She was often hungry. Herta also clearly had a blast during those Shanghai years. She told me about a birthday party where her fellow refugee friends  all chipped in and bought her an ounce of coffee.  They made that ounce into a giant pot of coffee and they all pretended that it was the good times back in Berlin.


Getting to the States after the war was difficult. Herta spent her first several months with  the widow of one of her uncles,  in Madison, Wisconsin where she worked as a waitress.


Eventually, Herta made her way to New York.  There she met Lester, who like Herta had also spent the war in Shanghai. No, they didn’t meet in China, they traveled in very different circles. Lester  was older than Herta, much less cosmopolitan and deeply deeply sweet. He adored Herta. She loved him.

The two created a full life together. They became parents to Linda. They were when I worked for the synagogue one of the most important families there. Not because they gave the most money, but because hey worked hard to make the synagogue the best it could be.

Herta was also the source of lots of truly dirty jokes. She used to send me really filthy jokes via email. Most of them are too dirty to post here. They were however, very funny.

Herta has been ill for the past few years.



I will deeply miss my smart, sharp tongued friend who was so right about so many things.