I Can Still Smell Her Chicken Soup!

Molly Losick, nee Dembo. Born in Minsk, Russia in 1892. Came to the US through Ellis Island in 1902, thanks to The Russian Revolution, and the Czar's love of Jews. Moved to lower Manhattan, then West New York, North Bergen and Bergenfield. Sister to Fanny, Ida, Mary, Irving, Abe, Harry and Dave. Mother to Paul, Henry, my mother Florence, and Adolph. Wife of Sol, grandmother of 9, and

the world's best cook!

That's my Bubby! And I can still remember, like it was yesterday, her wonderful kitchen. It wasn't like kitchen's of today. No Viking range. No wine closet. No Sub-Zero refrigerator. In fact, her original refrigerator I remember was actually an ice box, with a big block of ice in it! Her kitchen seemed huge to me (but in actuality, it probably was only 40 or 45 square feet. The wallpaper was adorned with fruit baskets, the speckled linoleum floor was always spotless with the slight scent of ammonia, the ceiling lit by a round flourescent light - one of the first of its kind. In the middle of the room was a formica and stainless steel table with 4 chairs surrounding it. The stove was gas. The dishwasher was Bubby or any one of her grandchildren that she could coax with a little guilt and a piece of hard candy. The cupboard (although never full since shopping was done on a daily basis) always had a red jar of Nescafe Instant Coffee and a tin of those colorful English hard candies in it. The stove - the center of the universe - would always have a pot on it simmering (emitting an aroma of the Gods) with either chicken soup, boiled chicken, chicken fricassee (complete with beaks and feet,) gefilte fish, sweet and sour tongue, or something else totally mysterious! There was always a fresh Cohen's Jewish rye bread in the house (complete with the paper stamp,) and, of course a tub of schmaltz in the ice box. You ate it all, and didn't ask what it was. It all tasted great - and sometimes it was better that we didn't ask.



How about the fresh-made chopped chicken liver, the platters of smoked white fish, chopped pickle herring for my grandfather (that was one thing I didn't care for too much,) or the egg salad and tuna specially made for the mid-day dairy meal. The fresh baked cakes and puddings. No matter how poor a Jewish family was, there was always fresh cake on the counter.



My family memories began in this kitchen. Back when we didn't have a care in the world. The big war was long over, Viet Nam was a place that we hadn't heard of yet, and all cars (made only in the US of course) all had gigantic fins! Life was good. We didn't realize the hardships that our grandparents went through in Eastern Europe. How they had to leave it all behind except what they could carry in their satchels or on their backs. How they had to leave their homes in the middle of the night to avoid death. We complain, but have it easy.



This blog is dedicated to My Bubby Molly, her husband Sol, and all the other Bubbys and their husbands who made us what we are today. I will regularly share her recipes, presented to you for good reasons. We would welcome you to also share your Bubby's great recipes from the old days. Present them with a little story of who she was and what it meant to you. Let's keep those recipes alive for future generations. Sit around the table in your kitchen and reminisce about your bubby's kitchen and how it influenced your life. Join me and together through the great kitchen aromas we recall, will go back in time to celebrate what true comfort food was from a simpler life.



Let's begin our journey and enjoy our past through the foods that we loved and embark on an adventure to bring our food heritage to our future!













Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How Bubby Shaped What I Do

The one thing that I remember most about being in My Bubby’s Kitchen is the whole family thing. Now that I am older with children of my own, I realize that there was something really magical about being with your family in your grandparent’s house. Sitting at the kitchen table eating the noon or evening meal was an event that happened weekly at Bubby’s. You could always rely on the fact that at any given time there would be a relative that would show up at the door with another wonderful blue-twine tied white box of some item that would be a fabulous ending to a meal. I would be surrounded by relatives of all ages, and if the room got packed with adults, us kids would eat first and then be sent to the living room where we had to entertain ourselves or sit quietly and watch a show of our parents choosing (usually Ed Sullivan, Bonanza, or Lawrence Welk – Ugh!)
We had some relatives that were loud but were filled with wonderful stories of life in Europe or what happened the other day in Brooklyn that would mesmerize us all, and we would laugh and laugh until it hurt. What was it that connected us together other than being related? The food that always seemed to be plentiful, even at times when you could overhear the conversation about how difficult living on a meager income really was.
Maybe that’s why after college and a career in advertising that I decided that I needed a change, that I needed to do something that I had always wanted to do and loved, and that was to cook! So I was excited when I was admitted to The Culinary Institute of America, and began my career in the field of food. The experience was incredible. When I did my externship and interned, I realized that my respect for chefs, sous chefs, line cooks, waitstaff, dishwashers, and anyone and everyone who works in this industry was incredible. The business is difficult but unlike advertising where it could take months before you could get a response, positive or negative, the gratification in the restaurant business of knowing that you put out a wonderful meal and the accompanying accolades are instantaneous. It was an adrenaline rush and I loved it!
But then reality set in and I realized that I had a young family. I didn’t want to kill myself 24/7, and I needed to make money. So today, I combine my love for food, my love for the food industry and my experience and expertise as a marketing pro into a wonderful job. I am the Restaurant Growth Group and Get Me Guests!, and each day, I help small to midsize restaurants fill their dining rooms with guests. I did it for the big boys for years, but in this economy, my allegiance has changed. Being a small business person, and in this uncertain economy, it is a challenge for small operators to compete with the big guys with their huge marketing budgets. I love small to mid size operations because each time I walk through their doors, I realize that they will work harder to get my business, and to keep my business. The good operators will bend over backwards to insure that I have the total guest experience. It’s not their job…..it’s their life! And, they don’t necessarily have the financial support behind them to keep them going if they have a bad day, if it rains and the guests don’t come, if the dishwasher doesn’t show up to work, if their guests taste s change, if a new operation opens down the street and is giving away the food. I realize that those mom and pop operations are like our family because they have their issues also but will always welcome you into their homes and provide memories that can last a lifetime.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Coffee Cake or Cake for Coffee?

Wikipidia defines Coffee Cake as "A class of cakes intended to be served with coffee or for similar breaks and snacks. Under this definition, a coffee cake does not need to contain coffee. They are typically single layer cakes that may be square or rectangular like a Stollen. Coffee cakes are typically flavored with cinnamon, nuts, and fruits. These cakes sometimes have a crumbly or crumb topping called Streusel and/or a light glaze drizzle."

I think that my Bubby, Grandfather and their brothers and sisters enjoyed their coffee cake with the instant coffee that came out of the red Nescafe jar that was hidden in the back of the cupboard. I always remember that when visiting my grandparents at the older, smaller and more intimate Catskill hotels, there would always be a snack time, be it in the middle of the morning, middle of the afternoon, or after the talent show or the Myron Cohen performance in the "casino." It could be the hottest day on record, but all the guests would regularly venture en- mase to the small kitchen dining room for a cup of steaming hot coffee and some "coffee cake."


So, it was with this knowledge and my desire to make my kids a quick cake for breakfast that I searched all of her baked goods recipes and came upon about 25 with the designation "coffee cake." I chose one without yeast that I felt would take less than an hour from ingredients to enjoyment, and we were not disappointed. Here is what we did, and some variations that I think will improve a delicious treat. This cake turned out incredibly light and airy, with loads of flavor. As a base cake, it will lend itself to a variety of variations as long as you use your imagination and be reasonable.

Butter 1/4 cup (softened)
Sugar 1 cup
Eggs 2 (separated)
Milk 1/2 cup
Vanilla 1/2 teaspoon
Flour 1 1/2 cups
Baking Powder 1 Tablespoon
Salt 1/2 teaspoon

Topping
Butter 1 Tablespoon (melted)
Sugar 1 Tablespoon
Cinnamon 1 teaspoon
Walnuts 1/4 cup (chopped)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 inch round cake pan.
2. Cream butter and eggs together until smooth.
3. Beat egg yolks until smooth and add to butter/sugar mixture and mix together until smooth.
4. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together and mix.
5. Add vanilla to milk.
6. Add dry ingredients to sugar/butter/yolk mixture alternately with milk and beat until smooth.
7. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold whites into mixture until blended. Pour mixture into greased pan.
8. Drizzle melted butter over batter.
9. Mix sugar and cinnamon together until well incorporated and sprinkle over batter and butter. Top with chopped walnuts.
10. Bake for 30 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.

Variations

1. Before baking, top batter with halved Italian Plums and then top with cinnamon Sugar.
2. Before baking, top with other fruits such as fresh peaches, blueberries, apples, or cooked figs.
3. Leave off above toppings and instead top with chocolate, vanilla or cream cheese frosting after baking.
5. Serve with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce.
6. Scoop cake into a trifle bowl and layer with vanilla pudding and canned fruits and top with whipped cream.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cool, Cool Treats For The Lazy Days of Summer

While growing up back in the 1960’s, in the summertime you could always count on a few things.
I usually was shipped off to Candy Mountain Day Camp in New City where I would play softball for 4 hours (sometimes against the local Spring Valley bungalow colonies,) swim twice a day, eat my lunch on a surplus military tin tray. (My kids always roll their eyes when I sing the Candy Mountain theme song to them “Oh the buzzin of the bees and the sugar plum trees, the soda water fountains, where the lemonade springs and the bluebirds sing…at the big rock Candy Mountain….” (a few years ago I took them on a ride to see it as they moaned in the back seats, “Dad, we really don’t care..!”, and found a multi unit upscale condo complex in its place.)
We would always go off on a vacation somewhere, as brief as it may have been sometimes to The Catskill’s, sometimes to Cape Cod, usually never to The Jersey Shore – I’m not sure why, but always to visit Joe and Juliette Tropp on Beach 25th Street in Far Rockaway only 3 houses away from the boardwalk - the little beach bungalows that are now gone would be filled with New York City Jews from Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan who would escape the summer heat for a few weeks and still be in commuting distance to New York City via The A Train. I still remember the great little stands that would sell chow mein in noodle bowls, the greatest hot dogs, French fries, lemonade and beef kebobs, the skee-ball and wheel of fortune stands. It was great clean fun, and no need to worry, you were always safe. Then the demise came about when the neighborhoods started to turn – the boardwalk burned for the insurance money (let’s get out and not lose our shirts!)
My Bubby would always try and make me drink a Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Tonic Soda “It will cool you off Bobby – it’s very refreshing! “ (you either loved it or hated it – I the latter! I was a Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda fan then and Black Cherry fan now.)
And when I would get home from camp, my Bubby would usually ask if I wanted an Egg Cream or a Black and White Ice Cream Soda. Why was it called an Egg Cream if it had no eggs in it? Why was it called a Black and White if it really was brown? Maybe someone can tell me. No matter, this is what I lived for, and still occasionally do (now that I don’t play softball for 4 hours a day anymore.)
Every Jewish neighborhood in New York and New Jersey had a local corner “Candy Shop.” Certainly not like the Dillon’s or mega candy shops of today. I mean a little corner store where you could pick up a paper (the morning paper and the afternoon paper,) a whiffleball, toy soldiers, small plastic cars, a small doll, Sugar Daddy’s, Snicker’s, Junior Mints, Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, Chocolate Babies, Hershey Bars, Necco Mints, those bottle cap drinks in the wax (ulch), or any of the other few original candies that we grew up with. You could get a hamburger or an egg salad sandwich, a couple of eggs in the morning or a cup of coffee (certainly not Starbuck’s or Dunkin) any time of day. It’s where magazines were sold and where I bought my comic books.
The following recipes are simple, but a little too much of this, or not enough of that could spell disaster. Follow My Bubby’s recipes carefully (who would have ever figured that she would have a recipe card with these recipes listed!)

Egg Cream
Chocolate Syrup (MUST BE FOX’S U-BET!) 2 oz..
Milk (whole – I don’t ever recall 1% or 2%) 4 oz.
Seltzer (Fill to rim of glass)
1. In a 12 oz glass, pour chocolate into glass first and mix in milk very well with a spoon. Should be deep brown color.
2. Pour in seltzer water (preferably from a real seltzer bottle with a pump top if you can find one) while continuing to stir with spoon until seltzer fill glass to rim. Do not use a straw – must be consumed so bubbles hit your nose while drinking.

Black and White Ice Cream Soda
Chocolate Syrup (Again, use Fox’s U-Bet) 3 oz.
Milk (whole) 6 oz.
Vanilla ice Cream (recipe specified Breyer’s) 1 Scoop
Seltzer (Fill to rim of glass)
1. In a 16 oz glass, mix milk and chocolate syrup very well with a spoon.
2. Add scoop of vanilla ice cream.
3. Pour in seltzer to rim and stir. Must use a straw and a long ice cream soda spoon to enjoy properly.
4. For ultimate enjoyment, have your egg cream with a rod pretzel (it's like the need for spicy brown mustard with your knish!)

Bonus Recipe – Root Beer Float
I made these the other night for my daughters Kayla, Fallon and Arin, and it reminded me of the old days.
Vanilla Ice Cream 1 Scoop
Root Beer (Must be Dr. Brown’s) 8 oz.
1. In a 12 oz. glass, place a scoop of ice cream on bottom of glass.
2. SLOWLY, fill glass with the root beer, bring to top, let settle a bit and pour more in until all the root beer is in the glass.
3. Enjoy with a spoon and straw.

Seltzer (Also known as 2 Cents Plani)
1. Fill glass with COLD seltzer. Do not add ice.
2. Enjoy!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Is it a Chinese Dumpling or Kreplach?

Growing up in the 60’s, every Jewish neighborhood always had a few musts. It must have: A Jewish Bakery, A Kosher Butcher, A Bagel Shop that stayed open late on Saturday night where you could also get an advanced copy of The Sunday New York Times, a Southern Italian Restaurant (also known as Italian since nobody even knew back then that there was a Northern Italy,) and most importantly, for every Sunday dinner, a Chinese Restaurant. My Bubby’s Chinese Restaurant was the Far East Restaurant in Englewood, NJ.

There were two foreign culinary terms that were foreign to us back then when it came to Chinese food, namely Szechuan and Hunan. Until the early 70’s, Chinese food to us Jews in the NYC area was strictly Cantonese. The little Chinese restaurants dotting the various neighborhoods of the boroughs and surrounding suburbs had neon signs out front proclaiming “Chop Suey.” I don’t think that I ever had chop suey, since I didn’t like the name (I never wanted to eat “suey” and I certainly didn’t want mine chopped.) But, there were a few staples that my parents and Bubby taught me to eat (since they were the only things ever ordered. They included: egg roll, won ton soup, egg drop soup, chicken chow mein with white rice and noodles (to be put over and under the chow mein respectively,) fried rice, fortune cookies and pistachio ice cream. If my father had a good week, they might have treated us to shrimp with lobster sauce, but that was the extent of the splurge. Although the menu was a bit more varied (sweet and sour chicken, egg foo young, moo goo gai pan, beef with Chinese vegetables, etc,) we had never yet heard of items like General Tso’s chicken, orange beef, scallion pancakes, hot and sour soup.
So with this in mind, we set off this past Saturday night with our 4 kids, Kayla, Fallon, Arin and Jacob to Chinatown in NYC to do a dine-around. The rules were: 1. No more than one course at any restaurant; 2. No place where we had ever eaten before; 3. should be as close to Cantonese (with a twist) as my wife Mary Ann and I could remember; and 4. Try to keep the price to no more that $10 per venue. So, dealing with the 24 hour wall-to-wall traffic on Canal Street, our journey began.

First stop: Mei Li Wah Bakery at 62 Bayard Street for Chinese “Buns” and “Shumais.” At first a little skeptical about entering, the place was packed and the steamed buns were as good as anything I have ever had. 1 bun could have fed 1 person for a day. We split 3 (2 chicken and 1 custard - $.80 each!) Had an order of chicken Shumai dumplings (slightly rubbery with a great tasty filling) served with an outrageous spicy Sirachi sauce and an order of beef fried rice (a little tasteless and dry.) We were on our way, and the cost: $12.50.
Second stop: Prosperity Dumplings – 46 Eldridge Street in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge. If I was slightly skeptical about the first place, I was definitely totally apprehensive about this place. 5 stools, windows that probably hadn’t been washed since I was eating from Cantonese “Chop Suey” joints in the 60’s, and an interesting clientele. But we were here, so, let’s do it! Menu printed on the wall, ordered 3 types of steamed dumplings and 1 order of sesame pancakes. The outcome? I plan on doing the take home frozen pack next time I’m anywhere in the area. For $7.00, we received 27 steamed and pan-fried chicken and vegetarian dumplings, and one of the best hand-held scallion pancakes ever! Could have used some dumpling sauce, but terrific anyway.

So far, we are up to $19.50, and we were full. Enough Chinese already! Ended up at the famous Magnolia Bakery at 401 Bleeker Street and spent over $25 on fabulous cupcakes and a couple of brownies. That’s what happens when you try to go out on a budget and save money.

Is a Chinese dumpling the same as Kreplach? To my Bubby, absolutely not!! It wasn’t even a discussion and shame on me for bringing up dumpling in the same sentence as light as air kreplach. Well, maybe it wasn’t the lightest thing around, but they certainly did melt in your mouth! Here is my Bubby’s Kreplach recipe and a couple of ways to make it suitable for eating in 2010.

Bubby’s Kreplach (makes 25-30)
Filling:
Vegetable Oil 1 Tablespoon
Chopped Meat ½ Lb.
Onions (chopped) ½ Cup
Salt (Kosher) ½ teaspoon
Ground Pepper ¼ teaspoon
Method:
1. Combine ingredients well in a mixing bowl.
2. In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook mixture stirring occasionally to break up for 10 minutes until browned.
3. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Pastry Dough:
All purpose flour 2 cups
Eggs 2 each
Water 1 Tablespoon
Salt ½ teaspoon
Method:
1. Combine all ingredients and form into a ball. Place on a floured surface and knead about 5 minutes until smooth.
2. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rest about 1 hour.
3. On a floured surface, roll dough very thin (1/2 inch) and cut into 1 inch squares
4. Place scant 1 teaspoon on each square, moisten all edges of square with water, and fold over to form a triangle. Press edges together to seal, and crimp with a fork.
5. Cook in boiling salted water (or in chicken soup) for about 20 minutes.
6. Remove from boiling water with a slotted spoon. Filling Alternatives
Kreplach/Dumpling Alternatives
1. Asian slaw (vegetarian) Kreplach – combine 1 head of very thin sliced napa cabbage with chopped scallions and chopped jalapenos. Cover with 3 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar and 3 Tablespoons of sugar that have been brought to a boil together and cooled, and then combined with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise and ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper. Fill dough per above recipe. Good in soup or suggested dipping with Chinese mustard and duck sauce, or a Peter Luger Steak Sauce (contains horseradish).
2. Chicken Dijon Kreplach – Saute ½ lb of ground chicken with 2 chopped scallions and ½ teaspoon chopped garlic in a pan until cooked through. Add 1 tsp of Dijon mustard and ¼ teaspoon of soy sauce and continue to cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Fill dough per above recipe. Good in chicken soup or suggested topping with balsamic mayonnaise (1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar mixed with ½ cup mayonnaise, salt and pepper.)

3. Barbecue Beef Kreplach – Sauté ½ lb of ground beef with ½ cup of finely chopped onions in a pan until thoroughly cooked. Combine with ¼ cup barbecue sauce and continue to cook for 5 minutes over low heat. Season with salt and pepper. Fill dough per above recipe. Good in soup or suggested topping with additional barbecue sauce.

I know that Bubby would have definitely raised her eyebrows at these alternatives, but would have complained a bit, given me a guilt trip about stepping ahead of tradition, and then smiled and said, “That’s my Bobby the Chef!”

Friday, July 9, 2010

Oy, It's Too Hot To Eat!!...Are You hungry??

Certainly, the heat will make you lethargic, tired, lazy, and can also diminish your appetite. But have you ever met a Jew not ready for the next meal? That's the way it was at Bubby's house. Once one meal was over, preparation began for the next. It was a 24/7 feeding frenzy (even before the term 24/7 was in-vogue.) Besides cereal for breakfast (if you recall, there was only Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, Special K, Raisin Bran, and a small handful of others), on a hot day, you had to cook fast since the term air conditioning wasn't in our vocabulary (similar to color TV - we were lucky we had a black and white - big cabinet, huge knob, tiny screen.)

One recipe that comes to mind and that my children love is Apple and Banana Schmarren. Besides coming from Germany/Austria, and meaning "rubbish," Schmarren also means "pancake cut up into small pieces." It was one of the first breakfast meals I remember since it was pre-cut for me before I learned to use a knife. Sweet and filling. I have found a similar recipe coming from The Art of Jewish Cooking by Jennie Grossinger, but hers had no bananas. And if I recall, Schmarren was a staple on Catskill hotel menus during the week when there were generally less guests and more time for the cooks to concentrate on individual dishes.

Here's how to do it for 4 people:

Flour 1 Cup
Sugar 1/2 Cup
Baking Powder 1/2 teaspoon
Salt 1/4 teaspoon
Eggs 2 each
Milk 1 1/4 Cups
Vanilla Extract 1 teaspoon
Sliced Apples 1 Cup
Sliced Bananas 1 Cup
Butter 2 Tablespoons
Sugar 1/4 Cup
Cinnamon 1 Tablespoon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large mixing bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
3. In a smaller mixing bowl, mix the eggs, milk and vanilla together and then pour into dry flour mixture. Beat with a wire whisk until smooth and all lumps disappear.
4. Add apples and bananas to mixture and stir to coat.
5. Melt the butter in a 9 inch oven proof skillet (preferably non-stick) and pour the apple mixture into it.
6. Bake for 15 minutes, or until pancake is set, and no longer wet inside.
7. In a small dish, mix together sugar and cinnamon.
8. Tear apart pancake with 2 forks into small pieces and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Pancake may also be served with strawberry jam or maple syrup.

Easy, quick and delicious. My kids love it (even though the first time they saw it, they all wondered why I was cutting up their food again.) They are on their way home from the Lady GaGa concert at The Today Show in NYC this morning (they left the house at 4AM with Mary Ann.) And this is what will be waiting for them to eat before they sleep the rest of this hazy, hot and humid day away. I should turn off the AC, just for old time's sake!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cold Fruit Soup - Round 2

So, if you are following the fruit soup saga, here is where we're at. After a very successful first try yesterday, Mary Ann went and bought more fresh fruit today, namely plums, peaches and cherries. The summer fruit around here (Northern NJ), even from the supermarket, has been outstanding this summer (must be the over-wet early spring, and the over-hot and dry late spring/early summer!) I made the recipe again but this time, instead of using the foodmill along with corn starch, I used a blender to puree and added no starch. The extra pulp from the skins made the soup thick. I added a little more sugar this time as well.

The results? The orignial recipe won out. The particulate of the fruit from using the food mill made the soup a little more viscous and had more flavor depth to it. The sugar also made the soup slightly too sweet, almost dessert like (which we should explore at another time.) But, in trying to come up with some other uses for the soup as is, a great use is as a sauce over a grilled chicken. My recommendation would be to leave some of the chunks of fruit on the side prior to using the foodmill and then add the chunks back into the sauce prior to service. This add a little more texture to the sauce. Absolutely fabulous tonight with a mixed green salad with a garlic balsamic dressing and a buttery Chalk Hill chardonnay. All in all this recipes only takes 30 minutes and is a healthy way to get the kids to eat summer fruits in a new way! Jacob, my 11 year old pickiest-eater-on-the-planet tried it and nodded his approval. I wonder if there was a child at the table back in 1957 who turned their back at this soup? I'll have to ask my brother Alan.

So, this time, Bubby's recipe won out. Sometimes, you can't teach an old dog new tricks! Stay tuned for some other great summertime recipes that I'm sure were also well tested by Bubby at the Bungalow Colony in The Catskills.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I Chose the Wrong Recipe!

So, my wife Mary Ann said to me, "What are you waiting for? Pick a recipe already!" I guess it was the heat that led to my procrastination. So, I chose one of my bubby's metal boxes (the one with the blue top and the red, white and yellow checkered bottom) holding the 3x5" hand written and typed recipe cards, stuck my hand in and pulled out a yellowing and fragile random card. I was excited with anticipation. My palm was slightly damp with the thought that I would go out to the store, get my ingredients, set up my mise-en-place (culinary term for putting everything in order before starting to cook,) and begin the creation process - just as my grandmother had done 100 years ago. Let's see just how good the old girl was at detailing her recipes for a future generation when all she did was add a pinch of this, a smattering of that, and a bit or 2 of something else. Very scientific!

I looked a the card and it said, "Chulant" on it. What was Chulant? I had heard the name, and had probably eaten it but it was so long ago. So I went to my culinary encyclopedias and found the spelling is actually "Cholant" with an"o" and it's actually boiled beef (that's been boiled to death!) It is a traditional Jewish stew that is simmered overnight, for 12 hours or more, (12 hours? Are we cooking a Florsheim Shoe?) and eaten for lunch on the Sabbath. Cholent was developed conforming to Orthodox Jewish laws which prohibit cooking on Shabbat (or Shabbas which my bubby used to call it.) The way it works is that the pot is brought to boil on Friday before Shabbas starts, and kept on a simmer until the following day. It's usually made with a cut of meat like Flunkin (side cut short ribs,) chicken fat, potatoes, barley and a vegetable, like lima beans.

I don't think this is going to work. It's Tuesday July 6th, 2010. We've just set a record about 2 hours ago as the hottest day on record in New Jersey at about 105 degrees, and I'm going to cook a shoe in a boiling pot for the next 24 hours? Maybe not! Let's move on to something cooler.

I stuck my hand back in and pulled out a winner this time, perfect for the hottest day of the year, reminding me of Bubby's on a summer Saturday afternoon for lunch, and also of the gargantuan lunch meals at Grossinger's in the Borscht Belt Catskills, or at Ratner's Dairy Restaurant on Delancy Street in NYC. The recipe was "Cold Fruit Soup." When was the last time you had this recipe? For me, honestly, it's been way too long! When I was younger, I wouldn't have tried it because fruit is not supposed to be made into soup. Fruit is something you eat whole, sliced, chunked into fruit salad, looked at as garnish to dress up a plate, etc. So, I finally had grown up enough to try this one. Here is her recipe which serves 6:

Sliced Pitted Peaches 1 cup
Sliced Pitted Plums 1 cup
Pitted Fresh Red Cherries 2 cups
Water 6 cups
Sugar 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons
Salt 1/2 teaspoon
Cinnamon (ground) 1 teaspoon
Allspice (ground) 1/4 teaspoon
Cornstarch 2 Tablespoons
Sour cream 6 Tablespoons (for garnish)

1. Combine the fruit, water, sugar, salt, cinnamon and Allspice in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer and cook while occasionally stirring for about 15 minutes until fruit has broken down.
2. Place fruit mixture through a ricer or food mill, and strain completely into another pot.
3. Place pot back onto stove and bring to a simmer. Mix cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water and stir into fruit mixture. Cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes while stirring often until soup thickens.
4. Bring to room temperature and then let chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.
5. Plate into 6 soup bowls and serve with a Tablespoon of sour cream dolloped on top of soup.

The results: Much better than I expected (since I don't really remember what I had tasted in the past.) The final product was thick, and velvety (complements of the cornstarch,) probably could take down the sugar just a little (I'd probably remove a Tablespoon), mixed well with the sour cream for a very refreshing flavor. Overall, it was a winner, and perfect for the rest of the week while forecast continues to call for temperatures in the 90's with high humidity. Enjoy!

Let me know your thoughts, and your memories and recipes of Cold Fruit Soup from your past. Also, if there is a particular recipe you'd like me to research and prepare, please let me know.

Stay tuned...the first test will be my children's reaction to this recipe. Then I will tweak the recipe for today's palate and show some alternate usages. Stay cool!