Sunday, July 17, 2016

Papa's Caesar Salad


Papa's Caesar Salad (added recipes - and political cartoons - are forthcoming):

     This version of Caesar salad is a big hit and is often requested at pot lucks. Papa generally doubles the recipe for such occasions.

Ingredients : 1/2 large head of romaine lettuce, 1/4 baguette or crusty Italian bread, olive oil(extra virgin), 2 fresh garlic cloves, fresh lemon, salt, mayo (we use either Hellman's or our homemade  vegan mayo - recipe for vegan mayo at end of this recipe), Parmesan cheese, and avocado (optional )     

Procedure
1. Prepare croutons: cut bread into 1/2 inch pieces, crust and all. You will have about 1 1/2 to 2 cups bread.  In a skillet warm 1 tablespoon olive oil, add one clove garlic (either minced or crushed ). As soon as garlic begins to color, add the croutons. Mix around until croutons are mixed in with the garlic and oil. Place in preheated 375 degree oven and bake until toasty, 10-15 minutes.  Let cool.
2. Thoroughly rinse 1/2 head of large romaine lettuce.  Spin or towel dry.  Tear into medium pieces into salad bowl.
3. Dressing : whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, juice of one fresh lemon, with 1/2 teaspoon salt (and optionally a half teaspoon of wine vinegar); then whisk in 2 tablespoon of mayo.  (You can substitute the vegan homemade mayo  which will be in a recipe following this one).
4. Grate  1/4 cup parmesan cheese,medium size on grater (i.e. not too fine).
5.Avocado-this is optional, but not to papa, who uses about 1/2 of an avocado, sliced  into pieces, and puts the pieces directly into the dressing until he is ready to serve.
6. To serve: Toss salad with the dressing (and avacado, if using), then toss with the croutons and Parmesan cheese.  Eat soon after tossing.

Homemade Vegan Mayo


     I had stopped making mayo for the same reason I don't use raw eggs in my chocolate mousse-the possibility of salmonella et al.  So when I discovered a healthy alternative, made with the liquid of canned garbanzo beans, I tried it, loved it, and nobody could tell the difference between this mayo and my usual  brand Hellman's(which I believe is still called "Best Foods" in the western United States.)
Only one problem: an immersion blender is needed for this recipe.

Vegan Mayo
15 oz. can of garbanzos(chickpeas)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teas salt, preferably sea salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup vegetable oil (I generally use safflower oil)

  1. Reserve the liquid from the drained chickpeas.  The chickpeas you can save for another use such as salads  or hummus.
  2. Measure 1/4 cup of this liquid into your immersion blender container.  This liquid is  called "aquafaba" (Latin words for water and bean). Use a little less liquid if your first batch comes out too thin for your taste.
  3. Add lemon juice, salt, mustard and mix with immersion blender to combine.
  4. With blender running, add your oil in a slow,steady stream.  This process will take four or five minutes to emulsify and thicken.
  5. I now put my mayo in a glass jar and refrigerate it.  How long does it last?  Good question.  I used a two week old batch yesterday for deviled eggs and it was as good as fresh made.   

Monday, March 7, 2016

Five Political Cartoons

Here are five cartoons by Mama Metafora. About the first, some Sanders supporters were concerned about my presenting Hillary Clinton as President. I'm a staunch believer in the secret ballot and am not here disclosing my preference, but cartoonists are often realistic and I expect her to be the Democratic nominee. Of course, the point of the cartoon is that a Democrat wins the 2016 election.






Sunday, February 28, 2016

Choreg, Armenian Easter Bread: Great Anytime


      I love egg based breads, whether it be Jewish challah, French brioche, tsoureki tou paska (Greek Easter bread), or the Italian pane di Pasqua - all are delicious.  My earliest memories of egg bread go back to earliest childhood and Armenian Choreg, which would be my memories answer to Proust's madeleines, such an iconic memory are these small braided sweetbreads to me.  Of course my mom and aunt made the best Choreg in California - of course.  Though made with yeast, this is a more time-consuming recipe, than it is difficult.  I usually bring the dough to the first rising, then divide the dough in half, freezing it for future baking.

Choreg

Ingredients 
4 cups(plus) unbleached flour (these doughs always need more or less flour  
    depending on the flour)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground mahlab (optional). But I love the flavor of this spice from the 
   kernel of the black cherry stone with its sweet fragrance.  Available at
   Middle East markets.  Keep in freezer to ensure freshness.
2/3 cup milk, low fat, 1 or 2 percent is fine.
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast (preferably not rapid rise - it's usually the amount in one 
      individual package)
1/4 cup warm (not hot) water mixed with 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Note: depending on my energy level I mix my choreg either  by hand(high energy) or for lower energy days, in my mixer (I have a kitchen aid), starting with the paddle attachment then changing to the dough hook after about half of the flour has been added.  Even with the mixer a few minutes of hand kneading with a bit of bench flour is necessary.
  1. In large bowl whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and Mahlab (if using); set aside.
  2. Heat milk in saucepan, then add butter until melted.  Cool to lukewarm.
  3. Proof yeast: in measuring cup mix 1/4 cup warm water with 1/2 teaspoon sugar.  Sprinkle yeast over water.  After a minute or so mix yeast in with fork and set in a warmish place.  Should start rising within several minutes.
  4. Whisk eggs in large bowl.  Add milk-butter mixture.  While mixture is luke warm, add the proofed yeast (sometimes the yeast doesn't rise, so you need to do step 3 again - it's rare, happened only twice in my 55 years of baking).
  5. Add the flour-sugar mixture about a cup at a time until dough no longer can absorb the flour.  Transfer dough to a lightly floured board and knead adding flour until dough is no longer sticky.  Some judgement needed here, since this dough will not be as dry as most bread doughs lacking butter and eggs.
  6. Place dough in a large buttered bowl, cover with towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about two hours.
  7. "Punch " down the dough.  If dough feels too sticky at this point, knead in more flour, a little at a time.  As mentioned above, I immediately freeze half the dough for use in the next three  months. (When ready to use, simply thaw out the dough and proceed as follows).
  8. On lightly floured board, pinch off enough dough to make balls approximately 2 1/2 inches in circumference. Roll each ball into rope shape approximately index finger width (about ten inches long).  Then make a simple two strand braid (see picture above). Place each braid on parchment lined cookie sheet (the heavier insulated cookie sheets such as cushion-aire, work best since they keep the bottoms from browning too much.)  Continue making the braids, placing them a couple of inches apart, they double in size from the yeast action.  Repeat using another parchment-lined cookie sheet until the dough is used up. (Any extra dough can also be covered and refrigerated for a couple of days.) Now follow the next stage for second rising:
  1. Cover Choregs with tea towel for second rising.  This usually takes about 45 minutes, so after a half hour of rising time, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix one egg yolk with a tablespoon of water and gently brush over the raised choregs just before putting cookie sheet in oven. (You can chill second cookie sheet in fridge so it stops rising while first batch bakes.)
  3. Bake for eight minutes, then turn the cookie sheet around in oven to ensure even baking.  Bake an additional 7 minutes or more until the Choregs are light golden brown.  Bake second cookie sheet in same way.  Let cool for five minutes on sheet, then transfer Choregs to wire rack to cool.  Eat that same day.  Any choreg left over should be frozen, since they are not as wonderful the next day.  Enjoy with tea, coffee, or as bread with a meal.
Note: for this type of recipe, or any baking you do, I highly recommend an oven thermometer which can be affordable - some good ones are $10.  My oven was 25 degrees too low, while my former stove was 50 degrees too high.  It happens.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Poppy seed "thumbprint" cookies with lemon curd filling


 Why Didn't You Make More Cookies ?
         
         With any wonderful new recipe there seems to be a story.  This started with two ingredients.  The first were Meyer lemons, plump juicy ones, my oldest (not oldest in age, but oldest in time known) friend Janeen sent me from Chico, California.  The second were poppy seeds I bought on a trip to our local Penzey's (a wonderful spice and herb store).  Magic happened when I combined my favorite thumbprint cookies with the poppy seeds and substituted home made lemon curd for the jam, using the Meyer lemons.  Everywhere I serve these cookies huge raves follow.  The Meyer lemons are long gone but regular lemons work very nicely, though you may need more of them, since they are less juicy.  Perhaps you have an excellent lemon curd that you purchase, and it would probably work well too. I make enough to freeze since these cookies freeze very well.

Thumbprint Cookies
         Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Ungreased cookie sheets.  Yield: 48 cookies
2 cups flour (gently spooned into measuring cup to avoid too tightly packing the flour)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter(2 sticks) - bossy tip: nothing but butter for the great taste. Room 
   temperature.
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup poppy seeds (I keep these in the freezer to ensure freshness along with other 
       seeds and nuts).
  1. Combine flour and salt in small bowl, I use whisk to mix thoroughly.
  2. Cream butter and sugar  until light and fluffy.
  3. Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time. 
  4. Gently mix in poppy seeds
  5. At this point I usually freeze half the dough unless I need a large batch of cookies.
  6. Shape dough into one inch balls, spacing the cookies 2 inches apart on 
       ungreased cookie sheet.
   7. Bake for 5 minutes, remove from oven and make thumbprint in center of each 
       cookie.  Clever tip: cover regular sized wine cork tightly with foil and use cork to 
       make  "thumbprint".  Rinsed off cork can be used again and again.
    8. Return cookies to oven and bake a total of 15 to 20 minutes, turning cookie sheet
         around 1/2 way to ensure even baking. When cookies are golden, remove from 
         oven and cool on wire rack.  
     9. When cookies are completely cooled fill each cookie with lemon curd.  Keep  
          well wrapped in fridge until serving time.  I do this since the lemon curd contains 
         eggs.  If using jam instead, the cookies can be kept at room temperature.(Papa 
         Metafora also loves these cookies filled with apricot jam when there is no lemon
          curd.)

Homemade Lemon Curd
    Basically this is a "Joy of Cooking" recipe, still a bit of a bible for many basic recipes. As mentioned above I was lucky enough to have the wonderfully flavorful and juicy Meyer lemons on hand, a gift from my dear friend, Janeen. Regular lemons will work just fine.

3 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
Lemon zest, grated from one lemon
  1. Whisk the above ingredients together in medium sized stainless steel saucepan until light in color.     Then, Add:
  2. 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, strained.
  3. 3/4 stick unsalted butter (6 tablespoons), cut in small pieces.
  4. Place the saucepan over medium heat until the butter is melted.
  5. Then whisk constantly until mixture thickens and simmer gently a few seconds. Longer simmering could curdle the eggs, don't want that!
  6. Scrape the filling using spatula into medium -mesh sieve placed over a bowl. Let cool, cover and refrigerate until ready to fill cookies.
  7. When cookies are completely cool fill evenly with the chilled lemon curd.  May need a small metal spatula to even top.
  8. Taste one with tea or coffee.  Very yummy! 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Recipes for Delicious Kufta, bouglur pilaff, and sauteed peppers

    In mid-February, here in Cleveland, the temperature was 11 degrees.  The wind-chill factor made it minus 11 degrees.  A good time for comfort food.  So I made Izmir kufta.  Izmir, Turkey's third largest city, was known as Smyrna, the Ancient Greek city. 
Mom's Izmir  kufta was a childhood favorite.  Served with pilaffe, either bouglur or rice, and green salad it is a great,affordable meal.  In the early fifties in the Central Valley of California, only a few friends of my parents had swimming pools. (Now pools are everywhere.). Their friends, the Karyians, not only had a pool but a large beach house alongside.  It was a favorite destination  in those hot valley days of summer. Not only the pool lured but the excellent food Roxie Karyians prepared.  She had actually lived in Izmir, so I looked forward to eating her kufta in the beach house. (A good summertime meal too.). I was a child who loved food, often the more exotic, the better.  So when Roxie passed around the platter of her kufta,  I took a large helping.  
These must be wonderful I thought since they were made by a native from Izmir.  One bite was a huge disappointment.  It tasted way over spiced, nothing like mom's more subtle approach.   Took another bite, then left the rest on my plate.  No one noticed. Wish I could taste them today, probably would love them now.
     I use ground turkey  or chicken with a little fat instead of the ground lamb or beef that Armenians would have used in my childhood.  I don't feel the change compromises the dish.  I use as little red meat as possible, for health reasons.

Izmir Kufta (also called soutzoukakia in Greek)
                           Serves 4 to 6
1 pound ground turkey or chicken
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs (panko works well)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice 
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1 teaspoon salt(kosher preferred)
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper, about 3/4 teaspoon 
1 large egg
1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley 

Two tablespoons olive oil 

Tomato sauce 
14.5 ounce can tomatoes,finely diced or crushed by hand
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup water

  1. Whisk egg lightly.  Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the olive oil.
  2. Mix well, I use my hands.
  3. Pat into ovals, shaped like tapered teardrops.  The recipe should yield 25 to 30 little kuftas.
  4. Heat oil in large heavy skillet.  Sauté half the kuftas at a time. 5 minutes on each side.  I find them easier to turn over by taking the skillet off the heat for two or three minutes.  Remove to plate and sauté second batch in the same way. Remove second batch to plate.
  5. Deglaze the pan.  I usually use 1/4 cup water, but chicken broth or white wine works well too.
  6. Return all the kuftas to the pan.  Mix all the tomato sauce ingredients together and add to skillet.  
  7. Bring to slow simmer.  Cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes. Check after 15 minutes to see if more water(1/4 to 1/2 cup needs to be added.  Should be saucy, not dry.

Delicious with pilaffe, rice or bouglur,or with couscous.  My favorite is my mom's simple bouglur pilaffe.  It is whole grain wheat and very healthy.
Simple bouglur pilaffe: sauté one small finely chopped yellow onion or shallot in a tablespoon of olive oil in smallish saucepan. Add one teaspoon dried mint.  Can use a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh mint,but still use a half teaspoon dried with the fresh for that certain flavor. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt, freshly ground pepper, and one cup bouglur,coarse or medium (not the fine tabouleh bouglur).  Mix ingredients together over low heat a minute or so.  Add two cups water, increase heat and bring to boil.  Turn heat down to simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.  Fluff with fork and serve with the Izmir kuftas.  I serve side by side, but kufta on top of pilaffe is an option.

Quick sauté of peppers
     When small sweet peppers are on sale, they are a wonderful addition to the kufta 
dinner.  My sister-in-law Josette, an exceptional cook, makes the most wonderful peppers.  She roasts small curly ones that she can find at California's farmer's markets.  I can't find those peppers here in the east, so I have to rely on my local super market or Trader Joe's.  I like spicy, so sometimes I throw in a few jalapeño or Fresno chilies.  This is quick and easy and can go with so many meals. 

One pound little peppers, red and yellow
A couple of hot peppers-optional 
Two tablespoon olive oil (extra virgin works well)
Sea salt
Aleppo pepper, optional 

1.Prepare peppers by washing,cut off tops, and take out seeds and white plup.  A demitasse spoon works well.  Dry off peppers on paper towel.
2.Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat.  Add peppers carefully so you won't be splattered by the hot oil.  Sauté ,stirring off an on, for about four minutes. Crispy
Is the desired result.
3.Line a platter with paper towels.  Transfer the peppers to the platter,using a slotted spoon.sprinkle with sea salt.  If you like a little heat add some Aleppo pepper.  Discard the paper towels a serve,hot or room temperature.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Art Show of paintings by Jeanette Arax Melnick - here's a video and a Plain Dealer news story about it.

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Here's a link to the YouTube video about the paintings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40YY0m6yyaw .

Beachwood artist explores Armenia, geometry, Sid Vicious and folk art in exhibit

zz art lowres.jpg
Art is always personal. But it goes beyond that in the case of Jeanette Arax Melnick, who will exhibit her works at the Beachwood Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library. (John Petkovic/The Plain Dealer)
John Petkovic, The Plain DealerBy John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on December 03, 2015 at 2:15 PM, updated December 03, 2015 at 2:35 PM
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CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Art is always personal. But it goes beyond that in the case of Jeanette Arax Melnick.
Yes, there is a personal side in works by the Beachwood artist, who will exhibit her paintings at the Beachwood Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library during the month of December.
(The show opens at 2 p.m. Sunday at the library, 25501 Shaker Blvd, Cleveland. For more info, go to cuyahogalibrary.org/Branches/Beachwood.aspx or call 216-831-6868.)
You can see it in "The Quince Tree," a work that was inspired by a photo of her and her father, taken when she was a little girl, in 1946. The photo is in the work itself, along with photos of her grandchildren, children and husband.
But her relationship with the world is as much spatial one – in which she absorbs aspects of it through the senses or through patterns rather than just the heart or mind.
"Sometimes I just look at the world and see all these geometric shapes and I see aspects of my paintings in them," says Arax Melnick. "Like right now I'm sitting in a room looking at pillows or I could be looking at an oriental carpet and finding interesting patterns."
There is little pattern when it comes to divining the Fresno, Ca. native's style – which shoehorns folk art and "museum type art," as she likes to say.
"Art was always my companion and I never sought out to follow a particular style or painter," she says. "I started to study painting at (University of California, Berkley), but I switched to history because I realized that I wanted to be my own painter."
She delved into medieval history, along with the "flatness" found in its art.  She has created in the shadows of a family history that extends back to the Armenian genocide of 1915 – which led to her family settling in California.
"Armenian history is very complicated, especially with Turkey denying the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians," says Arax Melnick, whose husband Daniel Melnick recently released a novel that honors the memory of the genocide. "And yet that complication has given me a feeling for the suffering of all mankind."
"As a child, I was inspired looking at old Armenian manuscripts and seeing these people with big brown eyes and soulful looks," she adds. "They look like they've suffered and yet survive and go on."
Sid Vicious -- the English punk from a much later time, 1970s London – captivated her in a very different way.
zz art 2 lowres.jpg"Sid Vicious," one of works by Jeanette Arax Melnick that will be on display at the Beachwood Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library. 
"I never listened to his music, though I know Aaron and Lennie have," says Arax Melnick, referring to her sons, co-founders of legendaryCleveland hardcore band Integrity. "I just loved his face and the zippers."
For years, the painting hung at the old Arabica on Coventry. Arax Melnick received a number of offers for it, but chose to hold onto it.
"It's hard to give up on that Sid Vicious," she says. "I've never looked at the money side of it."
It's all matter of perspective, even when it comes to art.
"I tend to avoid perspective and I think it's given my work a certain character," she says. "I'll have a table that looks like it's floating and could see it as an illusion, but to me it's just how I see it and see the world. So I guess you could say the world is an illusion, too."

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mustard Chicken and Sweet Potato Fries


Quick meal for family and friends
        Oh dear, friends coming for lunch on the same day an appraiser comes to look over our condo.  Straightening up and cooking at the same time.  Out go my plans for a fancy lunch, in comes an old standby which we also have at dinner. It's quick,easy, and perfect with a green salad and bread.  Mustard chicken, which I greatly simplified from an old Julia Child's recipe - and oven sweet potato fries.

Mustard Chicken
       A whole chicken cut up in parts, or 6 chicken thighs, or 6 chicken breasts, or a 
             combination of favorites (skin or without, as you prefer)
       1 cup Dijon mustard mixed with 2 tablespoons water
        I cup bread crumbs(we like fresh  breadcrumbs so I simply toast some wheat bread and  
               process it or grate it to crumbs)
  1. Lightly salt and pepper your chicken
  2. Place in metal baking sheet ( lining with foil makes it easier for cleanup.
  3. Place chicken pieces upside down in pan.  Put half the mustard over the pieces. Turn pieces over and cover with the remaining mustard.
  4. Sprinkle the bread crumbs all over the chicken.
  5. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for about 35 minutes. 
         Yum


Oven roasted Sweet Potatoes Fries
      4 medium sweet potatoes
       3 tablespoons olive oil
        Salt, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon Rosemary dried ( Rosemary optional; a bit of 
               cayenne if desired)
1.Peel and cut potatoes lengthwise, 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick pieces.
2.Put the potatoes on parchment lined rimmed cookie sheet (can omit parchment).
3.Drizzle with olive oil, then I mix with my hands. Best to have one layer of potatoes.
    Season with salt and pepper to taste, adding rosemary and cayenne, if desired.
  4.Bake in 425 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until fork tender.
       Very yummy, even for people who don't ordinarily like sweet potatoes (which are often sold as yams at the food market).