Archive for February, 2010

Hamentaschen Drawing

Monday, February 8th, 2010
(Courtesy of

(Courtesy of

Purim is almost upon us, and the nice folks at have offered to send a tin of gourmet Hamentaschen to one of my blog readers or Twitter followers.
I highly recommend the holiday of Purim to those of you who are unfamiliar with it. It may well be the most joyous holiday in the Jewish calendar.
It celebrates one of the relatively few heroines in the Bible—Queen Esther of Persia. Here’s a brief rundown of her story:
A young Jewish girl in the fourth century B.C.E., Esther won a beauty pageant held by King Ahasuerus (a.k.a. Xerxes), who was looking for a new wife. He had executed the previous one in a fit of pique. He replaced her with Esther.
Esther’s cousin and former guardian, Mordecai, warned her not to reveal to the king that she was Jewish. Living in exile in Persia, the Jews were often subjected to anti-Semitism.
The king’s evil counselor, Haman, took offense when Mordecai refused to bow down to him and arranged to have all the Jews in the country killed. Esther went to the king and revealed her identity. This act took great courage, given the fate of her predecessor. Esther pulled it off, however.
In the end, the horrible Haman was hanged at the gallows he had erected for Mordecai. Esther and the Jewish people were given permission to defend themselves against their enemies. Jews in Persia held a HUGE party to celebrate their brave, beautiful queen and their enhanced status.
To commemorate Esther’s resourcefulness Jewish people party on Purim. It’s a time for dressing up in costumes and playing pranks. It’s also a time for giving to the needy and for exchanging gifts of food. And it’s a time for getting drunk—or at least for seeing the world from a new, youthful perspective. 
"Esther" by John Everett Millais (Courtesy of the Tate Online)

"Esther" by John Everett Millais (Courtesy of the Tate Online)

Hamentaschen are a sweet Purim treat. I’ve loved them all my life. They rank somewhere between a cookie and a small cake in bakeries. They are triangular (some say to mimic the shape of nasty Haman’s tricorn hat). And they’re enhanced with poppy seed or fruit filling.

As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, Hamentaschen are occasionally filled with and/or covered with chocolate in our chocoholic culture!
I’ll be posting a traditional Hamentaschen recipe soon. Meanwhile, I encourage you to enter the drawing from Here’s what you have to do:
Leave a comment on this blog or post a tweet from now through this coming Friday, February 12. I’ll cut off entries at midnight EST.
The comment or tweet should contain two pieces of information.
First, it should tell me what YOUR favorite food holiday—religious or non-religious—is.
Second, it should provide a link to the web site. Find something on the site that intrigues you—a recipe, a product (they have tasty foods available year round, not just for Purim!), a piece of information about a Jewish holiday.
If you choose to tweet rather than post a comment here, please send a tweet to me (remember, my Twitter name is LaTinque) so I won’t miss your contribution!
Next Monday, February 15, I will randomly select a winner from the comments and tweets. will send that lucky person the tin of Hamentaschen. It should arrive in plenty of time to help you usher in Purim on February 28.
As they said of Levy’s rye bread, you don’t have to be Jewish to love Hamentaschen!
While you’re thinking about your comment and/or tweet, you might like to try this recipe from’s Chef Jamie Geller.
Jamie has provided several recipes that enable readers to consume alcohol during Purim without getting drunk. She calls them her “saucy” selections. This soup will enable you to celebrate this holiday without going overboard.
I look forward to reading your comments……
Jamie's Soup (Courtesy of

Jamie's Soup (Courtesy of

Kosher Italian Bean Soup
(Courtesy of and Jamie Geller)
1 medium onion, quartered
6 cups water
3 cups Imagine Organic No-Chicken (or Vegetable) Broth
3/4 cup dry red wine
1 (14.5-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can white beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
10 baby carrots
10 baby zucchini
1 frozen crushed garlic cube
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
Place all ingredients in a 6-quart stockpot. Cover and bring to a boil.
Reduce the soup to a simmer and cook it uncovered for 18 to 20 minutes.
Ladle into bowls and serve. Serves 8. 
Jamie Geller (Courtesy of

Jamie Geller (Courtesy of

If you enjoyed this post, please consider taking out an email subscription to my blog. Just click on the link below!

Subscribe to In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens by Email.

Slightly Spicy Super Popcorn

Friday, February 5th, 2010
From left to right: Jackson, Michael, and Benjamin at the stove

From left to right: Jackson, Michael, and Benjamin at the stove

I’m getting ready for Game Day.
I’m not a football person; I’ve never actually understood the appeal of this particular sport. I get tennis. I get baseball. I get hockey. I even get golf (a good excuse for walking). I especially get bridge. But guys running up and down the field in those huge pads and jumping on each other…?
Nevertheless, as a lover of popular culture I view the NFL’s big display every year. I can’t resist the spectacle of it all—the halftime show, the brand-new ads, the excited if broke fans (the prices on those tickets are scary!).
I even watch most of the game itself although I try not to listen to the “experts” as they blather on and on about it.
I don’t plan a huge menu for Super Bowl Sunday, but I do like to make something special in honor of this annual sports fest. I originally thought of making nachos for Sunday. I love nachos: they’re salty and fatty and satisfying and versatile (you can put just about anything you have in the house into them!).
After looking at the elegant, creative nachos in Wednesday’s Washington Post, however, I abandoned the nacho plan. I didn’t need the shame: my nachos were going to be pedestrian in contrast. And actually my family didn’t need the calories.
Instead I decided to spice up a little popcorn. I love popcorn almost as much as I love nachos. It’s flavorful. It’s cheap. And it can be made with relatively little fat (although I draw the line at air popping; the kernels need SOME fat).
My nephew Michael had a snow day from school on Wednesday so I enlisted him and his friends Benjamin and Jackson to help pop the corn.
Popcorn is a great project for kids as long as they are careful (which our boys were) and adults are supervising. (I know you can’t see us in the pictures, but there were three of us in the room!)
I decided to work with Indian spices. The first batch of popcorn we tried went a little overboard in the spice department: we threw in cumin, turmeric, garam masala, curry powder, paprika, and red pepper flakes as well as salt.
Michael ate one handful and went running through the house shouting “Water! Water!” The other two boys just kept their distance and laughed.
I tried it myself and found it spicy (although not overly so) and a little too busy in terms of flavors.
The second batch used the combination of flavors below. Its subcontinental flavor was subtle rather than “in your face”—perfect for young (or timid) football fans. It should complement rather than overwhelm any other munchies we consume as we watch the Saints and the Colts battle it out.
Enjoy the popcorn—and the halftime show—and the commercials. If you must, even enjoy the game!
spicy popcorn web
Tinky’s Indian Corn
Here are a few hints before I start:
Check with your guests about allergies before you make your popcorn. Peanut oil is ideal for popping the corn, but canola will do if someone has a peanut allergy.
Popcorn pops best in a cheap, not-too-thick pan. Put away the Le Creuset and the All-Clad if you’re lucky enough to have them and get out an old aluminum pot. By the time the fancy pots heat up the popcorn will burn. A wok with a lid works very nicely.
The lid should be on your pot (so the popcorn doesn’t pop right out and hit you) but the pot should have a little room to breathe. Keep the lid slightly ajar so that steam can escape. Place one hand on the lid as you shake the pot with the other hand so the lid will stay in position.
To make your own popcorn salt (I got this hint from watching Alton Brown: thanks, Mr. Brown!) put kosher salt in a small food processor and pulse it 10 to 12 times.
enough peanut or canola oil to line the bottom of your pot (3 to 4 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon popcorn salt (a tiny bit more if you must)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 cup popping corn
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
Place the oil, the salt, the cumin seeds, and 1 kernel of popcorn in your pot and stir to combine. Put the pot over fairly high heat (see above remark about the lid) and start moving the pot gently back and forth over the burner.
When the initial popcorn kernel pops add the remaining popcorn, the turmeric, and the curry powder. Stir to combine and return the pot to the heat. Continue shaking. In a little while you will be rewarded with the sound of popping corn.
Listen carefully. (This was the hardest part of the whole recipe for the boys, who have the enthusiasm of youth and like to talk loudly through most activities.)
When the popping subsides enough so that you hear a pop only every few seconds remove the pot from the heat and pour the popcorn into a bowl.
Serve the popcorn immediately or cool the popcorn and then store it in a sealed plastic bag for up to a week.
Makes just under 2 quarts.
BY THE WAY, if you’re looking for a few more Super Bowl ideas, here are a few suitable posts:
Mexican Chicken Pizza
Apple-Sage Cheese Spread
BOLTs (in honor of the COLTs)
Red Beans & Rice (in honor of the Saints)
(Courtesy of ebay--I can't afford the darn things myself!)

(Courtesy of ebay--I can't afford the darn things myself!)

If you enjoyed this post, please consider taking out an email subscription to my blog. Just click on the link below!

Subscribe to In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens by Email.

Popovers and a Story for Groundhog Day

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

The Problem web

We have made it to winter’s midpoint! Poised between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox, February 2 is Candlemas. This ancient holiday celebrates the longer and brighter hours of daylight we now notice and enjoy.
Traditional foods for Candlemas usually contain grain of some sort, in celebration of the stirrings of crops deep beneath the still frozen ground. These foods are also often round and golden to mimic the sun.
Last night my family and I enjoyed a winter treat that nicely embodies those criteria—popovers. SOMEWHERE I have my grandmother’s recipe for cheese popovers; I recall that she gently folded 1/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese into her popovers. We had these at Christmas, and they were lovely.
I couldn’t find that recipe this week so instead I used the basic popover formula shared by most cookbooks I have on my shelf, a proportion of 1 cup of of milk and 1 of flour to 2 eggs.
Instead of folding the cheese in, I tried sprinkling a bit of cheddar on top of the popover batter. Alas, it fell in a bit, making little holes in most of my popovers. They were still awfully tasty, however, so I wasn’t upset.
The recipe appears below. Before we get to it, however, here is a story that celebrates another name for February 2, Groundhog Day. As you know, on this day the groundhog is alleged to wake up from hibernation and peer out of its den to look for its shadow.
If the shadow is visible (that is, if the day is sunny), winter will last another six weeks. If not, spring will come early.
Where I live in Massachusetts we are ALWAYS guaranteed another six weeks of winter (at least!) on February 2. The holiday retains its appeal, however, and my nephew Michael certainly enjoyed writing about it.
He also enjoyed eating the popovers.
by Michael Weisblat
This is a story of how two groundhogs get mad at each other, fight each other, and fix their problem.
One day in a hole two groundhogs are so peaceful and happy. Their names are Michael and Collin.
Collin said, “It’s almost Groundhog Day. Who will go up?”
Michael answered, “Me. I want to go up!”
Collin said, “No, I want to go up!”
They both started to argue about who would go first. Then Michael had an idea. “Let’s make the hole of our house wider. Then we could pop out at the same time.”
So that’s what they did. They lived happily ever after.
P.S. They did not see their shadow.
Whether or not you see your shadow today, I hope you enjoy this recipe. Happy Groundhog Day (and Candlemas)………
Cheese Popovers
1 cup milk at room temperature
2 eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (use a little more if you wish, but don’t overdo!)
In a bowl vigorously whisk together the milk, eggs, and melted butter. Stir in the flour, salt, and pepper. If you wish to add the cheese now, do so gently. Let the mixture sit for 1/2 hour.
While the batter is resting preheat the oven to 450 degrees and lightly butter the insides of 9 muffin tins. When the oven has preheated place the tins on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven for a minute or two to preheat.
Take the sheet out and quickly fill the muffin tins with the batter. If you have not yet added the cheese, put a small amount in the center of each muffin tin. If you are using a set of 12 muffin tins, be sure to pour a little water in the empty tins to keep them from burning.
Put the filled muffin tins back in the oven and bake the popovers for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake the popovers until they are brown and firm and nicely puffed up—15 to 20 minutes.
Do NOT open the oven door to look at the popovers until 15 minutes have passed—unless of course you smell something burning horribly! (This should NOT happen unless your oven thermostat is way off.) If you do, your popovers won’t pop over.
Remove the popovers from the oven and serve immediately. Makes 9 popovers.
Cheesy Popovers

If you enjoyed this post, please consider taking out an email subscription to my blog. Just click on the link below!

Subscribe to In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens by Email.