Imagine this. You get a terrible cold, you’re sick as a dog, your boyfriend gets you juice, soup (Pho from down the street), the works. Then you get better, fly to Florida for your parents’ 40th wedding anniversary, and while there, your boyfriend breaks the news: he has your cold. You’re not there to help, though, so when you return on Sunday–and he’s at the peak of his illness–you know you have to spring into action. You’ve gotta make up for all the TLC you weren’t there to give him during the first two days of his illness. Upon landing at the airport, you rush to the grocery store and stock up on everything you need to make the ultimate cold cure, Jewish penicillin: chicken soup. Only, you want to make it fast.
Like a dying swan, I came to L.A. and watched as, feather-by-feather, all of my bagel-eating genes fell to the ground. I tried, I really did. I made bagel bombs, which were a nice alternative, but not the real thing. I stood and ate a bagel at Brooklyn Bagel and thought, “Oh man: this doesn’t feel right at all.” I basically gave up. And then, very gradually, a new idea began to hatch in my brain: what if I made my own everything bagels? How hard could that be? On Friday afternoon, I bought bread flour and malt powder and cream cheese and nova and red onions; on Saturday morning, I woke up all set to make Peter Reinhart’s famous recipe.
We all have regrets in life. I regret pulling out the chair from under Stacy Epstein in the 3rd grade. Can I go back and change that I did that? No I can’t. But I can go back and change one regret from a few weeks ago. I was at the used book store on my street and found, to my surprise, a copy of Mandy Patinkin’s Jewish family cookbook. Actually, it’s not his cookbook–he just wrote the Introduction–it’s Grandma Doralee Patinkin’s cookbook. That’s either his mother or grandmother, it’s hard to tell (she looks young) but the point is I didn’t buy it. And it’s still there. And I still haven’t bought it. What’s wrong with me?
At that same Jewish dinner where I made the chopped liver, I decided to try my hand at stuffed cabbage. Over Thanksgiving, my brother’s wife’s sister’s boyfriend’s grandmother (did you follow all that?), a Holocaust survivor named Anka, told me her recipe for stuffed cabbage. “The secret,” she let me know, “is raisins in the tomato sauce.” After that, stuffed cabbage was on my mind and when I started planning this dinner of Judaism I knew it would be my entree.
It’s time for chopped liver to make a comeback. I mean think about it: chefs flaunt their charcuterie and pâtés at places like Bar Boulud in New York and Salt’s Cure here in L.A. And what is chopped liver if not liver pâté’s chunky Jewish cousin? I grew up eating the stuff–my grandmother used to warn (as I mentioned in this old post), “Don’t eat that, it’s an organ meat!”–and to this day I’m not quite sure what she meant by that. But you’ll be surprised–if you put this on your coffee table with some crackers and a few whisky drinks (Craig made Manhattans) it’ll get quickly gobbled up.
Oh, The 2nd Ave. Deli. Remember how much I loved it? I blogged about the original here, here, and here. It was my favorite New York Deli; more inviting than Katz’s, less touristy than Carnegie. And then it disappeared and became a Chase Manhattan Bank.
When the new one opened up on 3rd Ave. and 33rd Street I was dubious. To state the obvious: who wants to visit The 2nd Ave. Deli on 3rd Ave? Second of all, how can you transfer the magic of a New York institution to a completely different venue? That just doesn’t happen; you can’t relocate The Museum of Natural History, you can’t relocate The 2nd Ave. Deli. I stayed away.
[The Amateur Gourmet is on vacation and, while he’s gone, he’s asked his friends to cover for him. Now comes a post from not just a friend of Adam’s, but a colleague: the director and producer of The FN Dish, Matthew Horovitz. Here Matthew shares with us his knowledge of all things Jewish, fishy and preserved–you’re about to get schooled in the science of fressing.]
When Adam asked me to guest blog for him, his only mandate was to “write about something that excites you,” so, naturally, my thoughts turned to lox. I recently attended a seminar at New York’s Astor Center at which the Don Corleone of smoked salmon, Mark Russ Federman, broke down all the possible science in the world of Jewish sushi. Federman is the owner and third-generation “Russ” of New York’s fabled Russ & Daughters, a mecca for fressers known far and wide.
Passover is over, but I’d like to belatedly submit my review of the Dark Chocolate Egg Matzos I bought at Citarella a few weeks ago. Here’s my review: I didn’t really like it. Sometimes the combination of dry, crackly, salty bread-like substance (pretzels, for example) with creamy, bitter, unctuous chocolate is a winner, but not so with matzoh. Whereas pretzels have that salty edge, matzoh is pretty bland and chocolate can’t redeem it. It’s like on American Idol when Randy says, “If you can sing, you can sing anything.” Matzoh can’t really sing–it’s just a nice vehicle for other foods like that apple stuff I really like. Haroset. Give me matzoh and haroset any day, but keep the chocolate away.