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My camera still is missing in action.  Nevertheless, at the beginning of this New (2010 CE) Year I have consulted my one of my favorite world cookbooks:  “The Jewish American Kitchen“, by Raymond Sokolov. And while I have no photo documentation concerning, this- my very first foray into chopped liver- I have  attempted it- because  I have been unsurprisingly craving it since our Minnesota January deep-freeze officially began.   I was first invited to Seder about 30 years ago by my good friend Shelly, who also introduced me to gefilte -fish, which was a revelation of cultural, religious *and* culinary significance, all at the same time.  How often does that happen?  Then I bought my first Jewish recipe book.  Why does my spell-check keep telling me this should be filtered? fish.

I’m Native American-and Eskimo furthermore- so recognizing the relationships  of foods from another tribal tradition was something entirely predictable.  Could it have been guessed that I would  immediately bond with gefilte -fish?  I say yes, Eskimos love fish.  My friend Shelly also toured me through various Brooklyn and Manhattan eating and dining establishments, and I have regarded the 2nd Avenue Deli in the East Village as a Mother-ship ever since.  I had been visiting New York since I was 17, and so the first time I went there to 2nd Ave Deli by myself around 1982, I was about 21 years old and very excited to be there.  I arrived there knowing I wanted a pastrami on rye.  The nice waitress asked me if I wanted anything else besides the sandwich.  I  remember doubtfully saying Matzo Ball Soup?  I still wasn’t completely clear about what a Matzoh Ball was, and wanted to find out, because all I knew was that they were supposed to be good.   She looked over her glasses and studied me.  “Do you want that just with the soup… or with some extra carrots?” she tapped the eraser of her pencil on her cheek thoughtfully.  I had no idea what to say.  It didn’t seem like a trick question:  “Um, just the soup, I guess.”  She raised one eyebrow and glanced down at her order-notebook.  “Carrots,” she nodded her head once for emphasis as she wrote- and took my menu with a reproving smile of the utmost gentleness and subtlety .  I got carrots.

After 2 long decades, since it finally occurred to me that I could make my own chopped liver (because it is nowhere to be found  anywhere in Minnesota since the Lincoln Dels closed years ago)  I finally got the courage up to attempt making Chopped Liver in my own gay Eskimo Home Kitchen.  Of course, I now rely on an authoritative  cultural cookbook, so you will be the judge (particularly if you have exacting kosher expectations).  Chopped Liver is nearly the first thing I eat every time I visit New York for the last 25 or 30 years, because I have always known that this is the BEST place to get it (in addition to to  ‘Bialys’, also which see, via Google).  Bialys are possibly my second food-love from NYC.

In order to make my first attempt at this truly complete and global, I first made sourdough bread.  I thought an Irish Soda Bread with plenty of currants (as advised by the Dubious Citty Katt) right out of the oven might be good with chopped liver.  The bread didn’t take too much effort, and it came out fine – I’ll publish it as a separate recipe if you want.

FINALLY, I had to make the Chopped Liver.  How did I make it?  After 20 YEARS of anticipation, maybe even apprehension, of course I will tell you how an Eskimo tries to make NYC-style  chopped liver.  Use an appropriate amount of black pepper:   That’s all there is to it.  And True Schmalz (i.e. Chicken Fat- available through your on-line Kosher supplier or local deli).

Place a good tablespoon of schmalz (your rendered Chicken Fat) in a heavy skillet and allow a pound of chicken livers cook over medium heat till no pink remains (this is important).

Remove to a bowl and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, saute 2-4  medium diced onions over  moderate heat in another tablespoon of Schmaltz until translucent (I used 2 onions, but apparently 4 is recommended).  This can take 10-15 minutes.  Do NOT allow them to brown, and don’t rush it.   And if you can divide them in half and  cook  them separately , 1/2 of them minced, it would also be considered proper.  I am just saying.

Season with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of FRESHLY ground black pepper (upper case letters are significant) and put though a cuisinart with a couple of nicely hard-boiled eggs.  Do NOT overprocess.

This is ambrosia and I challenge anyone to tell me otherwise.

Happy new year- maybe this title should read Mid-east meet West.  Sitting here protected from the -30F windchill Minneapolis with The Dubious Citty Katt- and we just had a successful food experiment.  However, faithful reader, I put my camera somewhere that I could easily find it, so of course I can’t find it and we must ask you to take our word for it- we can’t document it at the moment 🙂

This pizza was born from a lump of beautiful Cossetta’s pizza dough from St. Paul across the river; cleaning out of my cabinets and inspired by Lebanese meat-bread.  In this case, Lamb is the secret ingredient.

Take a pound of ground lamb and brown in a skillet over medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil;  mix into the meat a tsp of crushed dried mint, 2 cloves of garlic, smashed into a paste, a pinch of cinnamon a couple of gratings of nutmeg, a generous amount of black pepper, a tsp of crushed red pepper flakes, the rind of 1/2 lemon, 1/2 tsp cumin and let this come to  a nice brown in the skillet  Allow to cook until all liquid has evaporated- cool slightly.

Meanwhile, you will have put a pizza together- enough to cover  a 16  x  12″ jelly roll pan, or baking sheet.  Brush very lightly with olive oil, spread evenly a cup of good pizza sauce from a can, and one medium onion, shaved thin and covering the whole affair.   Crush between your fingers and sprinkle a generous tsp of dried oregano over all and bake for 10 min at 400F.    Remove from the oven as you proceed with the final assembly.

1 small head of radicchio (about the size of a large grapefruit), quartered, sliced

1 small can of artichoke hearts, chopped roughly

a big handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped (even though adherents of the Goddess of the Hunt, Diana, will tell you unfailingly to never apply any blade to the herb dedicated to Diana-you must only tear the leaf with your hands.)

Sprinkle everything evenly over the pre-cooked pizza base, including the crumbled, spiced lamb, and cover with about 1/2 pound of thinly sliced overlapping Provolone.  This will appear to be piled a little too high for a conventional pizza, but the radicchio will cook down, and the sliced cheese will help steam everything beneath it.  Bake at 400F for 10 minutes, lower the heat to 350 for another 20 minutes, and finally brown lightly under a broiler until the cheese looks irresistible and you want to dive into the thing head first and never come out again.