Archive for May 6th, 2009

quite a reputation

happy birthday Meira(actual birthday, April 28)

Meira is the type of person whose reputation precedes her and who then proceeds to surpass it.

When learning that I would be moving to Philadelphia, my friend “super Tirza” (an email address – and the name stuck) told me that I just had to meet her friend Meira whom she knew from Atlanta and who was starting business school in the Fall. She said we would undoubtedly be friends. Meira and I might have exchanged an email or two and then promptly forgot about each other. In the Spring, I became one of the first denizens of a warehouse renovated into a large apartment building a few blocks east of campus. Meira moved up north at the end of the Summer to a small apartment building west of campus.  The new semester started, and those 15 blocks that separated us were like two different worlds.

Then, one day I received a somewhat urgent email and call from a vaguely familiar sounding person inquiring about my apartment building. Within a few days, Meira became my almost roommate (just one floor removed). Within a few months, my same age sister. Before the year was out, I had a new Southern family since my own family had moved West and it was difficult to go home for the holidays. By now I feel like a true family member, warmly embraced by relatives whom I have never even met.

And while I like to think that I’m special, Meira manages to make everyone she spends time with feel this way.

When I needed surgery and couldn’t sleep through the night, Meira came over at 3 am to watch Flashdance with me. And when my father came to town when I was recovering in the hospital, Meira invited him for shabbat dinner and had everyone introduce themselves by sharing their favorite invention. She knew just how to make my father feel at home (engineers unite – he loves the transistor!), and she is one of the few friends that my father asks about by name. She might have even made a chocolate dessert!

zucchini bread, cooling

Meira is one of the people to whom this little project is dedicated. Personally, professionally, and culinarily (we’re both fans of making up our own words!), she is one of those people who has helped (and continues to help) me figure out who I am. In many circles, and around here, she is probably most well known as Dodah Meira to her beautiful niece and full-of-character nephew and for supplying the nuggets recipe.

Meira is usually the first of my friends to try new ideas and products and she shares generously. As a trained industrial engineer with an MBA in marketing and operations, she laughs with me over ridiculous product placement in stores, especially new (ahem, The Fresh Grocer in West Philadelphia???) or newly renovated grocery stores.

Actually, we giggle over many things and I can always count on Meira to randomly call me when an ad for a cheesy dance movie  comes out straight to video and she knows that we will be NetFlixing it for a chill evening, or possibly, now that we live in separate cities, somehow telepathically stumbling up0n it on the same evening. Meira appreciates and helps me laugh at some of my own foibles and helps remind me to put things into perspective. I always know I’m in for a good time when I answer my phone and the conversation begins, “I just know you’ll appreciate this story….”

Meira also has a beautiful spiritual side. She has explored this in many ways, publicly and privately. For example, in synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, she and her sister, Caroline, make sure that all of their father’s collection of machzors (high holiday prayer books) get used so none will feel lonely. It sounds a bit funny until you see how beautiful it is – my sister and I love watching and helping in this particular annual ritual. One way that Meira shares her spirituality with many close to her is in sending out annual memories of her father and “fatherly advice” to help guide her and her friends through the upcoming year. This past year, she looked at the meaning in numbers and letters, using gematria (Jewish numerology), prayer, mathematics (the Fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio- gotta love the woman!), and visualization. She concluded,

I wish all of you the power of being in the now and the power to be open to all that life brings.

Thank you, Meira, for all you do for me and everyone you touch.

zucchini bread

Healthy-ish Zucchini Bread

This is the zucchini bread that I have been making for years. I actually printed out this recipe from Cooking Light magazine and have been working off the same piece of paper, crinkled and splattered and marked up with adaptations in all colors of pen. It was only when I was sitting down to type this up that I noticed the date that I had printed off this particular recipe — 9/30/01 — the month when I met Meira. And Meira is just the person to see beyond the coincidence and realize that it’s bashert — that this healthy-ish zucchini bread is absolutely 100% meant for her and I could not have possibly chosen anything else to bake for her birthday.

Makes 2 loaves (or 1 loaf + 1 dozen muffins or 2 dozen muffins)

– 3-4 medium sized zucchinis (to be grated into 2 C)

– 2 C flour (I split this evenly between whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour)

– 1 C sugar

– 1/2 C brown sugar (can probably use 1.5 c white sugar total, or if you really want lower calorie, just leave out this extra 1/2 C sugar)

– 1 t salt

– 1 t baking soda

– 1 t baking powder

– 1 T cinnamon (or more!)

– 3/4 C applesauce

– 1/4 C oil

– 3 eggs

– 1 t vanilla (optional – I forgot to add to Meira’s loaf, but added it to the rest of the batter…)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line colander with paper towels.

Wash zucchini and the grate with medium holes (not tiniest) of box grater into lined colander, set atop a shallow bowl to catch any liquid.

grating zucchini

Allow zucchini to sit on paper towels for up to 30 minutes, pressing down periodically, to release some of the water. You can add paper towels This will prevent your zucchini bread from being too soggy.

grated zucchini, draining

While zucchini is draining, in a large bowl (I prefer glass so you can check that everything is mixed), stir together the dry ingredients – the flours, sugars (you can use all white sugar, or even cut sugar down to 1 C…most recipes call for 2 C white sugar), salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon (you can double the cinnamon, I often do!).

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add applesauce, oil, eggs (check for bloodspots in a small glass bowl and then break up the yolk before adding), vanilla, and drained zucchini. Most recipes suggest mixing these ingredients together first in a separate bowl, but I hate having to clean extra dishes. I’ve found that you can just stir the wet ingredients together in the well and then incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet.

Don’t over mix the batter. The beauty of a glass bowl is you can see if you’ve missed any flour at the bottom. I like using a “spoonula” to scrap the bowl edges for flour.

Divide batter between two small loaf pans or muffin tins sprayed with oil (~3 C batter per loaf pan). I made one loaf and a dozen muffins so that I could test the recipe before sending. The loaf takes ~ 65-75 minutes to bake. Muffins take 45 -60 minutes. You know the loaf/muffin is done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean and without crumbs. Allow to cool completely on a rack.

zucchini loaf

zucchini muffinsI baked these zucchini muffins in silicone “moules à tartelette et muffins” (made by Mastrad – that produces Orka brand silicone oven mitts) that I did indeed purchase in France, as if you had to ask…

zucchini muffinI had to test one before sending the loaf to Meira!

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