Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

photo by Barry Munger, downloaded from http://www.thehighline.org/galleries/images/tags/barry+munger

photo by Barry Munger, downloaded from http://www.thehighline.org/galleries/images/barry-munger

Last Monday (June 8, 2009), Section 1 of the NY High Line opened and my sister, RySq was asked to serve as one of the greeters for the ribbon-cutting event as a volunteer with the Friends of the High Line. This afforded my talented lil sis — a budding architect,  photographer, graphic and jewelry designer, and all-around talented creative person to take pictures of this historic event and to be a fly on the wall. She has been talking about this urban planning and landscaping project for years since we both moved to New York in 2004, she to start her architecture career, I to continue in health care. So when her interest came full circle, I was so proud.

bench detail, photo by RySq

bench detail, photo by RySq

Ry shared over 200 frames and summarized her own thoughts on opening day in an email to friends and family (she rarely uses caps):

only the first phase [of the high line] has opened from gaansevort to 20th street. there are so many interesting moments … it really was  a treat to get up there and see it under construction the last few months and meet the founders of the organization. very inspiring that people can work together to make a difference in their community like this. the high line has truly transformed the entire far west side of chelsea for the better i think.

Ry heard Mayor Bloomberg speak with the press, and Diane von Furstenburg, an early supporter of the High Line with her flagship studio in the Meatpacking District, echoed a sentiment from a 2-minute video (where she described the High Line as “a green ribbon that follows the river into the sunset”), “‘the High Line is like a green ribbon running through the city… and I like ribbons … therefore I like the HighLine…‘”

DvF studio as seen from the High Line (picture by RySq)

DvF studio as seen from the High Line, photo by RySq

In looking through some other “High Line Stories” to be broadcast by the Sundance Channel, I found one featuring Adam Gopnik, New Yorker writer and author of one of the first books that I read about an American in Paris, an essay collection called Paris to the Moon about his 5-year sojourn in Paris. In his 2-minute vignette, he shares his thoughts about the High Line after having written an article about it in 2001:

‘It’s a sort of classic romantic subject: the ruins of industry,’ I thought as I say that it was a documentary of something passing. I did not imagine that it was really the foundation of something new. It seemed about as improbable a notion as anything could be that they would actually turn it into a park like the Promenade Plantée in Paris which is exactly like what this will become. And that is it’s an old abandoned railroad that had been turned into a long skinny high park. So when I wrote that piece, the effect was what had seemed to be merely a quixotic scheme suddenly seemed like a sane, rational, and necessary piece of urban planning. What were needed were new green lungs for the city to breathe with.

Sundeck, photo by RySq

Sundeck, photo by RySq

"Pavement Meets Horticulture" - photo by RySq

Pavement Meets Horticulture, photo by RySq

On the High Line website, there are numerous galleries of photographs, including this one of the “High Line in Operation” with black and white photos such as this one of a train chugging along the West side of lower Manhattan.

One of these iconic photos has even been incorporated into an Anya Hindmarch tote as part of the High Line Merchandise Program, whereby local designers including DvF, Trina Turk, and Zero + Maria Cornejo (who created a gorgeous abstract loop scarf) designed commemorative products, some proceeds of which support the High Line.

Anya Hindmarch tote

Anya Hindmarch tote

When Ry gets excited about something, her enthusiasm is infectious. And I often try to learn about what is inspiring her (like when I took a class on Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern Architecture to round out my Freshman year pre-med load to give us a common lexicon), of course, adding in my own special touch. So when my sister introduced me to the High Line a few years ago, I became interested in “NY Export: Opus Jazz the film” – a film of a Jerome Robbins ballet, NY Export: Opus Jazz (that originally premiered in 1958 and was more jazz dance than ballet, often referred to as “an urban ballet in sneakers”), performed by NYCB dancers in locations all over NYC, including on the last untouched area of the High Line.

Opus Jazz 2

Rachel Rutherford and Craig Hall in "Passage for Two," photo by Yaniv Shulman (downloaded from earlier version of http://www.opusjazz.com, no longer available)

Opus Jazz

Rachel Rutherford and Craig Hall in "Passage for Two," photo by Yaniv Shulman (downloaded from earlier version of http://www.opusjazz.com, no longer available)

The trailer for the documentary compares the original ballet, placing it in 1950s context when it aired on the Ed Sullivan show, with its modern adaptation and reinterpretation , and contains commentary by some of the original and current performers. The contrast of the same moves and lifts then and now is breath-taking against the Robert Prince music and urban backdrops, old and new.

Trailer: Jerome Robbins’ NY Export: Opus Jazz The Film

The behind-the-scenes video provides additional footage of the shooting of the film on the High Line, including capturing a scene in the last moment of sunlight of the day against the setting sun with the coming together of the art, luck, and skill that is film-making.

Behind the Scenes: Opus Jazz The Film

My sister ended her email with some closing thoughts.

the motto:

keep it simple
keep it wild
keep it clean
keep it slow

it is a passive park, designed via competition winner diller+scofidio… one of my favorite experimental  and visionary firms in the city

"Keep it Wild" - photo by RySq

Keep It Wild, photo by RySq

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Is it really the thought that counts? I sure hope so, because my little mother’s day gift this year got somewhat thwarted. I baked two cute zucchini loaves, one to send to my own mother and one to send to my good friend, Reva — the first friend of mine to become a mother.

2 little zucchini loaves

Reva is an amazing mother to her two adorable, smiley, fun-loving sons. I could talk about Isaac and Ely (to whom I am Tante Gayle), but today is all about celebrating how amazing their mom is. Because Reva’s birthday always falls close to Mother’s Day (and that of her kids), I wanted to make sure that she gets the full attention she deserves.

Reva with Yitz and Ely

Reva and I met during the first few weeks of medical school and became fast friends. I mean, come on, we met on a train traveling from Philadelphia to New York! The most telling story I have about her is that she was the only person to be honest with me when she didn’t like one of my boyfriends. It take real guts to tell someone something she doesn’t want to hear.

little gift for Reva

little gifts for mommy

So, I packed up my little zucchini loaves in wrapping appropriate for each special woman – wax paper and black tulle for Reva (she’s always been a bit of a health nut, which for some reason I associate with wax paper; and black for NY); green for my mom because it’s one of her colors and a little extra box of notecards that match.

And I went to the post office to overnight them on Friday, excited for the surprise each would receive on Saturday – Reva on her birthday, my mom one day before mother’s day. Alas, I was the one who was surprised with 2 notices on my door Saturday afternoon letting me know that both packages were attempted to be returned to me. I could not clear this up on Saturday because though the notices said that the packages would be available after 5:30, the post office closes at 5. Yup – our tax dollars at work, ladies and gentleman.

Off to the post office I trotted today to fix the dilemma. Turns out the two packages were returned for insufficient postage (I inadvertently used the flat rate for flat envelopes rather than the flat rate for small boxes <sigh>). I had to double my expenditure to send my packages again and hope that the loaves will arrive fresh and not moldy.

Well, ladies, my apologies. Next time I’ll hand deliver. Clearly a trip to Maryland is due.

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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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photo by Gil R., desserts by Andrew

You know you’re going to an Israeli event when the invitation states:

If you do attend, you’ll need a valid ID with you, no extra bags will be allowed nor weapons.

And there was nowhere else I wanted to be last night but surrounded by Israelis when the sun was setting and Yom HaZikaron — Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror — bled  into Yom HaAtzmaut — Independence Day. No strangers to symbolism, Israel starts Yom HaZikaron with a 2 minute siren and the country stops and stands in silence. It knows that its birth and continued existence are owed to the soldiers who protect its citizens, those who have been lost to terror attacks, and those who continue to be missing in action or in captivity. In a land of mandatory conscription, no one needs a reminder of this connection.

But you get a group of Israelis in a room and about the only thing (besides that um, interesting Maxim women of the IDF PR attempt by the Israeli government which in my opinion was creative though clearly a bit unbalanced) that can get their attention before the speakers begin is a video on a big screen that sounds something like Stomp (a personal favorite, given my previous tap dancing percussive days).

Starring Shekatek and created for Israel’s 60th Birthday last year; shows some of the best of Israel – its agriculture, technology (especially the biotech that I love!), cultural diversity, the beach, powerful women, tall dark men, all those religions, the serenity, the street culture and foods, the diversity, the beach (oh, did I mention that already?)

Nadav Tamir, Consul General of Israel to New England, then spoke, followed by Massachusetts Attorney General, Martha Coakley. The themes of their comments focused on friendship and partnership between the US and Israel, the importance of Israel as a strong democracy, and Israel as a country of high tech innovation (with Coakley citing statistics such as Israel having one of the highest per-capita rates of patents and companies on the NASDAQ). I was also personally touched by Coakley’s mention of Israel’s significant work in the area of  family violence given that my last visit centered on some of these issues.

flowers for Yom HaAtzmaut

Full of Israeli pride, I decided to make a dish from my new favorite cookbook with the “burnt eggplant” technique that Janna Gur demonstrated in her class and that I have mastered over the past few weeks. Gur said that her mother used to call this dish “the reds and the blues” because of the tomatoes juxtaposed against the eggplants. Eggplants are called chatzilim in Hebrew and are ubiquitous in the country. When rationing was in effect during the early years of statehood, newspapers and radio gave advice on making the most out of available food, and eggplant recipes abounded, yielding a mock chopped liver that most of my NY friends won’t have a Central Park picnic without. Traditional chatzilim salad adds some garlic, oil or mayo, and lemon juice. I like Gur’s milder tomato addition. Need I point out the symbolism of the red tomatoes and one of Israel’s (“blue”) national dishes, paired together like the the flags? Probably not, but subtlety has never been my forté.


Yom HaAtzmaut Chatzilim, or “the Reds and the Blues”

chatzilim on toast

Adapted from Janna Gur’s The Book of New Israeli Food and dedicated to Israel and the US’s continued strong relationship, a safe return for soldiers in captivity, and fewer new things for all sides to have to remember.

I “burn” the eggplants in my oven since I do not have a gas stove — make sure to prick the eggplants a few times so that they do not explode. The main adaptation I made to Gur’s recipe is that I leave out the garlic and add both onion and tomatoes. I also significantly reduced the amount of oil.

When buying (standard) eggplants like the one on the upper left, they should be dark purple, unblemished, and should feel light for their size. Store them in the refrigerator.

Makes about 3-4 C of salad/dip.

– 2 medium eggplants (or 4-5 slender Thai eggplants)

– 2 tomatoes (to get ~ 1 C grated)

– 1/4 onion (will  use ~1 T grated)

– 2 T vegetable oil

– Salt and pepper (to taste)

Preheat your broiler.

Prick skin of eggplants with a fork or knife to prevent an explosion all over your oven. Place eggplants on a foil-lined baking sheet just below broiler and check on them every 10 minutes or so, turning them as necessary. The thinner Thai eggplants took about 20-25 minutes and were ready when they turn brown and dry.

One Thai eggplant ready after 20 minutes

The larger eggplant took about 25-30 minutes and you can tell that it is ready when the skin gets thin and papery, turns black in some places, and the eggplant softens and releases juices.

While the eggplants are broiling, prepare the other ingredients. Grate the two tomatoes on the medium sized holes of a box grater – this should yield about 1 cup of  tomato pulp and seeds without skin. Grate a quarter of an onion on the same side of the grater to get a pretty fine (without much work) onion liquid and paste-type consistency. There will be some onion left over — use it in guac or anywhere you like raw onion for a slightly milder flavor, or just use it in place of cooked minced onion. burnt eggplant, grated onion, grated tomato

Allow eggplants to cool – at least 10 minutes. Once cool, you can very easily separate the skins from the flesh.

eggplant flesh removed from skins

Mash the eggplant with a fork or put into a food processor. My preference is a fork. Drain any extra liquid so that the final salad isn’t too watery. Add the grated tomatoes (try to get mainly pulp and less liquid), 1 T grated onion, a few generous pinches of salt and some serious grinds of pepper, and stir everything together. Add 2T oil last.

I love spreading this on toast, or setting atop a plate of greens.

Romanian-style Roasted Eggplant Salad

Am Yisrael Chai! The People of Israel live (and prosper peacefully)!

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sangria sorbet, take 2

I was really bothered by my recent attempt at sangria sorbet. So disappointed with it that I threw it out.

But when I spied some strawberries on my neighbor’s counter, I grabbed them and promised to bring them back in a fun new form. I knew that redemption was mine. I decided to focus on the sangria experience instead of just making the sorbet. This time, I made good sangria and let it sit for a day in the fridge. Only when all the flavors had mixed did I even consider freezing this concoction. And while I waited, patiently this time, I recalled my first authentic sangria. In Spain. By the water. With a cool wind blowing around 10 pm as the sun was finally setting.

I was on my first trip to Spain – and was in Barcelona to be exact. I was taking the post-college graduation, not quite backpacking, trip through a few western European countries. Four weeks, four countries. And even though I was stubborn enough to pack everything into a backpack, I could not carry that monstrosity. So I had to buy a set of wheels to bungee cord my backpack to — it was never evenly balanced, I might add — and totter that thing from train station to hotel over cobblestones every few days.

Because, you see, the countries that I organized (and I use that term loosely since organizing involved choosing a city, a date, and a train; all our hotels except for 2 were booked on the fly) involved only one or two select cities. Here’s how I travel – I pick a home base and work from there. For that trip: England = London; France = Paris + Nice; Italy = Venice + Florence. Then a few day trips as desired. I admit, it was just a trip of highlights, but I needed to stay sane, and I knew I’d be back.

My travel companion and boyfriend, on the other hand, had never been out of the country (you can see why I added camembert as a litmus test) and he wanted Spain since he had studied Spanish in school. So Spain was his. And he was not good at prioritizing. In our 7 days 0f Spain, we went to Barcelona, Pamplona, San Sebastian (we had to follow Hemingway’s travels), Madrid, and Seville. By Seville, I was exhausted. And hot. And really sick of trains. And frustrated that I never knew what was going on around me.

But our first evening in Barcelona was amazing. I could still speak French and sort of be understood. We ate near the port and the cool breeze was welcome. Tapas was new and inviting and vegetarian options abounded. Most importantly, our introduction to real Spanish sangria was one made with “xampagne.” I remember strolling back from dinner along the wide boulevards, intoxicated by the bubbly sangria, the hints of Gaudí, and the anticipation of a week of exploring the complete unknown.

Looking back with a bit more perspective and without all that luggage and those horrible wheels, that week in Spain was a pretty great whirlwind and introduction to the diversity of the country. The architecture of Barcelona. An all-night party in Pamplona followed by sitting on a rickety wooden fence as the bulls torpedoed by. The train (bus? I can’t recall) to San Sebastián for a mini siesta by the water and to sleep off our prior evening, and then on to Mardid for a real bull fight. And finally arriving, travel weary, for a relaxing few days in the in the very hot, tapas-rich, flamenco stomping and twirling Sevilla.

And it started with that xampagne sangria.


sangria sorbet with mandarin liqueur

I still make this sorbet with leftover ingredients – wine and fruit – that I have in the kitchen (or that I’ve scavenged from my neighbor’s kitchen) rather than seeking out xampagne. The trick I found is making a sangria (slightly sweeter than you’d drink) and letting it sit for a good day.

Makes 4-6 servings

1 C strawberries – need not be beautiful, better to be a bit over-ripe actually

1 orange

1 C dry red wine – I used a Cabernet

1.5 C 1:1 simple syrup (essentially a scant cup sugar dissolved in a scant cup boiling water)

2 shots orange liqueur (~1/4 C) – e.g., Cointreau; here I used Bartenura Mandarino because it was still Passover.

Rinse berries and remove any bad spots (mushy, etc.). Slice into small pieces – it doesn’t matter how you slice them because they will get pureed later.

Add orange zest and juice, including pulp. This will probably yield about 1/3 C juice.

Add wine, syrup, and liqueur and allow to sit at room temperature for several hours and then refrigerate overnight. The mix should taste a little bit sweeter than you would want for mere drinking (mere drinking? I’ll leave it to you decide if you can ever merely drink sangria…).

Freeze in sealed container. This mix froze solid for me overnight. Woohoo!

frozen solid!

frozen solid!

Remove from refrigerator for 30 minutes and then use immersion blender to puree berries and aerate sorbet.

getting ready to use the immersion blender...you can see a few orange pieces and strawberry chunks

getting ready to use the immersion blender after a 30-minute thaw...you can see a few bits of orange pulp; the strawberry slices sank

This will help give the sorbet the desired consistency.

Return to freezer for a few more hours to re-freeze.

Serve with some extra orange liqueur.

sangria sorbet with mandarin liqueur

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six million

6 million

Tonight and tomorrow mark Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance day. This memorial day holds special significance to me as the grand-daughter of survivors.

me with my grandparents

Tonight I participated in a  special seder, originally developed by Rabbi Avi Weiss, to ritualize remembrance of the Holocaust. We read from a short book, sitting on the floor as mourners in a darkened room around six candles to represent the 6,000,000 Jews who perished. The evening had four sections: physical destruction, spiritual destruction, destruction of children, and resistance. An important part of the seder is to pass the first-hand experiences of survivors to future generations so that the memories never extinguish and can continue to be passed l’dor va dor (from generation to generation).

Since no survivors were able to join us, I asked my mother to share with me some stories from her mother so that I could re-tell her experience as part of the “resistance” portion since my Bubbie’s attitude, wit, and courage is what helped her survive. Here is what my mother wrote as if she were speaking as her own mother:

I was born in a small town named Sandz (Novisoncz (sp?) in Polish), Poland. Since my mother was busy working in the family business, I was sent to live with my older sister in a larger city Katowicz. I went to school there and because at some point this was a town in Germany (borders changed a lot in those days) the schools taught German as well as Polish and I learned a “high German.” Who knew that it would later help save my life.

Money and diamonds helped some people live through the war if it wasn’t taken away from them by the Germans; knowledge/education was something that they couldn’t take away from you.

I was sent to a labor/work camp when the war broke out. I was in my late teens and thin and pretty; I always looked taller than I was so they thought I was older and would be a good worker. I worked in the kitchen, mainly peeling potatoes for the “potato soup” to be fed to the worker Jews in the camp — peels and water for the Jews, real hearty potato soup for the Germans. There was an adjacent men’s work camp and I could see young teenage boys, 11-12 years old, skin and bones, through the barbed wire fence. They were working hard too and quite hungry. One evening I was leaving the kitchen and stole a pail of potatoes, intended mainly for the teenage boys to keep them alive. On the way back to the barracks with the pail of potatoes, I was seen and stopped by a German guard. He asked me what I had in my hand and I answered in German that it was some potatoes and I was hungry. He said that I was carrying way too many potatoes just for myself and asked what was I going to do with them. I answered him in the best High German that I knew and said, ” They are just for me. Did you think I would be so stupid to just take a few every day and risk getting caught each time? ” He answered, “Verschwind!” in German meaning disappear, and said that I should get out of his sight quickly and never do that again.

My wise-ass German answer helped save my life.

One story that my mother had never heard, but that Bubbie shared with my younger sister was that in addition to working in the kitchen, she also worked in the laundry. This afforded her the opportunity to actually cook the potatoes in hot water under cover.

When my sister was in Israel a few years ago, she took some photographs in Yad VaShem‘s Valley of Destroyed Communities of the cities where my grandparents grew up: Poppie was born in Chrzanów and grew up in Krakow; my Bubbie learned the German that saved her life in Katowice.

Krakow - photo by RySq

Krakow – photo by RySq

picture by RySq

Katowice – picture by RySq

I am proud to say that though my grandparents are no longer alive, they worked hard all of their lives, passing on the legacy of higher education to their children and grandchildren, and even managed to save a few dollars to help provide for future generations. They had “made it” in America. And they did make some investments in jewelry and left this necklace to me which I cherish and wear regularly.

bubbie's necklace

In preparation for the seder, I thought about the potato peels that my grandparents often sustained themselves on. To help reenact part of the resistance experience, I made potato peel crisps.  Don’t be mistaken – this is NOT a dish to remember my grandmother by — I think of her when I eat grapefruit or Chinese food (we used to take her out to Kosher Chinese in Miami and she would always order a hamburger, insisting that she didn’t like Chinese food, and then proceed to pick from all of our plates, exclaiming how much better our dishes were…).

Potato Peel Crisps

I chose russet potatoes for this “recipe.”

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Wash potatoes well to remove any dirt. Peel potatoes and soak in water. Spread in single layer on baking sheet and spray with oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes until crisp.

potato peel crisps

Zachor. Remember.

[Thank you to Elisha for sharing this special ritual with me and other members of our community, and encouraging my family to document our stories.]

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Music seems to be inspiring a fair amount of my cooking these days. No big surprise since I like to consider myself a dancer.

One of the most amazing groups to come out of Israel over the past few years is the Idan Raichel Project.  My Frenchie friend Lau did it once again — she introduced me to this collaborative a couple years ago and I find them utterly inspiring and a taste of the beauty of Israel.

– Raichel’s start in the army rock band – such a common career starter for many Israelis where compulsory conscription is a way of life

– His rare ability to bring together the different musical styles that have coalesced upon Israel, mixing and matching instruments and languages without the cacophony that sometimes exists in real life

– The sheer variety of his work, from mystic notes that seem to emanate from Tzfat to prayer and verses that might be heard at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem to reggae or electronica that could hold its own in a club in Tel Aviv to ballads that are universal anywhere in the world

For Israel’s 60th anniversary, Raichel was interviewed for the “My Hatikva”  project and speaks about his hope (“hatikva,” also the name of Israel’s national anthem) for Israel as a melting pot and land of immigrants while still maintaining tolerance for different cultural and religious identities.

The official video on the “My Hatikva” website is at http://www.myhatikva.com/MultiMedia.aspx?MI=68

When I learned that the Idan Raichel Project would be performing here in Boston, I booked my ticket and organized a group of friends to come with me immediately. I was just that excited (I don’t normally plan very far in advance!). And the concert last week did not disappoint.

The music performed was a mix of their prior two albums and their newest one that has a bit more of a global feel but is still distinctly Israeli. Despite the Project being named after him, Raichel seemed content to sit off to stage right, playing his keyboard most of the time and leaving most of the stage work to the three vocalists who not only sang but swayed, rocked, and even jumped to the music – not to entertain an audience, but because they really seemed to enjoy their work.

Musicians were also given a chance to shine — for example, the percussionist responsible for the water sounds in the following clip, Mei Nahar (“River Waters”), performed a several minute long solo on a few wooden bowls filled with water. The audience, judging by the silence that allowed us to hear (miked) water drops and rhythms played on the surface of water, was enraptured.

The  namesake song of Raichel’s third album, Mima’amakim – “Out of the Depths,” starts with what I have come to learn is a typical traditional Ethiopian melody (“Nah no nah no na’ay…”) that is emblematic of his earlier work and leads into a haunting song in Hebrew.

The concert last week and songs like this inspired  me to make a lentil dish that can go either Ethiopian or Yemenite depending on which spice mixture is used — berbere (which can be approximated with red chile powder and onions in a pinch) or cumin, respectively.

“Salata Idan” – East African Fusion Lentil Dip, the Yemenite Version

Salata Idan

Adapted from Gil Marks’ Olive Trees and Honey. In celebration of Idan Raichel’s artistry, bringing together the diversity of Israel’s people, and sharing our rich and varied culture with the world.

Makes about 3 cups. Best served at room temperature; flavor improves after ingredients mingle for a day or two.

– 1 C brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed (use plain lentils; save the fancy French de Puy lentils for when you want to make a salad (like the Ethiopian version below) of soup since these keep their shape nicely and do not break down as easily)

– 4 C water

– 1 bay leaf

– ½ t dried thyme

For dressing:

– ½ C tehina – I use Joyva, which is a pure puree of sesame seeds, many others contain chickpeas and other ingredients, so they are closer to tehina spreads

– ½ C lemon juice (2 lemons) + zest of 1 lemon (why not!)

– 1 C of fresh green herbs — my preference is a mix of cilantro and mint, but you can also use parsley

– 1 t kosher salt

– Scant ½ t ground black pepper

– 1 clove garlic (can substitute 1t garlic powder or 1t garlic salt and reduce regular salt if you don’t have fresh garlic)

– 1 t ground cumin

– 1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil

In large saucepan, combine lentils, water, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to boil, cover, and reduce heat to medium low; simmer until tender but not mushy, ~ 25 minutes.

Cooked lentils

Remove bay leaf, drain (if any water remains, especially if using de Puy lentils) and put in large bowl.
Add all ingredients to lentils and use mortar and pestle, potato masher, or (my personal favorite) immersion blender to smush the combined salad into a paste.

lentils and dressing

no need to make the dressing in a separate bowl...I just did it for illustrative purposes

Serve at room temperature with pita or fresh vegetable crudité. I made some toasted lavash crisps lightly sprayed with olive oil and sprinkled with garlic salt.

"salata Idan"

funny...it looks almost exactly like the dressing alone

To make the Ethiopian version: This is more of a lentil salad, so de Puy lentils will work better. Saute one onion and 1-2 seeded and minced jalepeño or other hot peppers in vegetable oil and add to lentils. Adjust dressing as follows – omit tehina and reduce lemon juice to 2 T.


And I’ll just leave you with one more video — a trailer of Tomer Heymann‘s documentary, Black Over White, about the Idan Raichel project concert tour to Ethiopia with a short exerpt of the song Milim Yafot Me’eleh (Words More Beautiful than These).

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salad close-up

When my friend Lau (the one who gave me the piggy and likes compote aux pommes) played a few songs off of Israeli singer Noa‘s “best of” CD from France (“Le Meilleur de Noa“) a few years ago, I was hooked. Within a year, I had bought almost all of her CDs, importing many from Israel. In particular, I love her 2002 remake of the Beatles hit “We Can Work it Out” with Palestinian Mira Awad. A note on Awad’s nationality — on her website, she refers to herself as Palestinian, so I am deferring to her preference; I have elsewhere seen her called “Israeli Arab” and “Israeli Arab Christian.” I think this song is a beautiful cover with a great message.  And it appealed to my love of music and art (and dance) bringing people together.

 NOTE: This video is from a Dutch TV show that includes Noa’s and Mira’s opinions on the political situation in Israel. The  song is on Noa’s CD “Now” and on iTunes.

And then about 2 months ago, I learned that Noa and Mira Awad are again collaborating and I have been eagerly waiting to find out what they would come up with: they will represent Israel in the Eurovision song contest in May 2009. They composed 4 different duets and the winner, “Einayich” means “Your Eyes;” the English title is “There Must be Another Way” and it is sung in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.  Since I first heard it a few weeks ago, I have found myself humming its refrain, loving how Noa and Mira’s voices mix so beautifully.

Here are the words to the song, from Noa’s website:

There Must Be Another Way

Words and music: Noa, Gil Dor, Mira Awad

There must be another way
There must be another way

עינייך אחות
– your eyes, sister –
כל מה שליבי מבקש אומרות
– say everything my heart wants to say –
עברנו עד כה
– we’ve come a great distance –
דרך ארוכה
דרך כה קשה
– our road has been long and hard –
יד ביד
– hand in hand –

והדמעות זולגות זורמות לשוא
– and the tears fall, flow, in vain –
כאב ללא שם
– our pain has no name –
אנחנו מחכות
– we are both waiting –
רק ליום שיבוא אחרי …
– for the day ‘after’ –
There must be another way
There must be another way

عينيك بتقول  (עינייך אומרות)
– your eyes say –
راح ييجي يوم وكل الخوف يزول (יבוא יום וכל הפחד ייעלם)
– one day, the fear will be gone.. –
بعينيك اصرار (בעינייך נחישות)
– in your eyes there is determination –
انه عنا خيار (שיש אפשרות)
نكمل هالمسار (להמשיך את הדרך)
– that we can continue our journey –
مهما طال (כמה שתיארך)
– for as long as it takes –

لانه ما في عنوان وحيد  للاحزان (כי אין כתובת אחת לצער)
– for there is no address to sorrow –
بنادي للمدى, للسما العنيده (אני קוראת למרחבים, לשמיים העיקשים)

– I cry to the open plains, to the merciless sky –
There must be another way
There must be another way
There must be another, must be another way

דרך ארוכה נעבור,
– a long and hard journey lies before us –
דרך כה קשה,
יחד אל האור,

– together, on our way to the light… –
عينيك بتقول (עינייך אומרות),
– your eyes say –
كل الخوف يزول (כל הפחד ייעלם)
– all the fear will someday disappear –

And when I cry I cry for both of us
My pain has no name
And when I cry I cry to the merciless sky and say
There must be another way

והדמעות זולגות זורמות לשוא
– and the tears fall, flow, in vain –
כאב ללא שם
– our pain has no name –
אנחנו מחכות
– we are both waiting –
רק ליום שיבוא אחרי
– for the day ‘after’ –
There must be another way
There must be another way
There must be another, must be another way

Obviously I’m not the only one to recognize the overt symbolism here (for example, there was an article written in Time about it last week) — an Israeli and a Palestinian, their voices rising together on the same stage, representing one country.

But, perhaps I was one of the few people inspired to make a salad!

The first time I made this particular salad was for my graduate school’s multicultural food festival. I managed to step into a little controversy by being an American helping out the Israeli club and not quite following directions. We divvied up responsibilities – falafel, hummus, tabbouli, and Israeli salad — and I chose to make the salad because it was the healthiest.  Plus, I figured I knew how to make typical Israeli salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsley or mint because  when I volunteered with the Israeli army through Sar El after my freshman year in college, we ate this salad with every single meal including breakfast.

of course I'm smiling, I'm 18, in a kitchen, surrounded by tall handsome Israeli soldiers!

of course I'm smiling, I'm 18, in a kitchen, surrounded by tall dark Israeli soldiers!

Never satisfied to leave simple enough alone, I had just bought a new cookbook — Joan Nathan’s The Foods of Israel Today — and browsing through it, found a recipe called “Kibbutz Vegetable Salad” that was described as follows:

Sometimes called Turkish Salad, this typical Israeli salad, served at almost every meal, has many variations. But one thing remains the same: the tomatoes, onions, peppers, and cucumbers must be cut into tiny pieces, a practice of the Ottoman Empire…

It sounded to me like a traditional “Israeli salad” with some peppers thrown in. I actually think of “Turkish” salad as a cooked salad, almost like a tomato sauce spiced with roasted peppers. In my mind, the salad described in the recipe seemed like a more colorful version of traditional “Israeli salad.”


But when I brough this salad to the food festival, proud of my beautiful confetti of colors, one of my Israeli classmates looked at it, sneered, and said, “that’s not Israeli salad, that’s Arab salad.” Hers looked something like this:


just tomatoes and cucumbers

While perhaps not perfectly authentic, my salad didn’t deserve a snub. This comment  just made me want to throw my hands up in the air and say, “Can’t we all just get along?”.

And, actually, in doing my research, my understanding is that “Arabic salad” is more similar to “Israeli salad” than it is different. Both have finely diced cucumber and tomatoes. Both usually add onion,  often spring onion. Both are dressed with olive oil and lemon. Both add a green herb, either parsley or mint or both. Neither ever includes lettuce.

So what was my classmate objecting to? The peppers? Was that supposed to be a statement? Please! The food festival was about food and sharing culture, not political statements. Granted, never having lived in Israel, I know I cannot understand the intricacies of Arab/Palestinian-Israeli relations nor can I fully appreciate the depth of the feelings and animosity between these two groups.

But I love the message that Noa and Mira Awad have shared with each other, with their communities, and, now more than ever, with the world. The current situation is unsustainable. There must be another way. And if Israelis and Palestinians come together and find common ground, slowly … eventually… we can work it out.

Yes, I am an idealist.

So, I used to call this Israeli salad. I no longer know what it actually is. But now I’m reclaiming it and renaming it.

Salade Mira-Noa vegetable still life with za'atar

Salade Mira-Noa

Adapted from Joan Nathan’s The Foods of Israel Today. Dedicated to Noa and Mira Awad, and wishing them luck at Eurovision 2009 in Moscow.

This does take a long time to prepare because there is a lot of fine chopping. The salad is best eaten fresh alongside hummus and pita.

Serves about 10 people.

– 1 onion (I prefer red for its beautiful color)

– 1-2 T mild vinegar, either white vinegar or cider vinegar

– 2 cucumbers

– 5-6 tomatoes

– Peppers – I like a multicolor mix – 1 each of green, red, yellow, and orange to get that colorful confetti effect

– 2-3T olive oil

– 1 or 2 lemons

– kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

– 1/2 – 1 t za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice mix that includes sesame and sumac)

Prepare onion first: chop and allow to soak in 1-2 T vinegar and a pinch or two of salt for ~30 minutes while you chop the rest of the veggies. Essentially this will  give it a quick pickling to cut the onion’s sharpness.

quick pickled chopped onions

quick pickled chopped onions

Finely chop the remaining vegetables – cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers — and mix in a large bowl with the onions.

salad ingredients, ready to mix

Dress with juice of 1-2 lemons, a few pinches of salt, a few grinds of pepper, 2-3 T olive oil, and za’atar. Mix again.

Enjoy with friends.

[A very special thank you to Veronica and Joanna for helping me edit and edit and edit this posting, and to Judy for lending me the glass bowls.]

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My family once vacationed in Nice, my parents taking us kids along when they had a conference in the large convention center. We had fun, but I pretty much treated Nice as any other place to hang out. My sister and I actually went bowling. Bowling!

And we complained about the pebbly beach.

plage a Nice

I don’t think I fully appreciated the beauty and calm of this city until I spent several weeks there on my own. That’s when I met Gianin (non pensare, fare) and had an opportunity to really explore Nice, renting a flat in the Musicians’ Quarter, riding the bus every day like a local, and taking dance classes in Vieux Ville (Old Town).

Vieux Ville back alley (view from OffJazz top floor stairway window)

Vieux Ville back alley (view from OffJazz top floor stairway window)

One of my favorite parts of the day, dance classes notwithstanding, was relaxing after class. Sometimes I went out with fellow students and teachers (most notably the inseparable Dutch ladies whom I soon visited in den Haag) or took a quick dip in the Mediterranean. But usually I meandered back to my flat either along the waterfront or through the market.

Some days, this would take me hours — I was a true flâneur that summer in the best spirit of that word — one who experiences a city by strolling through its winding streets and alleyways, noticing the little nuances and habits and daily rituals and rhythms of life.

When I walked through the market, there was lavender everywhere. Soap. Perfume. Herbes de Provence in cute little ceramic pots. I had been cooking with lavender for a while, infusing it into a liquid – honey, milk, melted butter/margarine – to incorporate its essence into something I’m baking without making the end product taste like perfume. But now when I cook with lavender, and the sweet scent fills the air, I am reminded of my summer walks home through the market and other flânerie in Nice.

* * *

When I came home from New York this past weekend, I found almost a foot of snow outside.

Inside though, on my small windowsill herb garden, my lavender plant has started to bloom. It began shooting buds about 2 weeks ago, towering high above the fuzzy leaves below. And just this week, a few tiny delicate purple flowers have started to barely show their faces, peeking shyly out from their green sheaths.

lavender flower

You almost need to squint to see them. But they’re there.

lavender flower closeup

So it was time to bake another lavender cake.

Lavender tea cake

lavender tea cake, on a napkin I bought in Nice

Lavender Cake

Adapted from The Kosher Palate‘s Yellow Cake recipe. While some recipes call for grinding up dried lavender buds into a fine powder to give flavor to cakes, ice creams, etc., I find this gives a too heady a fragrance and taste. I prefer the infusion method that I have described below. This methodology can be incorporated into other recipes – just infuse the lavender into warming honey, milk, or shortening. I may try this with rosebuds as well.

I typically make this as 2 loaf cakes (like tea cakes) or 4 dozen small or 2 dozen large cupcakes; can also be made as a bundt cake; makes approximately 15 servings. I use a silicone loaf pan, and the cake develops a really nice, caramelized crust.

3 C all-purpose flour

2 C sugar

1 T baking powder

1/2  kosher salt

1/2 C vegetable oil

1/2 C margarine

1 C soy milk

4 large eggs

2 T dried lavender

zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease pan(s).

Prepare lavender infusion: melt margarine in bowl over low heat and add lavender. Heat until fragrant, approximately 7-10 minutes. Drain margarine through fine sieve, pressing lavender on mesh. Discard lavender. Allow margarine to cool (but should still be liquid).

Infusing lavender

infusing lavender

lavender in seive

margarine drained, lavender buds stay out of batter

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of mixer using paddle on low speed.

Add oil, cooled margarine, soy milk, eggs, and lemon zest. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Scape down sides of bowl occasionally to make sure all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and bake for 40-60 minutes, depending on size of pan. Cake is done when toothpick inserted into center comes out clean (no crumbs). I typically bake on the longer side because I like a crunchy crust.

Cool and serve.

Lavender tea cake

what remained after sharing with my neighbors


sometimes I make lavender cupcakes

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I have been writing content for this blog for several months, have told scores of friends about this endeavor, have been cooking and baking and trying to take pictures of my experiments, but have put off actually “going live.” I’m not sure what I’ve been waiting for.

I made the decision to pull together all of my recipes and cooking adventures and travel after meeting Clotilde clotildeDusoulier in Paris last November for a book reading and signing. If you don’t know who she is, you should. She writes Chocolate & Zucchini (she’s at the top of my list of favorite blogs…check out her French “edible idioms” if you love the French language as much as I do), and everything I have ever made from her site and cookbooks has turned out well. Coming from me, that’s saying a lot. At the signing, she suggested using a blog, at the very least, as a way to keep track of your recipes and maybe to eventually share them with the world. She signed one of her books to me: “Pour Gayle – le bonheur est dans la cuisine! Clotilde” — “happiness is in cooking/the kitchen.” More on Clotilde later, but suffice it to say that my visits to France have led to many memorable experiences.

A year and a half ago, I spent about a month taking dance classes in Paris and Nice. At a later time, I’m sure I’ll write about the amazing food I ate, the (mostly positive) reactions I got to wearing a Jewish star the whole time, but right now, I’m going to focus on the issue at hand and some words of wisdom I received from one of my dance teachers in Nice. I was taking a jazz and tap dance atelier (workshop) at OffJazz that taught me so much more than dance. Given the world renown of the the school as well at its amazing location, students came from all over Europe and the world to train with Gianin Loringett and Gianin's classother teachers. (I hung out with people from London, Paris, Cannes, Prague, the Hague, Denmark, Brazil, and Cuba, and have gone back to visit a few dancers in their home cities.) What I found amazing, besides the instruction, was Gianin’s ability to switch seamlessly from one language to another. I consider myself lucky to speak passable French, but this guy is amazing. Our last week, we had several Italian students in one of our classes and as Gianin was demonstrating some steps, he stopped and stared at one dancer standing back and watching rather than practicing and yelled out, “Non pensare, fare.” For the rest of us whose common language was English, he translated as only he could: “If you sit around and think and wait, the train will leave you at the station.”

So there we go. I’ve started my blog. I’m on the train. And since this is about food, I guess I need to post at least one yummy picture. So, here is an authentic salade nicoise from, yup…you guessed it, Nice.

salade nicoise a Nice

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