Thanksgiving Facts, Fiction and Other Stuff

molly's pilgrimAs the classic children’s book Molly’s Pilgrim explains, the Pilgrims got the idea of a harvest holiday of Thanksgiving from the Bible. They modeled their day of thanks after Sukkot.  This heart-warming story of Jewish immigrant Molly takes the classic American child’s experience of Thanksgiving and connects it to the Jewish experience. Also available as an Oscar Winning short film (shot in Montclair)  Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen. Find the film on YouTube.

Looking for some meaningful words with which to start your Thanksgiving? Read Are there Jewish Prayers for Thanksgiving from Jewish Boston.    Continue reading

A Different Thanksgiving

Covid Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving this year certainly isn’t like last.  At my house, just my husband and I will sit down at the table together because of COVID restrictions and safety. But as we did for the Passover seder, birthdays, and anniversaries this year, we will Zoom with our daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren and granddog in Nutley and in Lille, France.

So what to do when you suddenly are planning a Thanksgiving for 2 rather than 22? Here are some fairly easy last minute suggestions from previous Shomrei Week recipe columns. Everything can be easily adjusted for changes in your guest list. Continue reading

For Busy Cooks

apricot chickenmujaderrasquash kugel

In the run up to Thanksgiving dinner, busy cooks look for simple meals. Even if your guest list is drastically reduced, Thanksgiving dinner takes extra effort. Included in this recipe column are some simple weeknight meals and some which are suitable for the holiday.

I don’t use a lot of prepared food, but I just rediscovered this super simple chicken recipe from the ‘70s that packs lots of flavor. You may even have the ingredients on hand. This is a very forgiving recipe that begs for your own personal touch. Continue reading

Read, Learn Enjoy

book-check-out-300x128REMINDER: the library is open for borrowing.  There are many new books available as well as great older books for readers of all ages including teens.  Use the online catalog to choose your books; then email the library (email hidden; JavaScript is required)  with your request. The books can be left either in the office or on my porch (open 24/7, address by request). The catalog is very easy to use. There is a link on Shomrei’s home page. Questions or requests: email the librarian at email hidden; JavaScript is required. Continue reading

Other Worlds and Other Times

Lampert libraryIt’s finally over- the election that is. The months of having our ears to the radio and our eyes on the screens for what seems 24/7 have come to a close. Unglue yourself from CNN, FOX, NPR or whatever is your media of choice.

It’s time to pick up a book and escape from politics at least temporarily.

Here’s a group of books new to the Library that will take you to far off places or times or open your mind to new ideas. Continue reading

As the Nights Grow Longer: Good Books with Cookie Chaser

Screenshot 2020-10-22 09.09.41

As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, we will be inside more than ever. Tear your eyes away from the screen and pick up a real book. Most libraries are open for limited in-person visits or at the very least, offer pick-up service.

The synagogue library will pull books for you and leave them in the office. The library is also open for browsing. Please wear your mask, sanitize your hands and put books in the designated basket. Continue reading

October Things to Do

oct 14 Ruth WisseLooking for some ways to fill your time? Here are a few suggestions.

Ruth Wisse, Martin Peretz professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature emerita at Harvard has a series of podcasts and webinars produced by the Tikvah Fund. While you may or may not agree with the organization’s politics, Professor Wisse’s lectures are well worth listening to.  Continue reading

It’s Never Too Late

OSC Sept still watersAt this time of year with the month of Elul behind us and Tishri on its way out,  I often think of my own mortality and relationships that have flourished, struggled or withered away.

My uncle Robert, the last of my father’s generation recently passed away at aged 97. A few months before his death, in January on Shabbat Vayigash he gave a d’var Torah in his synagogue. He linked  the story of Joseph’s revelation of his identity to his brothers and their reconciliation to the longstanding rift between him and one of his daughters. He asked for his daughter’s forgiveness- no discussion, no arguments, no recriminations or explanations. Continue reading

Feasting in Fall

dining

It’s officially fall with Sukkot just a day away. Often called the Jewish Thanksgiving, ( and supposedly the actual inspiration for Thanksgiving)  Sukkot is the time when we usually say good -bye to the outdoors and begin to snuggle down in the warmth of our homes. Of course, this year is a little different and we may want to extend that dinner on the deck experience as long as we can.

So what to prepare to celebrate the harvest and still be served easily  outdoors?

Here are some suggestions many of which make use of fall’s bounty.

Dinner on a cool evening is always enhanced by soup. Make it easy and try a packaged butternut squash soup. Trader Joe’s is excellent and will fool most guests and it’s so much easier to open a box than to cut up squash. A sprinkle of ginger or toasted pine nuts on top makes it your own.

Joan Nathan is one of my favorite chef’s. Her recipes always are tasty even if they don’t look quite like the pictures. Watching her cook is like watching someone’s mother or grandmother. She is a self-confessed messy cook who often says-just as i do- now where is that spatula or whatever.  Try this egg dish for a light Sukkot supper.

IMG_3446Bulgarian Zucchini Frittata  (serves 4-6)

Ingredients
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
3 Tablespoons butter or olive oil, divided
1 pound zucchini, half chopped and half sliced into thin rounds
4 large eggs
4 ounces feta cheese, preferably Bulgarian
2 Tablespoons fresh dill
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan or Kashkaval cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Saute onion in 2 Tablespoons butter or oil
  2. Add chopped zucchini, cooking for just a few minutes until zucchini starts to get golden. Remove from pan and cool.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9 inch pie pan with rest of butter or oil.
  4. Beat the eggs. Stir in the zucchini-onion mixture, dill,crumbled feta, salt and pepper,
  5. Top the mixture with the zucchini rounds, gently pressing them down. Brush with oil and sprinkle with Parmesan.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes.
  7. Serve with good bread and a big salad.

Notes: Other herbs can be substituted for dill. Add some sautéed eggplant or mushrooms to the mixture for a heartier dish or even some vegetarian sausage. This reheats well.

A pickled salad is always a nice side dish. This is a twist on the usual oil/lemon juice or vinegar brine.

Cucumbers lime ginger and green leaves Products for healthy eatingLime-Pickled Cucumbers

Ingredients
1 English cucumber, quartered and cut into 3/4” pieces
3 Tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Directions

  1. Combine everything in a bowl.
  2. Cover and refrigerate, stirring occasionally for up to 24 hours.

Notes: Try adding halved grape or cherry tomatoes and sliced radishes for a colorful side dish.

If you want to get a little fancies for dinner, try this next dish, perfect for company or Shabbat. While it uses fruit, it is not overly sweet.

fishLemon Pomegranate Salmon (serves 6)

Ingredients
6 (6 oz) salmon fillets or a 1and a half pound fillet
1/3 c. olive oil
zest and juice of one lemon
1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses or concentrate
1/4 c. plus 1  Tablespoon honey, divided
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 lemons, sliced thin
pomegranate seeds for garnish
Fresh mint or micro greens for garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450.
  2. Place salmon on parchment lined baking sheet
  3. Whisk oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, 1tablespoon honey, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper until emulsified. Brush over salmon. Save the rest.
  4. Arrange lemon slices on top of salmon. Drizzle with honey.
  5. Cook 12-15 minutes
  6. Garnish with sauce, pomegranate seeds and mint.

Notes: To get the most juice out of the lemon, roll it on the counter before juicing.   This sauce would also work on chicken or tofu. For a vegan meal, substitute silan (date honey) or agave for the honey. Try using Aleppo pepper as a seasoning instead of ground black pepper. Aleppo pepper is a lovely red color and, while it has a peppery bite, there is also a note of sweetness tempering the bite. Lovely.

Lastly, my family loves kasha varnishkes. But over the holidays I ran out of kasha. I improvised using bulgur that I had bought at the Middle Eastern grocery on Route 46 in Totowa. Bulgur is usually used for tabouli, a cold grain salad. But it’s a great stand-in for bulgur with a slightly different taste and texture.

bulgurBulgur Pilaf  (serves 4-6)

Ingredients
1 cup coarse bulgur
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter or parve margarine
2 1/2 cups hot water or broth
2 teaspoons salt

Directions

  1. Put olive oil and butter or margarine in a pot.
  2. Add bulgur and stir over low heat for a few minutes.
  3. Add hot water and salt.
  4. Cook for 15 minutes covered on low heat without stirring.
  5. After about 15 minutes, when bulgur has swelled, remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for an additional 15 minutes.
  6. Stir gently and set aside for 5 minutes.

Notes:  Add sautéed onions, mushrooms, bowties, if desired in in kasha varnishkes. Or add other vegetables or even dried fruit.

Dessert should be simple but fruity. Try one of these previously published desserts: cinnamon sugar apple cake (The holidays are comin in, Sept 2020) or the Marian Burros classic plum torte, (Additional Things to Make and Do, Oct 2020)

Hag Sameach and Hearty Appetite!

RBG: A Tribute

RBG funeral

On Shabbat/Rosh Hashanah evening when we heard of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, cries of “Oh, No!” rose from the Shabbat/Rosh Hashanah table. We had just moments before been discussing her role in keeping some balance on the Supreme Court and her qualities of maintaining friendships even with those whom she often did not agree.  Continue reading