Monday, April 30, 2012

Reuben Mina and a Cute Story

Jeremy loves Passover, but not for any spiritual reasons.

First of all, there are sodas made with pure sugar, since corn - and thus corn syrup - is forbidden during the holiday.  (I almost never buy soda, but it's an annual holiday tradition.)  Secondly, my friend Michele makes the most amazing coconut chocolate chip macaroons; she generously gives me a supply each year.

And Passover is also when I serve my Reuben Mina [MEE-nuh], a lasagna-ish dish made with matzah instead of noodles.  This isn't kosher, since it mixes meat and dairy products, but it's incredibly good!  Let me tell you a little story to show just how good.

As faithful readers know, Jeremy is a connoisseur of Reubens.  He will order one if he sees it on a menu, and can rate and rank every one he's eaten in terms of flavor, portion size, tenderness of meat, generosity of ingredients, etc.  Just ask, and he'll tell you which ones are his favorites; he'll also tell you which one was the very worst ever (which would surprise many people, but he could rant for days about how it was overpriced and overrated, virtually inedible).

So one day, years ago, when I found rye matzah sitting among the Passover groceries at the store, I bought a box.  I had instinctively thought of a Reuben casserole.

I layered the matzah, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing, Swiss cheese and corned beef; I poured egg over it all to bind it together.  I baked it until it was golden, melted, and luscious.  I served it to Jeremy and to his friend Doug.  They loved it.

Then I told them there was some more left in the kitchen, and that they could help themselves to seconds.

Jeremy and Doug looked at me and then looked at each other.  The leapt up, they ran to the kitchen.  They managed to get stuck in the narrow space between one kitchen wall and the extended countertop.  They pushed.  They shoved.  They were laughing, but they still fought to see who would get to the casserole dish first.

Like something out of a cartoon, they went "pop" past the blockade and ricocheted to the stove.  They split the generous quantity of leftovers which would, frankly, have likely offered third helpings.  They were happy.

And so, although I couldn't find the rye flavor this year, I had to make a Reuben Mina while using up the leftover matzah now that Passover has ended.  How could I not?  I approximated the rye flavor with a sprinkling of caraway seeds; it's the caraway  flavor that people seem to associate with rye, anyway.  And this can be made year-round with plain or egg matzah, which is available at any time.

This dish is easy to make, rich, and satisfying.  Trust me - my son is a Reuben expert, and he says "This is (friggin') delicious!"

Reuben Mina

1 cup Egg Beaters
4 plain or egg matzot (plural of matzah)
1-1/2 pounds sauerkraut, drained
8 ounces Thousand Island dressing
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
4 ounces thinly sliced Swiss cheese, divided
1/4 pound thinly sliced deli corned beef, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease an 8"x8" baking dish.

Pour 1/4 cup Egg Beaters into the prepared baking dish.  Place 1 matzah plus 1/3 of another matzah into the bottom of the dish.

Combine the sauerkraut, dressing and caraway seeds; place 1/3 of the mixture onto the matzah and spread it out.

Reserve half of the Swiss cheese for later.  Chop the remaining cheese and combine it with the corned beef. Distribute 1/3 of this mixture over the sauerkraut.

Pour another 1/4 cup Egg Beaters over the corned beef.  Place 1 matzah plus 1/3 of another matzah on top.

Place half of the remaining sauerkraut over the matzah and spread it to the edges.  Distribute half of the remaining corned beef mixture over the sauerkraut.

Pour 1/4 cup Egg Beaters over the corned beef.  Place the last matzah and 1/3 portion of matzah on top.  Spread the last of the sauerkraut over the matzah, and top with the last of the corned beef mixture.

Pour the last 1/4 cup Egg Beaters over the casserole, and top with the reserved Swiss cheese.

Bake for 40 minutes until golden and casserole is set.  Let rest for 5 minutes before cutting into 4-6 portions.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Frugal Floozie Friday - My Favorite Cafe

I was in Saline recently with Jeremy, on a day that involved a lot of schlepping here, there and everywhere.  By late afternoon, we were in need of refreshment and sustenance.  And so we stopped by today's Frugal Floozie Friday feature: My Favorite Cafe, on a side street in the quaint downtown area.

I just needed an iced tea, which was bright and cold and wonderful.  Jeremy wanted a little something to eat, and it was difficult to resist the inexpensive Sandwich Special posted on the chalkboard.  The Turkey Club was generously portioned, and served with both potato chips and a pickle.  It would be a great deal to split, followed perhaps by a $2 single scoop of Michigan's own Guernsey Farms Dairy ice cream, but it was also a great lunch that didn't even exceed our frugal monetary limit when serving only one hungry person.

There are so many treats at the cafe that meet our mandatory budget of $5 or less per person!  Beautiful, tempting baked goods range in price from $3-3.75, and you can choose from chocolate or carrot cakes, lemon bars, tiramisu, cheesecake, and more.  Quiche is available for $3.95 per slice, and an espresso sundae costs the same amount.  Breakfast bagels are available anytime for $3 or less, and there is a wide variety of sandwiches to choose from beyond what's offered on the $5 menu; there are even kid-friendly grilled cheese and pb&j sandwiches for $3.50.  Many coffee and tea drinks are available, as well as milkshakes; all of these cost less than $5, and many are even under $3.

So whether you come in for breakfast, for your caffeine fix, for a light lunch, for "coffice"-ing, to hang out with friends, or to satisfy your sweet tooth, My Favorite Cafe - which is bright, welcoming, and friendly - will definitely become one of your favorite places!

My Favorite Cafe
107 South Ann Arbor St.
Saline, MI 48176

View Larger Map

My Favorite Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Gluten-Free Sweet 'n' Salty Mini Chocolate Cupcakes

Gluten-free products ain't what they used to be!  In the not so olden days, these items were fair-to-poor approximations of foods that those who can't eat gluten would endure simply to have some form of baked good.  But the situation has improved considerably, and there are lots of really great products that let you have your cake and eat it too!

Manischewitz has developed a number of new gluten-free products, including yellow and chocolate cake mixes; both include a foil baking dish and even a frosting packet for the sake of convenience.

I was very happy to receive an incredibly generous box of goodies to play with recently, a lovely marketing gift from the Bender Hammerling Group which handles public relations and marketing for several food producers.  This assortment also included several bags of Hawaiian Kettle Style Potato Chips, in addition to a sample of the above-mentioned chocolate cake mix.

Sweet and salty is a flavor combination which is always popular, so I wanted to somehow combine the cake mix and the potato chips ... not the Luau BBQ flavor, I admit!  But some combination was calling to me.

And so, I made mini chocolate cupcakes - entirely gluten-free - and topped them with a brown sugar and crushed potato chip streusel that offered flavor and texture contrasts.  Then, instead of just letting the frosting packet loiter on my pantry shelf, I thinned it with coffee to make a glaze.

Chocolate cake, but with a bit of flair!

Gluten-Free Sweet 'n' Salty Mini Chocolate Cupcakes

1 15-ounce package Manischewitz Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup Hawaiian Kettle Style Original Flavor Potato Chips, crushed fine
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, melted

frosting packet included with cake mix
2 tablespoons freshly brewed coffee

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 12-cup mini cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, stir together the cake mix, eggs and oil; beat until thoroughly mixed.  Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full with the batter.

In a small bowl, combine the streusel ingredients. Place a heaping 1/4 teaspoon-ful into the center of each cupcake.

Bake cupcakes for 12 minutes until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean; let rest for 2 minutes, then remove from muffin tin and place on a rack.  Repeat with remaining batter and streusel.  Let cupcakes cool completely.

Combine frosting packet and coffee; mix thoroughly with a fork until smooth.  Drizzle over the cupcakes and let glaze set.

Makes 30 mini cupcakes.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms - Be Our Guest!

Today, I'm offering a guest post from my friend Cindy of Once Upon a Loaf.  She's a former Ann Arborite, so that alone would make her cool!  That she's also too much fun, devoted an entire week to celebrating both her birthday and the glorious PB&J, and is just a fabulous person ... well, all the better for me and for all of you who are about to meet her!

First, I'd like to heap an enormous amount of thanks on the Food Floozie for asking me to guest post for her today. I could not be more thankful that I have connected with her through food, and found a new friend in the process. My family has followed Mary via her column for some time, and when my mother first turned me onto her I was, I admit, a bit intimidated by the thought of contacting her. I was in the process of launching Once Upon a Loaf and wanted to be taken seriously - just wasn't ready yet. She had it all, in my mind - she was funny, talented, endearing - and I can say now that I was dead-on about the Floozie. Thank goodness I eventually chucked my self-consciousness and can now enjoy her irreverence almost at will.

Things have been getting hairy around Casa Loaf - spring school, sports and extra-curricular activities for the kids, work and personal travel for their parents, races for me and the approaching boating, lawn care and gardening season have all converged on a super highway of busy-ness around here. You likely have your own highway running through the middle of your life.

As a result, I recently started searching for meatless weeknight meals that pull together in a snap - when I'm short on time, I don't want to have to chop and mix 100 different ingredients and clean up 10 different pans. I'd like plenty of real nutritional value, please - I won't trust my meatless ventures to a mysteriously manufactured commercial veggie option. I'd also like it to wow me with flavor, thank you. And since I'm training for marathon and half-marathon season and want to up my family's fiber intake at the same time, I want to focus on whole grains.

Enter portobello mushrooms and bulgur. I've got a love affair going with the former and had a box of the latter in my kitchen cabinet, intending to research recipes to start adding to the rotation using it, as I'd been reading up on its nutritional benefits (check out this article for a decent overview on bulgur if you're not well-versed). I'm also looking for iron via leafy, dark greens like spinach and kale.

With that, I'd like to introduce you to Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Feta and Almonds - not too many ingredients, and the mushrooms can be roasted while the bulgar simmers on the stove. Feta, chopped, roasted almonds (use slivered if you're really in a rush) and scallions kick things up a notch, and a salad of simple greens (spinach and kale here) with lemon and olive oil accompany it perfectly. If you'd like to add a bread component, pair these with Pesto Parmesan Dinner Rolls, made from a cold-rise dough that can be refrigerated overnight, and left to rise while you prepare the portos and greens.


A hearty and healthy weeknight dinner is now served.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Feta and Almonds

Approx prep: 25 minutes Bake: 10 minutes (mushrooms) Serves: 5


1 cup bulgur
2 chicken boullion cubes
3/4 cup chopped, roasted almonds
4 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green portions separated)
1 tsp dried thyme
Kosher salt, black pepper (to taste)
4-5 large portobello mushrooms
4 TBSP olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 cup feta cheese
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
6 cups mixed greens
1/2 English or miniature cucumber, thinly sliced


1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Cook bulgur according to package directions but add two chicken bouillon cubes and stir occasionally as it's simmering to ensure bouillon disolves completely.

2. Transfer cooked bulgur to a bowl, cool completely. Chop scallions and almonds.

3. Add white portions of scallions, almonds and thyme to bulgur. Add kosher salt and pepper to taste.

4. Place mushrooms (stems removed) on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Rub with oil and season with kosher salt and pepper. Roast, stem-side up, until tender - about 15-18 minutes.

5. Divide bulgur mixture evenly and fill with bulgur mixture, sprinkle with feta. Return to oven and roast until warmed through, about 2-3 minutes more.

6. In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and 1/4 tsp each of kosher salt and pepper. Add greens and cucumber and toss to combine. Sprinkle mushrooms with scallion greens and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with greens.
Recipe adapted from Real Simple magazine.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Baked Chicken with Morels and Leeks

Morel mushrooms are prized for their deep, rich taste; their appearance in specialty markets is practically an announcement in Michigan that "Spring is here!"

So when I found some available recently, I bought a few.  Just a few - they cost $50 per pound!  But for a couple of judiciously-spent dollars, it's possible to splurge a bit on an extraordinary flavor accent.

I found some beautiful chicken thighs on sale, and I had some leeks and a splash of half-and-half loitering in my refrigerator; these inexpensive and ready ingredients combined with the few morels to make a simple but delicious dish.

The chicken, having baked in cream, is fork-tender.  The sauce is luscious, and lets the leeks and the morels shine without either one overpowering any other ingredient.

This would be fabulous for brunch or for a simple weekend meal; it's ideal to serve for a romantic evening.  Enjoy this truly delicious meal, and feel as though you're indulging in luxury.

Baked Chicken with Morels and Leeks

  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 8" length of leek, ends trimmed. halved lengthwise, sliced thin
  • 4 large morel mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 6 chicken thighs

Preheat oven to 375F.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add leeks and cook for 2 minutes, until softened.  Add morels, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add half-and-half; cook for 2 minutes.

Melt remaining tablespoon of butter in a large skillet.  Season chicken with remaining salt, then cook for 5 minutes per side until golden brown.  Place chicken into a baking dish and top with cream sauce.  Bake for 35 minutes until chicken is tender and sauce is bubbling.

Serve with rice, pasta or potatoes to soak up the creamy sauce.  Serves 4-6.

(With many thanks to my friend and ex-sister-in-law Marjie for the beautiful blue ceramic trivet under the dish of chicken, which references the Dione Lucas Gourmet Cooking School Cookbook.  Dione Lucas was a predecessor to, and influence upon, Julia Child; she was the first female graduate of Le Cordon Bleu and the first woman to be featured in a cooking show on television.)

Monday, April 23, 2012


I went to Bookstock yesterday, for the very first time.

I've tried to get there each year, but something always seems to come up to keep me from it.  But not this year!  This year I perused through thousands of used books, piled 'em up in my arms 'til I couldn't hold any more, and wished all the while that I lived closer so I could meander over each day for the week that this fest is being held, just to see what new goodies arrive as it all progresses.

Here's how Bookstock describes itself:

Bookstock, Used Book & Media Sale, is a community service project through which donations of books and media continue to provide enjoyment and knowledge. Proceeds from the sale support education and literacy projects in the Detroit metropolitan area and beyond.

The entire process of collecting and sorting gently used books and media, organizing and staffing the sale is 100% volunteer driven. This approach to recycling used books and media in order to raise money for education and literacy is what makes Bookstock a win-win endeavor for the community. All leftover books from Bookstock are donated to non-profits and charities in our community.

Now, one might think that I'm a bit limited to have bought 7 cookbooks, most of them about Jewish cuisine!  But not only are these books I didn't already have, some of them are also theoretically work-related.  I write about food, and I often write about Jewish food; I'm also writing regularly now for the Washtenaw Jewish News about holidays ... and food!  So to collect a few of the basics among the pantheon of Jewish cookbooks - The 92nd Street Y's International Kosher Cookbook, The World of Jewish Entertaining, and Joan Nathan's The Jewish Holiday Kitchen ... well, how could I resist???

There's also Love and Knishes by Sara Kasdan, which is very cute and chatty, with lots of traditional recipes and generous sprinklings of Yiddish, which I wish I could speak - you can't say anything in other languages as expressively as you can in Yiddish!  My favorite part, though, is the chapter on Yom Kippur Cookery, which totals 4 sentences: "Ah ha!  You looked.  Shame on you!  You should be fasting."  Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the one day on the Jewish calendar on which no food or water are permitted ... :)

But I also indulged in other interests beyond Jewish food, and bought a cookbook devoted solely to my beloved shortbread, one by Paul Prudhomme and his family, and one devoted to menus inspired by artists such as Brueghel, Rousseau, Mattisse and Monet.  Regular readers have followed along as I've written numerous posts about shortbread, both sweet and savory; about New Orleans and its food; and about art exhibits.  I may be obsessive and single-minded in buying cookbooks almost exclusively, but I'm a happy single-minded obsessive!

And I also have to share with you my moment of amusement.  I once wrote a post about finding copies of In the Kitchen with Rosie: Oprah's Favorite Recipes in every single thrift shop I meander through.  So to find one at Bookstock (and then, in looking at the picture, finding another copy tucked into the pile to the right-hand side of the one I photographed) made me chuckle ....

Friday, April 20, 2012

Frugal Floozie Friday - Morgan and York

My friend Deborah and I recently met for coffee and treats on a Friday afternoon at the wonderful Morgan & York specialty market.  It's not a restaurant; but it does offer some seating and a warm welcome for loitering, so it is today's Frugal Floozie Friday feature.

This fabulous shop sells a wide array of items: exceptional wines, sublime cheeses, an astounding variety of sausages, beautiful crusty breads, locally produced sausages and dairy products, lovely condiments, old-fashioned candies, handmade chocolates, and much more.  And - even better - you'll find knowledgeable, friendly service and the opportunity to taste, and learn about, virtually anything that's for sale.  I didn't leave until I'd purchased some paper-thin slices of the mustardseed salami with just a hint of the namesake flavor peeking through; a spicy caliente salami somewhat reminiscent of pepperoni; and a true treasure, the Dutch Boerenkaas cheese that had been described as crystalline with hints of butterscotch ... a perfectly seductive, and accurate, summary.

While I was waiting for Deborah, having remarkably arrived first (a rare occurrence for someone who runs a standard 10 minutes late), I was offered a cup of coffee to enjoy while perusing all the wonderful goodies.  As I meandered around, I could only think of what I wanted to taste, what I would cook with this or that product, what would make a lovely gift, etc.

Once Deborah arrived, we had to choose what sort of treat we wanted - cookies? bagels? candies?  We settled on pastries, and agreed wholeheartedly that each wanted her own rather than splitting anything.  I told a story of an ex-boyfriend who actually once wanted to share a 25-cent frosting shot, rather than ingest too much fat or sugar ... pffft!  We both chuckled and shook our heads as we anticipated the glee of our individual calorie and cholesterol fests.

And so, we ordered the chocolate almond croissants provided by Cafe Japon, a charming tea shop offering French and Japanese cuisine.  You wouldn't guess to look at its exterior that this baked good is a croissant, and I'm not sure that I would call it that.  But as they say, a rose by any other name ....  If you gaze lovingly at the luscious, creamy, chocolaty, crisp, flaky pastry pictured above - the croissant broken apart for ease of eating - you can imagine how wonderful it was!  And it was only $4, well within our mandatory expenditure of $5 or less per person.

Morgan & York sells a number of treats that meet the limits of our Frugal Floozie Friday budget, from coffee drinks to cookies, selections from the deli counter, chocolates, and other wonderful items.  Stop by, and you'll find yourself unable to resist the delicious offerings!

Morgan & York
1928 Packard
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Monday - Saturday: 9 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Sunday: 12 - 6 p.m.

View Larger Map

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Butter Cake for Yom HaShoah

Today is Yom HaShoah [YOHM hah-shoh-AH], Holocaust Remembrance Day.  To say that this is a day of great solemnity within the Jewish community is an understatement, truly, of indescribable proportion.

While it might seem frivolous to tie food into an occasion of such seriousness and significance, please trust that I don't intend any disrespect.  This day is admittedly a commemoration of unfathomable loss; but it is also an acknowledgement of resistance, of strength, and of continuity.

A number of cookbooks have been produced by survivors and also, posthumously, by those who didn't live to see the publications.  They were written to remember how life once was and written with hopes that there would be future generations to pass traditions and family recipes on to.

In Memory's Kitchen comes from women who collected their treasured culinary heritage so that it would not be forgotten if they, themselves, were lost:

"The pages are filled with recipes. Each is a memory, a fantasy, a hope for the future. Written by undernourished and starving women in the Czechoslovakian ghetto/concentration camp of Terezín (also known as Theresienstadt), the recipes give instructions for making beloved dishes ....  (This book) is a beautiful memorial to the brave women who defied Hitler by preserving a part of their heritage and a part of themselves."

The manuscript had been entrusted by Mina Pachter - one of the authors, who died on Yom Kippur 1944 - to a friend, asking him to bring it to her daughter Anny in Palestine if he survived.  He did survive, but had no way of contacting Mina's daughter.  After 25 years, though, the book finally found its way to Anny, who had moved to New York: "When first I opened the copybook and saw the handwriting of my mother, I had to close it ....  I put it away and only much later did I have the courage to look.  My husband and I, we were afraid of it.  It was something holy.  After all those years, it was like her hand was reaching out to me from long ago ....  By sharing these recipes, I am honoring the thoughts of my mother and the others that somewhere and somehow, there must be a better world to live in."

Elizabeth Ehrlich's mother-in-law, featured in Miriam's Kitchen: A Memoir, is a Holocaust survivor who is "A keeper of rituals and recipes, and of stories, (who) cooks to recreate a lost world, and to prove that unimaginable loss is not the end of everything.  She is motivated by duty to ancestors and descendants, by memory and obligation ...."

Miriam passes along recipes, stories, and memories as she teaches Elizabeth - who was raised by secular Jewish parents - how to cook traditional family dishes and also about the faith.  And in addition to sharing cooking techniques, Miriam shares her history.

When she was 12, Miriam's family left their town in Poland which the Germans had bombed repeatedly, only to return awhile later to find everything they owned had been taken.  The family later lived in its restaurant, although Jews weren't permitted to own businesses; they gave it a Polish name and even started to cook pork, as a disguise.  Miriam's aunt was captured by the Germans when the ruse was discovered, and had to be ransomed.

After this, the family was sent to the ghetto and lived in one room.  At fifteen, Miriam was sent to work in potato fields; "in the beginning they paid, very little ... then (they) didn't pay.  They took people away to work and shot them."  Her cousins - ages 7, 15 and 19 - were shot.  Her grandparents were taken "to Sobibor, a death camp.  They gassed them and burnt them."  Miriam also lost two aunts, an uncle, and two cousins in this same horrific manner.

In the summer of 1944, Miriam's family was sent to Chestochowa, spending more than a week in the infamous boxcars to travel there.  "The door was unlocked but we didn't run away, because we were afraid to be shot in the woods."  She was beaten at the camp when she tried to hang on to her father to prevent his being taken away; eventually, though, he was sent to Buchenwald and died one day before U.S. soldiers came to liberate the prisoners.

Not only did Miriam survive; but she later travelled to Israel and then to the United States, after meeting her husband Jacob in Chestochowa, and she lived to see children and even grandchildren for whom she cooked her cherished recipes.

I first read Miriam's story when it was published in 1997; and after all these years, I still vividly remember - and emulate - a small gesture that had great significance.  When she cracked eggs, Miriam would use her thumb to wipe the shell fully clean, not wasting one tiny portion after experiencing so much deprivation and hunger in her youth.  Such a simple act of frugality and gratitude and remembrance.

And so, I offer Miriam's Butter Cake today in honor of those who survived and also to commemorate the millions who died during the Holocaust - Zichronam l'Vracha [zeek-roh-NAHM lay vrah-KAH] = May their memories be for a blessing.  As so many had hoped for under the most desperate circumstances, there are future generations to pass the recipes down to, future generations to pass the stories down to, future generations to remember and to never forget ....

(The picture shows a Shoah Yellow Candle, distributed by the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs.  These are lit on Yom HaShoah to remember those who were lost, just as yahrzeit [YAHRT-zeit] candles are lit on the anniversary of a loved one's death.)

Miriam's Butter Cake
(adapted from Elizabeth Ehrlich's Miriam's Kitchen: A Memoir)

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Crumb Topping:
2 teaspoon flour
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease an 8"x8" baking pan.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Stir in the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and sour cream.  Add the flour, baking powder and salt; combine well.

Spread half the batter into the prepared pan; sprinkle the cocoa over the batter.  Place dollops of the remaining batter over the cocoa.

Combine the topping ingredients with a fork until crumbly; sprinkle over the top of the cake.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool completely.

Makes 9-12 servings.  Serve with whipped cream or with ice cream, if desired.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gluten-Free Pasta with a Gremolata Gratin

Pasta ... and pasta with a bread crumb topping, no less.  Heartbreaking, torturous temptation to someone who needs to eat a gluten-free diet.

And yet, this dish is entirely without gluten, thanks to nuts, garlic, cheese, parsley, and a couple of specialty ingredients from the thoughtful folks at Mishpacha and Manischewitz!  Manischewitz is now offering spiral- and shell-shaped gluten-free pastas, which were certified kosher for Passover and will also be available year-round; and Mishpacha, distributed by Manischewitz, has over a dozen new products including gluten-free bread crumbs.

I was very happy to receive an incredibly generous box of goodies to play with recently, a lovely marketing gift from the Bender Hammerling Group which handles public relations and marketing for a number of food producers.  And so, I decided that my first recipe showcasing these items should be a dish to offer comfort in a meal which is often verboten to many.  That items such as pasta and bread crumbs can be both gluten-free and delicious is a fabulous thing!

A gremolata is a topping of garlic, parsley, and lemon zest; a gratin is a dish topped with a browned bread crumb crust.  Combine them, and the bread crumbs and pistachios offer crunch while the parsley, garlic and lemon provide tremendous flavor.

So whether you need to be careful in eating a specialized diet, or you're trying to use up Passover products now that the holiday has ended, or you're just looking for a fabulous new way to prepare pasta, this recipe has it all!

Gluten-Free Pasta with a Gremolata Gratin

1 12-ounce package Manischewitz gluten-free pasta shells
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 very large garlic cloves, minced
zest of 1 lemon, finely minced
1/4 cup shelled pistachios, finely chopped
1/4 cup Mishpacha gluten-free coating crumbs
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
shredded Parmesan cheese, for serving

Bring 5 quarts of water to boil; add the shells and cook for 7-8 minutes until just done.

While pasta cooks, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet.  Add the garlic, lemon zest, pistachios, coating crumbs, and salt; cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant.  Remove from heat and stir in parsley.

When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the saucepan; stir in the remaining oil.  Place onto a serving platter and top with the pistachio mixture.  Serve with Parmesan.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Root Beer-Basted Ham

I didn't serve ham for Easter, since my Easter plans went rather awry.  So I baked the ham a few days later for Jeremy, his buddy Mitch, and their friend Anna who's now sharing lead vocals with Jeremy in their band. (For a sample of their music, go to this site: 90 Miles From Vegas.)

Feeding the band is a long-cherished tradition here, and it had been ages since I'd had the privilege.  Band members started focusing on school, schedules conflicted, kids moved up north ... they all grew up and life went on.  Jeremy still hung out with his friends, but it was much quieter and less festive.

Most parents cringe at the noise of band practice; and I admit, it has been a few years since Jeremy and his buddies played here ... either they got louder or I got older, preferably the former!  But I'd still rather have them tinkering around with grunge pedals and screeching guitars here, at my place, even if I often wonder when the neighbors will start banging on the door. (To their credit, they've complimented Jeremy on his music!)

I've missed having hungry kids to feed when they take a break from practice.  I've missed having ready guinea pigs who happily devour whatever I prepare for them.

I've missed having kids hanging out in my basement, playing music and following their dreams.

Root Beer-Basted Ham

1 2.5-ounce honey cured ham, boneless, sliced
1/2 cup root beer
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon brown mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce
juice of 1 small orange

Preheat oven to 400F.  Place ham into an 8"x8" baking dish.

Place remaining ingredients into a small saucepan; bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.  Pour sauce over ham, cover dish with foil, and bake for 20 minutes.

Uncover, then baste ham with sauce; bake for 10 more minutes.  Baste again, then bake for 10 more minutes.

Serves 8.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Taqueria La Fiesta, Part Dos

Jeremy was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day recently.  We spent the entire day running errands, going to appointments, jumping through hoops, and getting delayed - with some unprofessional, unprovoked, antagonistic, confrontational, and threatening behavior thrown in at one location, just for fun! - although the day thankfully ended on an upswing.

At lunch time, I had planned to go somewhere new for a Frugal Floozie Friday post; I always need fresh material, after all.  But Jeremy was so stressed and unhappy that I was grateful to have had an epiphany.

We were close to one of his favorite places.  So instead of turning around and going to the buffet that Jeremy had suggested when I asked him where he wanted to eat, I said: "How would you like to go see George?"  Jeremy brightened and enthusiastically agreed.  A burrito gigante was calling to him!

And so, we boogied on over to Taqueria La Fiesta.

As always, we were welcomed warmly by George, whose family owns the restaurant; he makes us feel as though we are honored guests in his home.  He brought chips and the fabulous spicy salsa, which we enjoyed with tall glasses of jamaica [huh-MY-kuh], a gorgeous pink iced hibiscus tea.

We chatted about tres leches cake, which a mutual friend had been providing but which is no longer offered (though a cupcake version may appear, so stay tuned!).  We chatted about restaurant coupons.  And we chatted about the wonderful fish tacos that George brought for us to sample, which were filled with pollock and a mango habanero salsa.  These were so good that even my fish-hating son loved them!  They feature a great contrast between tender fish and crisp vegetables, and saltiness mixed with sweetness and a hint of spice.  There is an entire range of flavors all dancing together.

Because I always like to try new dishes, I ordered the pork tamales pictured above rather than relying upon anything I'd ordered and enjoyed before; I like to work my way through a menu, and wasn't concerned with our $5 per person Frugal Floozie Friday limits at this visit.  With no budgetary constraints, I could order anything that might brighten the day!

I adore tamales, and have such respect for the time-consuming handmade labor of love that they are!  These were fabulous - moist rather than crumbly, and the pork was tender and utterly delicious having simmered in a flavorful red sauce.  The portions - especially when combined with refried beans and rice - were so generous that I was able to take most of the food home to enjoy again the next day.

We left happy - no small feat, given how Jeremy's morning had gone! - and restored for the rest of our busy afternoon.  Thank you, George, for the fabulous food and for your friendship ... :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Frugal Floozie Friday - Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery

Jeremy had been wanting to try the Truffled French Fries at today's Frugal Floozie Friday feature - the Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery - since I first told him that I'd found the intriguing dish while searching through a variety of menus one day while making a list of restaurants to visit.  He's not a fan of mushrooms, usually, so I wasn't very sure that he'd enjoy these.

So imagine how thrilled I was when Jeremy announced that "These are pretty delicious.  These are the best fries ever!"

They were utterly irresistable - so crisp, so fragrant with rosemary, so subtly and perfectly flavored with truffle and salt - that we'd have each happily devoured our own serving rather sharing.   The fries were perfectly complemented by a rich mayonnaise-based dipping sauce - ketchup would be a sacrilege.  I've already made a note to myself that these fries will be on my Top 10 list for the year.  And they only cost $5, our mandatory per-person budget, despite a truly generous portion!

Another fabulous dish, though one that would need to be split to stay within budget (it could easily feed 4, particularly served with the fries) is the Three Cheese Pizza for $9: "Herb flecked ricotta, parmesan and gruyere cheeses, with shaved broccolini, caramelized onions and salsa verde."  The cheeses were rich and creamy atop a crisp, hand-formed, granite-baked crust ... sigh.  Purely, simply delicious!

I'm sure some of you are wondering why I'm focusing on the restaurant's food offerings and ignoring the brewery options, since Jolly Pumpkin is noted for its beer and ales.  Well, first of all, I don't drink beer - that makes me sufficiently ignorant of the offerings that I shouldn't dare to pontificate about them.  And a pint would just about use up our $5 per person budget - to my thinking, more food and less beer is a better value.  But I certainly don't want to discourage anyone from enjoying one of the fabulous creations.

In lieu of beer, Jeremy tried a $4 non-alcoholic Black and Tan, which is equal parts ginger ale and artisan ginger beer.  It was bright and refreshing, and would be spectacular on a hot summery day.

There are soups and ice cream available for $5 each, an olive assortment to split for $6.  Many options await you that all qualify for our $5 per person (or less!) budget.

The atmosphere is cozy and inviting, welcoming guests to come in and enjoy themselves without rushing.  Share some fries, indulge in pizza, nurse a craft beer ... just be sure to find your way to the Jolly Pumpkin, where the food is exceptional and there are great values to be found!

Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery
311 South Main Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 913-2730

View Larger Map

Jolly Pumpkin on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dijon Devilled Eggs + Giveaway Winner

Okay, first things first: Mazal Tov to Candace, of Mi Chiamo Candace - she's the grand winner of the Whole Foods mango giveaway ... yay!!!  (Do your best Kermit the Frog arm wave while you say that!)  I'd have sent mangoes to everyone, if I could have!  I'm hoping to do another giveaway of treats (cookies - another yay!) in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for that one.

Next item on the list: Unfortunately, there was a delay in getting my Once Upon a Loaf guest post going on Monday ... computers, meh!  Whaddya gonna do with 'em???  Necessary evils.  So, go on over today and read all about my adventure in making matzah for the first time - it was so much fun!

Now, on to today's entertainment ....

At one of the Seders I attended at Passover, the topic of devilled eggs came up.

Everyone has a favorite recipe; some add chopped ham or salami, some add hot sauce, some add horseradish, some add dill.  There is no wrong way to make these simple but delicious treats!  And since I always like to tinker with things, I make the base with mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and dill, but often add other items according to my whims.

These are one of Jeremy's favorite foods, so I usually make them for holidays.  They were ideal for both Passover and Easter, but can be served at picnics and barbecues and "just 'cause."

Dijon Devilled Eggs

6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon prepared horseradish

Carefully pop the yolks out of the eggs and place them into a small mixing bowl.  Place the whites onto a serving plate.

To the egg yolks, add the mayonnaise, mustard, dill, salt, pepper and horseradish; mix well.  Use a small cookie scoop (if you have one) and place the filling into the cavities of the egg whites.  Decorate the plate with pea shoots or fresh dill or edible flowers or some other colorful splash.

Makes 12 devilled eggs.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chicken Baked in Spiced Mango Sauce

I received a great marketing gift last week: a case of Ataulfo mangoes, otherwise known as the Champagne variety, from the Whole Foods store down the road from where I work.  In addition to making what I must admit was a really lovely Gingered Mango Soup, my family and friends also ate a significant number of the fruits "as is," since they were perfectly ripe and so delicious.

But I couldn't just devour them all, tempted as I was.  So I devised another recipe to showcase the glorious mangoes.

Chicken can be prepared hundreds - thousands! - of ways, but still sometimes we get a bit tired of it. What, I thought, could add a bit of pizzazz to this plain ol' bird?

I didn't want to fry it ... I didn't want to curry it (often my first choice because I adore curry, so I needed to divert from my routine) ... I didn't want to just chop up the chicken and the mango and make a salad.  Hmmm ...?

I decided to cook the mango with some spice, to infuse a sauce with extra flavor and zest.  Then I merely poured it over browned chicken and baked it to caramelize the sauce a bit.  This was a fast, fabulous meal that was easily prepared after work, and it was even better than I'd hoped for!  It sounds so simple, but this dish really is exceptional.  It was fork-tender, and the flavors were vivid.

Sweet, spicy, succulent ... what great adjectives to use in describing dinner!

Chicken Baked in Spiced Mango Sauce

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup ginger ale
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
2 mangoes, peeled, seeded, chopped
2-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 425F.  Grease a medium casserole dish.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat.  Add 1 teaspoon salt, the red pepper flakes, the onion, ginger ale, pomegranate molasses, and mangoes; bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.  Transfer to a blender and puree.

Season the chicken on both sides with the remaining salt and the pepper.  In the same large skillet used for the sauce, heat the remaining oil over medium heat.  Brown the chicken for 5 minutes per side, cooking it in batches if necessary.

Place the chicken into the casserole dish, pour the sauce over it, and sprinkle the brown sugar over the top.  Bake for 30 minutes until sauce is bubbling.

Serves 6-8.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Espresso Pudding Parfait

Rather than sponge cake made with matzah meal or plain ol' fruit or sesame seed candies, why not try a pudding for a special dessert during Passover?  Why not make something a bit luxurious, rather than feeling as though food is becoming a punishment with no access to breads, cupcakes, oatmeal, or other items - both decadent and mundane - that will suddenly seem miraculous on Saturday evening when they're permissible again after the holiday?

This rich, luscious dessert uses ricotta cheese, though I know that it can be difficult to find this particular ingredient with a hekhsher [HEK-sher], certifying that it's kosher for Passover.  Pureed cottage cheese would work just fine, if that's easier to acquire.  Or make this after the holiday ends, when you're still trying to use up leftover tins of macaroons.

The pudding isn't terribly sweet, so that it offers a nice contrast to the sugary cookies.  Layers of texture and layers of flavor ... this coffee-almond parfait is simple but beautiful.

Espresso Pudding and Macaroon Parfait

2 15-ounce containers part-skim ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons prepared espresso, chilled
12 Manischewitz almond macaroons, crumbled
whipped cream, for serving

In a large bowl, whisk the ricotta to break it up a bit.  Whisk in the sugar and the espresso until smooth.

Fill 4 wine glasses one-third full with the ricotta mixture.  Divide half of the crumbled macaroons among the glasses.  Divide the remaining ricotta mixture among the glasses, then top with the remaining macaroon crumbs.  Top with whipped cream, if desired.

Makes 4 generous servings or 8 smaller ones.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Matzah 'n' Mangoes (and a Giveaway!)

Lotsa news 'round here!

1) If you've got some spare time and you'd like to read my review of The New York Times Passover Cookbook, then go to page 24 of this month's issue of The Washtenaw Jewish News.  Find out why I like to schmear grape jelly on my matzah, and where I learned to do it.

And 2) I'm hosting a giveaway ... yay!

A charming woman named Susan, who works in Marketing and Community Relations for Whole Foods Market, sent me an email the other day with a fabulous offer: a case of 16 Ataulfo mangoes [ah-tah-UHL-foh] to play with and a case for one of my astoundingly wonderful readers (those in the U.S., that is ... sorry to others!).

Entry is easy: all you have to do is leave a comment below saying that you'd like to win, tell me what you might make with the mangoes (or just that you intend to eat them "as is" with no fuss), and make sure I can reach you by email to let you know if you've won.  It would be great if you could "like" Whole Foods on Facebook, too, 'cause they've been nice to us.  Oh, and only one entry per person even if you leave more than one comment; the first one will be the one that counts. It's easier and more fair that way.

This one is going to be fast and furious: the deadline is Wednesday, April 11 at 9 a.m. EDT, and I'll use to pick the winner.  If I notify you of winning, you'll have 'til 3 p.m. EDT to acknowledge it; if you ignore me, I'll move on down the road to the next in line.

This timing probably seems a bit odd ... here's the scoop.  The mangoes are only being featured for a short while.  Observant Jews won't be using the computer from sundown on Thursday the 12th through sundown on Saturday the 14th because of the end of Passover (Jewish law ... it's complicated), so finding an email announcement or responding to it wouldn't be possible.  And procrastinators have to worry about their taxes ... oy!  It seemed easier to just do it quickly, before the weekend.

If you're the winner and you live near a Whole Foods, Susan can arrange for you to pick up the goodies at the closest store; if you don't live near a Whole Foods, she'll have them shipped to you.

That's it!

Chag Pesach Sameach! [HAHG PAY-sahk sah-MAY-ahk] = Happy Passover!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Frugal Floozie Friday - Cafe Ollie

I've had the great good fortune to visit Cafe Ollie twice recently - once with my very dear friend Sarah (who just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl this past weekend!), and once with Jeremy and his best buddy, Mitch.  Since the restaurant is so warm and wonderful, and such a supporter of Michigan products, it was time to feature it today for Frugal Floozie Friday.

Sarah and I each enjoyed a refreshing dish of Guernsey Farms Dairy's McGuire's Irish Mint ice cream, produced not too far from Ann Arbor in Northville, which was perfect on one of those way-too-early-to-be-summer days that found their way to Michigan before it was even officially Spring.  A single scoop - in either a cone or a lovely sundae glass - costs only $2.75, leaving plenty of room in our mandatory $5 per person budget to buy a local favorite: Faygo soda "made with real sugar in glass bottles."

Cafe Ollie also features daily soups, an assortment of coffees and teas, and baked goods made from scratch (like the fabulous sweets pictured above).  Sarah and I had originally intended to treat ourselves to cupcakes, but the ice cream was calling more loudly on a hot afternoon.  We met just after 4 p.m., and were having such a grand time - truly, talking about everything from family to antique heating grates to Jewish law! - that we ended up closing the place just before 8 p.m., with only the gentlest nudge from the very sweet waitress just as she started to clean up.  Many places would be loathe to let you loiter for quite that long, but we were welcomed stay right until the end of the day.

The next week, Jeremy and Mitch and I sat in the sun on the deck and enjoyed a late lunch of sandwiches, which are served with Detroit's own Better Made potato chips and Perkins Pickles.  For the exceptional price of $7, Jeremy and Mitch split the Reubenesque, Cafe Ollie's own Reuben sandwich.  (Regular readers know that Jeremy will inevitably order a Reuben if he finds one on a menu, and can pontificate at great length about the pros and cons of each one!)  Jeremy gave this sandwich high points for generosity of filling, tenderness of meat, and - most importantly - excellent flavor.

Cafe Ollie features a menu filled with creative sandwiches and salads, and caters to carnivores, vegetarians, and even vegans specifically.  So whether you're looking for a light meal, a sweet treat, or some combination thereof - and no matter what your dietary preferences - you can absolutely find something delicious to eat.

And once you've finished eating, you want to meander next door to the fabulous shop that's also owned by Cafe Ollie's owners, Danielle Scherwin-Teachout and her husband, Mark Teachout.  (If you don't find them on one side of the doorway, you'll find them on the other.)  I first told you about the Michigan General Store in my post about Buffalo Celery Sticks, in which I used some Cajun-flavored chips I'd found at the shop to create a great variation on the famous wings.  You can find so many, many exceptional items at this store, from salsas and mustards to wines and beers to smoked fish and cherry caramels, all made proudly here in Michigan.

So stop by Cafe Ollie and the Michigan General Store.  Enjoy delicious food and a warm welcome, and support both a local business and the Great Lakes State!

Cafe Ollie
42 E. Cross St.
Ypsilanti, MI 48198

Monday: Closed
Tuesday - Friday: 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.

View Larger Map

Cafe Ollie on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Boston Baked Beans for Opening Day

Baseball comes back today!  The Detroit Tigers' home opener will be at 1:05 p.m. against the Boston Red Sox.  I'm so excited!  Of course, I have to be at work this afternoon ... sigh.  But it's the principle of the matter!

Opening Day, for me, is usually when the New York Yankees play their first game of the season; they're not playing the Tampa Bay Rays 'til tomorrow, though.  But I've lived in Michigan for more than 30 years now, after moving from New York ... there can be a bit of wiggle room.

It is simply required to eat a hot dog in honor of this occasion - what's a baseball game without a hot dog, after all?  And I'm offering the perfect accompaniment, since the Tigers are playing the Red Sox from Beantown: Boston-Style Baked Beans, featuring the rich sweetness of molasses.

Now, I know that there are folks who don't share my excitement today, who aren't serving ritual, traditional foods.  Many people think that baseball is boring, because they don't understand it.  I'll spare you my rants about other sports which I simply cannot endure or which I ridicule with great glee, and rather focus on what I consider to be the great joy of baseball.

Sure, I'll grant you that there are lots of foul balls, causing significant delays in the games.  Sure, there  are plenty of superstitious players going through repetitive rituals, making it tedious to watch sometimes.  Sure, baseball players are prisses who can't play in bad weather.  Sure, there are performance-enhancing drugs and other scandals.

But baseball can be watched intently, play by play, or it can be company in the background; it can be whatever you need it to be.  There are thrilling moments that people remember - and debate - for decades.  People have been so devoted to the sport that their hearts have been broken by teams that have abandoned cities and by players who have abandoned teams.

Most importantly, though, the true beauty of baseball is this: with every single pitch there is the potential for something magical.  It doesn't always happen.  But the chance is there, and the hope is there.  And every so often, you get to witness a spectacular moment.

Today, a Mom or Dad or maybe a Grandpa is taking a child to his or her first baseball game.  They're wandering through the stadium, buying peanuts and Cracker Jacks and a souvenir program.  They're looking for their section.  They're heading toward the usher.  They're about to climb to their seats.

And in an instant, they walk out from the dark corridor and into the blinding sunshine.  A field of the brightest, most vibrant green lies before them.  Players are casually tossing the ball around.  Vendors are calling out with offers of pretzels and ice cold beer.  The scoreboard is zeroed out, waiting for the first hit, the first ball, the first run.

There are so few moments as special as that one instant when you walk into the ball park and the excitement surrounds you and transports you!  It elicits a gasp, and brings both a smile and a tear.

Today is a day of celebration.  It's Opening Day!  And all things are possible ....

Quick 'n' Easy Boston-Style Baked Beans

1 28-ounce can vegetarian baked beans, drained
1/4 cup unsulphured molasses
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons brown mustard
2 tablespoons honey barbecue sauce
1/4 cup finely chopped onion

Place all ingredients into a small saucepan; bring just to a boil, then lower heat to "low" and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serves 6-8.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Slows To Go

Slows Bar-B-Q is so many, many things to Detroit.  It's a place to eat.  It's a destination for tourists and suburbanites who might not otherwise go into the city.  It's a place that Detroiters take enormous pride in.  It's a part of the city's renaissance.

As an article in The New York Times explains it:

"In this city, a much-heralded emblem of industrial-age decline, and home to a cripplingly bad economy, a troubled school system, racial segregation and sometimes unheeded crime, there is one place where most everyone — black, white, poor, rich, urban, not — will invariably recommend you eat: Slows Bar B Q.

Slows opened in 2005 at the edge of downtown Detroit, in Corktown, across from the long-abandoned central train station, itself a symbol of widespread blight. Hidden behind a stylish wooden door with no discernible handle, it has become a beacon, drawing longtime Detroiters, newly arrived young people and scores of suburbanites, who wait for hours to sample the pulled pork and dry-smoked ribs and coo over the upcycled design. The restaurant and its sleek décor were dreamed up by one of Slows’ owners, Phillip Cooley, who has emerged as a de facto spokesman for the now-hip revitalization of this city."

It's proven to be so popular that Slows To Go was opened as a means to deal with the crowds at the original site, such that hungry folks could simply run in, pick their options, and then take their food elsewhere in order to let the next set of hungry folks satisfy their appetites.  If you've got a couple of hours to spend waiting for a table at the original, eating, luxuriating and loitering ... by all means, you absolutely want to visit the mainstay.

But if you're in a hurry or if you're just too hungry to wait, Slows To Go is your option.  So that's where Jeremy, Stuart and I ended up one recent Saturday, because neither of my companions particularly excels in the patience department.  And there are a few stools available at counters that line the walls; so rather than taking our food with us, we merely perched and ate with giddy, gluttonous abandon.

You can order enormous plates of ribs or pulled pork or brisket or chicken (even "veggie chicken") or wings; these come with your choice of sides and sauces.  There are combo plates.  There are some gluten-free options.  There are soups and even salads ... pfft!  Like you go to a barbecue joint for lettuce!

And then there are sandwiches, served on Zingerman's rolls, which are the most economical way to get your carnivorous fix.  Jeremy and Stuart each ordered the Triple Threat Pork Sandwich pictured above: "Applewood bacon, pulled pork and ham stacked high and mighty.  Heeyah!  Git some!"  Oh, man, this was an unbelievable feast of smoky, tender, pork heaven!  The boys devoured these.

I chose The Reason: "Naturally-Raised Pork butt, smoked slow and pulled, bathed in our NC Sauce and topped with our signature coleslaw and dill pickle strips."  That I love North Carolina vinegary barbecue, that Slows serves Michigan's own McClure's pickles, and that if I ate some cole slaw I could delude myself into thinking there were some health benefits to my lunch ... well, all of these led to my astoundingly flavorful and fabulous meal.  Because we ordered three sandwiches, we were able to choose three different sauces to go with them: Sweet, Mustard Creole (the unanimous favorite), and Apple (even sweeter than Sweet).

Slows is also justifiably noted for its macaroni and cheese, which is utter decadence.  It has absolutely no redeeming nutritional value, but oh, was it good for our souls!  Each of us was sorely tempted to just inhale this greedily, but knew we needed to share.  We did so reluctantly, in that we wanted to selfishly keep it all to ourselves; but we did so generously, as well, because it was just so, so good that we wanted our loved ones to share in the joy.

So come to Detroit!  Eat at Slows!  And if you're in the area, let me know - I'll happily join you ... :)

For today's recipe - Gingered Mango Soup - go to the Food and Grocery page of ....

Slows Bar-B-Q
2138 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, MI 48216

View Larger Map

Slows To Go
4107 Cass Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201

View Larger Map

Slows Bar BQ on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Krispy Kreme Chocolate Chip Cookies

I respect the spirit of the law at Passover, although I don't feel bound by the letter of the law.

I'll be going to a cherished friend's house for a Seder on the first night of the 8-day holiday, and bringing Chocolate Caramel Matzah made with my own handmade matzah.  I'll be going to another priceless friend's house for the second night's Seder, and respecting her Orthodox parents by masquerading as a normal person who doesn't take pictures of everything she eats (since photography is forbidden).

My traditions include eating far too many Manischewitz almond macaroons from a can, one of my favorite guilty pleasures; they're only available this time of year, so I have to get my quota in!  And I don't eat bread, a leavened product that is not permissible during Passover, but that's primarily because I don't eat much bread anyway - that part of the proceedings is easy for me.

But I don't rid my home of all the forbidden foods (pasta, cakes, cookies, flour, lentils, corn, and many more).  I use my regular ol' dishes and cookware, rather than having extra sets just for Passover that haven't been touched by the verboten items and thus are acceptable.  I don't prepare baked goods with matzah cake meal, which tends to make them heavy and dense; I generally just don't bake at all at this time.

Many of my friends, however, are observant and keep kosher; they have been busy cleaning their homes and preparing for the holiday by removing all forbidden items.  Using up the chametz [HAH-mets] - leavened products and other items that, according to Jewish law, Jews may not possess during Passover - is a time-honored tradition.  Just as Catholics indulge before Lent by using up butter, sugar, eggs, and other goodies before a time of abstinence in preparation for Easter, Jews must get rid of the chametz.

And so, rather than just offering a recipe for bread pudding or French toast - not that there's anything wrong with them! - I thought I'd suggest a bit of novelty today.  I found myself with leftover Krispy Kreme doughnuts after making hedonistic sandwiches while participating in Project PB&J.  So I baked cookies that will help your household to finish off flour, baking soda, and even doughnuts if you have them.  (And if you don't happen to have any on hand, it might be worth buying a few just for this recipe!)

These are rich and decadent in addition to serving a higher purpose in helping to rid the household of soon-to-be-forbidden foods.  Who said you can't have fun while obeying the law?

Chocolate Chip Krispy Kreme Cookies

1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup shortening, at room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3 cups crumbled Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts (4 doughnuts)
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly grease a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, brown sugar, and vanilla.  Stir in the egg, salt, and baking soda.  Stir in the flour, cocoa powder, and the crumbled doughnuts.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop batter by generous tablespoonsful onto the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 12 minutes until cookies are slightly firm, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Makes 48 cookies.

Here are a few other recipes to help you, if you're still searching for ways to use up chametz:

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

Asparagus Bread Pudding

Strawberry Jam Muffins

Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Muffins

Ooey Gooey Peanut Butter Cream Pie

Peanut Butter Pancakes with Nutella Sauce

Peanut Butter No-Bake Treats

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Brisket Bake-Off

I recently had the enormous good fortune to judge the Sisterhood's 3rd Annual Brisket Bake-Off at Temple Beth Emeth, Ann Arbor's Reform synagogue, at which I probably ate four days' worth of food - really, I'm not exaggerating!

Remember, there's always a lot of food at Jewish events, because everyone is afraid there will never be enough.  And we all know that while other people are social drinkers, I'm a social eater - I'll happily and heartily sample everything when I'm at a party, a buffet, or other gathering ... I'll often sample multiple times, too!  So I'd known that there was no need for me to cook a corned beef on St. Paddy's Day, because I would be feasting on brisket and many other dishes that evening.

I was one of three judges to sample 10 different briskets that had fame, prizes, and pride all riding on them.  My compatriots - Justin Hiller, of Hiller's Markets, and Lisa Saulles, who won top honors last year and thus earned her spot at the judges' table - and I all sat in front of the expectant audience.

After being introduced by charming emcee Jesse Bernstein, we were presented with samples of each brisket, one at a time, and asked to rate them on a scale of 1-5 (low-to-high) for aroma, appearance, texture, flavor and the all-important "Jewish Factor."

There were very traditional offerings, some prepared with Lipton onion soup mix - the classic that everyone remembers from childhood.  There were unique and updated entries, featuring olives or oranges or dates.  There were several that rounded out the dish with potatoes or yams or carrots.  I was truly impressed with the variety of flavors that had been offered to me, as well as the respect for tradition that was still clearly in evidence while each dish was given a personal flair.

Brisket, as you may or may not know, is a very serious business in the Jewish community - reputations are staked upon it!  It is as essential to be able to make a good brisket as it is to make matzah balls that will float, rather than sink, in chicken soup.  And I must note that each of the 10 samples was fork-tender; when given an opportunity to comment on the tasting, I noted that I had not once picked up my knife.

So there was significant anticipation as the votes were being tallied, and great joy when the winners were announced:

1st Place: Liz Wierba (who won in 2010, as well)
2nd Place: Sally Brieloff
3rd Place: Jennie Lieberman
4th Place: Susan and David Gitterman

(I apologize that I didn't get to the buffet table with my camera until after everyone had eaten; so I don't have a grand and glorious photo of each entry or of the winners' dishes, or even a definite idea whose fabulous offering is pictured above.  But I spent 13 years in Catholic schools and am essentially a secular Jew - trust that I'm suffering more than sufficient guilt for my lapse!)

And then, because 10 samples - just one bite each, but still 10! - of brisket apparently wasn't enough, there was dinner.  My friend Elaine once told me that, for someone who obsesses about food as I do, I "should have a little more schmaltz on (my) bones."  Well, I've got plenty of witnesses to attest to the amount I ate at this party, so I won't wither away any time soon!

It was a fabulous meal, offering a buffet filled with salad, green beans, a lentil-barley salad, and kasha varnishkes (a classic Jewish buckwheat and bow tie pasta dish that I adore).  Colcannon - an Irish mashed potato and cabbage dish which I also love dearly - was served in honor of St. Paddy's Day, and was a perfect brisket accompaniment because its primary ingredients are also integral to Jewish cuisine.

At the end of the long buffet table, there were 11 briskets - one extra had been provided by Hillary Handwerger, cheerfully genial hostess and one of the event organizers, because, as I mentioned before, there's always the fear that there won't be enough food!

Everyone, of course, wanted to taste the winning entries.  I had planned to simply satisfy myself with vegetables and dessert, having already eaten well during the judging.  But I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings by snubbing them, and I didn't want folks thinking that I was "brisket-ed out."  I didn't want people watching as I preferred one option and neglected another; and really, I don't know how I would have selected only a few tastes, given how much I truly enjoyed everything.

So after the first round of vegetables and side dishes, I took small samples of each of the 11 briskets - my second plate was filled - and I enjoyed it all immensely, much moreso when I could really relish the individual qualities and flavors without having to think intently about specific criteria.  Truly, I didn't need to eat again until the next afternoon.

But there was a piece of rich, moist, decadent chocolate cake calling to me, insisting that it needed to accompany my after-dinner coffee.  I succumbed to its charms.  Remember, a Food Floozie can be seduced by virtually any food ....

As though all of this schmoozing and noshing hadn't provided sufficient entertainment, there was also an amazing concert in the Sanctuary to conclude the evening.  Balkano (rhymes with "volcano"), according to its own website, "is a Chicago-based sextet that melds the soul of traditional Klezmer, the energy of Bulgarian wedding music, and the melodies of Turkish Gypsy music into an exciting original mix."  Its lead singer is Ann Arbor's and the temple's own Diana Lawrence, and the group put on a powerful, emotional, vibrant performance.

I'm very happy to say that 3% of the Bake-Off's proceeds were donated to Mazon [mah-ZOHN], "a national non-profit organization dedicated to preventing and alleviating hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds."  (Mazon means "food/sustenance" in Hebrew.)  Profits remaining after this donation were dedicated to the YES Fund (Youth, Education, and Special Projects), which "represents the collective financial efforts of our member sisterhoods and donors to strengthen the institutions of our ... Movement and ensure the future of Reform Judaism."

So, you can see that I had an exceptionally wonderful evening with the Sisterhood and the members of Temple Beth Emeth!  Congratulations to the winners and many, many thanks to everyone who put the event together and who spent so many hours lovingly preparing brisket and all the other dishes.  I was thrilled to be invited to the party, and to have such an important role at the Bake-Off.

I'm already anticipating next year's event, and all the great food that awaits.  I may even be hungry again by that time ... :)

For today's recipe - Miriam Shaw's Easy Braised Brisket, one of the Bake-Off entries - go to the Food and Grocery page of ....

Ghosts of Postings Past and Present

Looking for Something ...?