September, 2008 Archive

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

mom’s apple cake

mom's apple cake

My mother makes the best apple cake, and has for as long as I can remember. Big cinnamon-y chunks of apple nestle into a coffee cake I would call “unbelievably” moist, but really, should not be hard to believe considering that my mother is also the one who brought us another of the best cake recipes on this site, The Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Cake. The cake gets better the second day, when the apples juices seep further into the cake and I have seen the conviction of many a chocolate-obsessed/fruit dessert non-believers crumble upon trying a single slice of it. The apple cake, it’s some good stuff.

tossing apples with cinnamonbatterhalf the applesready for the oven

Not above pilfering content for my website from my nearest and dearest, I talked my mom into coming over (and heaving up all 51 stairs–she likes to count them) on Sunday to bake the cake with me for the New Years dinner at my in-laws today. I wanted to get the recipe down, but also to get the back story on the cake recipe. In bits and pieces, I remember it being called at different times a “German Apple Cake” and a “Jewish Apple Cake”, though what made it either was unclear. I suspected that if was indeed German, it came over with her parents as they escaped the Holocaust. I imagined that my grandmother and her mother before her must have made this cake often, as it uses such simple ingredients but the final product is so much better than the sum of its parts.

tasted, and approved of

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Friday, September 26, 2008

best challah (egg bread)

best challah

I only know one Yiddish phrase (well, two, if you can count farshikkert, which is a pretty awesome way to say someone is three sheets to the wind), but conveniently, it is my favorite. A shonda for the goyim means, roughly, that someone of the Jewish faith is not only doing something shameful (shonda), but doing it in front of non-Jews, which of course is an entirely worse offense. Like, it would be bad enough to, say, eat ham and cheese on matzo on Passover (or, I suspect, ever and boy, do I have a great story about that but first let me see if I can get my mother to pay me not to share it) but it would be doubly more awful to do it in front of a person outside your faith. You would, in fact, bring shame upon your entire people, mostly because when given the choice between the most or least dramatic interpretation of an event, I think can safely say that my people will generally opt for the former.

round challah

Anyway, I love the phrase so much, I use it all of the time, including times when it’s probably totally inappropriate. For example, the other day someone suggested that I might consider adding a Jewish Recipe index to’s new Topic Indexes. I began to look for Jewish or holiday-themed recipes in my archives and came to a terrible realization: The offerings were quite paltry. Not only is there no brisket in there, where are the kreplach (dumplings), the kugels and my mother’s amazing apple cake? How can I not have a single recipe for challah?

A shonda, indeed.


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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

majestic and moist honey cake

majestic and moist honey cake

A few days ago, someone emailed me asking me if I had a recipe for honey cake. You see, honey cake is something traditionally eaten on the Jewish New Year, which falls next week as eating honey is supposed to encourage a sweet New Year, doubly so if paired with apples.

slow like honey

But every honey cake I have been forced to try has been wretched (apologies if it was yours). They were dry and never sweet enough. They were coarse and totally unloved. And if I find myself at an occasion where I see a honey cake, well, I wonder why they didn’t ask me to make dessert instead, but then I steer clear of it just the same. This life is too short to eat terrible cake.

I said as much to this reader, and that’s when it hit me: Right, this is my job! This is what I do! I take things that I think are terrible and I try to find a better way to go about them. That’s why this person emailed me, right? (Sometimes I forget.) And seeing as I don’t dislike honey, and I don’t hate spices and I don’t hate tradition or the Jewish New Year, well, it was time.


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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

balsamic-glazed sweet and sour cipollini

balsamic-glazed sweet and sour cipollini

I know it has only been five months since I told you about caramelized shallots, and I would hate for you to think that I have a one-track mind about the diminutive members of the allium family. I use them in other things. For example, I love minced shallots in a salad dressing or tomato sauce, and sometimes I even roast cippoline with tomatoes and pour the juices over garlic-rubbed toast.

butter, sizzling

But mostly, mostly I just think about slow-cooking them in butter and sugar and vinegar until they caramelize and take on entirely new dimensions. Knee-weakening dimensions. Futile to resist dimensions. Side dishes that upstage the roast dimensions. If you were alone you might lick the dish they came in dimensions. If you know what I mean.

omg the splattering ow

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

summer’s last hurrah panzanella

summer's last hurrah panzanella

In the last few days, New York City has gotten the most delicious nip to its breezes; drier air and clear skies have set in and despite that fact that I maintain that I don’t wish summer to end, it’s not holding up when I hit the Greenmarket and go a little berserk over apples and squash and things that have nothing to do with stone fruit. I’m a sucker for New York in the fall. It always wins.

leftover colwin bread cubes

Nevertheless, before I go whole-squash into the colder months, I had to have one last hurrah with summer before I admit that I’m finally no longer incessantly craving it, and there’s no better way to take in late-summer produce than with a panzanella. I’ve made this one before, but it was years ago, which means in Internet-speak, it’s probably dead to all of you and due for a revival.

panzanella pretty

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