"Often Imitated, but Never Duplicated"

This was my Uncle Alfred’s slogan for his restaurant, The Annistonian. My 96-year-old beloved great-uncle died two weeks ago, two days after his birthday. Uncle Alfred was born in Berlin, Germany to a family of butchers. Instead of becoming a professional boxer (he was a junior champion semi-professional boxer in Berlin), he decided to follow in the family footsteps and became a Metzgermeister (master butcher) in 1928.

In June of 1938, Uncle Alfred volunteered to report to the local police station, where he and other men were taken to Sachsenhausen. His family was worried when he did not come back that evening after reporting to the police station and his mother went to the police station to find out what happened to him. She saw a school friend of Alfred’s, who worked at the police station and he promised to find out where he had been taken. Six weeks later, and thanks to his school friend, he was released from Sachsenhausen. When he returned home, his mother told him to leave the country right away. He listened to her and a few days later, through the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Europe (HICEM), he went to Belgium, stayed two weeks, and then made his way to Paris. He eventually went to Marseilles, and started looking for a country that would give him citizenship. He found out that Colombia was accepting immigrants and he obtained passage to Colombia in the fall of 1938.

He worked in gold mines in Colombia for one year and became very sick and almost died. He decided dying of malaria was not going to be his fate and he moved to Bogota, where he worked in various restaurants and then eventually opened a restaurant and butcher shop. After the war was over, he found out that his parents, two brothers and one sister died in Auschwitz. One sister came to Bogota and raised a family and another sister immigrated to the US.

He went to New York in 1951, met my great-aunt Helen at Grossinger’s and in 1953 came to my hometown where he opened a fine-dining restaurant called the Annistonian in 1958. From 1958 – 1976, people came from near and far for his hand-cut steaks, seafood, fish and his pièce de résistance… Wiener Schnitzel.

I wish I had taken the time to learn more about cooking from him. I really regret this now. One of his most amazing feats in the kitchen was that he could carve a turkey and put it back together and you wouldn’t realize it had been carved until you got up close to it. He also made very good strudel and Black Forest cherry cake. When I tried making both of these desserts, he gave me his good housekeeping seal of approval. I was honored.

When I decided to move to Israel, Uncle Alfred called me “his hero”, but he was my hero. He survived the Nazis, moved to a strange country where he had to learn how to work in the gold mines for survival, survived the loss of most of his family, triumphed in Bogota and made a family and a career in the US. To honor his memory, I made a meal.

Uncle Alfred, I will always treasure your great humor, your amazing charm, your delicious food and your great dancing.

The menu was as follows:

Appetizer

Tapenade

Main Course

Wiener Schnitzel

Bratkartoffeln (Home fries)

Spinach

Wine: Wuerttemberg Edition Gourmet Kerner 2004

Dessert

Fig Galette

We began the evening with my husband’s tapenade. He adds just the right amount of garlic to give it that kick. In addition to the usual ingredients he added a little fresh rosemary and oregano. It was delicious.

I have a confession to make, and please do not send me any cards or letters in protest, but my husband hand-cut and pounded a whole turkey breast instead of veal. The veal was 15EUR/20USD per kilo and is just over our budget right now. If you do happen to make this with turkey, do not marinate it in lemon juice.

Wiener Schnitzel

Serving Size: 4 to 6

2 pounds boneless leg of veal or turkey breast, cut into 1/4 inch slices, pounded thin

1 cup lemon juice (omit when using turkey)

1 teaspoon salt (leave out if you are using kosher meat)

1/4 freshly ground pepper

3 eggs

3 tablespoons water

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 cup dry bread crumbs

1 1/2 cups canola or light olive oil

Lemon slices

Arrange veal in single layer in large baking dish. Pour lemon juice over the veal and let stand one hour, turning the veal twice. Drain the veal and pat dry, then sprinkle it with salt (don't use salt if you are using kosher meat) and pepper.

Beat eggs and water in a pie plate. Coat veal with flour, dip in egg mixture, coat with crumbs, patting them in gently, and shake off the excess. Put the slices between parchment paper on a plate and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Heat the oil in large heavy skillet until it begins to smoke. Fry one cutlet at a time in the oil until golden brown, about 2 minutes each side. Drain the meat on paper toweling and keep in a warm oven until all the cutlets are cooked. Garnish with lemon slices and parsley sprigs.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/08/11/often-imitated-but-never-duplicated/

The trick to making good home fries is to use waxy, firm potatoes. Do not use baking potatoes. Peel them and parboil them either the day before or earlier in the day.

Bratkartoffeln

Serving Size: 6 to 8

2.5 kg (4-5 lb.) potatoes, waxy potatoes

250 ml (1 cup) yellow onion, thinly sliced

125 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil

2 tablespoons good Hungarian sweet paprika

1 teaspoon good Hungarian hot paprika

Salt and pepper

Parsley (optional)

Parboil the potatoes until tender, but still firm. Let cool and then cut into 1/8inch/3mm slices.

Sauté the onions gently in the olive oil until translucent. Add the paprika and let the onion take on its color and taste. Add the potatoes and fry until golden brown and slightly crispy. Season with salt and pepper and heat everything through.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/08/11/often-imitated-but-never-duplicated/

Fresh from Oven

The fig galette was easy to prepare, but make sure that you place the tart on a rimmed cookie sheet, otherwise you will have a mess in your oven.

Fig Galette

Serving Size: 6

For the dough:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

100g (7 tablespoons) cold margarine or butter, cut into cubes

3 tablespoons very cold orange juice or water

For the filling:

566g (1 1/4 lb.) ripe figs, stemmed and quartered lengthwise

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Egg wash

1/4 cup sliced almonds

To make the dough, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, granulated sugar and salt and pulse to blend. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until reduced to pea-size pieces. Add the water a little at a time and pulse until the dough just begins to come together in a rough mass. Transfer the dough to a work surface and shape into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours.

Preheat an oven to 200C/400F.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly dust a work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out the dough into a round slightly larger than 13 inches/33cm and about 1/8 inch/3mm thick. Lift and turn the dough several times as you roll to prevent sticking, and dust the surface and the rolling pin with additional flour as needed. Use a dough scraper or an icing spatula to loosen the pastry if it sticks. Trim off any ragged edges to make an even 13-inch/33cm round. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

To make the filling, in a large bowl, gently toss together the figs, brown sugar, lemon zest and vanilla until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Crust

Uncover the dough and transfer to the baking sheet. The edges of the dough round will hang over the pan edges. Arrange the figs in a pile in the center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch/5cm border uncovered. Fold the dough up and over the filling, pleating loosely all around the circle and leaving the galette open in the center.

Ready to Bake

Brush the pleated dough with the egg wash. Sprinkle the almonds on top of the dough and press on them lightly to help them stick.

Bake until the crust is golden and the figs are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 40 minutes. Transfer the galette to a wire rack and let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/08/11/often-imitated-but-never-duplicated/

Who’s Marian and how can I thank her?

Today is my mother’s 65th birthday and yesterday was my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. Two great ladies celebrating two great milestones. Happy birthday Mom and Boldog születésnapot Anyós!

My mother did not know how to boil water when she got married and someone was smart enough to give her the Elegant but Easy cookbook for a wedding gift. This cookbook helped my mother become the great cook she is today and one of her signature Shavuot recipes from this cookbook is Marion’s Noodle Pudding. I was never a fan of kugel, but this creamy and slightly tart noodle pudding is delicious, elegant and oh so easy to make.

When I proposed making this dish to my husband a few years ago he kind of sneered and said in his cute British public school accent, “I really dislike noodle kugels.”. I told him he hadn’t had this one and had to give it a try. He did and he really likes it. It is great for a brunch or served as a side dish with fish.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Marian Burros, one of the cookbook authors, for putting this recipe in her cookbook 47 years ago. It has been a family favourite which always takes me home when I make it. I love you Mom!

This recipe is not low in calorie, but I make it with low calorie cottage cheese, sour cream and milk and it still tastes great.

Marian’s Noodle Pudding

Serving Size: 8 to 10

From the original The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook by Marion Burros and Lois Levine

450g (1 lb.) broad egg noodles

450g (1 pint) sour cream

450g (1 lb.) cottage cheese

1 cup milk

2-1/2 teaspoons salt

4-1/2 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons melted butter

Crushed corn flakes

Pats of butter

Cook Noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Mix with all of the other ingredients. Place in greased 9 x 13 shallow casserole.

Marion Noodle Kugel 1

Top with crushed corn flakes. Dot the cornflakes with pats of butter.

You can refrigerate or freeze before baking. If you choose to do either, then put the corn flakes on the top after you bring the casserole to room temperature before baking.

Bake at 375 for 1-1/2 hours.

Marion Noodle Kugel 2

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/05/17/whos-marian-and-how-can-i-thank-her/

Your Great-Great Grandfather’s House is Still Standing!

These are the words of an email that I read in shock last April.

I received an email via JewishGen from a man from my paternal great-grandmother’s hometown, Giershagen, Hochsauerland, Nord Rhein-Westphalia, Germany. He asked if he could be of assistance and I wrote him back. We exchanged a few emails and after I explained who I was and which relative lived in Giershagen he proceeded to tell me that my great-great-grandfather’s house and the synagogue that he attended are still standing. I cried. I lived in Germany for two-half years, rather close to Giershagen and never went there. Okay, I was young and stupid.

Since my job takes me to Germany every 3-4 months, I decided on the next trip I would drive up to Giershagen. Fortunately, my husband was able to join me for the weekend.

David and I drove for almost 3 hours to the beautiful Hochsauerland village of Olsberg and stayed at a lovely hotel recommended by our host, Wolfgang.

Olsberg is 30km from Giershagen. While we were driving on dark winding roads at night, my husband remarked, “Leave it to your family to live in the middle of nowhere!”, but when he woke up the next morning and saw the beauty of the area, he said that he understood why our family lived here. It is green and hilly and really picturesque.

Wolfgang met us at our hotel for breakfast and then our journey began. First, at his lovely home, where he showed me letters, newspaper clippings and photographs of the area. Some of the letters were quite humorous. One of them was from a woman originally from Giershagen who heard from a distant relative that one of my great aunts had grown very fat! It reminded me of living in my hometown.

We then stopped in the village of Padberg to see the synagogue where my great-great grandfather, nicknamed Chicken Opa, prayed and had to walk 7km one way to get to. I found out that he would walk to synagogue and walk right back. Walking 7 km was “no big deal” back then. We walk 2 km to our synagogue.

The synagogue is the oldest half-timbered (fachwerk) synagogue in Westphalia, first mentioned in 1751, and is on the property of a local farmer. The Jews in Beringhausen, Giershagen, Helminghausen, Madfeld, Messinghausen and Roesenbeck were all members of the Padberg synagogue.

The synagogue is so tiny. Maybe 30 men could sit on the ground floor and 15 women on the top floor. It was quite emotional being in the synagogue, I could almost see people praying there…I felt their presence. The synagogue survived Kristalnacht in 1939 because the building was sold in 1932 when the congregation could no longer get a minyan together. The synagogue was made into a memorial and small museum in 1999. Some of the prayer books, a mezuzah and other artifacts are on display.

After looking at all of the pictures, architectural drawings and prayer books in the synagogue we headed to the cemetery in Beringhausen where some of my family are buried. The cemetery is located on a hill in the middle of the forest. It is a beautiful resting place.

The cemetery has 38 tombstones dating from 1862 to 1932. Some of the tombstones were turned over during the war, but the town of Marsberg put the stones in their proper place after the war.

Our first stop in Giershagen was to see the Jewish path. The 7 km path through forest and up and down hills to the Padberg synagogue. It wouldn’t have been fun to walk that in the rain or snow, but I want to go back and do the walk. It must be a beautiful walk in good weather. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any photos of this. There is even a marker at the beginning of the path that says Judenpfad or Jewish Path.

We went to visit a neighbor of Chicken Opa who was about 6 or 7 when my great-great grandfather left in 1937. Chicken Opa baby-sat him from time to time while his parents tended their fields. He had nothing but fond memories of going to his house. He told us that Chicken Opa had the largest apple tree in the village and that he could play and make as much noise as he wanted, except when Opa was praying. He also told us that when the house was sold to someone else, he went over and got a sausage hanging rack that Opa used to hang the beef sausages he made.

He then asked to be excused for a minute and he came back to the room with this:

He explained that Chicken Opa bought a Leica camera before he left Germany and he gave him the box with some money before my great-great grandfather, one daughter and my grandparents left for Alabama in December 1937. I was quite moved that he still had this box. It was all I could do to keep from crying. I was speechless. He was also teary when he told us how sad he and his family was when Chicken Opa left. He then gave me a glass with the crest of Giershagen on it and we said good-bye. It was really a lovely meeting and I hope to spend more time with him the next time I go back.

Then, we left his house and stood in the street and saw the one thing that brought me here in the first place, the house:

The house has been completely renovated and looks nothing like the original one in the picture below, but I know that the heart of the home is still there and Chicken Opa is smiling somewhere knowing that I went back to see where his life began.

Solomon Freibaum, a.k.a Chicken Opa, left his home and all his possessions at the age of 81 to go to a country where he didn’t speak the language, that didn’t have kosher food for him and didn’t pray like he did. But he lived to the ripe old age of 88. My grandfather told me a lovely story about him. Chicken Opa was Orthodox and he always wore a kippah and a hat when he went to synagogue in Germany. The first time he went to the ultra-reform (at the time) synagogue in my hometown he wore his kippah and hat. He noticed that no one was wearing a kippah let alone a hat and he removed them. My grandfather said, “Opa, it is ok; you can keep your hat on.”, to which he replied, “Child, I pray with my heart, not with my hat.”

Oyster Suppers

The Jewish community in my hometown in Alabama was founded in 1888. Most of the money raised to build the synagogue was through the efforts of the Ladies Hebrew Benevolent Society. Sherry Blanton, the synagogue’s historian writes, “With boundless enthusiam they quickly planned a New Year’s hop as their first fund raiser. A series of successful bazaars enlarged their treasury, further augmented by the profits of Purim parties, strawberry festivals, and oyster dinners as well as “tariffs on the Jewish gentlemen”

Yes folks, my lovely synagogue was built with money with proceeds from oyster dinners!!! I was appalled. But, then again they built a synagogue none-the-less and it is the 11th oldest community still worshiping in the same building. The community is dwindling, but it will always be my home away from home. Recently, it became even more special when I celebrated my wedding there on 30 December 2006.

But, that is not the reason I am telling you about oysters. My cousin sent me a very funny family story that involves his mother, my Aunt Sophie z”l:

One day, Aunt Julia was visiting in Birmingham. Mom had a Seder Plate hanging on the dining room wall. To quote Aunt Julia: “Sophie – what a lovely oyster plate you have!”

I had never heard this story. Thank you Mark, you made my day!

Dare I Say It?

Pesach or Passover is in a little over three weeks! April 2nd is the evening of Pesach and it is time to prepare the house and think about what I am going to bring to my cousin’s house in Jerusalem.

I always bring my grandmother’s world famous matza balls, David’s world famous haroset (secret recipe that he will not part with) and a couple of homemade desserts.

I will give you one special ingredient in David’s haroset, chestnut paste.

My grandmother’s matza balls are made with whole matza.

Nathan Matza Balls

I make them in advance and freeze them. I can’t enter my cousin’s house without bringing these matza balls and David threatens to stop Passover if I don’t make them.

Speaking of stopping Passover…. I have a great story about my great-uncle Alfred. A few days before Passover one year he went to the local supermarket in my hometown in Alabama to buy some matza. He looked in the usual place and he couldn’t find anything. So, he went to the manager’s desk and asked where the matza was. The manager said, “Sir, the matza will be here next week.” To which my uncle replied, “Ok, I will go home right now and pray to the Lord our G-d and ask him to postpone Passover for a few days!” True story.

As for the seder plate above, I just love it. I dreamt about this seder plate before I bought it. I always wanted one with glass vessels. On my second trip to Israel, I saw this seder plate at the gift shop at the Museum Complex in Jerusalem. The artist’s name is Shraga Landesman and he makes some beautiful pieces of Judaica.

Someone once told me that my seder plate looked like something from Star Trek. I told him that would be one interesting seder considering that Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock are MOT (members of the tribe).

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