Back in April I wrote a post about my Aunt Hilda’s Carrot Vichyssoise. At the time I was writing the history of my paternal grandfather’s family, and I thought it would be a nice idea to include a chapter of favorite family recipes.
In order to help me write the recipe chapter, my cousin Nina lent me our Grandma Fran’s recipe collection—a small metal filing box packed with handwritten index cards that Nina had kept after Grandma died.
I started making some of the recipes, and a spooky thing happened: I suddenly felt as if my grandmother had returned from beyond (in the feel-good way, not the bloodthirsty zombie way).
So cancel that seance—if you want to reconnect with a long-gone loved one, just whip up one of his or her signature dishes. Oh, and on a related note, be sure you leave behind a signature dish.
One of the recipes in Grandma’s collection was this vegetarian chopped liver that uses hard-boiled eggs, onions, and walnuts. I have only a vague recollection of this particular dish of hers, but in a coincidental two-for-one twist, I do remember my mother making something similar when I was very little.
Mom used to sautée onions to the point of being slightly burnt and then mash them with hard-boiled eggs—a recipe she learned from some Moroccan Jewish friends.
I used to go nuts for the smell and taste of the burnt onions, because, as Mark Bittman describes, “Something happens when onions blacken a bit, and it’s something good and unusual: they become super-sweet, yes, but also quite bitter, in a pleasant way.”
So although Grandma didn’t specifically call for burning the onions, that’s how I’ve interpreted her recipe here.
3 large yellow onions (about 2 pounds), thinly sliced
4 hard-boiled eggs
¾ cup walnut halves, lightly toasted
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat until it's melted and just beginning to bubble (make sure not to let it burn).
Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, medium brown in color, and slightly burnt (30 to 40 minutes). The technique is just like caramelizing, but you take it a step or two further. The goal is a darker brown color and nice little burnt bits—but don't go too far.
When onions are done, add eggs, walnuts, and salt. Chop and mix well. Pop the mixture into a food processor if you want a more realistic chopped-liver texture, pulsing until smooth. I usually leave a few chunks unprocessed, as shown in the photo above. (Sometimes I just skip the food processing step altogether.)
This dish is delicious served warm, but room temperature is good too.
Jewish recipes are the heart of every Jewish holiday celebration. There’s a special dish (or five!) for every occasion, from the high holidays to Shabbat dinners! Here are my favorite Jewish recipes for the holidays or any day.
Brisket is braised in a mixture of red wine, beef broth, dried fruit, and North African spices for a Mediterranean take on the traditional Jewish holiday dish. This recipe was adapted from a recipe by Jayne Cohen in Bon Appetit.
You can make a gluten-free version by substituting gluten-free brown rice flour for the flour. You can also jazz up the recipe by adding thinly sliced scallions or substituting sweet potatoes, parsnips, or apples for some (or all) of the potatoes. This recipe serves about 4 people and is easily doubled or tripled.
This Instant Pot hummus from scratch starts with dried chickpeas and takes less than an hour to make—and that's start to finish time. There's no need to soak the beans. The result is lush, rich, creamy, and full of flavor.
This is a great way to use up leftover cooked couscous. The dressing can be whisked together in a bowl, but is especially easy to make in a food processor—chop the parsley leaves in the processor first, then add the other ingredients and process until smooth.
Ground lamb is mixed with lots of fresh herbs, aromatics, and spices and then grilled on skewers. I like to serve these with pita bread, hummus, tzatziki, harissa or chermoula, and a salad of romaine, cucumbers, and tomatoes with lemon dressing. Brown basmati rice is a great accompaniment as well.
Pita bread is surprisingly easy to make and watching the rounds puff up in the oven is so, so satisfying. Use them for sandwiches or cut them into triangles and use them to scoop savory Middle Eastern dips like my Instant Pot Hummus, baba ganoush, or tzatziki.
This bright, fresh, kosher for Passover salad—a take on the popular Middle Eastern bread salad called fattoush—gives the plain crackers new life. Spiced, baked matzo “chips” replace the usual flat bread, but other than that, this hearty salad packs all the fresh herby, tangy, spicy flavor you expect from fattoush.
Sufganiyot are traditional Israeli jelly donuts often eaten during Hanukkah, along with other fried foods. Because, of course, fried foods celebrate the miracle of the oil! This recipe makes a simple, lightly sweetened fried dough that can be filled with jelly or the fillling of your choice and dusted with powdered sugar.
Israeli Salad, distinguished by finely diced tomatoes and cucumbers, is described (by Wikipedia) as "the most well-known national dish of Israel." Variations on the theme are limitless. Our version includes hard boiled eggs and feta cheese.