Polka Daters

Polka Daters 1

Expansive as it is, there are a few major recipes missing from Nonnie’s cookbook — things I keep going back and looking for, only to be surprised all over when I realize again that they’re not there.

There’s no simple roast chicken recipe, for instance, even though I know Nonnie must’ve roasted billions of birds in her day. (Maybe it’s not in there because Nonnie thought only a moron would need to follow a recipe in order to roast a chicken — “just turn the oven on and stick it in! You need me to draw you a map?”) There’s no kugel, either, although Nonnie made an ethereal noodle pudding that my mom’s been trying to recreate for 40 years. To this day, she swears it never comes out like Nonnie’s did. Continue reading

Hawaiian Chicken

Hawaiian Chicken 1

Can’t you just feel the island breezes blowing?

Hawaii had a hold on Nonnie. She and my grandfather took my mother and her brothers to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel shortly after its grand opening in 1965; at the time, it was allegedly the most expensive hotel ever built. The trip made such an impression on her that 50 years later, my mother and I discovered that Nonnie had saved the menus from every single meal her family had eaten on that vacation.

I didn’t take any pictures of those menus, because I am a dummy. However! I’m pretty sure none of them featured this chicken, which is basically Shake ‘n Bake with a can of pineapple dumped on top. Continue reading

Eggplant Caviar

Eggplant Caviar 3

Alternate title: A Tale of Too Many Onions.

Look, I have nothing against onions. They’re a culinary workhorse. They have the power to make grown men weep. They figure prominently in the denouement of one of the best books ever written, Holes by Louis Sachar.

Even raw onions have their place — a sprinkling of scallions to top off your bowl of soba, a smattering of red onions folded into your quinoa. They’re sharp; they’re pungent; they’re good in small doses.

You know what isn’t a small dose? A whole onion, chopped. That’s what Nonnie’s recipe for eggplant caviar — a sort of Eastern European take on baba ghanoush — calls for. I looked over it a few times, just to make sure I was reading it right; once it became clear that I was, I tried investing in some cautious optimism. Continue reading

Banana Bread

Banana Bread 1

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from five years of obsessive food blog consumption, it’s that the world hardly needs another banana bread recipe.

Sure, you can jack it up with chocolate, or millet, or peanut butter, or bourbon, or cream cheese and buttermilk and icing spiked with coconut and pecans in what’s supposedly a healthy, guilt-free recipe (yeah, okay, Southern Living). But at its core, it’ll always be the same humble loaf — a cake designed to seem healthy enough for breakfast consumption, and to use up the spotty brown chiquitas on your countertop before they turn into their own thriving, fruit-fly-based, self-contained ecosystem. Continue reading