Chopped Liver

As a kid, the cartoons that consumed a good, oh, two-thirds of my waking hours warped me into believing a lot of erroneous stuff. Vintage Looney Toons made me wary of dogcatchers, limburger cheese, anvils, and banana peels, all dangers I somehow have yet to encounter in real life. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles taught me to shun anchovies, leading to a tragic Caesar salad deficiency in my early years.

And then we have liver and onions, a combination that several cartoons used as shorthand for “something disgusting your parents will force you to eat.” I’m thinking specifically about an episode of Doug that revolves around the title character’s fear that he’ll be forced to eat the dreaded dish when he’s invited to dinner at Patti Mayonnaise’s house. You know, the stuff of your worst 11-year-old nightmares, although I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what liver was until my animated pal taught me to hate it. Having brought a pile of raw liver into my kitchen recently, I can’t imagine why he wasn’t a fan.

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Cream Cheese Pastry

Jelly Horns

The first time I leafed through Nonnie’s cookbook, I was surprised to find that there are barely any cookie recipes in there — just three,  in fact, and one of them is secretly a cake.

Hidden in another section, though, there was something called “Cream Cheese Pastry” — a simple, cream cheese-enhanced dough that’s rolled out, cut, and filled with jam.

“Oh!” I thought. “So they’re rugelach!”

Not really. Continue reading

Latkes and Applesauce

Latkes 18

It’s still Hanukkah, which means it’s still acceptable – encouraged, even – to painstakingly grate a mess of potatoes into long, ropy strands, plunge them into ice-cold water, squeeze the living daylights out of them, bind them together just barely with eggs and flour, fry them in copious amounts of oil, slather them with sour cream and applesauce, and call it dinner.

Acceptable and encouraged, maybe — but nobody would blame you if you’re exhausted just from reading the previous paragraph. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Briskets

Brisket 17

Nonnie’s brisket may be the original fusion food: an implicitly kosher, theoretically cheap, classically old-school Jewish piece of meat that’s bathed in a deeply maroon, ethnically agnostic slurry of quintessential American convenience foods.

Of course, she was far from the only grandmother to mix ketchup with powdered soup and call it a marinade. Her recipe is a variation on the very same method you’ll find in all corners of the American Semitic universe, literally from sea (the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles’ online Hanukkah guide) to shining sea (this Massachusetts synagogue’s brisket bake-off). Continue reading