If you have been keeping up with my working my way through the alphabet, you know I just wrote my R blog last week (R is for Risotto). Today, however, was my mother’s birthday. She left this world in 2001 and is the one who in numerous ways fed my love of cooking and baking. So today, I just want to celebrate my mother and the gifts she gave me in our kitchen growing up on Kingsland St in Nutley, NJ
My mother inherited a legacy for baking from her mother. While cooking was not her forte, baking was. The two things I remember her baking the most were her rugelach, which I made a few weeks ago. The thing I remember about making these sweet delicate pastries was that you had to start the dough the day before to give the cream cheese and butter and all the other ingredients to meld. Then we would divide them up into smaller balls, roll them out, and slice them into pizza like slices. Then we would sprinkle cinnamon, brown sugar, chopped walnuts, and raisins on them and roll them up. You could not wait for them to come out of the oven. She only made these on special occasions, but when she made them (the recipe makes 60), they were gone in a heartbeat. There was always something addictive about them, maybe it was the overdose of love she needed in to the dough. I keep being accused of doing the same thing with my food, although my family says I sprinkled fairy dust on the food. As I always say, when food is made with love, you can taste it.
My mom would also make this ricotta bobka cake. It is an amazingly light and springy cake that my mother would make with pineapple. She would make it in a bundt pan and sometimes instead of the pineapple; she would fill it with a cinnamon and brown sugar mixture or chocolate. However, she made it, one thing was for sure, it was delicious, and I am so grateful I still have her recipe for this and for the rugelach. I think I will have to share this with my niece Becca and my future sister in law Patricia (guess you know what I am going to give you as a wedding gift – LOL).
As amazingly as my mom could bake, her cooking was also filled with memories, all of which inspired me to learn and develop different ways of cooking. She had two ways of cooking meat – still mooing, which is how my father liked it, and very well done, which is how my mother and my brother Mark liked it. Maybe that is one of the reasons it took me a while to realize that there was a degree of wellness in between. While my mother was not the best at cooking steaks, she could roast a chicken to perfection and we would fight for the pieces because the skin was always crispy and the meat juicy. The same could not be said for her turkeys, which as I sadly remember always shredded like cardboard when we went to carve them.
There were things my mom would make which as a child were amazing, such as boxed macaroni and cheese, canned spaghettio’s, and hot dogs, especially the knockwurst which she got from the Kosher deli, usually Katz’s in Manhattan. There were also the other things she would get at Katz’s like kishka aka stuffed derma, which were amazing. The other thing my mom could make which I used to drool over were her pickles and pickled tomatoes. They could never come up from the basement, where she stored them, fast enough.
Mom, thank you for all you taught me about cooking with love and the memories you gave me to carry forward and share with others.