Coffee and Home

Monday Morning Musings:

 “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

–J.R.R. Tolkien

 

“Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.”

–Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings

This universe must be home

(has always been home)

I wake warm and comfortable

drink coffee

(always coffee)

live mornings of caramel joy

remember a voice

a smile

cats

celebrate a secret sky waking

 

I wake to the smell of coffee

a childhood memory,

an adult reality,

a scent wafting through time

am image, too, coffee cups and morning newspapers

spread across the kitchen table

(now joined by laptops and phones),

the table in my young childhood home

lived in the kitchen-dining-den space—

my mother hated it—the space, not the table–

and when I was teen, she, no longer with my father,

bought a house with a separate dining room,

a large, center-hall house with five bedrooms

that became too much for her to keep up with

but it was the house by which my siblings and I later measured all other houses.

In that dining room, my boyfriend, now husband, learned about Sunday brunches

with lox, blocks of cream cheese, bagels, herring, boiled new potatoes, and crusty rye bread–

and on the little enclosed porch we’d sit before a fire late on Saturday nights and drink coffee and consume the treats, fried and sweet, from Dunkin Donuts, wiping sugar from our faces with paper napkins and kisses.

 

Food and friendship, more valuable than gold,

I eat Vietnamese food with a friend

we laugh and talk

she tells me (I had forgotten) that she dislikes tomatoes

then is surprised to find them in her stir fry,

we laugh and talk

I slurp vermicelli noodles with extra hot sauce

and we sit, chatting and catching up,

her mother’s house, her childhood home, sold

she is pleased that the new owners seem like good people

another family for the house

to imbue it with new dreams,

the old ones will fade from the walls

like night shadows gradually erased by the dawn

 

We don’t order coffee

though we laugh and talk for two hours,

the restaurant owners, mother and daughter, probably eager for us to go,

but we’re enchanted by the little girl, daughter of one, granddaughter of the other,

eighteen months old

she blows kisses and says good-bye.

 

A few days later, my husband and I go to a first communion party

the daughter of a daughter of long-time friends

we sat with them every Friday night in their first house

a TGIF Sabbath meal each week of dollar hoagies and beer

we were there when our friend went into labor with the daughter whose daughter

we’re celebrating at this party

where I sit and talk the entire time with another friend, my twin

though her skin is darker, her hair shorter,

we’re twins of the heart

we wear our matching bracelets

talk about another friend who could not be there

but who is linked to us

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New Year’s Eve, 2016 We are linked, heading into 2017.

 

and catch up on news, share photos, her sons, my daughters,

it’s a miserable day, cold and raining, more like March than May

but warmed by friendship

 

After that, my husband and I travel to my daughter’s house

bringing wine for her and her husband,

we laugh about all the wine we’ve ordered

delivered to our door all in one day in three large boxes

so that the UPS man thinks we’re having a party

we eat Pakistani food with them at a nearby restaurant,

the genial owner recommends dishes,

“We have new items”, he says,

“try the spring rolls, vegetarian.”

They are different from Chinese spring rolls,

delicious, though not as good as the vegetable samosas,

our favorites,

my daughter and I share the platter,

everything is delicious, eggplant, vegetable korma, naan, the goat our husbands have

(I suppose)

“Always a pleasure to see you,” the owner says as we leave,

and we assure him that it’s always a pleasure to visit his restaurant,

and it is, even on a cold and rainy night.

 

In the morning, a package of chocolate covered strawberries arrives,

a special Sunday delivery,

from my other daughter and her wife,

a thoughtful present,

a scrumptious treat for Mother’s Day

even first thing in the morning.

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Later I will talk to her on the phone,

hear about her trip to national parks in Utah

(while they still exist)

learn about her surprising facility for rock climbing

and allergy to Los Vegas

I miss seeing her, but it is good to hear her voice

from across the miles

 

We have lunch at my sister’s house

where we take my mother for Mother’s Day

 

Before lunch H. had made a grand entrance,

“Hi, I have to pee and sprints through the living room.”

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We later talk about the house she and her husband have fixed up to sell.

It was their first home, bought with an inheritance from my father,

her voice breaks a bit as she describes painting over the clouds in her first baby’s room.

The sun is out, and we sit for the garden for a bit

though it gets windy

My family is goofy and wonderful

I love them

 

I’ve baked a flourless chocolate cake

because there must be chocolate

 

 

and my sister buys, rather than brews, coffee

from Dunkin’ Donuts to have with it,

which makes me think again of those long-ago days

I think of all the mothers and daughters

the houses we’ve lived in

the coffee we’ve consumed

and despite all that is wrong in the world

I’m happy to wake in the morning to my coffee, newspapers, and cats,

to my husband saying, “Can I pour you another cup?”

 

The joys,

transitory like the flowers that have recently bloomed

 

but no less beautiful for that

timeless in our memories

the sky has cleared in the morning,

there is a half-moon hanging crookedly in the sky humming a song of hope

I go inside and pour a cup of coffee

a cat settles on my lap

this universe must be home

especially if there is coffee

–and love

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Passover Dessert Recipes

I had a request for recipes for the desserts I mentioned in the post about our Passover dinner. I’ve provided links to all of the recipes, since I did not create any of them. I also mentioned what I did with each one.

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Flourless Chocolate Cake: This is David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Idiot Cake.  I can’t take credit for it at all. It is super easy and delicious. The only thing I do differently is to add 1 Tbsp. espresso powder and 1 tsp. vanilla. I bake it at 325 for 1 hour, but maybe that is my oven.

 

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Coffee Meringues

Coffee Meringues from Amy Kritzer’s What Jew Wanna Eat

I follow her recipe, but add chocolate chips. I used mini-chips this time.  This time I also doubled the recipe. It does take quite a while to beat the egg whites—they must be very stiff. Follow her instructions.

 

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Almond-Lemon Macaroons

Almond-Lemon Macaroons  I used Joan Nathan’s recipe here.

I added the juice from half a lemon, and increased the sugar to 1 cup. You definitely have to refrigerate this for several hours. I rolled the balls in sugar, but I did not add the additional almond on top. I used a mixture of slivered and whole almonds, did not blanch.

I don’t have my younger daughter’s cheesecake or stewed dried fruit recipes. I know she made the cheesecake crust from packaged chocolate almond macaroons, to which she added a bit of butter. She has always liked d-e-s-s-e-r-t. 🙂

 

 

 

A Holiday Dinner

Monday Morning Musings:

I often wonder what I would do to survive, to escape

it’s the story of Passover, after all.

the story of a group of enslaved people who escape

(with the help of a few miracles)

and of people all over the world in the past and present.

My grandparents left a repressive land,

pogroms and restrictions,

coming here where they could prosper

they met and married.

Both sets of grandparents—love matches.

They worked hard through the Great Depression

and WWII

making certain that their children were educated.

Some people don’t want to think about

slavery in this country.

They want to visit historic sites

without a reminder that slave labor kept the homes and farms running.

But we can acknowledge the achievements

and the faults of historic figures.

I listen to Annette Gordon-Reed and

Peter S. Onuf discuss Jefferson’s complicated

moral geography—

people and situations are seldom simple

black or white–

and still the world has slavery,

people forced to work with little sleep or food,

beaten if they disobey,

women kept as sex slaves,

a young woman, now a college student here,

who escaped from the

Boko Haram:

“And I say to one of my friends that I’m going to jump out of the truck. I would rather die and my parents will see my body and bury it than to go with the Boko Haram.”

I wonder if I would have had the courage to jump from a truck and run.

I read Those Who Save Us, a novel by Jenna Blum,

and I wonder—

what I would do in war time to survive?

It’s easy to judge others.

And so on Passover,

I think about slavery and escape,

of generations of people celebrating this story with words and foods,

celebrating in basements,

in wealthy homes,

in concentration camps,

We sit around the table(s)—reading from our homemade “Haggadah,”

going through some of the Seder steps, mixed with family lore,

“the spirit of roast beef.”

We read our parts in our Passover play,

and laugh,

this year, the play includes “Pharaoh Trump,

and rap songs.

We eat the food that I spent days cooking–

chicken soup, vegetable broth, knaidlach made the way my mom taught me

with separated eggs,

no recipe of course,

done by feel,

done with love,

but they are light. No sinkers here!

Matzo balls that float,

and don’t land with a heavy thud in your stomach.

Gefilte fish with horseradish

to clear away those spring allergy symptoms

Oh—that’s not what it symbolizes?

We eat my sister’s charoset,

the mixture of fruit and nuts that symbolizes the mortar or mud used to make the bricks in

the Exodus story.

The meat eaters consume brisket and turkey breast with delight.

Those who don’t eat meat, enjoy the roasted sweet potatoes and salad of spring greens.

Many glasses of wine. No Manischewitz!

For dessert, flourless chocolate cake,

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And my daughter’s cheesecake, made with a crust of chocolate almond macaroons.

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And coffee meringues with chocolate chips

And lemon-almond macaroons

My daughter, believing she is addressing a lack in my education,

brings Fireball whiskey for me to do my first shot ever-

It’s a group activity—with dancing.

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I really do dance in my kitchen.

 

I realize suddenly that this is the first holiday in years

where all of my siblings

are here together,

and both of my daughters with their spouses.

My mom is still here, too.

I feel love.

I feel content.

OK. I feel a bit tired

by the time it ends.

But happiness, too.

And love.

 

Recipes for the Flourless Chocolate Cake (to which I add 1 Tbsp. espresso powder and 1 tsp. vanilla, and bake for one hour at 325 degrees) and the recipe for the coffee meringues were in this post from last year. https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/a-passover-legacy/

Apples and Honey

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Apples and honey

on the blue kitchen counter.

Round braided challahs,

waiting to be sliced.

Soup is simmering,

and tables cleared.

Preparation done.

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Guests arrive

in a swirl of

arms, legs,

hugs, and kisses.

Mom’s walker

appears

before she does.

I pull;

my brother gently pushes–

she’s in.

One cat dashes

up the stairs,

vanishing for the evening.

The other watches us

with his huge eyes—

What does he think as the

sun-dappled day turns

to cool moonlit night?

Try this wine.

You don’t like it?

No—

it’s like bubbly, sweet air.

My daughter and I look

at each other

and open the red.

 

Snapshots of a moment;

pause to remember.

 

Family and friends

around the table;

the symbolism of

the new year explained.

Pre-teen eyes roll–

when do we eat?

Golden pumpkin soup,

salad with pomegranate seeds,

noodle kugel,

brisket and chicken, too,

because. . .well, just in case.

If my stomach is any indication,

this is going to be a very good year!

Love and laughter.

That’s what holidays mean.

 

Kids scurry away from the table.

Talk of youthful “adventures.”

Kids return—

Ooops! Change the subject!

Change—

the subject now!

 

Laughter.

Mouths covered by hands.

They both do it.

Is it genetic?

 

Latin scrapbooks

and “Footloose” dancing

across wooden floors—

the innocent joys of

being high school nerds.

Own it.

But you were always

incredibly poised,

and wise beyond your years.

 

Apple Cake, Flourless Chocolate Cake, Baklava--Early Celebration requires extra desserts to ensure sweetness for the year! ;)

Apple Cake, Flourless Chocolate Cake, Baklava–Early Celebration requires extra desserts to ensure sweetness for the year! 😉

Desserts!

Yay!

Extra sweetness

for the new year!

More wine?

Coffee?

I can’t eat another bite.

 

Guests leave.

Tables back

to their usual spots.

No Disney dancing

cups or magic cleanup.

But wouldn’t that be great?

The vanished cat

runs down the stairs,

hesitates at the kitchen,

stretching his long legs–

he sniffs,

and yawns.

Did I miss anything?

Love and laughter.

The joy of a holiday dinner.

Snapshots of life.

Pause to remember.

I got special cards! <3

I got special cards! ❤

 

Because of our schedules, our family gathered for a dinner to celebrate Rosh Hashanah early this year. Wishing all of you health, happiness, and sweetness for this new year–and throughout your years!

Just Deserts?

The phrase “just deserts,” is used to describe when someone gets what he or she deserves. It is pronounced just desserts. That is, deserts is spelled like a dry, arid region, but pronounced like the tasty treat. Some people would be happy to eat only desserts, so to them, the phrase should probably be “just desserts,” the way it is commonly misspelled. After family meals—and stressful situations—many in my family believe we deserve a dessert, along with a bottle, glass of wine. So perhaps again, the phrase should be “just desserts.” Also, the first word my younger daughter learned to spell, when she was about three years old was dessert. She would ask if she could have a “d-e-s-s-e-r-t” with a big smile on her adorable, often food-streaked face. True story.

Here’s a link if want more information on the phrase “just deserts.” Meanwhile, I’m going to continue with the main point of this post, which is desserts, specifically the desserts we had at my house after our huge Passover meal. Apparently, I thought we were having fifty people at our table, instead of eleven (plus our older daughter and her fiancée SKYPED in for our traditional, hilarious Passover play.)

 

Passover Chicken Soup

Do you think I made enough chicken soup? And, I made vegetarian broth, too.

On Passover, when we pass over all flour products, it is often difficult to find great desserts. Well, it used to be difficult. When I was a child we only had awful sponge cakes and canned macaroons. This year especially I saw many suitable for Passover desserts–that sounded delicious–but for our big family dinner, we stuck with the two desserts that have been winners for the past couple of years. Because seriously, why wouldn’t we? We also had the traditional stewed dried fruit that my mom made. It is delicious. There is no recipe because the recipe is pretty much, get some dried fruit, or in the case of my almost 92-year-old mother, have someone buy the fruit and bring it to you–then cook it with some water, sugar, and lemon until it’s done. I’ve made it with honey or brown sugar. Actually, I don’t know what she used this time. So never mind. Can you see where my cooking technique comes from?

So I made a flourless chocolate cake and my younger daughter of d-e-s-s-e-r-t fame made a cheesecake with a macaroon crust. Neither dessert is an original recipe, but I’ve adapted them slightly.

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Flourless Chocolate Cake

I have to tell you that my niece said this was the best chocolate cake she has ever had, and she’s had a few. . .because we like chocolate cake. Also, this cake is really great with red wine. Really great. Like I want some now great.

Here’s the original recipe below.

****I added some vanilla extract—about a teaspoon, and poured in some brewed coffee because the pot was sitting there while I was whisking. Yes, that’s the way I cook. Um. . .probably a tablespoon or two. I baked the cake at 325 for an hour, and it was done. So you might want to try that. You really do NOT want to overbake this. I haven’t refrigerated it, and it’s still great, but if your house is warm, you will probably want to put it in the refrigerator.****

Chocolate Idiot Cake via DavidLebovitz.com adapted from Ready for Dessert (Ten Speed Press)

Makes one 9-inch cake

  • 10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 7 ounces butter, salted or unsalted, cut into pieces
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust it with cocoa powder, tapping out any excess. If you suspect your springform pan isn’t 100 percent water-tight, wrap the outside with aluminum foil, making sure it goes all the way up to the outer rim.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler (or microwave), stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar, then whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and cover the top of the pan snugly with a sheet of foil. Put the springform pan into a larger baking pan, such as a roasting pan, and add enough hot water to the baking pan to come about halfway up to the outside of the cake pan.

5. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it feels just set, like quivering chocolate pudding. If you gently touch the center, your finger should come away clean.

5. Lift the cake pan from the water bath and remove the foil. Let cake cool completely on a cooling rack.

Serve thin wedges of this very rich cake at room temperature, with creme anglaise, ice cream, or whipped cream.

Storage: This Chocolate Idiot Cake can be wrapped and chilled in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

Cheesecake

This is my mother-in-law’s recipe, adapted for Passover. It is a basic cheesecake, but it is my husband’s favorite, and sometimes you just shouldn’t tamper with perfection.

***However. . .I lowered the temperature to 325 and baked the cheesecake in a water bath. After the topping cooks for about 5 minutes, I turned off the heat and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for another 30 minutes. Then I let it cool in the water bath. Slide a knife around the edge, cover, and refrigerate. We also added some fresh lemon juice to the topping.***

Sandy’s Cheesecake

Crust: 1 ¾ graham cracker crumbs

         4 Tbsp. melted butter

Place on bottom of greased spring form pan. (I wrap the bottom of mine in foil.)

Passover Crust: Replace graham cracker crumbs with macaroon crumbs. We used a combination of coconut and almond, and only two tablespoons of butter. (I think.) We used the canned Passover macaroons. If you want to make your own, go for it. We made this after making three batches of knaidlach.

2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese and ½ of another (so 20 ounces total)

4 Eggs

¾ cup Sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. lemon juice

Pour over crust and bake in oven at 350 (or 325, if you’re following my changes) for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and pour on topping :

1 Pint Sour Cream

½ cup sugar

2 Tsp. vanilla

1-2 tsp. lemon juice, optional

Bake at 450 for 5-7 minutes. (Or leave at 325, if following my changes.)

Baking at the reduced temperature and in a water bath seems to eliminate the cracking. However, it is delicious when made either way!

Hope you enjoy these. Thanks for reading.

–Merril