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Recipes Remembered will leave you hungry for more

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Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival by June Feiss Hersh is a timeless cookbook filled with the incredible stories and authentic recipes of Holocaust survivors. It was published in association with and to benefit the Museum of Jewish Heritage – a Living Memorial to the Holocaust, 4th edition February 2012. 

The more than 170 recipes in Recipes Remembered will give you an appetite to take a culinary journey that is as diverse as the survivors themselves. The recollections shared by the survivors and their families run the gamut of foods from their childhood to those dishes they prepared here in America. You will laugh, cry and marvel at the remarkable stories that will transport you from one of the most tragic and harrowing times in history to the possibilities of faith, luck and perseverance. You will be forever touched and changed.

The recipes have been carefully tested and professionally written. June Hersh has also included a comprehensive guide to baking and cooking, hints for stocking your pantry and a full glossary to help ease you into the Yiddish language.

Survivors’ recipes include Karen Banschik’s BBQ Brisket plus her Next Day Brisket Stuffed Meatloaf, Helen Ptashnik’s Braised Red Cabbage and Apples, Eva Young’s Creamy Cheese Noodle Kugel, Miriam Margulies’ Palatschinken – Thin Pancakes, Evelyn Pike Rubin’s Sweet Summer Peach Cake, and Celia Kener's Citrus Rice Pudding. 

More than two dozen acclaimed professional chefs contributed their interpretations of certain classic dishes and unexpected treats, adding a splash of panache and introducing global favourites. Professional chefs and their recipes include: pastry chef Gale Gand’s Cabbage Strudel, David Waltuck’s Blintzes of Fresh and Smoked Salmon with Caviar Cream, Arthur Schwartz’s P’tcha – Jellied Calf’s Feet with Garlic, Ina Garten’s Chopped Liver and Jeff Nathan’s Duck with Apple and White Raisin Sauce.

Doris Schechter is a unique contributor to the book as she is both a survivor of the Holocaust and an accomplished baker, cookbook author and restaurateur. Doris prepared and donated 500 chocolate chip loaves, based on her recipe for her decadently delicious Blackout Cake, to the Museum of Jewish Heritage when famed journalist and champion of Jewish refugees Ruth Gruber, was being honoured at the museum. When Schechter saw the photograph on the invitation for the event, she was stunned to see herself as a six year old in the group photo taken in Oswego, N.Y., where she lived with her family after coming to America.

June Hersh writes: “When researching and writing Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival, I met so many authentic cooks who lovingly shared their time-honoured recipes with me. From Ashkenazi favourites to the unexpected flavours of the Sephardi kitchen, the foods and recipes varied widely by region, but all shared one important constant. These were the foods that nourished and have nurtured generations of Jewish families.

 “In my father’s family, there are barely any family heirlooms to pass down. Everything they had was either taken, lost or stolen. That is why this recipe is so precious and so dear to me. It’s really a family treasure. I feel that my love for baking is a special gift from my Dad’s side of the family. Every time I bake, I am really honouring my wonderful father, my Aunt Rose, my grandmother, as well as my grandfather, aunts and uncles who died in the war. I love to bake and baking is a way of preserving their memory.”

 

BABA’S CHEESECAKE

 

Baba’s cookie dough is the foundation for this light ricotta cheesecake. It is a recipe handed down to Lisa Jacobs from her grandmother and Aunt Rose who were Polish Holocaust survivors. Jacobs has carried on the timeless “ritual” of making this dough completely by hand. She warmly describes the recipe: “This dough is a multi-tasker as it makes the most delicious cookies, as well as crust for apple and blueberry pie.”

 

For the crust: Baba’s All-Purpose Cookie Dough

1 1/2–2 cups all-purpose flour 

1 egg 

1/2 cup sugar 

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. baking powder

1 stick (1/2 cup) cold butter, cut into tiny pieces 

 

Filling

3 cups farmer’s cheese

4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter

3/4 cup sugar

4 eggs, beaten

1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. sour cream

 

Preheat the oven to 250.

To prepare the dough by hand, create a well with the flour and slowly incorporate all the ingredients with a fork and your hands. If you prefer, you can use a food processor, fitted with the metal blade. When the dough is formed, press it into a 9-inch pie pan, and chill until ready to use.

Blend all the filling ingredients until they are well combined, but retain some of the “lumpy” texture. Pour the filling into the unbaked crust. Bake for 25 minutes at 250, then raise the temperature to 350 and bake for an additional hour, or until the pie is set but not dry. Serve warm or cold. Yields: 10 to 12 servings.

 

Variation:

Divide the dough into 2 or 3 pieces and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for 15 minutes, and then roll the dough out on a floured board to 1/4-inch thick. Using a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass, cut into any shape desired and dip the cookies in sugar. Bake at 350 on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, for 15 minutes or until very light golden brown.

 

FLORENCE TABRYS’ SWEET & CREAMY CHEESE BLINTZES

 

These cheese blintzes have always been a favourite with everyone in Florence Tabrys’ family. Serve them for a casual brunch or light lunch. The filling is a combination of soft cheeses that melt into the blintz for a sweet and creamy burst of flavour with every bite. They make a great late night snack and ready to heat treat, as they freeze perfectly.

 

Batter:

6 large eggs

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 cup whole milk

1 cup all-purpose flour

 

Filling:

1 (4-oz.) package cream cheese, softened at room temperature

1 cup (7.5-oz. package) farmers’ cheese

1 tsp. melted butter

3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

butter for frying

optional toppings: sweetened sour cream, cinnamon sugar, confectioner’s sugar, orange zest

 

Prepare the batter by whisking together all the ingredients. The batter should be thinner than a pancake batter, and a golden yellow colour. Refrigerate the batter while you prepare the filling.

For the filling, combine all the filling ingredients and gently blend until smooth.

Heat a pat of butter in an 8-inch non-stick skillet. Ladle about 1/4 cup of batter into the centre of the pan and quickly swirl the pan in a circular motion to evenly distribute the batter. Fry for 1 minute and then flip the blintz over. Cook for just a few seconds on the flip side and remove to a waiting paper towel. Cover with a second paper towel to prevent the blintzes from drying out. Wipe the pan clean of the residual butter, add a fresh pat and follow the same process until you have used all the batter

When cool to the touch, begin filling the blintzes. A large tablespoonful plopped right in the middle of the blintz should do it. Fold the blintz by bringing the two ends to the middle, and then fold the two sides into the middle, creating an oblong little package. Their irregular shape lets people know they are homemade, so don't fret if they don’t look perfect. The blintzes are ready to fry.

Heat several pats of butter in the same skillet you used to cook the batter, and fry them for several minutes or until golden brown. You can freeze the prepared blintzes, and fry them at a later time.

Enjoy the blintzes as they are, or top with any of the suggested toppings. A classic fruit sauce makes an elegant choice, see Strawberry Sauce (below). Don’t be surprised if people begin calling your blintzes crepes – they mean it as a compliment. Yields: 10 blintzes.

 

HANNA WECHSLER’S STRAWBERRY FILLED NALESHNIKI – BLINTZES

 

Hanna Wechsler spoke lovingly of her mother’s blintzes, a cross between a thin crepe and a traditional blintz. She recalled her mom filling them quite simply with strawberry preserves, chopped nuts and a touch of sugar. She proudly says, “This recipe has continuity; it has endured for four generations.” Pair it with Florence Tabrys’ blintz recipe (above) for a sweet variation and top with the strawberry sauce. 

 

1 cup strawberry preserves

1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped almonds or walnuts – your choice

1 tsp. sugar, more or less to taste

 

Combine all three ingredients in a bowl and use as filling. Yields: about 1 cup of filling

 

STRAWBERRY SAUCE

 

While Hanna Wechsler’s mother served her blintzes with fresh fruit, a pureed strawberry sauce is a colourful topping and helps bring out the strawberry goodness packed inside the blintz.

 

1 (16-oz.) bag frozen strawberries

3 tbsp. sugar

1/4 cup water

1 tsp. cornstarch

juice and grated peel of half a lemon

 

In a medium saucepan, cook the strawberries, sugar, water and cornstarch, over medium-low heat, until the berries are very soft, about 15 minutes. Puree the berries and stir in the lemon juice and grated peel. Serve hot or cold over blintzes, cake or ice cream. The sauce will hold for 1 to 2 weeks in the fridge. You can also follow the same preparation if using frozen blueberries or raspberries. Yields: 2 cups.

 

MARSHA MEYER’S FRUIT-FILLED KNODELS - DUMPLINGS

 

The late spring and early summer is the perfect time to prepare these knodels, when the plums and apricots are their ripest.

 

For the dough

1/2 lb. red potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed

1/2 lb. (1 cup) ricotta cheese

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 egg yolks

Pinch of salt

 

For the filling

18 dried pitted prunes or 36 dried apricots or 18 fresh small plums or 18 fresh apricots

sugar to sweeten the fruit

 

For the topping

1/2 stick (4 tbsp.) butter

1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs

3 tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

 

To make the dough, bring a medium pot of water to boil and cook the potatoes until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain, then mash the potatoes by hand or use a ricer (creates a smoother texture.) In a large bowl, combine the mashed potatoes with the ricotta cheese, flour, egg yolks and salt. Mix thoroughly and then knead, on a lightly floured surface, until a dough forms. If the dough is too sticky, you can add a little more flour.

Bring a fresh pot of salted water to boil.

Prepare the fruit by softening the dried apricots or prunes. Heat them for a few minutes with a little water in a small saucepan. Drain and dry them thoroughly. For the fresh fruit, simply wash the fruit. Meyer does not even remove the stone pit, but you can if you want to.

Separate the dough into manageable pieces for you to roll out on a floured board. Using a cookie cutter, cut the pieces large enough to wrap around the fruit that you will be using. For the fresh plums and apricots, the dough will need to be cut larger than for the dried fruits. For extra sweetness, dab a little sugar between the pieces of dried fruit before placing in the centre of the dough. Wrap the dough around the fruit, sealing all edges tightly. You should not be able to see the filling through the dough. If you can, you have stretched the dough too thin. Roll the filled dough in your hands to form the knodel. It is a very forgiving dough and easy to work with.

Drop the knodels in the boiling water and cook about 10 minutes. Gently move them around the pot so they don’t stick to the bottom or each other. Remove with a slotted spoon and allow them to drain on a paper towel.

While they drain, prepare the topping, by melting the butter in a small skillet and lightly browning the breadcrumbs with the sugar and cinnamon. After a few minutes, the topping should be light brown and you are ready to roll. Pour the topping into a small bowl and roll the knodel in the browned crumbs. If you like, you can sprinkle the knodels with vanilla sugar, confectioner’s sugar or poppy seeds. Eat at once. Yields: about 18 knodels.

Feedback: Vanilla sugar is a favourite sweetener for many German cooks. Take one or two vanilla beans and split down the centre. Place them in a tight container filled with confectioner’s or granulated sugar. Let the flavour permeate the sugar for several days before using. Vanilla sugar is also sold in specialty food stores and online.

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