Thursday, September 23, 2010

Comfort Food

Everyone has their favorite comfort food. For some people, it's ice cream. For others, it's chicken soup. For me, it's cottage cheese and noodles.

Did you just throw up in your mouth a bit? I wouldn't be surprised, since it's the usual reaction I get when I say that I'm in the mood for this delish dish. In fact, cottage cheese and noodles is a prime example of things my husband considers Jewish lore since he can't believe that people would actually eat it (other examples include gefilte fish and Manischewitz wine).

My grandmother and mother used to make this dish whenever they didn't feel like cooking, there wasn't much to eat in the house, or when I begged for it. It's so ridiculously easy that it's become one of the few dishes that I'm proficient at making. I made it on a weekly basis in college (much to my roommate's chagrin).

I'll admit it. The thought of cottage cheese paired with egg noodles is a little gross. Not to mention that it's not the prettiest dish. But for what it lacks in looks it makes up in flavor. I always tell people - if you like cottage cheese then you'll like this dish.

My grandmother's recipe for Cottage Cheese and Noodles

Egg Noodles (amount doesn't matter - make enough for the amount of people eating)
Cottage Cheese (enough to cover the noodles)
Butter (enough to coat the noodles)
Salt and Pepper

Cook the noodles and drain.  Add butter (let it melt on top of the noodles). Add cottage cheese, salt and pepper. Mix.

Easy, right?

Last night I decided to add to her tried and true recipe. Remember the kugel I made for Rosh Hashanah? I took my cue from that recipe and added a small onion (sauteed in butter), a scoop of sour cream, and some parsley to my grandmother's cottage cheese and noodles. I also took away the melted butter on top of the noodles. It was sooooo good!

For all of you doubters out there, just give it a chance. I guarantee that you'll like it! Oh, and for proof that this dish actually exists - check this book under "Noodles and Cottage or Pot Cheese".

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Omelet Part Deux

Ode to an Omelet

How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.
I loathe thee morning, noon, and night
Yet my stomach grumbles at your sight
For you taste so warm and good.
I can not seem to make you right
You always break, run, and fight.
I loathe thee dearly sure it's true;
I loathe thee when you taste like poo,
I loathe your ingredients - eggs, milk too;
Salt and pepper - when the cheeses ooze.
I loathe thee with a sense of grief
I loathe thee because you forsake me
You take the wind out of my sails,
Yet one day I will prevail,
Just you wait and see.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Omelets and Spaghetti and Meatballs

Today I woke up hungry for eggs. Probably not the best thing for me, but I really wanted them. And not just any eggs. I wanted an omelet. I sat Jackson down in his bouncer, sprayed the pan with Pam, scrambled 2 eggs, milk, salt, and pepper in a bowl, and added them to the pan. A few minutes later I look in the pan and realize that it looks like it's time for me to add the cheese. I add a handful of shredded cheese and wait. And wait. And wait. I then notice that the bottom of the eggs are burning but the top isn't cooking. And it smells - bad. So what do I do? Try to fold the eggs over because burning = eggs being done, right? Wrong. It's not folding, the eggs aren't cooked all the way through, and the pan is starting to smoke. I gave up, threw the eggs out, and settled for a new batch - of scrambled eggs.

Note: According to my sources, if you put a lid on top of the pan when you're cooking the eggs, it will cook the top of the egg. Well thanks for telling me now!

Onto spaghetti and meatballs.

This is Kelly's recipe (makes 12-15 meatballs)

  • 3/4 lbs meatloaf mix
  • 1 egg
  • Breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • Basil (chopped)
  • Parsley (chopped)
  • Oregano (chopped)
  • 1 large onion (finely chopped)
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 can Contadina tomato paste*
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cans tomato sauce
  • Italian seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Red wine
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
(* He uses Contadina because he's found it to have the best taste out of all the tomato pastes)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a large saucepan on medium heat, add oil and a little less than 1/2 of the onion. Then in a large bowl mix meat, egg, breadcrumbs, basil, parsley, oregano, other 1/2 of the onion, 3/4 of the garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Mix meat with hands (Icky fingers! Eww!) and form into meatballs. Remember - bigger isn't always better. I made mine pretty big and they were a little dry in the middle. Place meatballs on a broiler pan and stick it in the oven.

Go back to the sauce pan. Add the rest of the garlic and the crushed tomatoes. Let the juices reduce to about half of what it started out with. Then add the tomato paste and mix so it's not clumpy. If you do what I did - added a can of sauce because I mixed it up with the paste, it's not a big deal. You just have to mix it more. Next you add the tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, sugar, Parmesan cheese, and a splash of red wine. Now pour yourself a glass of wine because you deserve it. The sauce is simmering, the balls are baking, all is right in the world.

Once the meatballs are baked (Around 20 minutes? Who knows...I've been drinking wine), add them to the sauce and let it saturate. Boil some water, add some angel hair (Easier said than done - remember the last time I made pasta? Does burning spaghetti ring a bell?), and you're ready to go.

All in all I'd have to say that the meatball experiment was a success. My mom tried to teach me her way of making meatballs when I was about 12, and I just added everything into a large bowl (think meat, egg, breadcrumbs, tomato sauce...). This definitely turned out better than that debacle.

Oh, and I learned something cool! Apparently if you want to get the smell of garlic off your hands, rub them on something stainless steel. I don't suggest a knife, but you're sink probably is stainless steel. It works, I swear!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rosh Hashanah 2010

I moved into my new house 10 days before I gave birth to my son this past April. We (ok, my husband) painted, and I spent my time decorating and picking out new furniture, including a new dining room set. The day we moved in, my mother said to me that I would be hosting every Jewish holiday from now on. Apparently she wasn't kidding.

Last week my mother asked me what I was making for Rosh Hashanah. Usually this question is answered "Kelly is making an appetizer" and we bring it over to her house. Nope, not this time. She wanted to know what we were making for the dinner, because she was serious when she said that we were hosting. To be fair, she hosts Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and all the BBQ's we have during the summer. Unfortunately, Kelly works a lot so that I can be home with Jackson, so this meant that I would be the one cooking for 10 people. This was trial by fire if I have ever seen it. Either dinner was going to be great, or we would be eating Chinese turkey.

Traditionally my family always has mazoh ball soup, brisket, apples and honey, and kasha for Rosh Hashanah. I designated my grandmother to make the mazoh ball soup (her's is the best - recipe to come later). I decided on this brisket, this kashsa, and I also wanted to make this kugel. We also had string beans almondine, apples and honey, and rainbow cookie cake for desert. I realized that this was going to be quite an undertaking - especially since not only was this my first holiday dinner, but my first dinner EVER, but I figured that I watched enough Food Network that I should be OK.

My ultimate goal in making this dinner was to prove to everyone that, given a chance, it is possible that I can cook. Growing up my mother made all of our meals, so I never had to learn. I met my husband in college, so since we met either he would cook or we'd go out to eat. Anytime that I did try to cook something while Kelly was present he would step in and either tell me that I was doing something wrong or take over completely. Between Kelly and my mother, I gave up cooking completely.

I believe that I succeeded. I'm sure you're looking to read about some kind of epic failure of cooking drama, but surprisingly I have none to report. I followed the recipes, and with NO help whatsoever I made a holiday dinner for 10 people. No fires, no burns, no cuts, no salmonella. It's almost like transforming ingredients into a recipe transformed me as well.

With that being said, I solemnly vow that from now on, barring any unforeseen circumstances, I will cook at least one meal per week. I will do my best to not repeat any recipes, and I will cook this meal without help from anyone. I will then write about that meal here. I think that this is the only way that I will be able to teach myself how to cook...trial and error. And if a meal sucks? So what. That's what Chinese turkey is for.

Things You Need to Know

I can't cook. I warned my husband about this when we started dating. Unfortunately for him, he didn't take me seriously. He thought I was only kidding when I went through my (what I think of as impressive) list of culinary disasters, which include:

- Setting the cabinets above my toaster oven on fire when making grilled cheese
- Setting my stove top on fire boiling water (who does that?!?)
- Messing up Easy Mac (apparently you don't double the cooking time when you double the amount of turns into soup).
- Setting spaghetti on fire when putting it into the water (I didn't think that one was possible)

And my favorite:
- Setting my parent's stove on fire making cupcakes.

Let's talk about that last one. About a week before Christmas a few years back, my younger sister and I decided that we wanted to make cupcakes. We put the little cupcake holder things in the pan, preheated the oven, mixed the batter, and started filling the little cups up. Once the last one was filled, I looked in the mixing bowl and discovered that I had a lot of batter left over. I told my sister that I didn't want to wait around for those cupcakes to bake and have to do another batch, so we decided to fill up the cups to the top. We stuck the tin in the oven, set the timer, went to our respective bedrooms, and turned on the TV.

About 15 minutes later I go to check on the cupcakes and discover smoke billowing out of the oven. I started to freak out and ran to get my father, who was in the next room watching The Santa Claus on TV (funny in itself because my father is Jewish and also hates Tim Allen). I screamed to my father, "The kitchen is on fire!!! Help!!!" Without even taking his eyes off of the television, he tells me to get my mother. I run upstairs to get my mom, she grabs the fire extinguisher (which my parents put in arms reach of the oven in case the urge to cook comes over me), and puts out the fire. All that was left of my cupcakes was a 3x3 inch charred piece of cake.

By the way, not being able to cook has nothing to do with not liking to eat. I love to eat. And drink. I just fail when it comes to preparing said food and drink.

After all of these (plus many more) disastrous attempts at becoming a domestic diva, I finally gave up. Thankfully my husband is an amazing cook. He's come to terms with the fact that (in the words of Carrie from Sex and the City) "The only thing I've made in the kitchen is a mess. And several small fires".

Some other things you should know about me:

- I am 28 and live in NJ with my husband Kelly and son Jackson
- I was a high school music teacher and am now a stay at home mom
- I am the oldest of 4 (I have 1 brother and 2 sisters, and there is a 13 year difference between my youngest sister and I).
- I was raised in an interfaith household. My mom is Roman Catholic, my dad, siblings, my son, and I are all Jewish, and my husband is a religious free agent.
- I met my husband while attending college and we have been together for almost 8 years
- If I had to choose a last meal, I would have a hard time choosing between my mom's Thanksgiving dinner, my husband's spaghetti and meatballs, and my grandmother's chicken soup
- I like wine and beer, particularly Malbecs and Belgium Wheats