Schmaltzy Spotlight / Stacey Harwood-Lehman: The Case for Cooking and Kasha in Times of Crisis

Photo by Caitlin Hoop

“There was a time when you could walk into any lobby in the Bronx and you would smell kasha,” says Stacey Harwood-Lehman, a writer and the poet laureate of the New York City farmers markets. She’s referring to the 1960’s when the borough was home to a large Eastern European Jewish community, including her grandparents who emigrated from Russia to escape the pogroms.

The scent of kasha simmering away also perfumed her mother’s kitchen at their home in Monsey, a town northwest of the city. “My mother wasn’t an enthusiastic cook at all,” Stacey says. Infact, when she was 12, her mother “called a moratorium on cooking and my sisters and I had to take turns preparing dinner.” But her mother did have a handful of recipes she turned to, including kasha with brisket, which she took from the back of a box of Wolff’s kasha.

Read on at Jewish Food Society.

Students Serve Up Stories Of Beloved Family Recipes In A Global Cookbook

Via Becky Harlan
Via Becky Harlan


Students in Washington, D.C. share recipes in global cookbook…

Washington, D.C.’s Capital City Public Charter School feels like a mini United Nations. Many of the school’s 981 students are first-generation Americans with backgrounds spanning the globe, from El Salvador to Nigeria to Vietnam. So when the staff of the literacy non-profit 826DC began a book-publishing project with the junior class, they picked a topic everyone could relate to that also left room for cultural expression: food.

Writing coaches asked students to think of a family recipe with a backstory — and then write an essay around that dish. The 81 recipes and their accompanying stories that resulted make up a cookbook of global cuisine with a heartfelt touch, revealing that storytelling may be the most important step in any recipe.

Read on at The Salt.

Reuben Riffel on Becoming a Top Chef in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Via Lee Malan, Rooi Rose
Via Lee Malan, Rooi Rose


Chef Reuben Riffel on South African food and culture after Apartheid…

In his early restaurant jobs, Reuben Riffel worked as a waiter, a barman, and a kitchen hand in his hometown of Franschhoek, South Africa. Eventually he became a sous-chef, helping to run the kitchen at Chamonix Restaurant. One afternoon the executive chef called in sick. “I had the opportunity to cook the food that day,” he recalls. “We had quite a few guests who came into the kitchen to congratulate me. That’s when it dawned on me that I’m going to become a chef.” He opened his own restaurant in Franschhoek in 2004 and received South Africa’s Chef of the Year award six months later.

 Today Riffel owns four restaurants in the Western Cape, has four published cookbooks, and can say he taught Martha Stewart how to pickle fish. From a hotel in Johannesburg, where a food festival was just getting started, Riffel spoke to Smithsonian Journeys about the challenges of defining South African cuisine, how the food culture there is changing, and why he feels lucky to be at the center of it all.


‘Handwritten Recipes #01: Caramel Custard,’ by Rozanne Gold

Editors note: Dear Inquisitive Eaters—the following was originally published by our good friends over at Handwritten, a place in space for pen and paper. It’s part of Handwritten Recipes, Handwritten’s new column curated by chef and food writer Rozanne Gold. We wanted to share it with you today to put this wonderful column on your radar; check out the original post and, while you’re at it, the whole column thus far. Happy Monday!


Photograph taken by Shayna DePersia | For the typed recipe, see the bottom of this post or the original at Handwritten


When I was in my mid-twenties, I penned this recipe as a gift for my beautiful mother Marion on Mother’s Day 1980. I placed it in a Lucite frame and she nailed it to the wall of her apartment kitchen in Fresh Meadows, Queens. My mother loved this custard, in all its simplicity, but could never quite remember how to make it. I thought these words would guide her when I was not around, but she never followed the instructions. Instead of the classic swirl of liquid caramel that coats the custard after baking, my mother skipped this step and dusted grated nutmeg on top. A whiff of memory? And she preferred to eat the custard directly from its little glass cup, instead of flipping it onto a plate so that the caramel would pool all around.

My mother and I were extraordinarily close. Too close, if that’s possible. She encouraged me to become a chef when women were anathema in professional kitchens. I dropped out of graduate school and became the first chef to New York Mayor Ed Koch when I was twenty-three. Being in the kitchen with my mother was the happiest place in the world for me. She would occasionally visit me in the kitchen of Gracie Mansion, and years later came to my kitchen in Park Slope, and yes, we’d make caramel custard together.

Our deep connection was expressed by cooking special things for each other. Custard for her, and for me she made cabbage and noodles – a homey Hungarian standard that she, too, ate in her childhood. It was the comfort food that connected us to previous generations of Hungarian women and also to each other. I have learned since that some recipes, even more than photographs, can provide the most intimate transfer of memory from mothers to daughters.

One grey day in October eight years ago, I removed the recipe now faded and worn, twenty-six years after I wrote it.  And now my daughter makes custard for me.


Caramel Custard

3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
pinch salt
2 cups milk, scalded
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Heat 1/2 cup sugar slowly in heavy small skillet stirring constantly with wooden spoon until sugar melts and is light caramel in color. Pour spoonful in each five custard cups and let is cool slightly.
3. Beat eggs with remaining sugar and salt. Add milk slowly, while stirring. Add vanilla. Strain and pour carefully into cups.
4. Place cups in pan of hot water (level with top of cups). Bake about 40 minutes, or until knife comes out clean.
5. Chill, and turn out to serve.

1454115496405Rozanne Gold is a renowned chef and award-winning food writer. Author of thirteen cookbooks, including the internationally-translated Recipes 1-2-3 series, Rozanne’s writing and recipes have appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Gourmet, Oprah, Bon Appetit, FoodArts and More. She is currently a guest columnist for Cooking Light and blogger for the Huffington Post. Considered “the food expert’s expert,” Rozanne has helped create some of the country’s most enduring food trends. Between meals, Rozanne is an end-of-life doula, philanthropist, and poet.

‘Muji Soup,’ by Brett Rawson

Appetizers | Joy of Writing

One sweltering summer in New York City, a writing mentor of mine impressed upon me the importance of pre-writing. I spent many afternoons across from her, swaying in her mother’s rocking chair as she stretched out on the sofa. I see her there now—left leg dangling down the side, right arm resting on the top like a watchful cat, a shawl lightly draped around her neck, and hair wild as migrating geese.

I always felt like I was in the presence of a wizard. I asked her many questions under the moon, eager to learn her wise ways with words. But she spoke with mystery. “I am like one of those Everest climbers,” she said, her hands floating into the air, as if directed by a magical melody that only she and Heaven could hear, “and at a certain point, if I’m not careful, I’ll lose cognition.” And her hands floated back down like a lively autumn leaf, while a smile rippled across her face. “Do you understand?” she asked. I didn’t.

But during the course of these conversations, she revealed at random ingredients she considered key to a healthy writing diet, many of which I have tested and tinkered with. And so, here are a few recipes for writing side-dishes, or ways to wet the appetite to write. I hope they help will you savor and flavor the thoughts that are simmering on the stovetop, especially in these cold and heartless winter days when the weather traps our energy inside Tupperware containers. We must harvest and enjoy these seasonal, organic thoughts.

Suggestions: 1. All servings sizes are individual, so adjust as necessary. 2. Allow every arising thought to come forth without fear or favor. 3. As in all courses, the thoughts must be fresh, crisp, and beautiful. Discard any thoughts that come from others. 4. There is no thought too small to write about.


Muji Soup

1 Sitting

In this delicate atmosphere, music rules. Be sure to have good music. The method of listening is inferior to the music that is playing. This will become particularly important on those days when melted snow has turned the street just outside your apartment into a raging river of shit-slush. Yes, deadbolt the door, lock yourself inside, put on that full album, and settle into this lovely little pre-ramble for an uninterrupted session of winter-proof writing.

2 Muji Moma Pens, 0.7mm, black 

1 Muji Kraft Paper Envelope, 105x225mm 

1 Pad of Muji Cotton Letter Paper, A5 5.8 x 8.3”

1 Pot of coffee, or 6 cans of beer (see, “Coffee or Beer?”)

1 Street address of a real person

1 Forever United States postal stamp

1 Symbolic object (see, “Can Anything be a Symbolic Object?”)

1 Full album (see “Playlists Don’t Count”)

1 Cell phone, on airplane mode, stuffed inside the desk drawer 

0 Distracting friends

Place both pens on the desk. Lightly rip five to six sheets of cotton pulp from the pad, equal to the thickness of a corn tortilla. Place your symbolic object at the head of your desk, and scan the area for invoices, broken toothpicks, and to-do lists. Discard any discoveries quickly.

With the desk clean, select music for today’s session. The Pandora Station Top Hit’s and Songza’s Introspective Mood do not count as a full album. Neither do playlists. If you don’t have a full album, quickly download “Rubinstein Collection, Vol. 12: Beethoven: Piano Trio, Op. 97 “Archduke” – Schubert: Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 99.”

Once the music has settled over the room like a giant sheet of illuminated fog, settle back into your seat and address the letter to a friend who knows the majority of your deep storage (see “What is Deep Storage?”). Before starting the letter, imagine what they are doing, forgetting the last time you spoke to them. Then, begin telling them exactly what you are doing, or, the strangest thing that happened to you that morning. When you take your first breath and look up, you’ll see many thoughts waiting in line. In single file, work your way through each one, welcoming them all for showing up to today’s letter.

After you run out of paper or finished the full album, sign and seal the envelope, place it inside your coat pocket that is hanging by the door, and get to everything else you want to write in the world.


brett-rawsonBrett Rawson is a writer and runner based in Brooklyn, New York. He is co-editor of The Seventh Wave and founder of Handwritten. His writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Narratively, Nowhere Magazine, and drDOCTOR.

feature image via The Inspired Office.

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Will Remove Artificial Preservatives and Synthetic Colors, What Will Be Left?

photo via Modern Farmer.
photo via Modern Farmer.

After a prolonged battle with public opinion (and one particular besieged activist who goes by the name The Food Babe), Kraft is reworking its recipe for its iconic Macaroni & Cheese to remove artificial preservatives and synthetic colors.

Kraft’s blue-boxed Mac & Cheese is a beautiful distillation of the past century of American cuisine, a classic, arguably home-grown dish beloved by none other than Thomas Jefferson that mutated into a strange, soupy, neon-orange, shelf-stable packaged good. (It is also eaten in Canada, where it’s known as Kraft Dinner, or KD). But it’s about to undergo a substantial change, which may or may not be noticed by anyone at all: the artificial preservatives and synthetic colors are being removed.

Read the rest on Modern Farmer.

In The Land Of Floats And Beads, You’d Better Bring Deviled Eggs

The morning of Mardi Gras calls for something a little hardier — and a little more indulgent — than your average bowl of Wheaties. After all, a long day lies ahead, thick with flying beads, outlandish parade floats and food in every form and function. When partying in New Orleans starts as early as dawn, a good breakfast is crucial.

And don’t forget, Poppy Tooker adds: “This is the one city in America where breakfast drinking is totally socially acceptable.” Why let such a splendid opportunity go to waste?

Read more from NPR’s Special Series on Food.

Comment String to a Recipe for Korean Soy-Braised Short Ribs

by Stacey Harwood

kitchen vixen: These were delicious. I made them over the weekend for my husband’s game night. I made them the day before, then skimmed the fat before reheating.  Then I served them with a big bowl of white rice and some spicy greens.  For dessert, I made chocolate chip cookies.  Everything was yummy and my husband was really happy.  Plus, his team won.  Can I take credit for that? 🙂

Alison: Awesome recipe!  Can’t wait to try it.

Lusty_locavore I made this too and it turned out great although I had to hit three stores before I could find the chestnuts. (Thank you Trader Joes!) Plus after I served it I realized I had forgotten the garnish but nobody noticed.  Deeeeelish!

MessyKitchen I followed the recipe exactly but for some reason the sauce was disappointingly thin even after letting it reduce for an hour so I mixed some arrowroot with water and added it and that seemed to help a lot but there were lumps so I put it in the blender.  It was OK but I don’t think I’ll make it again.

Grill king  That’s too bad MessyKitchen. I wonder what you did wrong. Maybe you added too much water at the beginning or didn’t have enough bones for collagen to thicken it up.  I’m just sayin’.  Mine were great.

LuvinSpoonful I went to that restaurant on my honeymoon!!!

LuvinSpoonful I went to that restaurant on my honeymoon!!!

LuvinSpoonful I went to that restaurant on my honeymoon!!!

CreativeCookie My ribs are braising as I write this and my hole house is fragrant with the smell of all of the lovely ingredients marrying together.  I am grateful to the cow for providing the beef for this dish, and to the earth for growing the vegetables and to the Koreans for providing the Kimchi and especially to the genius who thought to put all of these things together in one recipe.  Every time I make this dish I will think of this first moment and remember how special it is to try something new even if it doesn’t turn out right.

LuvinSpoonful  Sorry!! My comment didn’t show up LOL!!!

이 요리는 진정한 한국지 않습니다. 한국이 없거나 음식을 먹으면 이 이었습니다. 찾지 않는 것을 이런 종류의 음식을 한국의 테이블에 있습니다.

Oat_cuisine Hey y’all.  Has anyone tried making this recipe vegan? I’m having a dinner party and want to serve it but we don’t go near the red meats so . . . . Since the ribs are the only forbidden ingredient here I figured I just ask.

Frugal_but_ fab Maybe it’s just me but this recipe represents what I consider a great failing of this Website: a total disregard for the effort required to make this dish.  Who has time to shop for all of these ingredients, spend hours chopping and measuring, then a few more hours waiting for it to finish cooking?  I had to use nearly every pot and pan I own! What are we supposed to do while our hungry kids are waiting to eat?  And don’t get me started on how much every thing costs!  Tell me what am I supposed to do with the leftover dried anchovies now that I’ve used only one iota of the ginormous bag I had to buy?  Even if the end result was good, I won’t make it again.

in60@sbcglobal.net Please check out my cooking videos. (http://www.youtubewatch?v=t2dcsi &feature=related) I’m 16 years living in Cohoes. SUBSCRIBE AND SHARE!!!!!

Grill king Oat_cuisine, are you tripping?  I don’t know where to begin. It’s a recipe for short ribs as in beef, flesh, animal.  It would be sacrilege to make this vegetarian.

VeggieMama  Oat_cuisine I was wondering the same thing.  I suppose you could sub seitan for the beef and it would be OK.  Grill king, why don’t you back off. I happen to know that the site administrators have worked hard to make this a safe space for women of all kinds (eg LGBT) to comment without fear of being attacked.  You know the old saying “if you don’t have anything nice to say . . .”

Gotta_cook:  I made these but I didn’t have short ribs so I used some frozen lamb stew meat and I browned it in the oven first. I was worried that the sauce would be bland so I used some wine and then at the last minute decided to put in a couple of tablespoons of ketchup.  I accidentally doubled the chili powder and ended up taming it with sour cream for a kind of Austrian-Korean mash-up.  I skipped the scrambled egg garnish and served it with noodles.  I’ll def make it again!

Oat_cuisine:   Thank you VeggieMama.  Grill_king:  I’m guessing you’re a man and so naturally you would have to be critical.  Has it occurred to you how much of our limited resources are used up just to create one serving of beef?  Maybe you don’t care about our environment but others do. Plus, you obviously don’t have good manners.

Grill_king:  Oat_cuisine FYI I happen to be a biodynamic farmer and I not only raise my own beef but those eggs that are the garnish?  From my aracuana chickens. And the daikon? I had a buddy bring me seeds from Korea (where he was serving in Peace Core, btw) and I’ve got a bumper crop. So much for my carbon footprint.  Do you grow your own soy beans? Make your own tofu?

VeggieMama:  Well what do you know? Being a farmer doesn’t stop someone from being a jerk.  I guess you’re emitting as much gas as your cows to befoul not only the environment but our courteous discourse too.

Imostlylurk: Thought I would chime in here because as a high school chemistry teacher I happen to know something about this subject.  That study about the cow “emissions” ruining our environment has been mostly proven to be untrue. (They can’t possibly produce as much as my 5th period chem class LOL)

CreativeCookie: Please stop fighting.  It’s not OK. 

Cheap_ polo_shirts: I really enjoyed the quality information to your visitors for this blog. I’ve been browsing on-line greater than three hours as of late, but I by no means discovered any attention-grabbing article like yours. It is lovely value enough for me.

Grill_king:  Oat_Cuisine how observant of you to guess that I’m a man. Why else would I call myself Grill_KING?? I just called you out on a stupid comment.  You don’t have to get all offended and be a (insert “c” word)

Oat_Cuisine:  More proof that you’re a D*&^head.

Oat_Cuisine:  Sorry. That comment was meant for Grill_AHOLE. Everyone else I love you and thanks for the support.

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Stacey Harwood is the managing editor of thebestamericanpoetry.com. She has published essays, poems, and journalism in The Wall Street Journal,Poets.org, Saveur, The Michigan Quarterly Review, and elsewhere.