Monday, January 28, 2019

A Decalogue for Women

I have had a deep connection to Parsha Yitro for the past 14 years because it’s my older son’s bar mitzvah portion. Well, it is the Ten Commandments so that connection truly began a lot longer ago. 

But one night, the year before his Day, we started to really delve into what these Big Ten were — and couldn’t. We were out to dinner and could rattle off five, maybe six, off the tops of our heads. That’s all. 

Since we couldn’t resort to the internet to fill in the gaps, our attention turned to other realms appealing to three guys — two of whom were preteen — that might have a set of rules, like… the Planet of the Apes. And so, the Monkey Commandments were born.

And, no, I don’t remember Any of them…just that, for a time, they were a symbolic stand-in suited to a particular group. So I thought that tonight, I would do the same for Women.

Here are my Women’s Ten Commandments:

You shall love your body-
Whether it’s thicker here than you’d want or a little lacking there, it’s yours and it’s your temple. It makes you, You. And You are beautiful.

Honor the good in your Mother and Father - and try not to repeat the “Ugh, I sound just like my mother” moments.

Speak up and Speak out. And it’s OK if sometimes you do it softly.

Say YES only when you mean it, and not just because it’s easy.
Say NO when you want to…because it’s really what you mean.

You shall say, “I’m sorry” ONLY when you have done something wrong. Seriously, only when you are expressing Extreme regret - I stepped on your cat or I shrunk your sweater - not for little things that are out of your control like, I’m sorry but you’re out of bourbon. Just have gin instead.

Keep Shabbat and let it guide your spirit throughout the week.

You will describe little girls by their character, not their looks. And remember: She is not a Doll. Or an Angel. Or, well … you get the picture.

You will Not leave your seat when your partner or child yells to you from another room: Do we have staples? Or, Where are my keys? Or, Is there toothpaste in the house? If they can pronounce toothpaste, they can look under the vanity!

Persist. Period.

10 (And finally…)
Respect yourself and believe in yourself. I do!

And, speaking of gin, martinis go well with this or any other d'var torah.

Here goes:

-Fill your cocktail shaker with ice.
-Pour in a nice splash of dry vermouth...I like Dolin when I want to feel special.
-If your shaker is truly full of ice, pour in your gin -- Gordon's for everyday special, Plymouth or Hendricks for particularly special -- to the top.
-Cap it up and leave it be while you pop your veg (that's what we call the garnish) into your coupes or other martini glasses.
Yes, that dilutes it a bit...that's OK! You're making two: One for you and the other for yours. If that's the same being, it's a good thing you diluted it. Juss sayin...
-Now you shake. And shake until your hands are reeeaaaallllyy cold.
-Strain into your glasses, sip, savor and

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Plant Your Ingredients!

It may be the beginning of April, but there's precious little outside that looks like spring here in the East. The sky seems to be perpetually gray - with or without showers - and the only things that smell like renewal are the potted plants we all received for Passover or Easter that are screaming to be let outdoors just like the rest of us.

So, if spring has forgotten my little corner of NJ, I'm going to force its hand onto my blissful acre. And I'm going to do it by planting my ingredients. You know: The Veg & Stuff I need to keep my dinners humming.

You can see (look left) that I have plenty of varieties to choose from, but I decided to keep it simple - about 10 or so foods - that are staples in my pantry or will enhance my pantry in the months to come. 

Yes, I'm taking a gamble that we haven't seen the last frost but desperate times call for desperate measures even if the USDA says my average last frost is between May 11-May 20. And that's more than a month away!!! Though, to be honest, I've chosen hearty items for the first planting. 

Carrots and chard and lettuce and turnips and beets and onions: These are the things I can 'safely' plant around April 15. Tomatoes and zucchini and radishes and herbs will have to wait for warmer weather or, more realistically, for the seedlings to appear at the Co-op. 

But whether you start from seed or teeny plants, put some dirt in a container and grow some food! With about a $10 outlay and a little effort - aka remembering to water - you can forgo the lines at the farm or market, grow back your investment and sustain yourself for, well, a loooooong time.

I'll give you the top 10 vegetables, herbs and fruits I want in my garden this year:

Veg: Tomatoes, Lettuce, Chard, Onions, Beets, Radishes, Beans, Fennel, Turnips and Corn. (#11, Cucumbers #12, Zucchini for their blossoms #13, Pum... nah, I can't stop at 10!)

Herbs: Thyme, Lemon Thyme, Sage, Chives, Basil, Thai Basil, Rosemary, Parsley, Cilantro and (despite being a crazy infiltrator) Mint.

Fruit: Apples, Peaches, Cherries, Bananas, Pineapples, Coconuts, Plums, Lemons, Limes and Figs. Yeah, none of that's gonna happen. Not this year anyway. But we may try to establish Blueberry bushes...Grape vines?

So if the fence keeps our roving neighbors - 

- out of the garden pen, it won't be long before I can pickle MY onions for Martinis and for sandwiches. And drizzle thinly-sliced raw beets and fennel with herb-infused olive oil for salads and eat a whole dinner of just tomatoes and corn. There's always room at my table; you coming? 

This year, what are you planting to eat? Lemme know in the comments!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I'm a Yankees' fan, but...

... How can I explain this?

I'm rooting for the for the Mets.

It's not a "New York" thing - that 'If my team isn't in it, I'll support my hometown team' thing. It's a roots thing; a DNA thing. See, I have the Blue and Orange in my blood. Got it, like a lot of things, from my Dad who hated the friggin Giants so much for leaving his beloved Brooklyn, that he switched teams, but not leagues. Oooo, shudder. Never leagues. NEVER!

How, you ask can I even consider Pinstripes as an option? Well, don't tell my DH (ha! rather appropriate here!), but it really has very little to do with the Yankee-lover I married. (Get it? DH can equal dear hubby, or in the AL, designated hitter.)

My Pinstripe Proclivity has waaaaay more to do with first and lasting impressions. Though not chronologically correct - nor filled with Bombers' memories - this list was formative. 

-The summer of 1976, I went to my first baseball game - and for some reason, it was a Yankees game - and I can still how magical the grass looked to me through a sea of blue seats that stretched to the famous white frieze. And as my Mom recovered the living room sofa in anticipation of my upcoming bat mitzvah, the Yanks - Reds World Series game drowned out the staple gun;

-Reggie Jackson became Mr. October; 

-Dad called me away from my homework to watch each of Hank Aaron's at bats, when he had 714 home runs under his belt, until he broke Babe Ruth's record with No. 715; 

-When I close my eyes and see Willie Mays' famous over-the-shoulder catch as he sprinted to the centerfield wall, it's in technicolor. Can't be - it was 1954;

-And come April, the crack of the bat emanating from each of my grandmothers' television sets heralded the promise of warm weather.

Well, the warm weather is once again gone, but thankfully, baseball is still here. To 'celebrate' we had stadium-worthy hot dogs with homemade chili sauce.

Here goes:

-Sauté a medium chopped onion in a heavy pot lightly coated with olive oil. 

-Add three minced garlic cloves (less if you prefer), 1t ground cumin, 1t ground coriander, 1T tomato paste, 1T brown sugar, 2t (hot) chili powder, and a half t each of salt & pepper. Stir until very fragrant, then add 1 8-oz tin of unsalted tomato sauce and 2 1/2 cups water. 

-Here's the odd part: When the liquid boils, add 1 pound of *raw* chopped meat (beef or turkey) and rapidly stir to break it up. Yes, this works.

-Boil until thick, but if you are impatient take out about 2T of the liquid and make a slurry with an equal amount of corn starch. Stir the pot vigorously as you add it back. 

-Get your dogs cooked while the sauce thickens. Check the seasoning in the sauce; might need a bit more salt or heat. Then ladle it on your dog with some spicy brown mustard!

Regardless of the outcome, there isn't much baseball left in 2015 so soon we'll have to wait for that particular sound to herald Spring. But I'm pretty confident the Amazins will prevail - giving us something to cherish this winter.

And unlike my Grandmother Rose - who refused to cook dinner each night her precious Dodgers lost - I'll keep on cookin!
...unless the NYRangers screw up in playoffs again. Then, all bets are off!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Hey ... remember me?

Good! 'Cuz it's been a while and you may've thought I lost my way. But no, I just went off in another direction. A better direction. A tastier one...


Some time ago, I declared myself Officially Retired from public relations --  couldn't stand that stuff anyway -- and commenced my second career. Or third, if you count my stint in newspapers. But, whatever...

While PR and reporting/editing are related, the only thing my new phase has in common with newspapers is the Wednesday Food Section: I'm a Chef. And, despite the name of this blog, a damn good one. Though, like any professional: even a Master can create A Recipe for Disaster!

Over the past few years I've honed my craft as a culinary instructor, baker, caterer and sous chef  - or Sue Chef as I like to refer to myself. (Get it?) I've trained on the job, at the Culinary Institute of America, and through the best teacher of all, trial and error. 
For the most part, I make my dough selling cookies. Original Wild Cookies, Citrus-Herb Shortbreads, Snickerdoodles, chocolate ones, spicy ones, rose-infused ones, fruity Kouign Amanns, rugelach... 

For a time, Suzy's Wild Cookies were for sale at Whole Foods. And while I'm always looking for new places to sell them - lemme know if you have any ideas! - I'm happily peddling my wares via mail order and at the Montgomery Farmer's Market each Saturday from June through October.  

Shameless sales pitch ahead...
Order online at

I hafta say, building my own business has been incredibly rewarding...even if I'm still working on making it financially rewarding. Every step, I've taken on my own... from researching those silly UPC codes that are on everything you scan at the market to creating valid nutrition labels to developing the recipes (natch) and creating my website ...So yes, I'll say it, I'm rather proud of myself. Mostly because I learned I could rely on only myself. Not too shabby for a validation- and buyin-seeking person like me.

So there you have it. 

It's been an interesting few years since we last spoke - full of successes and disappointments - but I wouldn't change a thing... Well, maybe just one. But success rarely comes overnight!

To celebrate, here's a fabu Curried Marinade for Chicken... It makes enough for about eight chicken breasts, but if you marinate four - AND DON'T CROSS CONTAMINATE!!! - the rest makes a nice sauce for when it's cooked.

Here goes:

-Into a blender (or bowl, if you're using an immersion blender) put:

  • 3/4 C Plain Greek-style Yogurt
  • 1 T Olive Oil
  • 1 medium Shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 t Fresh Lime Juice
  • 2 t Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 t each ground
    • Turmeric
    • Sumac
    • Cardamom
    • Cumin
    • Fenugreek
  • 1/8 t Cayenne
  • 1 t Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 t Ground White Pepper
-Give it all a whirl until you have a paste. C'est tout!!
-Put half in another bowl (NO CROSS CONTAMINATION!!), and spread the rest on both sides of the chicken. (I like to pound the chicken breasts so they are uniformly thick and cook quickly.) Marinate covered for about an hour.
-Grill on high heat for the first side, then turn down to medium when you flip 'em.

Pairs well with a Martini...then again, doesn't everything?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Chicken 'n Waffles...Skillman Style

I'll be honest: I've never understood the whole thing about fried chicken served on a waffle. I mean, really! I get the concept of a lovely square of leavened fluffiness as a repository for fallen juices or sauce, but this? The waffle seems to be there to sop up the grease? Ew.

Still, I've been intrigued....wondering how I could be immune to such a classic pairing. So much so, that I could almost say I was haunted.

So it's safe to say the notion of waffles is rarely far from my mind when I crave fried chicken. Ah, but even during Passover, you say? YES!, I say: Passover fried chicken is wonderful. Under a crunchy coating of seasoned matzah meal lies juicy, flavorful chicken! And since it was Passover, I dip one and a half times, not my usual two.

But Pesachdik waffles? Truly, I'm not one to try to fit year-round food into this holiday's mold, so no Passover Pasta or Pastries or Pain Perdu 'round here. That can wait the eight days. I prefer to put the holiday into the food and this year, the muses gifted me with uncanny inspiration: Waffles made from the batter I use to make potato gnocchi (NO flour!) for the Seder. A silky mix of mashed potatoes, eggs and herbs...yum!

Now, I get Chicken 'n Waffles! They were light; they had flavor; they added something to the meal. A light drizzle of pure maple syrup and I was entering the Promised Land!

Here goes:

Matzah Meal Fried Chicken 

-Heat about an inch of canola oil in a large cast iron skillet to 350.
-Place 3 or so cups matzah meal, seasoned liberally with salt, freshly ground pepper, granulated garlic and smoked paprika in a dish suitable for dredging.
-In another, similar, dish mix 6 to 8 egg whites with about a half cup of hot sauce.
-Dip the chicken in the wet mixture then the dry and repeat the process with just the tops. Place on a wire rack over a baking pan to dry and set the crust. 
-Fry to a crispy golden brown - about 10 mins per piece - or until the internal temp reaches 170 and drain on another wire rack over another baking pan.
(These proportions should coat the parts of a whole chicken.)

Potato Waffles
-Boil 3 large baking potatoes that have been peeled and cubed in salted water until fork tender.
-Rice them (or mash 'em if you don't have a ricer) into a large bowl.
-Mix in 4 T butter, salt and ground black pepper, about a third cup minced fresh parsley, 2 finely chopped scallions, and 5 beaten eggs. The mixture should be rather 'gloppy.'
-Heat your waffle iron, and using those directions and a lot of spray oil, ladle in your mixture and crisp to perfection.

I have seen the light...and it is good! Enjoy this variation - at Pesach or any time of year!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Changing rituals...

My family’s annual spring ritual typically begins weeks in advance while the frigid weather still clings to the land: My mother calls to see which night of Passover I want to hold the Seder.

"The first," I would say, after taking into account the day of the week and the boys' spring break schedule.

"Fine," she would say, "I'll do the second."

Well, that was up until last year when Pesach passed over us while Dad was in the hospital. We ate matzah in the cafeteria, but the closest we got to a haggadah was our prayers that Next Year We’ll All Be Home.

Unfortunately, Dad passed away in June and all our rituals have been turned on ear since last Purim. This is rather ironic, since Dad was all about rituals. But changes affect every family (even if it's not as extreme as this) and the story of the Exodus must be told.

So, I'm sitting here, putting fingertip to keyboard thinking about what foods I will make this year to grace both our table and Dad’s memory.

I’m sure there will be some tried-and-true standards and some soon-to-become standards as old and new friends ring our table. Some will be store-bought, but all will be homemade, even if it wasn't made in my house.

And while my biggest conundrum may be the main course… Do we want Chicken Marbella? Or the family brisket that’s been on holiday for the past couple years? How about grilled leg of lamb? Is this the year to ‘be’ Sephardic and go through with the sushi threat? I’ve always thought wasabi would a cool twist on maror. Or maybe make MY fried chicken using matzah meal... Dad’s favorite – chocolate – will make an appearance as a flourless cake and the requisite jelly rings and marshmallow twists (frozen, of course!) and we’ll make sure there’s enough hard-boiled eggs and salt water for the ‘soup’ he’d concoct before the gefilte fish comes to the table.

It’s a difficult year of firsts for us and I know too many of you can relate to this too. We’ll all set an empty place for Elijahu and hope he brings our loved ones along to sing Dayenu, whisper words of encouragement to the little one saying the Four Questions and giggle when the maror gets the better of us.

When the afikomen is found in Dad’s favorite hiding place – under his plate – I’ll feel him standing behind me with his hands on my shoulders and know that our family’s rituals really do live on l’dor va dor.

If I were making the cake for Dad, I'd probably omit the orange so nothing would distract from the chocolate!

Here goes :
(And in a switch from my usual, I listed the ingredients first...It's for Passover after all, a time that's different from all others!)

Butter, melted
1 1/4 cups walnuts
1 cup sugar, divided
6 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
6 large eggs, separated
Zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

-Preheat oven to 350°F.
-Brush bottom of 9-inch-diameter springform pan generously with butter.
-Blend walnuts and 1/4 cup sugar in processor until finely ground. Add chopped chocolate and zest; blend until chocolate is finely ground, scraping sides and bottom of bowl occasionally.
-Combine egg yolks and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in large bowl then add vanilla.
-Using an electric mixer, beat until yolk mixture is very thick, about 4 minutes, then beat in cocoa.
-Fold in walnut mixture.
-Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites and salt in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar, beating until whites are stiff but not dry.
-Fold whites into chocolate batter in 3 additions. Transfer to prepared pan.
-Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on rack, release from pan and serve. 

May Dad’s and your loved ones’ memories all be for a zissen Pesach blessing. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

I'm cranky and crabby

And I'm eating everything in sight as if I haven't seen food in a month. OK, it only seems that way to me. But after grazing through all the 'fresh' food around here on this chilly dank day - a banana, a kirby cuke, celery stalk, Hey! Don't laugh, I bet you have your days too! And You, you know who you are, quit worrying that I usually don't eat. Seriously. - I had a hankering for soup. But since I didn't do the full Hunter-Gatherer thing this weekend, the only canned variety here is tomato. Blech. (Sorry to all you tomato soup lovers - my dear Husband included - but it's not my cuppa.)

Then the Bubbles dropped orzo and bits of leftover veg in my lap and an idea was born. So I foraged the fridge for a half tomato, a sprig of rosemary, the remains in a box o'chicken stock and a pathetic little shallot. Then I grabbed the pasta and 4 tiny garlic cloves (to equal an average-sized one) and set to put my craving to rest.

Here goes:
-Bring about a cup of chicken stock to a boil in a pan/small pot that has a lid and toss in a good healthy handful of orzo pasta, a little salt and pepper, the rosemary leaves from the sprig, and let simmer mostly covered until al dente. As it cooks, you may need to add more stock or water so it stays moist and risotto-ish.
-Meanwhile in another pan, gently saute about a T of chopped shallot and the aforementioned garlic - minced - in olive oil.
-When translucent, add about half a large tomato that you've diced and a half t red pepper flakes and let 'em go on med low til the tomato breaks down a bit and has given up some juice.
-Add the creamy orzo to the pan so all the flavors combine. Taste for seasoning.
-Pour into a bowl and shave on some ricotta salata.

Oh, and this is a single serving.

Yes, I put it in a bowl. I wasn't giving in to the crabbiness and eating out of the pan. That's what dishwashers are for. Besides, when I finished, so had the crankies.