Moo, as I've called her since I met her at 15 when she started dating my uncle, is only 12 years older than I am and was more a beautiful big sister than an aunt...the sister neither of us had. I could confide in her; shop with her; and learn about life from her.
And I took notes.
Moo learned to cook from her mother...an incredibly gifted woman who regularly made baklava and myriad other sweet and savory delicacies for her family -- including her newly-extended family...and became a gifted cook in her own right.
She's Sephardic, so while her Middle Eastern cuisine seemed rather exotic at first, the food of her childhood became the food of mine.
And I took more notes.
When I set up my own house, Moo told me how to make fasulia, a hearty beef and green bean stew spiced with cinnamon and allspice that was often bubbling on her stove.
And it bubbled often on mine...but like Moo's and my relationship, too much came between us in recent years and the recipe -- like our bond -- went untouched...which is a shame. I needed to celebrate my Moo, so tonight I pulled out the yellowing loose-leaf page where I took down her directions and channeled one of my favorite people in the world.
-Toss 1lb chuck stew meat in enough flour to lightly coat and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
-Add about 2 T olive oil to hot heavy dutch oven and brown the beef in batches.
-When all is browned, add 1 large chopped white onion to pot to sweat in residual oil.
-When translucent, add 1 t cinnamon, a half t allspice, salt and freshly ground black pepper and combine.
-Add about 2 cups of water and on high heat, scrape all the lovely bits from the bottom of the pot.
-Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pot and add enough water to almost cover the meat.
-Simmer covered for 30 to 45 minutes.
-Add 1 lb fresh green beans and 2 small (8 oz) tins of tomato sauce and simmer for an additional half hour.
-Check seasoning and enjoy.
I held true to Moo's original directions, resisting the urge to add a little harisa paste or some garlic or deglazing the pot with wine. But I did chop the last of our homegrown tomatoes and added them with the sauce because we all have to hold on to what's sweet as long as possible.
L'dor va dor - from generation to generation - I love you Moo,