The Food Maven Diary
Two Appearances, Cabbage and Matzo Farfel
SCHWARTZ AT WAVE HILL ON MOTHER'S DAY
One of the most beautiful spots in New York City is high up in the Bronx, overlooking the Hudson River and New Jersey Pallisades -- Wave Hill, a 28-acre public garden and cultural center. On Mother's Day, Sunday, May 10, the galleries will be open, the gardens will be in gorgeous bloom, and I'll be there to meet, greet and sign copies of some of my books. Bring mother. Or, mother, schlep the kids. You'll find me in the store from, officially, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., but I'm likely to show up a little earlier. Wave Hill can be reached in many ways - bus, subway, Metro North and, of course, by car. The entrance is on W. 249th St. and Independence Ave. Free shuttle buses run regularly from both the closest subway station and the Metro North station. For more specific directions and information, look at the Wave Hill web site.
AT THE SILO, NEW MILFORD, CONNECTICUT
On June 6, Saturday, I return to my old stomping grounds, Litchfield County, for a long-overdue class at The Silo, the cooking school established I-hate-to-report-how-many years ago by Ruth Henderson and her husband, the great conductor, Skitch Henderson. It is now administered by the Hunt Hill Farm Foundation.
It's an 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. class featuring some of the Southern Italian recipes from my daily repertoire - truly simple-simple-simple, and fast: Pepperoncini Stuffed with Tuna and Giardiniera, Crostini di Salsicce (sausage toasts, you might say), Basic Tomato Sauce, Paccheri with Tomato Sauce and Ricotta, Eggs in Purgatory, Spaghettoni all'Setaccio dell' Immondizia (Garbage Pail Spaghetti - don't ask, it's delicious and fast); Quick Pasta e Fagioli; Coscio di Pollo al Forno (Baked Chicken Thigh-Legs with Rosemary and Italian Paprika); Cabbage and Potatoes Braised with Pancetta; Franca Miceli's Buttery Apple Cake. Oy vey! I'm stressed and stuffed just writing it out.
This is a demonstration class with tastings of everything I cook; $90. You can register on line at the Hunt Hill Farm Trust web site. Or phone 860-355-0300
CABBAGE AND MATZO FARFEL
Just before Passover, I saw Ann Beth Leonardi at Rabbi Barbara Aiello's Italian-Jewish Roots Conference in Manhattan (Rabbi Barbara is the only Reform and female rabbi in Italy. Her web site is www.RabbiBarbara.com. Ann Beth is Jewish. Her husband is Italian. That's why she was there, and we've met before through mutual friends. She mentioned that she was going to make Cabbage and Matzo Farfel for Passover, a recipe she found here, on this very site, a recipe she.said she'd been looking for for years. Her mother made it. I was puzzled. "On MY web site? Are you sure?" She was very sure.
When I got home I checked. Who can remember everything that is on TheFoodMaven.com, even if that's me? It's been nearly 10 years that the site is up, and there is a wealth of information and recipes (hundreds) there, although it may not be readily apparent. Best bet to access info is to use the search box at the top of every page. Put a word in the box and see what comes up. Or peruse the Maven's Diary archives. Among other things, there are many travelogues about Southern Italy listed in the archive. Sure enough, when I did a search using the words "cabbage and farfel," I found the recipe. It's called Kraw Pleztla on my site. Ann Beth calls it Kraut Pletzel. Once I read the recipe, I remembered it, and, actually, couldn't wait to make it. As I am always insecure about the precision of my recipes - although I test them and re-re-re test them before sharing them -- I followed the instructions exactly. (Only one thing, it is also deliciously reheated, not just in a skillet as the recipe says, but in an uncovered casserole in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes.)
What a relief! The recipe is not only correct as written, but very delicious. So I made it again. I like it prepared with butter - for a vegetarian meal, or a dairy meal if you are kosher - but, as the recipe says, either a little schmaltz or vegetable oil works well, too. I feel compelled to add, however, that that vegetable oil will not provide the good flavor of those other two fats. Just a suggestion: As a compromise, you can use two tablespoons of vegetable oil and only one of either schmaltz or butter.
By the way, the second time I made it, I tried sautéing the onions first, until they were deeply golden, then adding the cabbage, but I can't say that improved the dish. I'll go back to the recipe as written next time.
I am wondering about the word "pletzel." In this case, it does not refer to the flat bread topped with onions and poppy seeds that Ashkenazi Jews know by this name, and that is still sold in Brooklyn's Jewish bakeries. (Incidentally, I have a recipe for pletzel in "Jewish Home Cooking.") In this recipe, the word refers to matzo farfel that is first coated with egg, then baked to make crisp, separate golden flakes, then boiled for a few minutes. The result is something like spaetzle. It has a dumpling-type noodle/pasta consistency. I'm thinking that the zel/zle ending is a Yiddish/German diminutive. But pletzel, except in this odd case, are not small. Does anyone have any knowledge or ideas? My personal library and the internet have been no help.
Anyway, you could say that matzo pletzel with sautéed cabbage is the Passover variation of Cabbage and Noodles, another recipe you can find in "Jewish Home Cooking" and one of My Favorite 100 (or so) Foods. If you have any matzo farfel left over from Passover or your market still has some in stock, (you'll need three cups), try this recipe. I can't imagine you won't like it, even if you aren't Jewish.