Sunday, 28 August 2011

Sugo 101

I love Italian fare.  Anyone who’s read my blog or, better yet, who knows me, will attest to the fact that I was meant to be Italian.   What?!  There are Italian Jews…my kids are proof of that!

Yesterday Carlo and I took the girls, along with 50+ empty jars, and 3 bushels of ripe roma tomatoes, and we headed out to Nonno (grandpa) and Nonna’s (grandma) house to make sugo (sauce). 

Let me explain - I grew up on Ragu sauce from the store, and thought it was delicious…the operative word being “thought”.  Once I met Carlo (22 years ago), I learned the error of my ways.  He invited me over to his house for dinner one night, and when I asked if I could bring anything, he said sauce and bread.  Looking back now, it makes no sense - why would he ask a nice Jewish girl who couldn’t cook to bring those items?  I think it must have been a test, which I failed miserably!  I brought a jar of Ragu and a loaf of Wonder bread.  Seriously – please stop laughing – I did!  He took one look at my offerings and laughed at me.  And so it was that I became the Eliza Doolittle to his Henry Higgins!

Nowadays, you will not find a jar of Ragu anywhere near our property, let alone in the pantry.  We follow the centuries’ old Italian tradition of making sauce from scratch.  Carlo and I have reached a point that we need to make the sauce on our own – our kids love it so much that they will eat it like soup – having a side bowl of sugo with their pasta dinner – and we told his parents that we were going it alone this year.  My mother-in-love convinced us that we need to have a practice run while under their watchful, supervising eyes.  And this is why we packed everything up and went off to Nonna’s. 

My wonderful husband has graciously agreed to let me post his photos on my blog and FB page for all to see.  So, please join us on our pictorial journey of Sugo Making 101.  B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

Ready, set, tomatoes!
Step 1: sort tomatoes from bushel, rinse.

Step 2: slice tomatoes, removing any bad (spoiled, NOT marked) spots.

Step 3: assemble tomato grinder (under our supervisor's watchful eye).

My mother-in-love lends a hand, abandoning her supervisory role to get down to work.

Step 4: place halved tomatoes in pot to boil, make sure propane isn't too high or tomatoes will burn to bottom. 
Helpful hints: (a) spray pam or lightly oil bottom of pot, then add 1 inch of water before starting up propane, (b) make sure to gently stir tomatoes regularly over 45 minute gentle boiling period, and get spoon right down to bottom of pot so nothing sticks and burns (much like if you were making soup), (c) keep pot covered when not stirring.

Becca and Nonna picking basilico (basil) from the backyard "Farm".

OK...tomatoes are ready for crushing.
Step 5: Using a sauce pan, scoop tomatoes into grinder for crushing.

Setting up the jars, checking the seals and placing a basil leaf in each jar.

Jars are ready for sauce...thanks girls!

This is what the tomatoes look like as they emerge from the first run through the grinder.
Step 6: collect the residual tomatoes in this pan (we use a medium sized roaster.  Once the pan is full, run through a second, then third and fourth time.  With each run, there will be less juice and more skin.  The final run will yield a dried out version of tomato skin.  Then you know this batch is finished and it is time to scoop boiling tomatoes again.

Run 2 or can see the difference in the texture of the residual tomatoes, much drier than the first run.

Sauce is ready to jar!
Step 7: Once all the boiled tomatoes are crushed, rinse out this pot and return the crushed tomatoes to the pot to boil (gentle, rolling boil) for another 45 minutes. 
Step 8: Once they are cooked, stir the tomatoes to mix it all nicely and start jarring!  Use a funnel to pour (careful - it is boiling hot - literally!!).  Place the seal on each jar and get the strongest person in your group to tightly close each jar - use gloves to do this, it is very very hot! 
Because you are using boiling liquid, the tomatoes vacuum seal themselves!
Check your jars every day to make sure there are no jars that are turning - if there is bubbling in the bottom of the jar - like a carbonated drink - open the jar and place the tomatoes in a ziploc bag or a tupperware and freeze.  If you catch it right away, the tomatoes won't have spoiled and you'll save them!

63 jars of sauce!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Shabbat is Here!

Shabbat is here ¯ Shabbat is here ¯ I’m so glad that Shabbat is here ¯ Candles burning bright ¯ its Friday night, ¯ I’m so glad that Shabbat is here! ¯  Shabbat Shalom l’Ima ¯ Shabbat Shalom l’Abba ¯ Shabbat Shalom l’Mishpacha ¯ I’m so glad that Shabbat is here! ¯

Both our girls learned that song when they were in JK (junior kindergarten), and they would sign it heartily as they bounced around the house helping me to prepare for Shabbat (Friday night Sabbath) dinner.  To this day, the song plays in my head most Friday mornings, as I ponder what make for Shabbat dinner.  This week is roasted chicken , a Shabbat favourite, Baba Dora Salad (dad’s mom, my treasured Baba, is Baba Dora), and I am thinking Baba Ethel (Mom’s paternal Bubbie) potatoes for tonight.   Poor Carlo – he wanted to try this new recipe for  a whole, butterflied chicken on the BBQ, but the kids will have no part of it…they want my traditional one-pot roasted chicken with vegetables, and all the fixings!  I will do my best to blog these simple recipes later this evening.

In the meantime, oh, what an exciting time it is in our world…

Dad has gone to Israel and is visiting with our amazing mishpacha (family) in Haifa, busily researching his family further so I can start a chapter on his side of the familia, and he is getting recipes from my cousin Nina, who has to be one of the best cooks ever, always treating us to delicious home cooking when we are in Israel (there is only so much takeout our family can take!).

Carlo bought 3 cases of tomatoes, and tomorrow we start preserving for the winter – I Just had to say that for Becca, who loves the Pioneer era!   The four of us are going to my inlaws’ for a proper training session, because this is the last year we are making them there…next year in our garage!  Becca’s promised to take detailed notes, and lots of photos. 

Next week is the final week before school starts…Sara needs to finalize high school registration and Becca needs to do the same for competitive dance!  That requires my specialized chauffeuring skills… there’s still the last minute BTS shopping, haircuts, etc. and somewhere in between all of this I need to work…oy vey!!!

Why do I share my schedule?  So you understand why my blogging will be sparse, but it is always on my mind…I have so much to tell you about…my newfound cousin Phyllis and the Isaac Chaliff branch of my family tree, the exciting increase in interest and activity surrounding my blog and FB page…and take my first stab at making Mom’s pickles too!

So stay tuned, and as always….B’Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

Sunday, 21 August 2011


What a wonderful birthday weekend I’ve had.  Chinese food and a movie with Carlo and the girls on Friday…and dinner with my father, Davie, Lena, Abby, Carlo and the girls last night…what could be better? 

I wakened this morning on a mission to discover more about the Chaliffs (Bubbie Gertie’s family).  So, while Carlo was playing baseball, and the girls were sleeping in, I started researching through Jewish Genealogy, and Google.  All of this is noted in my last blog, from this morning. 

I then put the computer away, and took the girls to the mall for an afternoon of back-to-school shopping and dinner at Nonna’s.  We didn’t get home until 9:00 this evening, and I decided to check my emails and clear my inbox tonight – tomorrow is going to be a crazy, busy day at work! 

What did I find in my inbox?  4 messages from Isaac Chaliff’s brother’s descendants, my cousins, looking for their long-long Canadian connection!  I will share more information as it surfaces, but this was too exciting to leave until morning. J

Finding My Roots

Even though my blogging has slowed significantly, I have been hard at work behind the scenes!  Who would have thought that a “journal entry” to my mother one Sunday morning would have led me to start a blog, then a FB page, and now a full-out search of my roots!  I guess that my subtitle “A Daughter’s Journey of Discovery” foreshadowed all of this, even though it was not my original intention.

I started this blog to reconnect with my mother, to move past the shell that Alzheimer’s has left in its wake, and breathe life back into my memories.  It’s hard to explain, but this blogging journey has brought my mother back to me. 

Anyone who has been touched by Alzheimer’s will easier understand…your loved one’s body is there, but they are gone.  It’s like opening a beautiful box of chocolates…the excitement and anticipation building as you peel off the cellophane and open the box…you know something wonderful is waiting for you…but then you open the box and the chocolates that were once there are missing, and all you are left with are the empty wrappers.  That is what it is like for me with my mother in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease.  Every time I see her and I eagerly try to make a connection, only to discover that the essence of who she was is lost, and all I have left is her beautiful, ravaged shell.   

So I write to her, constantly composing letters in my mind, telling her of my day’s experiences, relating to her as a person, as opposed to a mother, more and more as my life goes on.  And I look at family photos, remembering her as the beauty she was, so charming and kind and loving.  And then, I fell into this blog.  I suppose it is a natural progression for me to try and discover the world she came from, but I never expected to be so intrigued by the adventure!

What follows is a quick recap of my recent discoveries.  I was speaking with Jimmy (Uncle Jim - Mom’s brother) last Monday, and mentioned my desire to fill out my sparse family tree AND to reconnect with his and Mom’s family (cousins, etc).  After trading memories for an hour or so, he gave me the email addresses for 3 cousins from Bubbie Lou’s side of the family, and I set out to write them that night.  I heard back from Carol, cousin Jack’s wife (Jack is Etta’s son, Auntie Etta is my Bubbie Lou’s sister), who painstakingly took Auntie Etta’s photos, scanned and labeled them, and put together an online photo album of our family – well, their family, really, but half of it is mine too!  This is the reason I am able to share family photos already!  Thank you Carol!

Jimmy also reminded me that Mom has a family tree that Bubbie Lou, pieced together, which dates back to 1800s Europe.  All these treasures are in a box in a locker in my Dad’s condo, which we will soon be sorting through to find these missing links.  I have also told Dad that he needs to start working on his side of the family for me…and he is…stay tuned for a whole other history to unfold!

But I digress; back to my story…while perusing cousin Carol’s collection of Auntie Etta’s old photos I discovered a photo of Isaac Chaliff, my GREAT, GREAT-Grandfather (Bubbie Gertie’s dad).   Another door opened!

Isaac Chaliff
My friend, Aviva, saw the name Chaliff posted on a photo of Bubbie Gertie, recognized the name and pulled out her own family trees.  Turns out that she has Chaliffs in her tree too, and she also traces them back to the Ukraine!  I know, I know, I really need to get to the storage lockers and find Bubbie Lou’s family tree…I’m on it!

So, this brings me to the present.  I have joined the Jewish Genealogy website and registered all my family’s names.  This led me to, where I discovered a listing for Isaac Chaliff. Before joining the site, I decided to google “Gertrude Chaliff Pearlman” and Bubbie Gertie and Zaida Sam appeared on my screen!  Along with that, came her very brief  life history and that of her parents!  Click here for the link to Archives  Canada.

I now know the years that Bubbie Gertie and Zaida Sam were born, married and died, as well as my Bubbie Gertie’s parents’ names, the fact that my Zaida Isaac was a merchant, hired my Zaida Sam to help manage his rural stores, and was a charter member of the Sha'arey Zedek Synagogue in Winnipeg.   I also know when Isaac Chaliff was born, immigrated to Canada, and died.    AND I have discovered my Bubbie Clara.  Another name to add to the Registry!

Don’t worry, Carlo and the kids are still eating well…my home-cooking hasn’t suffered, and I have been thumbing through the Golden Recipes, making Bubbie Lou’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies…yumm….among other things.  It is almost time to start jarring for the winter (got to get in touch with my pioneer roots!) and then the recipe blogging will kick into high gear!  Until then, B’Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Becca is 10! Risotto Proupettes

It seems like just yesterday I was holding a 5 week preemie in my arms and Sara was introducing herself to her new baby sister "Hi, I'm your big sister Sara ...S-A-R-A". 

My mother loved to tell that story...marvelling at how clever her granddaughter was.  Well Mom, today our Becca turns 10...and how beautiful she is.  She has your love of music, piano and Beethoven, and tirelessly plays on your treasured being no exception.  And while it stormed outside, Sara made sure Becca's world was bright and sunny, painting her nails, and having a "sisters" day with her. 

True to my word, I made all her favourite dishes for her birthday dinner, following her menu request to the letter, using Carlo's home-grown produce, and now I am ready to fall into bed!

We had rapini, risotto proupettes, potato salad, Greek salad, cheesy garlic bread, sauteed banana peppers and pasta in a tomato sauce - all homemade, and all my mother's favourites.  Funny how much my Jewish family loves Italian cuisine!  So, while I must credit my mother-in-love with the recipes for almost all of tonight's dishes, I can still relate them to Mom, because she would devour this meal whenever I made it for her.  And....the Greek salad and cheesy garlic bread are take-offs on my mom's recipes. 

I've already blogged about Rapini a l'Antoinetta - on July 20th, for Lena's birthday - so let's move on to the risotto proupettes and the story behind that recipe.  There was an Italian restaurant beside our office, and we were friendly with the owner and his friends.  One day I came in to the restaurant and found Rino in the kitchen, whipping up the most delicious rice cakes!  He gave me his recipe off the top of his head, and I went home to make them that very night.  The only problem was that I could not remember the recipe and hadn't written it, in typical Naomi style, I decided to wing it.  Here is my recipe for risotto proupettes...B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

Risotto Proupettes a la Naomi (honourable mention to Rino)

·         1C Arborio rice, cooked and drained
·         1 small onion, chopped
·         2 tbsp olive oil
·         1 egg
·         ¼ C milk
·         ¼ - ½ C grated parmesan cheese
·         3 tbsp chives
·         1 tsp salt
Method: Sauté chopped onion in olive oil.  In bowl, mix all ingredients and add cooked rice and sautéed onion.  Mixture should be a sticky consistency.  Heat oil in skillet, on medium-low heat.  Add cooking spoonfuls of mixture (using spatula to ease off cooking spoon), turning once when each side is golden brown.  Remove cooked proupettes from skillet and drain on paper towel in strainer.  Can serve warm or room temperature.  Will keep in fridge for 4-5 days...if they last that long!

Mixture...ready for the skillet!

Smell those proupettes! This is when the girls arrive for a "little taste"

The finished product....B'Tayavon & Buon & Appetito!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Love of Cooking...the Next Generation

As I listen to Becca play her heart out as she practices for her Grade 5 RCM practical piano exam, I am indulging in a few "quiet" minutes to myself, to reflect on my many blessings.
Today marks 16 years since Carlo and I got married.  When I think back to the hopes and dreams that carried me to my Wedding Chuppah (Alter), I can honestly say that the important ones all came true...and I am so grateful to be surrounded by my family - my husband and 2 daughters - my greatest treasures.

The celebrations were simple and minimal - just the way we like it - as we went about our normal Sunday routine - watching Daddy play baseball, visiting Bubbie Carol, relaxing together.

So what was different about today?  Becca called me downstairs on the pretense of needing my help with something.  I came down to find she had made me breakfast!   Fruit, belgian waffles and juice...simple enough, but so special to me...because she, like her older sister before her, has a love of cooking, and cooks with love.  It is one of the ways she expresses herself, and it made my special day even more special. 

So, I have no recipe for today, you'll have to wait for Tuesday, or Wednesday's review of Becca's Tuesday night birthday dinner. 

Until then, B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Birthday Month Has Arrived!

Slumber party breakfast (August 2011)

One of our household's 2 birthday months is finally upon us!  Becca's birthday is on Tuesday and mine follows 10 days later.  But the August celebrations are not limited to birthdays...our anniversary is on Sunday, and we have many friends celebrating their special days along with us this month.  How does this tie into cooking?  Well, I still seem to find a way to celebrate with food - preferably home-made - a tradition dating back to my mother, and probably her mother and mother-in-law before her.  I'd say it's a Jewish thing, but my mother-in-love does the same...maybe it's a mommy thing :). 

Anyways, the celebratory kick off was last weekend at the cottage, with a huge BBQ - actually, 3 nights of BBQ - and a delicious "bread cake" for Becca.  Tonight we took Becca and her friends for dinner to the only Italian restaurant our children will eat at - Fellini's - because it tastes like Nonna's house.  Then we went to see Harry Potter (my first exposure ever to the story or series and I'M A BELIEVER!!!) and now the kids are all playing guitar hero and talking about my now infamous slumber party breakfast - a take off on Mom's traditional Sunday morning brunch (minus the sardines).

There is nothing better than greeting a group of tweens and/or teens with a mess of belgian waffles, whipped cream and berries, pancakes, eggs and salsa, and fruit salad - all to give them enough energy to run around outside until lunchtime, when it all starts again :).

I am still waiting for my Beloved's request for our anniversary dinner, but Becca's put in her order for stay tuned as birthday month continues to unfold....B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!