Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Chai Praise: Oma & Bella, The Movie and The Cookbook

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

image courtesy of


Oma, Momma, Bubby. No matter what you call her, and if you’re lucky enough to know one you’ll agree, Jewish grandmothers are something special.

My own version is a highly lovable Lenore Kirschenbaum shaped wisp, a prime player in many of my stories and a snowbird currently waiting out winter’s harshest months in a jam-packed condo on the outskirts of, where else, Boca Raton.

Oma & Bella is an intimate glimpse into the world of Regina and Bella, two octogenarian friends who live together in Berlin. A delightful documentary by Regina’s granddaughter (Oma, is German for Grandma), Alexa Karolinski, the women’s memories of the Holocaust are never distant as together they lovingly prepare the same fortifying meals they ate as children (and taught themselves to recreate later after each lost their family in the war, by taste alone), and kibbitz over questions of heritage, memory and identity. As the film follows them through their daily lives, a portrait emerges of two elegant women with a touching bond, a spirited sense of humor, vivid stories, a deep fondness for Eastern European cooking… and German soap operas. Wunderbar.

Watching Oma & Bella and subsequently pouring over the film-inspired cookbook, feels like home to me. Recreating these dishes is to make tangible memories of the people I love most in this world. Even just in reading the recipes’ Yiddish titles on each beautifully illustrated page (the talented stylings of Joana Avillez), I remember my childhood; high-holidays at my grandparents’ house, setting the table a thinly veiled excuse to be within reaching proximity of the hors d’oeuvres, to sneak bites of chopped liver and half-sour pickles before the other guests arrived. I mean, how many times have I heard Lenore kvelling over kneidlach?

I long ago lost count.

Through my tears, I fell head over heels for these strong, beautiful, Jewish grandmothers. OK, fine, so I bawled my eyes out and then I made their German Sugar Cookies. I laughed out loud with them at the beauty parlor then tapped off a text to my mom to say I was making their Cheese Blintzes for Hanukkah. I smiled ear to ear when their New Year’s party went off without a hitch and then, for lunch the next day, ate enough chicken noodle soup to just about plotz.

The movie ended and I called Lenore in Florida. She’s up ‘till 1am, you know.

Now, do yourself two favors: Watch the movie & buy the cookbook. They are as inseparable as Oma & Bella themselves.


my newest culinary inspiration: gordon ramsay

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

image courtesy of

everyone knows i love watching the food network and cooking shows. they’re so exciting, and it’s fun to watch chefs creatively think up new dishes on the fly. if i could be anything for a day, it would definitely be either a celebrity chef of a fine dining restaurant a la bobby flay, mario batali, gordon ramsay, etc. or an awesome musician a la christina aguilera or gwen stefani. the emphasis, however, is on the one day. i’m sure their jobs look way harder than they actually look, and to that end, i don’t think i mind living my relatively “normal” life…

speaking of normal, i recently started watching gordon ramsay’s “hell’s kitchen.” let me tell you – this show is not your normal cooking show. in hell’s kitchen, 16 chefs compete against each other in teams until only 1 chef remains standing. the competitions include creating the best signature dish, blind taste tests, speed tests, and creativity tests where each chef must create a visually pleasing and equally delicious dish out of a set of unusual ingredients. think kumquats, salsify, blood sausage, mangoes, and prunes. mm.. the combination sounds delicious.

what makes the show unique and definitely not normal is the fact that the name of the show is incredibly appropriate given its content. gordon ramsay’s kitchen is exactly what they say it is – hell’s kitchen. there is so much screaming, yelling, smashing of undercooked halibut, angry kicking of garbage cans, and absolute chaos. “all of you! come here! oh, look at this halibut. it’s raw, raw, raw!”  ramsay would scream as he throws down the dish of halibut, sending pieces of undercooked fish flying everywhere. gordon ramsay never lets a less than perfect dish out of his kitchen. you better be on your toes if you want to be in his kitchen and compete in hell’s kitchen. i think i’d very  much prefer to be outside his kitchen peacefully enjoying his fine dining food rather than inside his kitchen running around like a chicken with its head chopped off.

that said, i would love to try out one of his restaurants. in particular, i want to try restaurant gordon ramsay at the london hotel in new york. it’s definitely not somewhere i would go on a regular basis (given its crazy expensive price tag), but i think it’s a terrific place for those extra, extra special occasions or celebrations. take a look at some of the dishes on his menu. don’t they look fabulous? i would love to sit at the chef’s table (which is located inside the kitchen) and experience the pace and drama of the kitchen firsthand. after seeing these pictures, wouldn’t you, too?

~ irin

image courtesy of

restaurant gordon ramsay at the london hotel

image courtesy of

 such a beautiful and colorful dish!

image courtesy of

each dish looks like a work of art…


image courtesy of

getting the meat’s temperature right is harder than it looks, apparently!


image courtesy of

a delicious tower of chocolate and a side of housemade ice cream – a perfect ending to a perfect dinner!


image courtesy of

another dessert – gorgeous!

comfort foods: they can, in fact, be healthy!

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

image courtesy of

on rainy days, i love to cook. instead of going outside and attempting to slosh my way through muddy puddles and crowded streets, i prefer to stay inside and enjoy some nice homemade comfort foods. speaking of comfort foods, many of us tend to associate comfort foods with unhealthy (but simply irresistible) dishes such as hearty mac n’ cheese, hot buttermilk pancakes, and decadent chocolate-y desserts. however, i realized that comfort foods don’t necessarily have to be bad for us if we are cognizant of the types of ingredients we use to make them. comfort food, can, in fact, be healthy! below is an awesome recipe i found for oatmeal pancakes and fruit syrup that i’m dying to try out for an early saturday morning breakfast. happy cooking!


oatmeal pancakes
serves 6


2 cup organic rolled oats
2 cup nonfat buttermilk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled (or canola oil)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
canola oil for griddle

1. combine oats and buttermilk in a large bowl. cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight.
2. add eggs and melted butter to oat mixture.
3. sift together sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. add to oat mixture.
4. preheat griddle. spread out batter with the back of the ladle. when bubbles appear, gently flip cakes and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. serve hot.

makes about 18 pancakes.

fruit syrup
serves 12

3 cups raw fruit or berries* (pears, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or other fruit), cored, peeled and chopped if necessary
1 tbsp fructose (or sugar substitute)
2 cup water

1. simmer all ingredients for 5 to 10 minutes.
2. cool slightly and blend in a food processor or blender.
3. screen out the coarse solids with a fine sieve.

*  the original recipe used ripe prickly pear, either raw, peeled and chopped, or canned purée. any highly flavorful fruit can be used. the amount of fructose may need to be adjusted if the fruit is very tart.

per serving: approx. 25 calories, trace protein, 4g carbohydrates, trace fat (0g saturated), trace fiber

my latest obsession: the next iron chef

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

image courtesy of

i absolutely adore food and love watching the food network. i could watch the food network all day and not get bored. ace of cakes, throwdown with bobby flay, the next iron chef – there’s so much to see, watch, experience, and learn about. what i love the most about these shows is that they take cooking to the next level, and make it just as enjoyable and exciting as watching a competitive game of football or hockey. there’s excitement, mystery, and anticipation, and the food network producers definitely know how to keep their viewers constantly on their toes.

one of the shows i’ve been obsessed with lately is the next iron chef. in a nutshell, the next iron chef is a competition where 10 amazingly talented chefs battle each other every week until only one remains standing. each episode, the chefs are presented with a challenge and a few obstacles thrown in along the way such as mystery ingredients and game-changing rules. the latest episode i watched was one called “new york on a plate” – an episode that highlighted each chef’s ability to take an iconic new york city site and not only cook up a kitchen stadium-worthy dish but also tell an engaging and interesting tale of how the site inspired the chef’s thinking and creativity. watch the episode to see for yourself who won this battle here.

my favorite chef? chef elizabeth falkner, hands down. because of her background as a pastry chef and confectionary hero, chef falkner is a master of accomplishing dishes that are both savory and sweet. also, she is incredibly creative and is always finding ways to re-invent and remodel classic dishes in unique ways. however, i also think the other chefs are extremely talented so chef geoffrey zakarian and chef michael chiarello deserve an honorable mention as well. who do you want to see win the title of the next iron chef?