An oasis in my posting desert

Things have been a bit nutty lately in the Klempner household. I’ve got a few kids home from school to entertain, and we made a bar mitzvah for our eldest. Blogging hasn’t been a priority this summer.

However, I managed to squeeze in a little writing, and the first fruit I’ve got to show for my labors is my latest piece in Tablet. It’s my first real foray into food writing. Follow this link, and you’ll find a personal essay, complete with a recipe for egg-free, vegan matzo balls.

Hope everyone else is having a great summer, too! Let me know in the comments if you try the recipe. I’d love some feedback, including any tweaks you make it that result in a fluffier product.

Remembering Gil Marks and his contribution to Jewish books and cooking

Last week, Gil Marks passed away at the untimely age of 62. He was a legendary food writer, known not only for his recipes, but for his contribution to our understanding of Jewish food. He did extensive research on the details of recipes, their cultural connections, and place in history. Because I trained as an anthropologist, his ethnological approach to Jewish food made him by far my favorite cookbook author.

Remembering Gil Marks and his contribution to Jewish books.

His most famous books are The World of Jewish CookingOlive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World and Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. That final title is my absolute favorite cookbook of all time. It actually makes fun reading even if you make not one recipe. Marks also wrote extensively for periodicals, such as Emunah Magazine.

Twenty years ago, most people thought of latkes, kugel, kishke, and borsht when they referred to “Jewish Food.” Marks changed that and became among those who popularized Sephardic and Mizrachi cuisine. Continue reading

What you got cooking? Making dessert first

So, now that the kitchen is all ready for Passover, I’m on to the cooking. The funny thing I just noticed is that I’ve finished making all the desserts, and even the charoset (also sweet), but have not cooked one main dish, side dish, kugel, soup, or salad.

Why my freezer is full of dessert:

My Passover desserts tend to freeze easily. If I make them ahead and freeze them, they’ll taste just as good. They tend to have few ingredients, and — with the exception of meringues — take very little time to prepare. Also, my kids were home on Thursday and Friday, and they get more of a kick from making granita or fudge than baking a chicken or boiling meatballs — especially if I let them lick a spoon or two.

It’s like a warm-up for the main event. If I get into the cooking groove with a few relatively painless, simple, and fun desserts, then preparing more complicated, time-consuming, and savory dishes suddenly seems more appealing.

Sometimes, in our writing, it’s good to start with the sweet stuff first.

When you’re having trouble getting motivated to write, pick something fun and easy. A poem, a short essay, a journal entry, and email, the inside of your grandmother’s birthday card. Choose the project you want to do, rather than the thing that you have to do. If time is a concern, you can always set an alarm.

Eventually, though, you’ll need to prepare the meat.

After you’ve got a few sweet little morsels under your belt, it’ll feel good to hit the main dish: that article or essay or web copy that is initially less appealing, but will bring in the paycheck.

What type of sweet morsel do you like to start your writing schedule with?