Menu Monday Mama Meichulim Style

June 29, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Rob Gardner

I’m not sure if my wife or I picked up this book: Mama’s Meichulim: Traditional Jewish Cooking Made Easy from the Temple discard bin, but I’m glad we have it (you might not find it for free like us,  but Amazon can point you to sellers as low as $4).  You know, though, since we’ve had the book, I do not believe my wife or I have cooked a recipe from it.  I do not even find most of the recipes that tasty sounding, a lot of tomato soup and lima beans if you ask me.  Still, I am inspired by Mama Meichulim every Menu Monday.  Really, when I listen to Mama Meichulim, Menu Monday is an after thought.  I should be hard at work on Sunday getting ready for Menu Monday and the week ahead.

There’s a couple of things I enjoy about this book.  First, it gives a peek into the proto-locavore kitchen.  The canned lima beans and tomato soup were the results of no CSA box.  On the other hand, there’s no Chilean grapes or the like on her table either.  It is cooking from what could be had.  Second, really what I love best is the extreme thrift encouraged by Mama.  For instance, she instructs you to buy a good old fowl.  Out of that bird, one should get soup, poached meat for a meal, a neck for stuffing, schmaltz for cooking/flavoring, gribenes for noshing, but anyone can do that.  From there, the odds and ends including the feet, the offal and the wing tips become fricassee, and if you think you cannot squeeze one more meal out of a big hen; she has you making patties from the bones and whatever meat you can scrape up.  Mama M’s core instructions are to have one weekly project.  Beyond the fowl, she would have you making a rash of noodles for assorted dishes and a few other things.  A boatload of cooking and meals would practically make themselves the rest of the week.

All those who want to eat local should abide by Mama Meichulim.  It really helps to have a bunch of your CSA box or market purchases done in one swirl of cooking.  If nothing else, it means that you will have a good stash of local foods ready come meal times.  Me, I try for two good bouts of cooking a week.  At least that’s the plan.  I’m nearly always good at making a bunch of stuff on Fridays, to be served for our Shabbat meal and used onwards.  I am trying to make also, a habit of making stuff on Sunday too.  Mama Meichulim style.

Now, I do not have that book right in front of me.  I am pretty sure there’s no mention of kohlrabi in the book.  I know she’s not cooking any fennel, and if she did cook broccoli, I very much doubt she’s doing it Penny’s Noodle Style.  Did I mention that I made a big slab of pork shoulder on Friday?

Besides Mama Meichulim, I take a lot of inspiration from Roger Gray.  Of course Roger Gray is not one chef, but two, British authors and River Cafe padronas, Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers.  They pretty much use what comes in my CSA box or what I find at the markets in their books.  They make it look so damn easy too [ed., is that why they call their book, “Italian Easy Recipes from the London River Cafe”?]

When I see kohlrabi leaves looking a lot better than I thought, in our basement fridge, I did them the way Roger Gray would.  Boiled until tender, then dressed with some olive oil and lemon.  I added some split olives, a touch I believe they would have approved.  A dish ready for the meals ahead.  The bulbous part, the enlarged stem, I julienned with my best technique and combined with equal sized sticks of Sarvechio.  I will dress that when ready to serve and also add some rocket leaves (one must have much rocket in the house to cook like Roger Gray).

Other things I have made in bunches.  I shredded finely cabbage from the CSA box, added much green garlic and dressed with lemon.  It was part of a series of disasters that I will relate tomorrow.  A shaved fennel salad fared almost as bad.  I mentioned the broccoli Penny’s Noodle style, which means blanched and dressed with Dijon mustard, soy and sesame oil.  That dish went to the Farmer Vicki farm party, some of it.

The other thing we brought to the party, bagels.  See, when one goes to buy bagels at NYC Bagel (the one near the new Whole Foods, and IMO, the best bagel place in Chicago) at around 5 PM, one gets about 35 bagels in their order of one dozen as they would dump the rest anyways.  My wife came up with the brilliant idea of coating the bagels with radish butter.  We have more bagels and radish butter to eat, so Mama Meichulim would be happy.

The fennel and kohlrabi were from previous weeks.  That broccoli and cabbage came from the CSA box.  There’s lettuces and chard still to be used.  At the Thursday Eli’s Market, I took advantage of Chad’s good deals on carrots, got some radicchio that I meant to grill (Chad also recommends wrapping the radicchio in bacon for the grill.  Right on!), and spring onions I did grill.  I also got one of his varieties of strawberries.  At the Oak Park Market on Saturday, it was nearly all fruit, berries really: cherries, raspberries, blueberries, and tayberries.  Id did get some peas.  I also got the end of the asparagus, which half went with an egg for lunch today.  And a bag of rocket for my Roger Gray stuff.  Oh, and old potatoes.  Nichols had the first of the year, freshly dug potatoes, but I figured I could assuage my taste for potato salad with last years much cheaper spuds.  The potato salad is the one dish I did not get around to making.

Or roasting the beets; cooking the kale with the ham hocks out of the freezer, making use of the leftover pork.  I actually did not finish the broccoli, that needs more uses.   The peas.  Did I mention I picked up local zucchini at Whole Foods?  There’s no rest for those eating Mama Meichulim this Menu Monday.