Leftovers Go Green


Eight years ago, when my father’s Parkinson’s symptoms overwhelmed his body, but not his spirit, my mother decided she needed care-taking help. For a man who cherished his independence so fiercely, this life change would not come easy. But with same courage it took to run a profitable textile engineering business for 45 years without a high-school diploma, he accepted his reality and his need for Liz.

My mother hired Liz for four days a week shortly after she moved from San Francisco to Atlanta. And each day she came through their front door carrying her supplies and her faith. It didn’t take long for my mom to discover Liz was an excellent cook and ask her to prepare many family favorites.

But soon my father had more and more trouble chewing his food, so she made her own perfectly fluffy mashed potatoes, hearty and flavorful vegetable soups and, one of my favorites, tender and wonderfully seasoned southern greens.

Once I asked Liz how it came to be she was cooking those greens in my childhood kitchen in the same pot that used to feature mostly matzah ball soup,

"Oh, your mom asked me one day if I knew anything about fixing greens, and I told her, sure!"

That was six years ago, and Liz’s greens are now a staple at the Solomon house.

Greens cooking in my childhood kitchen. My mother pouring over finances at her desk. My father reading by a window. A new world simmering in an old house.

Over the years, Liz became as much a part of my visits home as any member of my family. In some ways, more, because when my daughter and I flew in from Los Angeles, we stayed in my parent’s house, and we saw her every day. I listened as she talked to my dad about her life challenges, and he responded with his hard-earned wisdom. At least once a day, I heard her laugh at something my father said. Liz’s laugh, like my father’s, was down-deep full, echoing of life’s greatest joys, and deepest sorrows.

Even with my father’s determination, my mother’s selfless dedication, and Liz’s special help, he could not get better. One October morning, I received the phone call I most dreaded. When I arrived at their home, my father could no longer move, speak or hold his eyes open. During those days before his death, my family huddled close — six brothers and sisters roaming the rooms of our childhood home, every day, all day, around him — and Liz sitting by his bed. I don’t know what my father understood during those last wavering hours, but a few days before he died he gave Liz a hug. It was the first, and the last.

I have decided I will make Liz’s greens a feature at my Thanksgiving table and the weekend after. I am still having trouble saying goodbye to my father, but I can never say "thank you" enough to Liz.

Liz Sprott’s Greens

4 bunches or pounds of greens (mix of collards, turnips, mustard or kale)

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves of garlic (minced)

1 large onion (sliced fine)

1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar (or to taste)

Salt (to taste)

Red pepper flakes (to taste)

1 teaspoon sugar (as needed for bitterness in turnips or collards)

Pinch baking soda (as needed to tenderize collards)

Cleaning Greens:

With one hand grab stem and with the other pull off leaves.

With collards and mustards, the leaves will come off in one movement. Fill sink with cold water and rinse until grit falls to bottom. Repeat two to three times until sink water remains clear. Rip or cut larger leaves into three or more pieces.

In large sauce pot (at least seven quart), sauté garlic in olive oil over medium heat until light brown. Add greens with two cups of water. (Pot will be very full until greens cook down, so you may need to add in batches, stirring as you go). Add diced onion and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover. If cooking collards with other greens, add a pinch of baking soda to tenderize. As greens reduce, stir occasionally, approximately every 30 minutes, making sure water has not evaporated. If so, add just enough to keep greens from scalding, approximately one-half cup. You do not want them soupy.

After greens have completely reduced, at least one and a half hours, add salt, pepper and rice vinegar, tasting as you go. Then, if needed for bitterness, add sugar. Continue to simmer another 30 minutes to an hour, or until greens are soft, tender and easy to chew. (Turnips and mustards cook in approximately two hours, while collards and kale take up to three.)

Yield: 6-8 side portions

Liz’s Greens with Leftover Smoked Turkey

Since smoked turkey is popular at many Thanksgiving feasts, here is a great way to make use of that flavor, using the same quantities from the recipe above. To complete the meal, add a warmed slice of leftover cornbread.

Place either one smoked turkey leg or four smoked wings in a large saucepot (at least seven quart) with cover. Add four cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for one hour to flavor the water. Add garlic, onion and greens to pot and continue to simmer. If using collards, add pinch of baking soda to tenderize. After greens have reduced, approximately one and one-half hours, add salt, pepper flakes, seasoned rice vinegar and sugar to taste. Cover and cook for another 30 minutes or until greens are very tender.


Lisa Solomon’s food articles have been seen in several publication including The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Washington Jewish Week and The Canadian Jewish News.

Singer Packs Seniors With Old School Hits


Thousands of screaming girls. Packed nightclubs. Love-crazy
fans. Ron Gartner has seen it all.

That is, on television, of course.

In real life, Gartner is an up-and-coming singer who, while
not exactly drawing the sorts of crowds that come to Eminem shows, is packing
the social halls of senior centers across the nation singing the tunes of Frank
Sinatra, Tony Bennett and other big-band and Motown standards. His fans may be
closer in age to Bob Hope than Britney Spears, but Gartner is quickly becoming
the newest big thing in the senior-home entertainment circuit.

Originally a denizen of what he calls the shmatte business —
the garment industry — Gartner, 58, is building a second career by singing
big-band favorites in nursing homes, senior centers and gated retirement
communities all over the country. Now, on the eve of the release of his first
CD, “Someone Like You,” Gartner is bringing his show to Southern California for
two performances, on April 10 at Leisure World, a gated community in Laguna
Woods, and on April 13 at the Indian Ridge Country Club in Palm Desert, where
Gartner is playing the Desert Cancer Fund Dinner Dance.

“I am as close to Las Vegas as a lot of these seniors are
going to get,” said Gartner, who croons the oldies solo, along with backup
music recorded on a state-of-the-art, karaoke-style machine and sound system he
brings with him to performances. “I really give them a hell of a show for an
hour.”

Gartner’s debonair performance includes the hip-swinging tunes
of the likes of Sinatra, Perry Como and Steve Lawrence. Though not all audience
members are actually able to swing their hips — real or plastic — seniors are
flocking to Gartner’s lounge-style act, if advance bookings are any indication.

Gartner launched his new career about two and a half years
ago, when his wife, Fran Heller, told him she was tired of following him to
piano bars late at night to hear him indulge a hobby she knew was close to his
heart but far from his livelihood. At the time, Gartner was working full time
in the textile business at a company he owned called BiCoastal Textiles. Until
then, the only time his garment-industry work enabled him to use his voice was
when he did a few radio spots for the Fabric Warehouse, a chain of retail stores
in Los Angeles owned by Gartner and his father.

“Ronnie’s been singing for a long time,” Heller said. “He
had his own band in college, and over the years he would go to karaoke bars and
piano bars.”

When his wife stopped going with him to the piano bars,
Gartner knew he had to find another outlet for his singing. He offered his
services free of charge to a ballroom dance class at a senior center in
Flushing, Queens, and within weeks he was getting inquiries from senior centers
all over the New York area. He began charging $50 to $75 for his gigs, and
within months, the combination of word-of-mouth promotion and his wife’s
advertising savvy — she’s an executive at the Young & Rubicam advertising
agency — propelled him into the top tier of the senior entertainment circuit.

“It was almost beshert,” Gartner said. “I offered to do the
ballroom dance class at the senior center in Flushing. I got a standing
ovation. Then they said they have monthly birthday parties, and I said I’d
perform for that.”

It wasn’t long before Gartner moved up from senior centers
to assisted-living and independent-living residences. Now he’s making his
entrée into gated communities, the holy grail of the Borscht Belt, as Gartner
sees it.

The son of a Holocaust survivor and Jewish boy from the
Bronx, Gartner got his start in synagogue choirs in his native Los Angeles. One
of his first paid gigs was at a Jewish cemetery, where he was part of a choir
singing at an annual memorial service.Â

“My Hebrew school teachers were foaming at the mouth for me
to be a cantor, but it just wasn’t for me,” he said. Gartner gave up synagogue
songs after his bar mitzvah, and by the time he graduated from Fairfax High in
1962, a singing career was looking less and less likely. “I was going to be the
first white recording artist for Motown, and when that didn’t happen, my dad
had always been in the fabric business, so I went with that.”

He moved to New York from Los Angeles about eight years ago,
met his wife through matchmaker-to-the-rich Janis Spindel, and grew
increasingly restive in textiles. Now that he’s playing two to three shows a
week at $1,500 a pop, fabrics have taken a back seat to Gartner’s singing
career. The Friars Club has taken an interest in Gartner, and the fledgling
musician is trying to break into easy-listening radio stations. But his
favorite audiences, he says, are Jewish ones.

“I really love performing for a Jewish crowd, because it
gives me a chance to be a little looser,” he said, peppering his conversation
with Henny Youngman-style one-liners. “I’ll throw Yiddishisms into my show. I
never want to forget my roots.”

For more information about the Desert Cancer Fund Dinner
Dance, call (760) 773-6554, 8 a.m.-12 p.m. Â

Lieberman Recipes


HADASSAH LIEBERMAN’S PAREVE VEGETABLESOUP

1 medium onion, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, crushed

3 medium carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 bay leaf

kosher salt

dash of cayenne pepper

dash of cinnamon

Water or vegetable stock to cover (about 11¼2 quarts)

1 large sweet potato, chopped

1 parsnip, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

1 cup cherry tomatoes

13¼4 cups chickpeas, lima beans or lentils, cooked

olive oil for sautéing (about 2 tablespoons)

1 medium onion, sliced

In a soup kettle sauté onion, garlic, celery, carrots and seasonings for 10 minutes. Cover with water or stock. Bring to boil, lower flame and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Add remaining vegetables, peas or beans; simmer 1¼2 hour more or until vegetables are tender. Meanwhile, pour olive oil into a skillet; add the second onion. Saute until browned but not burnt. Add onion to the soup. Stir thoroughly; simmer 15 minutes more. Serves 12.

LILI DEUTSCH’S HUNGARIAN VEALGOULASH

When Mindy Weisel knows the Liebermans are coming for dinner, she fixes Joe’s favorite Veal Goulash, a recipe she inherited from her mother, Lili. If you prefer a lighter flavor, add more vegetables.

Olive oil for sautéing

2 large yellow onions, chopped (about 11¼2 cups)

4 cloves garlic, chopped, more, if desired

2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika

4 pounds veal, cut into 11¼2-inch cubes

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1¼2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more, if desired

1¼2 cup chopped parsley

1 teaspoon dried marjoram

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 cups sliced carrots, quartered

1 cup chopped potatoes

1¼ 2 cup sliced celery

2 cups good tomato sauce or 2 cups canned or fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped

2 cups good red wine, such as merlot

2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade

Preheat oven to 400. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and garlic; sauté until lightly golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in paprika. Rinse veal with water; pat dry. Return Dutch oven to heat, add veal, salt and pepper, and sauté until meat is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add parsley, marjoram, carrots, celery, tomato sauce, wine and stock. Place cover on pot, place in oven, lower temperature to 375. Bake for 2 hours or until meat is fork tender. If gravy seems too thick, add boiling water, a little at a time. Or you can bake it in a slow oven (250) overnight, which yields a moist, delicious flavor. According to Weisel, this tastes better when made in advance and reheated. Serve with noodles, rice, or cous cous, and Hadassah’s favorites, cabbage and baked sweet potatoes. Serves 10.

HADASSAH’S PISTACHIO RICE PILAF

Turkish apricots are wonderful in this dish.

1¼4 cup currants

1 cup long-grain brown rice, washed and drained

2 cups water or vegetable broth

kosher salt to taste

1¼4 cup dried apricots, cut into strips

1¼2 cup unsalted pistachio nuts

cinnamon

Soak currants for 15 minutes in warm water. Drain and set aside. Wash rice and drain. Toast rice by placing it in a skillet over medium heat; stirring it until dry and lightly browned. Be careful not to burn it. Place rice in a 11¼2 quart saucepan; cover with water or broth. Bring to boil; reduce heat to low; cover with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer for 25 minutes, take off cover; place currants, apricots and nuts on top of rice. Do not stir in. Return lid and continue simmering 20 minutes or until rice is tender and water absorbed. Remove from heat, let stand two minutes.

Using a spatula, turn into a serving dish, being careful to keep the fruit and nuts on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Serves 6.

HADASSAH’S STEAMED CABBAGE ANDONIONS

Steaming the cabbage to finish the dish is an Eastern European tradition. For a beautiful look and distinctive taste, use half purple and half green cabbage.

olive oil for sautéing

1 large onion, sliced in chunks

2 plump garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

2 carrots, sliced in rounds

pinch of paprika

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 green cabbage, sliced in thick chunks

1¼2 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)

In a heavy kettle, heat olive oil. Add onion, garlic, carrots, if desired, paprika, salt and pepper. Saute until vegetables are translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add cabbage, caraway seeds, if desired, sauté 5 minutes more. Place kettle in 350 oven to steam, about 15 minutes, or until tender. Serves 6 to 8.

MARCIA LIEBERMAN’S HONEY CAKE

This cake has been one of Joe’s favorites from the time he was a boy.

3 cups cake flour

11¼2 teaspoons baking powder

3¼4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sugar

1¼4 teaspoon ground cloves

1¼4 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup honey

3 eggs

3¼4 cup water

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

grated rind of 1 lemon

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon brandy

3¼4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 10-inch tube pan. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon. Place honey, eggs, water, lemon juice and rind, oil, and brandy into a bowl. Beat together until well blended. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, mixing until combined thoroughly. Fold in walnuts. Pour batter into pan. Bake in oven for one hour or until toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. If desired, serve with the dried fruit topping. Serves 12.

DRIED FRUIT TOPPING

Hadassah likes dried fruit and nuts for dessert. When Mindy entertains the Liebermans, she piles fruits and nuts onto one of her painted ceramic platters. You can also turn them into a fruit and nut topping, which is delicious served with Marcia’s honey cake. If you have purchased very tender dried fruit (e.g., from a Farmer’s Market), you won’t need to cook it. Just marinate it in the liquid.

1 cup brown sugar or honey

3 cups cold water

3 cups dry white wine

1¼2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2 pounds mixed dried fruit (apricots, apples, pineapple, figs, peaches, pears, prunes, nectarines, cherries, cherries, white raisins, preferably, unsulphured)

6 thin lemon slices

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1¼2 teaspoon dried lavender

6 lavender leaves

1¼4 cup fruit flavored brandy, whiskey or orange liqueur

1¼2 cup very fresh walnuts

Fresh lavender flowers for garnish (optional)

Bring all ingredients except brandy, walnuts and lavender flowers to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and gently poach until just tender, about 20 minutes. Remove fruit from pan and reserve.

Increase heat to high; boil cooking liquid until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add brandy and return to a boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat; return the fruit. Spoon warmed fruit topping over honey cake. If desired, garnish with lavender flowers. Serves 6 to 8.