Food Memories – and Recipes – for Mother’s Day

To celebrate Mother’s Day, here are some food memories and recipes to go with them.
May 9, 2024

Food always tastes better when made with love. To celebrate Mother’s Day, here are some food memories and recipes to go with them.

Rachael Narins’ mother grew up in Pittsburgh across the street from a meat market. “She was raised on a steady diet of heavy German influenced foods, local specialties and a lot of pie,” Narins, a trained chef, cookbook author and culinary speaker, told the Journal.

When Narins’ mother escaped the city, she visited relatives with a farm in the country and ate fresh vegetables, fruit from the trees and even more pies. “She never became much of a baker — neither did I — but every once in a while, we get ambitious, put on aprons and giggling the whole time, make her great grandmother’s grape pie,” Narins said. “It’s a deep purple mess and an absolute delight to eat.”

As she’s never seen it on a menu, Narins thinks of this “grape jelly tart” as the ultimate home-baked treat. “Look for really ripe Concord grapes with slip skins and it’s a breeze to make,” she said. “Nowadays I like to do this with Kyoho grapes when I can find them.”

Narins, who is based in Los Angeles, said her mother happily retired to Florida and “does not recommend making this with the local muscadine grapes.”

Grape Pie

For this deep dish pie, use your favorite all-butter pie crust.

For the filling:
10 cups, large, in-season, Concord grapes
1 cups water, plus 2 teaspoons
¾ cup white sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Milk, for glazing

Divide your pie dough into two pieces and roll out. Wrap one disk of dough and refrigerate for later use. Line the bottom of a 10” metal deep dish pie pan with the other disk of dough, cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.

Separate the skins and the pulp of the grapes. Discard the skins.

Over medium low heat, gently cook the grape pulp in a sauce pan with 1 cup of water and all the white sugar for about 20 minutes. Stir often and mash as you go to make sure it doesn’t stick or burn.

While it’s still warm, strain the grape pulp to remove the seeds. Let cool.
Stir together the remaining ¼ cup of water and the cornstarch to make a slurry, then stir that into the cooled grapes along with the lemon juice.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Fill the pie crust with the grapes and cover with the second disk of dough and crimp the edges. Pierce a few times with a fork to allow venting.
Brush the top with milk.
Place the pie on a baking sheet, then put on the middle rack in your oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
Cool completely before eating.

Lulu Fairman’s mother, Seemah Levi, was born and raised in Calcutta, India, and loved to cook.

“She was never a very demonstrative person, but she showed her love for my brother and me by cooking for us Sephardic Jewish foods specific to an Indian kitchen,” Fairman, Chair of Caring Connections, at ChaiVillageLA, told the Journal. “Up until a year ago, my mother, who is now 98 and had to move to an assisted living facility, lovingly cooked meals for my brother — and me when I visited — that we miss.”

While she has handed down her recipes, Fairman said it’s not the same as her cooking. “This is my small tribute to her on Mother’s Day,” she said.

Hari Kabob

(Chicken with Indian spices and Potatoes)

1 whole chicken
2 tsp cut fresh ginger
2 tsp cut fresh garlic
3 tsp of turmeric
1 tsp of Garam Masala
Couple of bay leaves
1/2 cup of vegetable or corn oil
12 small potatoes
3 cups water

Cut up a whole chicken into 8 pieces. Remove fat and loose skin. Wash thoroughly under cold water. (Add salt to taste if you so desire – she never cooked with salt!)
Mix ginger, garlic, turmeric and Garam Masala in a small bowl; set aside. Note: You can substitute powdered spices for the ginger and garlic if you wish; just use about half the amount.
Pat half of the spice mix into the chicken; rub in thoroughly and marinate for an hour or so. (You can do this the night before if you like. I have even made it at the last minute without marinating.)
Peel potatoes, rinse and soak in a pot of water with some salt (if you want) for 1 hour. (I pierce the potatoes with a fork.)
Add in the rest of the spice mix, plus the bay leaves, and bring water to a boil; keep on moderate heat. Continue cooking until potatoes are soft; about 15-20 minutes. Remove potatoes gently and put in a separate dish.
Add chicken to the pot with the gravy from the potatoes and stir thoroughly. Brown the chicken over moderate heat. Add a little water to the chicken and cook over moderate fire for 15 or 20 minutes.
Put potatoes back into the pot with chicken; stir gently and continue to cook for another 15 – 20 minutes or until chicken and potatoes are cooked; mix and brown every so often by turning it over. By the end, the water should have evaporated so that everything is absorbed by potatoes, chicken and spices. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
Serve with Pulau rice with peas (rice cooked with turmeric and bay leaves, a couple of cardamom pods and cloves) and Jewish salad: Finely cut cucumber, celery, red pepper, tomatoes and baby carrots, cut into small pieces. Chop coriander and parsley and mix all together. Add fresh lemon juice and a little salt.

“I love my mom’s cooking; I know I probably don’t need to say that explicitly, but it’ll be nice for her to read.“ – Jeff Frymer

“I am an aspiring chef, but more importantly, I am the son of a mom who is a chef – but not in the conventional, head-of-a-restaurant kind of way,” Jeff Frymer told the Journal. “My mom, Madeleine, prepares a meal that is not only nutritious (mom’s first priority), but also delicious.” He added, “I love my mom’s cooking; I know I probably don’t need to say that explicitly, but it’ll be nice for her to read.

Jeff Frymer is a full-time licensed marriage and family therapist and certified inner bonding facilitator, and a part-time chef for family, friends and the occasional soiree or exotic catamaran adventure.

When he was in his pre-teen/teen years Frymer remembers delighting in the guilty pleasure of how his friends would comment about his mom’s cooking: “Do you always eat like this?” He’d typically reply, “Yep,” or give a sideways nod in agreement, because he was too busy feasting to look up. “At dinner time we always had salad, soup, meat/chicken/fish and a vegetable; appetizers and desserts were rare occasions,” he said. “And if my description has you saying to yourselves, “That sounds so European” you would be correct. 

His family is a mélange of Eastern European, French and Sephardic (Turkish) traditions. “There’s a lot of alchemy in the cooking magic of my family and I endeavor to carry that apron, which I have to a great extent, except for one thing, my mom’s chicken soup,” Frymer said. “I take great pride in my bouillon-making ability, and I have tried to emulate, replicate and stand-over-my-mom’s-shoulder-duplicate every salt shake and skimming of fat of the rendering chicken in the boiling pot.

“As close as I have ever gotten, and again, I’m no slouch, my dear wife tells me: ‘It’s not quite as good as your mom’s,’” he said. “And I humbly have to agree.” 

Chef Jeff’s Mom’s Chicken Soup

1 whole cut-up chicken, cleaned of any organs (liver, kidneys, etc.) OR equivalent quantity of chicken from only backs, necks, and rip-cages (3 chickens)
1 whole leek, rinsed well, coarsely chopped
1 large yellow onion, cleaned and quartered
2 large carrots, peeled, trimmed and sliced
1 medium parsnip, peeled, trimmed and quartered
1 medium turnip, peeled, trimmed and quartered
1 medium tomato, quartered
2 sticks leafy celery (the tender smaller ones on the inside)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 heaping teaspoon salt, more to taste

“And sometimes,” mom tells me, “I put in lamb shank/beef bone, parsley, cilantro, daikon.” Which I take to say, “You really can’t go wrong.” Whew, that takes the pressure off.
Add ingredients (veggies first then chicken) to a large, 8 quart stock pot. Fill water to about an inch from top. Bring to a boil, cover, and allow to simmer for 2-3 hours. Depending on how full the pot and how high a simmer, it may be necessary to leave uncovered at first, or allow a bit of an air gap, as not to boil over. Skim the foamy scum from the surface as necessary (2-3 times), and that is it!
Allow soup to cool enough to be handled safely (this can be hastened in a bath of ice water in the sink), then strain, and set aside cooked veggies, chicken, bones, etc. Once sufficiently cooled, refrigerate everything overnight.
The next day, the bouillon will have a thin layer of hardened fat (schmaltz) on top to be removed, leaving just the golden broth. The strained veggies and chicken can be carefully separated from bits of bone to add back to bouillon, made into a chicken salad or used to make an entirely different soup. The chicken soup is now ready to reheat then adjust salt to taste. It can be accompanied by noodles, matzah balls, potatoes, kreplach and/or leftover veggies and chicken.
So even though following my mom’s recipe perfectly, it will never be quite as delicious as hers. I will always be missing that one essential ingredient that is impossible for me to add: my mother’s love.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

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