Greek Chicken Soup with Egg, Lemon, and Orzo Crispy Chicken Skin Garnish
Yep, that is a big crispy piece of chicken skin on the side of the soup bowl. This is a heartier version of the classic Greek Egg Lemon Chicken Soup, Avgolemono.
Here, the irresistible tangy pale lemon soup is chock-full of orzo (rice-shaped pasta) and shredded chicken breast. Fresh snipped dill, a good dose of pepper, a drizzle of fruity olive oil, and that crazy chicken skin take it over the top. Is crispy chicken skin the new bacon?
Egg Foo Young with Mung Bean Sprouts, Pork, and Scallions
It’s a nostalgic American egg dish borne of Chinese ancestry, one similar to the Italian frittata filled with vegetables and sometimes meat (but no cheese). Here, it’s cooked with a bit more oil than a frittata in order to conjure up the original deep-fried version of Egg Foo Young invented by resourceful Chinese immigrants to California during the Gold Rush.
Ten years ago I posted my Egg Foo Young recipe. A recipe that is still #trending today. Growing up, on most Sunday nights that I can remember, we would drive with our Dad to pick-up Chinese take-out for dinner. I loved that exotic deep-fried thick pancake then and still do…but what was it exactly?
I thought, of course Egg Foo Young was made with eggs. But it didn’t taste like any eggs that I was familiar with. It was oddly brown and mysteriously kind of crunchy. And who serves eggs with gravy, anyway? Gravy is for turkey.
Mom thoroughly enjoyed a Chinese cooking class back in the 60s and learned, among other wonderful things, that broccoli should be served bright green and crisp, not olive green and mushy. But “mung bean sprouts” did not show up in our home any other time except Sunday nights. The sprouts were also an ingredient in beef chop suey, another of our Sunday night favorites.
Recently I told my brother that I was writing about Egg Foo Young and asked if he had any recollection of it from our youth. He said, “Yes, loved egg foo young. Now I think it is too bland, but I order it anyway; because of the memories.”
Ok then, Donny, here is my updated Egg Foo Young recipe with wholesome ingredients reinvented from our past, it’s less greasy than the take-out version we remember because it is cooked in a pan, not deep-fried. It’s savory and evocative of Sunday nights long ago, and anything but bland.
Chicken Chorizo Stew
Baby Spinach, Kale, and Chard
A golden roux with lots of vegetables and kidney beans is the backdrop for this southern-style Chicken Chorizo Stew. This gumbo-esque meal is hearty but not thick. Instead of okra and sassafras, it is chock full of baby greens – spinach, kale, and chard. It’s served with steamed brown rice on the side. A splash of vinegary Crystal Louisiana Hot Sauce adds zippy notes and brightens the flavors.
Rhode Island Clam Chowder aka Clear Broth Clam Chowder
My apologies to the fine folks of Rhode Island for preparing their eponymous clam chowder with bivalves from Florida. Our local fishmonger carries Cedar Key Sweets, littleneck clams grown in certified clean Florida waters whose aquaculture farm has the highest quality standards. I have been buying them for years, and they are always tender, fresh and flavorful.
With nary a tomato nor cream in sight, Rhode Island Clam Chowder is made from a clear broth and is lesser known than its more popular cousins – Manhattan Clam Chowder (the red) and New England Clam Chowder (the white).
The true briny clam flavor shines through in this lighter version. Bacon and potatoes play supporting roles, while Asian fish sauce adds a layer of depth and umami qualities. Italian parsley and dill bring bright fresh notes as well as adding nice color to the monochromatic soup.
Saffron Lemon Shrimp with Bucatini
Feta, Kalamata Olives, Oregano, Red Chile Flakes
These large plump shrimp have a striking golden hue. Here, the exotic flavor of saffron – that heady spice derived from the dried stigmas of a crocus – takes a simple shrimp and pasta dish to another level.
Traditional Greek ingredients – kalamata olives, oregano and feta play supporting roles as lemon “two ways” adds bright tangy notes and red chile flakes bring piquant qualities. And while spaghetti or linguini shapes would work just fine, those robust bucatini noodles magically weave this super-satisfying dish together.
The dish never fails to bring back sweet memories of my Nana and Aunt Edythe. My 2017 version of Kasha Varnishkes includes mushrooms and walnuts. It has more pasta and vegetables in relation to the buckwheat, and uses plenty of heart-healthy olive oil.
I remember that Auntie Edythe would prepare hers with lots of kasha in proportion to the bows and no doubt used plenty of schmaltz. It was more of a buckwheat dish than a pasta dish. She was such a terrific cook. It has been decades since her passing, but none of us will ever forget her cooking, especially her banana cake…and that she served real whipped cream made from scratch in the 60s when everyone else’s whipped cream came out of a can.
Feeling nostalgic with Hanukkah approaching, I was looking through boxes of my mom’s old photographs and came across the one below. Sadly, everyone in the photo except my cousin Robert has passed away. This image, taken at the iconic Palmer House in Chicago c. 1956, is a true treasure. I believe that we bless them and they, in turn, bless us each and every time we think of them. Our memories keep the people who have passed on forever close to us.
My Nana (paternal grandmother) was born in Kiev, Russia 1894. The family fled to Canada to escape the pogroms when she was a young girl. Her birth name was Vitte but she took her sister’s name, Fanny, after Fanny was killed in some sort of machine accident that was never explained to us as children. And now that there is no one left to ask, it will remain a mystery.
She met my Papa (paternal grandfather) when they were teenagers. Their families were living in the same apartment complex in Montreal. His name was Yitzcok when he was born in Romania in 1891 but changed it to Isadore upon arrival in Canada when he was 13 years old. They said he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah on the boat.
Fanny and Isadore married then made their way to the United States and settled in Chicago where Papa took the more American name of Irving, and they raised their children, (my aunt) Edythe and (my dad) Leonard.
I remember one day when we were kids, my Dad asked us if we knew Papa’s real name. I thought about it and said “Is” because that’s what Nana called him. Then I fell into a fit of giggles, “What kind of name is Is, Dad? That’s a verb!”
Our extended family always called Papa by the name Izzy (from Isadore) and Izzy is now my nephew Jett’s middle name. Jett celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in Chicago this past summer. Jett’s older brother Stone has Leonard as his middle name. Leonard sadly passed away in 1971 when he was just 49 years old. Stone, his would-be first grandson, was born in 2001. By keeping their names alive, we bless them.