Riva Cooper was one of the sweetest women I have ever known. As a mother she was my best playmate. We set the kitchen up as a grocery store and with my play cash register and butcher apron, I rang up cans of soup and flour and fruit that we properly arranged in sections mimicking a small market.
In the kitchen when she wasn’t looking, I climbed on a stool and grabbed extra garlic salt or oregano to season up her simmering sauce. She had a passion for chocolate and whipped cream and when she ate my first chocolate cake out of my easy bake oven, she declared it was the best cake she ever had. Another favorite memory is when my Mom tried to make homemade Egg Foo Young, which we all admitted was just down right horrible. Her fix: ice cream sundaes for dinner instead. When she had cocktail parties, I helped make her triple layer tea sandwiches and was served the crusts filled with green cream cheese, egg salad or tuna.
When I had my own son she taught him how to get the stool for him to make scrambled eggs and toast, which he mastered by the age of four. And many years later when she took ill, we moved her into our new home in Florida and she watched me make her those same tea sandwiches, veal chops (her favorite) and, of course, a more mature layered chocolate whipped cream cake.
Every year around Mother’s Day I especially remember how fortunate I was to have a mother that nurtured us, hugged on us and made our birthday dinners extra special. (Mine was rare roast beef with roasted potatoes, corn and gravy and an apple cake-no frosting.)
This edition is dedicated to the Mothers, Grandmothers, and all the surrogates, who nurtured us through childhood, the contentious teenage years. and cultivated a path toward our own motherhood. Thank you.
Whether demonstrably feeling the love through head rubs while watching sappy movies or patiently explaining recipes to me through simply portrayed cookbooks Mom was always there. Because of the recipes she shared, and the simple cookbooks she showed me, I became a chef. The care taking, guidance, unconditional love, and even the boundary setting. made me better prepared for the challenges of adulthood.
And, as I refine and master many of the recipes she invoked, I always wear her heart on the sleeve of my chef coat.
Apple Pecan cake with cream cheese caramel frosting
My Mom used to make the BEST applesauce cake with raisins every Jewish New Year. Since I didn’t like frosting she would just leave the cake to rest as it was.
My variation is using shredded apples instead of applesauce.
2 cups sugar
½ cup plus 2 TBPS. Irish or French grass-fed butter softened
2 large eggs
2 Teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 Teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon allspice
2 cups chopped pecans plus some for topping over frosting
½ teaspoon salt
2 Pounds Granny Smith of Honey crisp- peeling, cored and shredded
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Butter and flour a metal 13 x 9 pan by 2 inch
Beat sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla extract
Mix flour, baking soda and powder and salt and cinnamon and all spice. Slowly add to incorporate. Add 2 pounds shredded peeled apple and stir with spoon
(Optional one cup raisins and one cup shredded coconut
1 cup pecans chopped
8 ounce cream cheese (I only use Philly)
Swirls of caramel sauce, IF DESIRED. My fave is Lick my Spoon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons milk
2 cups powdered sugar extra xxx refined
2 Tablespoons pure unsalted butter
Blend all together and frost over chilled cake
- 8 large Honey Crisp apples
- 1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 6 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 cup water
- Chilled whipping cream (optional)
- Peel skin off top quarter of each apple. Using melon baller, scoop out core, leaving bottom intact. Stand apples in 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Mix sugar and spices in bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons mixture. Fill apple cavities with remaining sugar mixture. Spoon 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup into each cavity. Scatter 3 tablespoons butter pieces over apples. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover; chill.)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour 1/2 cup water into pan with apples. Bake apples 35 minutes. Add reserved 2 tablespoons sugar mixture, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 tablespoon butter, and 1/2 cup water to pan. Bake until apples are tender when pierced with skewer, about 25 minutes longer. Transfer apples to 8 bowls. Place baking pan atop 2 burners; boil over medium-high heat until syrupy, about 2 minutes. Spoon sauce over apples. Serve with whipping cream, or pumpkin ice cream.
Adapted From Tyler Florence
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, for frying, plus more to drizzle
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 to 3 pounds beef chuck shoulder roast, cut into 2-inch pieces (this cut is also called chuck shoulder pot roast and chuck roast boneless)
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bottle good quality dry red wine (recommended: Burgundy)
- 8 fresh thyme sprigs
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 orange, zest removed in 3 (1-inch) strips
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 1/2 cups beef stock
- 9 small new potatoes, scrubbed clean and cut in 1/2
- 1/2 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
- 2 cups frozen pearl onions, a large handful
- 1 pound white mushrooms, cut in 1/2
- 1/2 pound garden peas frozen or fresh
- Fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, for garnish
- Horseradish Sour Cream, recipe follows, for garnish
- Toasted Peasant Bread, recipe follows, for serving
- Horseradish Sour Cream:
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Chives, finely chopped, as garnish
- Toasted Peasant Bread:
- 1 loaf peasant bread, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, halved
- Chopped parsley leaves
- Preheat a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat with the oil and butter.
- While the pan is heating, arrange the flour on a large dish. Season the cubed beef with some salt and freshly ground black pepper and then toss in the flour to coat. Shake off the excess flour and add the beef chunks in a single layer to the hot pan, being careful not to over crowd the pan, you might have to work in batches. Thoroughly brown all of the cubes on all sides. Once all the meat has been browned remove it to a plate and reserve.
- Add the wine to the pan and bring up to a simmer while you scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon being sure to loosen up all those tasty bits. Once the wine has gotten hot add the browned meat, thyme, smashed garlic, orange zest strip, ground cloves, freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste, bay leaves and beef stock. Bring the mixture up to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered until the liquids start to thicken, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cover and cook on low heat for 2 1/2 hours.
- After 2 hours add halved potatoes, sliced carrots, pearl onions and mushrooms, along with a pinch of sugar to balance out the acid from the red wine. Turn the heat up slightly and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes more, until the vegetables and meat are tender. Add the frozen peas during the last minute of cooking. Season with salt and pepper and remove the thyme sprigs.
- To serve, place the stew in a soup bowl, garnish with parsley, drizzle with olive oil and add a dollop of Horseradish Sour Cream. Right before serving add a slice of Toasted Peasant Bread, half way submerged in the stew.
Horseradish Sour Cream:
- Combine sour cream, prepared horseradish and a drizzle of olive oil in a small bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper. Add a dollop of the mixture on top of the stew and garnish with chopped chives.
Toasted Peasant Bread:
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
- Put a sheet pan in the oven so that it gets good and hot.
- Place the bread slices on the hot sheet pan. Drizzle the bread with the extra-virgin olive oil bake for 5 minutes, until the bread is nicely toasted. Rub the bread slices with the garlic cloves, and discard garlic. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings
- 3 to 4 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks, or whole chicken legs (I use Grove Ladder at the Saturday Farmers Market. All natural organic and humaINLY RAISED)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil, like canola
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large yellow or Spanish onion, peeled and diced
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 3 tablespoons Hungarian paprika, sweet or hot, or a combination
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes or 1 large ripe tomato, chopped
- 1 cup chicken broth, homemade or, if not, low-sodium
- 1 pound egg noodles
- ¾ cup sour cream
- Heat oven to 400. Season the chicken aggressively with salt and pepper. Heat the oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large, heavy, oven-safe sauté pan or Dutch oven set over high flame, until the butter is foaming. Sear the chicken in batches, skin-side down, until it is golden and crisp, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Then turn the chicken over, and repeat on the other side, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate to rest.
- Pour off all but a tablespoon or 2 of the accumulated fat in the pot. Return the pot to the stove, over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring frequently with a spoon to scrape off any browned bits of chicken skin, until the onion has softened and gone translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and stir again, cooking it until it has softened, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the paprika and the flour, and stir well to combine, then cook until the mixture is fragrant and the taste of the flour has been cooked out, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add tomatoes and broth, whisk until smooth and then nestle the chicken back in the pan, skin-side up. Slide the pan or pot into the oven, and cook until the chicken has cooked through and the sauce has thickened slightly, approximately 25 to 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, set a large pot of heavily salted water to boil over high heat. Cook noodles in the water until they are almost completely tender, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Drain the noodles, and toss them in a bowl with the remaining butter, then toss again to coat.
- Place the chicken on top of the noodles, then add the sour cream to the sauce, stir to combine and ladle it over the whole.
Cream of Asparagus and potato leek Soup
1 bunch asparagus, peeled and snapped where naturally bends
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter or truffle butter
1 shallot, minced
1 cup peeled and diced chef potatoes (thin skin)
8 ounces shitake mushrooms
1 cup chopped leek, whites only (wash well)
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
4 cups chicken stock or mushroom stock
¼ cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
Sour cream or crème fraiche
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Fresh snipped chives
Snap asparagus where it naturally bends. Peel stems and rinse and pat dry.
Steam or microwave for 2 minutes until tips are slightly tender.
Drop into ice bath to stop the cooking process.
Dice asparagus and set aside. (reserve a few pieces for garnish
In a large soup pan, melt butter. Add shallot and leeks, saute abut 3 minutes. Add shitake mushrooms and continue to saute. Deglaze pot with white wine. Add mushroom or chicken stock, peeled and diced potatoes and asparagus.
Simmer for about 20 minutes.
Season with Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
When potatoes are cooked, remove pot from heat. Cool slightly and either pour into a blender with dish towel on top to avoid splattering. You may also use an emersion blender. (My preference for soups)
Return soup to stove. Slowly add cream and simmer until heated.
Mix mustard with sour cream. Top soup with dollop and garnish with reserved chopped asparagus spears.
Serve with warm crusty bread