Name: Mirjam Weiss
- What do you remember about family meals when you were growing up? Every night at 7 PM when my father came home from work the whole family would sit down to dinner. My parents were Holocaust survivors and the food in our house was definitely European. My Lithuanian mother adopted my father’s Hungarian culture and we had wonderful goulash soups, stews, and poppyseed cakes. My mother had an aversion to oil, so everything in our house was either made with butter or shmaltz [rendered chicken fat]. This meant that everything was either dairy or meaty, nothing was ever parve [neutral].
- How is your cooking style different from your mother’s? Where my mother stuck to the cooking of her and my father’s cultures, I’ll try anything, and will mix and match, am a big fan of fusion cooking (you should check out my Hungarian/Thai salmon). I remember the first time I made lasagna as a teenager, my father looked at it like I had bought it in outer space.
- How did you learn to cook? I learned to cook at my mother’s elbow. She would let me squish the hamburger meat, shell peas and stir kneidlach [matzah balls] batter. She would let me play in the kitchen, letting me frost a cake for hours at a time.
- Do you entertain, and in what circumstances? What is the biggest party or meal you have hosted to date? Both my husband and I love to cook and entertain. We’ll have friends over for a Shabbat meal, dinner parties in the middle of the week, impromptu end-of-summer barbecues, any excuse to cook up a festive meal. Every year on my father’s yahrzeit [anniversary of death] I cook up a full Hungarian dinner to celebrate his life. The biggest parties we’ve ever thrown and catered have been my stepson’s engagement party and my daughter’s engagement party, both with over 100 people in the house. This year I’m in avelut (mourning) for my mother so we’ve cut down on the partying altogether, but still entertain a lot on Shabbat.
- Can you share a typical daily menu? Weekly menu? Sometimes we have a house full of kids and sometimes it’s just the two of us, so there is no specific daily menu. My youngest stepson lives with us half the week and when he’s with us my husband will barbecue chicken wings and potatoes, or we’ll have hamburgers and salad for dinner. The bulk of our menu planning happens on Shabbat, where we’ll make everything from challah to dessert. A typical Shabbat meal will consist of homemade challah, soup and kneidlach [matza balls] on Friday night or roasted vegetables for lunch, chicken, roast potatoes, several vegetable dishes and I always try to make a yummy dessert.
- How has your cooking style evolved over the years? My cooking style has always been in a state of evolution. I’m addicted to collecting cookbooks, watching cooking shows on TV and spending hours surfing cooking sites on the Internet, so I’m always trying something new.
- What cookbooks, TV shows or websites that have inspired you? I’m the host of the Jewish/Kosher forum of Recipezaar.com, so of course I’m going to plug that site. Also, I’ve just started a blog of my own, Miriyummy (www.miriyummy.wordpress.com). It’s my husband’s nickname for me, and it always makes me smile. As for cookbooks, I have so many to choose from, but I love the writing styles of Nigella Lawson and Ann Hodgman (I own three of her cookbooks, Beat This, Beat That, and One Bite Won’t Kill You). I also devour food blogs, and besides CM (of course) I’m a fan of Israeli Kitchen, smitten kitchen and A Glug of Oil, to name a few out of many.
- What posts on CM have you enjoyed? Do you have suggestions for future posts? One of my favorite posts was Extreme Frugality: Twenty Memories of My Mother, it reminded me a lot of my mother. I love the interviews and the hints on how to be more efficient in the kitchen, I’d love to see more of that!
- What is the most unusual dish you’ve ever made? My stepdaughter and her boyfriend had just returned from Nepal and were raving about the dumplings there, called momo. So I looked up the recipe and made them one Shabbat. Nepalese kreplach, that’s what they were.
- What is the oldest item in your kitchen? The newest? The oldest kitchen item I own is not even in my kitchen, it’s on display in the living room. I have my Swedish grandmother’s samovar and it’s over 100 years old. The oldest item I actually use is my mother’s wooden bowl and hochmesser. The newest item is my Kenwood Major counter mixer. I’ve had a Kenwood Chef for a thousand years and when it started to give me trouble I caved in to popular opinion on Recipezaar and bought a KitchenAid. And I HATED it. After a year and a half of moaning about the KitchenAid my husband got fed up and when he saw a great deal on the Kenwood Major he bought it for me. I LOVE it. It has a 6.7 liter bowl, the horsepower of a space shuttle (almost) and I’m so happy to have this addition to my kitchen. I find myself baking stuff just so I can use it.
- What would you like to change about your cooking style in the coming year? I’d like to use more whole foods. We hardly use any processed foods but I’d like to step it up even more, use more grains and legumes in our menu. I’m trying to follow Michael Pollan, who says, “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”
- Please share a favorite recipe and cooking tips that work for you. My all-time favorite recipe has to be the challah I make almost every week. I got it originally from a friend whose son brought it home from his yeshiva in Otniel. I’ve changed it a bit over the years. One of the reasons I love this challah so much is that it’s eggless, but tastes so rich.
Nadav’s Amazing Challah
Originally posted at http://www.recipezaar.com/recipe/Nadavs-Delicious-Challah-95386
Place all the ingredients (except for the egg and the sesame seeds) in a bowl and knead until a good smooth dough has been achieved.
You can either do this by hand or in a counter-top mixer with a dough hook.
Place the dough in a bowl and let rise for one hour.
During this one hour, punch down and knead the dough every 15 minutes.
Divide the dough into the amount of loaves you want, then divide each piece into 3 and start braiding.
Place the braids on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
Brush with egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Let rise for another 1/2 an hour.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 150 degrees C (300 degrees F).
Bake the braids for 1/2 an hours.
The dough is almost idiot-proof.
It comes out smooth and gorgeous and the challahs are amazing.
The best cooking tip I can offer is to marry a wonderful cook. I can’t begin to tell you how much easier my life has been for the past five years! 😉