Ya Ya’s Pastitsio

Pastitsio  (παστίτσιο)

I grew up in New Jersey, a stone’s throw from New York City.  So, I was accustomed to bilingual households.  As in our home, it was the norm among my friends to have grandparents and/or parents born outside the U.S.A.  America is a melting pot of cultures, and this was, and still is, particularly true in the New York City metropolitan area.  In part, this was due to the area’s proximity to Ellis Island*, the main immigrant conduit in the first half of the 20th century.   Greater than one third of the U.S. population (this includes me) can trace at least a portion of their ancestry to the 12 million people who landed here between the late 1800s and 1954. Continue reading

Chicago’s Love Affair with the Hotdog

Chicago River - Wrigley and Chicago Tribune Buildings (Distance)

It made me smile, when living outside the US, to hear impressions of Chicago.  Some envisioned gangsters on most street corners and wind so fierce it would blow you off your feet. Continue reading

Do-Ahead Dinner for Eight — and a Tart Celebrating the Glorious Parsnip

Dinner for Eight

When I host a sit-down dinner, most of my friends expect:  1) to be recruited to the kitchen to help with last-minute preparations or 2) to watch me tossing things to and fro in the kitchen while they eat and drink.  I think it is part of the joy of cooking — to make it a relaxing group experience. Continue reading

дранікі (Draniki), Belarus and My Family

Humble Potatoes - Waiting to become дранікі (Draniki)

Not long after the turn of the 20th century, my Grandfather left Belarus as a young man to come to the United States.  He didn’t like what the Bolsheviks were doing in Belarus and saw escape across the Atlantic.  Unfortunately for him, it meant an arduous journey, a struggle to survive as a new immigrant and not seeing his Belarus family again until he was in his 70s – more than 50 years later.   Fortunately for me, it meant growing up with my kind-hearted grandfather and living under the influence of my Belarusian ancestry, including the glorious  дранікі  (dra-ni-ki) — the Belarus version of the potato pancake. Continue reading

My Friend Debbie and a Pot of Lamb and Black Bean Chili

This post is about lamb chili and my friend Debbie.

Debbie is amazing.  She is an engineer, has an MBA from the University of Chicago, teaches, paints, writes and is a Mom and wife.  In addition, she is beautiful, personable and nice. Yet, as much as our green dragons might encourage us to hate her, we all love her. Continue reading

Moroccan Kefta in Tomato Sauce

Moroccan Kefta in Tomato Sauce

I was a precocious 13-year old, and looked the part. So, I was able to lie about my age, and get a job. The work wasn’t exciting, but It allowed me to save a lot of money (at least it seemed like a lot at the time). These savings became my ticket to see the world when I turned 18. Continue reading

English Fish Pie

There are many things I miss about living in England — among them my friends, the ancient footpaths, golf and the food.  Yes, the food!!  No, I haven’t gone crazy. English food, well prepared and using farm-fresh ingredients, is fabulous. While not what I expected when moving to England, it was a pleasant surprise. Continue reading