Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pioneer Press

Check out the article on "A Blending of Bittersweet Memories" in Pioneer Press (North Shore Suburban Newspaper of Chicago):,pioneer-press-bittersweet-052710-s1.article

Bittersweet Memories: Cookbook to Memorialize Loved One's Cuisine
By Veronice Hinke

The perfect mix of ingredients might not win your lost loved one's recipe a page in Emily Israel Hoffman's cookbook. But telling a heart-tugging or uplifting story connected to the recipe might do the trick. "I'm not trying to make this a chef's cookbook," Hoffman said of her work-in-progress. It's titled A Blending of Bittersweet Memories.

The tale's the thing
Recipe submissions, all of which Hoffman will test prior to approval, can be as simple as one of the desserts she's already accepted. It requires only three ingredients: Whipped cream, cherry pie filling and chopped nuts.

In her quest for 100 suitable entries, Hoffman has already logged tales as colorful as a banana cream pie that ignited a family food fight.

Good writing skills aren't necessary for getting into her cookbook, either. Hoffman's tapped a ghost writer to accommodate prose-impaired foodies.

Anecdote worthy
Northbrook resident Leslie Kolber has already made it into the cookbook. Kolber heard about Hoffman's project through a friend, and immediately thought of her late grandmother-in-law, former Wilmette resident Rose Kolber. "She accepted me as one of her own granddaughters. She basically taught me how to cook," Kolber said. "She'd be over the moon to know that her recipe (for plumb chicken with dirty rice) will be in the cookbook."

Rose's story, of course, will also be told. "She cooked from instinct. She never had a recipe, she just had a list of ingredients in her head. When I'd want a recipe, and ask her for amounts, she'd say 'just a little,'" Kolber said. She resorted to following Rose around with a pen and paper -- jotting down amounts to record exactly how much "just a little" was. "I was always a recipe follower. Now I cook from instinct, just like she did."

Remembering mom
Like Kolber, Hoffman said the project has helped her grieve. The cookbook seemed a fitting way to memorialize her mother, Renee Israel, a cookbook author who passed away in January 2006 after a long battle with breast cancer. "She loved to cook," Hoffman said. "She was always cooking."

The book, which Hoffman expects to have completed by the beginning of next year, will be divided into four or five chapters based on phases of grieving, such as honoring rituals. "Cooking is very ritualistic," Hoffman said. "Traditions have a way of bringing memories back."

It was one of her mother's traditions, after all, that sparked inspiration for the cookbook. She thought of it while she was serving her new husband Monday night spaghetti last fall in their new home in Chicago's River North neighborhood. "It hit me like a ton of bricks," Hoffman said. The spaghetti Bolognese she had made was typical of Monday night dinners her mother prepared for Hoffman and her father and two siblings while she raised the family in Deerfield. Hoffman noted that her sauce, so close to her mother's in smell and taste, even contained her mother's secret tomato sauce enhancement: a dash of sugar to make it a little sweet.

Her mother also threw a shot of sugar (about two tablespoons) into tomato sauce when she made summer squash casserole. It's a simple, healthy recipe she paired with chicken, steak or fish. "It's an every night dish," Hoffman said. "It's a great way to get kids to eat vegetables, because it looks like pizza." Sometimes, the dish was awarded a spot on the family's Memorial Day picnic table.

Submit recipes
Recipes and stories may be submitted online at, or mailed to P.O. Box 10936 Chicago, IL 60610

Renee Israel's Summer Squash Casserole
8 summer squash, washed and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
3 C tomato sauce
3 onions, sliced
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 T sugar
1/4 C olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium sauce pan, saute onions in oil until translucent. Set aside.

Grease a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Lay squash in baking dish. Sprinkle onions on top of squash. Pour tomato sauce on top of onions. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Top with Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

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