Thursday, November 21, 2013


I was so pleased to find in SAVEUR magazine, a recipe that I remember from my childhood. My mother made this soup based on a recipe that my father's mother used to make. I never knew my maternal grandmother because she died shortly after I was born. However, I have always heard from everyone what a wonderful cook she was.

Enjoy this soup on a chilly evening, and when you do, think of all the wonderful ethnic cooks you grew up with!

CSULKOS BABLEVES (Hungarian Bean and Ham Soup)

 Serves 8-10.


1/2 cup canola oil
5 cloves garlic, , minced
1  medium carrot, minced
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1 small parsnip, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1 lb. dried pinto beans, soaked overnight and drained
2 bay leaves
1 large smoked ham hock
1/4 c flour
1 1/2 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika, plus more for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 c sour cream

 1.  Heat half of  the oil in a 6 quart sauce pan over medium-high. Add  garlic, carrot, onion, parsnip, and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 7-9 minutes. Add beans, bay leaves, ham hock, and 12 cups of water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook partially covered, until beans are very tender, about 2 hours.

2.Transfer ham hock to a cutting board and let cool, then discard skin and bone. Shred meat and stir into soup. Using dry paper towels, blot the soup to remove surface fat.  Heat remaining oil in a 2-quart sauce pan over medium heat.  Whisk in sour cream.  Stir mixture into soup and cook, until slightly thickened, 4-6 minutes more. Ladle soup into serving bowls; garnish with more paprika.

Monday, November 11, 2013


Deborah Madison is one of America's leading vegetarian cooks. She's the author of several wonderful cookbooks but her latest, called Vegetable Literacy, is a tour de force. In this book she looks at the relationships between vegetables, flowers, herbs, and even some wild plants. She too is an avid gardener and her recipes reflect that fact.  Recipes like tarragon mayonnaise with orange zest, mushrooms stuffed with caramelized onions and blue cheese, buttermilk skillet cornbread with heirloom flint cornmeal, and zucchini logs simmered in olive oil with onions and chard are just some of the offerings.  I've always found Deborah Madison's books to be a little intimidating in that some of the ingredients are very hard to find but the book is worth it just to read about the various vegetables, fruits and grains and their properties. I'm sure it will make a great winters read when snow is piled around the door.

Until next time, stay warm and get cooking,.


Recently, I have begun to think that eating a little less meat is probably a good idea.  I really have major issues with industrially raised meat products, from the inhuman treatment of animals to the carbon footprint this practice leaves.

Regardless, I recently invested and a three new cookbooks (I'm an avid collector.)  that feature vegetarian fare.  I bought each of these used, from Amazon or from one of their suppliers, at very affordable prices.

As some of you may know, I am an Orthodox Christian. Therefore, I'm about to begin the Advent Fast.  This means that, as of November 16, I will fast from all meat and dairy products  for six weeks. an exception is made for Thanksgiving day since it is a national holiday, so these cookbooks came right on time !

PLENTY:  Vibrant vegetable recipes from London's  Ottolenghi. Yotam Ottolenghi is a chef that I've been reading about for years.  I was first exposed to one of his meat recipes when I attended the Ballymaloe cookery school in Ireland this past summer.   That recipe was for a roasted chicken dish , which had been marinated overnight in saffron, olive oil and onions. The dish was finished with a mixture of ground hazelnuts, honey, and rosewater. It was so good that it made a believer out of me.  I knew he had come out with a vegetable cookbook , but I wanted to wait until it was a year or two old before by one, so it would be more affordable.  This book features   such things as poached baby vegetables with caper mayonnaise, artichoke gratin, spiced red lentils with cucumber yogurt and mushroom with herb polenta.  I cannot wait to get started on some of these.

RIVER COTTAGE VEG by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is another English offering.  Hugh has been a BBC  chef since 1998 and has established the River Cottage in Dorset as a working organic farm.  Like Ballymaloe in Ireland, the River Cottage is home to cooking classes, lessons on sustainable farming and foraging, as well as a studio where the TV series is sometimes filmed. Just Google River Cottage to see what a great place this is.

Recipes in this book feature both vegetarian and vegan dishes like zucchini and rice filo pie, creamy mushroom soup, spiced spinach and potatoes, and Summer stir-fry with fried rice.  Hugh's recipes feature fresh garden produce , but almost everything can be found at local grocery stores here in Ohio . 

Sunday, November 3, 2013


I promised you a second post about another committee that I'm working with. You'll remember that last February I posted about the first Cookie Table event held at the Tyler History Center.

That event was such a success that we've decided to do it again this year. For those of you who might not have attended, let me tell you It was like the best ethnic wedding you've ever been to --but no one has to get married!

Again, this year, there will be competitions for professional as well as amateur bakers for the best cookies.  Attendees will be able to pick and choose the cookies they want to sample and even purchase some to take home.

This event will be held on February 8, 2014.   It will be a wonderful event to take your sweetie to, just before Valentine's Day.

Stay tuned and I'll be bringing you up to date as to how the event is progressing.

To quote Dr. Sheldon Cooper of televisions Big Bang Theory, " interesting factoid:"  Did you know that  people outside of the Youngstown -Pittsburgh area have never heard of the cookie table at weddings ?

It is believed that the tradition began here in Youngstown (or Pittsburgh) in the late 1800s when immigrant families did not have enough money for a wedding cake. Guests would arrive at the reception with cookies and place them on a table as a gift for the bride and groom.  The practice became so established that is hard to imagine attending a wedding in our area without a cookie table.

Because it is unclear whether the practice began in Pittsburgh or Youngstown, the committee is investigating the possibility of having two separate cookie table events, on the same night, one in Youngstown and one in Pittsburgh .  We envision having a video link between the two events so that Youngstown in Pittsburgh can celebrate this tradition together! Hopefully, this will take place in 2015.

Stay tuned for exciting developments about this future event.


I have to share with you work I am doing with a committee of the Tyler History Center and Grow Youngstown, the Mahoning Valley's community supported agriculture entity.  I will post after this about a second committee I am on - both leading up to stellar food events with the goal of beginning to make Youngstown a sought-after tourist destination for the wonderful ethnic food we have available to us through our restaurants and places of worship.

Memorial Meals of the Mahoning Valley:  Homes and Restaurants, will take place on April 27, 2014, at the Tyler History Center . This event will feature classic foods from the greater Youngstown-Warren area such as Brier Hill pizza, pirogi, kosher corned beef, Italian, greens, and perhaps even Strouss' malted's!.  The committee hopes to gather a number of restaurants to provide samples for the event attendees, so no doubt some of your favorite restaurants will be featured.

The committee is also seeking photographs from family collections of memorable meals in their homes . These photographs should be accompanied by a short paragraph describing the the special occasion shown in the photograph.  Additionally, a recipe for one of the dishes shown in the photograph should be included. 

These should be sent via email to .  These photographs, recipes, and narratives will be used the evening of the event as well as on WKBN's morning show.  They will be collated into a digital cookbook , which will be available for purchase that evening. 

My fellow committee members and I believe that Youngstown the best-kept secret in northeastern Ohio , as far as amazing ethnic food goes.  Please mark your calendars now and support this event to bring Youngstown closer to being a food destination.


Well, everyone, I am just about there with the book.  I am currently restructuring it to be more of a memoir on the advice of the University of Akron Press.  I have given myself (and The Press) a deadline of December 1st.  I always work better with a deadline.

I am quite excited that it should be published in the Spring of 2014.  It certainly has been a long haul but my other always said that anything worth having is worth working for.  Guess she was right! :-)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


It has been approximately 14 months since I first submitted my book to the University of Akron Press.  In that time I have had email correspondence with them telling me that they are likely to publish it in the fall of 2013.  This is pretty exciting in that it will be a book that is available for people to purchase for Christmas!  

So many people from the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys  have moved away due to the mills closing and the economy in general, I am hoping that my book, Melting Pot Memories:  A Memoir with Recipes will serve as a link between "Youngstown Present" and "Youngstown Past."  I find that many young people, when asked their ethnicity have either no idea or do not want to acknowledge Italian, Hungarian etc.  That is such a loss for them.  

I find that as I get older, I want to know more about those people who came before me. A lot of this can be blamed on my majoring in history is college but, otherwise, I think it is a natural occurrence for us human beings.   As we age, for me at least, it becomes important to know about my early family members.

Our area is so rich in cultural diversity that it is important to keep the younger generations aware of their heritage.  Groups like Polish Youngstown and the Ethnic Heritage Society are doing a good job but we as individuals need to do more.  Talk to you children and grandchildren about the "good old days," even if they were not that good for our parents and grandparents.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Do you remember attending weddings as a child where the cookie tables seem to go on for miles and miles?  I certainly do!  As a kid, me and my little buddies would take off our shoes sometime during the reception and slide in our socks across the highly polished dance floor.  The adults around us just smiled indulgently as they visited with one another.  Who has a better time at a wedding reception than a small kid?

The Mahoning Valley Historical Society, 325 W. Federal Street in Youngstown, is sponsoring an event titled Cookie Table and Cocktails this Saturday night, February 16th from 7 till 11 pm.  It promises to be the biggest and best cookie table that Youngstown has ever seen.  So far they are at 6,000 cookies and counting!  Tickets are $40 at the door but will provide not only cookies but appetizers, a live band for dancing, an exhibit of antique wedding costumes, bidding on artwork and a Chinese auction.

They are having a cookie baking contest for amateurs as well as professional bakers for "best cookie."  I, of course, am competing with some of the most amazing bakers in the Mahoning Valley.  I cannot decide if I want to make an old-time cookie like Hungarian apricot squares or if I should do a newer confection, a chocolate-peppermint sandwich cookie.  Whatever I decide upon, I am sure I am up against stiff competition!

The cookie table phenomenon is certainly a local, if not regional, custom.  Northeastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania lay claim to its origins but cookie tables at weddings have been found in New York, West Virginia and New Jersey too.  It is only fitting that Y-town hold a celebration in its honor!

So, I hope to see you there Saturday night.  It is for a good cause, all proceeds benefit the Historical Society, and just think of all those cookies!

Thursday, January 17, 2013


This is the time of year that winter decides to come on with a vengeance, gray skies, icy temperatures and, although it is staying lighter longer, overall it is just abysmal.  So, I decided to post a quick soup recipe, one that I dreamed up myself, that will turn any gray day upside down with flavor and hope for sunny, warm days. It takes only minutes and tastes like you've had it on the stove all day. 


Serves 4:

2 cans low sodium chicken broth
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
2 carrots, diced large
1 onion, rough chopped
1 celery rib, thickly sliced
4 oz of bagged spinach
4 oz of mini meatballs*

In a medium sized pot place the chicken broth and cubed chicken. Bring up to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.  Add vegetables and cook until vegetables are fork tender. Add meatballs and cook another 5 minutes.  Add spinach to the pot and cover with a lid.  Cook until spinach is wilted.  Serve immediately with some imported Parmesan or Romano cheese.

(*I get mine at either Jimmy's Italian Imports on Belmont or Badurik's Butcher Block in Mineral Ridge.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


I have a confession to make, I am an avid collector of cookbooks.  I must possess about 200 of them and yet I am always on the lookout for another one.  I want to strongly recommend to anyone interested in Midwest cooking to look for Judith m. Fertig's Prairie Home Cooking.  It features over 400 recipes, ". . .that celebrate the bountiful harvests, creative cooks and comforting foods of the American Heartland." She also includes a paragraph before each recipe that places it in a particular region with a particular immigrant group. She also has included some Native American dishes.  I have read it, like I do most of my cookbooks, like a novel.  It is just that good a read.

Monday, January 7, 2013


If you have not become involved with Polish Youngstown you are missing out on some wonderful food experiences.  I have attended two of their classes, one for making kolachi and one for making jelly filled donuts.  Each was wonderful.  For the month of January they are offering a warming soup class.  Please see below and attend if you can.  You won't be disappointed!

Only a mother's love is warmer than a bowl of hot soup on a cold winter's day. Polska Kuchnia will be teaching three classic Polish soups on January 20. There's BigoĊ›, Poland's national dish and there will be two versions of barszcz: beet and the regional white barszcz served at Easter. Class begins at 11:00, the fee is $25.00 per person and preregistration is required. You can call Tad at 330-427-2752 to learn more and to sign up.

Friday, January 4, 2013

DOWNTON ABBEY a la Youngstown

Mahoning Valley Historical Society - Youngstown, OH
The Arms Family Museum, Wick Avenue, Youngstown, OH

The country is all abuzz about the premier of Downton Abbey this Sunday.  

I remember when there were a few great homes still left on 5th Avenue in Youngstown, all of which had domestic servants.  My Aunt Katie told me that, in the 1930's she had helped train newly arrived young women to go into domestic service in some of these great homes.  I believe she said it was the International Institute at which Katie taught them sewing and mending.  She also taught them how to manage a "mangle," which is a large circular iron.  It was used to press sheets and table linens.  Williams-Sonoma still carry mangles in their catalogues!

These young women would then go into "service" as housekeepers, often first starting  as scullery maids, like Daisy in Downton.  Katie also helped them with their English.  She was a first-generation American and so had been brought up in the American elementary school system.  Although Croatian was spoken at home, Aunt Katie and her sister Liz taught my grandparents to speak better English.

Drive down Fifth Avenue sometime and look at the homes.  There are still some wonderful examples of the Millionaire's Row homes.  The Arms Family Museum, pictured above, is a great place to start to get a flavor of what life was like in these homes.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Happy New Year to all!  It has been over a year since my last post and I have finished THE BOOK!  Yes, my memoir with recipes has been completed and now I can share with you all the ups and downs of getting published!

Since my last post I have been named a community correspondent for the Warren Tribune Chronicle in Warren, Ohio.  This has given me many wonderful opportunities to investigate and report on all the wonderful things going on in our community.

So, please stay tuned as I continue to share recipes and experiences from my childhood in an immigrant neighborhood.  I will also have little stories about all the wonderful cooks and bakers I came to know and love.

Till then,