Groucho Miller's Russian Blintzes

Submitted by Bruce Miller

Harold “Groucho” Miller, my grandfather and founder of Groucho’s Deli, was the son of Russian immigrants who arrived in America by 1899. One recipe that never made it to Groucho’s Deli menu was learned by Groucho Miller during a stint as a Vaudeville emcee in Philadelphia (1920s). He befriended a Russian/Jewish comedian who taught him one of his favorite recipes -- Russian blintzes! Blintzes are a time-consuming and labor-intensive recipe. They were available for sale at Miller’s Deli on opening day in 1940 (a year later the name was changed to Groucho’s Deli), for a very limited time. They had to be made at my grandparents house in Shandon (because of the cooking process). You can see the blintzes in the refrigerated display case in this opening day picture. Although it was a classic Jewish/Russian delicacy, it was a tough sell in Columbia, South Carolina. It was soon discontinued in Miller’s, but was always savored at their house on Shabbat.

To learn more about Bruce’s grandparents, Groucho and Ethel Miller, and parents, Ivan and Faye Miller, click here and here. For more history about Groucho's, please see this entry in the CJHI web-based tour and Groucho's website.

Photo is and remains property of Groucho’s Franchise Systems LLC

Photo is and remains property of Groucho’s Franchise Systems LLC

  • Sour cream to pass around

  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon to sprinkle on (optional)

  • Zest of 1 and 1/2 lemons

  • 1/2 cup or more sugar, to taste

  • 1 lb curd cheese

  • 1/2 lb cream cheese

  • 2-3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

  • Confectioners' sugar to sprinkle on (optional)

  • 3/4 cup currants or raisins soaked in a little rum for 1/2 hour (optional)

  • A few drops of vanilla extract (optional)

  • 3 egg yolks

  • 1/2 Tablespoon oil plus more for greasing the pan

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 egg

  • 2/3 cup water

  • 1 cup flour

  • 1 1/4 cups milk

 

Add the milk and water to the flour gradually, beating vigorously. Add the egg, salt and oil. Beat the batter until smooth. Leave to rest for 1-2 hours.

Heat a nonstick frying pan–with a bottom not wider than 8 inches (20 cm)–and grease very lightly with oil. Pour about half a ladleful of batter into the frying pan and move the pan around so the entire surface is covered with batter. The batter and the resulting pancake should be thin. As soon as the pancake is slightly browned and detached, turn it over with a spatula and cook a moment only on the other side. Continue until all the batter is used and put the pancakes in a pile.

For the filling, blend the curd and cream cheese with the sugar, lemon zest, egg yolks, and vanilla, if you like, in a food processor. Then stir in the raisins, if using.

Take each pancake, 1 at a time, put 2 heaping tablespoons of filling on the bottom half, fold the edge of the pancake over the filling, tuck in the sides so that it is trapped, and roll up into a slim roll. Place the rolls side by side in a greased oven dish. Sprinkle with butter and bake in a preheated 375 F (190 C) oven for 20 minutes.

Serve hot, dusted with confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon, if you like, and pass the sour cream for people to help themselves.

Heidi's Challah

Submitted by Heidi Lovit

Challah, braided yeast bread, is traditional to have for weekly Shabbat and High Holiday meals.  Many years ago I took on the responsibility for being the bread maker for my family.  I have to admit, I changed recipes several times since my original recipe called for 9 eggs.  Challah is considered an egg bread so I thought that was normal until I became conscious of increased cholesterol from that many eggs in one recipe. Several recipes called for more yeast and less eggs and I finally found the perfect combination for my recipe.  I do think one of the secrets is adding an extra tablespoon of honey to give it a sweet taste and it also makes the texture slightly more moist. 

Growing up in Columbia, my family would come together every Friday night for a Shabbat dinner.  At that time we probably had challah made from a bakery because I don’t remember my mother baking bread.  I learned how to make brisket and meatballs with cabbage and other Jewish foods from my mom, but not bread. My mother’s sister, Phyllis Firetag Hyman, shared her recipe with me when I was in high school and I started baking challahs for the High Holidays.  From then on, no more bakery challahs for our family.  I would always make sure we had challah for Shabbats and every holiday.  I even made extra round challahs with raisins for Rosh Hashanah to share with our family friends, the Levinsons, Polinskys and Levines and a few others.  I even remember one time going over to Gloria Rittenberg’s home to teach her how to make Challah.  When my children were younger I would get them involved in the mixing, kneading and braiding.  When the kids moved away, I always made it a point to send them each a fresh challah for the holidays if they could not make it home.  I am happy to say that my daughter, Morgan, still follows my recipe and bakes challah today.  Every time she does, I get a beautiful photo of her fresh baked bread.  She loves to share with her friends and coworkers.  Sharing recipes with friends is always fun, but when you share a traditional Jewish recipe with others of different faiths it helps to teach about our culture.  Sally Patterson, a Presbyterian and a friend for over 40 years, now makes challah for her family.  

Beth Shalom Synagogue has a fundraiser every fall, called Bubbie’s Food Extravaganza. The very first year in 2009, it was Bubbie’s Bake-Off, a competition for the best recipes of brisket, kugels, chicken soup and challah. I entered my challah recipe and won first place.  For the past seven years I have baked hundreds of challahs in the synagogue kitchen for the annual Bubbie’s Food Extravaganza.  This has also given me the opportunity to teach dozens of women in our synagogue this beautiful and traditional food art of kneading dough and braiding bread.  This year the event is scheduled for Sunday, November 12th. Come by and purchase several loaves of bread, they freeze perfectly for months.     

Making Heidi's Challah at the Beth Shalom Synagogue.

Making Heidi's Challah at the Beth Shalom Synagogue.

Makes 7-8 loaves.

  • 4 cups warm water
  • 4 packages yeast (1 ounce total or 3 tbls)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 13-14 cups bread flour
  • 3 eggs (save one for brushing loafs)
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Poppy seeds

Dissolve yeast in water and add sugar and salt. Let stand until bubbly. Put 7 cups flour in large bowl. Combine oil and two beaten eggs, add 2 tablespoons honey to the mixture. Add to flour. Slowly mix in yeast mixture, making sure all flour is mixed in. (This can be done by hand with a wooden spoon or in an extra-large mixer with dough hook attachment.) Add 5 to 6 more cups flour slowly and mix well until slight gooey but easy to manage. (Hand kneading is best.) Transfer ball of dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place to rise for 2 hours. Knead and divide into seven balls to make seven challahs. Take each ball, divide it into three or four strands and braid, making sure you pinch and tuck the ends under the loaf. While kneading and braiding, keep flour on counter surface to keep dough from sticking. Place braided challahs on pan that is lightly sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Let rise for another 30 minutes to an hour. Brush top with egg wash (one beaten egg should cover all seven challahs). Sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes until golden brown.

 

Grandma Ida's Lukshen Kugel

Submitted by Lyssa Kligman Harvey

My grandmother, Ida Lomansky Kligman (1901-1984) cooked Jewish dishes like a woman from the “old country.” She was born in Poland and came to America with her younger sister, Bluma. She met my grandfather, Louis Kligman, and they married in 1925.

I remember going to synagogue on Friday nights at the Marion St. synagogue and then having Shabbat dinner with them in their home on Kilbourne Rd. and in their duplex on Bull St. Grandma made chicken in a pot, brisket and of course for the holidays she made this authentic kugel!

  • 8 oz. of wide flat noodles uncooked
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • ½  cup of sugar
  • ¾ stick of butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of apricot jam
  • Raisins (optional) 

Boil noodles and drain. Add ¾ cup of butter. Cream the sugar and cream cheese. Beat eggs and add to the mixture. Add the milk and apricot jam slowly. Mix all together. Put in a 9 x 12 buttered Pyrex pan. Add the topping.

Topping:

  • 2-3 cups of crushed Corn Flakes
  • 1/4/cup of sugar
  • cinnamon

Bake 45 minutes- 1 hour at 350.

Serves 6-8

Freezes well.

Rachel's Collards

Submitted by Rachel Gordin Barnett

How I (Finally) Learned to Love Collards

When I was a kid growing up in a small Southern town, the staple lunch was fried chicken, rice and collards. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I could really appreciate those collards. Many Southern vegetable recipes call for pork for seasoning, but in my mother’s semi-Kosher Jewish kitchen, that wasn’t happening. So, to flavor the collards, a pinch of sugar, salt, pepper and butter were used.  I have “skinnied” my recipe now to use olive oil and chicken or vegetable broth to flavor. Italian seasoning and diced tomatoes adds a bit more “gourmet” taste.

  • 16 oz. bag of fresh collards (or one bunch – but will need to be thoroughly cleaned and chopped)
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken (or vegetable) broth
  • 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (or in season - fresh tomatoes work)
  • Small onion, diced
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Sauté chopped onion in olive oil until soft.  Add fresh collards, diced tomatoes, chicken (or vegetable broth), Italian seasoning, pinch of sugar, S & P. Give a good stir. Cover and cook on medium until vegetables are soft. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Why Kugels and Collards?

Food can tell a story. Delicious aromas, the taste of a special spice, a china pattern used for a holiday dinner can elicit memories, take us back to a particular time and place, and define a moment in history for us.

Why a blog devoted specifically to Jewish cooking memories? Because, our responses to sights, smells, tastes can help us tell our stories. Even today, when my kids come home and a brisket is cooking, they immediately know it is their grandmother Mimi’s brisket recipe. From those wonderful aromas wafting through our house, stories about Mimi’s Rosh Hashana dinners come pouring out. Great memories abound.

Columbia, South Carolina, is a town that relishes its Southern food culture. This focus on food is multiplied in the Southern Jewish home.  The “Southern” part of that identity was often embodied in the local cultures that define Southern cooking, among them African-American influences in traditional Southern cooking (minus the pork in vegetables!) combined with traditional Jewish recipes, many from our immigrant great-grandparents and grandparents.  A “Southern Jewish” food culture emerged. It is not unusual to have collard greens – a Southern staple that has its roots in the African-American culture - alongside fried chicken, “Jewish” brisket, tsimmes, rice, black-eye peas and the omnipresent kugel (noodle pudding) at a dinner table! Kugels and collards co-exist on the Southern Jewish table easily and are symbolic of the intertwining of our food cultures.

Kugels and Collards was born out of our interest in studying the history of these merging Southern and Jewish elements in our food ways in Columbia, South Carolina. Our hope is through recipes and memories we can collect, preserve, and share this special history with our readers.