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Lessons From a Not-So-Typical Jewish Grandma

Traveling around promoting Jewish Cooking Boot Camp, my mom and I have been fortunate to meet many, many people who love to share their stories and recipes with us. And almost everyone has the same comment: "My mother/grandmother/aunt made a … Read More

By / October 1, 2009


Traveling around promoting Jewish Cooking Boot Camp, my mom and I have been fortunate to meet many, many people who love to share their stories and recipes with us. And almost everyone has the same comment: "My mother/grandmother/aunt made a similar honey cake/matzo ball/brisket but shenever wrote down the recipe! It was ‘a little of this, a little of that.’"

Hearing these stories only reinforced how rare and special it is that my mom and I were able to amass such a huge collection of traditional recipes. And the real reason we were able to do that was my grandmother, Edith.

Edith was far from a typical Jewish grandmother. She loved fashion and style almost as much as she loved cooking. She was the first person I knew to own MAC makeup in the late 1980s, brought back from a trip to New York City. She referred to her friends as"the dinosaurs." She once convinced a tailor to make my prom dress so short it would have made Paris and Lindsay blush. And I would often come home from work to find my roommate Zoë on the phone with her, discussing the previous night’s episode of "Sex & The City."

She was a true individual and her style, her attitude, and even her cooking reflected that. People are always asking where the recipes came from and, truth be told, most came from Edith. They may have originated with her mother or grandmotheror even friends, but it was her tweaking and taste – and ultimately her writing things down – that gave us the basics for the book.

Even more than in her recipes, I like to think her spirit lives on in the book as well. I wanted to create a book that would appeal to those who go to temple every week as well as those who have never seen the inside of a shul. And I wanted people to see that it’s ok to do things your own way, in your own style, with your own spin and personality – much like my grandma. Holidays are about more than following rules. I always like to say I wrote the book not to tell people how to celebrate, but to give them the tools to do it on their own. And I think Edith would have loved that.

In honor of Edith (and my last post) I’m happy to share her signature cake. Try it – it’sreally simple, and absolutely amazing.

Edith’s Orange Cake Serves: 8-10 Preparation Time: 10 minutes Cooking Time: 25 minutes

(1) 18.25 oz. package orange cake mix (1) 3.4 oz package instant vanilla pudding 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1 cup orange juice

4 extra-large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Grease a 10-inch Bundt pan using oil or cooking spray or Baker’s Joy (I prefer Baker’s Joy for baking)

3. Mix together all of the ingredients and beat for 2 minutes.

4. Pour the batter into the Bundt pan and bake at 350° for 50 to 60 minutes. Cake is done when golden and bounces back when touched.

5. When the cake is completely cool, pour the glaze over the top.

Orange Glaze

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

3 1/2 tablespoons orange juice

Mix the confectioners’ sugar with the orange juice, and pour the glaze over the cooled cake.

TIP: You can substitute milk for the orange juice to make an unflavored glaze.

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