Thursday, March 17, 2011

Celebrating Our Jewish Grandmothers

Faye Horowitz
My grandmother would have turned 100 years old this year.
I used to joke that she was some kind of spy. But the truth is I wish I knew more about her.

A few years ago my cousin dug out papers from when my grandmother came to the United States on a ship from London. She was 10 months old. The spy theory grew because her name was spelled different ways on all of her papers. She was Frannie, Fagle  and Faye, the name I knew her buy growing up. Her maiden name was spelled differently too – Kittay and Kittaje.

Like many grandmothers, she was my earliest cooking influence. She was strictly kosher. She brought her own food when she came to visit our house. I remember that she threw out a dish once when my father washed it for her with non kosher soap. She said it was Traf – no longer kosher.

Her recipes are all lost. My mother doesn't think she had ever written any of them down. The one dish I remember my grandmother would bring to our house was her meatballs. I would nibble at them, which was pretty impressive for a little kid who was an incredibly picky eater.

My grandmother is the reason why my mother doesn't cook. She was a slave to the kitchen. My mother told me once she didn’t want to be like that. And she never was.

I’m certain my grandmother is responsible for my obsession with chocolate. She always had a Hershey Bar in her purse. She would break off pieces and snack on it through out the day. When she came to visit she would bring heavy, dense frosted brownies that I think couldn’t come from anywhere else than the kosher bakeries in her Bronx neighborhood. She would bring me Hershey Kisses too. Those were my favorite. I’ll even admit that HersheyKiss was my profile name when I met my husband on Jdate.

My grandmother died when I was in college. She had been sick for years and didn’t remember much at the end. She thought her husband was still alive and was angry that he never came to visit. Watching her made me never want to grow old.

In honor of my grandmother's 100th birthday, I'm posting my favorite brownie recipe. I have yet to come across a recipe for the dense frosted brownies my grandmother used to bring to our house. But these brownies are really rich, easy to make, and always impress a crowd. The trick is letting them cool and set over night before serving.

courtesy of

Supernatural Brownies
another recipe by Nick Malgieri,
Director of the baking program at the Institute of Culinary Education


2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter, more for pan and parchment paper
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or 3/4 cup whole walnuts, optional.

Butter a 13-by-9-inch baking pan and line with buttered parchment paper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In top of a double boiler set over barely simmering water, or on low power in a microwave, melt butter and chocolate together. Cool slightly.

Whisk eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in salt, sugars and vanilla.

Whisk in chocolate mixture. Fold in flour just until combined. If using chopped walnuts, stir them in. Pour batter into prepared pan. If using whole walnuts, arrange on top of batter. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until shiny and beginning to crack on top. Cool in pan on rack.

Yield: 15 large or 24 small brownies.

Note: For best flavor, bake 1 day before serving, let cool and store, tightly wrapped.