Monday, May 31, 2010

The High Line

Today, Avram and I ventured to a spot in New York City that up until now had escaped us. The High Line is a public park built on a nearly half mile long elevated rail structure running from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street on Manhattan's West Side. It was originally an elevated freight rail line, which operated from 1934 to 1980. It carried meat to the meatpacking district, agricultural goods to the factories & warehouses of the industrial West Side, and mail to the Post Office.

After it fell into disuse, and was slated for demolition, some very forward thinking people came up with the idea to create an innovative new public space, elevated above the city streets, overlooking the Hudson River and the city skyline, out of what was seemingly a monstrous eyesore.

I especially enjoyed how the designers left remnants of the tracks, which can be seen poking out on occasion from the lush greenery.

The High Line is not quite complete and you can see from this view, the ten block stretch of track that has not yet been landscaped and is not yet accessible to the public. There is also a water feature under construction which should be completed in mid-July.

But by far, my favorite sight on the High Line was this incredible piece of art. It was a painting, made to look like it had been left out to the elements. Not only is it in the process of "disintegrating", but it is "morphing" back into nature. Notice how the stretcher bars that hold the canvas to the frame, are reverting back into tree limbs ... truly incredible and inspired art!


Friday, May 28, 2010

Food Photo Friday - Streuselkuchen (German Crumb Cake)

Last week, in anticipation of a hectic turnaround - with Shavuos over late Thursday night and preparations needing to be made for the upcoming Shabbos meals, I put in for a vacation day from work on Friday.
Little did I know that we would be invited out for the Friday night meal. So what does G6 do when she has a day off and no cooking necessary? Why, I bake of course!

Now don't get me wrong. We've all probably had more than our fair share of dairy products lately, but here I am staring into my refrigerator and seeing all this leftover butter and sour cream just begging to be turned into another delicacy and my oven is still dairy to boot.

So what's on the menu? Why, Streuselkuchen of course!
Steuselkuchen (pronunciation available here), is a traditional German crumb cake, made with a yeast dough and topped with a generous sprinkling of moist and buttery crumbs.

German Yeast Dough

½ cup whole milk (or whatever kind you have in the fridge... )

1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry or rapid–rise yeast (though back in Germany, they never heard of rapid-rise, so I'd be wary....)

¼ cup granulated sugar (German crumb cake dough is not as sweet as the American kind, but don't worry - the crumbs more than compensate :D )

2 ¼ cups all purpose flour, plus more as needed

4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 tablespoon-sized pieces

2 large eggs, at room temperature

Warm the milk (as you would water for challah...). Sprinkle with yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar and let sit for 10 minutes to "proof". Then combine with all the other ingredients and knead well. Let sit covered, until doubled.
Punch it down and press it into 2 buttered (not sprayed with cooking spray) 9" square pans.
Let sit for 20 minutes more.
Spread a generous layer of sour cream all over the top of the dough, taking care to reach all the corners. Sprinkle on crumb topping (recipe follows) and bake at 350º for 30 minutes.

Call all your girlfriends on the phone and invite them over IMMEDIATELY for a "kafeeklatsch"!

Crumb Layer

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon (optional for the Americans - I omit for the most authentic taste)
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix until crumbly. If it clumps together, break apart into crumbs or roll tiny balls. Sprinkle on the cake before baking.

(Now if you like your cake layer thinner, you could probably press the dough into three squares - - - just remember to MAKE MORE CRUMBS! (They're the most important part after all.....)

Samson Raphael Hirsch and Our Times

I am linking a rather lengthly article here, which appeared in 1936 in the monthly journal “Nachlath Z’vi”, which was published by the “Rabbiner Hirsch Gesellschaft” in Frankfurt, Germany. In 1960 it was translated into English and printed in a small, private publication “Forum” in New York. The reader will find this article quite as timely now as it was when first published.

The author, Dr. Maximillian Landau, came from Eastern Europe to Frankfurt-on-the-Main to study at the Samson Raphael Hirsch School and later at the Yeshiva there. Subsequently he completed his Jewish studies at the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin, and graduated from Berlin University, where he eventually became Professor of Literature. After Hitler’s rise to power he emigrated to Israel. Unfortunately he died in a tragic accident late in 1959.

As I stated previously, the article is too lengthly to post in its entirety on this blog, but I will print the first two paragraphs here and you can click on the link above to continue. Those interested in the topic will find it well worth it:

"The stature of Samson Raphael Hirsch has recently become the object of quite lively debate. His spiritual work and its historical significance are being examined critically from various points of view and the former consensus of opinion regarding the merit of his accomplishment has lately been replaced increasingly by attempts to question its meaning for our time or to limit severely the scope of its application in the present day. This critical attitude toward Samson Raphael Hirsch in many Orthodox circles today deserves careful and close scrutiny for it points to an important change in the mentality of German Orthodoxy and requires a basic reexamination of our own attitude to Hirsch.

The reservations regarding Samson Raphael Hirsch’s ideas have been made by various groups and for many different reasons. Yet, they all agree in one respect. They consider a great many of his basic teachings as having been applicable only to circumstances in that particular era in which he lived, and consequently they no longer fully recognize the validity of his precepts for our own day. In fact, even the defenders of Hirsch, when seeking to counter these arguments, sometimes find it expedient to sacrifice some of his theses which appear to them of secondary importance, in order to be in a better position to stress all the more the timeless value of the rest. ..."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday's Wacky Signs - They Found Avram's Car

.... and it's a Porsche no less!
Not exactly a "wacky sign", but it'll have to do.
This was spotted by Moshe and Erica on their way up to Toronto.
Thanks for the photo(s) guys :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Shavuos at Home

... there's nothing like it.....
Come on over for your choice of two cheesecakes.

Z'man Mantan Toroseinu

K'hal Adath Jeshurun (Breuer's), Washington Heights, NY, bedecked once again in floral finery as none other.
Thanks to all the dedicated volunteers who make this happen!

Wishing all my readers a wonderful Shavuos Yom Tov.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Shavuos at KAJ Breuer's

I thought that those of you who are relatively new to this blog might enjoy seeing this video that I made last year depicting what is involved in putting up Shavuos decorations at Khal Adath Jeshurun. It is an effort that spans two days and many more volunteers.

Those that have already viewed it might like a second look.
Those who are local might like to pop in on erev Yom Tov and either lend a hand or get a close up look of what goes on.
Good Yom Tov to all.

Of course every year there are some new design changes. I hope to post photos of the actual finished product on erev Yom Tov.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Food Photo Friday - Leftovers

To say that my family isn't big on leftovers is like saying Bill Gates has a bit of money put away for retirement.

Unfortunately, I'm not terribly big on throwing food away either, so I need to "repackage" my leftovers so my kinfolk don't even realize that it is what Avram affectionately refers to as "Sholom Aleichem Food".

This chicken dish accomplishes the goal. Leftover chicken tends to be dry and somewhat unappealing. I cube it up, add it to a sautee of TONS of yummy veggies (my favorites are onions, celery and baby bella mushrooms). I then deglaze with some mushroom soup base, some "parve" milk, some water and at the last minute, I throw in some frozen peas. I serve it over rice and voilà!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Guess Who's Coming To Choir Rehearsal

An opportunity to come and observe the choir of K'hal Adath Jeshurun as they prepare weekly for their sacred duty always proves to be interesting.

My intent this week was to provide you with a clip or two of the special niggunim for Shavuos as they were rehearsed.

As the choir members trickled in, the first comment I received was from a choir member who exclaimed, "What? You had to come and record us in a week when we can't shave?!??!". (Point taken. Everybody ignore the scruff.)

Then another choir member arrives and hands me a lovely bottle of Cabernet. I'm still unsure as to whether this was because he was our Shabbos guest last week or because he was hoping I would make a concerted effort to capture his "good side"....

Please keep in mind once again, that my rehearsal videos are raw footage. There is real work being done and my recordings therefore capture moments of unpreparedness and constructive criticisms (I've edited out much of the non-constructive witticisms but rest assured, the chuckle these fast and furious repartees gave me was responsible for a good portion of the "camera shake").

(Technical note: I was unable to get these wide screen recordings to fit well onto my blog template. You might want to click on them and watch them directly on YouTube. In fact, I've created a playlist here.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Food Photo Friday - Mothers Day Edition

Back in 2005, Joey worked in a pizza store. He invited me to come up and visit him at work on Mother's Day.
Here is an albeit blurry photo of what he had prepared for me ("Mom" spelled out in mushrooms...).
Sentimental sons are *awesome*!!!

Happy Mother's Day! (There... I said it...)

I've discussed my opinion on Mother's Day quite freely in the past.

I find those who seek to discredit Mother's Day on religious grounds ("Every day is Mother's Day in the frum circles!") to be misguided at best. In fact, there is a precedent in Judaism for designating times of commemoration for certain events, regardless of the fact that that we may be mandated to be cognizant of them daily (think Pesach and Yetzias Mitzrayim). {See also a very cogent discussion on this topic here}

Mother's Day is a not a religious holiday. It is a national day of "hakoras hatov", if you will.
One needn't buy into the rampant commercialism, but one needn't "throw out the baby with the bathwater" either.

I have therefore decided to join in with Women One-2-One's “Six Words on Why Moms Matter” campaign in order to honor moms everywhere and to raise awareness for the struggles they face every day.

Celebrities, politicians and every day people have all joined in with this effort and I'm going to open up this opportunity to my readers as well.

The task is simple enough: Tell me why moms matter in six words.
Here's mine - Mothers' unconditional love can accomplish anything!
Go to it! :D

Oh, and "Happy Mother's Day"!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Appliance Repairs? I'm Not A "Fan"

I'm sure that if I was posting this on one of those "heimishe" news sites, all my commenters would be sure to know (and of course tell me) the exact meaning of the troubles that my appliances encountered over the past few days. (Lack of tznius in Klal Yisroel... Obama...)
But I'm at a loss....
You see - both my air conditioner AND my refrigerator malfunctioned over the weekend. Both appliances are less than two years old... virtually new by my standards, and both had fan blades that refused to rotate.
Am I getting some sort of divine message? And if so, what does it mean?
I eagerly await your clever interpretations.