Another edition of one of my side projects for 2014 - Tovah Cooks. I'm taking the man's favorite childhood recipes of his mom's and updating them. Throwing in a few stories of her life too.
Although Tovah passed away July 2013, this isn't a gloomy series - it's one of the ways we're remembering and celebrating an amazing woman, mom, wife and grandmother. She'd approve. She'd laugh too. And have a few more stories to add.
There was NOTHING vanilla about Tovah. For someone who came from nothing - less than nothing - she lived a creative and fun life. She was up for anything, anytime.
That neighborhood she grew up in where she came from nothing? It's called Strathcona and last week I went there for an evening event of creative women getting together to hear some speakers.
In her time it was a 'hood of scrappy immigrants all trying to make a go of it. Everyone looked out for each other - the Italians helped the Jews who helped the Chinese who then helped the Italians. After high school you went to work - university wasn't for this crowd, you had to help support your family.
And you left as soon as you could afford to move. Success meant moving on up to the middle class 'hoods.
Think tiny, turn of the century clapboard houses with corner groceries.
Being adjacent to the poorest neighborhood in Canada, the Downtown Eastside, Strathcona became an undesirable location for decades. That event I went to? Never would have happened ten years ago.
Now? Couples and families are "homesteading" - renovating the run down clapboard houses and repurposing the corner groceries. I wouldn't call it gentrifying - it's too mixed a 'hood for that term and it's too cliched for the positive non-commercial change that has happened. Independent restaurants, shops and groceries - chains aren't yet ready to take a chance.
It's now back to being a 'hood of all sorts of people who are again looking out for each other. Except this time they aren't leaving as soon as they can - they are staying.
Tovah's shake & bake chicken was one her standbys in the weekday supper rotation.
She created her own version of the processed, boxed concoction and I created my own. Instead of oregano, onion powder, thyme and sage I used cumin, coriander, turmeric and cinnamon. Both recipes use paprika. And lots of salt and pepper.
Shake & Bake Chicken
(print recipe here)
8 chicken legs
salt & pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
Preheat over to 400F
Put the chicken legs in a large bowl and generously sprinkle with salt & pepper. More than you think. Toss with olive oil til coated.
Take a zippered plastic bag and fill with bread crumbs, spices and more salt & pepper. Taste a teeny bit and adjust spices accordingly. Add four legs at a time, zip the bag shut and toss til coated. Place the legs on a foil-covered baking sheet. Repeat with the other four chicken legs.
Bake 20 minutes and turn over the chicken legs. Continue baking for another 20 minutes or until browned to your liking.
In a few weeks I'll have another version of a Tovah classic in the series Tovah Cooks. And more stories too of course.