No Bathing on Wednesdays

A story about my father’s parents that I have loved that I originally wrote for Mishpacha magazine over a decade ago. Hope you like it.

She was known as a devoted mother of her only son.  The world revolved around him.  Yet when it came to Wednesday nights, under no circumstances, would she allow bathing in the Horowitz’s household.  Now that may not seem such a big deal when there was maybe only one child in question, but please bear in mind this was a house above their seed and tool outlet store on the main street that sold proceeds from their farm.

 

It was also a household packed room to room from the many immigrants visiting for short or not so short time periods. Reb Horowitz was always finding lost “relatives”, his former ‘landsman’, whom he personally sponsored to America.  The future did not look bright for really any one in the 1930’s but especially those who found themselves citizens or rather Jews of Galinca. This historical piece of land was treated like a bargaining chip as it was passed back and forth between Russia and Poland. My grandfather felt he had been privileged to settle at such an auspicious time in the land of opportunity for the stated purpose to help those who were in a less fortunate state. All called him “Pop”. Like a father he made it his personal responsibility to see that each one of his “relatives” not only made it to the shores of the United States, but also found a home and a form of employment.

 

Accepting my grandfather’s hand in marriage late in life did not only mean my grandmother created a home for his three sons who were still living with him, after his first wife died, but it came with an understanding that she was his partner in his chesed projects. She faithfully worked beside her husband sending food to all the newcomers. Yet my grandmother’s true fulfillment came when she found she would also have her own child, my father, at such a late age.

 

But Wednesday night’s bath rule held strong.  It was my grandmother’s task to made Gefitle fish for all the families on Thursday morning.  And where did the carp live before she started this early morning chore? In the bathtub.

 

Gefitle Fish

When I first got married, I diligently when to the market to get a fresh fish and unlike my grandmother brought it freshly killed.  Yet this also proved to be too upsetting.  Buying from the butcher grounded fish and asking for his suggestions has improved my well being.

Active time: ½ hour

Total Time: almost 3 hours

Serving Portions: 24

4 stalks celery cut in quarters

3 onions cut in 6 wedges

6 carrots slice on the bias

8 cups water or enough to cover fish pars with 1 inch to spare

Bones of fish

1 Tbls salt

½ Tbls black pepper

1 Tbls sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a large soup pot and cover.  Bring to a boil.

 

Meanwhile prepare the fish.

3 lbs (1 1/3 kilo) carp meat grounded

1-½ lbs (¾kilo) whitefish meat grounded

1-½ lbs (¾kilo) yellow pike meat grounded

6 onions

2 1/2 Tbls salt

6 eggs

3 Tbls sugar

½ -1 cup matzah meal

¾ cup water

1 ¼ tsp pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl so that it holds together.  With Wet hands form the fish into fat oval shaped balls and gingerly add them into the boiling stock.

 

After all the balls are added and the water is boiling, lower the fire to a simmer.  Cook for 2 hours.  Remove the fish with a slotted spoon including the onions and carrots and chill.Serve with the carrots and horseradish or mayonnaise.

 

 Salmon with Persimmon peach salsa

Active time: 25 min

Total time: 40 min

Serves 6

½ cup Italian breadcrumbs

½ cup pecans chopped fine

Salt and pepper to taste

3 Tbls oil

6 salmon fillets

 

Lay a baking parchment on baking trays. Pre heat oven 350*F (180* C).

Mix breadcrumbs and pecans in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place oil in separate bowl.  Drizzle each side of fish with oil and sprinkle each side of fish with breadcrumb mixture. Transfer to baking sheet and bake about 25-30 minutes until the fish is golden brown and flakes easily.

 

Persimmon peach salsa

Active time: 15 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Serves: 6

3 persimmons peeled diced medium about 1 cup

3 Tbsp peach jam

1 medium scallion, peeled minced

¼ medium red sweet pepper diced small about 1/3 cup

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tbls fresh mint minced

Mix persimmon fruit spread of the above and season with salt and pepper.

Sharon’s Nile Perch

I had a neighbor who is a true gourmet cook.  She bakes and cooks with such patience and precision. Yet she was still able to give me this recipe that is not too daunting.

Active time: 25 minutes

Total time: almost 3 hours

Serves: 6-8

1 kilo Nile perch (Any type of meaty fish fillet may be used)

½ cup lemon juice with 2 cups water

2 1/2 Tbls Mayonnaise

1 tsp prepared yellow mustard

3 Tbls White wine

2 Tbls Oil

1 tsp fresh Parsley chopped

1 ½ tsp garlic minced

¼ tsp Black pepper

 

Soak fish in bottled lemon juice (diluted with water) for 1 – 1 ½ hours. Rinse off and cut into portion slices. Put into a greased Pyrex pan.

 

Mix well in a medium bowl the mayonnaise, mustard, wine, oil and the seasonings. Pour it over the fish. Bake for ½ hour covered. Take off cover and bake a few minutes longer and until golden in color.

 

Italian Fish filets with Marina Sauce

 

Marina Sauce

2 Tbls olive oil

4 Tbls fresh parsley chopped

2 cups canned tomatoes chopped coarsely

Pinch black pepper

 

Heat the olive oil in a pan.  Add the garlic and parsley until it turns golden about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and liquid and the pepper. Stir occasionally.

 

Fish

2 Tbls olive oil

2 garlic cloves minced

4 Tbls fresh parsley chopped

2 fillets

6 small capers

4 fish fillets (meaty such as perch)

 

Heat another pan and add the oil. Sauté the garlic, parsley, anchovies and capers until the garlic turns a golden about 2 minutes. Add the fish filets flesh side down for about 2 minutes. Turn it over and cook it on the other side over a low heat for about 6 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish). The fish is done when it easily flakes

 

Pour the sauce over the fish and serve.

 

Tip:  Soaking fish in diluted lemon juice for at least an hour I takes away the “fishy “ smell.

 

Tip: When purchasing fresh fish, the eyes should be clear and shiny and the scales should cling tightly to the skin.  Look for bright pink or red gills.

 

Tip: Choose fillets that are moist and free of dry or brown parts around the edges.

 

Tip: The rule of thumb of cooking fish is 10 minutes to every inch or 5-7 minutes per cm.   Measure the fish at its thickest point. Add 5 minutes to the total cooking time for fish wrapped in foil or covered in sauce.  Generally fish is done when it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

 

Tip: When broiling fish place the seasoned fish on a cooking sheet greased with olive oil. For sautéing fish place the side chosen for presentation down first ( the fleshy  side or the nicer skin).

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