One day during a visit to Martha’s Vineyard many years ago, we took our kids to a pier and, while I was distracted for a nano-second, my then 14-month old took off at a run straight towards a boat about 8 feet away. Just as I grabbed him as he was climbing over the side, the owner came around the corner and I found myself looking straight into the eyes of Billy Joel! When my kid wriggled free, Joel picked him up and, with a big grin, handed him to me. I apologized, saying I had no idea that it was his boat and neither did my toddler. He laughed and said it was perfectly OK, and then excused himself to go down the stairs.
A year later we took the kids to the Science Museum in Boston and this same child managed to escape again — yes he was the kid who needed a dozen sets of eyes on him at all times. He was a bit faster, but his siblings were a bit older, so four of us were off and running. I was closest and reached out to grab his arm — and missed. He pushed through two people waiting in a line. The gentleman, seeing what was happening, grabbed my runaway pre-schooler. My kid was nonplussed and thought it was a game! So he tried to break free and told the man to catch him! That gentleman was Alan Alda! In neither instance, did I have anything intelligent to say — I was too stunned!
Fast forward. About eight years later, that same kid had the opportunity to play a piano piece for Daniel Barenboim at an event honoring the pianist in Boston. My son struck up a conversation with him and actually included me! Barenboim said he was hungry. We talked for about favorite foods for 10 minutes until he had to go into the reception. He thanked me for reminding him of his old favorite foods, told my son to keep playing, and left.
One day, I began to wonder what celebrities ate. Oprah Winfrey talked a lot about food. So did others, but what about the Jewish celebrities. Did their grandmothers make the same kind of chicken soup that mine did? Did they use schmaltz? Did they observe Shabbat or make latkes at Chanukah? Did Streisand love blintzes? Did Spielberg eat knishes? What did Kirk Douglas’s mother make for him when he was Issur Danielovitch Demsky? Do Ben and Jerry really love ice cream?
I realize these are not earth shattering, life altering questions but might be just a little bit of fun. In 2001, the Milwaukee Jewish Day School came out with “The Jewish Celebrity Cookbook.” They had connections! It was filled with about 125 recipes from A-list celebrities including Ed Asner, Barbara Walters, Don Rickles, Beverly Sills and many more. Other recipes featured here appeared in “From Soup to Nosh,” published by the Solomon Schechter Day School in Newton, Mass. in 1985 and also out of print.
Here are some of my favorite celebrities’ recipes.
Art Buchwald Baked Potato A La Caviar (Dairy)
This is verbatim from Buchwald. (From Soup to Nosh)
1 jar kosher caviar, the best you can afford, chilled
1 baked potato
Take a baked potato out of the oven and slice 1/4 off the long top half, then scoop out the white part of the potato, leaving the skin intact. Whip the white part up with a little milk until it gets nice and creamy, then put it back in the skin.
Make a little hole in the center, then take the caviar out of the icebox, open it carefully and put as much as you want to into the hole. Then take a dab of sour cream and pit it on top of the caviar and sprinkle a few chives on the sour cream.
Pour a shot of vodka and proceed to eat. This dish is especially good when you’re tired and don’t want to prepare a full meal. You can eat it every day and never get tired of it. It has a lot of protein and vitamins in it, and doctors recommend it! Serves 1.
The following two recipes are adapted from The Jewish Celebrity Cookbook, Milwaukee Jewish Day School, 2001. The book is no longer in print, but you can find used copies online.
Ed Asner’s Balsamic Roasted New Potatoes (Pareve)
I made these with 25 year old Balsamic vinegar that was a gift. It was delicious! (The Jewish Celebrity Cookbook)
2 to 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs. small Red Bliss or Yukon Gold Potatoes, cut in half
1 Tbsp. garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp. onion, finely grated or minced
1 Tbsp. shallots, finely minced
1/2 to 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, finely minced
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. rosemary leaves, whole
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 cup excellent, thick, aged balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray or coat with oil. Set aside.
Heat the two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and add the garlic, onions and shallots. Stir and cook until fragrant. Add the potatoes and mix well to coat. Add the thyme, rosemary and nutmeg and mix well. Scrape the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and spread into a single layer.
Place in the lower third of the oven and roast until the potatoes are golden and tender, about 25 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle with the vinegar. Move the potatoes around to coat with the vinegar. Place back in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes until the vinegar begins to caramelize and sizzle a bit. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 6 to 8.
Senator Ted Kenney’s Cape Cod Fish Chowder (Dairy)
This is the Ted Kennedy family favorite. When he sent this he told us that little had changed since his grandmother made it. It is delicious and a thinner, less caloric, chowder than you might be used to. (From Soup to Nosh)
2 lbs. haddock
2 Tbsp. shortening (butter)
2 onions, sliced
1 cup celery, chopped
4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 fresh bay leaf, finely minced
1 quart whole milk
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Place the haddock in a large pot and add 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Drain the water, reserving the liquid. Carefully check the fish for any bones once it has cooled a bit.
Heat the 2 tablespoons of shortening or butter in a large soup pot. Add the onions and cook until golden. Add the celery and potatoes and mix well. Flake the fish into chunks and add to the pot.
Measure the fish broth and add enough boiling water to make three cups. Add to the fish and simmer, covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and add the milk and butter. Simmer an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8.
Jimmy Carter’s Plains Special Cheese Ring (Dairy)
Former President Carter sent this recipe along with a lovely note wishing us good luck with our fundraising efforts and including a little story about his family and their long history with the plains of America. (From Soup to Nosh)
1 lb. grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup nuts, peanuts or walnuts, but you can use any kind you like
1 cup mayonnaise’1 small onion finely grated
Pepper, to taste
Dash cayenne pepper
Fruit preserves, optional
Mix all ingredients together, except preserves and mold into desired shape. Refrigerate until well chilled. Fill the center with any preserves you like such as apricot or strawberry. Serve with crackers or veggies or cocktail rye bread.
Beverly Sills’ Dutch Baby Pancakes (Dairy)
I have made this for a Sunday morning breakfast. Just enough for two. (The Jewish Celebrity Cookbook)
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup whole milk or almond, soy or oat milk
1/2 tsp, pure vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
Pure maple syrup, fruit compote, fresh fruit, or confectioner’s sugar, for serving
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place an 8-inch skillet in the freezer to chill. Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk to blend. Add the rest of the ingredients except the butter and whisk until smooth.
Remove the skillet from the freezer and pour in the melted butter. Quickly swirl the pan to coat the bottom. Pour the batter into the pan and place in the oven. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until golden and puffed. Remove from the oven and, using a thin spatula, transfer to a plate. Cut in half and move half to another plate. Garnish as desired. Serves 2.