Love and Religion

Interfaith Consultation for Jews and their Families

One Couple, Two Faiths, Endless Flavor

Plantain latkes at Chanukah. Arroz y habichuelas (rice and beans) on the Rosh Hashanah table next to Big Mama Tillie’s roast brisket. Flan de queso crema (cream cheese custard) for Shavuot. While those might be run-of-the-mill Jewish holiday dishes in some parts of the world, it was completely unheard of in my Ashkenazi upbringing in Silver Spring, Maryland. Of course, that is before I met Luis. Seventeen years ago, I dragged myself off of my sofa in my apartment on Capitol Hill to go to a party in Ballston. Why? Because a friend told me that a cute Jewish guy was going to be there. I met the Jewish guy. Eh, he wasn’t for me. But the person who really impressed me was his roommate, Luis, a Puerto Rican man who spoke with kindness and humor in heavily accented English. We started dating with few expectations about where the relationship would go, though after a few months, it became clear that this was It. However, Luis wasn’t Jewish, and I wouldn’t ask him to convert. What would this mean for my Jewish identity—and the eventual children I hoped to have and raise as Conservative Jews? Dr. Marion Usher’s new book, […] Read More >

“One Couple, Two Faiths” Book Tour

One Couple, Two Faiths hits the road! Save the date for the following events. We hope to see you! Friday, July 27, 2018 at 6pm: Shabbat Services and Dinner Mad River Jewish Community, The Bridges, Warren, VT Weekend of November 2, 2018: Temple B’nai Israel, 7199 Tristan Drive, Easton, MD Sunday, November 18, 2018: Author Presentation on Parent Education, Temple Beth Israel, Skokie, IL Winter 2019: Hadassah, Neshama Chapter, Besthesda, MD Thursday, March 25, 2019: Charleston Jewish Community Without Walls, Charleston, SC Read More >
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Shavuot: Ruth Follows Naomi

Ruth follows Naomi. What an interesting dynamic. That someone is so respected and revered that we place our destiny in their hands. That what they feel and think matters to us so much that we might suspend our own individual course to be influence by this other person. So it goes with Naomi and Ruth. Naomi tries to send Ruth back to her family, and she refuses. We could say that Ruth knew a good thing. Her mother-in-law was wise and caring, and Ruth trusted that Naomi would take care of her. This is familiar to me since I had a similar relationship with my own mother-in-law, Ruth Usher. She was an intellectual, fourth-generation American woman who was educated at Smith College and became a social worker who derived great satisfaction from her career. With her encouragement, I, too, became a social worker and eventually went on to get my doctorate in the field. My identification with her served me well. Ruth Usher stood in sharp contrast to my own mother who came to Canada at age 13 from Esterpolia in the Ukraine, was street smart, self-educated, worked as a bookkeeper before she was married and valued being a stay-at-home […] Read More >

Thanksgiving Menu

Hot crab and crackers Eggs and caviar Mushrooms in phyllo tarts Turkey Andouille sausage stuffing and gravy Cranberry sauce (NYT recipe) Mashed potatoes, Scalloped Potatoes (Ina Garten’s recipe) Bourbon sweet potatoes or Audrey’s sweet potato and apple casserole Brussels sprouts with lardons Creamed onions Corn soufflé Marinated vegetables: asparagus, hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, haricots verts, and cucumbers Pumpkin muffins Desserts Pecan pie Pear almond tart Apple pie Thanksgiving cut-out cookies Chocolate flat log Chocolate fudge cake Read More >

Nana’s Sugar Cookies

Tess Hazel Usher: Today Nana and I are going to make cookies. Nana made two different kinds of dough so we could have a taste test. First we got the dough out of the fridge. Next, I rolled out half a portion of dough. My favorite cookie cutters are the Jewish star, the menorah, the turkey, the dreidel, the apple, and the snowman. For Thanksgivukkah we included the dreidel and the turkey. I put sprinkles in the first batch of cookies. Nana bought lots of decorating icing so we used them to decorate all the rest of the cookies. We like the brown sugar recipe better. Cooking with Nana is fun because she lets me eat the cookies. She also lets me eat the raw dough. Please don’t tell my parents!!!! ½ cup butter 1 cup brown sugar 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 cups flour ¼ teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking powder Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add egg and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add flour, salt, and baking powder. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Dust the counter with flour, roll […] Read More >

Sesame Salmon

This recipe comes from my sister and is originally from Karen Lee, a wonderful cook in New York. 6 salmon fillets Marinade 3 tablespoons sesame seeds ½ cup dry sherry 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce (use tamari to make this gluten-free) 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil 2 tablespoons minced ginger ¾ cup sliced scallions 1 tablespoon minced garlic Wash the salmon fillets and put them in a large roasting pan, skin side down. Combine all ingredients for marinade. Spread marinade over the fish in a large ovenproof dish. Let it marinade for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator. Broil 4 inches from the top of the oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven to 450 degrees F and bake for 10 minutes. You can make this a day ahead, refrigerate, and serve at room temperature. Serves 6 Read More >

Pecan Pie

In 1977, for my first Thanksgiving in the U.S., I served sour coleslaw, baked beans with hot dogs,  Montreal’s famous smoked turkey and a pecan pie. The pie recipe was from my days in Canada and used maple syrup, a Quebec favorite. I really missed the mark with everything that day except this pie that I still make every Thanksgiving. 3 eggs 2/3 cup sugar ½ teaspoon salt 1/3 cup butter, melted ½ cup corn syrup ½ cup maple syrup 1 cup pecan halves 1 9-inch pie shell, unbaked Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs, sugar, salt, butter, corn syrup, and maple syrup together. Put pecans evenly in bottom of pie shell and pour in syrupy mixture. Bake until filling is set and pastry is browned, about 50 minutes. Cool before serving. 10–12 servings Read More >

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

My mother always made meatballs for Passover. For years I actually forgot about them. Then I thought, What wonderful comfort food to be included in my totally Ashkenazi Passover menu! This recipe is a compilation of ingredients from recipes in my old and tried recipe books from Montreal and my early days of marriage. They have names like The Naomi Cook Book, Kinnereth Cook Book and A Treasure for My Daughter and really only get used when I am cooking for Jewish holidays. Sauce 2–3 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 onions, diced 1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon pepper 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped, liquid reserved 1 14-ounce can tomato sauce 1 6-ounce can ginger ale 2 tablespoons brown sugar Juice of 1 lemon Meatballs 2 pounds hamburger meat 3 tablespoons matzo meal 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 onions, grated 1 teaspoon white sugar 1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon black pepper Beginning by making the sauce: heat the oil in a large pot and add diced onions. Add salt and pepper and cook until golden. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. While the sauce is coming to a boil, mix together all the ingredients for […] Read More >

Oranges with Glazed Peel in Grand Marnier Syrup

6 large navel oranges About ½ cup water 2 tablespoons honey 1½ cups granulated sugar ¼ cup orange juice ¼ cup Grand Marnier Remove the thin orange part of the peel from three of the oranges and cut into very thin julienne strips. Set aside oranges. Place the peel in a small saucepan, barely cover with water, bring to a boil, then simmer 10 minutes. Drain and run cold water over the peel. Place ½ cup water, honey, and sugar in another saucepan. Heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Continue to boil until the syrup registers 230 degrees on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from the heat, add the blanched peel, and stir gently. Let the peel stand in the syrup for 30 minutes, then add the orange juice and Grand Marnier. Remove the remainder of the peel and pith from all of the oranges. Slice each orange into three or more slices and place in a shallow serving dish. Top with the glazed peel and spoon the syrup over the oranges. Chill well before serving, spooning the syrup over occasionally. 6 servings Read More >

Corn Pudding

A fail-safe recipe, this has become a Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah must-have in my family. We never have any leftovers of this dish. My husband loves to eat the scraps at the bottom of the dish before he washes it. ½ stick butter (4 tablespoons) ½ cup sugar 5 eggs ½ cup flour (can be gluten-free) 1 teaspoon baking powder 2 15¼-ounce cans corn niblets, drained 2 14¾-ounce cans creamed corn 1 4-ounce can roasted diced green chiles (optional) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9-by-12-inch glass baking dish or ceramic casserole. In a bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric beater. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the flour and the baking powder, and beat again just to completely combine ingredients. With a large spoon, stir in corn and, if using, green chiles. Pour evenly into the baking dish. Bake for 1 hour or until top is a crusty golden brown. This dish can be frozen after baking and cooling, then defrosted and warmed for 15 to 20 minutes loosely covered with foil. 8–10 servings Read More >