Archive for April, 2012

Apr 12 2012

Seward Park – A Historic Landmark of the Lower East Side

Spring is in the air,
and Seward Park is a favorite Lower East Side destination.

Seward Park - April 2012

Old and young find their way to historic Seward Park, located just a few blocks from the Museum at Eldridge Street. A space to relax on a bench, practice tai chi aside vibrant pink tulips or to challenge your friends to a race across the monkey bars, Seward Park is – and always was – a refuge from the crowded city streets.

Yet, public parks and green spaces have not always been part of the Lower East Side’s landscape. Seward Park opened on October 17, 1903 and was the first permanent city-funded playground in the United States. Prior to the park’s opening, people living on the Lower East Side were without an outdoor public recreation space, making the transition for new immigrants coming from steitel life in rural Eastern Europe even more challenging.

Seward Park in the early 20th century
Photo Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

The following excerpt from Hungry Hearts, a collection of stories written by Polish-American author Anzia Yezierska, whose own family immigrated to the Lower East Side around the turn of the 20th century, gives us some insight:

“I looked about the narrow streets of squeezed-in stores and houses, ragged clothes, dirty bedding oozing out of the windows, ash-cans and garbage-cans cluttering the sidewalks. A vague sadness pressed down my heart – the first doubt of America.

Game of Ring Toss in Seward Park - 1904
Photo Credit: New York Public Library Digital Gallery

‘Where are the green fields and open spaces in America?’ cried my heart. ‘Where is the golden country of my dreams?’ … All about me was the hardness of brick and stone, the stinking smells of crowded poverty… ‘Oi veh!’ my mother cried in dismay. ‘Where’s the sunshine in America?’”

Seward Park provided the community with a place to escape the tenements and changed the lives of thousands of families and children growing up on the Lower East Side. Like the neighborhood, Seward Park has undergone transformations with the changing times, but one thing has stayed constant: the laughter and bustle of kids and families enjoying the space.


Jungle Gym in Seward Park - April 2012

Click here to visit the City of New York Parks and Recreation site and learn more about the history of public parks and playgrounds in the five boroughs.

We’d love to hear your favorite spring-time spots in the city!

7 responses so far

Apr 03 2012

Memory-filled Recipes for Your Passover Seder

Published by under Family,Food,Holiday,Passover,Recipe

Looking for something new

to try for this year’s Passover Seder?

Here are a few recipe recommendations from the staff at The Museum at Eldridge Street!

1. Gami’s Chopped Liver

Courtesy of Sarah Verity, Director of Visitor Services
My grandma never measures or writes down her recipes so these amounts aren’t exact – just my best guess as to what we use every year.
  • 1 pound chicken livers
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 6 hardboiled eggs
  • Olive or vegetable oil
  • Salt
1) In a large pan or skillet, cook half the onions in oil until they are golden. Remove from pan and set aside.
2) In the same pan, cook livers over medium heat until they are cooked through.
3) In batches, blend together cooked liver, sautéed onions, raw onions and hard boiled eggs in the food processor or using a hand grinder. Be careful not to over-blend if you use the food processor!
4) Add salt to taste. Refrigerate over night.
5) Season with salt before serving.

Sarah and Gami

Chopped liver has always been a staple at our holiday meals since I was a kid. Of course as a child I thought it was disgusting and didn’t understand why all the adults went crazy for it. It used to be made each holiday by my grandpa (Papa), who loved liver so much he would order liver and onions in a restaurant (which I also always thought was gross). After he
passed away in 1995, my grandma (Gami) took over making the chopped liver. I don’t remember how old I was when I finally decided to taste it, but it was delicious! Over the years, we decided that Gami needed to pick a successor to learn all her recipes, so I became the designated chopped liver apprentice. For the past few years, my favorite part of Passover prep has been making the chopped liver together. When we first started I was still too grossed out by the chicken livers to cook them myself so I made her do that part, but now I can do the whole process myself (with her supervision and taste testing of course!) We even use the hand grinder that belonged to her mother (my great-grandmother Sarah, who I am named for). I love feeling connected to my ancestors through this very old, clunky kitchen tool while spending quality time with my Gami, and I look forward to someday passing it down to my own children and grandchildren.

2. Passover Chicken – ala Silver Palate Cookbook

Recommended by Sharon Stein, Visitor Services Associate
Passover Chicken – photo courtsey of Simpleyrecipes.com
  • 2 chickens cut into 8 pieces each. Murray’s or organic especially.
  • 1/2 cup each of olive oil and good red wine vinegar.
  • 8 or more clovers of garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup of capers and some of the juice
  • 1 small jar (you choose size) of stuffed green olives
  • 1 or more cups of dried fruit. apricots and prunes or any other dried
  • fruit
  • 1/4 cup oregano
  • Salt & pepper
  • 6 bay leaves
1) Combine all of above in big ziplock bag and marinate turning frequently
a minimum of 1 night or over 2 or 3 days. The more you marinate the
tastier it will get.
2) Arrange chicken in pans with all ingredients. Best if you put dark meat
in one pan, white in another. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Add white
wine to pan as well. Cook at 350 for at least an hour basting a few
times. Serve with pan gravy.
Recipe can be doubled, etc. easily. Great leftovers…if any.
Your house will smell heavenly.

3. Carrot Souffle from Koshercooking.com

Courtesy of Hanna Griff-Sleven, Director of Cultural Programs
I first had this soufflé when I lived in Jackson, Mississippi. I got there just before Pesach, and one of the women I worked with who knew I loved to cook gave me this recipe. I am not a big carrot lover, so I was not at first impressed. Then, I had it at a seder I was invited to and couldn’t get enough. It’s delicious, almost sweet enough to be a dessert.
  • 2lb fresh carrots, boiled until soft
  • 6 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 6TBS matzoh meal
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 sticks butter, melted
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Topping (mix together):
Place carrots and eggs into food processor & puree. Add next 5 ingredients and process until smooth. Bake in greased 9×13 Pyrex pan at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Add topping and bake for 5-10 minutes more.
Can be made a day in advance.

4. Matzah Candy from the Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking by Marcy Goldman (1998)

Recommended by Sarah Verity, Director of Visitor Services
I love matzah candy!
  • 12 matzo crackers

    Courtney Making Matzah Candy at Home

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 (12 ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
Directions
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line two baking sheets
with aluminum foil. Place the matzo crackers in a single layer on the
lined baking sheets, breaking to fit, if necessary.
Bring the butter and brown sugar to a boil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until thick and smooth, about 3 minutes. Pour the hot sugar mixture over the matzo, and spread evenly with a heat proof spatula.
Place the caramel topped matzo in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Return
pans to oven to melt chocolate, about 1 minute. Smooth melted chocolate
to completely cover the caramel. Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts.
Chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes, or until set. Break into small
pieces to serve.

Chag Sameach from the Museum at Eldridge Street! Let us know what are your favorite Passover food recipes and memories

2 responses so far

Apr 02 2012

Passover Food Landmarks of the Lower East Side

Amy and Hanna in front of Streit's

Dim Sum, hand-pulled noodles and dumplings are a few of the food attractions of our neighborhood, but last Sunday visitors flocked to Eldridge Street for a completely different culinary experience: our annual Passover Nosh n’ Stroll.  Amy Stein-Milford, the Museum’s Deputy Director, and Hanna Griff-Sleven, Director of Cultural Programs, walked people through the streets of the Lower East Side, visiting food establishments that have been Passover favorites of the Jewish Community here for generations.


Nosh n' Strollers tasting hand-ground horseradish at The Pickle Guys

#1. The Pickle Guys

The Nosh n’ Stroll began with a brief history of the Eldridge Street Synagogue, and from there visitors followed the smell of fresh horseradish to the Pickle Guys, located just a few blocks away on Essex Street. Following the Eastern European tradition of letting the pickles sit in salt brine with garlic, spices, and no preservatives, the Pickle Guys offer an array of tasty treats, bringing their patrons back to the days of pushcarts and pickle barrels. As a pickler myself, I recommend the pickled pineapple! (Just be warned, this tangy treat can become addictive!)

#2. Vanished Eateries like Gertel’s Bakery

Gertel’s Bakery used to sell shmura matzoh, the delicious, round hand-baked stuff. The former site of Gertel’s is now an empty lot on Hester Street (pictured here). As Amy pointed out, it has left a literal hole in the community.

Schapiro's Kosher Wine

#3. Shapiro’s Winery The dynamic duo not only led us to local shops that are in the midst of Passover prep, but pointed out others that are no longer in business, but have still left their mark on the neighborhood.  The sign for Schapiro’s Kosher Wine can still be seen from the street and is a reminder of the changing times (and of many a person’s first drunken seder experience).

#4. Economy Candy

We recommend their chocolate-covered macaroons!

#5. Streit’s Bakery

Our stroll came to an end at Streit’s Bakery, which has provided Passover staples since 1925. Before even entering the bakery, the smell of fresh matzah (which Judy, the Education Director, and I realized smells remarkably similar to popcorn!) fills the air. As soon as you step into Streit’s, you are surrounded by Passover goodies: macaroons, candies and my personal favorite, chocolate covered matzah!  Amidst the flow of Passover shoppers, you can even see the matzah coming straight out of the oven. What better way to get our Passover preparation started than with a little nosh of warm, fresh matzah!

Click on the following link to see Matzah Coming Fresh Out of the Oven at Streit’s!

\What are your favorite Lower East Side food landmarks – Passover-themed or otherwise?

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