Recipe For Jack’s Prizmik

-Eggplants: shiny and firm, however many you want (prizmik freezes well) and two really meaty good sized red peppers per eggplant.

-I bought mine at Safeway.                                                                                                                         My great grandmother no doubt went to the open market, I picture her with a basket on her arm .

-My Garlic is on the counter ready to crush.                                                                                   Did his crowded ship reek of pungent allium seasoned sausage?

-Wine vinegar, oil (he used safflower), salt, sugar, cayenne  from my cupboard                                                                                                                                              Was he too dazed after Ellis island to notice the “find-anything-you -need “pushcarts as he made his way to a Chicago bound train and his waiting older brother ?

-I was 22 the last time we made prizmik. My grandfather Jack was 13 when he left Odessa in 1904, the next chosen, second oldest son sent by his family to escape the oncoming pogram.


I don’t know why he didn’t share more stories and how I wish, wish, wish I had asked more questions, but the last time we made prizmik together we talked as we chopped and stirred and tasted.

“Dolly” ( he never used my name, just Dolly in his Russian accent), give the vegetables a little touch–careful so you shouldn’t burn yourself. ( After an hour or so in a 350 oven I guessed that) Soft? Good. Now into that nice wooden bowl and put the cloth over them so they should steam.”                                                                                              “Jack, were you scared all alone on the ship?”                                                                                 “No Dolly, excited. I should know I would never see them again? Good, cool enough, now lets peel and chop.”

The skins slip easily off the vegetables and we carefully save the pepper liquor when we scrape the seeds. And then we chop, not stopping until little squares of brown and red are almost a paste but still with recognizable shape.

“ Did you know English, Jack?”

Garlic minced finely, start with one fat clove, then a taste.

“ Neh, just Russian and Yiddish, not a word when I left, but I learned enough on the ship to get where I needed to go.”

Now the fun part: A slug of oil, stir, taste–it should just glisten the vegetables. A healthy chug of vinegar, enough for a bite but not a pucker. Salt …not too much at first, but more as you go, it soaks it up

“ Did you like Chicago Jack? Did you make friends at school?”                                          “School, Dolly? that was not for me anymore. I worked in our little family candy and cigar store”

Sugar, use your hand to grab some and sprinkle it. Taste, taste, stir taste. Hot pepper, a tiny bit for me, he liked more authority. Stir, taste carefully.

“But Jack, you are always reading and now you do the books for the Coronado,” “So, new? You can only learn in school? Enough talk now, pay attention. Careful not so much salt, you can always add more”

Taste, more vinegar, taste a bit more oil, taste, what happened to the garlic–chop more–add, taste, add, stir, taste, and finally,

AHHH, just right                                                                                                                                   Sadly done


12 thoughts on “Recipe For Jack’s Prizmik

  1. My grandmother and I were close and she lived with my family most of my childhood. She had many recipes she made by feel or memory and when I was an early adult I asked her to write some of them down for me. Her reply was that they were easy and I could do them on my own, but she did write a few down. I rarely use her recipes heavy with lard and lacking spices I love, but the heart of her cooking I like to think I’ve kept.


    1. Nope, just you. Let me know if you try it. It is actually a fall kind of thing when the eggplants and peppers are plentiful but I’ve made small batches any time The craving hits. Thanks for the inspiration. It was fun to weave storylines. By the way the finished product should be tart tangy, almost sweet sour with a bit of zip,salt and a garlicy finish. Great on crackers or rye bread.


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