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TODAY'S PAPER

Who's Cooking: Patti Grabel of Water Mill

Blueberry challah bread pudding as made by Patti Grabel in Water Mill. Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Patti Grabel, a visual artist, lives in Water Mill.

How does your cooking relate to your work? I pride myself on the fact that I love to feed my family and friends and fill my house with familiar smells. The spoon is a beautiful symbol of nurturing, so I use it in my work, exploring what a spoon can do. My upcoming show [at the Chase Edwards Gallery in Bridgehampton, now through Aug. 4] is...

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Patti Grabel, a visual artist, lives in Water Mill.

How does your cooking relate to your work?
I pride myself on the fact that I love to feed my family and friends and fill my house with familiar smells. The spoon is a beautiful symbol of nurturing, so I use it in my work, exploring what a spoon can do. My upcoming show [at the Chase Edwards Gallery in Bridgehampton, now through Aug. 4] is called “Causing a Stir.” The works feature photographic compositions depicting wooden spoons. Each piece is a thread of the narrative, representing nourishment, sensuality, creative expression and more. I’m so grateful for the opportunity, I wanted to give something back. I called City Harvest and we agreed that a portion of the proceeds from the show would go to them.

Where does this recipe come from?
Shabbat dinner at my beloved Nana Norma’s Brooklyn apartment was always celebrated with her homemade challah. We could smell the sweet aroma as soon as we stepped off the elevator.  After dinner, we’d take a large tote and go door to door to collect leftover challah from a few of her dear friends in the building. This was also my Nana’s way of checking in on them and a very loving way to show off her adorable grandchildren. Back in her kitchen, she’d tear up the communal bread and soak it overnight in cream, vanilla, sugar, eggs and butter. In the morning, she would bake her delectable challah bread pudding and we would divide it up when the neighbors came over.

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How have you adapted the recipe?
I always knew what went into her recipe, but I never felt like I quite nailed it, even though I made it over and over again. I’d make it for my kids’ birthdays, when they came home from college. It became my signature dish. I started to play with it. Her recipe had sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. I lightened it up a little, although it’s still pretty rich. But just like when I made her version, I still make mine by feel. Sometimes if the bread is very dry, I need to add more liquid or eggs. And I vary it depending on the season. In the summer I’ll add a cup of fresh blueberries or diced fresh peaches to the bread mixture when it comes out of the refrigerator. For the winter, I like a 1/2 cup of golden raisins soaked in rum or a 1/2 cup of white or semisweet chocolate chips.

Serving suggestions?
You can serve the bread pudding with fresh whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or caramelized apples. For the apples, dice 3 apples, sauté them in butter and mix in 1/8 teaspoon of apple pie spice, some brown sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It’s delicious over the pudding. Add a little vanilla ice cream and it’s heavenly. For a delicious breakfast, serve it with warm maple syrup or strawberry jam.