At popular vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy, veggies may just be the new bacon.
Amanda Cohen is the visionary chef and owner of Dirt Candy — of one of the most highly-regarded vegetarian restaurants in New York City. Cohen opened Dirt Candy seven years ago to critical acclaim, and has recently relocated to spacious new digs on Allen Street in the heart of the Lower East Side, a foodie mecca and home to old-school Jewish classics like Katz’s, Russ & Daughters, Yona Schimmel and the Pickle Guys.
I spoke with Amanda about a wide range of topics, including her move to the new space, her favorite Jewish food memories, the importance of family and fun and how, in the right hands, vegetables might just be the new bacon.*
Schlissell challah made by Melinda Strauss, whose site, Kitchen Tested, offers a recipe and how-to. Photograph by Melinda Strauss
Bread has been on my mind lately…
It seems there’s nothing like a week of absence to make my love of complex carbohydrates grow stronger. As we begin counting until Shavuot, many will think of dairy products as the food of the season. But it is bread, in fact, which links the two holidays. This Sabbath in particular, the first Shabbat after Passover, has a special — and controversial — bread associated with it.
Each stage of the Exodus story has its own kind of bread: Passover begins with the consumption of matzo, the classic symbol of the holiday, and the wandering Israelites in the desert were fed by manna, or “bread from heaven.” Once they entered the Land of Israel, though, Passover marked the beginning of the barley harvest. The Israelites were forbidden to eat the newly harvested grain until the first sheaf of it (omer) had been offered to God by the priests (Leviticus 23:14).
From that day, the Israelites were commanded to count seven weeks until the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot, for which they must offer two loaves of bread (Leviticus 23:17) — the only offering that includes leaven (chametz), normally banned from the altar (Exodus 34:25). Thus we are now in the middle of a single, unified period of transition, from Pesah through the Omer to Shavuot, from grain to bread, from Exodus through the wilderness to Sinai.
Purist pastry chef Jeffrey Finkelstein of Hof Kelsten with his glorious challah.
When Jeffrey Finkelstein was a kid in Montreal, he’d savor the soft, caraway-spiked rye bread at Moishe’s, the legendary downtown steakhouse where he’d ask to celebrate his birthdays.
Today, his burgeoning wholesale bakery, Hof Kelsten, is making Moishe’s bread — “our signature loaf, rye with caraway,” he beams. “Kimmel bread, the bread of my childhood. But instead of canola, we’re using olive oil. We’re using honey instead of sugar. And we’re using 30% rye — the old rye breads actually had no rye.”
Such precision has helped propel Finkelstein to the top of Montreal’s happening artisan-food scene. Along with a bustling retail counter, Hof Kelsten encompasses a busy wholesale and retail operation with 15 full-time staff, who bake hundreds of loaves daily for more than 30 top-end Montreal restaurants. “Hof Kelsten makes Montreal’s best bread,” raved the CultMtl blog.
That’s no small feat in a city with a deeply entrenched, highly tribal bakery culture, and where arguments over bagel bakeries can rend families. “Montreal’s the toughest market in the world to open a bakery outside of Paris,” Finkelstein says. “But very few bakeries in the world have Michelin-trained types with soldier mentalities going into the trade.”
If you’ve been eating kosher Parmesan for the past five years, writes Haaretz, “chances are it’s not been the real thing.” The real Parmesan — a trademark protected both by Italian law and European Union regulations — “specifically refers to Parmigiano-Reggiano, a hard cheese produced in northern Italy according to a centuries-old tradition.” But two Italian producers will soon start producing the real thing.
The Bertinelli cheese factory announced on its website that its first kosher Parmigiano-Reggiano will be ready at the end of 2015. Caseificio Colla, meanwhile, told Italian Jewish mag Pagine Ebraiche that its first kosher formaggi will hit shelves by October. The crucial issue in the production of kosher Parmigiano-Reggiano lies in the rennet — a substance necessary to turn the milk into a hard cheese — which must come from animals slaughtered according to kosher rules.
….Breaking news from NBC’s Today show! “While some may still stereotype Jewish cuisine as the stuff of delis — a mile-high pastrami sandwiches on rye and bagels with lox — a new generation of cooks is showing the world how versatile it is.” New Orleans chef Alon Shaya is one of the kitchen stars leading the charge, Today reports.
When we hear the word Passover, we think about matzo, matzo brei, and matzo balls, but before the destruction of the Second Temple Jews associated Passover both with matzo and with barley.
Barley was a critical foundation of our ancestors’ diets due to its resilience in the searing desert heat, and since it was the major grain of the time, it is not surprising that the Torah mentions it frequently. All of the references make it clear that barley was a staple of the ancient diet whose preservation was critical. The Book of Exodus tells of a pounding rain of hailstones “by which the barley was smitten,” one of the ten plagues brought on the Egyptians about which we read at the Seder. The Prophet Ezekiel paid penance to God by eating a diet relying on barley. When King David’s son, Absalom, ordered his servants to burn Joab’s fields, it was barley that was set afire. And, seven weeks after Passover, on the Festival of Shavuot, we read in the Book of Ruth that King David’s great-grandmother gleaned barley from kinsman Boaz’s fields.
This salad is fun, delicious and bursts with genuine Mexican flavors and textures. Photograph by Tami Ganeles-Weiser/The Weiser Kitchen
For the salad:
½ cup amaranth
2½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
4 teaspoons salt, divided
4 cups water
3 medium (about 2 ¼ pounds total) frozen or fresh yucca, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice (about 3 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium (about 3 pounds) butternut squash, or small Mexican calabaza (pumpkin), peeled and cut into ½-inch dice (about 2½ cups)
2 small jicama, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
1 medium ripe papaya, peeled and seeded and cut into ½ -inch dice
2 cubanelle peppers, stems and seeds removed, cut into ½ -inch dice
½ small bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 medium bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
12 to 15 large fresh mint leaves, chiffonade
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
For the dressing:
2 heads roasted garlic (see Kitchen Tip below)
Juice and zest of one large lime
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1) Combine the amaranth, stock and ½ teaspoon of the salt in a small saucepan and heat over high until it comes to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover and stir well. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 to 45 minutes. Drain any excess stock and set aside to cool. This can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.
2) Combine the water and 2 teaspoons of the salt in a medium-sized saucepan set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Add the yucca, stir, and cook for 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove from the water and place on paper towels or in a strainer to drain and dry.
3) Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone cooking pads. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over each sheet. Arrange the yucca in a single layer on one and the squash on the other. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon salt each over the yucca and squash and turn with tongs gently to coat. Bake, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes, until both the yucca and butternut squash are tender when pierced with a fork and the edges are browned. Remove from the oven and set aside.
4) Make the dressing: Combine the roasted garlic, lime juice and zest, salt and black pepper in the bowl of a food processor or blender and process until smooth. With the processor or blender running, drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture is thoroughly blended. 5) Combine the amaranth, squash, yucca, jicama,papaya, cubanelle pepper, cilantro, parsley and mint in a large bowl. Drizzle with the dressing and toss gently to coat. Add the tomatoes and toss. Serve immediately.
To roast 2 whole heads of garlic, preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare a sheet of foil for each head and coat each with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Slice off and discard the root end of 1 head of garlic and place it, cut-side-down, on 1 sheet of foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Wrap the aluminum foil around the garlic. Repeat with the remaining head of garlic and 1 tablespoon oil. Place both parcels on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour, until the garlic is very soft and caramelized. Unwrap and squeeze out the clove from the heads to remove the softened, roasted garlic. Squeeze it into a small container. If you are not using it immediately, it will keep covered, in the refrigerator for 2 days.
Tami Ganeles-Weiser is a food anthropologist, trained chef, recipe developer, writer and founder of TheWeiserKitchen.com.(http://www.TheWeiserKitchen.com
Photograph by Tami Ganeles-Weiser/The Weiser Kitchen
Move over, quinoa? Amaranth, its kissing cousin, is technically kosher for Passover… maybe. Or maybe not.
Amaranth is actually a category of about 60 different plant species that grow between five and eight feet tall, produce vibrantly colorful ornamental flowers, sprout copious amounts of wildly colored edible leaves and contain tens of thousand of nutritious, edible seeds. A member of the chard and spinach family, its cooked leaves taste like those other soft, leafy greens. Amaranth seeds, neither a grain nor a cereal, can be ground into flour. Amaranth has been widely used in traditional diets in parts of Mexico and throughout the Americas for centuries.
Amaranth has gone by many names through history: amaranto, ataco, coyolito, quihuicha sangorache and huauti. The seeds, as well as the greens, were a vital part of Aztec life in what is now Mexico, and the plants were domesticated long before the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés arrived in the New World.
Photograph by Tami Ganeles-Weiser/The Weiser Kitchen
Who says super-healthy food can’t be super delicious? Nutrition-packed amaranth gets a flavor boost from a chocolate swirl made with honey, cocoa, and cinnamon and a burst of flavor and texture from dried mango and banana and toasted almonds.
For the chocolate swirl:
½ cup honey
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of kosher salt
For the porridge:
1½ cups water, plus more hot water as needed
¾ cup amaranth seeds
2 teaspoons coconut oil or non-dairy, non-hydrogenated margarine
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup minced dried mango
¼ cup dehydrated banana, minced
1 cup toasted almond pieces (see Kitchen Tip below)
1) Make the chocolate swirl: Combine the honey, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Mix well with a spoon and set aside.
2) Make the porridge: Combine the water and amaranth in a small saucepan set over medium heat, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes, for 25 to 30 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the mixture is creamy. If the water is completely absorbed before the amaranth is cooked, add hot water as needed and continue to simmer until it is soft, but not falling apart.
3) Add the coconut oil or margarine and salt and stir well. Add the dried mango and bananas and stir to incorporate. Top with a generous drizzle of the chocolate swirl. Divide between serving bowls, garnish with the toasted almonds and serve immediately.
Kitchen Tip You can find toasted or roasted nuts in most supermarkets, but if you can’t, or if you prefer to roast your own, try this: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the nuts on it in a single layer and roast for 8 to 10 minutes, mixing the nuts with a long-handled spoon twice during roasting. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Tami Ganeles-Weiser is a food anthropologist, trained chef, recipe developer, writer and founder of TheWeiserKitchen.com.
Photograph by Tami Ganeles-Weiser/The Weiser Kitchen
The Aztecs didn’t just grow and eat amaranth; they also used it in their religious practices. Today these candies are found all over Mexico. And yes, you can substitute an equal amount of toasted sesame seeds — it is delicious either way.
Makes 35 to 40 pieces
¾ cup amaranth seeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
⅓ cup chopped almonds
¼ cup raisins
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon honey
2⅔ cups dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1) Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick vegetable oil spray and line it with parchment paper. Spray a spatula with a coating of nonstick vegetable oil spray and set aside.
2) Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the amaranth and toast, shaking the pan, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the some of the kernels pop. Transfer to a mixing bowl. (Some of the kernels will continue to pop.) Return the pan to the heat and when hot, add the sesame seeds and cook, shaking the pan for about 1 minute. Transfer to the bowl with the amaranth. Repeat with the almonds, transfer them to the bowl with the amaranth and reserve the pan. Add the raisins to the amaranth mixture and stir well.
3) Return the pan to the heat, add the water, honey, brown sugar and vanilla and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the syrup reaches the hard crack stage (see Kitchen Tip below) and a candy thermometer inserted into it reads 300° F to 310° F. Work carefully, as sugar at this temperature can cause painful burns.
4) Pour the candy over the amaranth mixture using the prepared spatula to fully coat it. Gently pour the mixture into the prepared sheet pan and using an offset spatula, spread out the mixture evenly to a thickness of ¼ to ½ inch. Sprinkle with salt.
5) When cool to the touch, use a very sharp knife to cut the candy into 1- by 1½-inch pieces or shards (or size of your choice), or break the sheet into pieces by hand. Allow to cool completely.
Making candy often requires the preparation of a sugar syrup. Sugar syrup goes through several stages as it cooks, its internal temperature rises, its water content evaporates and its sugar concentrates. The temperature of the syrup will determine its characteristics once you stop cooking it. Handle hot sugar carefully, as it can cause painful burns.
• Thread stage: 230° F to 235° F, the syrup is viscous and forms gooey threads when a bit is dropped into water.
• Soft-ball stage: 235° F to 240° F, the syrup forms a squishy ball when a bit is dropped in water.
• Firm-ball stage: 245° F to 250° F, the syrup forms a firm ball that can still be mashed when a bit is dropped in water.
• Hard-ball stage: 250° F to 265° F, the syrup forms a harder ball when a bit is dropped in water, though it is still somewhat malleable.
• Soft-crack stage: 270° F to 290° F, the syrup forms hard threads that will bend before they break when a bit is dropped in water.
• Hard-crack stage: 300° F to 310° F, the syrup forms hard, brittle threads when a bit is dropped in water.
Tami Ganeles-Weiser is a food anthropologist, trained chef, recipe developer, writer and founder of TheWeiserKitchen.com.
(Reuters) — Sabra voluntarily recalled 30,000 cases of its classic hummus nationwide over possible Listeria contamination, federal health officials and the company said on Wednesday.
The recall follows warnings from U.S. health officials over the weekend against eating any products from a Blue Bell Creameries’ Oklahoma ice cream plant, which has temporarily closed because of possible Listeria contamination.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Wednesday that a routine sample of Sabra hummus collected from a store last month tested positive for the Listeria monocytogenes. It added that there was no evidence the hummus caused anyone to become ill.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria. It primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns and those with compromised immune systems and can lead to death.
Earlier this month, Kansas health officials said three people died between January 2014 and January 2015 after being sickened by Listeriosis at a hospital where Blue Bell products were served. They were in the hospital for other reasons.
Baby goats enjoy a moment of snuggling in the Adamah barnyard. Photograph by Meredith Cohen.
I don’t know many people who are immune to the cuteness of baby goats.
They are fluffy, and tiny, and gangly, and wobbly. They like to climb on top of things and then immediately leap off, limbs flying. They make hilarious noises, and will literally climb all over you if you let them. Vegans and omnivores, city folk and farmers alike, all seem to agree: Baby goats are the cutest.
Here at Adamah in Falls Village, Connecticut, excitement has turned to joy with the arrival of this year’s baby goats.
A newborn kid (baby goat) is an incredible thing to observe. As soon as it is born, its mother will begin to lick it clean until it is transformed from a gloopy mess into a tiny puff ball of cuteness. Then, within moments of arriving into the world, the kid will attempt to stand on its own for the first time (with lots of heart-breaking and adorable tumbles along the way).
Toloache chef Julian Medina.
It’s a safe bet that you’ll be ready to dive back into the world of leavened bread on Sunday, but you might consider extending Passover through brunch. Because you’ve never had Passsover food like the stuff being served that morning at Chef Julian Medina’s Toloache Thompson in New York’s West Village.
Medina will be cooking up a post-Passover Mexican-Jewish meal to raise money for Living With Dignity, an Art Foundation initiative that provides mobility tools to elders. This weekend’s brunch is the follow-up to the organization’s first benefit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in 2013.
Photograph by Zivar Amrami
In her new cookbook, “Modern Jewish Cooking,” Leah Koenig keeps one foot planted in the traditional Jewish canon while confidently guiding her reader into new territory — a place where seasonality, inter-cultural fusion and creativity reign. Like an abstact painter who learned the rules of classical drawing and painting before breaking them all, Koenig, a Forward writer and contributing editor, came to this cookbook project with a deep understanding of classic Jewish foods, but chose to push the boundaries of the cuisine in a way that’s entirely fresh.
In a recent conversation, Koenig told me, “We are sort of a DIY and playlist-shuffle generation, where we have all the building blocks but we like to play around with things, bring in other cultures; global influences.”
Koenig said that she put each recipe in the book through a kind of a test, asking herself, “Would my grandmother recognize this? And would my 21-year-old cousin also think it was interesting? If the dish achieves both,” she said, “then it’s good to go.”
Our conversation about “Modern Jewish Cooking” follows, along with a couple of matzo-based recipes from the book to get you through the final days of Passover…
Photograph by Sang An
Over the last decade, matzo lasagna has quickly and emphatically entered the Passover mainstream. Its rise has partly to do with the need it fills for a substantive main dish to serve during the holiday’s weeklong bread ban. The other reason for its popularity? It’s delicious, and remarkably so.
Softened matzo provides a convincingly noodle-like base for the rich ricotta and mozzarella, tangy marinara, and tender spinach threaded throughout the layers. I like to imagine that, fifty years from now, my future children and grandchildren will swear that Passover is not Passover without spinach-matzo lasagna.
Photograph by Sang An
Breakfast can be tough going during Passover. With toast, bagels, cereal, waffles, muffins, oatmeal and pretty much every other starchy breakfast staple off the menu, the options are seriously limited. Enter this granola.
The crumbled matzo that replaces the typical rolled oats gets toasty and crisp in the oven, and is then tossed with chopped walnuts, shredded coconut and raisins. I won’t promise that it will become your new year-round breakfast. (Very little can compare with a perfect stack of pancakes.) But I can promise that it will make Passover infinitely sweeter.
Experimental performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson hosted the second Seder at Russ & Daughters Cafe last weekend. Photograph courtesy of Russ & Daughers
Lou Reed was reportedly a devoted fan of Russ & Daughters smoked fish. So we thought it was a heimishe touch that the late rock star’s widow, Laurie Anderson, hosted this year’s second seder at Russ & Daughters Cafe on the Lower East Side. Music luminaries Suzanne Vega, Roma Baran and Basya Schechter lent vocal support for the Four Questions and Ten Plagues; guests at the sold-out soiree enjoyed a trad-with-a-twist menu including salmon & whitefish gefilte fish, beef brisket with roasted carrots and almond macaroon cookies…
Photograph courtesy of Russ & Daughters
Photograph by Molly Yeh
Out of all of the great things that I could list about my first apartment on the Upper West Side, my next door neighbors were at the top, neck and neck with our building’s close proximity to the Super Taco truck. These neighbors were friendly, always willing to hang out, and one of them even had my back when a terrible date walked me home and couldn’t take a hint about when to leave. These neighbors were stoned 70% of the time and they always had some sort of delicious take out or other snack in front of them.
I had my first fried okra there and occasionally I just went over to unwind from the day and bask in the smell of their Super Tacos. They never cooked, their kitchen was half the size of mine, and even mine could barely fit one person, but then one early spring day, one of them showed up at my door with a box of matzo and the biggest brightest smile on his face. “Want to make matzo brei????” he asked, as if he had been waiting all year long to whip out his one beloved kitchen trick.
My confusion over him wanting to cook turned into excitement over matzo brei which then turned into sheepishness over the fact that until that moment, I had not a single clue how to make matzo brei. My mom taught me a lot of recipes, but somehow matzo brei slipped cleanly through the cracks.
My neighbor walked me through his mother’s recipe with the most joy I have ever seen on a person. Sure, that might have just been his squinty eyes from the weed, but scrambling up some eggs and breaking apart his matzo in my itsy bitsy kitchen was about the most exciting thing in New York at that moment. It was so good, it was like magic.
His recipe was simple and delicious and it lent itself well to a splash of milk here or a sprinkle of cinnamon there. In the years since I left that apartment, I’ve made countless variations on it, with shallots, salami, paprika, any fresh herb I have on hand. And each time, I not only get the joy of a hot plate of fresh matzo brei, but I’m also reminded of that gleeful spring day with my neighbor and his surprise matzo brei skills.
Cover image by John Tavares
I enjoy asking cookbook authors about what inspired their work. A cookbook so often has a personal story attached to it, one that unfolds through the food within its pages. Maybe the author was motivated by a desire to share the flavors of a birthplace or childhood, or of a region of particular fascination. Maybe it’s an attempt to capture a period of time through its culinary history, or a way to tell the story of how times have changed.
Then there are community cookbooks, compiled by organizations such as synagogues, junior leagues, even small towns. These books tell a different kind of story, about the way a particular locality cooked and ate at a given moment in time.
But what if the community in question is the Jewish community, and the cookbook is “The Community Table: Recipes & Stories from the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan and Beyond”? That’s a pretty broadly defined community, isn’t it? And what if the authors of the book are three women with three distinctly different Jewish backgrounds — one raised reform, one Conservative and one Orthodox.
I caught up with Joy Levitt, executive director of JCC Manhattan, right before Passover, as she was preparing a Seder-themed salad from the book. Over the course of our conversation, Levitt explained the way she went from wondering how to make the cookbook project go away to falling deeply in love with the end result. She also shed light on why this book is such a perfect representation of the Jewish Community Center and its members. Our conversation follows.
Photograph by John Tavares
The three authors of JCC Manhattan’s new cookbook, Katja Goldman, Judy Bernstein Bunzl and Lisa Rotmi, dubbed this their karpas salad, named after the spring herbs and bitter greens served at a Passover Seder, but they make it all year-round. It also features dates, pine nuts, pomegranate seeds and a bright lemon dressing — a terrific mix.
Serves 8 as a side
For the salad
½ cup pine nuts
6 ounces baby arugula
Leaves from 2 bunches fresh flat-leaf parsley (about 4 cups)
Leaves from 1 bunch cilantro (about 2 cups)
½ cup fresh chives cut into 1/8-inch lengths
3/4 cup dried pitted dates, thinly sliced
1½ cups pomegranate seeds (about 2 pomegranates)
Fresh dill to garnish
For the dressing
2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1) In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over low heat, watching carefully and stirring often, until golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool.
2) In a large bowl, combine the arugula, parsley, cilantro and chives. Add the pine nuts and dates and toss.
3) To make the dressing, whisk the lemon juice (to taste) and olive oil together in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, toss the salad with the dressing. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds, adjust the seasoning and serve.
The authors discuss the salad recipe.
Recipe reprinted with permission from “The Community Table” ©2015 JCC Manhattan, Grand Central Books.
Workers prepare final batches of matzos at Streit’s matzo factory. Photo by Julie Botnick
“This is the bread of affliction,” we say on Passover, holding up the dry, flat matzo that will be ubiquitous in our lives for the next week.
Anyone who has eaten it daily for the whole holiday knows that the affliction isn’t the taste or texture, but the fact that from the first bite at the seder, matzo seems to sit in the gut for the whole week, a phenomenon that so effectively evokes our ancestors’ misery.
For me, countless gluten-intolerant diners, and what seems like 98 percent of my Brooklyn neighbors, bread — leavened and unleavened alike — is an affliction. Human digestive tracks simply weren’t built to power through the pounds of gluten most of us take in weekly, and we don’t focus enough on preparing our gut to handle it when we do eat it. It’s like trying to play a high-impact sport every day without ever exercising, stretching and loading up on protein between games.