Consume a lot of alcohol on Purim. As the Talmud pushes, “A person is obligated to drink on Purim to confuse the difference between the phrases ‘cursed be Haman)’ and ‘blessed be Mordecai.’ Megillah (7b). That would be a lot of drinking and any number of intoxicants could fulfill this mitzvah. This year you may wish to consider delectable chocolate liqueurs.
photos by Molly Yeh
When I was a kid, hamantaschen came in two varieties: poppyseed (what the sophisticated grown-ups ate) and fruit. It didn’t matter what kind of fruit, it all tasted the same — overly sweet and sticky, and most importantly, difficult to scrape out with a spoon in order to get to the goods — the sugar cookie that encased it.
These days, the internet is bursting with wild varieties of hamantaschen: gummy bears and dulce de leche are tucked into dough, and a trend of savory hamantaschen has resulted in fillings like balsamic caramelized onions and roasted lamb with pine nuts.
I want them all. And what do you expect from a holiday that has basically one distinguishing food item? It’s not like Hanukkah, when anything fried is fair game, or Passover with all of its matzo brittle and macaroons. Purim gets booze, costumes and hamantaschen. And I’d just like to say that I’m proud of Jewish bakers everywhere who have refused to submit to culinary boredom when it comes to this holiday.
Last year, I gave my two cents to this hamantaschen craze with a black sesame filling and a savory gruyère filling. This year, I’m giving you two more: The first is filled with red bean paste, a popular ingredient in Asian desserts. Made from adzuki beans (which you can find at Asian grocery stores), it has almost a peanut butter quality. The second hamantaschen is inspired by the oatmeal pie at the Brooklyn bakery Four & Twenty Blackbirds: Imagine an oatmeal cookie wrapped in a hat of sugar cookie, it’s hamantaschen heaven. You will never think about scooping out the filling again.
The costumes line the streets and Purim is in the air. It’s really one of my favorite holidays, made more so by the preparations for our community’s traditional English-speakers Tzfat Purim shpiel. I excitedly anticipate the unique mishloach manot (gift packages) that my Sepharadi neighbors send – their homemade Moroccan Purim challahs, Djerbian orange-flavored donuts, Tunisian muffletot and Iraqi Sambusks are a highlight of the holiday. I make my own strawberry jam, since spring is strawberry-time in Israel (wash and crush 2 kilos of strawberries, add a tiny bit of sugar and let it simmer for several hours on the stove till it turns into a jam) so that I can present my neighbors with strawberry hamantashen.
Kosher shops and restaurants once dotted the streets of the Lower East Side. Now, a small campaign is working to bring a kosher restaurant back to the neighborhood. Photo: Wikicommons
A front-runner has emerged in the fight to replace Noah’s Ark Deli, the last full-service kosher restaurant on the Lower East Side.
As the Forward reported last month, an online petition urging a kosher tenant for the Noah’s Ark space has collected more than 1,000 signatures. Now, Holy Schnitzel, a kosher mini-chain run by a pair of siblings and a former concert promoter, is lobbying the board of the building that owns the space to let it open its fourth location in the space.
Ofeer Benatalba, 31, and Sivan Benatalba-Afia, 24, founded the restaurants with Bill Spector, a veteran Manhattan scenester who lives in the East Village. The team has enlisted heavy-hitters like New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to plead their case. Seward Park Co-op officials must still decide whether the Lower East Side, with an ever-shrinking Orthodox population, wants or needs a kosher restaurant.
“We can’t speak for our opponents,” Spector told the Forward. “But as the Lower East Side is a cultural institution that was founded on an immigrant settlement, we believe that incorporating history along with nostalgia…will enhance the location [more than] any other option on the table.”
Serve this curry ladled into bowls over steaming basmati rice or coconut rice (rice where half or more of the cooking water is replaced with coconut milk). If desired, experiment with adding different vegetables to the curry, like cauliflower, green beans or potatoes.
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ginger powder
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 ½ pounds broccoli, chopped into small florets
1 medium sweet potato (about ½ pound), peeled and cut into ¾-inch pieces
1 medium red bell pepper, seeds removed, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
salt and pepper
1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
½ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
1) Heat the 1/4 cup oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onions, fresh ginger and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the turmeric, cumin, ginger, coriander, cayenne and cardamom, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1–2 minutes.
2) Add the tomatoes with their juice and bring to a simmer. Stir in the broth, broccoli, sweet potato and red pepper (it is okay if the vegetables are not submerged); raise heat to medium high, bring to a boil, then cover the saucepan, lower the heat to low, and cook until vegetables are just tender, 8–10 minutes.
3) Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a medium pan set over medium heat. Add the chicken, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add browned chicken, coconut milk and 1/2 cup cilantro to the saucepan; raise heat to medium and bring to a simmer, then lower heat back to low and cook, partially covered, until vegetables are tender but not mushy, and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper, and serve topped with more chopped cilantro.
Poha, or flattened rice, and fresh or fresh frozen shredded coconut can be found at Indian or other specialty food stores.
4 cups thin poha
1 cup fresh (or fresh frozen) shredded coconut
½ cup raw sugar, or more to taste
8 cardamom pods
¼ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup black raisins
¼ cup finely chopped dried dates
optional fresh fruit garnishes: sliced strawberries, bananas, oranges, apples, pears, grapes or grapefruit
1) Add the poha to a large bowl, and cover with boiling water; stir until poha softens, 30–60 seconds, then drain well through a fine mesh strainer. Discard water, and return cooked poha to the bowl. Stir in the coconut and ½ cup sugar.
2) Use your fingers to open the cardamom pods; place the seeds in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, discarding the shells and skin. Grind until finely ground, and stir ground cardamom seeds into the poha mixture. Stir in the almonds, raisins and dates; taste, and add more sugar if desired.
3) Spread the mixture on a platter, and surround with desired fruit garnishes.
Just in time for Passover, a mouth-watering, new documentary about America’s last family-owned matzo factory might be released — if it gets a little more help from its friends.
Director Michael Levine and producer Michael Green recently completed the production of “Streit’s: Matzo and the American Dream” after they raised almost $65,000 through a Kickstarter campaign last year. Now, they’re looking to raise another $20,000 on their website to cover costs for licensing, marketing and access to film festivals.
“We’ve set our sights high,” director Levine wrote in a post published on Bowery Boogie last Friday. “The Tribeca Film Festival would be an absolute dream for us for obvious reasons. It’s an amazing festival, especially for a New York-based documentary … and it just so happens to take place during Passover this year.”
An eight-minute trailer and a clip specially provided to the Forward (which also plays a tiny role in the film) give a glimpse of the feature-length documentary and show the matzo factory in the face of a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, the Lower East Side.
If you’re very squeamish, or if you believe that Jews should eat only kosher food, then the film “Meat Hooked!” is not for you. Otherwise, you’ll find it an interesting cinematic study on the renaissance of the art of (non-kosher) butchering.
Filmgoers will have a chance to catch a screening of the 2012 documentary as part of a food-focused film marathon at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco on March 9. The other films to be shown are Trever Graham’s “Make Hummus Not War” and Ari A. Cohen’s “Falafel! Give Peas a Chance.”
Of late, there has been plenty of talk about organic and sustainable farming, pasture-raised cattle, and nose-to-tail restaurant cooking, but few of us actually watch how an animal gets from the field to the plate. “Meat Hooked!” provides more than just a passing glance at the process. It ain’t a pretty sight, but it’s eye-opening in many ways — not only for what we learn about how a carcass is carved up, but also about what drives certain people to want to wield a cleaver day in and day out.
“This is a film about meat. And about the rise and fall and rise again of butchers and butchering,” says director Suzanne Wasserman in the voiceover for the introduction to the film. Wasserman is director of the Gotham Center for New York City History and an expert on the history of Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Montreal and New York bagels have long been in a standoff. Will Black Seed, a new bagelry that plans to combine the two recipes end the feud? Photos courtesy of Mile End and Flickr
When Mile End opened in Brooklyn four years ago, the Montreal-inspired deli made a name for itself by trucking bagels weekly direct from the mothership — the hallowed St. Viateur Bagel in the eatery’s namesake neighborhood.
Now, Mile End founder Noah Bernamoff will source his bagels a little closer to home. He’s teaming up with restaurateur Matt Kliegman of hip Nolita café/general store The Smile to open Black Seed, a defiantly old-school bagel shop at Elizabeth and Spring Streets in Manhattan.
Black Seed’s opening is part of a wave of sit-down bagel and appetizing shops coming to Manhattan and Brooklyn this spring. Lower East Side mainstay Russ & Daughters is expected to open a full-service café shortly, and seating at a new location of Brooklyn smoked-fish emporium Shelsky’s is slated to debut after Passover.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Bernamoff told the Forward. “It’s been reinvented a few too many times in the wrong direction. We’re trying to take it in reverse, to a more essential place. It’s not about introducing new and groundbreaking concepts into the canon of bagel-making. It’s just about trying to bake an amazing bagel.”
Black Seed’s bagels may surprise fans of Mile End, which has built a rabid following by rebooting Montreal classics like smoked-meat sandwiches and poutine. While boiling bagels in honey and baking them in a wood-burning oven a la Montreal, Black Seed will unveil a hybrid that draws on both Montreal and New York bagels.
Anthony Bourdain’s tour of Israel last fall left me (and most viewers) desperately longing for a real exploration of Israeli cuisine. Bourdain alluded to a meal of roasted baby watermelon in Gaza that never appeared on camera and somehow managed to skip one of the region’s culinary capitals — Tel Aviv — entirely. Where Bourdain failed, I hold hope American-Israeli chef Michael Solomonov will succeed, in his PBS special “The Search for Israeli Cuisine.”
Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until Spring 2015 to catch the entire program. In the meantime, filmmaker Roger Sherman who traveled with Solomonov to Israel last fall has released a taste of what we can expect.
Catch shots of stunningly bright food, simple hummus and a corned beef stuffed pita at that inspires Solomonov to declare: “You can keep your truffles and foie gras, this is where it’s at.”
Viewer digression is advised: Do not watch this while hungry.
More than 2 million hot dogs are sold every year at Dodger Stadium — more than at any other stadium in America. Which comes as a pretty big surprise in a city known for its obsession with hamburgers and tacos. But here in Los Angeles, we do love our hot dogs. And these days, we love our kosher hot dogs as well — especially those served from a food truck grandly named Holy Kosher BBQ.
The truck offers glatt kosher dog in three sizes — Regular, Holy and Jumbo, along with chips and a salad if you want, and beef “bacon,” if you feel the need to pretend your kosher meal is treyf. The dogs are tasty, with a proper snap when you bite into them, and lots of good juices that will run over your hand and onto your clothing if you’re not careful. (Food truck dining involves a certain degree of cautious juggling.) You can add on grilled onions, ketchup, mustard — and the beef bacon, of course. If you want it crispier, all you have to do is ask.
The truck’s run by Rudy Ellenborgen, a civil engineer from Lima, Peru. Ellenborgen grew up on the edge of the Andes, in a city with a small Jewish community of about 3000 people. Along with his Israeli wife Rachel, he realized there was a need in the madcap world of Los Angeles food trucks for a kosher hot dog vendor. And so, in late January, he launched his Holy Kosher BBQ Truck.
So far, he’s found his biggest following at the colleges of Los Angeles, alternating days between USC and UCLA. He also parks Downtown where LA’s Persian Orthodox flock to his truck. And what do his customers ask for the most? They want the big one, with the works. Which means lots of Aaron’s Beef Fry. “It’s crunchy,” says Ellenborgen. “It makes the dog that much better.”
But what about the BBQ in “Holy Kosher BBQ”? Ellenborgen chose the name so he can grow his concept, he says. But as a first-time food service guy, Ellenborgen is taking baby steps. Or whatever you call baby steps in a truck.
Makes two personal pizzas
1 cup chickpea flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
a few cracks of black pepper
1 cup water
olive oil, to coat the pan
About 2 tablespoons harissa* (this amount may vary depending on your taste and how hot your harissa is)
1/2 large onion, chopped and caramelized
1 cup packed fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
*For homemade harissa, I recommend “Jerusalem’s recipe. I like using Fresno chiles so that it’s not too hot, which means I can pile it on my pizza.
Tara Lotstein purchased a Hungarian-Jewish cookbook, with a recipe written at the back, that made it through the Holocaust. (Courtesy of Tara Lotstein)
BALTIMORE (JTA) — The tattered book with the beige cover was just the sort of thing Tara Lotstein was looking to purchase when she found it online in late 2012.
Its title was “A Jewish Woman’s Cookbook” and after the book arrived by mail, it joined a special, short stack of Lotstein’s acquisitions that includes a Siddur, a High Holy Days machzor and a Passover Haggadah.
All four books are in Hungarian, a language Lotstein learned on the way to completing a master’s degree in 2011 in Russian and Central European studies.
The cookbook’s recipes and apparent pre-World War II printing are enough for the 29-year-old Lotstein, a researcher and translator who lives in Silver Spring, Md., to consider her $145 purchase worthwhile. But four scribbles in it really piqued her interest, and now she would like to locate the people behind the writings and present the cookbook to one of them.
I wondered, as I crossed the stone-flagged patio of the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, if it was worth visiting the Second Wine Jerusalem Festival. I’d made the rounds of the larger Sommelier wine exhibition in Tel Aviv just a few weeks earlier. There probably won’t be much new to see or taste, I thought.
I was wrong. True, there were fewer stands at the Wine Jerusalem event. But, as a kosher-keeper, it was nice to know that I could drink whatever I liked here. I could taste confidently at every stand; a change from the hard stares and snobbish answers I’ve gotten at some non-kosher displays at other wine tastings. The crowd was a fair mix of secular and observant people, with a noticeable number of women swirling wine, inhaling the bouquet, and thoughtfully swallowing, like me. I felt comfortable.
Some wineries represented began without kosher supervision but changed over in the past few years. For example, the Tulip Winery became kosher in 2011. The secular owner admits to a certain frustration in not being able to handle his own wines, but also said that their sales have doubled since going kosher. The religious crowd has gotten hip to quality wines. And they don’t buy just one bottle each time; they buy a lot. Standing at the cashier’s desk with my modest two bottles, I watched a young haredi man load three boxes into his shopping cart. He was talking loudly into his phone at the same time, and saying, “Mom, I just spent a lot of money. OK? I’m bringing a lot of wine home.”
I wish I could have, too.
My synagogue garden will be five years old this spring. That is how long it took to become a truly congregational enterprise, and not just a labor of love for me.
Step 1: Get Leadership On Board
Initially, I wanted to build the garden in the front of the shul. That was nixed by the board—which I am currently a third year member—and it was suggested that we put the garden behind the building, along the edge of the parking lot. And, It only took 1.5 years to get that far!
I was happy to have any space at all, and the rabbi built what became three garden beds over three years. It is not the most elaborate garden, but he built it with a seating ledge for comfort, which was a really nice touch, and considerate to those of us who spend the most time pulling weeds and planting vegetables.
If your bubbe or your great-bubbe or even your great-great-great-bubbe came from Eastern Europe, she probably crossed the Atlantic with a borscht recipe memorized. The soup is served from Russia to Ukraine to the Czech Republic, with each region and cook putting their own spin on it.
In New York, there’s perhaps no better place to tuck into a bowl of deep ruby red borscht than Ukrainian restaurant Veselka. According to the New Yorker, for the past 30 years, “there’s been just one woman behind Veselka’s renowned borscht: Malgorcata Sibilski. Five thousand gallons are served to customers annually, and Sibilski makes her borscht in enormous batches, twice a week.”
Take a tour of her kitchen as she makes one of her legendary batches.
If the video leaves you hankering for some borscht, try this recipe.
Photos by Molly Yeh
I am the child of two very strong pizza traditions. A pizza mutt, if you will. Growing up outside of Chicago, pizza night meant ordering delivery of my beloved deep dish. When I lived in New York, pizza night meant a greasy folded slice at the little old place where the nice owner knew me by name or a Neapolitan pie at any one of New York’s countless exceptional pizzerias. Needless to say, my pizza upbringing spoiled me completely.
Pizza night in my new tiny town is… a sensitive subject.
I have tried to embrace the town pizza parlor, and I’ve even tried to get into the Domino’s culture (if that’s even a thing?), but neither of them cut it for my admittedly snobby pizza tastes and I’ve basically come to terms with the fact that until a friend in Brooklyn sends me a frozen Roberta’s pie, or until I build a pizza oven on the farmstead, my pizza nights will have to take on an entirely new identity.
Which is fine.
I don’t get jealous when all of my New York friends Instagram their amazing chewy doughy pizzas. (Yes I do.)
I started comparing recipes and doing some research on their origins, to finally be able to put the dots together. I discovered that Chile is like a time machine for Sephardic food, a kind of “Galapagos” of the Andalusian tastes that landed 500 years ago, some to evolve and others to remain intact for centuries.
If Jewish food were to have a signature scent, it would be the smell of Katz’s deli — at least for me. The aroma of corned beef brined in spices, pastrami dripping with fat, fried potato knishes and freshly sliced rye assaults the senses the second you reach the door at the corner of Ludlow Street and East Houston.
Now the deli wants you to bring a small part of that scent home. Allow me to introduce the chocolate egg cream candle. According to Katz’s website, the candles which come in vintage-style packaging and costs $25 can “Transform any room into a delicious blast from the past. These delightful candles are sure to sweeten up your day.”
All of this is well and good — and I’ve already ordered one for my desk — but, the real scent of Katz’s is that killer pastrami. So to the owners, I have to ask you, “When’s the pastrami sandwich candle going to debut? I like mine cut from the dekel and with just a shmear of mustard.”
One Tuesday in February, a small group of people gathered in JW3, a Jewish community center in North West London, and slipped into something a little more respectable: 1846.
They were there to enjoy good Jewish food straight out of a mid-nineteenth-century upper class cookbook — thoroughly upper. The author was Lady Judith Montefiore. That was something of an open secret; in 1846, when Lady Judith published her book, the author was listed simply as “a lady.”
Behind the silence, though, everybody who was in the right circle to buy The Jewish Manual: or Practical Information in Jewish and Modern Cookery; with a Collection of Valuable Recipes and Hints Relating to the Toilette knew exactly who had written it.
According to Maureen Kendler, Head of Educational Programming and Mentoring at the London School of Jewish Studies and an author in her own right, Lady Judith kept her name off the cover due to a characteristic that was properly Victorian and traditionally Jewish: modesty. Her name wasn’t publicly outed until her funeral.
If you wanted to be a good Jewish lady in 19th Century upscale London society, then Lady Judith Cohen Montefiore was your role model. The wife of philanthropist Sir Moses Montifiore, she was elegant, composed, philanthropic, intelligent, and skilled in the arts becoming to a woman of her class.
Companion to royals, including Queen Victoria, she and her husband travelled with their own dishes and an entourage. When they were hunting, that entourage included a butcher. Wealth permeates her cookbook. From cover through content, The Jewish Manual would have been out of the average person’s reach.