The Jew And The Carrot

"Food Chains" Asks Who Picks Your Food

By Rachel Kahn-Troster

T’ruah rabbis and farmworker activists protest at a Wendy’s in Naples, Florida, calling on the fast-food giant to join the Fair Food Program. Photograph by Coalition of Imokalee Workers.

Who picks the food you eat? How are they treated? How much are they paid?

These are just a few of the critical questions that we often overlook at mealtimes. “Food Chains,” a new documentary, offers some powerful answers.

“Food Chains” is a snapshot of the current state of American farmworkers: underpaid, undervalued and facing a violent and unpredictable workplace in which they can’t report abuses because of fear of reprisals.

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Our British-Canadian-American (Jewish) Thanksgiving

By Karen E. H. Skinazi

Thinkstock

Growing up in Montreal and Toronto respectively, neither my husband nor I celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving. According to my parents, it was a Christian holiday. In my imagination, Thanksgiving encouraged families of scrubbed-faced pale-haired Christians across the country to sit around their hand-sawn and sanded wood tables under a big similarly homemade cross and say thank you to Jesus for their bounty.

In reality, Thanksgiving in Canada, as in America, is a harvest holiday, but it’s held more than a month earlier (it was pushed back from November to October in 1957 as not to clash with Armistice Day), and it seems to me the reason so few Canadian Jews celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving is because of the terrible timing. Canadian Thanksgiving, almost without fail, lands on Yom Kippur, between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, or on Sukkot. Trying to add another holiday during the early-fall calendar of Jewish holidays is not only chaotic, it can be a straight-up conflict (fasting and turkey-eating simply do not go hand-in-hand).

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The Mutant on Your Thankgiving Plate

By Yadidya Greenberg

A heritage turkey awaits schechita, or ritual slaughter, conducted by the author. Photograph by Alyssa Kapnik

In 2013, President Obama pardoned two turkeys: Caramel and Popcorn. Caramel has already passed away and Popcorn is sure to follow soon. But these birds didn’t perish because of death panels, predators or homicidal presidents… they died because of bad genetics.

While ethically minded consumers look for “pasture-raised” and “organic” turkeys for Thanksgiving, the truth is that both of these terms ultimately have little to do with the well-being of a turkey. If you start with an animal that is badly bred, all the nutritious food and sunshine in the world won’t change the fact that it’s unhealthy. Taking a hybrid turkey and giving it organic feed is like planting GMO corn in an organic field: It just doesn’t make any sense.

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Waving Bye-Bye to Pumpkin Pie

By Gayle L. Squires

Torta di zucca, an Italian winter squash and olive oil cake. Photograph by Gayle L. Squires

Admitting this in the days leading up to Thanksgiving might put me squarely in the crosshairs of the long-defunct House Committee on Un-American Activities, but I’m a risk-taker, so here goes: I don’t like pie. I particularly don’t like pumpkin pie. Now that I’ve said it out loud, please let me explain. (Don’t worry, I’ll be brief — and there’s cake at the end if you listen to the whole story.)

I will limit my anti-pie sentiments to three. First, the bottom crust is usually either too hard if it’s blind baked, or too soggy if it’s not. Second, and I know that I’m going to offend our orange-hued mascot of this week’s holiday feast and lovers of spiced lattes everywhere, pumpkin filling has the look and texture of baby food and the smell of a candle. Finally, if your home is anything like mine, after stuffing ourselves with turkey, dessert must be non-dairy, and while butter might be able to save many a pie, parve pie is just sad. After Thanksgiving dinner, I typically fill my dessert plate with the cut fruit.

Before this gets all Debbie downer, I do have a solution to my Thanksgiving woes: cake!

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Pumpkin Pie Alternative: Marta's Torta di Zucca

By Gayle L. Squires

The recipe was adapted from Marta’s torta di zucca, a winter squash and olive oil cake by Chef Pat Clark. Photograph by Gayle L. Squires

I tested this cake with kobucha squash and butternut squash, and both worked well. A 1½ pound gourd has about 1 pound of usable squash which, shredded, yields 2¼ very tightly packed cups. Use whatever squash you like, just make sure to watch carefully while it roasts so that it doesn’t burn. You can substitute any nut for the cashews — I think almonds or pecans would work nicely. While Clark’s original recipe called for hand-grating the squash, I used my food processor, which yielded slightly thicker pieces of squash.

The bake time for this cake is quite long and will vary depending on your oven and the type of pan that you use. I used a 9-inch round springform pan with high sides and the total bake time was one hour and ten minutes. For the first 30 minutes or so, cover the pan with aluminum foil that you’ve poked holes in — this will allow the cake to bake without letting the top burn. The holes prevent the cake from steaming.

Serves 8 to 10

For the cake:

1½ pounds kobucha squash (or 1 pound pre-peeled and cut butternut squash)
¾ cup cashews
2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for preparing the pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1¾ cups white sugar
1 cup less 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the citrus glaze:

½ cup orange juice
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup sugar
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar

1) Preheat the oven to 425° F.

2) Cut the squash into quarters. Remove the stringy bits and seeds. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer layer of your squash. Grate the squash using the large holes on a box grater or a food processor.

3) Spread the grated squash out on a baking tray and flash in the oven for 8-10 minutes to remove excess moisture from the squash. (A little color is okay, but don’t let the squash burn.)

4) Turn the oven down to 350° F. Toast the cashews for about 5 minutes until just slightly browned. Allow the nuts to cool and then coarsely chop.

5) Prepare a 9-inch springform pan with high sides by lightly spraying with oil. Dust the greased pan with flour, covering all surfaces and tapping out the excess flour.

6) In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

7) With a stand mixer on medium to medium-high, paddle together the eggs, sugar, olive oil and vanilla until light and creamy. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.

8) Add the dry ingredients all at once. Mix on low until just together. Use a rubber spatula and scrape down the mixing bowl again. Add the squash and toasted nuts all at once, mixing on low until just incorporated. Don’t overmix.

9) Poke a few holes in a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover your cake. Lightly tent the top of the cake, leaving room so it won’t touch the surface of the cake as it rises. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil tent, rotate cake and bake for 35-45 more minutes. Toothpick test the dead center to make sure your cake is fully baked.

10) While the cake is baking, whisk together the citrus glaze ingredients and leave on top of the stove to fully dissolve sugar. Whisk again prior to use.

11) Cool for 15-20 minutes and turn cake out onto a cooling rack. Immediately use a pastry brush to coat the top and sides with glaze, making sure to use all the glaze. You will think it’s too much, but it’s not. Allow the cake to completely cool before cutting.


The Foods of Georgia, on My Mind

By Liza Schoenfein

One of the delicious cheese breads of Georgia. Photographs by Liza Schoenfein

Gaumarjos!” Maia Efrem said, clinking a glass of red wine with those of the seven friends she’d gathered at Oda House, a Georgian restaurant on New York’s Lower East Side. “That literally means ‘to victory’ in Georgian, and it’s how we say ‘cheers’.”

With that we kicked off our Georgian supra, or “big feast.” “It’s always served family style,” said Efrem, one of my colleagues at the Forward, who moved to Israel from Georgia when she was seven, then to Queens, New York, at 10.

The wine we toasted with, a dry red from the Kakhetia region, was made from a grape called saperavi. Efrem told us that all the wines of Georgia are aged not in oak or steel barrels but in clay.

To start, we ordered a trio of three appetizers called pkhali, each featuring ground walnuts, one with green beans, another with spinach, and a third wrapped in thin sheets of eggplant and topped with pomegranate seeds. All were redolent of coriander and fenugreek, two of the most commonly used spices in Georgian cuisine.

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Sunday Brunch Happiness

By Liza Schoenfein

Photogaph by Liza Schoenfein

Blissful Sunday, thanks to Murray’s Sturgeon Shop on New York’s Upper West Side. The Eastern Nova is as buttery as ever, and sliced to translucent perfection by the inimitable Ira Goller.

Liza Schoenfein is the food editor of the Forward. Contact her at schoenfein@forward.com.


Cooking as Catharsis

By Hillary Berkowitz Nussbaum

Thinkstock

As a college freshman, feeling the pressure of my first ever round of finals, and with no kitchen or supplies of any kind, I found myself yearning to bake. It was a distracting, clawing desire, pulling at the edges of my attention as I struggled in vain to study Rousseau or economic specialization or whatever I was learning in my freshman year introductory classes. I had no resources — no microwave, no mini fridge, not even a hotplate — but I also had no choice; I knew studying would not happen until I made something.

After a little bit of research, I gave up on my books and gave into the urge. We had a variety of “markets” near campus — gourmet, high-end, specialty — but not “super.” With a scarf wrapped around half of my face to keep out the Massachusetts cold, I walked the frigid few miles to and from the nearest real supermarket. I stocked up on cake mix (a last resort, under the circumstances) and the requisite supplies. Then, late that night, a friend snuck me into the kitchen in the basement of her dorm so I could bake — and finally study.

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Stress-Relieving Pumpkin Challah

By Hillary Berkowitz Nussbaum

Photograph by Hillary Berkowitz Nussbaum

It’s a stunningly simple way to a feel a sense of accomplishment and renewal — pick a recipe and execute it. It’s an exercise in presence, in clearing your mind and committing fully to the task at hand. It’s meditative. Cathartic. Next time you’re feeling restless or anxious, pressured or overwhelmed, try giving yourself over to the rhythms and repetitions of this recipe, and let your stress bake away.

I adapted this recipe from the golden pumpkin challah in Maggie Glezer’s “A Blessing of Bread.” I added the raisins, ginger, cloves and nutmeg, and left out cardamom, which was in the original recipe.

Yields 2 loaves

1 package (7g) yeast
2/3 cup warm water
3¾ cups unbleached white flour (you can substitute up to 1¾ cup with whole wheat flour)
½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (homemade or canned)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg (+ 1 egg for glaze)
1½ teaspoons salt
1/3 cup raisins (optional)
Cornmeal (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

2) Sprinkle yeast into a small bowl and pour the warm water on it. Let stand for 10 minutes, then stir to dissolve.

3) Mix flour and spices in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in yeast/water mixture. Using a wooden spoon, incorporate some of the flour into the water — just enough to form a soft paste. (Don’t try to completely incorporate — there should be quite a bit of dry flour left at this point.) Cover bowl with a towel and leave until frothy and risen, about 20 minutes.

4) In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, pumpkin, oil, egg, salt and raisins (if using). Add to the risen flour mixture and combine thoroughly. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is pliable. (If it’s too wet, keep adding flour in small amounts.)

5) Let dough rest 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly oil the bowl, put the dough in it and re-cover with the towel. Let dough rise in a warm place until it has tripled in size, 2-3 hours. Punch down dough, knead it a bit more and cut it into two equal pieces. Cut each of the two pieces into three equal pieces. (You should have 6 total pieces at this point.) Roll each piece into a straight rope. Braid three ropes together and repeat so that you end up with two braided loaves.

6) Sprinkle baking sheets with a little cornmeal, or line them with parchment paper. Place loaves on the sheets, cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 40 minutes. Glaze loaves with extra beaten egg. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.


Cooking Allergy-Free, and Me

By Gabe Friedman

Photographs: © 2014 Helen Norman

Around the time I was 15, I stopped eating anything that contained gluten and soy, two ingredients that are found in the majority of American food products. Gluten is the protein found in wheat and several related grains, such as barley and rye, and soy refers to any product made from the soybean — from soybean vegetable oil, a common oil used in American restaurants, to soy lecithin, an “emulsifier” (or food thickener) found in most American processed foods.

To add to my list of restrictions, I had already been mostly off of dairy products (I say mostly because scientists devised a wonderful enzyme pill in the 1970s that allows lactose intolerant people like me to normally digest a moderate amount of dairy) for several years. An enormous variety of foods that I had enjoyed as a kid — from pizza to bagels to Chinese food doused in soy sauce — was suddenly off-limits as I tried to diagnose the cause of what had become chronic stomach pain.

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Moroccan Tagine with Apricots and Almonds

By Jenna Short

This dish is wheat-free, milk-free, egg-free, shellfish-free, fish-free, soy-free, corn-free and gluten-free. Photograph: © 2014 Helen Norman

This wonderful stew is easy to make. It’s traditionally cooked in a tagine, which makes a really nice presentation. If you don’t have one, use a large Dutch oven — you’ll get the same results.

Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Olive oil
8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into thirds lengthwise
1 large red onion, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
8 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 sprigs fresh cilantro, plus 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, for serving
8 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus 3 table-spoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, for serving
4 tablespoons honey
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup dried apricots, halved
1⁄2 cup almonds, chopped

1) In a large bowl, combine the cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, pepper, 2 teaspoons of the salt, and 4 tablespoons oil. Add the chicken and toss to coat; let sit for at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour to marinate.

2) Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in the base of a tagine or in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add half of the chicken and cook, uncovered, for 6 to 8 minutes total, turning over halfway through cooking, until browned. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken, adding another 3 tablespoons oil for cooking. Transfer the second batch of chicken to the plate.

3) Add the onions and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt to the tagine or Dutch oven and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Tie the cilantro and parsley sprigs into a bundle with kitchen twine and add to the pot along with 1 cup water, the cooked chicken, and any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

4) While the chicken is simmering, bring the honey, 1 cup water, the cinnamon sticks, and apricots to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the apricots are tender and plump and the liquid is reduced to a glaze, 10 to 15 minutes.

5) While the apricots are simmering, heat ¼ cup olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat and cook the almonds, stirring occasionally, until just golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the almonds to paper towels to drain; let the oil cool before discarding.

6) Ten minutes before the chicken is done cooking, add the apricot mixture to the pot but remove and discard the cinnamon sticks. Finish cooking the chicken.

7) Serve the chicken (if cooked in a tagine, serve it at the table if you like), topped with the toasted almonds and more freshly chopped herbs.

Variations

Nut-Free: To make this dish nut-free, leave out the almonds when serving.

Vegetarian: Replace the chicken with 1 to 2 blocks of extra-firm tofu. To prepare the tofu, cut into ½-inch strips, then place on several layers of paper towels; cover with more paper towels and top with a cutting board to drain excess liquid. Let stand for several minutes, pressing down occasionally. Tofu contains soy, so this variation will not be soy-free.

Vegan: To make this dish vegan, replace the chicken with tofu (follow the preparation instructions for the vegetarian option above) and replace the honey with agave nectar. Tofu contains soy, so this variation will not be soy-free.

Wine Pairing: A crisp rosé would be the best choice for this meal and would complement the dried fruits and nuts, which are the main attraction in most mildly spicy Moroccan dishes.

Nutrition information per serving (based on 8 servings): Calories: 323.1, Total Fat: 15.5g, Cholesterol: 65mg, Sodium: 43.8mg, Total Carbohydrates: 20.1g, Dietary Fiber: 2.9g, Sugars: 13.8g, Protein: 27.7g

This recipe is from “Cooking Allergy-Free” (The Taunton Press 2014) by Jenna Short and is used by permission from The Taunton Press.


Can a Hot Sauce Set Your Soul on Fire?

By Hadas Margulies

Lo and behold: the first “boldly kosher” hot sauce is here. Photographs courtesy of Burning Bush

Neil Wernick’s inspiration to create Burning Bush Kosher Hot Sauce was derived from more than just a desire to spice up his food. Before he became a food entrepreneur, Wernick worked as a brand builder and engineer, whose Jewish background and love of Israel prompted him to register for the Hazon Israel Ride. On the trail, he came in contact with a variety of ancient herbs and spices, and his passion was ignited.

Back in his own garden, he began growing the herbs and vegetables that he used to create the original recipe for Burning Bush. “My business partner and I felt there was a real need for a kosher hot sauce,” Wernick told me. “There are so many hot sauces on the market, but none that prioritized kashrut. Kosher is even in the official name of our product.”

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Treasured New York Cookbook Shop to Close

By Hadas Margulies

The shop contains a trove of Jewish-related titles. Photograph by Jae-eun Chung

Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, a treasured cookbook destination for chefs, collectors and recipe-lovers alike for the past 15 years, will close at the end of January. Owner Bonnie Slotnick says the landlord of her West Village shop would not renew her lease. She is, however, planning to move shop, perhaps to the East Village.

Bonnie Slotnick

“I’m not really an East Village person,” Slotnick told the Forward, “but it feels much more human scale and homey to me now than the West Village. And the prices in the West Village are insane.”

The change of location shouldn’t deter Slotnick’s loyal customers. Her vast collection features rare cookbooks and vintage magazines from as far back as the 18th century, drawing mentions on NPR and in the New Yorker and the New York Times, among other places.

Jewish cookbooks are one of her specialties. “I am Jewish,” Slotnick said. “So I know Jewish cookbooks quite well. Those and books on baking. Baking crosses all borders.”

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Bagel Stuffing for Thanksgiving

By Molly Yeh

Photographs by Molly Yeh

If your family is like my family, your Thanksgiving starts with turning on the Macy’s parade, pouring a glass of wine, and toasting a bagel. It doesn’t totally make sense, but when you consider that the parade quickly becomes background noise for a busy day of cooking and “tablescaping,” the wine and energy in the form of noshing on bagels sort of makes more sense.

Because for us, Thanksgiving is as much about the journey of preparing the meal all together as it is about sitting down around a table, gorging on sweet potatoes, and switching between tears and laughter as we all say what we were grateful for this year.

With Thanksgiving recipe planning on my brain right now, stuffing is first. Stuffing is always first. I think I’ve made stuffing with just about every one of my favorite bread-y things: challah, soft pretzels, sufganiyot for Thanksgivukkah… It’s only natural that this year’s stuffing be made with bagels. And what better way to use up bagels leftover from Thanksgiving brunch?

This stuffing pulls from flavors that are present in a classic bagel and lox: red onions, scallions, chives and capers, if you like them. Any savory bagel will do, although I believe that a mix of everything bagels and whole wheat or pumpernickel bagels will give you the most flavor with a pretty mix of color. If you’re down with dairy on the table, you might consider finishing this off with a drizzle of melted cream cheese.

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Meet New York City’s Youngest Kosher Baker

By Rachel Delia Benaim

Nechamit Rosen’s kosher cupcakes. Photograph courtesy of Nechamit Rosen

These days, a lot of women are talking about the importance of “leaning in,” but Nechamit Rosen, head pastry chef at the Kosher Marketplace, a kosher goods staple on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, knew how to do that before she picked up Sheryl Sanberg’s bestseller.

Two years ago, the then-21-year-old was tired of her assistant pastry chef job at Village Crown. She’d learned a lot there, but she was overworked. It was time for a change. So she printed up her résumé, made hundreds of mini samples and started introducing herself to the kosher eateries around town.

When she walked through the Kosher Marketplace’s electronic doors in May 2013, she had her pitch ready: “You don’t have an in-house kosher baker,” she told the store owner Alan Kaufman. “If you want to thrive in the current market competition, you need an in-house baker. I’m your girl.”

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Breaking the Food Chain

By Roz Warren

Thinkstock

I recently received an email that contained a simple request. Write down my favorite recipe, I was told, and email it to the person at the top of the list. Then delete that person’s name, add my own email address to the bottom of the list, and send the resulting request-for-recipes to 25 friends.

Soon, promised the letter, I’d get 36 recipes!

There was just one problem. I don’t cook. At all. I never have. I hate cooking. I’m a take-out kind of gal. Yes, I can throw together an amazing salad. But recipes? I hadn’t a single one.

Nor did I want any. Thirty-six recipes turning up in my inbox?

Priceless?? No, more like useless.

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Exploring the Pickle's Storied Past

By Michael Kaminer

Flickr

November 14 is Aaron Copland’s birthday. It’s the day that Chicago Bears’ quarterback Sid Luckman passed for seven touchdowns to help defeat the New York Giants 56 to 7 in 1943. And it’s the day Ivan Boesky confessed to illegal market activity in 1986.

But for readers of The Jew and the Carrot, November 14 has even greater significance: It’s National Pickle Day.

Pickles, of course, aren’t exclusively Jewish. They date back thousands of years, appearing as far as India and Egypt. But over the centuries, pickles became a staple food for Ashkenazi Jews. Pickled vegetables were a dietary staple for Jews living in the Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Russia, as Claudia Roden explains in “The Book of Jewish Food”: “The sharp flavor of pickles proved a welcome addition to the bland bread-and-potato diet of these cold-weather countries.”

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7 Jewish Things About Pickles

By Michael Kaminer

In honor of National Pickle Day, we’ve been marinating some fun facts about our favorite fermented food. Photo: Thinkstock.

1) Cucumbers are mentioned twice in the Bible (Numbers 11:5 and Isaiah 1:8) and history sets their first usage over 3,000 years ago in western Asia, Egypt and Greece. (Source: NY Food Museum)

2) Americans consume more than 2.5 billion pounds of pickles each year; the North American pickle industry is valued at about $1.5 billion annually, according to Pickle Packers, a trade group. (Source: Pickle Packers)

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Food Trends Abound at Kosherfest

By Liza Schoenfein

Inside Kosherfest 2014. Photograph by Liza Schoenfein

The first food that jumped out at me yesterday when I walked into the vast Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey, for Kosherfest 2014 was the gluten-free granola. The latest offering from Foodman’s Original Matzolah, the cranberry-and-orange flavored product is wheat- and nut-free. Its prominent placement (Matzolah is distributed by Streit’s, whose matzo is a key ingredient) heralded what seemed to me to be the trend of the show: foods that not only follow the laws of kashrut but also specifically address other dietary restrictions, whether they involve gluten intolerance, veganism, or avoidance of dairy.

Among the gluten-free highlights at Kosherfest — the largest business-to-business trade show for the kosher industry — were new matzo ball mixes from Streit’s and the Manischewitcz Company, which also offered a gluten-free brownie mix.

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Kosher Sushi Place Firebombed in Paris

By JTA

Courtesy of Zekaï

Hours after the attempted arson of a Paris kosher restaurant, a group of French teenagers assaulted a Jewish adolescent outside a school.

Unidentified vandals tried to burn down the Zekaï sushi restaurant in the 17th arrondissement located 4 miles west of the school, according to a report of the incident by the National Bureau for Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA.

The vandals hurled stones at the restaurant’s armored glass door late at night but failed to punch a hole through it, the news website of the Tribune Juive newspaper reported. They also tried to set off a firebomb before fleeing, according to BNVCA, a nongovernmental watchdog.

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