The Jew And The Carrot

Juicy Semolina, Coconut and Pistachio Cake

By Janna Gur

Photograph by Daniel Lailah

When semolina cakes come out of the oven, they are not so sweet and are very crumbly, but once they are doused with hot and fragrant syrup, they turn moist and very sweet. The syrup also prevents them from drying out so they keep for a long time. The following version, from Ruth Oliver’s kitchen, is the best I have ever tasted. Ground coconut and pistachio nuts add crunch, and cream renders the pastry richer.

Makes one 15 x 0-inch (40 x 5-cm) cake

For the cake

¾ cup (6½ fluid ounces/180 ml) vegetable oil
1½ cups (12 fluid ounces/350 ml) half-and-half (single cream)
1 cup (3½ ounces/100 g) shredded or flaked coconut
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5½ ounces/160 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ cups (9 ounces/250 g) semolina (cream of wheat or cream of farina)
½ cup (2 ounces/55 g) ground pistachio nuts
4 teaspoons baking powder
6 eggs
1½ cups (11 ounces/300 g) sugar
For the syrup
1½ cups water
1½ cups sugar
1 scant teaspoon ground cinnamon

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

2) Combine the vegetable oil and half-and-half in a large bowl.

3) Combine the coconut, flour, semolina, ground pistachios, and baking pow¬der in a separate bowl. Stir into the oil mixture.

4) Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on high speed for 8 minutes until pale and fluffy. Gently fold the beaten eggs into the semolina batter.

5) Pour the batter into a deep rectangular baking pan approximately 15 x 10 inches (40 x 25 cm). Bake for 35 minutes, or until the cake turns golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry with a few crumbs adhering.

6) While the cake is in the oven, prepare the syrup Bring the water, sugar, and cinnamon to a boil in a small saucepan. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool slightly.

7) Take the cake out of the oven and pour the syrup evenly over the warm cake. Cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


For a nondairy version, substitute the same amount of coconut milk for the half-and-half.


Cut the cake into small squares and top each square with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream, crème fraîche, or thick yogurt. You may also add a spoonful of tart fruit preserves, or serve it with fruit compote or with wine-poached pears.

Excerpted from JEWISH SOUL FOOD by Janna Gur. Copyright © 2014 by Janna Gur. Excerpted by permission of Schocken Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Georgian Eggplant Rolls With Walnut and Herb Filling

By Janna Gur

These look like Italian involtini, but the filling is unique and typically Georgian: pureed walnuts perfumed with fresh herbs (parsley and cilantro), garlic and vinegar. When pomegranates are in season, add fresh pomegranate seeds for crunch and flavor. I got this recipe from Marina Toporiya, a Georgian cook who used to own a modest restaurant in downtown Tel Aviv, where she turned out wonderful and unusual dishes from the old country.

Makes 12 to 14 rolls

For the eggplants

Unbleached all-purpose flour, for dredging
Vegetable oil for frying
2 to 3 eggplants, very thinly sliced lengthwise (you should have about 14 long, thin slices)

For the filling

12 ounces (350 g) walnuts
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon (or less) cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
Seeds from ½ pomegranate (optional)

1) Prepare the eggplants Put some flour in a shallow bowl and season with salt.

2) Heat a frying pan over medium heat and coat with a ½-inch (1½-cm) layer of vegetable oil. Dip each slice of eggplant into the flour mixture, then put in the pan, being careful not to crowd the pan (work in batches, if necessary). Fry the slices for about 2 minutes per side, until lightly browned. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate and allow to cool.

3) Prepare the filling Put the walnuts, garlic, onion, cayenne, turmeric, red pepper flakes, paprika, parsley, cilantro, vinegar, water and salt in a food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the pome¬granate seeds (if using).

4) Spread a heaping spoonful of the filling on a fried eggplant slice and roll up the slice tightly. Place, seam-side down, on a plate and continue with the remaining filling and eggplants. Serve promptly.


Certain eggplants, especially those with lots of seeds, tend to be bitter. To get rid of the bitterness, sprinkle the sliced eggplants with coarse salt and set in a colander for an hour. Wash, pat dry with paper towels and fry as directed.

Excerpted from JEWISH SOUL FOOD by Janna Gur. Copyright © 2014 by Janna Gur. Excerpted by permission of Schocken Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Moroccan Spicy Carrot Salad

By Janna Gur

Photograph by Daniel Lailah

To make this simple and tasty meze salad you will need two typical North African condiments — pickled lemons and harissa. Both can be made at home or bought at specialty food stores or Middle Eastern groceries, and both will prove useful and versatile additions to your pantry.

Serves 6 to 8

6 medium carrots, sliced into ¾-inch (2-cm) coins
3 cups water
1½ teaspoons sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons harissa
1 tablespoon pickled (Moroccan) lemons, finely chopped (see below or store-bought)
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup fresh cilantro or mint leaves, chopped

1) Put the sliced carrots in a saucepan and add the water, sugar, salt, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 10 to 12 minutes, until the carrots are tender but still have some bite.

2) Transfer the carrots to a bowl (save some of the cooking liquid). Add the harissa, pickled lemons, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, olive oil, salt, and about ¼ cup of the cooking liquid and mix. Let cool. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

3) Refrigerate for a few hours, preferably overnight, to let the flavors meld. The salad will keep for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Before serving, bring to room temperature and toss with the cilantro.

Pickled Lemons | MOROCCAN

For me, pickled lemons define the concept of a “secret ingredient.” Less sharp than fresh lemons; soft, aromatic, and spicy, they perform miracles in vegetable and grain salads and are a great addition to chicken and fish braises. I also use them in pasta sauces, especially those with tuna. Preparation is easy, but the curing process takes about three months.

Makes 2 pounds/1 kg

2 pounds (1 kg) lemons, thinly sliced or cut into small wedges, pips removed
1 cup coarse salt
5 garlic cloves
2 small hot chile peppers (red or green)
4 to 6 allspice berries
4 bay leaves
Sweet and/or hot paprika
Fresh lemon juice, to cover
Vegetable oil, to seal

1) Dip the lemon slices or wedges in the salt to cover all sides and arrange in layers in a sterilized glass jar. Place the garlic, chiles, allspice, and bay leaves between the layers of lemon. Press down hard until the juice begins to run out and pour the lemon juice on top. To seal, pour a generous layer of vegetable oil on top of everything.

2) Refrigerate for 3 weeks and up to a month. When the curing process has been completed, discard the garlic, chiles, allspice, and bay leaves and keep refrigerated.

Excerpted from JEWISH SOUL FOOD by Janna Gur. Copyright © 2014 by Janna Gur. Excerpted by permission of Schocken Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Israeli Chef Dishes on Her New Berlin Hot Spot

By Julia M. Klein

Chef Haya Molcho of NENI. Photographs courtesy of NENI

With 20,000 Israeli immigrants, Berlin now hosts delicatessens and hummus cafes, as well as the more upscale, French-influenced fare of Mani Restaurant. The latest Israeli culinary sensation is NENI Berlin, a casually eclectic place with an open kitchen, luxuriant plant décor and panoramic views of the city.

Located on the 10th floor of the 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin, NENI Berlin has a tapas-style menu that boasts of melding Persian, Russian, Arabic, Moroccan, Turkish, Spanish, German and Austrian influences. Its unusual, richly flavored fusion dishes include caramelized eggplant with chili and ginger on couscous and curry hummus with grilled prawns. Middle Eastern staples such as pita, baba ganoush and falafel are served alongside a classic Ruben sandwich and tuna sashimi. With floor-to-ceiling windows, light wooden floors and pastel chairs, the dining room is bright and inviting. The atmosphere is so relaxed that, on a recent visit, a neighboring table of diners started offering me tastes of their food.

The woman behind NENI (whose initials represent the names of her four sons, Nuriel, Elior, Nadiv and Ilan) is Haya Molcho, a 59-year-old Tel Aviv-born restaurateur who grew up in Bremen, Germany, and lives in Vienna. With three of her sons as partners, she runs three restaurants, a catering business and a supermarket product line, NENI am Tisch (NENI on the Table), and has published three cookbooks. I talked to her by phone about her passion for food and how she built the NENI empire.

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Conflict Kitchen Closes Doors After Death Threats

By Liza Schoenfein

Photograph courtesy of Conflict Kitchen

After receiving a letter containing death threats, Pittsburgh’s Conflict Kitchen, which has been serving Palestinian food since early October, announced on its Facebook page Friday that it was shutting its doors until further notice.

“We will be closed until the credibility of the letter can be established by the Pittsburgh police,” the statement said. “We hope to reopen shortly.”

The co-directors of Conflict Kitchen, Dawn Weleski and Jon Rubin, declined an interview request from the Forward, saying, “We are not able to respond to press at this time upon the suggestion of the police.”

Conflict Kitchen describes itself on its website as “a restaurant that only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict. Each Conflict Kitchen iteration is augmented by events, performances, publications, and discussions that seek to expand the engagement the public has with the culture, politics and issues at stake within the focus region. The restaurant rotates identities every few months in relation to current geopolitical events.”

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Caught Between Gefilte Fish and Campbell’s Soup

By Hasia Diner

Photograph by Edsel Little; Flickr

When I first gravitated toward writing about food and immigration to the United States as an ostensibly serious academic, colleagues asked me — and, frankly, I asked myself — the obvious question. Why food? Food perhaps lacked the gravitas and significance of subjects like political, labor or immigration history. Academics might grudgingly admit that food is fun, or, at worst, accuse me of having gone over to the realm of the “popularizers.”

Food does indeed provide one of life’s greatest pleasures. And yet, for much of human history food also has been associated with difficulty, controversy, confusion, and conflict. Most people, for most of life on Earth, have fretted over where, or if, they would get their next meal. But the matter of food, and particularly food’s relationship to immigration, has long merited more ambitious historical treatment. Food has always functioned simultaneously as a barrier that sets one group of people apart from others and as a bridge linking people with little else in common.

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Autumnal Salad, Starring Beets and Arugula

By Hadas Margulies

As seasonal as it is healthful, this salad is also totally delicious. Photograph by Hadas Margulies

As the weather gets chilly, I tend to forget how satisfying a good, hearty salad can be. But then, fresh beets at the farmer’s market remind me that I still need to eat my veggies.

This salad, packed with beets, arugula, orange slices, marinated onions, walnuts and goat cheese, is a full meal. I wouldn’t ask you to go through the work of making it if it weren’t. And beets, by the way, have more betaine than any other veggie. According to traditional Chinese medicine, which I study at the Academy of Healing Nutrition, they are extremely cleansing for the liver and blood. If you’re not a borscht fan, this salad might give you another opportunity to make friends with your liver.

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Cafe Edison, Jewish Theater District Spot, Closing

By Julie Wiener

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(JTA) — Another old-school New York Jewish institution is about to fall victim to gentrification.

The New York Times reports that Cafe Edison, a modest Theater District coffee shop long favored by Broadway’s cognoscenti, has been asked to leave by the owner of the hotel in which it is located.

While not kosher, Cafe Edison serves deli sandwiches and traditional Ashkenazi Jewish fare, like blintzes and matzah ball soup, and was founded by Polish-born Holocaust survivors, Harry and Frances Edelstein.

Known, in a nod to its founders and its no-nonsense manner as the Polish Tea Room — in contradistinction to the swanky Russian Tea Room — it was also the inspiration for the setting in Neil Simon’s play, “45 Seconds From Broadway.”

Simon reportedly enjoyed frequent meals there with his producer Emanuel Azenberg. Other regular patrons included comedian Jackie Mason, actor Henry Winkler and the late African American playwright August Wilson.

Mimi Sheraton, a former Times restaurant critic who has published books about bialies and chicken soup, among other topics, features Cafe Edison in her forthcoming “1,000 Places to Eat Before You Die.”

From Minsk to Marrakesh... to Manhattan

By Liza Schoenfein

Photograph by Daniel Lailah

I had the pleasure of attending two fabulous Jewish-food events this week. The first was a celebration of Janna Gur’s new cookbook, “Jewish Soul Food: From Minsk to Marrakesh” (Shocken Books), at Einat Admony’s cozy Balaboosta restaurant. There were delicious dishes made from recipes in the book, including two savory Moroccan salads — one beet and one carrot — and some garlicky meat patties that I can’t stop thinking about.

In a powerful speech toward the end of the gathering, Gur, who is editor-in-chief of the Israeli food magazine Al Hashulchan and author of “The Book of New Israeli Food,” said the purpose of her new book was to introduce the North American audience to a wider range of Jewish recipes.

“When people say Jewish food, they primarily mean Ashkenazi,” she said. “Gefilte fish; matzo ball soup — foods that make me cry, actually — they’re the foods my grandparents used to make. But Israeli food is so much more. It’s the food of the diaspora. Jews lived all over the world.”

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Baking Chez Dorie Greenspan

By Gayle L. Squires

Fruit-and-nut croquants, baked by the author, from Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook. Photograph by Gayle L. Squires

Dorie Greenspan has cracked the code of how the French bake at home for family and close friends.

Forget the fussy confections on display in pastry shop windows in even the smallest Gallic towns. In her latest cookbook, “Baking Chez Moi,” Greenspan shares her French friends’ homespun recipes and gives you the confidence to recreate these largely simple desserts in your own home.

I caught up with the delightfully prolific award-winning author last week at the 92nd Street Y, the first stop on Greenspan’s book tour, where we gabbed like schoolgirls before she sat down before a packed audience for a discussion with New York Times food writer Julia Moskin.

Despite having nearly a dozen cookbooks under her belt — and having successful collaborations with Julia Child and French pâtissier Pierre Hermé, Greenspan wasn’t always at home in the kitchen. She grew up in Brooklyn, where her father owned a supermarket and where her mother made grocery lists organized by aisle — instead of dinner. Her grandmother visited weekly to feed the family, and a housekeeper filled in the rest of the time.

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Dorie's Fruit and Nut Croquants

By Dorie Greenspan

Photograph by Gayle L. Squires

The word croquant can be both an adjective and a noun. As an adjective, it’s easy: It means “crunchy.” As a noun, it can be confusing: It usually refers to a cookie, but there are bunches of cookies that carry the appellation and, depending on who’s making them and where, the cookies can vary in size, shape, flavor and degree of croquant-ness. Say croquant, and most French cookie lovers think of the ones from the south of France, which are usually studded with whole almonds and flavored with orange-flower water.

However, the croquants that really caught my attention came from a small bakery in Lyon. The Lyonnaise cookies weren’t flavored with orange-flower water — in fact, I didn’t detect any flavoring at all — and in addition to lots of almonds, they had other nuts and dried fruits. They looked similar to biscotti or mandelbrot, the Eastern European version of the double-baked sweet, and while they were called croquant, they didn’t quite live up to their name (or their nickname: casse-dents, which means “tooth breakers”) — they were crunchy on the outside and just a little softer and chewier on the inside.

I’ve flavored these with vanilla, but if a whiff of orange-flower water appeals to you, go ahead and add it. When I’ve got oranges in the house or, better yet, tangerines or clementines, I add some grated zest whether I’m using vanilla or orange-flower water, or a combination of both. As for the nuts and dried fruits, I leave their selection up to you, although I think you should go heavier on the nuts than the fruit. For sure you should have whole almonds (preferably with their skins on), but you can also use cashews, walnuts, (skinned) hazelnuts, macadamias or pistachios. Similarly, while I often add golden raisins, there’s no reason not to consider dried cherries, pieces of dried apricots or even slim wedges of dried figs.

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Dorie's Palets de Dames

By Dorie Greenspan

Photograph by Alan Richardson

The word palet means “puck,” and you find it used most often by chocolatiers, who make pucks of ganache and enrobe them in chocolate. But the only thing puckish about these cookies is their adorableness. With wide, flat uppers iced in white and rounded bottoms, they look like children’s tops or open parasols. I saw these cookies in all sizes in every pâtisserie I visited in Lille, the northern French city that borders Belgium. Then I saw them finished with melted rose pralines, the red candies that are the sweet symbol of Lyon, the gastronomic capital of the Rhône-Alpes region. And everywhere I saw them, I bought them — the combination of cakeish cookie and sweet icing is irresistible.

While a plain confectioners’ sugar icing is the tradition in Lille, there’s no reason not to have a little fun with these. Think about adding food coloring to the icing or dividing the icing and creating a few tints. And to make these already festive cookies even more so, speckle the still-wet glaze with sanding sugar.

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My Great (Losing) Cook-Off With the In-Laws

By Hillary Berkowitz Nussbaum

Thinkstock by Getty Images

My in-laws and I are in the middle of an all-out competition, a head-to-head contest that has been raging for years, since my husband and I started dating. What are we competing over? Culinary supremacy.

They’re winning handily, and they don’t even know it. In fact, they’d be shocked to know that we’re in competition at all.

Let me explain: I love cooking. Not the weekday-evening frenzy of putting food on the table in a hurry — when I lived alone, I subsisted on a steady diet of omelets and pita-bread pizzas. What I love is the kind of cooking that precedes a holiday or a big family meal. The kind that requires spending hours upon hours in the kitchen with my mom, catching up on every little thing that’s going on in our lives as we chop, dice, whip and stir, my brother and my dad stopping in to help, to hang out and to taste the food-in-progress. There’s a looming deadline, but it’s energizing, rather than stressful.

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Truce Achieved Through Cheesecake

By Hillary Berkowitz Nussbaum

Photograph by Hillary Berkowitz Nussbaum

I’ve mastered my family’s desserts, from the flourless chocolate roll to the sour cream coffee cake, but my husband’s favorite — cheesecake — always escaped me. I couldn’t let it go, and finally mastered it by sticking to my new strategy: Rather than tackling the tried-and-true, I put my own new twist on an old favorite.

This recipe blends the flavors of fall with a more standard Oreo cheesecake, with delightful result. When I served it up recently, my other half declared it “awesome” (though my mother — predictably — went for the flourless chocolate cake instead).

Pumpkin-Oreo Cheesecake

For the crust:

24 finely crushed Oreos
2 tablespoons melted butter

For the filling:

Two 8-ounce packages room-temperature cream cheese
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
3 large room-temperature eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
12 crushed Oreos (can be larger chunks)

1) Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

2) Grease a 9-inch springform pan, or cover a traditional 9-inch cake pan in parchment paper. (Grease the paper and leave the ends hanging over the pan a bit. You’ll use these to pull the cake up and out of the pan.)

3) Toss the 24 crushed Oreos with the melted butter until lightly coated, then press the mixture into the bottom of the pan to form the crust. Set aside.

4) Combine the sugar and spices in a small bowl.

5) Beat the cream cheese and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Continue mixing, and slowly add the sugar mixture. Add the eggs one at a time, beat well, leaving about 30 seconds between each egg. Add the pumpkin, continue mixing until well combined.

6) Evenly pour half the mixture into the prepared pan. Spread the crumbles from the 12 crushed Oreos in a layer over the top, then evenly pour in the remaining pumpkin mixture.

7) Place pan on the center rack in the oven, with another pan half full of water on the oven’s bottom rack (to keep the oven moist). Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cheesecake comes out clean, and the center of the cake jiggles slightly (like gelatin). Let the cake cool, then refrigerate at least a few hours before serving.

Hillary Berkowitz Nussbaum is a freelance writer who likes to cook her way through writer’s block.

New York Has a New Gluten-Free Eatery

By Hadas Margulies

Chef Franklin Becker stands proud before his beet. Photograph by Liz Barclay

Exciting news for gluten-avoiders and healthy eaters: The Little Beet Table opens today in New York’s Flatiron District. A spinoff of chef Franklin Becker’s café, The Little Beet, the new restaurant will offer a more formal, sit-down vibe.

According to the chef, the idea to open a second spot sprung from the tremendous success of the café, which serves about 1,300 customers a day. “It’s just great food,” Becker told the Forward. “People come in and don’t even care whether it’s gluten-free or not. The fact that it’s gluten-free is just a bonus.”

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Sugar Pumpkin Soup With Ginger and Coconut

By Liza Schoenfein

Photographs by Liza Schoenfein

My local CSA, Farmigo, gave away free sugar pumpkins a couple of weeks ago. I already adore Farmigo, which is owned by Israeli-turned-Brooklynite Benzi Ronen. But the gift made me feel even more warmly toward the web-based startup, which connects nearby farmers and food artisans with urban neighborhoods like mine.

The pumpkin bestowed on me was a rather large, lopsided specimen, which my kids and I talked about carving into some sort of scowling ghoul — but we never got around to it.

Pumpkins make festive fall decorations, but if you happen to have a sweet or “sugar” pumpkin on your hands, then it’s not just for show. Sugar pumpkins make excellent eating. So when the decorations came down, the soup pot came out.

My neighbor Lauren McGrath, a caterer, food consultant, and our neighborhood Farmigo liaison, offered up a soup recipe to go with the free pumpkin. Hers was a gingery, creamy affair, which sounded heavenly and inspired me to create my own version.

This one substitutes coconut milk for cream, but the biggest difference is that I roast the pumpkin before simmering it, to bring out a complex, caramelized flavor that I love.

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Israelis Bring Better Salad to Berlin

By Yermi Brenner

Getty Images

The lettuce sold in supermarkets near my home in the German capital comes mostly from Spain, which means it travels over a thousand miles before reaching my salad bowl.

InFarm, a Berlin-based urban agriculture start-up founded by a group of Israelis, is experimenting with an alternative that is more environmentally friendly, healthier and tastier. Guy Galonska, co-founder of InFarm, guides me through the start-up’s laboratory — a climate-controlled space where a variety of greens and herbs are growing.

“The vision is integrating a practical solution for growing food in the city,” Galonska said, while gently cutting some lettuce and offering me a taste. “Basically, decentralizing industrial agriculture, bringing back small-scale farming that allows more biodiversity, fresher food, healthier food. Taking control of what we eat.”

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Is Dumpster Diving for Dinner Kosher?

By Alix Wall

Maximus Thaler, author of “A Curious Harvest: The Practical Art of Cooking Everything”
Photograph by Hallie Gluk

Maximus Thaler sees himself as a modern-day version of the Biblical character Ruth.

The author of the newly published “A Curious Harvest: The Practical Art of Cooking Everything,” with illustrations by Dayna Safferstein, Thaler recently told me about a conversation he had with a rabbi at Tufts University, when he was a student there, about his passion for dumpster diving.

“Obviously, dumpster diving isn’t kosher, the rabbi told me, but I see this is as gleaning, and reconnecting with my agricultural roots,” he said. “I’m imagining myself as Ruth, who had no refrigeration. Food is so integral to my identity that I’m known as a gleaner. Ruth’s principles were very important to her, she really valued food for what it is, and [valued] not wasting anything.”

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Trick or Treat, Jewish Deli Style

By Hadas Margulies

Photograph by Liza Schoenfein

Today’s the day to get your black and orange on — and that includes food.

You want to be festive, but you may not want to overindulge completely. Get ready to kill two birds with one two-toned stone. Well, at least with one two-toned cookie.

I give you my recipe for vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free black-and-orange cookies. While they may sound dry (pun intended), the coconut-based frosting lends a satisfying sweetness to the whole-grain-based cookie.

These treats are also versatile. Where I used soy milk, feel free to substitute your favorite nut milk. For the sweetener, I went with blackstrap molasses, but maple syrup or agave nectar would work as well. If you’re looking for a lighter-colored cookie, opt for light agave.

There’s also some flexibility in your choice of flour. You can use a pre-mixed gluten-free flour (Bob’s Red Mill makes a good one), or else combine arrowroot starch with millet or amaranth flour — two of my favorites, both for their fluffy consistencies and their health benefits. If you’re blending millet flour yourself, just be sure to blend until the millet becomes a fine powder. This will keep the cookies from being grainy.

And my Nana says Halloween is for pagans…

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Lukshen Kugel, Luscious and Light

By Felicia Black

Getty Images

When I learned that Liam, a friend of my 9-year-old son, would be joining us at the potluck dinner in the synagogue sukkah because (as he told his mom) “Jews have the best food,” I reluctantly abandoned my plan to purchase a tray of spanakopita. I felt stymied by the task ahead: to prepare a wholesome dairy dish of Jewish origins that would appeal to children and adults alike, and one that would also survive the trip to the sukkah on a brisk autumn evening.

Then I remembered kugel. My mother-in-law’s noodle kugel, to be precise, handed down to her by her own mother, who is known in these quarters as Grandma Rae. Rae, perhaps because her husband died young of a cardiac-related illness, specialized in healthy cooking, and her kugel bears little resemblance to the sweet, rich noodle kugels of my own youth, which call for at least a stick of butter and a tub of sour cream, topped by handfuls of crunchy cornflakes.

Rae’s kugel is neither savory nor overly sweet. She somehow managed to eliminate what my husband Jeremy calls “the fun stuff” and still retain the traditional essence of a noodle kugel, which Yiddish-speakers call lokshen kugel. Imported from the shtetls of Eastern Europe, it is a filling, warming dish suitable for any autumn or winter evening. The version we make is much lighter than the conventional one, and spicier too, thanks to Jeremy’s addition of nutmeg and cardamom.

On Sukkot, Liam piled his plate high with the various potluck contributions. The son of a Presbyterian minister, this is a fourth grader who delights in sampling new cuisines, whether he’s in the jungles of Peru or the food courts of Flushing, Queens. After a few minutes of eating beneath the chilly skies of the rooftop sukkah, he leaned toward my son. “I like this dish,” he said confidentially, pointing toward a few crispy noodles in the corner of his plate. It was Rae’s kugel.

Lighter Lokshen Kugel

1½ 12-ounce packages of Dutch egg noodles (whole wheat if possible)
2½ 16-ounce containers of low-fat or non-fat cottage cheese (ricotta can replace part of cottage cheese)
4 eggs (or five if cottage cheese looks dry; egg whites can also be substituted)
1 or 2 tablespoons of butter
2 or 3 peeled, cored and chopped apples, coated with cinnamon/sugar mixture
1 cup yellow raisins
Splash of vanilla extract
Cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg (as desired — about ½ teaspoon each)
Wheat germ (Can also use other healthy, crunchy cereal)
2 teaspoons brown sugar

1) Preheat oven to 400˚ F.

2) Lightly grease 9 X 13-inch baking pan with butter or oil.

3) Parboil noodles (for about three minutes). Rinse and drain. Put noodles aside, mixing in one tablespoon of butter to melt while they cool.

4) Mix all other ingredients in a large bowl. Add noodles to mixture. Pour mixture into pan. Sprinkle wheat germ and brown sugar on top. Cover with foil.

5) Bake for about 45 minutes. Uncover and broil, on low if possible, until crispy, about 10 minutes. (Watch carefully to make sure kugel doesn’t burn.)

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