The Jew And The Carrot

Israelis Hungry for Vegan Diet

By Ben Sales

Photograph by Mr.TinDC; Flickr Creative Commons

(JTA) — The music pounded, the liquor flowed, dancers filled the floor and khinkali meat dumplings and kababi skewers — staples of traditional Georgian cuisines — sat on almost every table.

That was back in February, before Nana Shrier, the owner of the hip Tel Aviv bar and restaurant Nanuchka, saw a television news report about factory farming. Then everything changed.

Abhorred by how animals are treated in industrial meat and dairy production, Shrier stripped all the animal products from the menu — from cheese to eggs to chicken and steak — and made the restaurant entirely vegan.

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Stuffed Quinces with Mint and Pomegranate

By Liza Schoenfein

Photographs by Liza Schoenfein

I had a wooden bowl of pale green pear-scented quinces on my kitchen counter all week. I wondered what I would do with them, and started flipping through my cookbooks, doing research. I’d already made quince paste this fall, and I liked the idea of taking my quinces in another direction.

It turns out that quinces appear in a wide array of Jewish fall dishes. In her “Jewish Holiday Cookbook” (Schocken), Joan Nathan writes of an Algerian chicken-and-quince tagine served at Rosh Hashanah. Claudia Roden mentions a similar dish in “The Book of Jewish Food” (Knopf), eaten by Algerian and Moroccan Jews the night before the Yom Kippur fast. In “Jerusalem” (Ten Speed Press), Yottam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi share a lamb-stuffed quince with pomegranate and cilantro, and it was here that I paused, because we are still in Sukkot, when stuffed dishes are served to symbolize the hope for a plentiful harvest (as I wrote last week when I made meat-stuffed peppers).

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Holding a Vegan 'Candle' to Jewish Holiday Menu

By Alix Wall

Photography © 2014 by Jim Franco

This is a sporadic column by personal chef Alix Wall, in which she evaluates a new cookbook by making some of its recipes, sharing them with friends and asking what they think of the results.

When “Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Café: Celebratory Menus and Recipes from New York’s Premier Plant-Based Restaurants,” by Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos and Jorge Pineda, showed up on my doorstep, I flipped through it to see if there were any Jewish holidays represented.

I’m a fan of the trio of New York vegan eateries Candle Café, Candle 79 and Candle Café West, so I was glad to find that among the 10 menus for occasions such as the Superbowl, Lunar New Year, Easter Brunch and 4th of July, is one for Passover. And on that Passover menu are 11 recipes for Jewish favorites that wouldn’t be out of place on other Jewish holiday tables as well.

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Gefilte Tofu With Horseradish and Beet Relish

By Joy Pierson and Angel Ramos and Jorge Pineda

Gefilte Tofu With Fresh Horseradish and Beet Relish from “Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Café. Photography © 2014 by Jim Franco

Gefilte fish is a traditional seder appetizer that is made with ground whitefish and matzo meal. We created a very tasty vegan version that is made with firm and silken tofu, carrots and celery. The taste and the texture are spot on! Note that if you don’t have a juicer to make the beet juice, you can substitute an extra half cup of finely shredded beets.

Serves 8 to 10

1 (14-ounce) block extra-firm tofu
8 ounces silken tofu
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped carrot
¼ cup finely chopped celery
½ teaspoon finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon agar powder

For the horseradish & beet relish:

1 ½ cups finely shredded fresh horseradish
½ cup finely shredded fresh raw beets
¼ cup beet juice
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
Minced fresh chives, to garnish

1) To make the gefilte tofu, cut the firm tofu in half and finely chop one-half of it.

2) Put the silken tofu in a large bowl. Take the whole piece of extra-firm tofu and crumble it into the bowl. Add the chopped extra-firm tofu to the bowl, toss the different tofus together, and set aside.

3) Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, garlic, shallots and salt and cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the reserved tofu and agar to the pan and cook, stirring constantly to prevent sticking, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

3) Using a tablespoon or a small ice cream scoop, form the tofu into balls, put them on a baking sheet, and let sit for 30 minutes. The tofu will keep in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.

4) To make the relish, combine the horseradish, beets, beet juice, vinegar and salt in a bowl.

5) To serve, put a scoop of the gefilte tofu on a salad plate, spoon the relish on the side and garnish with fresh chives.

Reprinted with permission from “Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Café,” by Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos and Jorge Pineda © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press. Photography © 2014 by Jim Franco.

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Chopped “Liver”

By Joy Pierson and Angel Ramos and Jorge Pineda

Photography © 2014 by Jim Franco

Although this recipe is fairly labor-intensive, it is well worth the work. You may want to double the recipe since it disappears quickly from the table, and you may want to keep some for delicious leftovers. It is also best to make it the day before you’re planning to serve it to let the flavors blend and intensify. Serve this fantastic spread with matzo or crudités.

Serves 8 to 10

¼ cup walnuts
1 cup dried chickpeas, covered with water and soaked overnight in the refrigerator
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 portobello mushrooms, stemmed, peeled, and finely diced
1 white onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon sea salt, plus more if needed
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more if needed

1) Preheat the oven to 350° F.

2) Spread out the walnuts on a baking sheet and roast them for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool. Peel the walnuts and set aside.

3) Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Drain the chickpeas and add to the pot with the bay leaf. Cook uncovered over high heat until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain, remove the bay leaf and let cool.

4) Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

5) In another sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, decrease the heat and cook over medium-low heat until caramelized, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

6) Transfer the walnuts, chickpeas, mushrooms, onion, the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper to a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. The chopped liver will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before serving. Serve in a bowl at room temperature.

Reprinted with permission from “Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Café,” by Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos and Jorge Pineda © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press.

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Pumpkin Bagels, Allergy-Free and Easy

By Hadas Margulies

Healthful, homemade pumpkin bagels are easier to make than you might think. Photographs by Liza Schoenfein

As a holistic-nutrition student and private chef, my main goal in, well, life, is to create the healthiest comfort food known to man. There are certain foods I could never live without, but often they contain ingredients I definitely want to live without. Enter the bagel — a childhood favorite that I won’t eat today unless it’s thoroughly scooped out. And where’s the fun in that?

After eyeing some pumpkin bagels at Trader Joe’s that were full of unhealthy oils and sugar, I knew I had to make my own. The ones I came up with are virtually allergy-free (they’re gluten-free, nut-free, yeast-free and vegan) and extremely health supportive. They taste deliciously seasonal, too. Because they require no yeast (which means no rising time), you can make a week’s worth of bagels in less than half an hour.

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Cooking With Pumpkin, for Beginners

By Maurie Backman

The arrival of pumpkin-flavored foods has always seemed to signify the true start of fall, and in recent years, the pumpkin trend has really kicked into gear. Forget about coffee and lattes; these days you can buy everything from pumpkin-flavored cream cheese to pumpkin-infused potato chips. And while these processed, commercialized products may not seem like the most wholesome of food options, real pumpkin does offer a fair amount of nutritional value. In its natural form, it’s low in calories and sugar, rich in Vitamin A and amply packed with beta-carotene.

Of course, many associate pumpkin with baked goods and sweets — think pumpkin bread, muffins and of course, ice cream. But pumpkin also lends itself to a host of savory applications, from soups to sides to main courses.

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Pittsburgh's Conflict Kitchen Lives Up to Its Name

By Hadas Margulies

Conflict Kitchen goes Palestinian. Screenshot from Conflict Kitchen

Some members of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community are none too happy with Conflict Kitchen’s latest menu.

Every few months, the popular local restaurant features a cuisine from a country that’s in conflict with the U.S. Currently on the menu is Palestinian food, which has stirred up a bit of a backlash.

“Palestine is not in conflict with the U.S.,” said Gregg Roman, director of the community relations council at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. “The restaurant is stirring up conflict for the sake of trying to be relevant.”

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A Podcast for the ‘Artsy Foodie’ in You

By Hadas Margulies

The new radio half hour airs Sundays at 6 p.m. Photograph courtesy of Joshua David Stein

Joshua David Stein, restaurant critic for the New York Observer, has launched a podcast on the Heritage Radio Network. The Joshua David Stein Variety Hour…Half Hour features poems, music and themed discussions about food.

According to the description on Heritage Radio Network, the show is “a freewheeling, haphazard hootenany about restaurants, reviewing restaurants, loving them, hating them, hating reviewing them as well as special segments like, ‘A Not-Yet-Famous Actor Reads Food Erotica’ and ‘This is the Portion of the Show with A Musical Guest!,’ in which a musical guest will perform a song about food. Think of it as This American Life but without the budget and where every episode our theme is food.”

Hadas Margulies is the new food intern at the Forward. Find her at HadasMargulies.com.


Applesauce in All Its Glory

By Chana Billet

Photograph by Marisa McClellan; Flickr Creative Commons

When I was growing up, my grandmother used to serve small glass bowls of freshly churned applesauce. Unlike the snack-size, shelf-stable containers I often found in my lunchbox, applesauce at my grandmother’s house was an ethereal experience. Her fragrant, aromatic and always-warm version was nothing like the supermarket staple I ate at school.

I’m on a quest to make what are often sold as processed foods from scratch for my family, so I took my grandmother’s lead and started making applesauce at home. No fancy ingredients, special equipment or secret methods needed. Here’s what you do:

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The Gorbals’ Ilan Hall Talks Treyf

By Michael Kaminer

Not your mama’s matzo balls. Photograph courtesy of The Gorbals

Bacon-wrapped matzo balls put Ilan Hall on the map when he opened The Gorbals, his much-ballyhooed eatery in Downtown L.A. Now, New Yorkers are finally getting to experience Hall’s in-your-face, wackily inventive food with a new East Coast outpost of The Gorbals atop an Urban Outfitters “concept store” in Williamsburg.

Five years since his L.A. debut, Hall’s also proved he’s much bigger than one culinary gimmick. The victor of Top Chef’s second season, he now hosts the Esquire Network’s wildly popular competitive cooking show Knife Fight — executive-produced by none other than Drew Barrymore. While not quite a household name à la Batali or Ramsay, Hall’s as close as it comes to a bona fide culinary celebrity.

“People do come into the restaurant because they know my show or they’ve seen me on Top Chef,” he told the Forward from his shiny new Brooklyn kitchen. “It’s good press. But New York City isn’t really like that. I’m just a chef.”

But his menu belies his modesty: Think falafel-crusted veal sweetbreads with “cool ranch” hummus ($16), a “Jewish lunchbox” of gefilte fish cakes, kimchi, barley, and poached egg ($15), and a banh mi poutine, whose insane mash-up of pulled pork, mozzarella and pickled carrots somehow comes together beautifully into an irresistibly decadent whole. And, of course, those matzo balls ($9).

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Piety: Divine Pies Delivered to Your Door

By Elizabeth Traison

Piety’s honey-fig-plum pie (left) and rosemary-peach (right). Photograph by Elizabeth Traison

When it comes to a good pie, there are a few important factors that distinguish the edible from the incredible. Starting with the crust, which should be flaky and light but also capable of both standing up to and also complementing whatever goodness makes up the filling. While there are seemingly infinite possibilities when it comes to fillings, finding the right balance of ingredients — most notably, seasonal fruits and herbs — that marry together in a way that will make your mouth water is no easy task. Piety, Brooklyn’s newest kosher pie bakery, rises to the challenge.

Just from speaking to Rebecca Greenberg, founder and owner of Piety, you know she makes good pies. The patience, tenderness and kindness that come naturally to her personality (characteristics that were further developed by previous careers in education and child care), also make their way into her pies. “Baking a pie isn’t fast,” she says. “It takes time, patience and thoughtfulness” — and you know she’s speaking from experience. Crust and filling can make or break a good pie, but it’s these additional qualities that put a good pie over the top.

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Downtown L.A.'s Jewish Food Revival

By Anthony Weiss

Wexler’s Deli in Grand Central Market. Courtesy of Wexler’s Deli

(JTA) — At 97 years old, Grand Central Market has become one of the hottest destinations in this city, drawing long lines of foodies eager for the finest in artisanal cheeses, coddled eggs and pour-over coffee.

In August, the historic food market in downtown Los Angeles was named by Bon Appetit magazine as one of the country’s 10 best new food venues. Long a bustling bargain mart that catered to the city’s poorer denizens, the market has been reborn as a gourmet spot and tourist attraction.

At the heart of the market’s cavernous, industrial-era space sits one of the stars of that revival: Wexler’s Deli, the latest offering from wunderchef Micah Wexler, who has brought deli classics such as pastrami and corned beef back to Grand Central after a decades-long absence.

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Stuffed Peppers for Sukkot

By Liza Schoenfein

Photograph by Liza Schoenfein

Moving from Yom Kippur straight into Sukkot, I started to think about what to cook, of course, and checked a few books and online references for inspiration.

Stuffed vegetables are de rigeur — they symbolize the hope for plenty during the harvest period — and being reminded of this, I thought of a crowd-pleasing recipe I came up with last fall, when, as now, farmer’s market stalls were overflowing with bright, multicolored bell peppers.

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5-Spice Stuffed Peppers

By Liza Schoenfein

Stuffed vegetables are a tradition at Sukkot, symbolizing the hope for plenty during the harvest. Photographs by Liza Schoenfein

Yields 8 stuffed peppers

½ onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed between your palms
½ teaspoon Chinese 5-Spice Powder
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
1 ¼ cup marinara sauce, divided
1 cup cooked white or brown rice
1 egg, beaten
6-8 medium bell peppers, preferably a variety of colors, tops cut off (and reserved) and seeds removed
Fresh mint and/or parsley for garnish

1) Preheat oven to 400˚ F.

2) In a 12-inch skillet, sauté the onion in oil for 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring. Add the beef, sprinkle it with salt, pepper, oregano and Chinese 5-Spice, and cook, stirring, until the meat is no longer pink.

3) Drain meat in a colander to remove excess fat and then return to skillet. Stir in toasted pine nuts, rice, ½ cup of the marinara and egg. (Don’t add the egg until the pan has cooled down a bit.)

4) Add ¼ cup water to remaining ¾ cup marinara, pour into a shallow baking dish and arrange peppers on top. Spoon beef mixture into peppers, cover each with its top and bake 45 minutes. To serve, uncover each pepper, spoon some of the marinara on top, sprinkle with fresh herbs and replace the top loosely.

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


Harvest Chocolate Truffles for Sukkot

By Rabbi Debbie Prinz

Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia

Incorporate seasonal nuts and apples into these chocolate truffles to create a delicacy for Sukkot enjoyment. These truffles use fall harvest ingredients to enhance the happiness of the festival. Chag Sameach!

Harvest Chocolate Truffles

Yields 24 truffles

¼ cup pistachios
¼ cup pecans
1⁄8 cup almonds
1⁄8 cup pine nuts
½ tart apple
¼ navel orange, with rind
A few drops of sweet white wine
A few drops of honey
Pinch of fresh or ground ginger (or to taste)
Pinch of ground cinnamon (or to taste)
3 pounds quality dark or bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces

1) Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper. Grind the nuts, apples and orange separately in a food processor. The nuts should be as close to a powder as possible without becoming “butter.” Combine the nuts, apple, orange, wine, honey, ginger and cinnamon in a bowl, mixing well. The fruit filling should have a smooth, thick texture. Roll the filling into 1-inch balls.

2) Melt the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; remove from the heat.

3) Using two forks, dip the balls into the melted chocolate and place on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate until the chocolate has set.

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Mile End Goes Middle Eastern

By Liza Schoenfein

Schwarma-Spiced Chicken Thighs with Hearts of Palm, Apricots, Roasted Patty Pan Squash and Preserved Lemon from Mile End’s new Middle Eastern menu. Photograph courtesy of Mile End

New York’s Israeli food boom just got louder. The latest cannon blast is today’s announcement from Mile End Executive Chef Eli Sussman that beginning tomorrow night, he’ll offer a family-style five-course dinner menu “influenced by Middle Eastern Jewish cuisine” at Mile End on Bond. (There’s also a Mile End in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.)

Dishes will include Seared Cauliflower with Pickled Fennel, Oranges and Honey Harissa Tahini Dressing; Schwarma-Spiced Chicken Thighs with Hearts of Palm, Apricots, Roasted Patty Pan Squash and Preserved Lemon (pictured above); and Grilled Lamb Merguez with Grated Carrot Salad and Dates. Sussman will also offer vegetarian options.

The Middle Eastern menu will be available for dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays. Mile End’s classic Montreal-style deli menu will remain on offer at both locations.

Liza Schoenfein is the new food editor of the Forward.


The Making of ‘The Chutzpah!’ Cocktail

By Naomi Major

Naomi and Jon’s mixology laboratory. Photograph by Jon Wunder

Now that I’m writing for the Forward, my boyfriend, Jon, has been peppering me with questions about Judaism and the paper. It’s lovely to have such a supportive boyfriend, but it’s more than a little embarrassing to have to pull out my dog-eared copy of Blair and Engel to get him answers.

Last week I’d written about the duo’s “The Jewish Festival Cookbook,” and the Forward had adapted a holiday recipe from the book, pears poached in concord wine.

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A Manischewitz Cocktail: Now That’s Chutzpah!

By Naomi Major

A tart, refreshing, sophisticated cocktail designed to use up the post-holiday concord wine. Photograph by Liza Schoenfein

The Chutzpah!

Yields 1 cocktail

2 ounce concord wine such as Manischewitz
1 ounce orange juice
1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ounce vodka
2-3 ounces dry sparkling wine such as prosecco or cava
Slice of lemon, cut into a round

Fill a shaker with ice and add all ingredients except the sparkling wine. Shake vigorously and pour into ice-filled highball glasses. Top with sparkling wine and garnish with lemon slice.


The Marvels of Mandle Bread

By Molly Yeh

Photographs by Molly Yeh

I could talk about my love of Mandel Bread until the cows come home. Not that a crispy almond cookie needs any explanation, but the reasons I love Mandel Bread so much go past its delicious flavor and satisfying texture.

My go-to recipe, which is inspired by Tori Avey’s, doesn’t require any planning ahead in the way of softening butter or acquiring obscure ingredients, and you don’t need to dirty up your electric mixer to make the dough. In that sense, it’s a very portable recipe, so if ever you find yourself in someone else’s kitchen with a hankering for a cookie, you can whip some up easy peasy.

Mandel Bread also has a super long shelf life because of its dry nature, so that paired with a strong sturdiness makes for a perfect addition to a care package for a loved one. Whenever I make a batch, it’s pretty much a given that half of it will be sent off to far away friends.

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