President Obama visited Canter’s Deli today, an old favorite of Jews in Los Angeles. Over the course of the meal, he sat with a teacher, a wounded veteran, and two women entering the job market, according to Mark Knoller, CBS’s White House correspondent.
Pres Obama discussing basketball and free-throw abilities with customers at Canter's restaurant in Los Angeles. pic.twitter.com/EQVITBHuuO— Stephen Crowley (@Stcrow) July 24, 2014
Canter’s opened in 1931, and has always been a family-owned business dedicated to providing classic Jewish deli foods for the L.A. area.
Let’s hope the President had the good sense to order the matzo ball soup. Goodness knows he’ll probably need some comfort food to go with everyone’s kvetching.
Workmen’s Circle poster advertising the Taste of Jewish Culture street fair // Facebook
New York’s got so many hip new delis that it may be as easy to find gefilte fish and borscht as it was in 1892, when The Workmen’s Circle held its first meeting on the Lower East Side.
So it’s no small irony that the social-justice organization is hosting the city’s first street fair aimed at showcasing smart new iterations of traditional Jewish cuisine.
The Workmen’s Circle Taste of Jewish Culture, set for July 27 on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue, is actually the organization’s sixth outdoor festival, but the first focused on food.
“The fair has always featured klezmer and social-justice-themed music,” executive director Ann Toback told the Forward by e-mail from a tour bus in Poland, where she’s researching Ashkenazi culture. “But we’ve also been experimenting with it as a chance to connect with larger audiences.”
Sharing Jewish food “is about as authentic a Jewish experience as you can get,” she said. “And selling Jewish-inspired foods via a street experience is quintessentially Jewish. It’s a perfect place to share our cultural heritage with a wide swath of New Yorkers.”
To corral the right mix of vendors, Toback tapped Noah Arenstein, the peripatetic lawyer-cum-foodie whose most recent venture, pop-up eatery Scharf & Zoyer, offered over-the-top novelties like kugel sandwiches.
After tainted Mexican food left her decimated with hepatitis A – and unable to take medication, despite unbearable symptoms - Cathy Shapiro went online.
Ginger kept popping up as the preschool teacher searched for natural remedies. And those queries jogged Shapiro’s memories of her long-gone Polish-born bubbe.
“She used to put a paste of ginger and water on my head when I had a headache. She’d mix ginger and honey for my sore throat. And she’d make ginger tea when I had an upset stomach,” Shapiro recalled. “I had forgotten most of these childhood cures.”
Five years later, and completely recovered, Shapiro’s spreading the gospel of ginger through her Baltimore business, Cathy’s Ginger Spices. At five local farmers’ markets and a handful of shops, Shapiro’s peddling hand-ground spices, ginger-infused cooking oils, and potent ginger juices to a growing fan base of health fanatics, foodies, and buy-local enthusiasts.
“My business has at least doubled, if not more, since launch,” Shapiro told the Forward from her home-office in Pikesville, a heavily Jewish northwest Baltimore suburb. “I owe a lot of it to my bubbe, and to my background,” Shapiro said. “And even to getting hep A. God closes one door and opens another.”
In the summer of 2011, “the cottage cheese protest” began In Israel. Israelis had enough with the rising costs of living, and demanded to return the possibility to live in dignity – starting with cottage cheese. This demand is certainly still out there for the government to handle, and there is no doubt that some of the responsibility to lower the costs of living is on the government, but Israeli citizens should not be passive. We can reduce the costs of living, while having a more fair and sustainable economic system even today.
“The pepper protest”, which started several months ago, is a yet another great example of these issues. The protest was initiated by a farmer from the Arava region in the south of Israel who was forced to throw away perfectly good peppers in order to keep high market-price.
(JTA) — In a penthouse office with a view of the Eiffel Tower, Olivier Kassabi uses a ceramic spoon to extract a small scoop from a jar labeled as Russian caviar.
Placing a clutch of black globules on the base of his thumb, Kassabi licks it off, savoring every fishy drop of the salty liquid inside the dark beads as they pop in his mouth.
As recently as a few months ago, Russian caviar would have been strictly off-limits for an observant Jew like Kassabi. Sturgeon, the endangered fish species whose eggs are harvested to produce caviar, is not kosher.
That’s what led Kassabi to import and market a caviar substitute that he hopes satisfies not just the growing demand among observant Jews for affordable delicacies, but also the desire for sustainable foods with minimal environmental impact.
“In the age of mass media and globalization, Jewish communities are much more exposed to fine cuisine,” Kassabi said. “People see special dishes on food blogs and they want a taste.”
Kassabi is not the only businessman aiming to tap into what people in the food world see as a growing demand among observant Jews for gourmet foodstuffs that meet their dietary needs.
Last year, the Brooklyn-based Black Diamond Caviar started marketing a caviar substitute from a non-endangered kosher fish called bowfin that is caught in Louisiana. And in February, Le Rafael became the first kosher restaurant in France to earn two stars from the vaunted Michelin Guide.
“All over the world, average restaurant goers are becoming more demanding because of the popularization of the the culture of gourmet dining, and kashrut keepers are no exception to this trend,” said Guy Cohen, one of the owners of Le Rafael, which is testing Kassabi’s substitute caviar. “Clients have become very demanding and we are rising to the challenge.”
Kassabi’s caviar interest was piqued last year when he read that a company in Saint Petersburg called Tzar Caviar was developing a caviar substitute through a process known as molecular engineering in which a fish bouillon is made to resemble the contents of sturgeon eggs in taste and consistency. The liquid is then compressed into a membrane that looks like the soft shell of a fish egg.
The result is a kosher product that its producer claims more closely resembles real caviar than most other kosher fish roes on the market.
Overcoming Tzar Caviar’s fear of compromising the secrecy of its production methods took some time, Kassabi said. But within a few months he was able to arrange for kosher supervision from the chief rabbi of Saint Petersburg, Menachem-Mendel Pevzner.
Kassabi and his partner, Yohann Assayag, have sold hundreds of jars of Tzar Caviar since they began marketing the product earlier this year. The demand is especially strong in France, where the ostentatious nature of Jewish weddings and other festivities is so renowned it is the stuff of parody, most famously in the character of Coco, an overzealous Frenchman (portrayed by the Jewish comedian Gad Almaleh) determined to give his son the best bar mitzvah the world has ever seen.
The partners have also sold Tzar Caviar to Jewish delis in New York and expect to begin shipping to Israel in the coming months.
“This stuff is flying off the shelf, thank God,” Kassabi said.
Meanwhile, French media were interested in Tzar Caviar not for its kashrut but because of its relative affordability. Tzar Caviar is 15 percent cheaper than real caviar, selling for just under $41 per 50 grams. It also has a longer shelf life and is produced without exploiting any endangered species. Traditional caviar production has rendered some sturgeon species near extinction, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.
Assayag was surprised when “Tele Matin,” a leading French daytime television program, didn’t bring up the kosher issue at all in an interview, asking only about the production process and pricing.
Tzar Caviar hit the market just months after Raymond Mizrahi began marketing his own kosher caviar substitute in New York. Mizrahi shares the notion that observant Jews are demanding more because of exposure to new culinary pleasures, but believes that most kosher substitutes have come up short.
“Kosher caviar substitutes are nothing new. You’ve always had salmon roe,” said Mizrahi, the owner of Black Diamond Caviar. “But it tends to behave like a plastic bubble and certainly not like the finer black kinds. And you have other kosher black caviar, too, but they are of poorer quality.”
High-end black caviar or its substitute, Mizrahi said, “will not leave a black streak on a white plate.”
Mizrahi couldn’t vouch for Tzar Caviar’s taste, but Kassabi claims the product is nearly identical.
“I don’t know what real caviar tastes like,” Kassabi said, “but experts who do said it’s nearly indistinguishable from Tzar Caviar.”
I recently observed the following conversation between a mother and her 2 or 3 year old son. We were all at a coffee shop, I was catching up on some work for my health coaching certification on my iPad and at the table next to me this mother-and-son duo were enjoying an afternoon snack.
The mother had purchased a glass of tea, which came with two paper cups; my coffee came in just one cup. Surprised by the difference, the boy continued to ask further about coffee and tea, not only about the heat discrepancy, but about their essence and identities.
The mother, who admitted to her son that she does drink coffee too, was baffled – taken aback, even – by her son’s curiosity.
“It’s not that coffee is bad for you”, she started slowly, “it’s just not for everyone”. Then she added with inflection, “all of the time”.
A bowl of Israeli style hummus at an event hosted by EatWith, a platform for sharing home-cooked meals. / Courtesy of EatWith
I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn. Periodically I receive an email from “Brooklyn Hummus” with the message that the following day there will be either hummus, masabacha (chickpeas swimming in a rich tahini sauce) or both for sale. Orders must be placed before the day is over; the hummus can be procured anywhere along the 2 or 3 subway line from Prospect Heights in Brooklyn to Chelsea in Manhattan the next morning. The email is signed “Noam,” no last name.
Last summer I met Noam Bonnie, a 40-year-old Israeli expat software developer, outside Brooklyn’s Boro Hall. He unzipped a small cooler and handed me a white plastic bag filled with warm Tupperware containers of hummus and masabacha, as well as pita. He instructed me to eat the hummus soon and not to refrigerate it. I paid him in cash — $7 for each container — thanked him and slipped the goods into my canvas bag.
Bonnie has been selling his hummus like this for seven years. “Before I moved here I knew I was going to miss it,” he told me. Anticipating his longing for the dish, he learned to make hummus before he moved to New York, experimenting at home and talking to talented hummus cooks. Once Bonnie arrived in New York, his Israeli colleagues and friends quickly caught on to his skills and asked to purchase the dip. A side business was born.
Local Israelis were grateful for a taste of home. “The first time he arrived at my place, I cried,” Naama Shefi, another Israeli living in New York who works on various culinary projects, told me. Similar underground hummus operations have popped up in Berlin and New Jersey, feeding expats as well as those like me, who once called Israel home.
“In Israel, hummus is a religion,” Bonnie said. More than a bowl of ground chickpeas, it provides expats with a cultural and emotional connection to home. The dish holds a unique place in the Israeli imagination; there is an entire culture of customs, etiquette and traditions that surrounds it. “The experience of eating hummus is the ultimate freedom: You eat it with your hands, outside, and with your friends. It’s very spontaneous. All of these characteristics are so typically Israeli. So it’s not just the flavor that’s so hard to bring to life [outside Israel], but also the experience of eating it,” Shefi said.
Israeli-born chef Alon Shaya cooks an eggplant and okra dish in his New Orleans restaurant.
Nearly 300 years after Louis the XIV’s “Code Noir” ordered all Jews out of Louisiana, Israeli-born chef Alon Shaya set up shop in New Orleans.
Shaya’s restaurant, Domenica, opened as a traditional Italian restaurant in 2009. Slowly but surely, however, Israeli flavors started to seep into his menu. The result? Italian staples like slow-roasted goat shoulder and broccoli rabe find themselves folded into shakshuka.
“When you’re Israeli, food is a huge part of your culture,” Shaya said. “There’s no like ‘Oh, I’m not into that.’”
Born in Bat Yam, a coastal town in Israel, Shaya moved with his family to Philadelphia when he was 4 years old. As the head of a struggling immigrant family, his mother worked two jobs to make ends meet. As a result, Shaya would often cook dinner for the family. His meals started off simple: a microwaved potato with cheese. But on those rare special occasions when his Israeli grandparents would come to visit, the kitchen would fill with the comforting smells of roasting vegetables, infused with the flavors of his Savta’s Bulgarian ancestry.
“I fell in love with food because my grandmother would come from Israel every year,” Shaya explained. “I would never know when she was arriving so when I would open the door and smell peppers roasting on an open flame, it was like ‘Oh my God, Savta’s here!’ That started creating a connection between the smell of food and family.”
The next few years were tumultuous to say the least. By his own admission, Shaya was “a shitty little kid” who fell in with “the wrong crowd.” He was constantly getting kicked out of class. His salvation came in the form of a Home Economics teacher who would put him to work chopping onions when others teachers booted him out.
“She really was the turning point for me to get serious about something. She got me my first restaurant job, she drove me there, she checked up on me that I was showing up on time.”
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Shaya spent some time cooking at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and Antonio’s Ristorante in St. Louis.
He spent 2007 in Italy to soak up the techniques he would need to open Domenica.
With the restaurant established, he was surprised to find himself introducing Israeli dishes into his repertoire. He started small: a dish of tahini here, an Israeli bottle of wine there. The customers went wild.
“We were selling more Israeli wine here than anywhere in the state of Louisiana,” Shaya laughed.
Today, Shaya hosts Passover and Hannukah meals at the restaurant, serving dishes like zaa’tar buttermilk biscuits with babaganoush, latkes with a side of creole-cream-cheese-stuffed deviled eggs topped with salmon roe, and Sicilian sea-salt matzo with olives and rosemary. The Passover menu can draw in up to 400 people.
Shaya is the first to say that he’s “fallen head over heels” for New Orleans. His kitchen is well-stocked with locally sourced Southern ingredients — and he often blends them with Israeli flavors.
Though Shaya says there have been “many failed experiments,” his fire-roasted eggplant stuffed with okra and drizzled with tahini is not one of them. Each spoonful was a surprising fusion of Tel Aviv and the Big Easy. The chef pointed out that the eggplant and okra are grown in nearby farms — and to him, that’s important.
“Food doesn’t have to be fried chicken for it to be Southern,” Shaya explained. “It just has to be from the South.”
Alon Shaya shared his recipe for okra-stuffed coal-roasted eggplant with the Forward. Try it for yourself at home!
(JTA) - I will now share a cardinal truth of the life agrarian: If you give them tomatoes, all else is forgiven.
OK, the truth may only be trivial. It might not even be true. But some conviction along those lines must have lain behind my decision to plant 1,000 — yes, 1,000 — tomato plants this year. How this came to be is something that unfolded in typical fashion: I seeded a couple hundred plants in drill trays in early spring, looked at them after germination and — freaking out that they wouldn’t be nearly enough — ran to the computer to rush order more seeds that I plunged into soil immediately upon arrival, hoping they would catch up.
They did. In fact, I had hundreds extra, a predicament born partly of the local farmers market informing me after the second week I was no longer permitted to sell potted plants. Thus began a frantic effort to give away these suffering tomatoes, suffocating slowly in their pitifully inadequate four-inch pots. That endeavor was only partially successful. Earlier this week, a few dozen plants, some throwing pathetic little fruits in a last ditch attempt to pass on their genetic material, wound up in the compost pile. (It wasn’t necessarily a bad fate; there they were greeted by several hundred pounds of rotting carrots and cucumbers.)
The vast tomato planting also raised the question of where to store all those fruits between harvest and market. The answer presented itself in the form of a 14-foot box truck that hadn’t moved in months from its parking spot at the auction house across the street. Its owner was more than willing to me let me stash the truck in the shade and use the box as a ripening area, but the engine wouldn’t start when we tried to jump it. So my neighbor — a man I will write more of later, as he has quickly become as indispensable to our success this season as Fred — threw a chain under the body and towed the thing over to the farm.
All this chaos led last week to a milestone of sorts: The first appearance of tomatoes in our CSA boxes. To me, this is the real beginning of summer, the moment when the northeast’s signature warm-season crop makes its debut. If all goes well, our plants will produce a swarm of fruit over the next eight weeks. With a little luck, many will go even longer. The inaugural tomato variety is the one I consider the finest I’ve ever tasted: The sungold. The product of the breeding genius of a Japanese seed company, this cherry tomato has a deep yellow-orange color and a flavor that is more than just sweet. With their addictive syrupy tang that bursts in your mouth, sungolds are a reliable sellout at the market. On average, I eat one for about every 10 that I harvest.
I had never encountered a sungold before 2010, when I wandered into the greenhouse of the farm I was working on in Vermont, plucked one off the vine and was transformed. Now, no self-respecting small farmer is without them. I’ve seen half pints of these things selling for as much as $4.50 at the farmers market. That’s about a quarter per cherry. Not too shabby.
The onset of the tomato harvest — now a daily task on the farm — is an opportunity to test just how eternal the truth of abundant tomato giving actually is. Not that we have anything to be forgiven for. Our boxes these last weeks have been teeming with seasonal goodness. Squash, kale, beets and basil have all made regular appearances. But the sight of all those plants weighted down with fruit, one or two of which begin to blush red each week, has removed some weight from these shoulders, now starting to stoop with the fatigue of high season. If all else fails, there will still be tomatoes. And for that, I rest a little easier.
Veteran JTA journalist Ben Harris is chronicling his new life as a Connecticut farmer.
Isaac Bernstein prepares dishes at a recent Epic Bites event. / Courtesy of Epic Bites
On a recent Friday afternoon, when I normally would be working or cooking for Sabbath dinner guests, I found myself in my friends Naf and Anna Hanau’s Brooklyn living room, tucking into a plate of pigeon confit drizzled with a port-balsamic glaze. Moments prior, I had sampled snapper with dehydrated olives and a blood-orange vinaigrette, and eaten one too many deep-fried smoked turkey balls that came served, in a gloriously Hanukkah-friendly fashion, with sweet quince butter.
The man behind this unlikely pre-weekend feast was Isaac Bernstein, founder and chef of the Oakland, California-based kosher catering company Epic Bites. He was visiting New York for a week to prepare a series of pop-up dinners, and Naf and Anna (who run Grow & Behold, a kosher sustainable meat company that supplies some of Epic Bites’ meat) offered to host a “leftovers lunch,” where he would cook with whatever ingredients remained after the week of events. Luckily for me and the other guests, Bernstein’s idea of leftovers included candied kumquats and steak tartare.
For the past two years, Bernstein, 30 — who sports dark plastic-framed glasses and is as comfortable wearing an Iron Maiden T-shirt as he is chef whites — has worked to redefine the standards for kosher cooking and food service. The professionally trained chef, who graduated from the French Culinary Institute, in New York, pushes creative boundaries, working with local farms to source hard-to-find herbs, like lovage, oyster leaf and cilantro flowers, and fermenting many of his own vinegars, including a fruity-smelling nasturtium blossom vinegar he bottled recently.
His clients, primarily nonkosher Jews who are organizing a dinner or event that includes kosher guests, are game to follow his culinary lead — mostly. “You cannot give everyone fried chicken skin on day one,” he said. “But they appreciate that we respect the ingredients, and that if they order something like bagels and lox, we are going to cure the salmon ourselves and add aromatics to make it special.”
Growing up in a Venezuelan Jewish home opting out of nightly family dinners was never an option. But every once in a while, I wished it was. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that I wanted to watch the finale of American Idol which always happened to air during dinnertime or that I would have rather had dinner at a friend’s house. Instead my occasional and mostly failed attempts at avoiding the family table came from my deep-seeded aversion to eating zucchini.
Food is a most basic human need. Until one a hundred years ago, most people everywhere worked in some aspect of food production. Most tools of human culture developed in order to secure, store, and distribute food reliably. Consider the Hebrew servitude in Egypt, building the storage facilities at Pithom and Ramses and Joseph’s job description of measuring, storing and distributing grain. According to author and scientist Jared Diamond, everything from capitol cities to written records developed in service to an organized food supply.
(JTA) — We were out weeding squash last week when Fred came over to say he had to show me something but he feared it would lead to an act of violence.
Regular readers will know Fred is the farm’s sole employee. (I believe the technical term is “farm hand.”) He’s also a devout Hare Krishna, strict vegetarian and devotee of non-violence.
With a prelude like that, I knew where this was heading.
Fred led me to a spot in the field, cleared away some brush, and there in a small hole were four or five baby rabbits. Fred and Raul – one of Fred’s spiritual fellow travelers and an occasional presence at the farm – were busy cooing over their find. I was completely unmoved. I realize this makes me sound like a heartless ogre, but cute as they were, I had bigger fish to fry (or rabbits to roast, if you like.)
I had seen momma bunny hopping around with her cotton tail (Fred had rather unhelpfully christened her Hare Krishna — get it?), and all I could think about when looking at those little tufts of fur was that rabbits breed like rabbits! Soon there’d be lots of Hare Krishnas running around (a Fred fantasy, I’m sure) and I’m pretty convinced they’re the ones that have been chomping on my snap peas. The babies had to go, and I knew exactly how I was going to do it.
The other regular presence on the farm is my landlord Joe. An Italian immigrant with a thick accent and a penchant for dropping the last syllable of words, Joe is a lifelong farmer, a Catholic and a carnivore. He raises a handful of goats on the farm that he kills with a small knife to the throat and butchers himself. A few weeks back, he asked me if any vendors at the market sell rabbit meat. I didn’t know, but Joe went looking himself and came up empty. I figured presenting him with this find would buy me some goodwill.
The mojito is a classic Cuban drink. But who says it can’t be a Jewish one, too?
In honor of National Mojito Day on July 11, we have concocted (and named!) 6 Jewish mojitos that will spice up a summer party. Or a synagogue kiddush.
Start by finding the five classic ingredients of a mojito: rum, lime juice, sugar, mint, and sparkling water.
That’s when the real fun begins:
Throw in a tablespoon of beet puree to create a beautiful pink mojito that marches to the beet of its own drum. Add a dash of ginger for an extra refreshing kick.
Photo: Joelle Abramowitz
Sometimes we need to encounter something new to help us unearth a remnant from the past.
“This week, I got sorrel,” I told my mother. Each week I’d recite to my mother what had come in my CSA share and what I ended up doing with my vegetables. The sorrel was notable because somehow, on my third year of being a CSA member, I still had not yet encountered sorrel for myself.
After receiving my box of vegetables, I tasted a small piece of the sorrel. It was as I’d expected, but more: lemony and sour and wonderful. Having only a few ounces of sorrel, I decided to make a sorrel-onion tart. Indeed, the bites with ample sorrel were quite lovely and refreshing.
I related my sorrel adventure to my mother.
(Reuters) — Cupcakes still lined the counter of an empty and unlit Crumbs Bake Shop on 42nd Street in New York City on Tuesday afternoon, the day after the largest U.S. cupcake retailer announced it was closing.
Crumbs, which specializes in oversized cupcakes and went public in 2011, shuttered its nearly 50 locations in 10 states and the District of Columbia.
Gina Mackey and Raquel Baquero of Queens stopped by the store after they heard the news that it would be closing.
“I don’t do too much cupcake stuff because I don’t find them to be very moist. But this was a moist cupcake and I did enjoy it, so it’s a shame it went out of business,” said Mackey. “Had I known it was going to go out of business, I would have come and gotten my last Crumbs cupcake.”
“And I would have gotten my first,” said Baquero, her daughter.
“When my friend posted the story they were closing, I was like, ‘Well, I just blew it,’” Baquero said. “I just walked by to confirm that they were really closed.”
(Reuters) — Lee Brian Schrager’s passion for fried chicken led him to travel around the United States and convince celebrity and local chefs to share their recipes in his new cookbook “Fried & True.”
In the book co-written with Adeena Sussman, Schrager shares more than 50 recipes for fried chicken from his contributors including double fried chicken and another with Asian-inspired ingredients.
The 55-year-old founder of the Food Network South Beach and New York City Wine & Food Festivals spoke to Reuters about what makes the best fried chicken and sharing recipes.
What is the secret to making great fried chicken?
Lee Brian Schrager: The right temperature with the frying oil. If the oil is too hot, it’s going to be burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. If it’s too cold, it will get too greasy. Starting the oil at 370 degree Fahrenheit (188 degree Celsius) is the key.
(Haaretz) — All has already been written about the famous Israeli breakfast of a large chopped Arabic salad, eggs, labneh, feta and other cheeses, Greek style yogurt and bread: that it’s fresh and healthy, that it’s Middle Eastern, that it’s just too much.
Everything was said, except the truth, and the truth is that Israelis have this exact meal for dinner, not breakfast.
Many Israelis still have heavy, hot meals at lunch. Kids come back from school early and have their schnitzel and mashed potatoes. Dinner is light and includes the dishes listed above.
Summer, when light cooking or no cooking at all are a plus, is the best time to try and follow this diet. Tomatoes and cucumbers are at their peak this time of year and yield the best chopped salad. To the regular chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and onions add grated radishes, chopped peppers and fresh mint and finish with lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Offer good bread to absorb all the goodness accumulating at the bottom of the salad bowl. You can also add a simple salad of squashed avocado with chopped egg, green onions and olives to spread on bread.
Finish this Israeli-inspired dinner with a fresh watermelon. You’ll leave the table full but not heavy. You might even sleep better!
There’s one staple that requires cooking, but still fits summer dinners (or brunches) really well, and that is shakshuka. Shakshuka is a Northern African dish of cooked eggs in tomato and red pepper or paprika stew, usually with the addition of hot pepper. It was brought to Israel by the Tunisian Jewish immigrants and is popular both in Israeli homes and restaurants. The most common version is made of cooked tomatoes, crushed garlic and paprika. Some recipes include sliced chorizos, some call for feta cheese, and there’s also a green version of Swiss chard or spinach stew with eggs cooked in it is gaining popularity as well.
Shakshuka made with canned tomatoes can be quite good, but there’s really nothing like one made of fresh summer tomatoes. The dish has such few ingredients- it relies on the tomatoes alone, and those must be of the best flavor. Try mixing different heirloom tomatoes- but any good, red, ripe tomatoes will work well.
With slices of ciabatta or sourdough bread, this is a whole vegetarian meal on its own. I just wish I could say it was cheap, since no meat is saved. Unfortunately, if you’re living in America, tomatoes, even in the summer, can be as expensive as meat, or even more expensive- something I still cannot understand. But you’ll be comforted to know you’re following the MyPlate recommendations of the USDA, and serving your family real goodness in a skillet.
Below are two versions for shakshuka, one is a classic tomato-paprika base with roasted eggplant, the other is a summer version of Swiss chard and fresh corn.
My love affair with halva began in the cafeteria of an IDF base, surrounded by pounds upon pounds of halva bars and a bunch of my best Birthright friends. We sat for an entire afternoon, unwrapping the bars, “quality controlling,” and making enough halva bread pudding to serve a literal army.
Logic would have it that after all of that quality controlling, I’d have gotten sick of it, but it really just made me want more in a way that I now hoard it and try to sneak it into everything. Muffins, pie, even my birthday cake this year was filled with it. Such sweet, nutty, fudgey goodness is only made better by the fact that it brings back wonderful memories of my trip to Israel.
This summer, my favorite way to enjoy halva is in popsicle form. Chopped up pieces of halva scattered throughout tahini and honey yogurt, and then frozen and embellished with chocolate? I could eat a whole batch.
It may not have built a brand as big as Schwartz’s, but Bens Delicatessen looms large in the history of Jewish Montreal — and in the city’s cultural lore. Once a working-class hangout, Bens grew to serve smoked meat and soups to celebs from Michael Jackson to Leonard Cohen to Catherine Deneuve in its ‘60s-‘70s heyday.
Now, Montreal’s McCord Museum is paying tribute to the delicatessen – which closed in 2006 – with Bens, the Legendary Deli, a compact but fascinating exhibition about the eatery, founder Ben Kravitz, and a bright, shining moment in Montreal history.
“Bens itself was a great portrait of Montreal,” Celine Widmer, the exhibition’s curator, told the Forward. “An institution that endured the time of a human life span, Bens was always much more than just a restaurant. It died out after 98 years of existence, but remains an integral part of our collective memory. It became iconic. It was one of those very special places that a city experiences quite rarely.”
The exhibition showcases more than 100 objects, including posters, architectural plans, photos, counter stools, dishes, utensils, menus, and original recipes donated by Kravitz descendants, who had contacted the museum in 2007 about staging a show. A fascinating video tribute to Bens comes in the form of a two-minute spiel by superfan (and Montreal native) Leonard Cohen pulled from 1965 docu Ladies and Gentlemen: Mr. Leonard Cohen.
Like any great deli, the attraction of Bens wasn’t just food, which even regulars would admit was so-so. Because the restaurant was the rare non-drinking establishments open late in Montreal, its cachet as a slightly louche, latenight hangout snowballed – think a smaller Katz’s. By 1960, Bens’ staff of 80 was serving 8,000 customers a day.
“When nightlife was centered downtown, back in Montreal’s Sin City days, American entertainers would stop in there to sober up or start their day,” said Bill Brownstein, the Montreal Gazette columnist whose 2006 book on Schwartz’s became an acclaimed stage musical. Ben’s ascent also mirrored Montreal’s, Brownstein said. “The period when Bens at its prime was an era when we were the financial and cultural hub of the country,” before political unrest shifted the center of gravity to Toronto, Brownstein explained.