Photograph by Konstantin Nikiforov/Wikimedia Commons
I slaughter my own chickens.
For the past several years, I have seen many animals die. I have experienced a range of feelings, from total cold focus to sadness and even fear. But I recently experienced a slaughter that transformed the way I see meat.
I trained in kosher slaughter four years ago, after seeing a slaughter myself. I realized I wanted to be able to produce my own meat — I saw making local kosher meat accessible as an essential way to create a healthy Jewish community, healthy food systems and a healthy local economy.
At the Hazon Food Conference in December, I helped with a demonstration led by fellow shochet (slaughterer) and food activist Yadidya Greenberg, and I performed the actual slaughter.
(JTA) – Get Rabbi Shulim Greenberg talking about the health benefits of pomegranate juice and he sounds like a homeopathic nutritionist — with a Yiddish accent.
Every January, the Hasidic charity Greenberg runs obtains some 40,000 pounds of California pomegranates (donated by Pom Wonderful, the nation’s largest pomegranate producer), squeezes them into juice and ships the product in eight-ounce plastic bottles to ailing Jews.
The recipients — mostly residents of the haredi Orthodox strongholds of Brooklyn, Lakewood, New Jersey, and New York’s Rockland County, where the New Square Hasidic village is located — apparently believe in the nectar’s healing powers. “People think it heals, but it doesn’t heal,” Greenberg says on a tour of the juice production line during its annual two-week run in January. “It’s keeping the blood count up, mainly for people taking chemo. If the blood count is good, the body has strength to fight the illness.”
Many manufacturers of food and dietary supplements promote the supposed health benefits of pomegranates, which are high in antioxidants, and the fruit also occupies a prominent place in Jewish tradition. Pomegranates are said to have 613 seeds — the same as the number of mitzvahs, or commandments, in the Torah. Pomegranate decorations adorned the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the robes of its high priest. Greenberg says there is also a reference in a medieval Jewish commentary to the fruit’s healing qualities.
Made from vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, these kosher energy bars are savory, not sweet. Photograph courtesy of Slow Food for Fast Lives.
Danny Grossman would find himself getting hungry while coaching his sons’ Little League games. He’d be on the field, craving a healthy snack he could pull from his back pocket to nosh without taking a break. But he didn’t like the cloying sweetness of energy bars or how they made him feel.
So, entrepreneur that he is, he founded a company. Slow Food for Fast Lives makes four varieties of savory nutrition bars using ingredients like kale, quinoa, lentils, cauliflower, nuts and seeds.
Grossman’s business partners are Mel and Patricia Ziegler, the founders of Banana Republic. They met Grossman in the mid-1980s in Leningrad when he was a diplomat serving in the Soviet Union and they were scouting for Soviet military chic for their store.
A fast friendship developed, continuing on subsequent trips and even after Grossman got kicked out of the country, accused of being a spy.
Photograph by Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/Thinkstock
As Jews around the world gathered to celebrate Hanukkah last month, traditional foods such as latkes, sufganiyot, sfinge and other deep-fried delicacies lined our dinner tables. Today, modern Jewish food is celebrated as more than just the krepelach and pickled herring from Eastern European kitchens. It is recognized as a rich cuisine of diverse cultures from a wide array of countries.
Spices and recipes from Morocco, Tunisia, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Eastern Europe have produced a multi-ethnic mish-mash of tastes that make up Jewish cuisine and tell the story of a wandering and displaced people. More than anything, Jewish food has become part and parcel of Jewish tradition, in both secular and religious homes throughout the world on holidays and other special occasions. Shabbat cholent or Passover charoset or Zadie’s gefilte fish have turned festivities into events for both the stomach and the soul.
But there’s another Jewish connection to food that’s associated with something darker, which has yet to be turned into a best-selling book by Janna Gur or Einat Admony. Israeli gastronomes rarely discuss it, though it’s a significant aspect of Jewish food culture that strengthens Jews around the world in their greatest times of need: the connection Jewish food has to death and mourning.
The Streit family announced today that it will close the doors of its 90-year-old factory this spring, at the conclusion of the Passover baking season. The announcement was made by filmmaker Michael Levine, who had been working on a documentary about the company, Streit’s Matzo and the American Dream, for the past two years.
“Since 1925, the Streit’s Matzo factory has stood at 148-154 Rivington Street on New York’s Lower East Side,” he wrote in a missive he sent this morning to the publication Bowery Boogie. “Here, in four, low-slung brick tenement buildings, five generations of the Streit family, and as many generations of factory workers, devoted their lives to the art of mixing flour and water, and sending these two simple ingredients through a seventy-three foot long oven to create sheets of matzo, the unleavened bread central to the Jewish holiday of Passover.”
The four buildings that comprise Streit’s factory, which is the last family-owned matzo factory in the U.S., are now under contract to a developer.
Illustration by Kurt Hoffman
It was on a trip to Madrid, about four years ago, that I finally understood the paradox of opposites: that there’s no such thing as opposites, really, and that what you get when you try to run as hard as you can in the opposite direction to your upbringing is, well, something quite a lot like where you started.
I’d been eating treyf for about six years before that. I’d grown up frum, in an Orthodox — though not closed or uneducated — community. I’d separated meat from dairy, I’d only bought from kosher butchers, I’d kept myself clean of the impure flesh of the pig. I’d drunk only kosher wine, eaten only cheese made with vegetable rennet, bought only bread baked by Jewish hands. All of that. For a long time. And then it seemed time for it to be over. And slowly, one by one, I started to eat the forbidden foods.
“With a name like Angus Johnson, you can probably guess I wasn’t born Jewish,” Berkshires farmer Angus Johnson said, beginning his story.
He was, however, born into a long line of farmers. For five generations, the family farm was diversified between livestock, vegetables, orchard fruits and bush fruit, all raised and grown sustainably. For the last 16 years, Johnson has supported research on safe and sustainable farm practices and represented 13 states in helping farmers convert to grass-based agriculture through his involvement in the Northeast Pasture Consortium.
As most farming practices stand today, animals are fed a grain-based diet, whereas grass-based agriculture has been shown to be more beneficial to human health. Johnson will go into detail on why this matters later.
Over the years, Johnson had been no stranger to Judaism; however, when he met, fell in love with, and married his Jewish wife, Dr. Allison Bell, his interest and study of Judaism deepened, as did his questions about Kashrut. He made an Orthodox conversion in Teaneck, New Jersey, in June 2009 and began to focus on kosher agriculture.
While his wife sparked his interest in Judaism, it became clear within five minutes of speaking with him that Johnson is Jewish because he truly wants to be.
Photographs by Hadas Margulies
Making pickles is easier and more health supportive than you might think. Pickled foods act as probiotics, or “good bacteria.” This means they support a healthy colon, promote digestion and strengthen the immune system. Our digestive systems work hard all day processing both the good and bad bacteria that we’re eating. In Chinese medicine, pickles are actually used as a liver tonic (perhaps we’ve pinpointed a hangover cure?), so It’s most definitely worth it to listen to your gut on this one and make yourself some custom pickles.
I love a classic dill pickle, but pretty much anything can be pickled. This time around, I decided to explore the farmer’s market for some seasonal inspiration. I chose cabbage, sweet potatoes, beets and purple, white and orange carrots.
Photograph by Liza Schoenfein
I’m nominating my friend Judy for the position of Slaw Queen. This evening, at her annual New Year’s open house, one of the delicious dishes on her buffet table was a gingery beet-and-carrot slaw in a lime dressing. It was beautiful to look at and even better to eat — light but incredibly satisfying. It felt like just the thing after so much holiday indulgence.
This weekend I think I’ll try to figure out the recipe.
A year ago, at a potluck at my house, Judy brought a similar-but-different salad, which she reproduced after eating one like it at Cookshop, and which I loved so much I quickly tried to make it myself. I’ve been concocting some version of it ever since, and first wrote about it on my Life, Death & Dinner blog. It’s full of flavor and extremely uplifting, with its gorgeous jewel tones.
To make quick work of it, use the grating blade on your food processor.
For the dressing:
¼ cup orange juice, reduced by half
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon maple syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly grated pepper
¼ cup hazelnut oil
For the salad:
4 large carrots, peeled and grated
4 beets (raw), peeled and grated
1 celery root, peeled and grated
1 head Tuscan kale, finely sliced
Seeds from a pomegranate
½ cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1) For the dressing, whisk everything but the oil together in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oil, stirring continuously until fully incorporated. Set aside.
2) Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss with half the dressing. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper and dressing as needed.
Liza Schoenfein is the food editor of the Forward. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Passion fruit and white chocolate yogurt mousse. Photograph by Vared Guttman
(Haaretz) — Getting ready to ring in the New Year also means we have only one more chance to eat decadent food and drink champagne before a new season full of diets falls upon us.
To help you enjoy this time to the fullest, I’ve included two outrageously sinful desserts, both served in cups, which would do well at a cocktail party complete with bubbly drinks. One is an homage to the French Mont Blanc dessert of meringue, whipped cream and chestnut cream, here in a quick version with the addition of very dark chocolate (100% cocoa butter, to be precise). The second, my favorite, is a white chocolate and Greek yogurt mousse topped with fresh pureed passion fruit.
To make this dessert a quick one, use a prepared chestnut spread (available online and, at this time of year, at some supermarkets) and store-bought meringue cookies. Photograph by Vared Guttman
2 ounces 100% cocoa unsweetened chocolate (or the darkest you can find), broken to small chunks
1½ whipping cream, divided
½ lb. + 1 tablespoon chestnut spread (see note)
2 cups crumbled meringue cookies (in large chunks)
Zest of half orange or 1 teaspoon orange blossom water (mazahar, available at Middle Eastern stores)
1) Put chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring ½ cup whipping cream to boil in a pot over medium-high heat or in the microwave and pour over chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute, then stir quickly for a smooth cream. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for a couple of hours.
2) Whip 1 cup cream with 1 tablespoon chestnut spread to soft peaks in a stand mixer. Fold meringue cookie chunks in. Divide between 6 dessert cups.
3) Transfer chocolate mixture to the same bowl of the stand mixer (you do not need to clean the bowl), add ½ lb. chestnut spread and orange zest and whip to create a smooth, airy cream. Transfer chestnut-chocolate cream into a piping bag, cut off the very tip of the bag and pipe a few layers in a nice pattern over the whipped cream. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 2 to 6 hours.
The author’s idea of New Year’s Eve bliss: an evening of Scrabble and Pomegranate Fizzes. Photograph by Jon Wunder.
For years I felt an enormous amount of pressure on New Year’s Eve to go out and have The Best Time Ever — and of course I never did. Now, thank goodness, I just don’t care. Heck, if I actually make it to midnight — I’m generally in bed by 10 p.m. and asleep by 10:02 — I consider it a successful evening. My ideal New Year’s Eve consists of staying home, roasting a chicken and playing Scrabble.
This year, if I make it to the countdown, I’ll toast the end of 2014 with prosecco. I was never a big fan of champagne, and prosecco (or cava) is way cheaper — and it’s delicious. Plus, prosecco is great for mixing.
The sweet taste of dessert, properly cooked. Photographs courtesy of Moscow 57.
Call it the Russian Iced Tea Room.
For nearly eight months, Ellen Kaye and her partners struggled to run Moscow 57 — their jewel box of a restaurant on Manhattan’s Lower East Side — without gas service.
Instead of the original menu inspired by the legendary Russian Tea Room, which Kaye’s parents owned for decades, Moscow 57 served sandwiches, salads, smoked fish and the occasional kebab.
But the wait’s finally over. In December, after seemingly endless tsuris with contractors, Moscow 57 turned on the gas. And a full menu of specialties that span Russian, Mediterranean, Georgian, Uzbeki and Jewish cuisine will finally roll out.
“The gas situation slowed everything down for us,” Kaye told the Forward. “It took everything we had to survive. We were out in the desert for what felt like 40 years. But we’re back.”
Maia Hirschbein with some of her favorite olive oils. Photograph by Emily Potter
It was in an olive grove in Tuscany that Maia Hirschbein had an epiphany that would determine her future. Already a food lover, she had come to Italy in 2012 to study its food, culture and language, and with no other particular direction, she answered an ad asking for help with the olive harvest.
“I took a train, not knowing where I was going, and met some guy who gave me a room and put me to work,” she said. “I’d wake up early and spend the day raking unripe Tuscan olives off the trees.”
The olives were then brought to the mill, a modern production facility, “and I was able to watch the steps of seeing my fruit milled and transformed before my eyes,” Hirschbein said. “In 30 to 40 minutes, it had turned this bright neon green that smelled incredible, and I thought, ‘How have I never tasted this before? It’s so full of life.’ ”
Olive-oil expert Maia Hirschbein’s mother used to use low-quality olive oil in her cooking, but when she switched to the high-quality stuff, her challah and other dishes were transformed. Thinkstock
½ cup warm water
1 package or 1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup warm water
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons salt
A little less than 2⁄3 cup sugar
4 cups flour (or as much as needed to make dough)
1) Place warm water in warm bowl and sprinkle in yeast and sugar. Let stand a few minutes. Then add remaining ingredients.
2) Stir together and knead for about 5 minutes. Knead with love. Place in bowl cover and place in warm spot 3 to 4 hours.
3) Punch down dough. Divide and braid. Place on greased cookie sheet Brush with egg and sesame seeds if desired. Let stand 30 minutes.
4) Bake at 325˚F for 30 minutes. For holidays add raisins.
Russ & Daughters Cafe is one of Pete Wells’s top 10 restaurants of 2014. Photograph by Jen Snow and Kelli Anderson.
New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells just came out with his list of the 10 best new restaurants of 2014, and I was excited to see that three of them are among my favorites too.
Of Russ & Daughters Cafe he said, “As the death of Cafe Edison this month has reminded us, New Yorkers can’t keep taking blintzes, latkes and borscht for granted. The cooking of Eastern European Jews helps make up the flavor of New York, and its survival in a city of changing demographics and pitiless real estate churn isn’t guaranteed. If that food has a future, it may look like Russ & Daughters Cafe.”
Amen to that.
Ivan Orkin, chef-owner of Ivan Ramen, one of Pete Wells’ top 10 restaurants of 2014. Photograph by Daniel Krieger
Japan’s only certified kosher restaurant is set to open to the public next month.
The new restaurant began operations several weeks ago, Rabbi Mendy Sudakevich, Chabad’s emissary to Japan, told JTA on Friday. However, the restaurant, which is called as Chana’s Place, is currently only open by appointment.
“Initially, the restaurant will seat 14 in its small dining area but has another hall with 48 seats that may be used for larger groups or if the clientele grows,” said Sudakevich, who has been living in Japan since 2000.
In addition to the city’s Jewish population of a few hundred people from Israel, North America and France, the new restaurant, which is located at the Beit Chabad in the Takanawa neighborhood in central Tokyo, is designed to cater to non-Jewish locals and tourists from Israel, who last year numbered 13,000 and are arriving in growing numbers.
(Reuters) — Israeli-born chef Yotam Ottolenghi serves up tips to jazz up vegetarian dishes in his newest, best-selling cookbook, “Plenty More.”
In the book, his fourth, Ottolenghi focuses on techniques like braising and roasting to extract flavors. He also showcases spices and condiments from Asia, Middle East and North Africa.
The 46-year-old chef and certified Pilates instructor, who lives in London and owns four restaurants, spoke to Reuters about the book, cooking techniques, and how to get children to eat more vegetables.
Where did you find the inspirations for “Plenty More”?
Ottolenghi: What inspires me week to week can vary in all directions: something I have tasted and want to experiment with myself, something I’ve read about which piques my interest or something a chef in the Ottolenghi delis or restaurants has brought to the menu which I want to share with the home cook.
Other times I will just see something in the grocers which I haven’t used for a while and that will spark an urge to bring it to the test kitchen and have a play.
Last week, I offered some homemade latkes to my upstairs neighbor, Caitrin Kiley. As she happily ate a few (with sour cream, for which she has a slight preference over apple sauce), she casually mentioned her family’s Christmas morning tradition.
The Kileys, a Catholic family from Connecticut, have a longstanding routine. Assorted relatives sleep over on Christmas Eve, everyone gathers around the Christmas tree to open presents and then they start making breakfast, filling the house with the smell of — what else? — latkes.
How long had this been going on? I asked.
As far as Caitrin knew, her entire life.
Jewish relatives? A few, by marriage, but they don’t come on Christmas.
Some obscure Quebecois custom? Caitrin wasn’t sure. All she knew was that latkes had always been an integral part of her family’s Christmas morning.
God bless America, I thought to myself, and resolved that this merited further investigation.
(Haaretz) — My kids love Christmas. It’s the only time of year we eat Chinese food, a cuisine I’m not particularly fond of. But tradition is tradition, and I’m not the one to break the generations-long ritual of Chinese and a movie.
This tradition is indeed so well established, that when I called to make dinner reservations at our local Chinese restaurant, the friendly receptionist offered me the desirable spot for 4:00 in the afternoon. “But only if you’re done eating by 5:00”, she added.
Hmmm, it might be easier to just make it at home, I thought.
Israeli Jews do not have that special relationship with Chinese food as their American brothers do.
For years, what Israelis did know about the Asian cuisine was delivered to them by original and first Israeli master chef, Israel Aharoni, who opened the first fancy Chinese restaurant in Tel Aviv in the early 80’s and wrote the “Aharoni’s Chinese Cooking” cookbook (in Hebrew) a few years later (the same Aharoni later introduced Israelis to the French and Italian cuisines as well).