The Jew And The Carrot

Battle for Kosher Lower East Side Ends — Sadly

By Michael Kaminer

After a prickly debate that nearly became a referendum on the Lower East Side’s Jewish character, a non-kosher diner will fill the space that once housed Noah’s Ark Deli, the neighborhood’s last full-service kosher restaurant.

The owner of Comfort Diner, an 18-year-old Midtown restaurant, was awarded the lease for the space next to the Seward Park Co-op last night.

Holy Schnitzel, a Long Island-based kosher chain, had been the presumed frontrunner for the space but lost out on the space in a 7 to 4 vote. The team behind the chain had launched a campaign that included enlisting heavy-hitters like New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to plead their case. A petition for a kosher restaurant in the spot also garnered over 1,000 signatures.

Frank Durant, the Seward Park Co-op’s general manager, did not return calls or emails for comment. But he told the LoDown that “the board anguished over this decision, and we really did try our best.”

Ira Freehof who runs the diner, told the Forward he only learned about the vacant space last week — a family friend who lives near the building had tipped him off — and had not been aware of the tempest facing the Seward Park Co-Op, which owns the space. “I didn’t realize how contentious it was,” Freehof said.

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An African-Israeli Cafe Grows in Harlem

By Anna Goldenberg

One doesn’t expect to see a mezuzah outside a restaurant in the midst of a bustling Harlem street. The block of 116th street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard is lined with bodegas, hardware stores and soul food spots. But upon closer inspection the embellished clay ornament at the light blue store front of Silvana, a café and shop, reveals it’s a mezuzah.

Silvana’s tall shop windows are filled with a variety of colorful items that appear to stem from all over the world – from candles and African wood figurines to hookahs and jewelry. “Shwarma/Falafel/Bar/Live Music/Boutique/Café” is printed on the marquee, which seems like a lot for one venue. But everything falls into place inside, where you find yourself in a living room between Israel and Africa, with partly exposed red brick walls, a dark red carpet on the hardwood floor, and large wooden tables that customers share. Some work on their computers, while others munch on cakes or falafel sandwiches.

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Can Sabra Prevent a Hummus Crisis?

By Anna Goldenberg

Hummus might be a constant presence in many Jewish household fridges, but the delicious chickpea dip still has a long way to go to gain nationwide popularity.

Eighty million Americans, or a quarter of the population, have never heard of the Middle Eastern snack, Sabra, the biggest US producer, recently told Fast Company. According to data from the market research company IRI, only 26% of households eat hummus regularly.

To help address the hummus crisis, Sabra has started dispatching trucks loaded with hummus to those poor cities living in the hummus desert. In April, the trucks will stop in Orlando, FL, San Diego and Austin to preach the hummus gospel — oh, and give out samples.


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Israeli Salads To Kick the Final Days of Winter

By Vered Guttman

(Haaretz) — For the interval between having filled ourselves with hamantaschen and stuffing ourselves with matza brei and matza ball soups, here are three light and airy end-of-winter salads.

Carrot ribbons with harissa aioli

This salad is a contemporary play on the classic Moroccan carrot salad. The carrots here are raw, and shaved into ribbons; the dressing is a homemade aioli mixed with harissa, a Tunisian hot pepper and spices paste available in health food supermarkets, kosher stores and Middle Eastern markets.

Serves 4

1 lb. carrots
1 egg yolk at room temperature
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
1-2 teaspoons harissa
¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves

1) Peel the carrots and shave them into long ribbons using a vegetable peeler. This is easier to do when lying the carrots on a cutting board. Place in a bowl.

2) To make the dressing, put egg yolk, lemon juice and garlic clove in a small bowl and whisk well for 1 minute. While whisking constantly, start adding olive oil drop by drop (it is essential to add the oil very slowly) until the dressing is thickened and emulsified. Add salt and harissa to taste.

3) Pour dressing over carrot ribbons and mix gently. Mix in the cilantro. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

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The Miracle of Maple Syrup

By Meredith Cohen

Sarah Chandler
Since I moved to the Adamah Farm 10 months ago, I have witnessed many miracles.

I don’t mean the kind of miracles we often think of, in a biblical sense: an event that defies all laws of nature, and happens only once-in-a-lifetime (or only once-in-history, and only a very long time ago). In fact, the miracles I’ve come to see around me are the exact opposite: they ARE the laws of nature, and they are happening every day. I have held a seed in my hand, a TINY tiny seed, that has everything inside it needed to turn into an onion. A whole onion! That I will eat! Inside that tiny tiny seed! Honestly, I may not even believe such a thing if I didn’t get to see it happen in front of me, and help this miracle occur day after day over the course of a farming season.

Hearing about these miracles is one thing, and witnessing them is another, but putting in long days of physical labor to actually help them occur is truly a life-changing experience. I’ve eaten maple syrup before; it’s delicious. Then, during my first farm tour at Adamah, I was told that it took 40 gallons of sap from a sugar maple tree to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. I couldn’t believe it! It changed the way I thought about maple syrup – for a minute. But I quickly forgot.

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Is Schnitzel the New Falafel?

By Molly Yeh

After three years of slinging their creative takes on Israeli schnitzel at Brooklyn food fair Smorgasburg, SchnitzNYC has finally gone brick and mortar. The owners and siblings Donna and Yoni Erlich, are offering new twists on the classic scnitzel at their new spot in the East Village.

Their Israeli schnitzel, which is slightly thicker than its Austrian counterpart, will continue to be showcased in original hits like the Bamberg sandwich (chicken schnitzel with pickled veggies and caramelized onion dijon) and the Sweet Onion sandwich (chicken schnitzel with roasted beet tzatziki). New comers that weren’t practical for their Smorgasburg location will also be making their debut. Ingredients like shrimp that takes days to make and pork belly that has to be cured for three days were developed specially for the storefront with culinary consultant Stephanie Alleyne. Pork and shrimp, you read those right— so while it’s not a Kosher eatery, vegetarians have the option of a butternut squash and corn schnitzel that’s topped off with honey-sriracha mayo. They’re also currently working on recipes for schnitzel and waffles, a fish schnitzel, a cheese schnitzel, and an apple crisp dessert schnitzel.

The schnitzel loving trio and first time restaurant owners had a relatively smooth opening. “There are always going to be bumps, but I’m mostly surprised with how few there were… I don’t remember ever being in a panic mode, and that’s what comes with Smorgasburg and the years of organization,” said Donna, who helped open Mark Burger in 2009 and is currently working there as the general manager in addition to working at Schnitz. “[At Smorgasburg] we all had time to practice and get to know our customers and work out the kinks,” she added. The team will continue to with their Smorgasburg locations this season.

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Bacon-Flavored Ritz Crackers — Kosher!

By Adam Soclof

(JTA) — Ritz has a new bacon-flavored cracker hitting shelves.

But unlike most things bacon-related, this Nabisco product bears a kosher symbol.

“There was much discussion over the decision about this product,” said Rabbi Moshe Elefant, COO of the Orthodox Union Kashrut Department.

The box for the new Ritz cracker has the signature O.U.-Dairy certification symbol.

“The reality is there’s nothing close to bacon in this product,” Elefant said. “There are artificial bacon flavorings that give the ‘bacon flavor.’”

“Nobody’s going to think this is actual bacon,” he added, noting the packaging, which has the words “Artificially Flavored” in large type right below the word “Bacon.”

At least one reviewer, however, says the cracker tastes like the real thing.

“These actually taste too much like bacon,” commented Rina Raphael, style editor for NBC’s “Today” show, who sampled the Ritz crackers before they hit shelves.

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James Deen, Jewish Porn Star — And Foodie?

By Anne Cohen

Turns out, James Deen has hobbies. And those hobbies include food.

The Jewish porn star is now the face of a culinary web series, aptly named “James Deen Loves Food.” Produced by Woodrocket.com (a porn/comedy site that is definitey NSFW), past episodes have shown Deen coming up with the world’ most expensive burrito, ordering the entire menu at his local Burger King, and testing which brand makes the superior Ketchup. Oh, and he also sampled various serial killers’ last meals.

Woodrocket.com

“I am a Jew! Of course I love food,” he told Heeb magazine in a recent Q&A. “I am pretty sure if you don’t, they stop inviting you to the meetings and drop your credit score.”

So, with Passover coming up, it’s fitting that Deen’s latest culinary venture has a Jewish theme: Ramen Matzo Ball soup.

According to the chef, the final product was “pretty good. It was definitely more on the ramen side. But the extra sodium added some flavor that normal Jewish cuisine lacks.”

You can catch the full episode here, and get the recipe over at Heeb. Watch (and eat) at your own risk.


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Whisky Jewbilee Gambles on June Sipfest

By Dan Friedman

Whisky Jewbilee is moving up in the world. The kosher whisky event that started in 2012 when the much bigger WhiskyFest New York shifted from a Tuesday evening to a less Jew-friendly Sabbath timing, has announced its plan for 2014 and it involves moving itself up in terms of esteem, calendar and just plain location.

The headline change is a June 17 date. As WhiskyFest New York goes back to a weeknight (Wednesday, October 29), Whisky Jewbilee has moved its date up to the early summer and severed the calendar connection to Whisky Advocate’s massive event. With the fall holidays — and co-founder Joshua Hatton’s significant wedding anniversary — sprinkled throughout September and October, the organization decided to move to an “underserved time frame.” Hence June.

I put it to Hatton that it’s underserved for good reasons — June, and the summer in general, is neither a time to come to the city nor is it a time to drink dark liquor. He responded by saying that they knew the risks but the organizers were willing, with pun intended, “to take a leap of faith.” And he stressed that tickets, at $110 each, were selling strongly with 80% already “allocated” since they were put on sale in early February. The proof (again pun intended) of the choice will be in the attendance.

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Don't Worry, Ben's Deli Is Staying Kosher

By Michael Kaminer

Keep calm: Ben’s Kosher Deli is not going treyf.

The owners of the iconic eatery on W. 38th Street in Manhattan’s Garment District were overwhelmed with panicked calls this week after Crain’s New York Business reported Ben’s is “pondering the unthinkable” and might “break with tradition to reduce costs” as it expands beyond the New York metro area.

“It’s a headache,” a person who answered the phone at Ben’s Manhattan business office told the Forward. ”People are calling to see if we’re giving up our kosher certification, which we have no intention of doing.”

With a mix of bemusement and frustration, Ben’s founder Ronnie Dragoon told the Forward that Crain’s reporter Lisa Fickenscher had actually asked him what he would do if kosher fabricators and processors went out of business.

“My response was that if they are no kosher fabricators or processors, I’d have no alternative but to look elsewhere,” Dragoon said. “But she took the intention away from the answer.”

Confusing readers more, the Crain’s piece noted that a chef who’d come in to audition for a spot at Dragoon’s new Westchester location —  slated to open in August — had presented a tasting menu that included a bacon-and-cheese dish.

“The chef had made up a menu for us, so there was a list of ten ingredients, including bacon and cheddar. But he never made that dish,” Dragoon said. “The way it was written, it sounded like he brought the food in, prepared it, and had us taste it. Even if he wanted something non-kosher, he couldn’t purchase it for our kitchen. All of our purchasing is done through the business office. We have ingredient and food-item lockdown.”

The chef, Scott Rabedeau, got hired anyway. He’ll be designing a menu for the 5,200-square-foot Scarsdale Ben’s that includes “dishes from yesteryear, Ashkenazi standards, and Mediterranean dishes - past, present, and future.” Rabedeau’s an alumnus of Maggiano’s, the New Jersey Italian chainlet “started by a Jew,” Dragoon laughed.

Scarsdale will become the first of three planned locations to open by 2015, including Washington, DC, and Boston. Ben’s, Crain’s reported, is on “solid footing” after a challenging few years that saw locations close in 2006; the chain now generates more than $25 million annually.

“One location in a city works very well,” Dragoon said. “It’s appreciated, you have a wider audience, and you’re a niche business with little competition for that dollar. That’s why my location in Boca Raton is very successful. On Long Island, I have three units that cannibalize each other. One each in DC or Boston will do well.”

Dragoon even told the Forward he thinks a kosher restaurant could thrive in a neighborhood like the Lower East Side, where a mini-controversy erupted over the storefront that once housed Noah’s Ark Deli, the area’s last full-service kosher restaurant. Neighbors started a petition urging the building’s co-op to seek another kosher tenant; dissidents said kosher’s time was over downtown.

“That neighborhood may not have the local population to support it, but it’s a very mobile population in Manhattan,” he said. “It’s possible people would flock to it if it’s the right kind of operation.”

Kosher eateries everywhere are facing tough times, though, Dragoon said. “Occupancy costs like rent and taxes have outstripped demand for kosher restaurants,” he explained. “Because so many fabricators are closing, food prices go up, too. The high costs across the board make it tough.”

Ben’s, however, is here to stay, Dragoon said. He also had a message for Forward readers, and anyone else listening: “Ben’s is staying kosher for as long as there are kosher fabricators or processors.”

Photo credit: Facebook/Ben’s Kosher Deli


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4Bloggers Dish on Passover

By Liz Rueven

Courtesy of: 4Bloggers Dish
Just eight weeks ago I was basking in the early morning calm on a beach in Costa Rica, when I clicked open an e-mail from two bloggers I follow on facebook. I had met Amy Kritzer, What Jew Wanna Eat, at a meet-up she organized for about 20 NYC area bloggers in early January. We met at Aroma on the UWS and chatted for about 30 minutes. It’s always great fun to put faces to names and Amy wanted to do just that on her visit from Texas.

She and Sarah Lasry met that same eve (Sarah and I think we brushed by each other in the doorway). Amy and Sarah recall finishing their brief visit with a cordial, “we should do something together some time.” A week later they cooked up an idea and decided to pursue it.

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Tel Aviv's 5 Best Kosher Restaurants

By Rotem Maimon

Blue Sky, a chef restaurant featuring Meir Adoni’s cuisine. Photo by David Bachar

(Haaretz) — Diners who keep kosher have been increasingly demanding gourmet restaurants that meet their dietary requirements. The result has been a wave of excellent kosher restaurants. Following are the five best in Tel Aviv.

Blue Sky: Chef Meir Adoni’s new restaurant opened last summer, marking this creative chef’s entry into the world of kashrut. The restaurant is located at the top of the Carlton Hotel, giving it a panoramic view of the city, and it is a swallow heralding the arrival of another kosher restaurant in the spring. Blue Sky offers dairy and fish dishes served in the style of its elder sister, Catit – in other words, beautifully arranged dishes with interesting tastes.

Blue Sky, Carlton Hotel, Tel Aviv

Goshen: This well-known kosher restaurant in the Nahalat Binyamin pedestrian mall has recently expanded, opening another branch on the other side of the road. Its very name proclaims its allegiance to local raw materials, first and foremost meat. Goshen is proud of the meat locker, where it ages its own supply, and of how it is served up: on a hot skillet on which hefty portions of meat sizzle.

Goshen, Nahalat Binyamin 37, Tel Aviv

Tranquilla: This restaurant already has a handful of fans who don’t keep kosher, and rightly so, thanks to its simple Italian food made with raw materials from Italy. It also has and a foreign atmosphere that stems in part from its location between the Gan Hahashmal quarter and Rothschild Boulevard. Aside from its excellent breakfasts and its fresh focaccias, it also offers homemade pizzas and pastas.

Tranquilla, Mikveh Yisrael 1, Tel Aviv

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Notes from a Jewish Survivor of Anorexia

By Temimah Zucker

Courtesy of: Santy Ago

The first time I admitted to myself that I had an eating disorder was after watching a film describing eating disorders and the Jewish Community called “Hungry to be Heard.”

Until that point I was lost. I became a shadow, a nothing person who craved solitude and lived by counting. It had been 4 months since my official diagnosis with Anorexia and my life had become a series of doctor appointments, forced meals, and nights alone in my room. I had once been a vibrant, confident young woman and soon became a shell, slowly chipping away.

In the onset of my illness I did not believe that I had a problem. Even through nights of fearing for my heart, I did not believe that the behaviors I was using would ever result in harm. Why would I when I had a menacing voice in my head, ebbing me to continue restricting and isolating, reassuring me that I was invincible. Over the months it became evident that there was a problem, but I could not connect to it. The first time I was able to truly acknowledge my eating disorder was in the light of seeing that I was not alone.

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Chocolate Shwarma — Is This Necessary?

By Danielle Ziri

New food crazes pop up every few months in Israel: chocolate-filled syringes, the cupcake, the kurtosh (a Hungarian cylinder shaped cake which comes in many flavors), and even the cronut made its debut in Tel Aviv this year. So it was only a matter of time until someone created a gimmicky dessert with Israeli sugar addicts in mind. Introducing: the Chocolate Shwarma.

The concept is simple: replace the rotating meat pole with a chocolate one. The chocolate is simply shaved off the pole the way shawarma meat is and put inside a crepe which stands in for pita.

Like any good shwarma sandwich in Israel, toppings are abundant at ChocoKebab in Jerusalem. Here you can choose from halva, marshmallows, chocolate chips and nuts. If you’re looking for a creamy base, you can add a schmear of maple syrup, whipped cream or even dulce de leche to the crepe.

There is definitely something appealing about creating a sweet version of a savory dish. Many have done it before, like Max Brenner’s Chocolate Pizza. But to be honest, the ChocoKebab is nothing more than a crepe, and crepes are not new around here. They have been sold in stands in almost every mall in Israel for years. So the only new thing about the chocolate shawarma the preparation and the packaging.

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Although it “screams Israel”, the Choco-Kebab was not actually invented in the country: it was brought to the holy land by Oded Cohen, a newbie to the food industry who came across a similar concept during a trip to Sicily.

The first branch opened in Jerusalem a few months ago. Today, there are choco-shawarma stands in Hod HaSharon, Modi’in, and Ness Ziona. More branches are expected to open across the country, including in Tel Aviv.

But Israel’s love for ever-changing trends means they usually don’t last very long — the average life expectancy of a Tel Aviv bar is approximately one year. After that, they usually close, make a few upgrades in decoration and re-open under a new name. Only time will tell the fate of the Choco-shawarma, but be assured: chocolate and crepe connoisseurs will not be fooled.


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Susie Fishbein Takes Israel — Well, Its Upscale Parts

By Miriam Kresh

If you have a lot of money and time to spend in the holy land, you would be lucky to find yourself on one of kosher cookbook author Susie Fishbein’s tours. She recently led a group of 34 from the Negev to Sfat to Tel Aviv — with stops at the artisanal Lachma Baker, a chocolate workshop, the Carmel winery and a Yemenite garden meal in a grove with 120 exotic trees — all while offering cooking demos on a moving bus.

I caught up with her group early in the tour, at the Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv. The ladies (only four men tagged along) were learning how to stuff ravioli at the hotel’s restaurant, Blue Sky. The hotel sous-chefs had prepared the pasta and rolled it out in advance, so that all the participants needed to do was cut out pasta circles, squeeze a prepared filling of ricotta and spinach over them, then top them with other pasta circles. The ravioli found their way to the lunch table. It reminded me a bit of the challah my daughters used to bring home from school, where the teacher had prepared the dough and the girls only braided and egg-washed the little loaves.

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Einat Admony's Bar Bolonat Set To Open

By Michael Kaminer

Courtesy of Einat Admony

To the many salivating fans of Israeli-born star chef Einat Admony: Your wait is nearly over.

After seemingly endless construction issues, Department of Buildings complications, and “a million little details,” Admony’s much-anticipated Bar Bolonat will finally open March 25 in the West Village.

“The private dining area downstairs took forever,” the chef told the Forward from her car. “It took us a year and three months to build this place. But I finally feel comfortable with how it looks.”

Aficionados of Balaboosta, Admony’s four-year-old, Middle-Eastern-inspired Nolita hotspot, can expect “happy surprises” at the new place, Admony said.

“Balaboosta feels rustic, and the food’s homey and simple,” she said. “The food at Bar Bolonat is more refined, the plating is beautiful, and there’s a lot of play between savory and sweet ingredients.”

And while Balaboosta describes itself as “Mediterranean meets Middle East,” Bar Bolonat’s cuisine will circle back to the chef’s own upbringing in the Israeli town Bnei Brak, including traditional Ashkenazi food.

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Jeff Goldblum's Newest Role? Restaurateur

By Jana Banin

Jeff Goldblum, it seems, per this obviously totally real clip from MTV’s “After Hours With Josh Horowitz,” is now in the restaurant business.

At NYC eatery Goldblum’s, the actor is proprietor, maitre d, waiter, piano player, bartender, and more. A fantasy come true. Except for kosher folks. Sorry guys — there’s pork on the menu.

Enjoy the video. And the “Big Chill” pun.


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It's Katz v. Katz as Deli Sues Food Truck

By Daniel Wiessner

Wikipedia

(Reuters) — The owners of New York City’s iconic Katz’s Delicatessen filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the operators of local food trucks named Katz & Dogz, claiming the trucks are a blatant attempt to dupe consumers.

Customers are likely to assume that the trucks, which sell the same Jewish-style fare, and the famed deli are somehow affiliated, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

The deli’s owners are seeking an order to bar the trucks from using any name that could easily be confused with Katz’s.

Katz’s, located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side since 1888, is among the city’s best-known eateries.

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Bake Your Own Boozy Cocktail Hamantaschen

By Anne Cohen

What kind of genius came up with the idea that prunes would make a great cookie filling, to be eaten without fail once a year?

Whoever they were, they were wrong.

But have no fear! We have a new hamantaschen option for you this year, and it’s as delicious as a cocktail, without the embarrassment that goes with actually being drunk at your family’s Purim party.

Alison Barnett has come up with a series of cocktail-themed hamantaschen that make regular old flavors seem like a too-sweet, dry and cakey distant memory.

“[The] two main things we consume on Purim are alcohol and hamantashen. I decided to combine the two into a real fun and creative dessert,” Barnett told the Forward. Her flavors include: White Russian, Tequila Sunrise, Mojito, Whiskey Sour and Cosmopolitan.

A mid-day snack tasting session by the Forward’s staff saw some clear favorites emerge: Whiskey Sour, treated with suspicion at first glance because of the ominous-looking maraschino cherry embedded in the crust, was actually a surprisingly pleasant mix of almond-sugar crust and citrus filling — not too sweet, not too tangy; White Russian was, as expected, a smooth combination of Kahlua and coffee flavors (though the extra icing drizzled onto the crust was unnecessary). Finally, Tequila Sunrise packs a citrus kick strong enough to lift any remaining winter blues.

Barnett first started experimenting with the idea three years ago. This is her first year actually selling the final product (to order on Etsy, click here). $21 will get you a dozen of these goodies — try getting that deal at a bar.

According to Barnett, she’s already thinking up new flavors for next year’s round. Irish coffee, anyone?

Until then, try your own version of the Tequila Sunrise at home (and take a few extra sips on the side — we won’t tell).

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Fair Trade Chocolate Hamentaschen

By Ilana Schatz

Flickr: vidalia_11

I’ve started noticing hamentaschen showing up in local bakeries, and it made me wonder if one of the reasons we say “Purim Sameach/Happy Purim” is because we know that we’ll be eating lots of hamentaschen, the traditional Eastern-European Purim dessert. This joyous day celebrates the repeal of the death decree against the Jewish inhabitants of ancient Persia (“They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!”).

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