The Jew And The Carrot

Taste Testing ‘The Covenant Kitchen’

By Alix Wall

A new cookbook offers everyday recipes and modern twists on Jewish classics, with wine pairings.

This is an occasional column in which the writer evaluates a cookbook by making some of its recipes, sharing the dishes with friends and asking what they think of the results. For Purim, she cooked her way through “The Covenant Kitchen: Food and Wine for the New Jewish Table” by Jeff and Jodie Morgan.

Despite what people may think about winemakers — that they’ve always got a bottle of something open to drink — Jeff Morgan says that’s not the case with him and his wife, Jodie Morgan.

“For us, wine is really about eating, not just about drinking,” he said. “We rarely drink wine without food — it just doesn’t happen in our house. It’s all about sitting down and sharing something that tastes really good with each other, with our friends and our family.”

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‘Covenant Kitchen’ Onion Tart

By Jeff and Jodie Morgan

Photograph by Ed Anderson

Cut this tart into 2-by-3-inch squares and it becomes a pass-around finger food appetizer. Or slice it into larger portions, like pizza, and serve it alongside a salad for a light meal or first course. In Nice, France, where we used to live, the locals top the tart with anchovies and call it pissaladière, but we like it best without the little fish. Note that you can serve this tart hot, warm or at room temperature, all with excellent results!

For the tart crust, we use a mixture of all-purpose and high-gluten flours. You can also substitute bread flour for both flours. The dough will need to rise for a few hours, during which time you can prepare your topping.

When it comes to wine, this onion tart is quite versatile. It pairs equally well with both reds and whites. If you’re starting off with the tart as an appetizer, offer your guests a white wine like bubbly or perhaps a glass of crisp Chardonnay. The caramelized onions have a hint of sweetness — great with Riesling or Moscato.

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‘Covenant Kitchen’ Spiced Lamb Meatballs

By Jeff and Jodie Morgan

Photograph by Ed Anderson

Filled with the flavors of the Middle Eastern shouk, or marketplace, these fragrant meatballs have just a hint of heat. They are bathed in a bright tomato sauce and served over smoky freekeh, a wonderful wheat cereal found all over Israel and now becoming popular in the United States. You can substitute brown rice for freekeh, if you can’t find it. Remember, though, that freekeh takes a little longer to cook than rice and requires more water. Whether you use freekeh or rice, start by cooking it first. When it’s done, just keep it warm and covered, until you are ready to serve.

Don’t be afraid of the long list of ingredients. Most are simply spices. And the tomato sauce is a snap to prepare. (We don’t recommend seeding or peeling the tomatoes. It’s not worth the effort.) However, because there are three steps here, the best way to keep it simple is to lay out the ingredients for all steps prior to cooking. You’ll breeze through the rest!

And from your wine cellar, look for a rich, spicy California Zinfandel or an earthy Syrah.

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Kosher Vegan Food Truck Rolls to a Stop

By Jessie Katz

Cinnamon Snail food truck in happier times. Facebook

Vegans and omnivores alike are in mourning. Cinnamon Snail, the popular kosher, vegan food truck, will no longer roam the streets of New York City.

For five years, the truck, which Yelp named the 4th best eatery in America in 2014, has served up creative, gourmet vegan fare — dishes like pinenut-butter topped fresh fig pancakes, smoked portobello mushroom carpaccio and an addictive line of donuts and cinnamon rolls that has entrapped thousands of hungry New Yorkers, including me.

About a year ago, I was on the hunt for a perfect parve cake for my wedding. I wanted it to be vegan and free of chemicals or additives. I was already a longtime devotee of Cinnamon Snail’s truck, but I discovered online that Cinnamon Snail made wedding cakes, too. I knew I had found my baker.

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Harissa Chili to Warm the Home

By Gayle L. Squires

The author’s Harissa Chili, inspired by the recipe in Einat Admony’s “Balaboosta” cookbook. Photograph by Gayle L. Squires.

Having become a well-practiced apartment mover over the past few years, I’ve learned that the best way — literally and figuratively — to warm your house is to cook and then share with friends. Sure, the last few days before a move and the first few days after it are all about take-out, delivery and treating yourself to that restaurant that just opened, which you’ve been wanting to try. But once the boxes dwindle and your kitchen no longer resembles a yard sale, getting back in front of the stove just feels so good.

After my last move, my housewarming meal was a chili Shabbat dinner. The recipe is below, but here’s the gist: first, sauté ground beef and lamb in a pot so hot it sizzles. Remove the cooked meat and place it into a bowl –— how proud are you that you can now find your bowls? — and then melt down (in the same pot) the aromatics and stir in some canned tomatoes and beans. The kick comes from North African harissa chili paste and a smidge of chipotle pepper. The most important part of the recipe, of course, is inviting over a few friends — the ones who are close enough that they’re not fazed by climbing over the last lingering boxes or pouring salt out of the container because you can’t find the shaker — to devour the entire pot of chili with a bottle or two of wine.

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Housewarming Harissa Chili, the Recipe

By Gayle L. Squires

What better way to break in new digs than by inviting friends for a warm bowl of homey goodness? Photograph by Gayle L. Squires.

This recipe is adapted from the spicy chili in Einat Admony’s “Balaboosta.” To make my life easier, I used cans where I could: canned kidney beans instead of dried; canned tomatoes instead of fresh. I also replaced merguez sausage with ground lamb because it’s easier to find.

The heat in the chili comes from the North African spice paste harissa. Since the spiciness of harissa can vary, use a light touch initially — you can always add more later. I like to serve this on top of wheat berries, but you can use brown rice, barley, farro or your favorite grain.*

Serves 4-6

1 pound ground beef
½ pound ground lamb
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1½ cups finely chopped yellow onion (about 2 medium)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 28-ounce can of chopped peeled tomatoes
-2-3 tablespoons harissa (depending on how spicy it is)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon chipotle powder
About 4 cups water
2 15.5-ounce cans kidney beans, rinsed well and drained
4 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1) Sauté. Heat a large heavy-bottom pot over high heat (no oil) — it’s ready when you drop a small piece of meat in and it sizzles very loudly. If the pot isn’t hot enough, you’ll end up boiling your meat instead of sautéing. Add the beef and lamb to the hot pot and sauté until browned. Season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Drain off any excess liquid, but leave all the good browned bits. Remove the meat and set aside.

2) Sauté again. Heat the olive oil in the emptied pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, making sure not to burn it. Stir in the tomato paste and sugar. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of harissa (you can add more later), cumin, chipotle, 2 tablespoons salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and water.

3) Simmer. Add the beans and bring the chili to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low, cover the pot and simmer for 2½ to 3 hours. After the first 30 minutes, taste for spice, stirring in extra harissa if you’d like more of a kick. Check the chili periodically, and if it looks dry, add some more water.

4) Serve. Scoop into bowls and sprinkle with sliced scallion.

Gayle Squires is a food writer, recipe developer and photographer. Her path to the culinary world is paved with tap shoes, a medical degree, business consulting and travel. She has a knack for convincing chefs to give up their secret recipes. Her blog is KosherCamembert.

Hot Brooklyn Appetizing Shop Now Offering Deli

By Michael Kaminer

The popular smoked-fish store just added Jewish classics such as smoked meats, kasha varnishkes and kugel. Photograph courtesy of Shelsky’s.

Fans of Shelsky’s, the always-mobbed Brooklyn smoked-fish emporium, are getting even more to fress.

Starting today, the white-tiled appetizing shop will expand its menu to include classic deli sandwiches, Ashkenazi side dishes and meats by the pound.

“It’s something we’ve always wanted to do,” owner Peter Shelsky told the Forward. “We’ve done smoked fish for a while. Now, we want to play both sides of the News York Jewish food game.”

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At Bar Tartine, Jewish Food Is Part of the Mix

By Alix Wall

Family influences abound in the kitchen and the cookbook.

At San Francisco’s Bar Tartine, the chef’s Lithuanian Jewish grandmother shows up regularly in the kitchen — or rather, her spirit does.

“Family influences are our strongest inspiration,” Cortney Burns writes with co-author and co-chef Nicolaus Balla in their intro to “Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes.”

“Collectively, we are Hungarian, Eastern European Jewish, Japanese, Irish, Polish, German, Filipino, Slovak, Laotian, Mexican and Mayan.”

That’s a lot of ethnicities in one kitchen, which is perhaps one reason the food at the Mission District hot spot is so unique — San Francisco Chronicle critic Michael Bauer raved in 2013: “Once in a while, a restaurant comes along that is so different and exciting that it becomes my personal benchmark.” He added Bar Tartine to his short list.

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VIDEO: 4 Steps to Perfect Roast Chicken

By Liza Schoenfein

How to Make a Roast Chicken, from the Jewish Daily Forward, on Vimeo.

It always surprises me when someone says they’re intimidated by the idea of roasting a whole chicken — even though I hear it a lot. My response is to encourage the person to try it, because it’s easy and incredibly rewarding. Really, it’s pretty hard to go wrong.

If anyone’s still not convinced, watch our video and then follow the steps below. There are really just four of them, and you can leave out No. 3 if you feel like keeping it even more simple:

One: Season. Two: Stuff. Three: Bed. Four: Roast.

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Basic Roast Chicken, the Recipe

By Liza Schoenfein

Roast chicken with za’atar, lemons and shallots. Photograph by Liza Schoenfein.

I offer this recipe as a guideline, not a dictate. There are a few basic steps, the details of which can vary. Season with the za’atar suggested here, or with other herbs and spices — or just with salt and pepper. Stuff with the lemons and shallots in my recipe, or with garlic and fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary.

Place on a bed of leeks and lemon slices like I do, or on a mixture of eggplant rounds and bell pepper chunks, or on a variety of root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, potatoes and/or beets) — or forget the vegetable bed entirely and sit your chickens on a roasting rack.

Make two chickens like I do, because then nobody fights over the legs and you have built-in leftovers. Or make just one if that’s your preference.

The point is, you can hardly go wrong. Watch our how-to video for inspiration, then try it.

2 whole chickens, approximately 4 pounds each, preferably organic
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 teaspoons za’atar (optional; see note below)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, one quartered; the other cut into ¼-inch rounds
1 shallot, peeled and cut into large pieces
2 leeks (white and light green parts only), cut into ½-inch rounds (or a few shallots or onions)

1) Preheat oven to 424 degrees F.

2) Pat chickens dry with paper towels and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.

3) In a small bowl, combine za’atar (if using) with salt and pepper. Sprinkle all over chickens. Place 2 lemon quarters and half the shallots into the birds’ cavities.

4) Drizzle roasting pan with remaining tablespoon of oil. Scatter leeks and lemon rounds in roasting pan. Place chickens on top, breast side up. Roast on middle rack of oven for 1½ hours or until chicken is cooked through (juices run clear when area between leg and thigh is pricked with a knife).

5) Remove chickens to a large cutting board and let rest for about 10 minutes before carving. Serve with roasted lemons and leeks on the side.

Note: Za’atar is a Middle-Eastern spice mixture of sumac, thyme or oregano, and sesame seeds. It’s available at La Boite, a New York shop owned by Israeli and spice master Lior Lev Sercarz, Penzey’s and Kalustyan’s. For a simple and delicious dinner, sprinkle it on chicken pieces or fish fillets that you’ve drizzled with a little olive oil, then roast.

Liza Schoenfein is the food editor of the Forward. Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @LifeDeathDinner. Her personal blog is Life, Death & Dinner.

The Weekly Dish

By Michael Kaminer

Chef Alex Resnik is heading home to Queens to open a kosher restaurant. Photograph: Facebook.

Here’s everything you need to know about restaurant openings and closings, chefs on the move and tasty events happening in the world of Jewish food.

Los Angeles-based kosher-cuisine wizard and Top Chef survivor Alex Reznik is returning to his hometown with a new Glatt kosher restaurant, Eater reports. Reznik, who runs the well-reviewed Ditmas Kitchen & Cocktail in L.A.’s Jewishy Pico-Robertson area, will launch Bedford Kitchen & Wine Bar in Queens, New York, “in a few weeks.” Eater’s Los Angeles blog reports the chef will come out as bicoastal, juggling kitchen duties at both spots. And keeping with Reznik’s theme of “restaurants with Brooklyn-y names that aren’t actually in Brooklyn, Bedford Kitchen will open in a Jewish pocket of Flushing near Queen’s College,” Eater says…

…Brooklyn-based chef Ilan Hall, on the other hand, can save on airfare back to L.A. — for now. The Knife Fight star told the Forward he’s actively seeking a new home for The Gorbals, the recently shuttered downtown Los Angeles hotspot where he pioneered bacon-wrapped matzo balls, among other treyf treats. “We decided to move The Gorbals in L.A. and closed the original location this past December to look for new a space,” Hall said. “The new location will also be downtown, but it’s going to have a pretty different menu. We’re in the process of testing recipes, and we’re hopeful that the new space will open later this year.” Hall continues to wow diners at his Brooklyn branch of The Gorbals, which opened last year…

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Toronto Foodies Flock to Veggie ‘Butcher Shop’

By Michael Kaminer

Michael Abramson presents Yam Chops’ carrot “lox”. Photographs courtesy of Yam Chops.

That luscious lox is made of carrots. Silky cream cheese comes from cashews. And the crispy bacon? Maple-marinated coconut.

Welcome to Yam Chops, the herbivore paradise that bills itself as Canada’s first “vegetarian butcher.”

“We’re about non-meat meat that tastes great, with great texture,” said Jess Abramson, whose family runs the shiny storefront next to a chicken shop in Toronto’s Little Italy. “We’re describing that act of putting that protein at the center of your plate, and getting it within easy reach of customers. If you’re a vegetarian, the question of your main meal always haunts you.”

With customers who run the gamut between vegetarians, “flexitarians” and curious carnivores, Yam Chops has earned a fanatical following among Toronto foodies. “We’re a throwback to what a butcher shop might have been 100 years ago, where they knew your name and what you liked,” Abramson said. “We encourage people to taste, guide them around the store, open cases for them. People crave that kind of service now.”

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A Reuben Worshipper Builds his Temple

By Anthony Weiss

A pastrami sandwich at the 9th South Deli in Salt Lake City. Photograph by Anthony Weiss

(JTA) - Going back to his very first bite of a Reuben more than 50 years ago, Randy Harmsen has always loved deli food. So when he decided to open his own restaurant, the Salt Lake City native followed in the footsteps of his heroes, who founded establishments like Katz’s in New York, Langer’s in Los Angeles and Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

But although Harmsen’s 9th South Deli is stocked with deli classics like succulent pastrami and crunchy pickles, it differs from the predecessors who inspired it in at least one key regard: Unlike the Jewish founders of Katz’s, Langer’s or Zingerman’s, Randy Harmsen is Mormon and a former bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Harmsen first sampled deli food as a teenager in 1963 at the delicatessen of Lu Dornbush, a Dutch-born Holocaust survivor who maintained a shop in downtown Salt Lake City, and was immediately taken with the cuisine. As he subsequently traveled for work — he ran an engineering firm — Harmsen always made a point to seek out delis in whatever city he happened to be in and try their offerings.

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Recipes From My Argentine Grandmother

By Daniela Blei

The recipe notebook of Lola Blei, the author’s grandmother, who was known as Loly. Photograph by Daniela Blei.

If there was ever a doubt that cooking is more than just a means of providing sustenance, the evidence lies in my grandmother’s cursive. Her recipes fill a wire-bound notebook, its brittle pages a testament to butter and the passage of time.

Toiling in the kitchen of apartment 15A, in a leafy Buenos Aires neighborhood, my grandmother reaffirmed who she was: Jewish, European and Argentine. She was also a good cook, though not an exceptional one, with a knack for baking cakes named for Habsburg monarchs. Today, her recipe notebook lives in a drawer in my San Francisco home. Between the covers are glimpses of the 20th century: stories of loss, exile and nostalgia.

Like many Jews of her generation, my grandmother’s voyage to the New World happened more by accident than design. It began on a freezing February day in 1948, when Klement Gottwald, an ardent revolutionary and a drunk, stepped onto a balcony in Prague to proclaim a communist republic. For my Sovietophobic grandfather, whose wartime travails brought him unbearably close to the Red Army, it was time to run. Having escaped the drudgery of forced labor in Hungary, he saved himself by finding work in the Soviet Union, putting to use his polyglot education as a translator for Soviet troops. His experience left him terrified of communism’s march across the continent.

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Three Israeli Pals Take Shakshuka to NYC

By Shannon Sarna

From left, Josh Sharon, Solomon Taraboulsi and Gabriel Israel with The Shuka Truck in midtown Manhattan. Photograph courtesy of The Shuka Truck

(JTA) — Just over a year ago, Israeli friends Josh Sharon, Solomon Taraboulsi and Gabriel Israel moved to New York to pursue professional dreams: Sharon and Taraboulsi to prove themselves in real estate, and Gabriel to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.

Instead, the twentysomethings may have found something even better: serving up shakshuka, the Middle Eastern egg-and-tomatoes dish, on the streets of Manhattan. The three childhood friends from suburban Tel Aviv launched The Shuka Truck in December, and it is already generating an array of media coverage.

I first tasted their original creations, which are kosher (supervised by Rabbi Shaltiel Lebovic of Go Kosher), several weeks ago. The shakshuka was perfectly cooked, well seasoned and emerged from the truck piping hot accompanied by an impressively diced Israeli chopped salad. I had to know more, so I sat down with Israel and Sharon, both 23, to hear their story; Taraboulsi, 24, was unable to join us. The interview that follows has been condensed and edited.

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After Fire, Wise Sons Works to Rebuild

By Michael Kaminer

While the deli remains intact, Wise Sons lost its commercial kitchen in the fire. Photograph: Flickr

Beloved San Francisco deli Wise Sons is scrambling to rebuild its catering and wholesale businesses after a devastating fire in early February destroyed the building that housed its commercial kitchen.

The fire — which killed one person and injured six, according to news reports — also forced the delay of offshoot Wise Sons Bagels, which partners Leo Beckerman and Evan Bloom had planned to launch this week. After months of testing, Wise Sons’ commissary kitchen was finally ready to bake bagels for wholesale accounts and branded retail outlets it had planned to open across San Francisco, reported.

Still, Bloom told the Forward that Wise Sons will emerge from the disaster even stronger. “In six months, we’re hoping we’ll be saying, ‘Yes, we made it through the fire,” Bloom told the Forward. “We have to find a new place. And the market for real estate in San Francisco is abysmal. But we know more about our business now. And our staff has really come together. I’m a micromanager. Suddenly, you can’t worry about a lot of little things. The staff has really shown us they can do it.”

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My Spicy Valentine

By Liza Schoenfein

Spice Up Your Valentine's is a video from the Jewish Daily Forward on Vimeo.

Valentine’s Day comes with high expectations. Oh, the pressure to create romance.

Add to that an expensive dinner in a restaurant overburdened by so many romance-seeking customers, and the evening often ends in disappointment.

I remember one Valentine’s Day dinner, at a top New York restaurant famous for its magnificent cheese course, which it presents on a rolling cart. The most fun part of the meal, for me, would be discussing the various selections with the knowlegeable and enthusiastic cheese master, learning about his offerings, and then tasting our choices.

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The Weekly Dish

By Michael Kaminer

Black Seed bagel sandwich. Photograph by Daniel Krieger

Here’s everything you need to know about restaurant openings and closings, chefs on the move and tasty events happening in the world of Jewish food.

Black Seed bills itself as a “modern-day bagel shop steeped in old-world tradition.” Now, the New York chainlet is taking that literally.

GrubStreet reports that white-hot Black Seed will open a new East Village outlet in the longtime home of DeRobertis, the legendary Italian pastry shop that closed in November after 110 years.

Symbolism aside, the move represents a giant step for Black Seed, according to Noah Bernamoff, the nouveau-deli maven who launched the business with The Smile’s Matt Kliegman last year. When First Avenue opens, we’ll have three times the baking capacity we have now,” Bernamoff told the Forward. “With the move, we can become a wholesale supplier, which we’ve always planned.”

Noah Bernamoff (left) and Matt Kliegman. Photograph by Daniel Krieger.

In the meantime, there’s a lot of work to do before Black Seed’s irresistible Montreal-New York hybrid bagels start emerging from 176 First Avenue. “We have to start from scratch with equipment,” Bernamoff said. “Their oven’s old, humongous, and buried in the basement. We use a wood-burning oven, and we place it right where customers can see it, smell it, and feel a connection to what’s happening. But we’re going to preserve the unbelievable architectural elements of the space. It’s worth it to preserve a space that’s so meaningful for the East Village.” Bernamoff and Kliegman plan a late spring/early summer opening.

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The First Foray Into Forbidden Food

By The Treyfster

Illustration by Kurt Hoffman

This is the second in a series of pseudonymous essays by The Treyfster. The pieces explore forbidden foods from the point of view of a person who used to keep traditionally kosher.

Before, when I was frum, we all used to have those conversations about “if you did, what would you?” If you were going to eat treyf, what would you pick? If you went super-goyish, what do you think you’d be like?

People had different answers to this question. Some people said, “Oh yeah, I could definitely eat treyf chicken, I think, but not pork.” Or, “I think I’d feel okay eating seafood.” Or, “I don’t know about treyf, but I could definitely eat some cheese an hour after eating some steak. I mean, they do that in the Netherlands anyway.”

Some people had thought it out pretty extensively and were particularly enamored of the idea of lobster, or cheeseburgers or even just fast food. There are a lot of McDonald’s fantasies out there; I think they’re a fantasy of fitting in, as much as anything else. A fantasy of no longer having to be so different all the time, of just being able to disappear. Some people enjoy pointing out that if you eat less than a kezayit — the volume of an olive — it doesn’t really count anyway. Although of course you shouldn’t do that, they hurry to explain.

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Manischewitz and the Non-GMO Project

By Jean Hanks

Manischewitz, a leading name in kosher foods since 1888, has announced that it’s become the first major kosher brand to receive non-GMO certification.

This certification, which the company received for 12 of its products, comes from the Non-GMO Project, created in 2008 by a group of food retailers who wanted their customers to know exactly what they were eating. Products with the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal have been through a rigorous verification process, so consumers can be sure that these foods contain the least amount of genetically modified organisms possible.

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