The Melbourne troika of established bagel bakeries — Glicks, Haymishe and Aviv — each have a strong following, willing to defend their beliefs to the last poppy seed. Variously a substrate for avocado, vegemite (this is Australia after all), smoked salmon, egg-and-onion-dip, herring or chopped liver, each bagel has been a link in the chain to the Polish heritage of much of Melbourne’s Jewish community.
Until recently, Melbourne’s bagel-belt never had its authenticity questioned. That was until Zev Forman showed up.
“There are bagel places in Melbourne that make really nice bread products that I wouldn’t really call a bagel. They’re too big; too fluffy. They’re basically bread rolls with a hole.”
When the New Jersey native moved with his Melbourne-born wife Naomi to her hometown, he encountered a local culinary deficiency.
When I came across the Zurückgeben grant, which supports creative projects of Jewish women living in Germany, I decided to present a documentary proposal on a Jewish topic. I worked hard to get the figures; concept and team together, but in the last minute the main character of the story desisted on taking part of the film. There was only a week left for the deadline, and no story… In parallel, I was working in another idea that linked migration, with motherhood and food. I mixed up both projects and that is how the documentary “Each Flavour is a Journey” was born (no typos…just British spelling). It was the perfect mix of everything I am interested in: filming, cooking, migration, life stories and Jewish culture.
The film was done with an extremely low budget and a very talented team, who devoted their time and expertise to bring the film into shape. During the production I met a remarkable group of human beings, who opened my eyes to new worlds, which were so far, almost unknown to me. I grew up in Chile, and my childhood flavors melt between the local kitchen of empanadas, pastel de choclo (corn pie) and alfajores, with the taste of the Besarabian Jews, who carry a traditional Ashkenazi cuisine, with a Mediterranean twist. For me the definition of Jewish food was fried gefilte fish with smoked eggplant puree.
In the afternoon you become somewhat hungry and restless, and can’t find anything to revive yourself. Lunch has been consumed and forgotten, and you haven’t started preparing supper, so you open the refrigerator or the pantry, but find only vegetables and canned food that don’t meet your growing need to bite into something tasty and meaningful.
It’s important not to skip the meal that on kibbutz was called aruhat arba (literally, “the four o’clock meal”), which the British call afternoon tea and which features tea or coffee and a cucumber sandwich or cake. There’s something about those afternoon meals that sometimes makes them more important than all the others.
All at once the hustle and bustle of the day ceases, the problems of the workday are forgotten and set aside. The ceremony of the light meal symbolizes the start of a relaxed afternoon with the family or an evening stroll in the park, or even a short twilight snooze in the armchair on the balcony. The remainder of the day gets a second chance if the first part was stressful or tiring.
For those along the Mediterranean coastline there is no food more suitable than a terrine to mark the onset of the free afternoon hours. This baked dish, which took its name from the traditional pan in which it is baked in France, is no more than a perfectly compressed gel of meat or fish or vegetables in a batter, which is sliced like a cake and served on thin pieces of toast with hot peppers or sweet jam. On the one hand, the flavors are as deep and full as in a whole meal. On the other hand, an entire meal is condensed into that one slice, which expresses attention to detail but leaves room for supper.
Read more and get a recipe at Haaretz.com.
“Meals can, and often do, tell stories,” says Elizabeth Bard, a 39 year-old writer, of the huge Seders her mother once hosted at her childhood home in Teaneck, New Jersey. “When I first arrived in France almost everything I learned about the culture I learned “autour de la table,” around the table. Now settled in Céreste, a medieval village in the heart of Provence, Bard is telling a new culinary tale, selling bright pink beetroot sorbet to local children and tourists from a store front shop housed in a rough stone building.
Her French husband, Gwendal, who learned to churn frozen desserts mostly from books, named the company Scaramouche, after the swashbuckling hero of a favorite childhood film. “A difficult name that people would remember,” says this 6-footer with a PhD in computer science, who now spends 18-hour days in a nearby lab combining fresh seasonal ingredients from local farms into sweet confections. “At our 4-year old son’s school, I’m a star,” smiles the newly minted artisan glacier.
After studying to be an art historian and several years in journalism (and giving tours at the Louvre), Bard published “Lunch in Paris: A Love Story With Recipes,” a bestselling memoir with recipes, where she tells of falling in love with a Frenchman, and with French cuisine.
After nearly a decade in Paris, they decided to leave their city life style and, in Gwendal’s case, an executive position in the cinema industry. “The Franco-American combination has been a rich one for us,” says Bard “I gave him permission to dream big, and he taught me that French joie de vivre, how to live in the moment.” Gwendal nods in approval across the red metal table on a Matisse sunny morning, “Now he’s got a whole closet full of suits gathering mold.”
While eating and grocery shopping may seem simple, our food and the way we think about it have the potential to serve as a channel for expressing our Jewish values. Here are four simple ways to transition into a food lifestyle inspired by Judaism:
1. Eat as a community
One of the most valuable outcomes of the Kashrut system in the modern world is its requirement for us to seek out and participate in a Jewish community. Simply due to the food we eat, we are locally connected to our fellow Jews, whether they live nearby or a schlep across the next town over. Because I live in a non-Jewish area in Illinois, even buying challah for Shabbat is a challenge for my family. Passover shopping is all the more difficult. With each long car ride to the nearest Jewishly populated suburb, my family and I have kindled a stronger connection to the communities surrounding us and to our identities as Jews.
When we were younger, my cousins and I had an aptly named band called “The Cousins”, where we rocked out in the basement on inflatable guitars and microphones from bar mitzvah give-aways. We grew up in the same schools, with mostly the same friends, living just a couple miles apart from each other–except for a little while when all 6 of us lived under one roof. And yet, even though we were already spending most of our time together, I always was particularly excited to see my cousins on the holidays. Something about the way chicken soup flavored the air of our house and moving the furniture to make room for 30 people and watching my mom make 5 desserts without getting any flour on the floor (unless we offered to help), made seeing my cousins on the holidays something separate from the ordinary, something holy. Or maybe, it was simply because the holidays drew a bigger audience for “The Cousins” than a regular Shabbat dinner.
To me, Rosh Hashanah feels like the pinch of white dress socks with lace sticking out of shiny black party shoes, like the stiffness of a skirt that makes it so much more difficult to run around a synagogue lobby. I hear the distinct vibrating sounds of an apple going through the peeler for my mom’s apple cake, and can taste the remaining stringy apple peel as I collect it in my hand before letting it fall to the garbage. I remember the excitement of the doorbell ringing as our house fills up with guests, always beginning with my grandparents and ending with my cousins who were notoriously late to everything, significantly cutting into our pre-meal practice time.
The fall holidays are a time when we re-evaluate, take stock of our actions and future endeavors. Starting with Slichot and moving towards Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we spend time thinking about the big questions in our lives. However, as I cook and can foods, putting up jam and chutney and pickles, freezing apples for wintertime pies and applesauce and arranging with a farmer for my freezer lamb, I reflect on my future in a different way. I do these preparations, in part, to commit to thinking about food—where it comes from, and how we eat it—for months to come. It also tastes good, is less expensive, and likely healthier than some of the other options. It’s also “fast food!” In winter, I grab a jar from my basement pantry and put it on the table. It’s ready to eat faster than take-out.
In a bigger sense, asking why and where are Jewish concepts. Long discussions in Talmud tractates cover the smallest details of our lives by asking why and how and where and how much. While many of us don’t manage Daf Yomi — studying a page of Talmud a day —we can continue asking these important questions. I heard the beginnings of that kind of traditional questioning recently.
Before my blood ran Michigan maize and blue, I would not be surprised if it were apple cider for 4 months out of the year. Beginning every Labor Day weekend and lasting through Thanksgiving, my neighborhood mill has churned out the best cider one could hope for—pure, unadulterated, unpasteurized, unfiltered, fresh, and preservative-free.
As far back as the photo albums go, there are pictures of my brothers and me sitting on a stoop at the Franklin Cider Mill drinking cider. Each time the fall albums come out, we remember our annual treks to be the year’s first customers every year and of the apple press and fresh cinnamon spice doughnuts, beckoning us to head over for just one more… or maybe it is the tashlikh ceremony that we used to hold during the 10-days where our parents reward us with delicious and fresh doughnuts when we cast our stale-bread sins into the river.
For once I have not stopped to ponder all the ups and downs of the last year, which is something I tend to do monthly, if not weekly. So the fact that I’ve forgotten to do this in the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah is a minor victory for the semi-neurotic.
Frankly speaking, the last year was a long one that rode in on an even worse one. So when I began to bake and write about my baking through a life-affirming lens, I forced myself to focus on the very positive, and the very now. It occurred to me that with all that’s wrong here and all over the world, looking straight ahead was hard enough – forget looking forward and forget looking backward.
As a college student in New York, potluck Shabbat meals were a weekly occurrence. Of course, not everyone could cook, or even had time to, so those guests were assigned the shopping jobs — drinks, fruit, and challah. As a rule, anyone assigned to bring challah really only had one choice — Bagel City. Anything other than the sweet, doughy loaf was unacceptable.
There are quite a few local challah companies in the Chicago area, though in the store-bought challah category, none inspire my taste buds quite like Bagel City. Native Chicagoans seem to prefer Breadsmith, a Skokie-based bakery with franchises across the Midwest and Texas, but many feel there aren’t enough good options. A quick Facebook poll resulted in multiple commendations of Whole Food’s challah, what many would deem a non-traditional source. Others recommended Mindy’s Homemade, but unfortunately only whole wheat loaves were available, so in the interest of consistency, I left it out of the line up.
Scroll down to read descriptions of some egg challot available in Chicago grocery stores:
I got to sit down with Stephanie Botvin, winner of the 2013 Challah Contest at the Rocky Mountain Food Festival, who was already convinced from the start that she made the best challah in Denver. After having tasted her challah, it was no surprise why she won.
With a unique cake-like consistency, the use of honey, tofu (replacing eggs), and whole-wheat flour, this challah definitely sets itself apart from the rest. Stephanie told me how her challah baking brings her into the Shabbat spirit, how her participation in the food festival helped her shed new light on Jewish food issues, and how her transition to Denver from the East Coast inspired her to make this award-winning challah in the first place. She generously gave me a loaf to take home, which was finished off that afternoon.
Don’t live in New York, or in need an easy fix? We’ve got you covered. Below are three brands available in supermarkets across the country.
The Challah Fairy Sesame Challah
The problem with tasting store-bought challah right after a freshly baked loaf is that you instantly taste the difference. Thoughts like “This is a crust? Really?” and “Nice bread, barely recognizable as challah,” overshadowed the great texture.
Zomick’s Egg Challah
Maybe it was the lingering taste of failed health inspections, or the nagging fear that a bug would suddenly appear, but this challah got a resounding “No” from all tasters. The neon yellow color stood out among the surrounding white loaves, and though the crust was acceptable, “looks don’t make up for ugly insides.” When a challah is described as “nightmarish,” it’s best to stay clear.
Trader Joe’s Egg Challah
While this was the best out of the tested supermarket challahs, participants found the texture clumpy and too much like white bread. “On the scale of dry vs. moist, I prefer my challah moist, but this is too much,” one taster wrote. A perfectly browned and glazed crust was this challah’s salvation.
The San Francisco Bay Area has one of the largest Jewish populations in North America. But unlike communities in places like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Toronto, it has no identifiably Jewish neighborhoods filled with Jewish bakeries, butchers, delis and food shops.
The lucky few who live near one of the local Jewish bakeries can stop by to pick up their bread. But for everyone else, supermarkets and even the front desks of Jewish community centers and synagogue nursery schools are the way to get the good stuff, thanks to challah distribution networks around the city.
With the High Holidays fast approaching, store shelves (and those front desks) will soon be stocked with round challahs with raisins and other treats. Here is a taste of five different plain loaves popular with Jewish residents of the Bay Area. Prices range from $2.99 to $6.75 per challah.
“Would You Make This?” is a sporadic new column where personal chef Alix Wall evaluates a new cookbook by making two of its recipes, sharing them with friends and asking what they think of the results.
Hi, my name is Alix and I’m a member of the cult. The cult of Ottolenghi, that is. I feel I should begin this way to acknowledge that I am one of the thousands who have come down with a new kind of Jerusalem Syndrome, one where, our older cookbooks remain spatter-free and collect dust, because somehow, after the “Jerusalem” cookbook, none of them seems to compare.
On a recent pilgrimage to Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Nopi restaurant in London, a waiter told me that “Ottolenghi: The Cookbook” by the chefs (out in the U.S. on Sept. 3) that’s new to us is his favorite of the team’s three books. “Better than ‘Jerusalem?’” I asked, incredulously. He thought so. I couldn’t imagine such a thing. And yet, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy to find out. I was tempted to buy the U.K edition, British measurements and all, but I decided to wait. And luckily for me, that wait didn’t turn out to be long at all.
Legendary bialy bakery Kossar’s was recently sold, but we’re going to have to wait until the flour dust settles for the new owners to share their long term plans for the landmark Lower East Side bakery.
Marc Halprin and Evan Giniger are only the third set of owners since the bakery’s founding in 1936 as Mirsky and Kossar’s. Halprin (who has 13 years of experience in the bagel and bialy business) and Giniger released a short statement last week saying, “We are thrilled to be taking the reins of this iconic and treasured 77 year-old brand. Our goal is to honor and preserve the past while slowly introducing some improvements where needed.”
You’d think you could find a good bialy in New York, especially at the oldest bialy bakery in the country. But that has not been so in the last number of years. Although famous food critic Mimi Sheraton sung Kossar’s bialys’ praises in her definitive “The Bialy Eaters: The Story of a Bread and a Lost World” published in 2000, they stopped tickling her taste buds not long afterward. Indeed, a perusal of Kossar’s reviews on Yelp, Chowhound and other websites indicates that Sheraton is not the only one who hopes that Kossar’s new owners will turn those flattened rolls around.
It’s a simmering late afternoon on a midsummer’s day in the Gimmel neighborhood of Beer Sheba, the capital of Israel’s Negev desert. The sun beats down from the West over the high rooftops of myriad apartment buildings. As the sun continues to sink, the edifices cast lengthy shadows across a green expanse. These shadows offer shelter from the scorching desert sun, and people from the nearest building begin to trickle into this verdant gated space. This idyllic environment starkly contrasts with the surrounding city - a picturesque agro-pastoral scene in the midst of an urban jungle. Within the vine engulfed fence, various forms of vegetation surround a quaint mud hut (called a gojo in Amharic). People take to shovels, hoes, and wheelbarrows, and begin working the land. Vegetables and fruit are harvested, weeds are uprooted, and seeds are planted. As the gardeners labor in this urban Garden of Eden, a breeze whistles through the alleyways, bringing with it the overwhelming aroma of fresh bread, meat and an array of spices. The allure of dinner encourages the gardeners to finish their work, and bring the fresh harvest back home.
For bakery fiends in Israel, choosing the perfect combination of fluffy, soft, delicately sweet and lightly crispy challah for Rosh Hashanah can be a real challenge with all of the wonderful bread options available. Trying to avoid the larger, older and more industrial bakeries such as Tzvi and Viznitz bakeries in Bnei Brak or Angel in Jerusalem, we’ve compiled a list of boutique bakeries that literally take the cake. Find out where to get addicting, uniquely braided and perfectly doughy challah for this Jewish New Year.
Teler Bakery Yerushalmim (Jerusalem residents) are quick to name Teler Bread as their ultimate favorite place to buy fresh challah on a weekly basis. Avishai Teler moved his bakery from the industrial center right into the heart of Mahaneh Yehudah market on chaotic Agripas street where he also opened up a neighboring coffee shop. The store sells dozens of yeasty varieties daily and uses leavened sourdough and old-school, more traditional baking methods. Preparing its breads in a brick oven, it has already become the “house-bread” of the King David Hotel and many other top-tier hotels and restaurants.
For Rosh Hashanah, the bakery prepares round whole wheat, white and raisin challahs to keep up with the holiday spirit. The bakery boasts a rich, cakey and sweet dough. Avishai Teller, a humble and sweet man says his challahs are made to last longer, an especially important fact on long holidays. Avishai promises his challahs won’t dry up and will taste fresh throughout the long weekend. And we trust him. Prices stay between 12-15 NIS and don’t sky rocket just because of the holiday.
I do not know much about my maternal grandfather except for a few stories. I know that he passed away not long before my parents’ wedding, he was mistakenly captured as an Italian spy during the war, and his favorite snack was a piece of rye toast, a slice of raw onion, and a schmear of schmaltz. Schmaltz is in my history, it’s in my family’s traditions, and it’s in my blood (hopefully not literally, but you know what I mean). So when I picked up The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat, by Michael Ruhlman, I knew immediately that I would enjoy this short collection of recipes all featuring this most fowl of lipids.
The Book of Schmaltz is more than a cookbook; Ruhlman has set out, with this book, a series of applications as an argument for the use of a once very popular ingredient in Jewish cooking. As described by his neighbor and inspiration to the book, Lois Waxman, schmaltz is looked at as a “heart attack food,” and has been phased out in many of the traditional Jewish and Eastern European dishes which once featured it. He notes in his introduction that schmaltz is so unused today that his dictionary does not even define the word as a food product, but instead as something which is overly sentimental. So why would we ever want to bring back the use of such a product?
In my earlier CSA Psolet Challenge posts, I committed myself to trying new recipes—specifically pesto—as part of my effort to be waste-free this month. My relationship to all this pesto-making turned out to be a mixed bag: I enjoyed eating pesto on pasta. I enjoyed creating a simple yet elevated dinner by spreading pesto on a baked potato. I enjoyed watching my one year old son smear pesto all over his face. What I did not enjoy was making the pesto. In my tiny Manhattan kitchen, none of the lovely kitchen appliances that occupied the extensive countertop in my Brooklyn apartment are anywhere within reach—so I grab the very useful Magic Bullet mini blender whenever I want to make a smoothie or some hummus. But sadly, the Magic Bullet was not particularly effective at making pesto, and blending the basil leaves and walnut to the right consistency became a very time consuming endeavor.
So when another bunch of basil arrived in this week’s CSA share, I opted for another route—several, in fact. Here are four ways to use your next basil harvest, with nary a pesto in sight.
On September 27, 24 culinary whiz kids will whip out their knives and cook for their lives on TV on the first season of Junior MasterChef to hit U.S. television screens. Ranging from eight to 13-years-old, these kids will have to impress kitchen hard-ass Gordon Ramsay and his fellow judges, restaurateur and winemaker Joe Bastianich (Del Posto, Eataly) and acclaimed chef Graham Elliot (Graham Elliot, Graham Elliot Bistro).
The tweens will face some tough challenges during the first episode and only 12 will make it to the next level. These finalists will face a variety of challenges, including taking over a fine dining establishment in Los Angeles to prepare a three-course meal. The winner will go home with $100,000 to put in their savings accounts—possibly to put toward culinary school tuition.
Ramsay, known for his colorful language, is going to have to watch what he says around the kids. “We know the F-word means food,” he said jokingly to the Huffington Post.