The Jew And The Carrot

An Inside Look at the JCPA Food Stamp Challenge

By Simon Feil

Deborah Lopez
For the gourmands among us in NYC, the words “food” and “crisis” are likely to refer to an inability to choose which hot new restaurant to grace for dinner. The word “hunger” can often get lost in the cacophony of “local,” “pasture-raised” and “sustainably grown.” Perhaps more so in the Jewish community, where much of our celebration is surrounded by food and we are overwhelmed by the abundance of it; the idea of Jewish values and hunger may get lost in the shuffle.

Enter: The Food Stamp Challenge.

Spearheaded by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) and co-sponsored by a number of Jewish organizations and rabbinic councils from across the spectrum, the Food Stamp Challenge creates a visceral learning opportunity about that most popular and noble of Jewish values, the pursuit of justice — specifically, food justice.

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Loblaw's COR Certification

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Loblaw, Canada’s largest food retailer, has announced that it will only be dealing with a single kashrut supervision organization from now on when it comes to its store brands. According to a Canadian Jewish News report, the company, which operates more than 1,000 corporate and franchised supermarkets, stores and warehouse-type outlets across Canada, said that going forward, it would work only with the Kashruth Council of Canada and it’s COR designation.

Until now, Loblaws has had ten different kashrut symbols on the packaging of its brands, such as President’s Choice, No name, and Blue Menu. The plan is for the products to continue to be supervised by the same heksher-granting agencies as before (including OU, the most widely recognized kashrut designation), but to have only COR printed on their labels.

Kashruth Council spokesman Richard Rabkin said that all ten current hekshers met COR standards. If another agency wanted to certify a Loblaw store brand, the Kashruth Council would have to ascertain that it met COR standards. If it did not, that agency would be required to work with Kashruth Council to come up to COR standards, and if it did not, Loblaw would make the ultimate decision as to whether to accept the product or not.

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Mixing Bowl: Nate Silver's Burrito Blog, Reubans

By Blair Thornburgh

Thinkstock

Take a tasty tour through New York’s Holyland Market for Israeli staples from amba to za’atar. [Serious Eats]

Healthy, fall ingredients like carrots, quinoa and caraway seeds combine to re-imagine the traditional kugel four times over. [The New York Times]

Ever tried a vegan Reuben before? Locali, a “conscious convenience store” in Los Feliz, Calif., uses tofu, pickling spices and Daiya cheese for a clever, cruelty-free copy. [LA Weekly]

FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver: statistics savant, presidential pick predictor … food blogger? His Burrito Bracket blog from back in the day puts tacos from his (and President Obama’s) Chicago home in an NCAA-style bracket. [Grub Street]

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Twist on Classic Salt Cod Mousse

By Alessandra Rovati

dinnerinvenice.com

In 1432 a Venetian captain, Pietro Querini, returned home after surviving a terrible shipwreck off the Northern coast of Norway, and described for the first time the stocfisi (dried salt cod) he had tasted in the remote islands where he’d been nursed back to health. His description probably went largely unnoticed at the time, given the abundance of fresh fish in the waters of the lagoon.

Baccalà (stockfish) is a particularly tough kind of dried salt cod, sold by the slab. It became such a staple in Europe in the Middle Ages that it supported the expansion of trade routes with the New World; soon it was popping up in the traditional dishes of areas as diverse as Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, West Africa, the Caribbean and Brazil.

However, it wasn’t until the 1500s that Venice becomes its main point of distribution. The Council of Trento (1555), prohibiting meat to Christians on Fridays, probably gave it a little push; so did the Spanish Portuguese Jews and conversos who settled in Venice after the expulsion, and were already accustomed to eating it. As a matter of fact, for a while it was considered (like pickled fish) a “Jewish food,” which could draw the unwelcome attention of the Inquisition.

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Reality Check: Two Years on Food Stamps

By Allison Rosen

“You don’t look poor.”

These were some of the only words my caseworker said to me during my intake at the Illinois Department of Human Services. I could hardly hide my disgust as he revealed a smile and asked me to fork over my stack of papers. His dry, albeit offensive brand of humor was especially jarring after the nearly 2 hours I spent standing in lines and waiting to hear my name called.

I was interviewing as part of my application for food stamps (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or “SNAP”). It had been a rough morning of long lines, crying babies, and grumpy staff (picture the DMV on a particularly bad day), but as an AmeriCorps*National Direct volunteer, I was mostly unfazed by the sluggish bureaucratic process. I spent my days running a non-profit community resource center on the North Side of Chicago where I held similar responsibilities to those of my caseworker, so I tried to empathize to his overworked, underpaid demeanor. With a brusque “You qualify,” he approved my application and sent me on my merry way. I was relieved to have a food budget.

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Celebrating Carrots In Their Own Right

By Katherine Martinelli

Katherine Martinelli

Although carrots often play a supporting role in the culinary world, I’ve long appreciated them in their own right. As a baby I turned a subtle hue of orange from consuming so much carrot puree, and as a child I happily mimicked my favorite cartoon character, Bugs Bunny, by chomping on carrots every chance I got. Apparently the world has caught up, since a recent New York Times article declared carrots the new Brussels sprouts.

Carrots probably originated in Afghanistan from a purple variety thousands of years ago, and have been enjoyed for their culinary and medicinal purposes ever since. Today they’re more popular than ever, with the average American eating nearly 10 pounds per year, according to a USDA report on the subject.

Though they have a long history, carrots don’t appear alongside the seven species of the Old Testament, and Gil Marks points out in The Encyclopedia of Jewish Cooking that “The carrot, never mentioned in the Talmud or Midrash, was a rather late arrival to the Middle East and Jewish cookery.”

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Proposition 37, Food Movement's Bar Mitzvah

By Rabbi Noah Tzvi Farkas

Valley Beth Shalom
Today, Proposition 37 is on the ballot here in California. This ballot measure would require manufacturers to label foods that contain genetically modified materials in their ingredients. Those who oppose the legislation say that uninformed consumers would read this new label as a warning. Those who support the legislation say consumers have a right to know what we put in our bodies. Now, most foodies feel very strongly that Proposition 37 represents a crucial break-out moment for the food movement.

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Matzoh Beer? Drink Up!

By Margaret Eby

Margaret Eby

With the explosion of craft beers in the past five years, it was only a matter of time before an intrepid soul conquered the final brewery frontier: Queens, New York. Rich Buceta and the team at Single Cut brewery are opening a 5,000 square foot brewery there later this month. And the star of the Single Cut lineup? Matzoh-based beer.

“The folks at [local pub] Queens Kickshaw came up with the idea for this beer as a tribute to the Jewish tradition of eating Chinese food on Christmas Eve,” brewmaster Rich Buceta explained. The brew, which is made by mixing Szechuan peppercorns and matzoh into the malted barley mash, is dubbed a “White Lagrr,” perhaps because of the ferocious kick that the spicing will bring to it.

Aside from creating what sounds like the perfect Chanukah beer, Buceta plans a number of other yet-to-be-revealed concoctions. “We’ll be aging several beers in rum barrels, as well as brewing a number of Belgian-style ales,” he said. But the heart of the brewery lies in hoppy ales, like the Halfstack India Pale Ale that clocks in at 6.6% alcohol by volume. They plan to release a seasonal “Fullstack” IPA that’s even more alcoholic — a whopping 8.6%.

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Beacon Hebrew Alliances Commits to Healthy Living

By Brent Spodek

Wikimedia
This article was co-authored by Jennifer Clair, Bobby Gropper, Valerie Gropper, Ann Gross, Jeff Gross, Deana Morenoff, Joan Pirie, Bill Smith, and Rachel Zollner.

When our synagogue, Beacon Hebrew Alliance, took on a community-wide listening campaign about two years ago, food quickly emerged as an important issue. Some of us were locavores, committed to eating regionally produced food; some were Jewish traditionalists, committed to eating kosher certified food, and some of us were lapsed vegetarians, some of us were price conscious and some had yet other commitments.

In addition to the many personal commitments, our community was growing quickly, and that meant there were more and more questions and disagreements about what we could and couldn’t eat in the synagogue. Our new rabbi was confused as to why our informal policy allowed us to bring in food from the local non-kosher deli but not to have a pot-luck with food prepared in members’ homes. At one point, a new mother in our community looked at the cake and candy that was put out during one of our kids programs and said “I don’t care if it’s ‘kosher,’ I don’t want to feed that junk to my kids.” It was clear that not only did we not have a consistent food policy that reflected our values, we didn’t even have a common language which we could use to talk about food.

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Mixing Bowl: Latke Throwdown; Egyptian Falafel

By Devra Ferst

iStock

If you’re stuck at home today, try making your own challah. Here’s a simple recipe. [The Daily Meal]

Are you a latke expert? Ready to throw down in a huge latke competition? Enter your recipe here. [Edible Manhattan]

Deb Perlman’s mushroom bourguinon, a perfect fall, vegetarian, Shabbat dish. [Food 52]

Try an Egyptian twist on falafel — made with fava beans. [Saveur]

A taste of the American South comes to Tel Aviv. [Tablet]

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Tasting Notes from the Whisky Jewbilee

By Dan Friedman

Thinkstock

The largest whisky event of the year took place last weekend at the Marriott Marquis. Stretching from sundown Friday to a later Saturday night, WhiskyFest NY was attended by hundreds of aficionados of the pungent malt. Sadly, I couldn’t make it this year, but I managed to stop by the first so-called “Whisky Jewbilee” run by Single Cask Nation just before the weekend.

Single Cask Nation is an attempt to turn a hobby into a business. Joshua Hatton, Jason Johnstone-Yellin and Seth Klaskin took what began as a blog and the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society and turned it into a niche bottler and importer of whisky. Though I was interested to see (and taste) what the hosts had found to put in their bottles, my expectations were fairly low. The location was a synagogue hall on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, I didn’t recognize the names of many of the whiskies being poured and the price seemed high at $75 (though, full disclosure, members of the press were not charged).

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Shabbat Meals: West African Brisket

By Michael Twitty

Michael Twitty

Being an African-American who is a Jew-By-Choice means having to do a lot of culinary negotiations. The table is where I integrate both sides of my hyphen. The plate is a means of “locating” myself squarely in the history of both Diasporas — African and Jewish, and all the places those Diaspora’s represent from Angola and Alabama to Ashkenaz, from South Carolina and Senegal to Sepharad. Cooking is how I pull all of my parts together and articulate who I am to those who might not understand how someone like me could be culturally “possible.” Shabbat gives me an opportunity to look within and use my cooking to tell stories that friends of all backgrounds have never heard — stories of history and migration, struggle and triumph, loss and recovery.

I often serve this West African Style Brisket on Shabbat, which is inspired by recipes from Nigeria, Senegal, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. The dry spice mixture is a take on suya, a very old spice mixture from West Africa, hearkening back to the days of the medieval salt and gold trade. Certain flavors like garlic, ginger, bay leaf, and onion are common in both culinary traditions; while others like the inclusion of peppers, olive oil, horseradish, and the use of stock, point to different stops on the map as each Diaspora wound its way to North America.

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Kosher Chow Comes to the Super Bowl

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Thinkstock
Get ready to chow down on kosher franks at the Super Bowl.

There’s no need to brown bag it if you are a kosher football fanatic headed to New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII next February.

Kosher fare will be served in the stadium at the big game, reports Kosher Today. Game-goers will get to chow down on beef hot dogs, beef sausages with peppers and onions, polish beef sausage, pretzels, bottled soda, bottled water and bottled beer. (In other words, it’ll be your basic football stadium food, minus the nachos — sorry, vegetarians.)

All the food will be provided by Kosher Sports, Inc.,, which runs a kosher stand at all New Orleans Saints games at the Superdome. If you’ve chowed down on kosher franks at Citifield, the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, Barclays Center, United Center, Oriole Park, American Airlines Arena, and Ford Field, then you can expect more of the same.

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The Quest for the Kosher Cheeseburger

By David Chudnow

David Chudnow

Keeping kosher my whole life has limited much of my culinary knowledge. I have this feeling sometimes, especially when I am looking up a new recipe or watching a cooking show, that I am missing something, that I have been cheated in some way. I never knew that split pea soup was supposed to have a hambone in it. Or that lasagna, as a default, is made with meat instead of vegetables. And worst of all, I have never tasted that ultimate non-kosher American delicacy, the cheeseburger.

Let me be clear: I don’t feel that I am missing out on the secret world that is bacon, nor do I have a desire to eat octopus or crocodile. But the concept of mixing milchigs with fleishigs (that is, dairy with meat) is incredibly enticing. Cheese is good; meat is good; why not mix them? I mean, other than the thousands of years of tradition, which I do my best to follow. I often joke that if I were to ever really break kashrut, it would be on turkey and Swiss, which is not even biblically treyf.

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5 Wacky Ways To Eat Your Pastrami

By Margaret Eby

Courtesy of Red Farm
At Red Farm in New York, pastrami is stuffed into an eggroll for a twist on the Chinese classic.

Pastrami is the staple of Jewish deli food: unctuous and fatty, thinly sliced and layered over a good seedy rye with just a dab of spicy mustard and, it makes one of the more perfect, simple sandwiches. But now the workhouse of the delicatessen is migrating into unusual territory. Chefs around the country have begun to experiment with pastrami in a variety of dishes. From crunchy and chewy pastrami nachos to frothy pastrami ramen, the humble sandwich filler has gotten a whole new culinary reputation as a versatile protein and a clever bacon replacement, too. Below, we present some of our favorite pastrami innovations.

Would you try these pastrami concoctions? Let us know in the comments.

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Staying Healthy During a Hurricane

By Elizabeth Traison

Wikicommons

Sitting on the couch in my Brooklyn apartment, staring at the bright gray sky with trees blowing vehemently in the wind, I feel as if I am waiting for the world to end. My parents called me, as did my aunt, and my grandparents. My cousins sent emails, and my friends sent instant messages, only for me to respond that we are still waiting for the worst of it, and that if I were still home in Detroit people would probably still be driving 75 mph down the highway.

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Bagel Shortage and Hurricane Recipes

By Devra Ferst

Jessica Fechtor
Lemon Za’atar chicken is zingy enough to wake up even this dark day.

As East Coasters prepped for the Frankenstorm, stores sold out of flashlights, bottled water and… bagels? According to the Village Voice, nary a bagel was to be found in Manhattan’s West Village this morning.

So what to do if you’re stuck, hunkered down in your home, for the next 24+ hours? Cook a delicious meal of course. Here are some recipe ideas. If you’re missing some ingredients, don’t fret or run out to the store, you have plenty of time on a day like today to experiment with what’s in your pantry.

Share your favorite stormy-day recipes with us in the comments.

Stay safe and dry.

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Cooking in Season: Pumpkin Macaroons

By Molly Yeh

Molly Yeh

True, it’s not really the official time of year for macaroons. But as the world struggled to find something that doesn’t work with pumpkin (like Pumpkin Pop-Tarts, Pumpkin Eggos), I had to know if the stray bag of coconut sitting in my cabinet would compliment it. So I dug up my basic macaroon recipe that a family friend gave me a while back and I got to work.

It turns out the flavors of the coconut and pumpkin blend beautifully, creating a nutty, more subtle version of the pumpkin treats that I’m used to. I’m tempted to stock up on canned pumpkin right now so that I have some when Passover rolls back around. What’s more is that now pumpkin has been dubbed the new bacon — and a kosher one at that — we really ought to celebrate it!

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Kosher Update: Empire Poultry Fires CEO

By JTA

Empire Kosher Poultry Inc. fired its chief executive officer allegedly after the aborted acquisition of another kosher poultry firm.

Greg Rosenbaum learned Oct. 10 that he was out at Empire, the leading supplier of kosher poultry in the United States, the Washington Jewish Week reported Wednesday. The company, based in Mifflintown, Pa., went from near collapse to prosperity and expansion about a year after Rosenbaum arrived there in 2006, the newspaper reported.

Rosenbaum told the newspaper that he was fired because of a “disagreement between himself and the partners of Empire Kosher on the strategy and direction for the company.” The problems began, he said, after the partners vetoed a complex acquisition deal that he had been negotiating since the spring with MVP Kosher Foods, the country’s second largest supplier of kosher poultry.

MVP Kosher’s Mark Honigsfeld told the Washington Jewish Week that he had approached Rosenbaum in May and that negotiations were taking place with the knowledge of both companies’ board of directors. In preparation for the acquisition, Honigsfeld said his company turned over to Empire its farming relationships, inventories, birds and customers. In July, MVP closed its plant in Birdsboro, Pa.

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What If Farming Is Actually A Curse?

By Anna Hanau

wikimedia

The next shmitta (sabbatical) year is two years away. At Hazon we’re gearing up for it already by doing some weekly learning on the topic with Rabbi Ari Hart, and recently, a look at some of our foundation stories in the Torah – Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel in particular – led us to unexpected realizations.

Such as: What if Jewish tradition sees farming as a lower, compromised, even “exiled” state? And what is the point of a cycle – whether it is seven days of Shabbat and the week, or seven years of a Sabbatical year cycle – if they keep simply repeating themselves?

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