True confession: I’ve been a Martha Stewart follower since the early 90s. Her old magazines are stored in my basement and my daughters and I watched her old shows religiously. Parties, changing seasons, holidays, and projects were all sourced through our Martha lens.
So, it makes sense that when our youngest daughter, who made Aliyah this past summer and now serves in the Israeli Air Force, called with news of her engagement, wedding ideas were floating in my mind. Radio on, thoughts flying, errands ticking off the list and then I listened: Martha Stewart was on Sirus Radio taking calls from listeners, and of course, I had to phone in. I was told to hold for Martha as I pulled into our driveway.
Wondering how to fill the balmy days ahead? We’ve rounded up some of the most exciting Jewish food events from around the country to keep you going during the warmer months. From New York to Los Angeles, and even as far as London, it’s going to be a delicious summer. Think hefty (kosher) BBQ ribs, hand-rolled couscous and merguez burgers — yum!
Hakadosh BBQ Pop Up Truck
Various Dates and Locations
Ari White, the grill guru behind Hakadosh BBQ, is bringing his Texas ribs to pop up locations across New York City and as far as New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Here’s a handy list to keep track of locations and dates, or follow White on Twitter at @HakadoshBBQ for up to the minute updates. Hat tip to Yeah That’s Kosher
NY Shuk Middle Eastern Shabbat Supper
Friday May 17, 7-9 p.m.
If you think Jewish cooking is all about gefilte fish and kugel, you should get in on NY Shuk’s — which means market in Hebrew — Middle Eastern Shabbat Supper. Chef Ron Arazi and pastry artist Leetal Arazi will show you how to make hand rolled couscous, tanzeya (a dried fruit and nut stew served with melt-in-your-mouth lamb) and a medley of salads. Because no Shabbat meal tastes as good dry, participants will also get to create a cocktail with arak, the popular Middle Eastern anise-flavored alcohol.
The Hester partners with Side Tours
Tuesday May 28, June 4th and June 11, 8-10:30 p.m.
All this “Great Gatsby” talk has us dreaming of some jazz-era ambiance. The Brooklyn underground supper club is teaming up with Side Tours New York to offer a three-course organic seasonal vegetable and fish-based kosher meal with live music and drinks straight out of Prohibition.
“A Taste of Spring”
Tuesday May 23, 7:30 p.m.
Price: $80 with wine pairing/$60 without.
This Jewish Chicago pop up dinner club is celebrating spring with a six-course tasting menu that includes smoked venison, fresh corn panna cotta, fresh herbs and produce. Spots are first come first served. Email email@example.com by May 13 to save your spot!
Gan Project Chag HaBikkurim
Sunday, May 19, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
The Gan Project Homestead at Bernard Horwich JCC, behind the CJE Shwartzberg building (3003 W. Touhy Ave, Chicago)
Price: Get 15 tickets for $12 before May 10.
The Gan Project wants you to get back to the farm. The social and environmental justice organization grows organic heirloom produce on a quarter acre farm in West Rogers Park, Chicago. Half goes of the produce goes to the community, and half is donated to local food pantries. May 19 will mark their second Chag HaBikkurim — first fruits festival. There will be music, chef demonstrations, and gardening activities. Go get your hands dirty!
Do you have a caffeine addiction to feed, but not much money to do so? Then consider moving to Tel Aviv. Since September, Tel Aviv residents have been able to get all the coffee they want for NIS 169 ($45) per month, thanks to a new loyalty program called CUPS-Unlimited Coffee.
The program “goes across not a specific chain, but across independent and franchise stores we signed up for the program,” Alon Ezer, the company’s CEO, told The Times of Israel. “As far as I know, this is the only such loyalty program anywhere in the world, and it holds a great promise for not only coffee shops, but for brick-and-mortar retailers of all kinds.”
It’s really quite simple: A customer pays the monthly all-you-can-drink fee, or alternatively NIS 99 ($27) per month for just one cup of coffee per day. A map on an app that you download to your iPhone or Android phone shows you where all the participating cafes and coffee kiosks are, including the one closest to you. You go to any of the establishments, order any drink you want (no matter how fancy, frothy or creamy), let the barista tap a code into the app on your phone, and you’re done…at least for the next 30 minutes. After half an hour, you can do the same thing all over again at the same café. If you absolutely cannot wait the 30 minutes, then you can go to another participating café and order that second cup right away.
Eating food is an exercise in trust. In today’s day and age, where most eaters are extremely disconnected from the process that gets our food from farm to fork, we need to be able to trust our food producers, manufacturers, and cooks that the food is what it says it is, and it does not contain anything that it isn’t supposed to. This trust needs to be present, no matter what food values you hold. If you care about food safety, you want to know that your food doesn’t have any malicious pathogens. If you care about fair trade, you want to know that the food was not produced by people who are enslaved. And if you care about kashrut, you want to know that your food meets all of the requirements of Jewish law.
In “Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food”, Timothy D. Lytton, a professor at Albany Law School, describes how our current system of kosher supervision, dominated by the “Big Five” agencies (OU, OK, Kof-K, Star-K, and CRC), enables kosher consumers to trust that their food is in fact kosher. Lytton explains that “the American industrial kashrus system includes private certification agencies, industrial food manufacturers, and kosher consumers, who engage in market exchanges with each other and are joined by bonds of trust that, in conjunction with reputational sanctions, maintain reliable kosher certification standards.” Rabbi Harvey Senter, founder of the Kof-K, puts it another way, “kashrus is based on ne’emnus (trustworthiness).” The kosher consumer must have faith that the kosher certifier has their interests and values in mind.
In 1916, the New York Board of Health issued a concise 36 page recipe book aimed at Jewish American homemakers. Published bilingually in both Yiddish and English, “How to Cook for the Family” contained recipes for such “plain, substantial and wholesome” dishes as tomato soup, beef stew and cornstarch pudding. So far as we can tell, the book was a flop among its intended audience. When a reporter working on a story about it asked a couple of Yiddishe homemakers for their opinion, the women told her off.
“The Board of health ain’t got no right to say what I should cook and how,” one woman, explained, in the cadence of a Jimmy Cagney tough-guy. “The East Side is the East Side,” her friend agreed. “I make like my Grossmutter Selig and my mother, Gefullte fish and stuffed helzel. What [do] I care for the Board of Health?”
Interestingly, both of the dishes the women named are stuffed foods — gefilte or “stuffed” fish, and stuffed poultry neck. Neither is “plain” or simple to prepare. Rather, they require both large investments of time and attention to detail, as did so many of the filled foods that were mainstays of our ancestors’ kitchens.
It’s a Sunday, you’re noshy, and there’s a chunk of Friday’s challah leftover. It’s no longer moist enough to be delicious on its own and you’ve made challah French toast or bread pudding way too many times. Trust us, we’ve been there. So, what’s a cook to do? Make schnitzel!
The glorified chicken nugget has gotten some love in the past few years, from food trucks on both coasts, a stand at the Williamsburg food festival Smorgasburg, and even an Alligator variety in California. In Europe it’s often served with potato salad or spätzle and in Israel you’ll find turkey rendition served with hummus in a pita and with French fries or chips as the Israelis say. It’s really not difficult to make — it may be a bit messy, but my mother always told me “a messy kitchen is a happy kitchen.”
The comedian called NPR for coffee talk as the public broadcaster’s “Morning Edition” show wrapped up its own Coffee Week. Seinfeld told “Morning Edition” host Steve Inskeep how his attitude towards the black stuff has changed over time.
“I never liked it and I didn’t understand it and I used to do a lot of stuff in my standup set in the ’80s and ’90s about how I don’t ‘get’ coffee,” he said. “I don’t understand why everyone’s so obsessed with this drink.”
High-end kosher burgers take Manhattan. [YeahThatsKosher]
If you’ve never heard of za’atar, an herbal Middle Eastern spice blend, you’re missing out. Try it on flatbread, popcorn or in a Shabbat-worthy roast chicken recipe. [The Kitchn]
Saveur’s Best Food Blog Awards winners are up. Peruse the list for mouthwatering photos, recipes and new food voices to follow. [Saveur]
Ever stained a pan cooking with wine, brown sugar or citrus? Get the lowdown on non-reactive cookware. [DavidLeibovitz.com]
This post first appeared on J. Weekly
I first came across Rebecca Katz’s cookbooks in culinary school. My program had a health-centric curriculum, and cooking for cancer patients was part of it.
I used her first book, “One Bite at a Time,” to make a polenta pie with sautéed greens and puttanesca sauce for a client with throat cancer who later claimed my food helped her cancer go into remission. I also was able to bring joy to a dying woman by making her whole-grain chocolate chip cookies without any refined sugar.
However, when Katz was cooking for her father when he had throat cancer in 2000, there was no such resource. Using her background as a natural foods chef and nutritionist, Katz made up recipes she thought her father — with his taste buds compromised from radiation — would enjoy, and that’s how her first book came about. Then came a second, “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen.”
The drain on Jerusalem’s natural resources from religious tourism is finally acknowledged as an ecological dilemma. The Symposium on Green and Accessible Pilgrimage, which took place earlier this week, hopes to address it.
The brainchild of Jerusalem’s deputy mayor, Naomi Tsur, the mission is to bring religious leaders together in cooperation to help pilgrims “leave a green footprint” as they pass through Jerusalem and holy sites everywhere on the planet.
At the eco-focused event, eight local chefs competed for the city’s “greenest” dish. Well, perhaps competed is a generous term. The white-jacketed chefs assembling on the stone patio of the YMCA greeted each other with the big hugs and the macho kiss on each cheek that Israeli guys exchange to show affectionate respect.
In the background, sous chefs opened plastic containers, pulled out knives, and mixed sauces. Pungent herbal odors rose from bunches of sage, basil, and za’atar piled on a rough wooden chopping block. With the prep done, the chefs deftly created the dishes that resonate with “green cuisine,” placing a square of organic carrot here, painting a swab of turmeric sauce there, lightly dropping delicate green and black sprouts exactly on the right spot.
Springtime is in full swing in Tennessee. The dogwoods, irises and tulips are blooming, and last week I was privy to an early edition of my CSA share: parsnips, watercress, chickweed and kale. I’m still trying to decide what to make with the parsnips (besides drying them for soup this fall), but the greens made their way into salads and stir-frys.
The freshness of the greens got me thinking about what I have in easy garden access: parsley, mint, spinach, arugula and chard. The last of these was the most inspiring, and I’d love to share some of that, and a great dish with you!
Jamie Geller, often dubbed the “Kosher Rachel Ray,” is the first to admit that making aliyah was a challenge. But nine months in she’s saying “what took me so long?!” Geller captured her family’s trials, tribulations, and successes of moving to Israel last August in the documentary series “Joy of Aliyah.” Based on the success of her first program, Geller has teamed up once again with Nefesh B’Nefesh and new partner 12 Tribe Films to create a food and travel show, “Joy of Israel with Jamie Geller,” that follows her family on culinary adventures around the country.
“Even before the dream of aliyah was born,” says Geller, “I wanted to do a food and travel show set in Israel.” Inspired by programs like Jean-Georges and Marja Vongerichten’s Korean food and travel show “Kimchi Chronicles,” Geller says that her connection to Israel is what makes “Joy of Israel” more than your average travel program. “The real mission of the show,” explains Geller, “is to be a food and travel show with the backbone of this family that just made aliyah — so through the eyes of new olim [immigrants] and the excitement and emotion that goes with that.”
Check out the first episode below
“I’ve wanted to be Jewish since I was 6-years-old,” said Sarah Simmons, founder of the culinary salon City Grit, which hosted a four-course Southern Shabbat meal last Friday. After tasting Simmons’ twist on brisket and latkes, one would believe her claim as being “the most Jewish Gentile in New York City.”
The meal was made up of fresh new takes on traditional Jewish dishes, with inspiration drawn from Simmons’ southern upbringing, Israeli cuisine, and seasonal veggies. It’s one of a few of Simmons’ reoccurring meals in City Grit, which she started in 2011 after hosting private dinners in her home for a few years and being named Food & Wine magazine’s Home Cook Superstar of 2010. Other meals in the salon include an evening of southern comfort food, a “Butts, Legs, and Sides” menu with Korean influences, and a series with guest chefs.
After an informal blessing over the challah, the first course was brought out to the 40 or so guests, which ranged from what appeared to be a group celebrating a bachelorette party to people who weren’t Jewish but love the cuisine. First up was Simmons’ take on the fattoush salad — a roasted beet puree, greens, and a buttermilk tahini made with benne seeds (sesame seeds grown in the South, according to Simmons). It was light, nutty, and refreshing. It had diners requesting more challah to sop up the excess beet puree on the plate.
I’ve never visited my ancestral hometown. Mashad is located at the north-eastern part of Iran. It is a holy site for Shi’ite Muslims, a famous destination for pilgrims who visit the golden shrine of Emam Reza, resting place of the eight Imam of Shia. The history of the Jews of Mashad is unique and intense: In the spring of 1839, a few days before Passover, a pogrom occurred, in which dozens of Jews lost their lives. The surviving Jews were presented with a cruel choice: death or forcible conversion to Islam.
This started a long period of “hidden Jewishness.” We (the story was always told to me in the first-person-plural) took on Muslim names and appearance, prayed at the mosque, bought non-kosher meat (later throwing it to the dogs) and fresh bread during the seven days of Passover (secretly feeding it to the birds). Prayers were held in secret and Shabbat candles lit in basements. Some of the more affluent men were expected by their non-Jewish neighbors to perform the Islamic custom of Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca) which they did, wearing miniature Tefillin under their robes and sometimes stopping in Jerusalem — to pray at the Western Wall and establish synagogues, orphanages and poor-houses — on their way back home, to their double life in Mashad.
Even in hiding, families preserved the recipe for the traditional Mashadi Shabbat dinner, Cholow Nokhodow, a hearty beef and bean stew, rich with chopped fresh herbs and wedges of kohlrabi. We treat our signature Friday night dish with affection, it is unique to our cooking culture and not served by other Persian Jewish communities. For me, it is the taste of Shabbat.
Stir first three ingredients carefully and wait for the relationships to bloom. After ten years, move from Indiana to California. Introduce best friend into the mix. Ann is the same age as the child, who is now entering public middle school after years of Jewish day school. Ann helps this child transition because she herself has been in transition for many years. She came from Andhra Pradesh when she was young and had her friends call her Ann instead of Ananta to help her acculturate. She, like the child, has eating restrictions because she is Hindu and fiercely vegetarian. She is also equally curious about the world and similarly unintimidated by it. They become fast friends and will spend many years sharing food, culture, religion, fears, love interests, overbearing parents, a drive to overachieve and our friendship – which has stood the test of time and space.
Nothing brings a smile to a child’s face like the tinkling melodies of an ice cream truck rounding the corner. Unless it’s a Saturday afternoon and that child is standing in front of an orthodox synagogue.
About six years ago, Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation, based in Chicago’s Lakeview community, was faced with an ice cream dilemma. One sunny Shabbat, as families were milling around the sidewalk before going home, an ice cream truck pulled up. Some families had money on them and were able to buy ice cream for their kids, but kids from more traditionally observant families couldn’t have any. What’s a rabbi to do? Rabbi Asher Lopatin didn’t want kids “to feel that Shabbat is depriving them of anything.” Lopatin and his wife, Rachel Tessler Lopatin, started talking about solutions: What could they do so people could get ice cream on Shabbat (somewhere a distinctly Yiddish voice is muttering, “We should all have such problems!”)? And so, the concept of a Shabbat ice cream account was born.
Around the corner from the synagogue sits Windy City Sweets, a small mom-and-pop candy, fudge, and ice cream shop. Their relationship with Anshe Sholom extends much farther back than the ice cream truck debacle. Over the years the store, which is owned by non-Jews, has made efforts to get kosher supervision for their candies and ice creams (all of their ice creams are now kosher, with the notable and tragic exception of Rocky Road). John Manchester, the current owner, sees it as a perfect fit, “We’re part of a community and they [the synagogue members] are a big part of it. It was a great match.”
Making sure food is part of a museum is not an easy task — fresh dishes will perish, plastic ones miss the point.
But, at Warsaw’s new Museum of the History of Polish Jews, food, drink and the special Jewish relationship to eating and drinking will be a recurring thread woven throughout the yet to be installed core exhibition.
The Museum’s striking building was opened to the public April 19, but its permanent exhibition, a narrative presentation of 1,000 years of Jewish life, won’t debut until next year.
“We don’t have separate sections on discreet themes such as women, children, dress, or food,” said Barbara Kirshenblatt Gimblett, the NYU scholar in charge of the team putting together the core exhibition. “There are no encyclopedia entries.” Rather, she said, food, drink and issues related to them would be addressed within the context of the chronological narrative.
One of the primary claims which opponents of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) make is that there is a blatant lack of transparency both from biotech corporations and the federal government when it comes to the mechanisms in place for their approval by the FDA and the full impact of GMOs. There often appears to be “back-room dealings” with only a few people “in the know” making huge decisions that affect each and every one of us. Part of this may be specific to Big Agriculture and biotech companies, but to a large degree this is also an inherent part of our federal legislative processes. Part of congressional procedure includes a mode of lawmaking informally known as a ‘rider,’ an amendment to an appropriation bill that fundamentally and permanently changes the law governing the program which is funded by the bill. Many times, and usually without widespread public knowledge, lawmakers will amend congressional legislation with sometimes unrelated provisions as a means of changing governmental policy without the time and energy of a vote on the floor for that specific program. Recently, a rider was attached to the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013 which, in effect, deregulates federal oversight on biotech food products even if such products are found to be dangerous.
The iconic Streit’s Matzo company is getting a documentary, and the film promises to look anything but flat.
Streit’s, which opened its doors in 1925 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan is in its fifth generation, still using their original machinery to bake and pack matzo today. It’s the last family-operated matzo factory in the country — and they take their bread of affliction seriously.
“You’re not going to paint a picture that has no meaning and that’s how we make matzo here — it’s like art…Best job in the world,” says longtime Streit’s employeee Anthony Sapada in a thick New York Italian accent in a preview of the film (see below).
Filmmaker Michael Levine and producer Michael Green are hoping to tackle the story of Streit’s through a full-length movie, collecting memories of the factory from workers and enthusiasts alike. The team has launched a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise $60,000 to make “Streit’s: Matzo and the American Dream,” a look inside the factory’s near-century of operation.
Levine hopes to use Streit’s to paint a picture of the ever-changing Lower East Side, and as a microcosm of the evolving Jewish community around it, but it’s not just the usual New York real estate turmoil.
If you’re looking to spice up your Shabbat dinner routine, try these tomato jalepeno matzo balls. [Boston.com]
Some handy kosher travel advice — if you’re luck enough to be going to South Africa anytime soon. [Yeah That’s Kosher]
The secrets of New York’s King of Falafel. [Serious Eats]
There’s something so delightfully springy about honey. A bee sting cake looks like a perfect spring shabbat dessert recipe. [Smitten Kitchen]
The food world is getting yet another new magazine — Cherry Bomb. This one, on the women of the food world. [Grub Street]