The truth about brisket is that your bubbe’s is probably the best. It’s probably better than my bubbe’s, and better than your neighbor’s bubbe’s, and while no two brisket recipes are the same, we’re all right when we say our briskets are the best. Past that, there aren’t a whole lot of definitives — even the terminology can get a little shady — which is exactly why putting five brisket aficionados on stage to talk about the comfort meat was more than fascinating.
At Tuesday night’s panel discussion at the Center for Jewish History led by Mitchell David, Executive Vice President of the James Beard Foundation, and organized by culinary curator Naama Shefi, so much was revealed about the dish that no Jewish feast is complete without.
Like many popular Jewish foods, brisket worked its way into the cuisine because of its low cost. “Brisket is implicitly kosher since it’s from the front of the animal,” said New York Times reporter Julia Moskin, “and it was cheap because anything that takes a long time to cook and that can’t be grilled has challenges, especially in a restaurant.” Davis added that while the ribs are also from the front of the animal, their popularity in Jewish cuisine didn’t quite reach that of brisket’s because they could be sold for more money. Daniel Delaney, owner of the barely month-old BrisketTown, in Williamsburg, attested that this was the case in the Texas culture as well, where butchers who emigrated from Germany and Czechoslovakia had trouble selling the slow-cooking cut of meat and ultimately created a way to dry smoke it and preserve it.
New York City Chef Linda Lantos often works with children and their parents to help them overcome food phobias, poor eating habits, and the dreaded “picky eater” phase.
She finds that kids often use food as a way to assert the little bit of power they can find. Lantos always recommends (safely) involving your children in the cooking process. When she sees this power play, she recommends a couple of additional ways to help kids feel in control through their assistance in the kitchen.
Fist, give kids clearly defined tasks. For instance, they love to twist salt and pepper grinders. Just tell them how many times to twist and then they can count themselves – or you can help them count. A similar idea is to put something like half a cup of oil in a small squeeze bottle and then count how many squeezes it takes to empty it into the mixing bowl. Or put your vinegar into a small squeeze bottle and tell them how many squeezes for each recipe.
The owner of San Francisco’s only kosher market says she is closing her doors.
Israel’s Strictly Kosher Market, which opened its doors 65 years ago, will close in March, owner Faina Avrutina told the J weekly. Avrutina has been running the shop for the last 10 years. The store has belonged to her family for the last two generations, according to the newspaper.
The store’s lease came up for renewal this month, and Avrutina decided not to renew it, telling the J weekly that the store is too expensive to run and that business has been slow for some time.
Kosher consumers in San Francisco can purchase kosher products and kosher meat at local stores including Costco and Trader Joes, according to the article. There has also been a rise in kosher meat-buying clubs in the Bay Area.
Avrutina, who is known for giving out free food to children and to families in need, told J weekly she will continue to cater for lifecycle events.
Christmas in my family means one thing — our annual Dumplings of the World Party. All of our friends come over and spend the evening sitting at little tables around our house shaping potstickers, pierogies, empanadas… the offerings change from year to year, but there are a few favorites that would never be left out — including everyone’s favorite, pillow-y soft barbecue chicken buns.
A kosher answer to the dim sum star, cha siu bao, from the Guangdong region of China, these sweet steamed rolls that house juicy, tender chicken in the center, have been my kryptonite since the day I could chew.
While the meat and dough are a bit time consuming to make, shaping them is less stressful than shaping a soup dumpling, which I showed you how to make last year (check out the video here). The only thing you have to worry about with these petite buns is sealing the dough well enough so that chicken doesn’t get all over your steamer.
There are few Jewish restaurants I love more than Brooklyn’s Mile End. The Montreal-style deli made a name for itself by updating the idea of deli, taking the time and care to smoke its meats in house, bake its own bread and for a long time, drive bagels in weekly from Montreal to hold true to their vision. The team has also been behind some of the most exciting Jewish dinners in the country in recent years.
When Sandy came pounding into New York harbor in November, it devastated homes, communities and the restaurants that fed them. Mile End’s commissary in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn was no exception. The space filled with water, leaving untold damages in its wake.
Eater visited the commissary recently and talked to owner Noah Bernamoff about getting the deli back on its feet. Check out what he had to say in the video below.
Residents of the Netherlands can pick up a bolus (sweet roll) or some pom (a chicken dish) to eat almost anywhere in the country, but how many of them know that these foods have Jewish origins?
Amsterdam’s Jewish Historical Museum is banking on curiosity about these and other traditional Jewish foods to bring people through its doors to experience its new “Jewish Flavor: A Worldwide Cuisine” exhibition, which opens December 21 and runs until May 5, 2013. It is the first-ever museum show on Jewish food in the Netherlands.
With only approximately 30,000 Jews living in Holland (about half of them in Amsterdam), the museum hopes the show will bring in many non-Jewish visitors who love food and cooking and are curious about Jewish cuisine and culture. For the museum’s Jewish visitors (mainly foreign tourists), “Jewish Flavor” will be a sweet — and savory — trip down memory lane, and also serve as an introduction to unique Dutch Jewish foods.
When the Ethiopian Jews began arriving in Israel with Operation Moses in 1984, they brought with them a spice mixture called berbere — the mix gives Ethiopian cuisine its distinctive flavor. The fiery taste of berbere evokes my early childhood, as my family lived in Ethiopia from 1969 to 1973.
Berbere is the food of my infancy. My father was an Israeli diplomat, sent to Ethiopia to help improve its agricultural output. My family lived in the Rift Valley, south of Addis Ababa. We lived on an experimental farm called Abba Dir.
For Israeli wines, it has been an uphill battle to gain recognition in the world wine community. But a recent announcement gave it a big leg up. Wine Enthusiast, the leading wine magazine, named Golan Heights Winery as the New World Winery of the Year.
In the late 1970’s a young, ambitious winemaker, Victor Schoenfeld, moved from California to Israel. Schoenfeld received his degree in viticulture from the University of California Davis and worked at the Robert Mondavi Winery and Chateau St. Jean in France before moving to the Golan Heights. Once he arrived, he realized the potential for grapes to grow in the rich soil. He worked with local kibbutzs to plant his first vines for classic varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. In 1983, Schoenfeld was part of the team that founded the Golan Heights Winery.
Today he is still the Chief Winemaker and is one of the most influential leaders in the Israeli wine industry. We chatted with him about his inspiration and his favorite wines.
Helen Nash was born into an old rabbinical family in Cracow, Poland. In New York City, where she has spent most of her life, she studied with world-famous cooks Michael Field, Marcella Hazan, Lydie Marshall, and Millie Chan. An accomplished lecturer and teacher, she has given demonstrations at New York University and the legendary De Gustibus cooking school at Macy’s, as well as at numerous synagogues and Jewish community centers.
We spoke with Helen Nash in November following the publication of Helen Nash’s New Kosher Cuisine: Healthy, Simple & Stylish, her third cookbook.
There’s a new cookbook about shmaltz! (More details to come soon on JCarrot.) In the meantime check out this first look. [Eater]
Eight desserts for eight nights of Hanukkah. Personally, we love the marshmallow dreidels. [Serious Eats
Some seriously wacky bagel flavors are coming out of The Bagel Store in Williamsburg. Sweet potato bagel? French toast bagel? What kind of schmear goes with that anyway? [Serious Eats]
Early in 2012, Eden Village Camp, the Jewish organic farm camp in Putnam Valley, NY, converted its backup diesel engine to run on used vegetable oil.
Its first test came this past summer, on July 15, 2012, when a big storm hit. The 200 campers and staff were confined to the dining hall until the storm passed. After a thunder crash, the electricity went out, and the campers let out a collective howl in the dark. A moment later, the camp could hear the hum of its backup generator starting up, and the lights returned – and the air was soon filled with a slight scent of French fries. That is the trademark scent of a generator powered by waste veggie oil!
Stephen Colbert inspired Ben & Jerry’s “AmeriCone Dream” ice cream, and the company named its “Late Night Snack” flavor for Jimmy Fallon. So, Neal Gottlieb thought it was time for that other late night funnyman — Jon Stewart — to also have his own ice cream variety.
As it turned out, Gottlieb was better positioned than most people to do something about this. As “founding twin” of the Northern California-based Three Twins organic ice cream company, he was able to whip up some flavors he thought might please Stewart’s palate.
This was exactly two years ago at Hanukkah time, and Gottlieb was thinking Jewish. He came up with three original flavors for the Daily Show’s host to sample: “Land of Milk and Honey” (So smooth and creamy even a goy will enjoy); “Carl’s Kugel” (Oy vey! cream cheese, cinnamon, apple sauce and golden raisins!); and “8 Crazy Nights” (Sweet potato latke ice cream with Hanukkah gelt).
Tonight will be the fifth night of Hanukkah, meaning I’m right on schedule. I have entered into the arena of latke fatigue — and perhaps you have to. It’s at this point in the holiday that I have had more than one too many classic, plain potato latkes. Many of them were delicious, made up of layers of pillowy shredded potatoes surrounded by perfectly crisp and crackly edges. But, at this point, both my mind and my palate are coated in a thick layer of oil and are in need of something new — a flavor to temper the richness of all the oil. If I were a chef on a cook-off show, this is when I would reach for the “acid,” to “balance the flavors.”
To find latke inspiration, I had to leave tradition aside to seek out something different — and, I knew just where to find it. For the past four years, the New York’s Annual Latke Festival has pitted chefs from some of the city’s top restaurants against one another in a latke showdown. This year was no different: 17 chefs took on the challenge to create a latke that would satisfy some 300 guests and a group of judges with some very serious food credentials.
Hazon’s mission is a lofty one.
It’s so big that I set out to see if all that talk was for real at the Hazon Food Conference, the eighth gathering of the New Jewish Food Movement. With 260 participants gathered at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center over Shabbat Hanukkah we set out to learn about social justice, food ethics, Jewish values and much more, I figured I would get a real sense of the authenticity of Hazon’s ambitious mission by spending four days “talking” food and learning more about Hazon’s focus on creating healthier and more sustainable communities.
From our eight favorite books from the year — one for each night of Hanukkah — we present two below. They are all great holiday gifts for the passionate cook in your life or a treat for yourself. Check out the other books on our list from days 1-3.
Oma & Bella: The Cookbook
By Alexa Karolinski
Self published, 120 pages, $36
Alexa Karolinski, a filmmaker and Berlin-native, had the idea and chutzpah to produce this whimsically-illustrated cookbook of traditional Eastern European dishes. But the recipes themselves are all Oma and Bella’s — two feisty women, both Holocaust survivors (one of whom is Karolinski’s grandmother), who live, cook, and kibbitz together in their shared Berlin apartment.
Karolinski created the cookbook as a companion piece to her independent film Oma & Bella — a 76-minute tribute to the women’s lives and history as told in and through their kitchen. Similarly, the recipes, which range from challengingly old-fashioned dishes like jellied calves foot, pickled herring and boiled tongue, to the more universally-appetizing veal brisket, carrot tzimmes and rugelach, serve as an entree into Oma and Bella’s lives. “Having lost both of their families in the Holocaust, Oma and Bella had to teach themselves, often from scratch, how to make the dishes their mothers and grandmothers made for them.” Now, thanks to their generosity and Karolinski’s patience and diligence (she spent three years watching the women cook, translating their “handfuls into half cups, pinches into teaspoons, and platefuls into servings,” 38 classic dishes are now available to the next generation.
The sun was shining over the Union Square farmers market on a recent chilly morning as Chris Mitchell, a 34-year-old chef at the fashionable kosher eatery Jezebel, loomed over a table of Jerusalem artichokes. The six-foot-something Georgia native carefully inspected the exterior of the root vegetable before buying a handful to serve as dried chips.
Mitchell comes to the Manhattan market every morning to buy Jezebel’s produce as part of the restaurant’s commitment to purchase locally produced food.
“If you care about what you’re eating, and who you are feeding your food to, you’ll want to know where it comes from,” said Mitchell. “That’s the beauty of buying locally.”
The locavore movement has become one of the hottest food trends in recent years, propelled by advocates who see it as a conscientous and environmentally friendly alternative to industrial food trucked in over long distances. Produce from local sources often keeps longer and helps keep dollars in the local economy.
“I want to rescue food from the dumpster.” Rescue? Food? How do those two words go together? This was a statement I heard when sitting down to watch the documentary Dive at the 8th annual Hazon Food Conference. I watched the preview, saw what looked to be a group of middle and possibly upper class friends diving into dumpsters behind grocery stores to “save” food that would otherwise end up in a landfill. They would then bring this food home to their families and children, cook it up and serve it for dinner. Interesting concept. Could I ever dumpster dive? I purell my hands after touching a doorknob so probably not.
Sombreros, kegs, and teddy bears surround the gleaming Hanukkah lights, on display in a album on Shmaltz Brewing Company’s Facebook page. But what distinguish these holiday scenes are not accessories but rather the very menorahs themselves — they’re made out of beer bottles. They are all entries in Shmaltz’s annual Beer Bottle Menorah Contest, an online holiday contest that is now in its third year.
A beer bottle menorah is exactly what it sounds like: eight brewskis lined in a row, with Hanukkah candles sticking out of them. The problem is how to get those candles to stay put. Creative solutions include placing playing cards, tin foil, upturned bottle caps, and even small dreidels on the top of the beer bottle — all in order to hold that candle in place. The guidelines for last year’s contest offer little help: “We realize the traditional candles still will not fit in the top of the bottles, but we are a handy people from tent dwellers to Jewish carpenters to craft brewers. Behold! A second chance to prove yourselves.” They suggest stuffing a matzo ball in the nape, as a way of holding the candle in place.
From our eight favorite books from the year — one for each night of Hanukkah — we present two below. They are all great holiday gifts for the passionate cook in your life or a treat for yourself.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
by Deb Perelman, Knopf, 336 pages, $35
Enormous, crispy oven latkes? Sweet potato blintzes with farmer cheese? Delicate sweet-and-sour brisket with tender root vegetables? Subtly sweet raspberry rugelach? “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook,” by culinary mastermind and cult favorite blogger Deb Perelman, has all these sumptuous recipes, written in the tone of a good friend offering holiday advice.
“The Smitten Kitchen,” is gorgeously laid out, with dozens of photographs that will make you want to head to your oven lickety-split. Perelman has formulas for everything from calzones to grapefruit pound cake. One look at the table of contents will give any home cook a host of new ideas for holiday dinners and laidback brunches, dinner party desserts and cozy night-in spreads. An added perk is that most of the recipes are new, so you won’t find them on Perlman’s website.
While some of the book’s recipes are not kosher, Perelman has included a separate category in the index for Jewish recipes, to make flipping through for Hanukkah dishes easier. It’s an ideal gift for the dedicated home cook looking to expand his or her repertoire. Just watch out: We bet there’ll be a lot more figs, olive oil and sea salt challah and rhubarb hamantaschen in your life after you gift this cookbook.
— Margaret Eby
As winter slides in and makes itself comfy in New York for the next couple of months, locals are — as ever — on the lookout for interesting new edibles in the Hanukkah spirit, even as they pick up boxes of staunchly reliable latkes from Zabars and Russ & Daughters.
Thank goodness for 606 R&D — quite possibly the only hip new Brooklyn restaurant to be serving up a split powdered sugar donut and raspberry jam ‘sandwich’ in honor of the holiday. Not to mention a special potato pancake appetizer served with a dollop of creme fraiche and a slaw of beet, apple and celery root. And while these are definitely special holiday items, stop by 606 R&D year-round for delicious classic cake donuts (inspired by Dreesen’s Famous Donuts in the Hamptons and made by a Kickstarter-funded donut robot) and some extremely tasty latke cousins (try the carrot parsnip pancakes or the cauliflower pakoras).
So what’s the story behind the marriage of such inventive culinary whimsy with such old world Brooklyn Jewish sensibilities?