When you picture the quintessential Jewish “Bubby,” someone like Shira Ginsburg’s grandmother, Judith, probably springs to mind.
Mrs. Ginsburg, the subject of her granddaughter’s one-woman show “Bubby’s Kitchen,” developed a reputation in her Troy, New York, community for her endless, delicious cooking (she’s since moved to Florida, where she still cooks and teaches her grandchildren her culinary ways).
“Growing up there was always rugelach or mandelbread in the oven and soup on the stove. There were also two freezers down in the basement that were full of food,” Ginsburg says of her grandmother’s house, which was located five minutes from her childhood home.
While her ceaseless cooking might seem typical in a Jewish grandmother, the elder Mrs. Ginsburg’s early life was anything but typical. She lost her entire family in the Holocaust and was a resistance fighter in Eastern Europe — a story that takes center stage in the show.
Ginsburg sets her performance around the table of her grandmother’s home — the stage is set with a lone table and six chairs. She tells her family’s story through monologue, Yiddish, liturgical and musical theatre songs, and plays several different family members.
During my month of eating in, I came across a few statements from Achai ben Josiah. Back in the second century, this biblical scholar compared someone who buys grain rather than growing their own to “an infant whose mother has died and who is taken from one wet nurse to another, but is never satisfied.” He called the wayward souls who purchase bread instead of baking their own “as good as dead and buried.” Only one who “eats of his own produce” is truly fulfilled. Achai extrapolated this from references to the land in the book of Genesis. I’m sure his own context – in an era when all but the wealthiest were directly involved in food production – also played a part.
Yet, these ideas felt right to me, even in a 21st-century life not driven by literal interpretations of the Torah. I knew I would find satisfaction in my challenge to eat in (no takeout orders, sit-down restaurants, or coffee from a barista) for the first month of the new year.
Just weeks before Hurricane Sandy devastated low-lying areas of the northeast, Brigitte Mizrahi moved into a brand-new one-bedroom apartment on the 36th floor of a residential unit in downtown Jersey City. Immediately after the storm, her living room was converted into a makeshift office where, beginning at 7:30 every morning, she met with colleagues as they worked out a plan to save their company.
“I used to wake up in the morning crying. My whole team was in my living room! It was a nightmare,” Mizrahi, 55, said.
Mizrahi is the C.E.O. of Anderson International Foods, a small kosher cheese company that supplies stores and restaurants around North America and in Australia. A Parisian with a lifelong love of cheese, it was a natural fit when she discovered that the company that turns out 20 varieties of artisan cheese was for sale.
In 2008 she moved the company from L.A. to New York and two years later the company settled into a beautiful, historic warehouse once owned by Ambriola, an importer of Italian cheeses.
On October 29, all 20,000 square feet of the warehouse flooded. Denied claims by multiple insurance companies and still waiting to hear from FEMA, the small company has rallied to save its warehouse, starting almost from scratch in order to rebuild and return to 100% production. The Forward caught up with Mizrahi to see how she’s doing three months after the storm.
Only in Israel can you find a lawyer-by-day-religious-Jew-by-night, a Muslim nurse and a settler duking it out for culinary bragging rights on the country’s most watched tv program ever.
Modeled on the British reality cooking competition of the same name, the show features amateur chefs battling it out for the MasterChef title and a kitchen remodel as they are judged by a panel of celebrity restaurateurs. The incredibly popular contest includes a variety of culinary trials, such as the “mystery box challenge,” “the invention test,” and “the dish recreation test.”
By my bedside at any given time, I have two or three books on rotation. Currently one of those books is Russ Parsons’ How to Pick a Peach. The main idea is simple, but often overlooked: good food comes from good ingredients. In today’s world, how many of us know to store an onion, or a potato, a peach, or a pear? Do we know when fruits ripen, or even when they are in season? Can we tell when they are not, now that strawberries are always a bold, eye-popping red and peaches always a fuzzy pink? And even if the ingredient is good, which variety of pear is the best? Do we know how to core that pear? Poach it?
A practical guide to buying and cooking produce, revealing both the art and science of cooking, is what Parsons has written. And in light of Tu b’Shvat last week, the topic is natural, and easy, as we wind down. With the Jewish Arbor Day having coming and gone. I want to suggest that the holiday continue. In looking at what makes good cooking, we need to look at both the ingredients in order to understand the various ways to choose, store, and prepare them, as well as the issues that surround produce in today’s markets.
The Super Bowl — a time for shameless gluttony and rooting for a game you barely understand. Well, at least that’s my experience. Honestly, I don’t know much about football, but any chance to cuddle up with some buffalo chicken wings and watch the latest pop star belt it out at half-time seems like a good enough excuse to join in on the national pastime. Oh, and then there’s the commercials; I’m a sucker for anything with the Budweiser horses.
Amid the excitement of the day, it’s tempting to order a pizza or a bucket of wings from your local haunt. But often what you end up with is over-priced, greasy, and food that takes hours to be delivered. This year why not start a new tradition of cooking simple, kosher homemade football snacks. Baked, butter and oil-free, Buffalo wings make the task a little less daunting. Want to really impress your game-watching pals? Add some guac and sweet potato fries, and you’ve practically got a balanced meal.
New Yorkers no longer have to go to Tel Aviv for Uri Scheft’s extraordinary bread, his shop has come to Union Square. [Grub Street]
Apparently, an addiction to hummus is a thing — and Kate Moss is suffering from it. Sorry, Kate. [Grub Street]
Three months after Sandy, Eater stops by several restaurants that were hit by the storm to see how they’re doing. [Eater]
Max Sussman has left the building! One half of our favorite brotherly cooking duo has left his post at Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s. Where will he go next? [Grub Street]
I just explained the Holocaust to my daughter through the lens of food scarcity and kashrut.
I hadn’t planned to explain the Holocaust to my daughter at age 4.
However, after listening to Leah Johnson’s (Yonson) story of Holocaust survival in the Forests of Belarus (with the Bielski Brothers - see Daniel Craig in the movie “Defiance” and the spellbinding History Channel documentary), I came home to my wonderful daughter complaining about which type of noodle she wanted to eat. It made me want to immediately convey to her how privileged she is and how others have struggled.
ConAgra Foods Inc has won the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by consumers claiming the company’s Hebrew National hot dogs and other products are not kosher.
U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank in St. Paul federal court ruled on Thursday that he does not have jurisdiction over a dispute that he described as “intrinsically religious in nature.”
Eleven consumers filed the lawsuit last May, asserting that ConAgra misled customers into believing that its products were kosher according to “the most stringent” Orthodox Jewish standards by including a symbol on its packaging.
If you are a fan of the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” and are into kosher baking, then there is an event for you. SweetUp, is holding a kosher cupcake bake-off at on February 3 in on Long Island at noted kosher baking supply center Breezy’s as a fundraiser for the Achiezer Five Towns Hurricane Relief Fund.
The contestants, Staten Island’s Cake a Bite, The Bronx’s Lil’ Miss Cakes, Brooklyn’s Cake My Breath Away, and Lakewood, NJ’s Cup of Cake will fire up their ovens this weekend and work to bake the cupcake that will wow kosher food celebrity and head judge Jamie Geller. So what does Geller look for in a cupcake?
It’s been the coldest week in California that I can remember in years - I know, nothing like the MidWest or the East Coast, but for us, it’s been freezing (yes, even going below 32 degrees). The lemon trees in people’s yards look very surprised and unhappy, and a photograph of an orange grove covered with icicles took my breath away. I can only expect that oranges will be more expensive in the next few months from crop damage.
Returning from a bundled up walk in the cold air and brisk wind, the image of holding a warm cup of hot cocoa in my chilly hands brought a bright smile to my face. I’m not sure what it is about hot cocoa that I love so much. It’s the perfect beverage: warm, creamy, milky, and filled with lots of chocolate. What’s not to love?
I was, quite literally, born to cook traditional Shabbat dinners for large groups of hungry guests. Named for two of my great-grandmothers, I grew up being regaled with tales of their culinary abilities. My maternal great-grandmother, Pesha, was known for her Shabbat challahs, pastries and cookies. Even as adults, all of her children visited her on Friday afternoons to pick up that week’s batch of Shabbat sundries.
According to family lore, my other namesake Malya was renowned throughout 1930s Brooklyn as a hostess and entertainer. Her son and daughter-in-law, my grandparents, repeatedly told me that several women met their husbands-to-be around Malya’s dining room table. When I got married, my friends compiled a cookbook for my bridal shower, and my grandmother contributed Malya’s famous homemade blintzes, often discussed, but only once, to my recollection, reverently produced by my father in an extravaganza of oil and butter that lasted into the wee morning hours.
As you enter your last year in office, your legacy is at stake. We beseech you to save the New York bagel! When it comes to food, you’ve done us proud so far. You introduced simple letter grades for restaurant cleanliness (thanks for that one) and banned the big gulp and smoking where we eat and drink. You’ve shown respect for our great city’s food and food lovers. In that spirit, I entreat you to consider one final item for your food agenda: Mayor Bloomberg, please save the New York bagel!
When New York’s gastronomic history is written, the bagel will merit a chapter all its own. The Lower East Side was not only a way station for Eastern European Jewish immigrants; it was also the neighborhood that introduced the now-ubiquitous bagel to freedom’s shores. New York gave rise to Bagel Bakers Local 338, the union that quite literally defined the New York bagel until it disbanded in the 1970s. As a figure invested in the cultural life and consumption habits of his city, I trust that as mayor of New York, you realize the bagel’s importance. You must also realize that it has become nearly impossible to find a decent one around town.
The Polish government reportedly is consulting with trade unions on legislation to allow kosher and halal slaughter.
The Polish Press Agency, PAP, reported Jan. 23 that a ministerial committee had given the trade unions copies of a draft amendment allowing ritual slaughter under the Polish Act on the Protection of Animals.
The unions have until Jan. 30 to respond, Malgorzata Ksiazyk of the Polish Ministry of Agriculture told PAP, after which time the bill will be brought to a vote.
Jerzy Wierzbicki, president of the Polish Beef Association, told Polskie Radio on Tuesday that he supported a “liberal policy” on ritual slaughter.
Adam Ziv feels he was destined to make ice cream and own a gelateria. “No one in Israel knows more about ice cream that I do,” he said. “I think I have tried every kind of ice cream on offer anywhere in the country.”
Ziv, 27, has taken this lifetime of tasting and combined it with training in ice cream making in Europe to open “Bouza,” a much talked about ice cream shop in the Arab town Tarshisha, in northern Israel. The name “Bouza,” Arabic for ice cream, was chosen as a nod to Ziv’s business partnership with a local Palestinian restaurateur Alaa Sawitat.
But Ziv, who lives on nearby Kibbutz Sasa, told The Forward that he and Sawitat are not operating under any grand illusions that they are going to bring about Mid-East peace through a frozen dessert. “But one thing for sure is that if we are to have a normal life here, then we need to speak and live with one another, and to do business with one another,” Ziv said.
In December, the Toronto Star ran a long feature on Motti Sorek’s “transcendent” soufganiyot at Haymishe Bagel Shop, the popular north Toronto shop he and wife Bracha have owned for 30 years. Yesterday, the Star reported on Haymishe again — but in more somber circumstances. The bakery was destroyed by a fire that started Sunday morning.
In November 2006, a four-alarm fire destroyed Perl’s Meat & Delicatessen, one of Toronto’s largest kosher purveyors, on the same block. As the Forward reported in November, the founder of that business launched a wholesale company from the ashes of his original enterprise last year.
There’s been no word yet on what the future of Haymishe will be. The Canadian Jewish News, which called Haymishe a “landmark”, said today that Ontario fire marshals will investigate the fire that took It took 17 fire trucks and 65 firefighters to extinguish. A public information officer told the paper firefighters will not have any information until water is cleared from the basement of the bakery and evidence sent to the forensics lab. “This normally takes a long time,” he said.
Despite its location in a heavily Jewish neighborhood, Haymishe was not a kosher establishment, but it was a staple of the Toronto Jewish food scene.
Neither Sorek nor his wife have commented publicly or on the bakery’s Facebook page, where customers had posted comments lamenting the loss of the bagel shop.
This article first appeared on J. Weekly
After my first column appeared last May, in which I asked readers to share their family recipes, the following email from Cynthia Tauber of San Mateo arrived in my inbox:
“A ‘boureka’ is my favorite food. Just thinking about bourekas makes my mouth water! And when I make them with my daughter, it brings back pleasant memories of my childhood watching my Sephardic grandmother baking away in her Brooklyn kitchen.”
For readers unfamiliar with a boureka, it’s a savory pie made with a variety of fillings; meat, cheese, spinach and potato are common. Sephardic Jews from many countries have their own versions, but they originally hail from Turkey, and today they have become a popular form of Israeli street food.
For many consumers, even those comfortable purchasing and consuming GM products, there is something “different” about creating transgenic animals for human consumption. When people are confronted with the idea of genetically modified animals many think of Dolly, the famous sheep who was the first successful clone of a living animal. One of the first arguments against both cloning and genetically modifying animals is that scientists are “playing God.” However, in the 21st century, our society is used to other invasive measures which, at other points in human development, may have also been viewed as “playing God,” such as surgeries, birth control and fertility treatments. While the idea of “playing God” may be a compelling reason in some religious communities why humans should abstain from certain acts of which we are intellectually capable, this argument may not hold as much water in the Jewish religion. It could even be argued that Judaism encourages us to “play God;” or perhaps Judaism envisions these human innovations as “playing with God,” rather than pretending to be God.
Pastrami, knishes and smoked fish found their way into Serious Eats’ roundup of can’t-miss NYC food institutions. [Serious Eats]
Try a special babka recipe for Tu B’Shvat. [Kosher Eye]
Did you know Bone Suckin’ Sauce is kosher? The company debuts two new seasoning rubs. [Kosher Nexus]
Michael Solomonov talks about paying homage at Zahav to his brother, who died serving in the IDF. [Boston Globe]
Love to Instagram everything you eat? Watch out — some restaurants are banning tableside photography. [Epicurious]
Your bubbe knows cabbage is awesome. Ten more recipes take this humble winter vegetable beyond borscht. [The Kitchn]
Every time I bite into a slice of noodle kugel, I am reminded of another baked pasta dish: frisinsal, an unusual, savory and just slightly sweet recipe that we make back home in Venice around Tu B’shvat (the New year of Trees).
For the Jews of Northern Italy, no recipe recalls the past as much as the frisinsal. The baked pasta dish consists of layers of fresh noodles tossed in goose fat (or juice from a roast), with the addition of pine nuts, raisins, and goose or beef sausage or goose “prosciutto.” It is an amalgam of flavors and culinary traditions, much like the Jewish community of the area which blends Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Italki (Italian Jewry) customs.
Some traditional dishes, such as the local hamin (once the warm course for the Shabbat lunch), have virtually disappeared from our modern tables but for some reason, frisinal still brings the community together.
It’s also known by the name Ruota del Faraone, or “Pharaoh’s Wheel,” a reference to this week’s Torah part which tells the story of Israelites crossing the Red Sea. Italian Jews will tell you that the pasta bake is shaped in a circle to resemble the wheels of Pharaoh’s chariots, that the noodles are the waves of the seas, the pine nuts the heads of the Egyptian horses, and the raisins or pieces of sausage the Egyptian warriors, being submerged by the unexpected waves.