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.
As we prepare for Tu B’Shvat, I can’t help but grow more introspective. Over the past century, Tu B’Shvat has evolved into a primarily mystical food holiday incorporating a Kabbalistic seder, dating back to 16th century Tzfat.
At the center of our Torah lies our relationship to the natural world. In our Biblical stories, we are part of the natural world —and set apart from it. God gave us the ability to name the creatures that roamed the Earth and we are God’s own creation. The first human being took the name Adam, for it was from the Adamah (earth) that he was created. God gave us a garden to cultivate, while living within that garden. We are natural and social creatures, living among the swarms of life and reaching beyond it through the study of Torah
Anthony Bourdain likes his kugel the way bubbies make it. At least, that’s what he told contestant Jeanette Friedman on the premier of his new competition cooking show “The Taste” when she added jalapeños and adobo spices to the Eastern European Jewish staple. The show premiered this week on ABC with Bourdaine co-hosting with British stunner Nigella Lawson, French chef Ludo Lefebvre and Top Chef Brian Malarkey.
With a similar structure as The Voice, the show’s contestants have one hour to cook their dishes and present food on a spoon, they then stand behind a wall as the chefs taste and critique their food, often arguing whether it is the work of a home cook or a professional chef, or maybe just a home cook who has watched a lot of professional cooking shows. If they like the food, the chefs charm the contestant into joining their teams, which will compete against each other in a later episode.
Friedman, incidentally, the mother of activist and Forward 50 honoree Daniel Sieradski, made a lokshen kugal with a spicy twist. Bourdain immediately recognized the taste, “I know this dish… this is very familiar to me,” he said. But ultimately, Friedman was eliminated because the dish had lost its classic flavor. “When it comes to Eastern European Jewish classics, I’m a traditionalist,” Bourdain told a disappointed Friedman. “You lost me at the adobo.”
What would bubbe do? Infuse her matzo-ball soup with truffles and leeks? Prepare her brisket in red wine, then serve it on a puree of sweet potatoes, topped with pickled pearl onions and accompanied with a dollop of tzimmes?
Probably not. But she may have eaten it — after all, a meal’s a meal — and possibly even approved. (Or kept her reservations to herself.) One thing’s for certain: Bubbe, or most of the bubbes we know, would not have thought to make a hummus kawarma, a plate of ground chickpeas and little warm cubes of seasoned beef, all in a lemony sauce.
Yet that’s what won the prize last night in Philadelphia’s first-ever Bubby’s Cook-Off. The idea for the event came from Rabbi Yehuda Shemtov, who had the chutzpah to ask six local chefs — two of them James Beard winners — to each come up with a modern spin on traditional Jewish foods, and make the dish kosher and competitive. (Only one of the six chefs makes a living in a kosher kitchen.)
Ask Google about the Jewish food history of Toronto and you’ll get nothing. Ask author/storyteller Michael Wex about Toronto Jewish food history and he’ll talk about immigrants, Sabbath observance, and cholent.
With a population of nearly 2.5 million people, half of whom were born outside Canada, Toronto is the most multicultural city in North America, and one of the most multicultural in the world. You can travel around the world in one weekend without ever leaving the city. Some ethnicities even have multiple ethnic neighborhoods. A short 5 ½ mile walk will take you through four ethnic neighborhoods.
Growing up in the New York, Tu B’Shvat was one of the Jewish holidays that slipped under the radar. Living in Israel, I can’t step into a grocery store this time of year and not know what holiday it is. Dried fruits and nuts are piled high, serving as a pleasant reminder that it is Rosh Hashanah La’Lanot, or the New Year for trees.
Although I don’t attend a Tu B’shvat seder (a tradition of the Kabbalistic communities here), I always mark the holiday by incorporating as many dried fruits and nuts as possible into my meals for the day. I combine them to make a trail mix suitable for an afternoon snack or outdoor hike, or toast them with oats for granola to enjoy with my morning yogurt. For dinner, I take a cue from North African tagines by braising dried fruits along with chicken or beef that I serve alongside couscous and a salad topped with nuts.
But my favorite Tu B’Shvat recipe is the one for these dried fruit and nut cookies, which I learned from my friend and colleague Orly Ziv of Tel Aviv-based Cook in Israel, which offers culinary tours and cooking classes. She teaches her students to makes these cookies, which are chock full of dried fruits and nuts (recipe below). Somewhere between biscotti and granola bars, these chewy, lightly crispy cookies are sweet enough to feel like a treat, healthy enough to serve as a nice breakfast, and are perfect for Tu B’Shvat.
On a balmy afternoon in January of 1969, my mother and her family left their sprawling farm in Cuba for the promise of a new life filled with opportunity in the United States.
Like many other immigrant families, they worked hard to assimilate into the culture of their new home country. My grandfather went to work at an automobile factory, while my mother and her siblings attended school in an unfamiliar language. With a picture-perfect house in a sunny southern California suburb, they soon morphed into a seemingly typical American family — but anyone invited over for dinner would quickly realize that their Cuban traditions remained.
While her neighbors busied themselves by hosting cookouts on their backyard barbecues, my grandmother spent the better part of her day sweating over that night’s offerings, which she made with the produce from her small makeshift replica of the family’s old farm that she built in the backyard. Dinners featured classic Cuban dishes like starchy yucca smothered in sauce, cumin-scented black beans to drape over white rice, a fresh and crisp salad jeweled with plump slices of avocado, and aromatic and savory meat dishes, which slow roasted in her tiny oven — the scent wafting through the neighborhood like an unspoken invitation to come by for dinner.
Figs have long held my fascination. I grew up begging my mother for one more Fig Newton. Later, I had to stop myself from eating an entire container or bag of dried figs that my parents bought as a special treat. I often had to jockey with my dad for the last one.
In college, as part of a course called “The Palestinian-Israeli Confrontation” with Brandeis Univeristy Prof. Gordon Fellman, I read Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “My Father and the Fig Tree.” The poem was about the idea of home, and how a juicy, ripe fig was home to the narrator’s father. The poem resonated with me on many levels, including wondering how a fruit could call to you and bring you peace.
As a New Yorker who moved to northern Utah almost 30 years ago, I’m sometimes tempted by local restaurants that offer what they refer to as “authentic New York fare.” Shops that sling “New York” pizza, serve a Big Apple-style cheesecake and worst of all, a Jewish deli sandwich, often disappoint.
So, when I recently read an exceedingly laudatory review of the new Feldman’s Deli in the local alt-newsweekly City Weekly, I was pretty skeptical. It seemed too good to be true, and after all, I condescendingly thought, what could a Utah food critic really know about Jewish deli food?
But given such a glowing report, I knew it was only a question of time before I’d make the 45 minute drive to Salt Lake City to try it. So on a smoggy January afternoon, I headed south with my dear friend and fellow zoology professor Bob Okazaki to introduce him to what I was hoping was an acceptable sandwich. A California émigré who has lived and travelled all over the planet, he has never had a Jewish deli sandwich — more than my individual satisfaction was riding on this adventure.
Even if your bubbe lives far away, you can still have a taste of the Old World. This priceless video by the team at the Forverts shows you how to make borscht with matzo balls. It’s perfect for this time of year. Check out the video below and share your borscht memories with us in the comments.
Kutsher’s Tribeca patrons who pay close attention to their credit card bills might have noticed that they were being charged for a whole lot more than upscale gefilte fish and matzo ball soup. That’s because one of the restaurant’s waiters was allegedly stealing their information and using it to go on a $126,000 spending spree.
The waiter, Jaiquan Ibraheem, who has not been employed at Kutsher’s since last spring, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with multiple counts of grand larceny and scheme to defraud. The accused allegedly used a skimming device to steal the credit and debit card numbers of 120 Kutsher’s guests between February 1 and April 30, 2012. Accounts at a variety of banks and credit card companies were involved, but the vast majority were Chase credit card accounts.
All this must be hard for Kutsher’s to digest. The restaurant’s publicist explained that Kutsher’s waiters are instructed to take patrons credit cards directly to the terminal for payment, and then directly back to the table, and that the restaurant has never run into any problems with this — until now. An official statement from Kutsher’s emphasizes its cooperation with the NYPD on the case.
Pancakes for Shabbat breakfast? Yes, please. Ruth Reichl shares her favorite recipe. [RuthReichl.com]
Next month’s TEDxManhattan is all about food — and you can stream it! [Grub Street]
National hot pastrami sandwich day. Really, everyone should celebrate this. [Eatocracy]
The LA Times opens its recipe vault. Jackpot! [LA Times]
This is our kind of art exhibit. A Chelsea gallery will be displaying a collection of food photos. [New York Times]