In 1938, with 58 home runs for the Tigers, Hank Greenberg’s mother made him a promise. “There’s a rumor that if Hank had hit 60 home runs, which would either tie or beat Babe Ruth’s record, my mother-in-law would do whatever one does with gefilte fish. Cook it, bake it, stuff it,” Marilyn Greenberg, Hank’s sister-in-law, told filmmaker Aviva Kempner in an interview.
A Sports Illustrated article from 1982 added some more details to this tale of a Jewish mother’s promise to her son. Hank’s mother, according to the article, pledged to prepare for him no less than 61 gefilte fish, once he breaks the 1927 record of 60 homers. Greenberg had five more games to play that season, but he never hit another home run.
The story of the last games of the 1938 season and the speculations over why Hank didn’t hit another home run that season are some of the most fascinating parts of Aviva Kempner’s 1998 Peabody award-winning documentary, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, which was released on DVD earlier this month. Just in time for the new baseball season.
Hank Greenberg was a five-time Major League Baseball All-Star, a two-time American League MVP, and a Hall of Famer. “He was also Jewish – in a time when a generation of Jews was struggling to find their way in the New World, Hank Greenberg transformed the way non-Jews viewed Jews, and the way Jews saw themselves,” Kempner wrote in her introduction.
Read more at Haaretz.com.
On a corner in the heart of the former Jewish ghetto, David Popovits sits down for some matzo ball soup and supersized dumplings at his newly-opened kosher style restaurant.
A burly, 40-year-old Hungarian Jewish businessman, Popovits used to eat here as a boy, when the restaurant’s former owners ran a “dirty little place that smelled like oil but had good Wiener schnitzel,” as Popovits puts it.
It wasn’t the memories, but the location that convinced Popovits to gut the place and reopen the restaurant two months ago under the name Macesz Huszar, or “Matzo Soldier,” a gastronomic temple of Hungarian Jewish cuisine.
Planted in the now-fashionable 7th district, the area draws enough traffic to provide a clientele for this upscale establishment boasting designer chandeliers, a VIP room and an ample bronze bar.
Maftoul is traditionally a celebratory dish and takes a good amount of time and dedication to make properly — but the result is well worth the effort. To save time, make the spice mix in advance.
All recipes are reprinted with permission from “The Gaza Kitchen.”
How to Steam Maftoul
Maftoul (fresh or dried)*
Olive oil, as needed
Salt, as needed
1 small onion or 3 shallots, finely chopped
2 Tbsp dill seed
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup dill greens, chopped
In a two-part steamer or couscousiere, fill the bottom part with water and a couple of lemons, quartered. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, smear the top part with oil and fill it with half the maftoul. If the steamer’s holes are large, you may want to cover them with a strip of cheesecloth or other pure cotton cloth before adding the maftoul. Allow this half of the maftoul to steam uncovered for about half an hour.
Meanwhile, in a mortar and pestle, grind dill seeds with 1/2 tsp salt until fragrant. Add onion and red pepper flakes and pound until coarsely mashed. Stir in cumin and 4 Tbsp olive oil. This dressing is called “arousit il maftoul”—the bride of the maftoul—for the enticing and discreet way it perfumes the grains. In Rafah, finely chopped dill greens are also added, in Gaza City red pepper flakes are preferred. Spread a layer of the arousit il maftoul on top of the maftoul in the steamer. Cover the arousit il maftoul with the remaining maftoul, and continue steaming. After some 15 minutes remove from heat and gently stir with a wooden spoon to fluff the maftoul so each grain is separate.
Hand-rolled organic Palestinian maftoul can be purchase from Canaan Fair Trade or in specialty stores (WIlliams & Sonoma and Whole Foods). In a pinch, Laila El-Haddad recommends using whole wheat Trader Joe’s couscous as a substitute. Steam it the same way as you would the maftoul.
“BISON?!?” I exclaimed to my dad who had just told me to try a new type of burger. I was ten years old, standing in my kitchen, eating what I thought was a typical dinner. I was actually halfway through with the patty when my dad informed me this wasn’t from a typical cow; rather, it was from an animal that I had never heard of. Immediately, I did what any ten-year-old would do, and I ran straight for the garbage. Then, I started crying. I didn’t want to eat strange foods that I had never heard of nor did I want to be tricked into eating something I thought was something else.
Thankfully — and sometimes not so thankfully — my parents trained me to eat everything from a very young age. Whether or not I was fooled, I developed a love for ethnic foods, rare meats, and strange looking vegetables. I was eating brussel sprouts, spinach, and cabbage from a very young age. My family didn’t observe Kosher dietary laws so I ate every kind of meat you can imagine as well. Typical dishes were shrimp scampi, lobster bisque, and pork tenderloin. Peanut butter and jelly? I had my first one during my freshmen year of college after a few of my friends learned I had never tried it before.
For those of us who weren’t lucky enough to attend Brooklyn’s uber food fair Smorgasburg last weekend — or anyone who just couldn’t take the crowds, we don’t blame you — allow me to introduce you to New York’s newest Jewish food artisan: NYShuk. The husband-and-wife kitchen team debuted their menu of Middle Eastern specialties like couscous with chickpea-and-short-rib stew, raisins, and chopped herbs; beet salad with lemon yogurt and walnuts; hot spiced mint tea; and the rose-scented semolina cake known as ‘shamishi’.
True to Brooklyn’s DIY ethos, Israeli-born couple Ron and Leetal Arazi reinterpret culinary tradition with artisanal ingredients, labor-intensive preparations, and personal spins on Sephardic foods of their childhoods. NYShuk joins a burgeoning wave of Jewish food artisans, including Scharf & Zoyer, which the Forward profiled last week.
Ron grew up in a Moroccan-Lebanese Jewish home before attending culinary school in France and working under star chefs like Yuhi Fujinaga and Susur Lee; pastry chef Leetal, whose family claims Eastern European and Turkish roots, has continued to cook while managing a busy career as a food stylist.
Read the story behind these cookies and the cookbook “Chadar Ochel” here
Reprinted with permission from ‘Chadar Ochel’ by Assi Haim and Ofer Vardi.
for 60 cookies
450 grams flour (approximately 3 2⁄3 cups)
¼ cup oil
1 cup water
3 cups sugar
5 cups honey
1½ cups sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1) In a food processor, place the flour, eggs and oil and mix until the dough is formed.
2) Divide the dough into 3 equally sized balls and knead each one separately by hand.
3) Form each ball into a sausage 4 inches long.
4) Divide each sausage into 10 pieces, and roll each into a rope that fits around three fingers. Form the rope into a ring by joining the ends.
5) Place the rings on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
6) Mix 1½ cups sugar and the ground ginger and sprinkle some over the rings. Reserve the rest of the sugar.
7) Make the syrup: In a large pan, bring the water, 3 cups of sugar and honey to a boil.
8) Slide the dough rings into the boiling syrup and cook for 30 minutes. Mix occasionally with a wooden spoon.
9) To check for doneness, take one teigelach out of the syrup. If it doesn’t shrink, the cookies are ready.
10) Take the cookies out of the syrup and strain. Put the cookies in a container with the rest of the sugar-ginger mixture and roll to coat. Keep in an airtight container.
After living in Israel for several years, Noah Karesh, 30, returned to live at the Moishe House in Washington D.C. It was there that he helped cook regular dinners for 50, and realized the power that the dinner table can have on forming relationships. His business partner, Danny Harris, 33, grew up in a mixed Sephardi-Ashkenzi home in New York where many stories and traditions were transmitted around the dining room table.
Now they’re parlaying those experiences into Feastly, a website that connects adventurous eaters with chefs who want to test recipes and hone their skills at dinner parties in their homes.
So far active in Washington D.C., New York and the San Francisco Bay Area, Feastly may be coming soon to a city near you. But it all started with a dinner for 25 people where Harris’ mom cooked a feast of Libyan Jewish dishes.
Alix Wall chatted with co-founder Harris about that first dinner, how exactly Feastly works and a recent meal called “Oy Caramba.”
Though spring officially started more than two weeks ago, it’s been a little slow coming, despite a furtive but memorable appearance this week. Celebrate the arrival of warmer weather with a caramelized fennel, leek and orange salad. Food 52
This dish of peas with baked ricotta and breadcrumbs is the perfect crossover. Sufficiently warm for those brisk days when spring hasn’t yet quite made it, but fresh enough to remind you it’s on its way. Serious Eats
As has been noted, it’s a little soon, but you can start dreaming about those outdoor summer dinner parties with these three entertaining tips from Tel Aviv. The Kitchn
Does buying a whole chicken feel like a daunting task? Face your fears head on with a tutorial video on how to cut a whole bird yourself, simply and without hassle. NYTimes Dining
I grew up in Toledo, Ohio, land of the constant restaurant. I once heard that Toledo was a pilot city for new restaurant ventures. Mind you, I’m not talking the latest in gastronomy or raw food, I’m talking Applebee’s, Carraba’s Italian Grill, or BW3 (now known as Buffalo Wild Wings).
Meat, potatoes and, of course, corn were the staples of my food experience. An occasional trip to a Chinese restaurant that served General Tso Chicken was adventurous for me at that time. Though Toledo has a large Lebanese population, I didn’t have Middle Eastern food until I took a job at a restaurant conveniently located down the street from my house.
I was in New York last week so I know firsthand what sort of spring the east coast has had. I was more than happy to shed my winter wardrobe and return to the balmy warmth of Israel, where spring has fully sprung. Since the growing seasons here tend to be a bit ahead of the States, I have a preview of what will be hitting American farmer’s markets any day now: artichokes, fava beans, asparagus, and the like.
I wanted to make a Shabbat meal that would celebrate springtime, a promise of what’s to come for those still shivering and seeking comfort food. So I came up with a light, healthy, clean meal bursting with the flavors of the season that can be served warm, room temperature, or even made ahead and served cold. The entire menu is parve and gluten free, so it can accommodate a variety of diets.
There are few things healthier than simple poached fish, nor easier to make. It takes about 3 minutes of prep and 5 minutes of cooking and you have perfectly cooked fish. Firm-fleshed salmon is an excellent choice for this cooking method, but halibut or cod would also work well.
When you can cook Shabbat dinner for 30-40 people, opening a restaurant is a cakewalk. Or so it seems for chef Einat Admony of Taim and Balaboosta fame, whose third restaurant, Bar Bolonat, will open in “hopefully mid-July” on the corner of Hudson and 12th Avenue in New York’s West Village.
The Forward’s Anne Cohen recently spoke by telephone with Admony to talk about what “New Israeli” food means to her, if she ever gets tired of cooking it, and how this restaurant is different from the others.
She even gave us a sneak peak at the menu… Judging by her descriptions, we should start counting down the days to “mid-July.”
How would you describe the food at Bar Bolonat?
New Israeli cuisine mostly, it’s very playful. It’s a little more elevated than Balaboosta. Over there is going to be a lot of twists on traditional food.
Assistant White House chef Sam Kass, who cooks weekly for President Barack Obama and helps run a program to battle childhood obesity, said on Tuesday he will be furloughed because of federal budget cuts.
Kass mentioned the furlough while talking to reporters about Let’s Move, a childhood obesity initiative of first lady Michelle Obama. The program will not be affected by automatic budget cuts that took effect on March 1 but he said, “We’re being furloughed.”
A White House spokesman who accompanied Kass to the briefing declined to comment and the White House provided no details. Kass said he continues to cook for the Obamas weekly despite his increasing duties with Let’s Move.
Pioneers of Jewish cuisine have rocked some pretty awesome variations on the sandwich, with staples like knishes and latkes taking the place of bread. This weekend saw the birth of a New York sandwich stand, Scharf & Zoyer (Yiddish for spicy and sour), which adds a slew of wild sandwiches to the Jewish sandwich movement. Most notably, the stand has its own twist on KFC’s Double Down, the Kugel Double Down: two slices of kugel, pan fried on both sides, and then sandwiched around maple farmers cheese and a slaw of apples and onions.
Noah Arenstein, a lawyer with a side job of food blogging and an honorary degree in grandma’s cooking, runs the show. He found inspiration for the Kugel Double Down in the Potato Pave recipe in Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc.” The recipe calls for pan-frying slices of a potato casserole, “I thought, you can totally do that with kugel,” said Arenstein, “in my less refined days we’d do it with bacon and cheese.”
Other Scharf & Zoyer offerings draw inspiration from Georgian cuisine, which he learned from a friend who served there with the Peace Corps. Arenstein was interested to learn about the Jewish population in Georgia and has put these influences to use, in addition to flavors from North Africa and Spain.
Right now, I feel pretty bad for myself. As a result of my personal version of a pre-Passover plague of bed bugs, everything I own is in a plastic garbage bag. My kitchen looks like a landfill; a giant heap of what looks like garbage, but is actually the only possessions I have to call my own. I have been wearing the same pair of pants for more than a week, and have been sleeping on my couch with a towel as a blanket.
But, at least I know I can survive this part. A few years ago I traveled through Nepal for a number of weeks with only one pair of pants and two shirts. I traveled from Israel and when the Nepali banks refused to exchange my shekels into rupees, I had no choice but to sit on the curb and cry. I was alone in a place I had never been and had nothing but the very few clothes in my pack. Where would I sleep? Where would my next meal come from?
Yitzie Katz’s “aha” moment for KosherRestaurantsGPS — a new app tracking 1,600 certified-kosher food establishments — came three years ago in Manhattan’s Garment District.
Parked outside W. 36th St. kosher hangout Jerusalem Café, the software developer noticed his car’s navigation system didn’t recognize the restaurant existed. Worse, he learned, “even if you used a GPS hardware device under the ‘kosher’ setting, not all the places listed were indeed kosher,” he told the Forward in an e-mail. “So I set out to create my own database of reliable kosher places and an app for iPhones and Android devices.”
The result, KosherRestaurantsGPS, has been downloaded more than 60,000 times since its January launch, Katz says. The app, available free from iTunes and the Android Google Play store, includes more than 1,300 locations “with strict kosher certification,” Katz says.
“I work with different rabbis who are in the kashrut business, and they’ve given me a list of those hashgacha [kosher certifications] considered reliable to 95% of the Orthodox community. I consult with them frequently,” Katz said. “But I also tell my users to check the website or call the establishment and confirm the hashgacha because they may have changed and I have not been informed yet, or there’s that 5% chance you don’t hold by a particular hashgacha.”
It’s here! The New York Times Magazine’s 2013 food and drink issue is out this weekend in print and online. Features range from hunting and killing your own dinner to the rise of healthful fast food. [The New York Times]
Bye-bye matzo! Welcome all that delicious chametz back into your life with one of our favorite challah recipes. [Smitten Kitchen]
Or sweeten the end of Pesach with some babka. [The Jewish Week]
Craving spring flavors? Lemons can hold you over until the season gets fully underway. [Food 52]
Hitler’s food taster talks about her bitter years during the war. [Spiegel]
Another look at Washington, D.C.’s DGS Delicatessen and the modern deli renaissance. [NPR]
Kim Kushner, author of the newly published “The Modern Menu,” hadn’t planned on writing a cookbook. It came about as a result of her cooking students’ constantly asking her to compile her recipes, like curried couscous salad, crunchy curry cauliflower with tahini and pomegranate, chicken with pumpkin, figs, and honey, and tequila London broil with mango chutney.
Kushner responded with a kosher cookbook with recipes for simple, flavorful dishes photographed in a stunningly simple, but highly appealing fashion. “The Modern Menu” is about food that highlights fresh ingredients and evokes a sense of home, warmth and hospitality.
This is very much in keeping with Kushner’s approach to cooking, which is greatly influenced by her growing up in her Israeli-Moroccan mother’s kitchen in Montreal. In the introduction to her book, Kushner recalls that her childhood home was always filled with guests for dinner and Shabbat and holiday meals.
If the recipes of my life were bound into a book, surely the page for my dad’s ricotta pancakes would be the most well loved — splattered with old batter and lightly dusted in flour. It’s the recipe I reach for when I miss my childhood home or when I’m entertaining friends for brunch and when I can’t decide what to make — even if it’s dinner time.
The year I lived in Israel when I was 22 years old could easily be renamed “My Year in Pancakes.” Nearly ever Shabbat brought a different pancake recipe, many made in sparse kitchens without measuring cups or spoons. There were the lemon poppy seed pancakes that my roommate fell for, monkey cakes packed with chocolate, candied pecans and bananas devoured by my kibbutznik friends during gossip sessions the morning after a big party, and pear and strawberry pancakes made with supremely ripe fruit gathered right before the horn was sounded in Jerusalem’s market to announce the beginning of Shabbat. Since that year, I’ve flirted with pumpkin pancake recipes, chocolate chip and raspberry ones and countless others.
Last year, for the first time ever, I was alone on the last night of Passover.
No big deal, right? I had managed to get home to Montreal for the first two nights of Seder, had a steady supply of matzo and a fridge packed with leftovers, and to be honest, was kind of looking forward to not having to eat neon orange, kosher for Passover cheese now that I was on my own — so what was the problem?
But, for Moroccan Jews, Passover isn’t Passover without Mimouna, a kind of bread and carb-filled smorgasbord that takes place at sundown on the last night of the holiday.
So, along with another friend who keenly felt the absence of her grandmother’s mufletas (a Moroccan crêpe served with about 18 spoons of sugar or honey), we tried to organize our own Mimouna.
Like anything else in the Moroccan-Jewish community, no one can agree about the origins of Mimouna. Some say that the name comes from emunah, or faith, or even from the Arabic word for luck. Others argue that it’s a pagan holiday co-opted for Passover purposes, and has absolutely no religious component.
This blog post originally appeared on J. Weekly.
The phrase “school lunch” conjures up images of soggy chicken tenders or limp spaghetti in my mind. Yours too?
What if I told you that I ate lunch at a San Francisco high school recently and sampled Israeli couscous with beets … rainbow chard with white beans … coconut-cilantro rice with yams and broccoli … Brussels sprouts and apples with shallots, mashed kabocha and butternut squash … and celery root soup?
While the Jewish Community High School of the Bay’s lunch program has gained notice since Jesse Buckner-Alper started it in 2005, for its emphasis on healthy, organic, vegetarian and kosher food — even winning a Golden Carrot award from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine — the school is not resting on its laurels. Rather, lunch director Risa Lichtman has instituted an Eat Local Day, which I attended last month.