One year ago I was sitting in an overly warm classroom at the University of California, Davis, at a workshop called “Chocolate: Our Dark Addiction,” which was part of the 2011 Hazon Food Conference. The session begins with the question, “What is good chocolate?” Hands shoot up and comments immediately start flying: “Texture”; “Mouth feel”; “Creaminess”; “Cacao percentage”; “Ratio of bitter to sweet; “Added ingredients like fruits and nuts”; “No fruits and nuts.” Etc.
I think about the word “good,” and then I raise my hand. “Chocolate that is produced without slave and child labor, by workers paid a fair wage?” I ask. I am a bit tentative, because I don’t want to sound like one of those holier-than-thou food-obsessed people who proclaim their ethical choices in a manner calculated to shame those around them . One of the two presenters pauses for a moment, smiles slightly, and says, “That’s what we’re going to talk about today: other meanings of ‘good’ as it pertains to chocolate.”
The future of the New York bagel is looking up thanks to efforts by Mile End and Russ and Daughters. [New York Magazine]
Panzanella — a bread and tomato salad — is a favorite summer food. Here, it’s given a Jewish twist — pastrami and rye panzanella. [Epicurious]
If you would rather have your pastrami on rye in sandwich form, check out these delis which Bon App named the best new delis in America. [Bon Appetit]
Move over, Katz’s and Langer’s: the Jewish deli’s got a new schtick.
Bon Appetit’s blog recently ran down the “Best new Jewish Delis in America,” and the four featured spots are putting an artisanal spin on the classic sandwich joint fare.
Rye Delicatessen & Bar prides itself on being “not your grandma’s delicatessen” and using hormone-and antibiotic-free beef for its Montreal-style smoked meat…in Minnesota. On the west coast, Wise Sons Jewish Deli in San Francisco puts a Bay Area twist on everything from bagels to matzo brei, operating a “pop-up” stand at a weekly Farmers’ Market. And, naturally, Mile End, the much-lauded New York sandwich shop from Noah Bernamoff, gets a nod for carving a nouveau niche for delis with dishes like smoked meat poutine (fries with cheese curds, gravy, and meat) and signature bagels shipped in from St. Viateur in Montreal.
“Each generation puts their own spin on the Jewish deli, and the current crop of new delicatessens that have emerged over the past few years are no exception,” deli maven and author of “Save the Deli,” David Sax told us. “[These ones] in addition to Toronto’s Caplansky’s, Portland’s Kenny and Zuke’s, and others, are the best thing going for the Jewish deli world, old or new, today. They not only serve great food, but they get a whole new crowd of people interested in Jewish delicatessen, and that benefits all pastramis.”
We’ll put it to the readers: have you sampled the sandwiches at these new kids on the block? How do they stack up to their classic competitors?
*If you need some inspiration, check out our list of “10 Jewish Sandwiches To Eat Before You Die.”
For die-hard fans of local food specialties, the prevailing wisdom seems to be you are where you eat. Just Born, the company that manufactures retro favorite Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, found itself in a sticky situation when its experiment with a flashy national brand that wiped the Goldenberg’s name off the label left fans of the candy confused and sugar-deprived. Now, the makers of the classic confection are bringing the nutty treats back to their local (and Jewish) roots.
Harry Goldenberg got a sweet start to his professional life, skipping high school to help his family make candy apples and lollipops in their Kensingon, Pa. kitchen to sell off their back porch. The business took off, and in 1917 Goldenberg came up with Peanut Chews as a tasty, high-protein World War I ration. They made their civilian debut in 1921, and in 1930, Goldenberg had an innovative idea: pre-package the sweets in already bite-sized bits.
It was a hit. The simple wrapper, featuring Goldenberg’s name over a blue star and a red stripe, covered eight pieces of a candy as unassuming as it was delicious. The not-too-sweet taste of roasted peanuts held together with a sticky molasses base and dipped in a chocolatey coating became a childhood classic for kids all along the manufacturer’s New York to Baltimore market.
In the past few years, the world of Jewish food education has grown by leaps and bounds. People around the world are thinking about the connections between Jewish tradition and contemporary food issues, and working hard to help their communities see these issues through a Jewish lens. Hazon stands at the forefront of these conversations. Over the past year, we have created a number of new educational materials, program guides, and source books that you can use to help make your community healthier and more sustainable.
Gan Nashim: Growing Strong Jewish Girls, generously supported by the Hadassah Foundation, was piloted in three camps this summer. Gan Nashim is a health and cooking program which draws upon Jewish tradition to address contemporary challenges of having and maintaining a healthy diet in today’s world. The program specifically focuses on teaching conscious and healthy eating with a Jewish spirit and is designed to be used in camps in a variety of different formats. During camp, girls spend more time outdoors and in physical proximity to each other, as they eat, sleep, and play together for weeks and months. Camp can provide an opportunity to create a positive, supportive community instead of an environment where girls compare bodies, wondering how they measure up, or fall short, against their bunkmates, and fostering a breeding ground for disordered eating.
If you salivate at the thought of kosher barbecue and grill, now’s a great time to be alive — and to consume things that aren’t.
The Jewish community of Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City, recently got their Midwestern neighbors scratching their heads with the community’s first annual Kosher Q, held on Sunday Aug. 19:
“All of the meat is slaughtered according to Jewish tradition and you won’t find any pork ribs on any of the smokers either. However, there was plenty of spicy trash talk between the guys from Chicago and Kansas Citians.
“They may know pizza, but they don’t know barbecue,” said Lawrence Langley of KCK.
David Weissman and Michael Dhaliwal say they’ve spent the past four months learning how to smoke meat and they believe their apricot glaze and other tidbits will set them above the rest.
“We were warned that if we come to this contest we have to know what we’re doing,” David Weissman of Chicago said.
He’s manned the pastry kitchens at some of America’s top restaurants — Clio in Boston, Chicago’s Alinea and WD-50 in New York — but chef Alex Stupak is more focused on conquering Mexican cuisine these days. No, he’s not reinventing the taco. It’s not traditional dishes that he’s serving up either. Mexican ingredients and ideas are the jumping off point for the food that he puts out at his two Manhattan restaurants, Empellon Taqueria and Empellon Cocina.
One of his most popular dishes, a queso fundido (melted cheese), features chunks of lobster in melted tetilla cheese — a smooth, Spanish beauty made in Galicia, Spain that’s mild in flavor whose name (small breast in Galician) is suggestive of its shape; like that of a woman’s bosom. The dish is native to El Paso, Mexico where it is often set on fire and flambéed at the table for special celebrations. Never ones to want to miss out on the party, we sat down with Chef Stupak to re-work the mouth-watering recipe for the kosher home.
My last day in London, after a gloriously fattening week of Eccles cakes and Bakewell tarts, was a Sunday. Because it was a Sunday, I naturally required a bagel, per tradition.
Having left for my summer European excursion as an Upper West Sider, I’ll admit that my initial reaction to nearly all of the bagels I came across on my trip was that of interest but with a slightly raised nose. In Berlin and Amsterdam the bagels were dense bread rolls in the shape of a bagel — good but not what I crave on a Sunday morning with shmear. Perhaps I should have spent my energy and time seeking out the best bretzeln and pannekoeken. But, as I traveled westward, towards London, my bagel pursuits paid off.
A quick Google search for “best bagel in London” yielded one place: Beigel Bake, on the bustling restaurant-lined street of Brick Lane, in the once predominately Jewish area of East End. Family owned since 1977, open 24 hours a day, super cheap… bingo! Though I didn’t really have time to make it there and back in time for my flight, I risked it because bad things happen when I don’t have bagels on Sundays. And when I had to slow my sprint down Brick Lane to a crawl due to the massive crowds browsing the food stalls on the street, I nearly gave up.
This summer I was fortunate enough to live between 15th and 16th street on Union Square West. While most cab drivers will insist that this address does not exist, any fresh produce-loving New Yorker will absolutely rave over such an ideal location. Why? Because, four days a week, this address is home to the world famous Union Square Greenmarket. Dating back to 1976 when it began with only a few farmers, it has since grown exponentially to now holding 140 regional farmers, fisherman, and bakers in peak season. Loyal customers return every week to enjoy fresh and locally made products from just-picked fruits and vegetables, to heritage meats and award-winning farmstead cheeses, artisan breads, jams, pickles, and much more.
As perfect as it sounds, I couldn’t help but feel discouraged. Even though I have a huge passion for fresh food and cooking, I’ve always heard that farmer’s markets are so overpriced, and sadly my student budget can’t fully afford my passion. Right now “affordability” is my top priority when it comes to grocery shopping. And while I hope one day “locally-grown and produced” will be my only standard, at the moment, it’s unfortunately just not my biggest concern. In addition to the price issue, I also had no idea how to navigate the market, let alone know what to buy. Everyone at the market seemed to have figured it out long ago. I was embarrassed to be the new-kid-on-the-block who didn’t have a clue about anything.
I needed a push. I needed a little confidence. And more than anything I needed knowledge before tackling this green monster of a market. And knowledge is just what I got.
*We chatted with Dirt Candy’s vegetable wizard/chef Amanda Cohen (and author of the just-out-this-week “Dirt Candy: A Cookbook,”) about how to use all of your delicious summer produce. Check out her thoughts on grilled spinach here
Corn’s peak season is usually at the beginning of August, but Cohen says she started seeing the sweet veggie at the farmer’s market as early as a couple of weeks ago.
As a kid, she remembers eating fresh-from-the-farmstand corn raw. But for those who want to cook their corn, she’s got some tips.
“It’s so easy to grill corn,” she says. At the restaurant, she removes the corn’s silk, and its outer husks. She then soaks the corn in water (so the husks won’t burn) and throws it on the grill.
CSA boxes are always filled to the brim with delicious and colorful local and seasonal produce. But as someone who’s been given extra veggies from a friend and CSA member overrun with produce, I know it can be hard for the average at-home cook to think of new and exciting ways to use said produce.
For this we turned to Amanda Cohen, chef and owner of New York City’s all vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy, and author of the just-out-this-week “Dirt Candy: A Cookbook,”. Cohen gave us her advice for using two of her favorite mid-to-late-summer vegetables: corn and spinach. (Check back this afternoon for Cohen’s corn recipes.)
The U.S. government has sued the Florida Department of Corrections for ending its kosher meal service.
The Justice Department filed the lawsuit last week in federal District Court in Miami.
The kosher meal service was canceled in 2007. An average of 250 inmates used the kosher meal service, including Muslims, The Associated Press reported. The state now offers vegetarian and vegan options.
A Religious Dietary Study Group had advised the state not to end the kosher meal program, saying that the inmates “may either eat the non-kosher food and fail to obey his religious laws or not eat the non-kosher food and starve,” Reuters reported. The expense of providing the kosher meals came to about $146,000 a year, according to the committee.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 13 current inmates.
Earlier this year, an Israeli judge ruled that an American Jewish man convicted of manslaughter while driving drunk who fled to Israel more than a decade ago could not be extradited to Florida because he would not receive kosher food while in prison.
The corporate offices of Rami Levy, Israel’s nouveau riche supermarket mogul, sit atop one of his grocery stores in southern Jerusalem. It’s not a busy neighborhood, nor is it easily accessible by public transit. But once the building comes into view, there’s no mistaking that it’s his.
Plastered across the side wall in bold letters on a yellow background are the words Rami Levy Hashikma Market. The company name appears at least six more times elsewhere on the building.
Meet the new Israeli mogul – with a net worth about $1 billion, according to Haaretz – whom many Jews outside Israel do not yet recognize, but who is emerging as a champion of the country’s economically struggling families.
Is there actually something in the water that makes the classic chew of a New York Bagel the best, or is it all just bragging? [Smithsonian Food & Think]
The world’s first kosher 7-Eleven in Monsey, N.Y. is now serving up Slurpees, snacks, and specialty hot dogs, cooked on a rabbi-blessed grill with a convenient condiment bar including spicy mayo and (what else?) hummus. [Kosher Nexus]
Elevate your vacation reading with these eight fresh picks on sustainable food. [Grist]
Writer David Sax remembers his father-in-law and a shared lifelong love of Jewish food with a bite of babka. [The New York Times Magazine]
Serious Eats weighs in on kosher ice creamery Chozen’s new Chocolate Babka and Heavenly Halvah (dairy-free!) flavors. [Serious Eats]
Pastrami and rye panzanella: marbled meat, toasted bread, and sweet ripe tomatoes mingle in a deli-cious twist on the summery salad [Epicurious]
A new cereal-centric shop in NYC’s Greenwich Village puts the meal in oatmeal with toppings like fresh fruit, toasted nuts, and…gorgonzola? [Serious Eats: New York]
After hearing (and reading) all the hype about how new, hip Soho restaurant Jezebel would rejuvenate, modernize, and make kosher dining “cool,” I had to check it out.
So on Tuesday night, my husband, two friends and I headed to the painfully trendy downtown New York neighborhood to check out what all the fuss is about.
There’s no sign outside the glatt kosher restaurant, and the only way to know you’re in the right place is to look down at the doormat.
Inside the two-story carriage house, the decor is a mix of vintage and shabby chic, with a little bit of humor thrown in — adorning the walls are paintings of Jewish pop culture icons like Woody Allen (who stands in for Jesus in a depiction of the last supper) and Barbra Streisand (as the Girl with the Pearl Earring).
I am incredibly spoiled to have a wonderful produce store just a few miles away, with a delectable array of organic fruits and veggies all year long. I always return home with much more produce than we’ll be able to eat, because I can’t resist their visual beauty and fragrances. Having access to so much fresh and organic produce has meant that we put off becoming a CSA member, that is, until a local CSA rep knocked on our door. Her earnest pitch and the sense of joining a larger community encouraged us to try it out.
Now, before I even drink my first cup of coffee, I leap out of bed eagerly on Thursday mornings to peek inside the box and behold what nature’s bounty awaits me. I always thought that I ate a varied and balanced diet (being originally trained as a public health nutritionist), until our CSA box began appearing at our doorstep. Almost every box brings something I’ve never cooked before, which sends me off in excitement looking for the perfect new recipe. A package of endive turned into a delicious hors d’œuvre stuffed with parmesan cheese, chopped walnuts and herbs. The shishito peppers (from Japan!) became an enticing side dish, simply cooked in hot oil until the skin began to blacken.
One of our recent boxes revealed a treasure of peaches and pluots. It’s been a great summer for stone fruit in California; last year’s crop, especially plums and pluots, was sparse due to strange spring weather. So, we’ve been gorging on juicy fruits the past month or so. When this box arrived, the fruit was still slightly firm, not quite ripe. I was intrigued to explore other alternatives. I have to admit that in addition to our many shelves of cookbooks I am a devotee of epicurious.com, and I turned there first. Who would have imagined that I’d find a recipe for Stone Fruit Slaw?
Editor’s Note: The Beet-Eating Heeb is the nom de plume of Jeffrey Cohan, a former journalist in Forest Hills, PA. He also blogs about Judaism and veganism on his own website.
A divinity student from a Presbyterian seminary approached The Beet-Eating Heeb recently and made a surprising comment.
“I’m so impressed,” he said, “with the emphasis that Judaism places on treating animals with compassion.”
The Beet-Eating Heeb didn’t know whether to kvell or to cry.
Kvell, because all levels of Jewish texts, from the Torah on down, express incredible sensitivity for the welfare of animals. The divinity student knew something about Judaism – on paper.
Cry, because concern for animals is almost totally absent from Jewish communal discourse, while literally billions of farm animals are suffering in abysmal conditions.
It is therefore, in the spirit of our Prophetic tradition, that a creative effort has arisen to rouse us from our chilling complacency and to focus attention on Judaism’s teachings about animals: Concerned Jews in Israel and the United States are trying to resurrect and reframe the ancient but long-forgotten holiday of Rosh Hashanah La B’Heimot, or New Year for Animals.
Family legend has it that, when my parents got married, my paternal grandmother hired the newlywed couple a maid. How sweet, thought my mother. That is, until she found out the maid also doubled as a spy so that my grandma could make sure her daughter-in-law — a shiksa! — wouldn’t buy bacon and other unholy treats for her son.
My mother was raised in a strict Catholic family in Brazil and married one of only 30,000 Jews living in Rio de Janeiro, a city with 12 million inhabitants. She knew very little about Judaism before meeting my father, but she came to love everything about it. Two years after a civil ceremony, my mother decided she wanted her children to be Jewish, not Catholic or “cashew.” She began the process of converting and at the end, my parents had a second wedding — this time, under a chuppah.
When time came for her to raise two Jewish kids, she put a great deal of effort into making sure they would grow up with the same affection towards Judaism that she had acquired. She would have meetings with our school’s principal to learn about why we had come home with a cardboard bow and arrow on Lag BaOmer or why we had asked her to let us sleep in a tent made of bed sheets in the balcony during Sukkot. She wanted to be a part of it, and she enjoyed being involved in every possible way.
There I was, like a character out of a Nora Ephron film, standing in the middle of Zabar’s, asking anyone within earshot the difference between their two beet soups. The bustling Manhattan store’s two versions of borscht boast the same color, almost the same ingredients. Scrutinizing the two containers, I hold them up to the sage pastrami-slicer behind the deli counter, asking him how the two vary. Can I eat either cold? He shrugs, smiles and nods.
A few days later, shopping at my favorite Eastern European food emporium, M & I International in Brighton Beach, I spy a big pot of ruby-red borcsht labeled red borscht. But when I say want to eat it cold, the woman immediately turns her back and strides over to the fridge, pointing to another pot covered with plastic wrap. As I pay $6 for the tall tub of pink soup, the friendly Russian explains with great urgency that the cold version boasts sour cream and yogurt and should never ever be heated. If you enjoy pairing cold borscht with bread, buy or bake dark, old-world, farmer’s rye.
The pleasant dilemma is that there are as many versions of cold borscht as there are countries in the Olympics. Even the name and spelling changes with its place of origin depending on whether you’re concocting Latvian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Polish, Russian or Belarusian borscht.
I still have the first cookbook I ever purchased: “Good Food for Bad Stomachs,” published in 1951. I bought it sometime in the 1980s at a neighbor’s yard sale; I was a weird kid who hung out at the antique malls grew up getting stomach aches from milk, so it the purchase was a no-brainer. The first thing I made from that book was rice pudding, something you couldn’t find in Knoxville, Tenn. but I just knew I’d love.
Years later, when I was in college, my paternal grandmother gifted me “The Vegetarian Epicure,” which has been used so much that the yellowed pages and worn spine are nearly split through. I am grateful that grandma also gave me a true love of cooking, gardening, and Cuisinart attachments.