The atmosphere in Tel Aviv last week, as residents ran to bomb shelters in response to incoming missile warning sirens, was far from pleasant. So Danielle Levy, proprietor of I Love Cupcakes, did her part to try to lighten the tense mood that had settled over the city by offering her customers some Operation Pillar of Defense themed cupcakes.
“It was hard to live in Tel Aviv last week,” Levy told The Forward. “Everyone was very stressed. It was a big shock for everybody.” A few people had asked her to make cupcakes with army-themed decorations like little helmets, uniforms, and boots. However, she decided to go in a different direction and decorate her cupcakes in a way that would “make people smile, brighten their day.” The little doves, hearts, peace signs, Israeli flags and IDF insignia decorations were a gesture of moral support to the citizens and army of Israel. She even topped some cupcakes with miniature “Make cupcakes not war” signs.
But how did my family get so lucky that we are able to avoid this (great?) American pastime? And what will we be doing if not carving a twenty-pound bird and screaming at each other?
For as long as I have been conscious of Thanksgiving, my family has been making turkey-shaped pizza on the fourth Thursday of November. Apparently, there were some in my family who did not love the taste of turkey. So rather than deny the iconic status of this New World bird, my mother decided that a pizza created in its image would suffice (and ensure that her children could relate to American culture).
Jewish mixed marriages have been commonplace for decades, but they’re still more successful under the chuppa than they are in the kitchen. Claudia Roden dismissed the idea altogether in “The Book of Jewish Food,” writing “…there was no fusion of styles, no Ashkenazi-Sephardi hybrids, and no unifying element.”
This is such a hard and fast rule that when I got a letter asking me to help track down the origins of a long lost “Sephardic liver pie” recipe, I was utterly amazed, if not a little horrified.
“My grandmother Virginia usually served it at Thanksgiving,” wrote Alan Moskowitz, “and it was always referred to as stuffing.” Stuffing sounded so much more appealing than “liver pie,” and it did get me past my initial shock. The description was frankly mind-blowing, a cross between chopped liver on sourdough rye and mina, a light-textured, ground beef and matzah pie that’s as connected to the Ottoman Sephardic Passover meal as the Seder plate itself. He might as well have described a lasagna soufflé. Clearly this recipe was a deliberate fusion of the two cuisines.
With all the cooking that leads up to Thanksgiving — there turkey to prepare, cranberry sauce, all those pies and don’t forget the gravy — no one, not even the most dedicated cooks, wants to exert that energy all over again for Shabbat the following day. But plain leftovers, in the form of a turkey sandwich doesn’t quite seem fitting for Shabbat dinner either. Fortunately, Thanksgiving leftovers can be turned into a flavorful and special Shabbat meal.
Start preparing your Shabbat meal at the same time as your Thanksgiving. While preparing your Thanksgiving feast, for example, don’t throw away all your vegetable ends and peels. Instead, save those herb stems, garlic and onion skins, celery leaves and carrot tops in a sealable plastic bag in the refrigerator or freezer. When it comes time to clean up after dinner, put your turkey carcass along with those vegetable scraps in a big pot and make a soothing and flavorful stock that can become the base for a delicious turkey matzo ball soup (get the recipe below). Even if you don’t use it right away, homemade stock can be cooled and frozen for later use. I like to freeze it in ice cube trays so I can easily use as much as I want.
Sometimes we write recipes, and sometimes recipes just write themselves. This is one of those recipes.
It was October 30th, the day after Hurricane Sandy hit, and I was at my wits end. My home in Crown Heights, Brooklyn had power, my family was out of harms way, but I was still having a hard time coping. My toddler was spiking a fever and my older kids were at each other’s throat. It was their third consecutive day home from school and they’d played their fill of iPod matching games, drawn enough pictures to cover the refrigerator, and baked enough cupcakes to feed all the kids in the neighborhood. With several snack breaks, our supplies were running scarce and I stared into the refrigerator wondering what on earth to make for dinner.
This will be my third Thanksgiving in Israel, marking yet another year that has slipped by. It’s the day when I miss America and my family most, but also the time when I realize the extent to which the foods of the Mediterranean and the Middle East have seeped into my cooking, making my life more flavorful.
The first year, I had been in Israel less than two months when Thanksgiving arrived and hadn’t found my sea legs at the grocery store yet. Tracking down all the fixings for a traditional Thanksgiving feast was daunting. Luckily, my in-laws came to the rescue by visiting just before the holiday, stocking us with essentials like canned pumpkin.
We had a huge potluck meal with close to 50 of my husband’s medical school classmates, all of whom brought their favorite Thanksgiving dishes to the table. It was a feast of epic proportions with traditions from every corner of my home-country represented. I contributed brisket and my mother-in-law’s famous pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, both favorites in my husband’s family.
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.
Somewhere in the higher realms, Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer is observing his 110th birthday today.
And it would be a pity if his birthday went unnoticed at The Jew and the Carrot, a space dedicated to discussions of Jewish eating.
After all, Singer, the greatest Yiddish writer, had something to say about food, to put it mildly. He wrote vividly about the ethical imperative of vegetarianism in both “The Slaughterer” and “The Letter Writer,” two of his classic short stories.
So his 110th birthday provides an occasion – maybe even an appropriate one – to briefly re-examine those two stories from the perspective of our contemporary food system.
Hostess Brands Inc, the maker of the iconic Twinkies snack cake, will square off in a bankruptcy court on Monday against an agent of the U.S. Justice Department, who says the wind-down plan is too generous to management.
The U.S. Trustee, an agent of the U.S. Department of Justice who oversees bankruptcy cases, said in court documents it is opposed to the wind-down plan because Hostess plans improper bonuses to company insiders.
The 82-year-old Hostess wants permission to pay senior management a bonus of up to 75 percent of their annual pay so they will stay on and help wind-down the business.
As cookbook author Melissa Clark says, “Thanksgiving is just one big excuse to eat lots of stuffing.” For me, stuffing is simply a better way to experience the practice of dunking a piece of bread into a bowl of chicken soup. You get more doughy bready goodness, less of a mess, and in my experience, tons more flavor.
Such is the principal behind the following recipe.
This challah and pastrami stuffing is slightly inspired by one memorable midnight trip to Katz’s Deli where I sat happy as a clam and drunk as a sorority girl, dunking my pastrami sandwich into my friend’s matzo ball soup and making a massive and delicious mess. If only I just had a bowl of this stuffing, there might have been one less sloppy drunk girl on the Lower East Side that night.
The pastrami in this recipe is balanced by the sweetness of honey and dried currants. It is truly a delicious mix of flavors, and I hope it will give you something to be thankful for.
Despite being a California ballot initiative (Prop 37) in this year’s election, the issue of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is rarely spoken about by our politicians or media outlets. Whatever one’s opinion of GMOs planted in fields and put in the marketplace, it is a matter that affects the entire planet. Whether or not one lives in a country which grows GMO crops, or personally chooses to purchase or consume GMOs, we are all affected by their existence. GMO crops have been shown to cross-fertilize with native plant species, feral canola (rapeseed) has been found in North Dakota and Canada. As the global acreage dedicated to GMO crops expands, the number of nations curtailing or banning production of GMO crops also slowly increases. While countries such as Ireland or Bolivia are opting to grow only non-GMO crops, from 2009-2010 there was a 10% increase in the global acreage used to grow GMO crops. New GMO crops such as sugar cane – and GMO crops created years ago such as vitamin enhanced rice – are likely to soon be introduced into the marketplace. Recently the FDA considered approving GMO salmon to be allowed in the marketplace, however there has never been a genetically modified animal with regulatory approval for marketplace consumption. Needless to say, all of these things have, at the very least, the potential for significant impact on the planet and our lives.
Ding Dongs hold a special place in my heart. My best friend growing up in Canada was an American. Whenever her family would travel to New York they would bring numerous boxes of Ring Dings back with them and keep them in the freezer. Sure, there were lots of similar sandwich cakes in the great white north, but none had a hechsher. If we were particularly well behaved, we would be allowed to take one from the coveted stash. The memory of the feeling of the frozen squishy cake and its filling, still brings a smile to my face.
With the announcement of the closure of the Hostess brand, the memories of Ring Dings resurfaced. I found myself mulling the loss of an item I have not eaten since before my bat mitzvah. The public discussion of the closure of the Hostess plants centers around the financial challenges the company faced as it sought to restructure. But even without the current financial downturn, the snack cakes may be part of the shifting American foodways.
Only in Brooklyn: Jami Attenberg, author of the critically-acclaimed and food-heavy novel “The Middlesteins,” makes pickles with Jeffrey Yoskowitz of the Gefilteria, a “boutique purveyor of Old World Jewish foods” [Vol. 1 Brooklyn]
A lively profile of “Tel Aviv’s favorite foodie” Gil Hovav, who makes his English cookbook debut writing as the devout (and imaginary!) orthodox woman Rebbetzin G. H. Halperin [Haaretz]
The humble bagel-and-schmear gets an explosive, dub-steppy twist in a homemade commercial for Brooklyn’s Bagelteria [Grub Street]
A beautiful and colorful vegetarian Thanksgiving table with golden beet salad, buckwheat-squash tart, and a fall greens sauté from the couple behind Sprouted Kitchen [NYTimes Well Blog]
The e-mail came with a photo of an elderly man in a butcher’s coat next to the faded, black-and-white image of a tot. “At age 87, my father is re-launching his meat business — which for fifty years was a staple of the Jewish community in Canada,” Miriam Perl wrote to the Forward. “Suggested headline: Holocaust Survivor reinvents himself at age 87.”
Until a fire destroyed Herschel Perl’s kosher-foods business in 2006, it was indeed a mainstay of Jewish Toronto, supplying more than half the city’s market for ready-made kosher. The business, which started as a tiny shop in Toronto’s west end in 1953, eventually grew into a 60-employee enterprise. Its retail operation grew into Canada’s largest kosher meat store. Perl’s even opened a Glatt kosher fast-food spot called Bais Burger.
“Perl’s butcher shop and hamburger joint were icons in the frum neighborhood here,” Chad Derrick, a Toronto television producer and kosher consumer, told the Forward. “Perl’s was everywhere.”
Now, after a six-year absence, Herschel Perl is about to sink his teeth into the meat business again. This time, he’s launching a wholesale business to crank out beloved Perl’s products like salami, hotdogs, pepperoni, pepperettes, turkey and chicken deli slices. The kosher pioneer has already secured distribution in local kosher retail outlets; he expects the products to hit shelves in national chains like Loblaws, Sobey’s, Metro, Fortino’s and Costco within weeks.
With help from his daughter, the Forward caught up with Herschel Perl by e-mail in Toronto.
Kosherfest, the largest (and only) kosher food industry trade show in the world, hosted its 24th annual expo in Secaucus, NJ, on November 13th and 14th. Thousands of players in the kosher food world show up each year, from giants like Manischewitz, Streit’s and Osem, to the godfathers of kosher certification, including the big four: the Orthodox Union, Circle K, Star-K and Kof-K.
But a multitude of small, niche entrepreneurs in the industry show up as well, reflecting not just the trajectory of kosher food over the years, but the way in which overarching American food trends filter into the Orthodox world. Kosherfest is a far cry from the artisan food world of Brooklyn, where we are from — and where our business, The Gefilteria, is located. So we went down to New Jersey to report as independent purveyors. Here’s our minute-by-minute view of this very kosher landscape.
Craft beer brewing is an art. The craft brewer is self-mandated to blend the complex flavors from water, malts, hops and yeasts into a harmony of delight. There is also a creed of the craft brewer as described by the Brewer’s Association:
• The hallmark of craft beer and craft brewers is innovation. Craft brewers interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent.
• Craft beer is generally made with traditional ingredients like malted barley; interesting and sometimes non-traditional ingredients are often added for distinctiveness.
• Craft brewers tend to be very involved in their communities through philanthropy, product donations, volunteerism, and sponsorship of events.
• Craft brewers have distinctive, individualistic approaches to connecting with their customers.
• Craft brewers maintain integrity by what they brew and their general independence, free from a substantial interest by a non-craft brewer.
For centuries, Jewish food traditions have been passed down from generation to generation. In kitchens around the world, parents and grandparents have guided youngsters as they roll their first matzo balls for soup, taste the batter for a sour cream coffeecake, or learn the sharp, malty scent of baking sourdough bread. But when a young person loses her whole family — as Regina Karolinski and Bella Katz each did during the Holocaust — those secrets of hearth and home get lost along with everything else.
In the new film “Oma & Bella” German filmmaker Alexa Karolinski (Regina’s granddaughter) tells the story of her oma (German for “grandmother”) and her best friend Bella — two elegant and charismatic women, both Holocaust survivors, who now live, kibbitz and cook together in their shared Berlin apartment. Fortified with slowly caramelized onions, generous pinches of sugar, and other ingredients associated with Jewish soul food, Oma and Bella’s cooking — their brisket-filled blintzes, their barley soup, and lusciously-soft baked apples — has become the stuff of family legend. But it was not always this way.
“Having lost both of their families in the Holocaust, [they] had to teach themselves, often from scratch, how to make the dishes their mothers and grandmothers made for them,” writes Karolinski in the introduction to the companion cookbook she self-published along with the film. “In doing so, they built a bridge from their past into the present, drawing on tastes and smells from a vanished world as a gift to their children and grandchildren.”
The humble bagel is a staple of Western Jewish culture, but what most of us know about it amounts to little more than a shmear. After all, bagels are generally something we buy, not bake.
This makes the bagel ideal for a hands-on workshop, especially at a restaurant-bakery called Spread Bagelry, one of the few United States outposts for what many people would call the food at its very best: the Montreal-style bagel. It’s never made by machine, boiled in honey water, and always baked in a wood-fired brick oven that’s hotter than yours.
And so last night, about 40 people drifted into Spread in downtown Philadelphia, pumped by the promise of watching the bagel-making process and even attempting to roll their own.
“We’re going to discuss them, we’re going to show you how to roll them, we’re going to show you how we boil them and then bake them. We’re not going to show you the recipe,” Larry Rosenblum told the eager onlookers as his business partner, Mark Cosgrove, stood ready to take the rings of imperfect doughy circles they’d be rolling through the process.
With a wink, Lisa Jacobs likes describing herself as “the world’s only Irish-Jewish cheesemaker.” But that unorthodox distinction is just one facet of her unlikely ascent from frustrated law student to artisan-dairy star.
In just five years, her Jacobs Creamery has gone from sneaking cheese production off-hours in a rural Oregon milk-bottling plant to churning out 600 pounds of the stuff every week — and finding fiercely loyal fans at farmers’ markets across Portland. “My first batch of cheese was Havarti, mainly because my dad liked it,” she laughed. “But I sold all of it.”
Today, her offerings include exquisite ricotta, crème fraiche, farmer’s cheese and fromage blanc, along with dairy-based puddings and panna cotta. Jacobs voice rises as she describes each variety in almost sensual detail. “My blue cheese is exceptional, and I’m not even a blue cheese fan. My crème fraiche is like a farmstead sour cream you’d find in Eastern Europe,” Jacobs said. “My butter is a European-style cultured butter that I hand-churn. And there’s a bloomy cheese that’s exceptionally smooth and creamy. Its flavor layers change as it ripens.”
When I returned to Detroit from Adamah, the Jewish Environmental Fellowship in 2008, I had only two things on my mind: food and Jews. Having grown up in the Detroit suburbs, I had never before grown my own food. Coming of age in a secular family that belonged to a large Reform congregation, I had never sung Jewish songs, and had never celebrated Shabbat. At Adamah, we sang at every opportunity, and felt the meaning of Shabbat through the grateful rest of our aching muscles. From the moment I returned to Detroit, this time to the urban center instead of the 3rd ring suburb of my youth, I wondered if there would be some way to lead a Jewish life as rich and grounded as life at Adamah had been. There were a few realities that allowed me to excuse this as an impossible dream.
First, most of Detroit’s Jewish population exited the city for the suburbs over the course of the 50s and 60s. Much of this exit was motivated by post-WWII upward mobility, demographic shifts, and consequent racial tension. Also, most Jewish communities I’ve known in my life have been defined by insularity and exceptionalism, which led to my belief that, because the city of Detroit is 85% black, any Jewish Renaissance within its boarders was more likely to result in gentrification than integration.
The Smokery sells home-cured fish from the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market in Portland, Oregon. Jacobs Creamery, a few feet away, offers hand-churned butter and limited-production cheese. Customers purchasing lox get polite nudges to buy fromage blanc; shoppers picking up cheese get friendly recommendations for cured fish.
The mutual assistance comes naturally. Michael and Rhona Jacobs run The Smokery, and their daughter Lisa, the third of their four kids, runs burgeoning Jacobs Creamery. Started as hobbies, both businesses have exploded into what may be the world’s only Irish-Jewish artisan-food dynasty.
Dublin-born, Michael Jacobs moved his family to Portland in 1993 after nine years in southern California. Despite his adopted city’s zealously homegrown food culture, stateside spins on his favorite foods couldn’t come close to what he ate in Ireland. “We’ve always eaten smoked salmon, but never liked anything we found in the U.S.,” he told the Forward in a mellow lilt. “We’d been used to lox, but here it’s too salted, too processed, too… Yuck.”