Last week, I impulsively decided to host my first Shabbat diner. Like buying a far too expensive pair of black patent leather pumps, I had hastily decided to embark on this meal on a gutsy whim with little foresight into the physical and emotional ramifications. One cab ride after being defeated by four bags of Trader Joes groceries, four (or more) glasses of wine, and several dishwasher loads later, I am here to tell my tale.
Shabbat dinners in my twenties have been the perfect way to catch up with friends while providing an excuse to go through multiple bottles of wines. More intimate than a house party and with far better food, these meals have produced the funniest and richest conversations about jobs, families, relationships — and, most importantly, which character on Girls we each most resemble (I’m a cross between Hannah’s lack of professional commitment and Shoshanna’s innocent neuroticism, in case you were wondering).
I relish these evenings, so when I moved into my first apartment, hosting a Shabbat dinner was one of my first goals. But the limited space and number of chairs (five) in my humble abode, as well as my fear of cooking stymied my Shabbat meal plans. I love reading food blogs, watching cooking shows, and playing sous-chefs to my friends in the kitchen. But, I have an intense, panic attack-inducing fear that if I cook on my own for others, my food will be so bad, they will starve to death before my very eyes.
As many of you, my co-religionists out there, may have done, I chose to spend my 25th of December as I have for much of my life: I ate Chinese food and watched movies. So what’s with Jews and Chinese food? I mean, I love the stuff, but you have to admit, this is a pretty ridiculous tradition. Songs and literature have been written on it; this year social media was even buzzing with mock halachah on why Jews eat Chinese food on X-mas. But as ridiculous as it is, it is pretty delicious, so I’m going to keep doing it. But this year was the first year that I decided to cook the Chinese food myself, which proved a lot more difficult than I would have thought.
Menu planning was the easy part. I just posted a question on Facebook, asking what I should make, and sure enough, I got upwards of twenty suggestions within a few hours. The bill of fare: string beans, mu shu beef, sweet and sour chicken, and general tso’s chicken.
The U.S. House and Senate agriculture committees are working on a short-term extension to the expired U.S. farm bill, and plan to vote on the extension by Monday, the final day of 2012, lawmakers and aides said.
The proposed extension to farm legislation that expired in September could be for six months to a year.
If an extension is passed the United States would avoid reverting to 1949 “permanent law” and a potential spike in the retail price of milk to as much as $8 a gallon in 2013.
East-coast transplants are elevating the Bay Area bagel. [New York Times]
You can certainly get your fill of best-of lists this time of year. Top dishes of 2012 include bialys from NYC’s Hot Bread Kitchen [Serious Eats], Israeli cuisine [Serious Eats], best Shabbat chicken and homemade pop tarts [Nosher].
A post-New Year’s hangover cure: the kosher prairie oyster. [Kosher Nexus].
It’s no secret that the kosher-keeping set in America often look longingly at the options available to our non-kosher-keeping friends. Gooey ripe cheeses. Local meats. Restaurants with certain character and flair. Even fresh-baked bread isn’t as easy to find as we might like. So when the chance came to take a vacation – the first in several years – my husband and I immediately knew we were headed to Israel. To eat.
The trip did not disappoint, and for a couple of foodies – albeit already well-connected in the kosher sustainable food world – we found delight after delight of kosher foods that we just can’t get at home, many of them also local, sustainable and reflecting the specific palate of Israel. Here are a few highlights:
“It is so wrong for a deli customer to be served a knish that’s been put in a microwave,” lamented Michael Siegel, a successful San Francisco chef who is poised to open his own new Jewish deli in late January. At his place, almost everything will be made from scratch. “It’s time to bring the pride and love back into deli food,” Siegel said.
The first-time restaurateur takes making a good, fresh knish very seriously. In fact, his deli will be called Shorty Goldstein’s as a tribute to his great-grandmother, whose excellent knish recipe Siegel uses. The moniker is a combination of the great-grandmother’s nickname (she barely reached 4’10”), and her maiden name.
Inspired by new delis like Mile End in New York, Siegel, 33, decided to leave his position as chef de cuisine at Betelnut, a contemporary Asian cuisine restaurant, to join in San Francisco’s Jewish deli revival. “We have a large Jewish population in the Bay Area,” Siegel noted. “There’s a demand and a niche for good, slow-food Jewish deli. Wise Sons beat me to it and proved the point, which serves as motivation for me.”
This story originally appeared in j., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California.
Imagine a perfect bite of raw, wild sockeye salmon, sprinkled with a smattering of the spice combination found on an “everything” bagel, two thin slices of celery, one or two micro sprouts on top, and a swoosh of avocado pureé at the bottom of the plate — giving it the mouthfeel of cream cheese. Add a glass of crisp chardonnay to go with it.
Now, imagine 23 more courses like this — each one small, but yes, 24 in total. The first 10 are fish, 11 through 22 are meat (with one lone vegetarian course thrown in), and the last two are dessert. Each has the same attention to detail, the same high-quality ingredients, the same use of negative space on the plate; each is matched with a wine chosen by a winemaker.
As if that weren’t enough, now imagine that the dinner and all of the wines are kosher.
An invitation to a meal like this doesn’t come around very often. I certainly had never been invited to one, kosher or otherwise, and I suppose few of you have been, either. Unless, of course, you’re one of the lucky 18 congregants of Oakland’s Beth Jacob Congregation who paid dearly for the privilege of attending this amazing affair, part of Beth Jacob’s annual fundraising auction.
It’s the Whole Foods paradox: I want to eat healthy, local ingredients—but I can’t afford it. It’s like seeing a fabulous dress at the store, before you turn over the price tag and have to walk away. We’ve all been there. Every time I hold a bag of chia seeds or a carton of hemp milk in my hand, I probably pick it up and put it back 3 or 4 times before I decide that it’s just not in my recently-graduated-college-and-moved-to-the-city budget. But I can’t help it, I love these products. So, what’s a foodie to do?
If you figure it out then please tell me. Living in Park Slope, Brooklyn definitely makes it easier to find these types of ingredients than living in the heart of Harlem where I was before, but it doesn’t make them cheaper. When I feel like I really need it, I’ll treat myself to one of these special omega-3 super foods and believe me, I stretch them as long as they’ll go.
Plenty of formerly maligned foods have been catapulted into the culinary spotlight. Just look at the makeover Brussels sprouts have received in recent years, or the heftier price tag that anything fried in duck fat can demand. But schmaltz just can’t seem to get a break. James Beard Award-winning food writer and cookbook author Michael Ruhlman latest volume, “The Book of Schmaltz: A Love Song to a Forgotten Fat” is trying to change that.
“It’s this wonderful cooking fat that needs to be better used,” said Ruhlman in a phone interview. “I mean, if you have had potatoes fried in schmaltz — they rock!” And so he turned to his neighbor Lois — an Ashkenazi Jewish woman in her 70s — to teach him the magic of rendered chicken fat.
The result is a self-published iPad app (hardcover and ebook formats will be published by Little Brown in the fall, 2013) with one basic schmaltz recipe with step-by-step photos (both Lois and Ruhlman insist on the addition of onion), plus nine traditional uses and 15 contemporary recipes.
For many Jews, going out for Chinese food on Christmas is a time-honored ritual — almost as classic as eating matzo on Passover. But as with any tradition, the fun lies in making it your own. Go beyond cookie-cutter Christmas Chinese with our picks in New York and beyond.
Eddie Huang Does Kosher
BaoHaus chef Eddie Huang is serving up a multi-course authentic Chinese kosher dinner at Soho’s new kosher hotspot Jezebel. The meal will draw on Huang’s past Chinese New Year dinners and include a few items from BaoHaus’s menu. Scrooges take note: it’s $88 per person, family-style and first come, first served from 1-10PM on Christmas Day.
The truth about brisket is that your bubbe’s is probably the best. It’s probably better than my bubbe’s, and better than your neighbor’s bubbe’s, and while no two brisket recipes are the same, we’re all right when we say our briskets are the best. Past that, there aren’t a whole lot of definitives — even the terminology can get a little shady — which is exactly why putting five brisket aficionados on stage to talk about the comfort meat was more than fascinating.
At Tuesday night’s panel discussion at the Center for Jewish History led by Mitchell David, Executive Vice President of the James Beard Foundation, and organized by culinary curator Naama Shefi, so much was revealed about the dish that no Jewish feast is complete without.
Like many popular Jewish foods, brisket worked its way into the cuisine because of its low cost. “Brisket is implicitly kosher since it’s from the front of the animal,” said New York Times reporter Julia Moskin, “and it was cheap because anything that takes a long time to cook and that can’t be grilled has challenges, especially in a restaurant.” Davis added that while the ribs are also from the front of the animal, their popularity in Jewish cuisine didn’t quite reach that of brisket’s because they could be sold for more money. Daniel Delaney, owner of the barely month-old BrisketTown, in Williamsburg, attested that this was the case in the Texas culture as well, where butchers who emigrated from Germany and Czechoslovakia had trouble selling the slow-cooking cut of meat and ultimately created a way to dry smoke it and preserve it.
New York City Chef Linda Lantos often works with children and their parents to help them overcome food phobias, poor eating habits, and the dreaded “picky eater” phase.
She finds that kids often use food as a way to assert the little bit of power they can find. Lantos always recommends (safely) involving your children in the cooking process. When she sees this power play, she recommends a couple of additional ways to help kids feel in control through their assistance in the kitchen.
Fist, give kids clearly defined tasks. For instance, they love to twist salt and pepper grinders. Just tell them how many times to twist and then they can count themselves – or you can help them count. A similar idea is to put something like half a cup of oil in a small squeeze bottle and then count how many squeezes it takes to empty it into the mixing bowl. Or put your vinegar into a small squeeze bottle and tell them how many squeezes for each recipe.
The owner of San Francisco’s only kosher market says she is closing her doors.
Israel’s Strictly Kosher Market, which opened its doors 65 years ago, will close in March, owner Faina Avrutina told the J weekly. Avrutina has been running the shop for the last 10 years. The store has belonged to her family for the last two generations, according to the newspaper.
The store’s lease came up for renewal this month, and Avrutina decided not to renew it, telling the J weekly that the store is too expensive to run and that business has been slow for some time.
Kosher consumers in San Francisco can purchase kosher products and kosher meat at local stores including Costco and Trader Joes, according to the article. There has also been a rise in kosher meat-buying clubs in the Bay Area.
Avrutina, who is known for giving out free food to children and to families in need, told J weekly she will continue to cater for lifecycle events.
Christmas in my family means one thing — our annual Dumplings of the World Party. All of our friends come over and spend the evening sitting at little tables around our house shaping potstickers, pierogies, empanadas… the offerings change from year to year, but there are a few favorites that would never be left out — including everyone’s favorite, pillow-y soft barbecue chicken buns.
A kosher answer to the dim sum star, cha siu bao, from the Guangdong region of China, these sweet steamed rolls that house juicy, tender chicken in the center, have been my kryptonite since the day I could chew.
While the meat and dough are a bit time consuming to make, shaping them is less stressful than shaping a soup dumpling, which I showed you how to make last year (check out the video here). The only thing you have to worry about with these petite buns is sealing the dough well enough so that chicken doesn’t get all over your steamer.
There are few Jewish restaurants I love more than Brooklyn’s Mile End. The Montreal-style deli made a name for itself by updating the idea of deli, taking the time and care to smoke its meats in house, bake its own bread and for a long time, drive bagels in weekly from Montreal to hold true to their vision. The team has also been behind some of the most exciting Jewish dinners in the country in recent years.
When Sandy came pounding into New York harbor in November, it devastated homes, communities and the restaurants that fed them. Mile End’s commissary in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn was no exception. The space filled with water, leaving untold damages in its wake.
Eater visited the commissary recently and talked to owner Noah Bernamoff about getting the deli back on its feet. Check out what he had to say in the video below.
Residents of the Netherlands can pick up a bolus (sweet roll) or some pom (a chicken dish) to eat almost anywhere in the country, but how many of them know that these foods have Jewish origins?
Amsterdam’s Jewish Historical Museum is banking on curiosity about these and other traditional Jewish foods to bring people through its doors to experience its new “Jewish Flavor: A Worldwide Cuisine” exhibition, which opens December 21 and runs until May 5, 2013. It is the first-ever museum show on Jewish food in the Netherlands.
With only approximately 30,000 Jews living in Holland (about half of them in Amsterdam), the museum hopes the show will bring in many non-Jewish visitors who love food and cooking and are curious about Jewish cuisine and culture. For the museum’s Jewish visitors (mainly foreign tourists), “Jewish Flavor” will be a sweet — and savory — trip down memory lane, and also serve as an introduction to unique Dutch Jewish foods.
When the Ethiopian Jews began arriving in Israel with Operation Moses in 1984, they brought with them a spice mixture called berbere — the mix gives Ethiopian cuisine its distinctive flavor. The fiery taste of berbere evokes my early childhood, as my family lived in Ethiopia from 1969 to 1973.
Berbere is the food of my infancy. My father was an Israeli diplomat, sent to Ethiopia to help improve its agricultural output. My family lived in the Rift Valley, south of Addis Ababa. We lived on an experimental farm called Abba Dir.
For Israeli wines, it has been an uphill battle to gain recognition in the world wine community. But a recent announcement gave it a big leg up. Wine Enthusiast, the leading wine magazine, named Golan Heights Winery as the New World Winery of the Year.
In the late 1970’s a young, ambitious winemaker, Victor Schoenfeld, moved from California to Israel. Schoenfeld received his degree in viticulture from the University of California Davis and worked at the Robert Mondavi Winery and Chateau St. Jean in France before moving to the Golan Heights. Once he arrived, he realized the potential for grapes to grow in the rich soil. He worked with local kibbutzs to plant his first vines for classic varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. In 1983, Schoenfeld was part of the team that founded the Golan Heights Winery.
Today he is still the Chief Winemaker and is one of the most influential leaders in the Israeli wine industry. We chatted with him about his inspiration and his favorite wines.
Helen Nash was born into an old rabbinical family in Cracow, Poland. In New York City, where she has spent most of her life, she studied with world-famous cooks Michael Field, Marcella Hazan, Lydie Marshall, and Millie Chan. An accomplished lecturer and teacher, she has given demonstrations at New York University and the legendary De Gustibus cooking school at Macy’s, as well as at numerous synagogues and Jewish community centers.
We spoke with Helen Nash in November following the publication of Helen Nash’s New Kosher Cuisine: Healthy, Simple & Stylish, her third cookbook.
There’s a new cookbook about shmaltz! (More details to come soon on JCarrot.) In the meantime check out this first look. [Eater]
Eight desserts for eight nights of Hanukkah. Personally, we love the marshmallow dreidels. [Serious Eats
Some seriously wacky bagel flavors are coming out of The Bagel Store in Williamsburg. Sweet potato bagel? French toast bagel? What kind of schmear goes with that anyway? [Serious Eats]