The next shmitta (sabbatical) year is two years away. At Hazon we’re gearing up for it already by doing some weekly learning on the topic with Rabbi Ari Hart, and recently, a look at some of our foundation stories in the Torah – Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel in particular – led us to unexpected realizations.
Such as: What if Jewish tradition sees farming as a lower, compromised, even “exiled” state? And what is the point of a cycle – whether it is seven days of Shabbat and the week, or seven years of a Sabbatical year cycle – if they keep simply repeating themselves?
Dinnertime may get a lot easier for kosher customers at Manhattan’s Fairway stores.
Just last week, the supermarket chain began offering “dinners to go” from Glatt Kosher New York City restaurant Abigael’s on Broadway.
The prepared meals — the kind you usually only find in specialty kosher markets and not in mainstream supermarkets — are available in the pre-packaged deli section of Fairway’s Upper West Side and Upper East Side locations.
A spokesperson for Fairway told us: “We reached out to Jeff Nathan of Abigael’s because we are big fans of his restaurant and asked him to make meals to go for our customers.”
I’m going to be honest with you. I signed up for Birthright mostly because I wanted to spend ten days eating Israeli food. When I found out I was chosen for a summer 2012 trip, my daydreams were filled with visions of pistachio-studded halvah, mounds of falafel, juicy shawarma, and creamy hummus. You could say I was going on the trip for all the wrong reasons, that gorging oneself on Israeli delicacies was not a moral reason to take advantage of a free 10-day trip to the Holy Land. Well sometimes karma bites you back.
I arrived in Jerusalem on a breezy July night, accompanied by my best friend and about 40 other college students, still strangers to me. Jet-lagged and exhausted from the 11-hour flight, we trudged into the hostel’s dining room. My eyes perked up at the sight of roasted chicken, hummus, and juicy watermelon. Yes, this is why I had traveled for nearly half a day. I happily ate my dinner and played the obligatory name games with the group.
Not even 12 hours after the meal, I was struck with a certain discomfort. I’d been sick from traveling before, and I assured myself this little stomach upset would pass. I sullenly skipped out on the next morning’s breakfast of hard-boiled eggs and Israeli salad.
When I first went to WhiskyFest New York two years ago I was astounded at how Jewish it was. Growing up in Britain, there had been whisky at Kiddush, but it was rough generic stuff, not for the connoisseur. I never saw the bottles, but it was more Manischewitz than Mouton Rothschild. At the 2010 event I saw Jews of all stripes sipping some of the finest malt whiskies available in the world. I felt surprised, vindicated, happy.
Then, after last year’s event, the organizers from Whisky Advocate magazine (until last year Malt Advocate) announced their plan to capitalize on the size and strength of the demand and move from a Tuesday night onto a weekend — the last weekend in October, 2012. Not really a weekend, but from Friday night to Saturday night. AKA shabbat. AKA it’s now muktze, or inappropriate for traditionally observant Jews.
I work for the largest Jewish environmental organization in the United States. The kind that has a written food values policy which outlines the steps we, as an organization, take to ensure that the food we serve to our guests, participants, and each other is kosher, ethical, healthy, delicious, and a conversation starter.
Why then, do I have a five-pound bag of Halloween chocolates in my desk drawer?
Because somewhere around 4pm, it’s time for chocolate. And I don’t mean the good-quality, fair trade, dark chocolate (I keep that hidden in a different drawer), I mean that sugary, processed, preservative-laden, “exactly what I wanted right now” chocolate.
For anyone who craves one more hug from a grandma long gone, one more of her chocolate turtle cookies or another whiff of her apple strudel baking in the oven, there is “Oma & Bella.”
Scenes from the new documentary about two octogenarian friends living together in Berlin are warm, but the hunger to learn more about their past as Holocaust survivors creates a suspenseful undercurrent throughout the film, which is being released on iTunes and Amazon in the United States on Tuesday.
The sometimes jarring shifts from cozy kitchen scenes of chopping and sauteing to starkly lit interviews in which they reluctantly reveal some of the horrors they survived as Jewish girls in World War Two are purposeful, filmmaker Alexa Karolinski said.
“In the beginning, they basically said, ‘You can do whatever you want as long as you don’t ask us about then,’” Karolinski said of the agreement with her grandmother — or Oma — Regina Karolinski, and her friend Bella Katz, who moved in to help with Oma’s recovery from a hip operation in 2007 and never left.
A mom, a food crafter and a chef glare at one another in a Baltimore parking lot ready to throw down with fire and sharp objects. No, this is not a surprise culinary season of The Wire, or a bizarre new John Waters film. It’s a “Gefilte Fish Throwdown” sponsored by the Jewish Museum of Maryland as part of their exhibit “Chosen Food: Cuisine, Culture, and American Jewish Identity.”
Aromas of fresh fish, piquant onion and horseradish, with faint notes of celery and short gusts of white pepper seem “louder” than the dogs yelping in the distance or the occasional siren. As the brisk cool air dances with the flames of the camping stoves, and the hot, bright sun beats down on the 100 or so people in the audience, it may be a Sunday in October, but it’s beginning to smell a lot like Passover.
Hosted by honored guest, Aaron Harkin of Baltimore’s NPR station, WYPR, and host of The Signal, the competition got under way as the eager audience was introduced to the three participants. Dave Whaley of Baltimore’s acclaimed restaurant, Wit and Wisdom at The Four Seasons, unveiled his novel gefilte fish corndog, dipped in corn batter and deep fried served with a birthday-cake-pink tinted sauce of cream, horseradish and beet powder. “I didn’t have whitefish or pike, so I decided to use cobia, another kosher fish, that I knew would stand up to being made into a fish sausage and would remain firm and flavorful throughout the process.”
There are two general camps of cookbooks: the kind that you keep on the coffee table and the kind that you keep in the kitchen. The former are big, sumptuous, glossy numbers, usually full of exotic ingredients and complicated recipes. The latter are often less pretty but functional, stained by sauce splatters and muffin batter. It’s rare to find a volume that serves both purposes, but Deb Perelman’s wonderful The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook is one of them.
Perelman, who based the book on her popular website of the same name, describes herself as “an obsessive home cook,” and her recipes certainly reflect that. She tinkers, she recreates, she attempts to cajole people. Her buttered popcorn cookies, for instance — salty-sweet umami crunch-balls that should replace Rice Krispie treats in your next holiday platter — were an effort to convince a friend to see the merits of buttered popcorn. She updates old recipes, because, she admits, “my curiosity gets the better of me, and it’s usually worth the blasphemy. Her fig, olive oil, and sea salt challah for example, takes a classic and adds notes of herbaceous savoriness to the sweet and supple bread. She uses honey instead of sugar to leaven the yeast, and tucks a fig and orange zest paste into the braided dough. The result is something heavenly, and fairly simple, even if you’re not a seasoned baker. (Though, I confess, I abandoned her braiding technique in favor of a simpler one.) A dear friend of mine, asking after what I was baking, was the first to proclaim “heresy!” about the addition of salt and figs. He was also the first to ask for the recipe once he tasted it.
I recently found myself in one of my favorite places in NYC — The Union Square Farmer’s Market. As I wandered through the stalls, admiring the colorful varieties of cauliflower and broccoli I reflected on how much my shopping habits have changed. Sure, I occasionally shop at the Green Market at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, but for the past year I’ve purchased most of my produce from the Caribbean market around the corner from my house in Bed-Stuy. Spending almost a year on unemployment and one measly month on SNAP has changed the way that I budget, and the way that I shop for food.
In July of 2011, I found myself in an interesting predicament — I was unexpectedly unemployed. As the thrill of spending work days on the beach turned into weeks and then months without so much as an interview, my meager savings disappeared and my debt mounted. I realized that I would have to get government assistance. I struggled with this realization and put it off until the very last moment, which I learned was a terrible idea because you don’t just get SNAP benefits just because you want them — you have to wait.
A falafel, is not a falafel, is not a falafel. Each country in the Middle East has their own way of making falafel. [NPR]
Beautiful preserved lemons are a staple flavor of many north African and Sephardic cuisines. Try your hand at making them at home. [Saveur]
Should you try your hand at making your own peanut (and other nut) butters? [Serious Eats]
Desserts to Love: Knafe. The deliciously sweet pastry is available in the Holy Land if you’re willing to go looking for it. [Serious Eats]
In a medieval tavern in 21st century Italy, waitresses in archaic costumes served a tepid, chalk-white substance the texture of oatmeal to tables filled with slightly skeptical diners.
Sweet yet salty, and flavored with a mix of unexpectedly tangy spices, it turned out to be a tasty puree made from shredded chicken breast, almond milk, rose water, cloves and rice flour.
The dish was a savory form of biancomangiare, or almond pudding, a food that was popular in Italy in the Middle Ages. Jews back then loved it, too, food historians say, and often called it “almond rice.”
On this recent night in Bevagna, an ancient walled town in central Italy’s Umbria region, biancomangiare was being served as the first course of a special kosher-style dinner aimed at re-creating a meal that Jews in Italy would have eaten in the 14th and 15th centuries.
A restaurant run and staffed by deaf people opened for business in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, helped by Palestinians seeking to build a more inclusive society where people with disabilities can realise their full potential.
The stylish Atfaluna restaurant near Gaza port stands out in a city with few facilities for the disabled. Waiters and cooks use sign language, guests point to selections from the menu and what ensues is a spontaneous form of communication that organisers hope will break down bias and barriers.
“Deaf people have determination and there are no worries except when it comes to communication, the language problem. At first we may get translators to help us with the speaking clients,” supervisor Ayat Imtair told Reuters in sign language.
After six months of training with her staff, she was confident the service would go smoothly.
Last week I bought an impromptu ticket for New York, not because there was a great deal or I found Broadway tickets for next-to-nothing, but because I came across a blurb about a conference on the Future of Jewish Food. A conversation focused solely on what is Jewish food and where it is headed — not to mention an all-star line-up of Jewish deli proprietors, authors, and critics — I knew I had to attend. As a graduate student studying Jewish American culinary history (yes, academia can be this great), this conference seemed to be a great opportunity to introduce myself to contemporary thoughts on Jewish cooking in America.
Joan Nathan, the doyenne of Jewish (American) cooking, started off the first panel by noting, in the words of Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, that “Jewish food is anything eaten by Jews.”
By this logic, wherever I am and whatever I eat could be considered Jewish food. But this just doesn’t seem right to me. Shouldn’t Jewish food be shmaltzy and unpronounceable? And what about kosher!?
Fall has settled in with its colorful leaves and a bounty of autumn-hued produce at the market. The switch of the seasons is invigorating as a cook, inspiring us with a fresh palate of fruits and vegetables to play with. Winter squash, woody herbs, root vegetables and hearty greens take center stage, just asking to be roasted, braised and served as part of dinner during the week or on Shabbat.
Sweet and nutty butternut squash is a personal favorite. This year, I’ve started adding it to everything from salads to stews. My new favorite combination is fiery harissa (a spicy North African red pepper paste) with breadcrumbs, ground walnuts and mint (recipe below). The mellow sweetness contrasts with the pleasant spice of the harissa (the heat of which can vary greatly), while the walnuts complement the nutty undertones of the squash. Add in a great mix of textures and you’ve got yourself one killer side that’s as good with roasted chicken as it is with steak, fish, or even tofu. The dish is packed with vitamin A and is also a great source of fiber and potassium and when the squash is roasted, it’s pesky tough skin becomes tender and entirely edible.
It’s also around this time of year that I move away from delicate greens and towards grains as the base for my salads like vibrant red quinoa (yes, it’s technically a seed). I toss it with whatever vegetables I have on hand for a nutritious side or light but filling lunch.
People love to ask, “what did you grow up eating?” Having a professional food writer for a mother makes this a particularly complicated question to answer. Yes, I grew up eating amazing homemade food. I have fond memories of ox tail stews and fresh pasta with sauce made of vegetables from our garden. I was undoubtedly a spoiled child when it came to food. I had the palate of a mature adult, requesting escargot on my 6th birthday. But, after all the lavish multi-coursed dinners, and made-from-scratch snacks that I was so lucky to grow up with, my most profound childhood food memory is one of the simplest dishes: roast chicken.
Every Shabbat, for as long as I can remember, roast chicken had a place at my family’s dinner table. People might have expected my mother to be kneading challah dough all day, or basting a brisket, but instead she opted for chicken every time.
Maybe she chose it because Shabbat came at the end to a very long week of taking care of two young, constantly bickering little girls. Maybe she chose it because she knew she could make an entire dinner, adding whatever vegetables or potatoes were around, in the same pan. Or maybe she chose it because not even the pickiest of eaters can resist the comfort of perfectly roasted chicken.
As he weaves in and out of traffic in New York City on a Friday afternoon, David Itzkowitz has two things on his mind: Shabbat and beer.
Beer because Itzkowitz, 26, is a co-founder of Lost Tribes, a beverage company that makes microbrews derived from ancient recipes held dear by Jewish cultures from exotic parts of the world. And Shabbat because Itzkowitz, an observant Jew, still has a few deliveries left to make before sundown.
“It’s all about the pale ale,” Itzkowitz tells JTA by phone on his way to a delivery in the Bronx. “You need a balance of the perfect amount of hop with a little malt. It needs to tickle your taste buds and have a little buzz, too.”
The idea behind Lost Tribes, which is less than a year old, was born in 2009 when three of the company’s five founders ventured to Israel to learn more about the country’s budding microbrewery industry and come up with ideas for their own beer.
They spent a lot of time with Jews that some say hail from the 10 lost tribes of Israel — Ethiopian Jews, said by some to be descendants of the Tribe of Dan, and Indian Jews, said by some to be from the Tribe of Menashe.
If you are a Jewish food enthusiast and happen to live in New York, your calendar has been quite busy of late. Restaurants are hosting deli-themed Shabbat dinners, museums are hosting talks on gefilte fish and venues across the city are nodding to Ashkenazi fare in any number of creative ways. These events are focused on reimagining and updating Jewish cuisine, and have been permeated with a sense of nostalgia. They have also, seemingly, been attended by heavily Jewish audiences.
But this was refreshingly not the case on Sunday night at the cozy East Village restaurant JoeDoe. Here, a group of a dozen diners, most of whom were tasting Jewish cuisine for the first time, feasted on a menu created by celebrated Chef Joe Dobias, who is also not Jewish.
The dinner was conceived of by the members-only traveling supper club, Butter and Egg Road, which gathered the group of New York transplants and vacationing visitors.
For his guests, Dobias created a menu that exhibited his strong love and respect for traditional Ashkenazi cuisine, while twisting the dishes in ways that were less emotional and more technical.
The growing season in Tennessee is incredibly long. This September, my CSA had on abundance of tomatoes, eggplants and spaghetti squash, and I decided to reach out of my cooking comfort zone with the eggplant.
I have a few basic go-to eggplant recipes, but didn’t feel like eating baba ganouj for the next two weeks. My other go-to eggplant recipe, is so time consuming, I only make it a couple of times each year, and had made it within the last month; I was not interested in recreating it, despite the compliments it always receives. Given the abundant contents of my CSA basket, I was inspired to test out a new recipe, but wasn’t sure where to start; that sent me my well-worn cookbook collection and Taste Spotting, an online resource for recipes submitted by bloggers around the world (aka, total food porn).
Growing up in a predominantly Jewish upper-middle class neighborhood of Toronto and attending Hebrew day school I didn’t know a single person who celebrated Thanksgiving. Naturally, I assumed that it was a Christian holiday.
I had learned the origins American Thanksgiving from TV. Canadian children are immersed in American culture well before we enter primary school. However, because TV Jews tended to celebrate holidays such as Christmas, this didn’t change my perception.
I entered public school in grade 7 and my new Jewish friends didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving either. One year while visiting Orthodox Jewish family in the U.S. I learned that they celebrate Thanksgiving. When I questioned this, I was told that the holiday is nonsectarian. My resulting theory was that U.S. Thanksgiving was historical/secular, while Canadian Thanksgiving was religious. This was before search engines and smart phones, and I’d celebrate Thanksgiving with non-Jewish roommates for years before I finally sought answers.
It’s been a pretty awesome week in the food world and the Jewish food world. Check out our tasty picks.
Take a peak into a kosher dinner club. [Grub Street]
Or…a tour of the kosher hot spots in Los Angeles. [New York Times]
Jewish and Chinese flavors all wrapped into one. Introducing: the Pastrami Egg Roll. [Fork in the Road]
It’s right around now that we all start craving a good bowl of chicken noodle soup. Learn how to make an excellent rendition of the classic here and call your Bubby! [Smitten Kitchen]
Already thinking about Hanukkah? There’s a now a New York City donut map. [Serious Eats]
Time to change things up: Coffee-Rubbed Brisket with Parsley Couscous. [Serious Eats]