At the dawn of the new year, I found myself with a stocked kitchen, a few reusable sandwich wrappers, and a giant knot in my stomach. I had resolved to spend the first 31 days of 2013 eating in. That meant for the month of January, I would eat only food made at home or bought minimally processed from a grocery store. I was destined for four-plus weeks without restaurants, coffee shops, take-out, or Starbucks. And I didn’t feel ready. The knot came despite the fact that I had resolved to do this weeks before, and despite my rule that I didn’t have to actually eat at home – I could bring homemade food wherever I went.
What I lacked in preparation, I recouped in reasoning.
Last week, a new bagelry made a bold move.
A few doors east of the Frank Bruni-approved 72nd Street Bagel on New York’s Upper West Side, Simit and Smith, a shop offering thin Turkish-style bagels called simits, opened its doors.
The company launched its first of 20 stores the same week as a popular article on First We Feast circulated the net bemoaning the decline of the New York bagel.
So could the bagel’s skinny Middle Eastern cousin stand up to the New York original? We had to go investigate for ourselves.
With the Israeli elections imminent, it is well to consider the issue of public policy and food. For instance, the Green Movement, as Israel’s green party has recently joined Tzipi Livni’s HaTnuah party and considers regulation of food production to be a significant componet in improving the country’s environmental policies. Livni, herself a vegetarian since age 12, will be convening a gathering of vegetarians next week to highlight areas where a more sustainable food policy should be pursued.
There are two underlying motivations behind the necessary policy reform. Environmentally, the pollution produced by agricultural operations, particularly from livestock is enormous. Six years ago, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization reported that the international meat industry produces18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, even more than transportation. The contribution of pesticides and fertilizers to water pollution is well known. In a recent long-term study of Israel’s stream, a research team I headed found that non-point source pollution, largely from agricultural sources, were the primary contributor of pollutants to Israel’s streams, rather than industry or even sewage.
I did the most stereotypical thing one can do after the New Year. I went on a juice cleanse. Three full days existing on nothing but sludgy, vitamin and mineral-laden juice. I’ve experienced a variety of feelings: cleansed (yes, seriously), hungry, exhausted, slightly delusional, energetic, sated and, did I mention hungry? My one constant was my ever-present desire to cook. You can pump me up with all the kale juice in the world but you can’t take away my inherent need to cook.
Why did I deliberately submit myself to 72 hours of pure juice torture?
The most obvious reason: the holidays. It’s safe to say I put back enough Nutella, red meat, wine, cookies, and other unmentionables to sustain me through the entirety of 2013. I needed a detox.
Reason two: I wanted to test my self discipline.
Reason three: call me crazy, but I thought juicing might lend itself to a sort of spiritual experience.
Bubbes around the world share pictures of themselves cooking in their kitchens. So cute, we almost want to pinch someone’s cheeks. [The Kitchn]
Give the old matzo ball soup a rest and try carrot soup with tahini and crisped chickpeas. [Smitten Kitchen]
Things are getting real! Here are 20 unspoken truths about the food world. [First We Feast]
Can’t wait for the Downton Abbey Season 3 premier on Sunday? Neither can we. Here’s a menu to celebrate the occasion. [Food52]
Virtuous meals to start the new year with (and to help keep those resolutions). [Serious Eats]
The Prime Grill, the fine dining kosher steakhouse New York Magazine calls “the go-to spot for the city’s kosher-observant movers and groovers,” is pulling up stakes on East 49th St. and moving to the west side of Midtown Manhattan.
Owner Joey Allaham promises that the new space, which will seat 360, boasts a wood burning oven and “more menu options.” No details yet on what those options will be, but regulars are certainly hoping that their favorites — like a dozen varieties of dry-aged steaks, a full sushi menu and appetizers like Crackling Duck Salad — make the move over to West 56th street.
Diners will be able to wash down the new fare with rare vintages of Herzog kosher wine, and will be able to arrange tastings and pairings with a Herzog sommelier in a private dining room.
If you’re like me, January prompts you to reexamine a few bothersome behaviors — and make a few (or more) resolutions for the coming year. Making resolutions is a dangerous proposition, of course. A strictly goal-oriented approach gives us a flat, “all or nothing” mandate that can lead to failure. By February, our resolution has dropped off our spiritual radar, and we marinate our inertia in the guilt of giving up. As the negative emotions pile up, we risk (as the rabbis say), “begetting one sin with another” — creating a vicious cycle that leaves us in a spiritual mess. Instead, let’s take a deeper approach. Make a few life adjustments — for promises that you can keep.
Since writing about this idea in 2012, I’ve received some great comments and suggestions. So in that spirit (and with a little nudge from an editor-friend), I’ve expanded our list to include five new ways to make life more meaningful. We can accomplish this by deepening our relationship to the food we eat, based on Judaism’s ancient wisdom.
A deal approved by the U.S. Congress late on Tuesday to avoid the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts known as the “fiscal cliff” also includes measures to avert the “dairy cliff” - a steep increase in milk prices.
The tax agreement contains a nine-month fix for expiring farm subsidy programs by extending a 2008 farm law. That gives lawmakers time to come up with a new five-year replacement.
Without the fix, the farm law would have expired and dairy subsidies would have reverted to 1949 levels, meaning retail milk prices could have doubled to about $7 a gallon in coming weeks or months. Lawmakers have so far failed to finalize a new $500 billion, five-year farm bill to replace the 2008 legislation, which authorizes spending on food stamps and crop subsidies.
They had agreed to eliminate $5 billion in annual direct payments to grain, cotton and soybean growers - subsidies deemed wasteful at a time of high prices and record farm income.
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.