Photograph by Edsel Little; Flickr
When I first gravitated toward writing about food and immigration to the United States as an ostensibly serious academic, colleagues asked me — and, frankly, I asked myself — the obvious question. Why food? Food perhaps lacked the gravitas and significance of subjects like political, labor or immigration history. Academics might grudgingly admit that food is fun, or, at worst, accuse me of having gone over to the realm of the “popularizers.”
Food does indeed provide one of life’s greatest pleasures. And yet, for much of human history food also has been associated with difficulty, controversy, confusion, and conflict. Most people, for most of life on Earth, have fretted over where, or if, they would get their next meal. But the matter of food, and particularly food’s relationship to immigration, has long merited more ambitious historical treatment. Food has always functioned simultaneously as a barrier that sets one group of people apart from others and as a bridge linking people with little else in common.
As seasonal as it is healthful, this salad is also totally delicious. Photograph by Hadas Margulies
As the weather gets chilly, I tend to forget how satisfying a good, hearty salad can be. But then, fresh beets at the farmer’s market remind me that I still need to eat my veggies.
This salad, packed with beets, arugula, orange slices, marinated onions, walnuts and goat cheese, is a full meal. I wouldn’t ask you to go through the work of making it if it weren’t. And beets, by the way, have more betaine than any other veggie. According to traditional Chinese medicine, which I study at the Academy of Healing Nutrition, they are extremely cleansing for the liver and blood. If you’re not a borscht fan, this salad might give you another opportunity to make friends with your liver.
(JTA) — Another old-school New York Jewish institution is about to fall victim to gentrification.
The New York Times reports that Cafe Edison, a modest Theater District coffee shop long favored by Broadway’s cognoscenti, has been asked to leave by the owner of the hotel in which it is located.
While not kosher, Cafe Edison serves deli sandwiches and traditional Ashkenazi Jewish fare, like blintzes and matzah ball soup, and was founded by Polish-born Holocaust survivors, Harry and Frances Edelstein.
Known, in a nod to its founders and its no-nonsense manner as the Polish Tea Room — in contradistinction to the swanky Russian Tea Room — it was also the inspiration for the setting in Neil Simon’s play, “45 Seconds From Broadway.”
Simon reportedly enjoyed frequent meals there with his producer Emanuel Azenberg. Other regular patrons included comedian Jackie Mason, actor Henry Winkler and the late African American playwright August Wilson.
Mimi Sheraton, a former Times restaurant critic who has published books about bialies and chicken soup, among other topics, features Cafe Edison in her forthcoming “1,000 Places to Eat Before You Die.”
Photograph by Daniel Lailah
I had the pleasure of attending two fabulous Jewish-food events this week. The first was a celebration of Janna Gur’s new cookbook, “Jewish Soul Food: From Minsk to Marrakesh” (Shocken Books), at Einat Admony’s cozy Balaboosta restaurant. There were delicious dishes made from recipes in the book, including two savory Moroccan salads — one beet and one carrot — and some garlicky meat patties that I can’t stop thinking about.
In a powerful speech toward the end of the gathering, Gur, who is editor-in-chief of the Israeli food magazine Al Hashulchan and author of “The Book of New Israeli Food,” said the purpose of her new book was to introduce the North American audience to a wider range of Jewish recipes.
“When people say Jewish food, they primarily mean Ashkenazi,” she said. “Gefilte fish; matzo ball soup — foods that make me cry, actually — they’re the foods my grandparents used to make. But Israeli food is so much more. It’s the food of the diaspora. Jews lived all over the world.”
Fruit-and-nut croquants, baked by the author, from Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook. Photograph by Gayle L. Squires
Dorie Greenspan has cracked the code of how the French bake at home for family and close friends.
Forget the fussy confections on display in pastry shop windows in even the smallest Gallic towns. In her latest cookbook, “Baking Chez Moi,” Greenspan shares her French friends’ homespun recipes and gives you the confidence to recreate these largely simple desserts in your own home.
I caught up with the delightfully prolific award-winning author last week at the 92nd Street Y, the first stop on Greenspan’s book tour, where we gabbed like schoolgirls before she sat down before a packed audience for a discussion with New York Times food writer Julia Moskin.
Despite having nearly a dozen cookbooks under her belt — and having successful collaborations with Julia Child and French pâtissier Pierre Hermé, Greenspan wasn’t always at home in the kitchen. She grew up in Brooklyn, where her father owned a supermarket and where her mother made grocery lists organized by aisle — instead of dinner. Her grandmother visited weekly to feed the family, and a housekeeper filled in the rest of the time.
Photograph by Gayle L. Squires
The word croquant can be both an adjective and a noun. As an adjective, it’s easy: It means “crunchy.” As a noun, it can be confusing: It usually refers to a cookie, but there are bunches of cookies that carry the appellation and, depending on who’s making them and where, the cookies can vary in size, shape, flavor and degree of croquant-ness. Say croquant, and most French cookie lovers think of the ones from the south of France, which are usually studded with whole almonds and flavored with orange-flower water.
However, the croquants that really caught my attention came from a small bakery in Lyon. The Lyonnaise cookies weren’t flavored with orange-flower water — in fact, I didn’t detect any flavoring at all — and in addition to lots of almonds, they had other nuts and dried fruits. They looked similar to biscotti or mandelbrot, the Eastern European version of the double-baked sweet, and while they were called croquant, they didn’t quite live up to their name (or their nickname: casse-dents, which means “tooth breakers”) — they were crunchy on the outside and just a little softer and chewier on the inside.
I’ve flavored these with vanilla, but if a whiff of orange-flower water appeals to you, go ahead and add it. When I’ve got oranges in the house or, better yet, tangerines or clementines, I add some grated zest whether I’m using vanilla or orange-flower water, or a combination of both. As for the nuts and dried fruits, I leave their selection up to you, although I think you should go heavier on the nuts than the fruit. For sure you should have whole almonds (preferably with their skins on), but you can also use cashews, walnuts, (skinned) hazelnuts, macadamias or pistachios. Similarly, while I often add golden raisins, there’s no reason not to consider dried cherries, pieces of dried apricots or even slim wedges of dried figs.
Photograph by Alan Richardson
The word palet means “puck,” and you find it used most often by chocolatiers, who make pucks of ganache and enrobe them in chocolate. But the only thing puckish about these cookies is their adorableness. With wide, flat uppers iced in white and rounded bottoms, they look like children’s tops or open parasols. I saw these cookies in all sizes in every pâtisserie I visited in Lille, the northern French city that borders Belgium. Then I saw them finished with melted rose pralines, the red candies that are the sweet symbol of Lyon, the gastronomic capital of the Rhône-Alpes region. And everywhere I saw them, I bought them — the combination of cakeish cookie and sweet icing is irresistible.
While a plain confectioners’ sugar icing is the tradition in Lille, there’s no reason not to have a little fun with these. Think about adding food coloring to the icing or dividing the icing and creating a few tints. And to make these already festive cookies even more so, speckle the still-wet glaze with sanding sugar.
Thinkstock by Getty Images
My in-laws and I are in the middle of an all-out competition, a head-to-head contest that has been raging for years, since my husband and I started dating. What are we competing over? Culinary supremacy.
They’re winning handily, and they don’t even know it. In fact, they’d be shocked to know that we’re in competition at all.
Let me explain: I love cooking. Not the weekday-evening frenzy of putting food on the table in a hurry — when I lived alone, I subsisted on a steady diet of omelets and pita-bread pizzas. What I love is the kind of cooking that precedes a holiday or a big family meal. The kind that requires spending hours upon hours in the kitchen with my mom, catching up on every little thing that’s going on in our lives as we chop, dice, whip and stir, my brother and my dad stopping in to help, to hang out and to taste the food-in-progress. There’s a looming deadline, but it’s energizing, rather than stressful.
Photograph by Hillary Berkowitz Nussbaum
I’ve mastered my family’s desserts, from the flourless chocolate roll to the sour cream coffee cake, but my husband’s favorite — cheesecake — always escaped me. I couldn’t let it go, and finally mastered it by sticking to my new strategy: Rather than tackling the tried-and-true, I put my own new twist on an old favorite.
This recipe blends the flavors of fall with a more standard Oreo cheesecake, with delightful result. When I served it up recently, my other half declared it “awesome” (though my mother — predictably — went for the flourless chocolate cake instead).
For the crust:
24 finely crushed Oreos
2 tablespoons melted butter
For the filling:
Two 8-ounce packages room-temperature cream cheese
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
3 large room-temperature eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
12 crushed Oreos (can be larger chunks)
1) Preheat oven to 350˚ F.
2) Grease a 9-inch springform pan, or cover a traditional 9-inch cake pan in parchment paper. (Grease the paper and leave the ends hanging over the pan a bit. You’ll use these to pull the cake up and out of the pan.)
3) Toss the 24 crushed Oreos with the melted butter until lightly coated, then press the mixture into the bottom of the pan to form the crust. Set aside.
4) Combine the sugar and spices in a small bowl.
5) Beat the cream cheese and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Continue mixing, and slowly add the sugar mixture. Add the eggs one at a time, beat well, leaving about 30 seconds between each egg. Add the pumpkin, continue mixing until well combined.
6) Evenly pour half the mixture into the prepared pan. Spread the crumbles from the 12 crushed Oreos in a layer over the top, then evenly pour in the remaining pumpkin mixture.
7) Place pan on the center rack in the oven, with another pan half full of water on the oven’s bottom rack (to keep the oven moist). Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cheesecake comes out clean, and the center of the cake jiggles slightly (like gelatin). Let the cake cool, then refrigerate at least a few hours before serving.
Hillary Berkowitz Nussbaum is a freelance writer who likes to cook her way through writer’s block.
Chef Franklin Becker stands proud before his beet. Photograph by Liz Barclay
Exciting news for gluten-avoiders and healthy eaters: The Little Beet Table opens today in New York’s Flatiron District. A spinoff of chef Franklin Becker’s café, The Little Beet, the new restaurant will offer a more formal, sit-down vibe.
According to the chef, the idea to open a second spot sprung from the tremendous success of the café, which serves about 1,300 customers a day. “It’s just great food,” Becker told the Forward. “People come in and don’t even care whether it’s gluten-free or not. The fact that it’s gluten-free is just a bonus.”
Photographs by Liza Schoenfein
My local CSA, Farmigo, gave away free sugar pumpkins a couple of weeks ago. I already adore Farmigo, which is owned by Israeli-turned-Brooklynite Benzi Ronen. But the gift made me feel even more warmly toward the web-based startup, which connects nearby farmers and food artisans with urban neighborhoods like mine.
The pumpkin bestowed on me was a rather large, lopsided specimen, which my kids and I talked about carving into some sort of scowling ghoul — but we never got around to it.
Pumpkins make festive fall decorations, but if you happen to have a sweet or “sugar” pumpkin on your hands, then it’s not just for show. Sugar pumpkins make excellent eating. So when the decorations came down, the soup pot came out.
My neighbor Lauren McGrath, a caterer, food consultant, and our neighborhood Farmigo liaison, offered up a soup recipe to go with the free pumpkin. Hers was a gingery, creamy affair, which sounded heavenly and inspired me to create my own version.
This one substitutes coconut milk for cream, but the biggest difference is that I roast the pumpkin before simmering it, to bring out a complex, caramelized flavor that I love.
The lettuce sold in supermarkets near my home in the German capital comes mostly from Spain, which means it travels over a thousand miles before reaching my salad bowl.
InFarm, a Berlin-based urban agriculture start-up founded by a group of Israelis, is experimenting with an alternative that is more environmentally friendly, healthier and tastier. Guy Galonska, co-founder of InFarm, guides me through the start-up’s laboratory — a climate-controlled space where a variety of greens and herbs are growing.
“The vision is integrating a practical solution for growing food in the city,” Galonska said, while gently cutting some lettuce and offering me a taste. “Basically, decentralizing industrial agriculture, bringing back small-scale farming that allows more biodiversity, fresher food, healthier food. Taking control of what we eat.”
Maximus Thaler, author of “A Curious Harvest: The Practical Art of Cooking Everything”
Photograph by Hallie Gluk
Maximus Thaler sees himself as a modern-day version of the Biblical character Ruth.
The author of the newly published “A Curious Harvest: The Practical Art of Cooking Everything,” with illustrations by Dayna Safferstein, Thaler recently told me about a conversation he had with a rabbi at Tufts University, when he was a student there, about his passion for dumpster diving.
“Obviously, dumpster diving isn’t kosher, the rabbi told me, but I see this is as gleaning, and reconnecting with my agricultural roots,” he said. “I’m imagining myself as Ruth, who had no refrigeration. Food is so integral to my identity that I’m known as a gleaner. Ruth’s principles were very important to her, she really valued food for what it is, and [valued] not wasting anything.”
Photograph by Liza Schoenfein
Today’s the day to get your black and orange on — and that includes food.
You want to be festive, but you may not want to overindulge completely. Get ready to kill two birds with one two-toned stone. Well, at least with one two-toned cookie.
I give you my recipe for vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free black-and-orange cookies. While they may sound dry (pun intended), the coconut-based frosting lends a satisfying sweetness to the whole-grain-based cookie.
These treats are also versatile. Where I used soy milk, feel free to substitute your favorite nut milk. For the sweetener, I went with blackstrap molasses, but maple syrup or agave nectar would work as well. If you’re looking for a lighter-colored cookie, opt for light agave.
There’s also some flexibility in your choice of flour. You can use a pre-mixed gluten-free flour (Bob’s Red Mill makes a good one), or else combine arrowroot starch with millet or amaranth flour — two of my favorites, both for their fluffy consistencies and their health benefits. If you’re blending millet flour yourself, just be sure to blend until the millet becomes a fine powder. This will keep the cookies from being grainy.
And my Nana says Halloween is for pagans…
When I learned that Liam, a friend of my 9-year-old son, would be joining us at the potluck dinner in the synagogue sukkah because (as he told his mom) “Jews have the best food,” I reluctantly abandoned my plan to purchase a tray of spanakopita. I felt stymied by the task ahead: to prepare a wholesome dairy dish of Jewish origins that would appeal to children and adults alike, and one that would also survive the trip to the sukkah on a brisk autumn evening.
Then I remembered kugel. My mother-in-law’s noodle kugel, to be precise, handed down to her by her own mother, who is known in these quarters as Grandma Rae. Rae, perhaps because her husband died young of a cardiac-related illness, specialized in healthy cooking, and her kugel bears little resemblance to the sweet, rich noodle kugels of my own youth, which call for at least a stick of butter and a tub of sour cream, topped by handfuls of crunchy cornflakes.
Rae’s kugel is neither savory nor overly sweet. She somehow managed to eliminate what my husband Jeremy calls “the fun stuff” and still retain the traditional essence of a noodle kugel, which Yiddish-speakers call lokshen kugel. Imported from the shtetls of Eastern Europe, it is a filling, warming dish suitable for any autumn or winter evening. The version we make is much lighter than the conventional one, and spicier too, thanks to Jeremy’s addition of nutmeg and cardamom.
On Sukkot, Liam piled his plate high with the various potluck contributions. The son of a Presbyterian minister, this is a fourth grader who delights in sampling new cuisines, whether he’s in the jungles of Peru or the food courts of Flushing, Queens. After a few minutes of eating beneath the chilly skies of the rooftop sukkah, he leaned toward my son. “I like this dish,” he said confidentially, pointing toward a few crispy noodles in the corner of his plate. It was Rae’s kugel.
Lighter Lokshen Kugel
1½ 12-ounce packages of Dutch egg noodles (whole wheat if possible)
2½ 16-ounce containers of low-fat or non-fat cottage cheese (ricotta can replace part of cottage cheese)
4 eggs (or five if cottage cheese looks dry; egg whites can also be substituted)
1 or 2 tablespoons of butter
2 or 3 peeled, cored and chopped apples, coated with cinnamon/sugar mixture
1 cup yellow raisins
Splash of vanilla extract
Cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg (as desired — about ½ teaspoon each)
Wheat germ (Can also use other healthy, crunchy cereal)
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1) Preheat oven to 400˚ F.
2) Lightly grease 9 X 13-inch baking pan with butter or oil.
3) Parboil noodles (for about three minutes). Rinse and drain. Put noodles aside, mixing in one tablespoon of butter to melt while they cool.
4) Mix all other ingredients in a large bowl. Add noodles to mixture. Pour mixture into pan. Sprinkle wheat germ and brown sugar on top. Cover with foil.
5) Bake for about 45 minutes. Uncover and broil, on low if possible, until crispy, about 10 minutes. (Watch carefully to make sure kugel doesn’t burn.)
Photograph by Hathaway_M; Flickr
Out of all the recipes in my cookbook, “The Brisket Book. A Love Story With Recipes” (Andrews McMeel), only one came with a blessing.
It is the Temple Emanu-El Brisket from home cook Roberta Greenberg, the longtime assistant to the rabbis at this well-known New York synagogue. I found Ms. Greenberg’s recipe on the temple website and begged both her and David Posner, then the head rabbi there, for permission to include it in my book. I reached out first to Ms. Greenberg, who properly asked me to check with the rabbi. Higher powers prevailed. Rabbi Posner turned out to be every bit as sweet and tender as his assistant’s brisket. And the recipe was mine to use.
I love this recipe: “Quivering cranberry slices that melt into the meat and slowly caramelize to give this dish its lovely character.” That is how I described it in the head notes, adding that, “It takes so little effort for this sweet alchemy to work.” The ingredients are ridiculously simple: a brisket, garlic powder, paprika, onions, cranberry slices.
You’re reading the recipe below right — it’s full of strikeouts and add-ins that match the red-pen amendments the author made to the recipe in her own cookbook (above). After making the original at least 20 times, she feels she’s improved on what was already near-perfection. Photograph by Stephanie Pierson
Serves 8 to 10
4- to 5-pound (get a 5 or 5 ½ lb one if you want leftovers and who doesn’t? Just make sure your casserole is big enough) beef brisket (Please get grass-fed, if possible, for maximum flavor and for humanely-raised beef — and have the butcher leave on a lot of fat. You can always skim off the fat later but you can’t add it once it’s off. Grass-fed briskets tend to be lean. Too-lean brisket dry out. Some butchers do take off most of the fat, thinking you won’t want to pay for the fat and/or because they don’t realize how vital it is to have it.)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large onions, peeled and cut into eighths
Two 14-ounce cans jellied cranberry sauce, sliced
1) Sprinkle both sides of the brisket with the garlic powder, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste.
Tightly cover the brisket with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two days. (Uh oh — I am usually in such a hurry and holiday tizzy that I don’t get around to doing it two days before. Or any days before. )
2) When you’re ready to finish the dish, preheat the oven to
500° F. (That is way too hot for my city apartment — I am afraid the kitchen would blow up. I’m afraid of bats and lightening, too. So I preheat it to 450˚F.)
3) Unwrap the brisket, place it in a
roasting pan, (it’s really a casserole dish with a tight seal) and roast for 20 minutes (That scares me to death — I can’t imagine the brisket wouldn’t overcook at 20 minutes a side. So I roast/brown it in the oven for about 10 minutes a side.) Remove the pan from the oven and decrease the temperature to 350° F. Place the onions under and around the brisket, then cover the top of the meat with the cranberry sauce slices. Tightly cover the pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil (if you do have a tight-fitting lid on your casserole — and I do — I don’t see the reason for aluminum foil) and cook until fork tender, about three hours. (Because of the longish roasting/browning step, my Rosh Hashanah brisket actually cooked in under 3 hours. And it was over 5 pounds. So check it earlier.)
4) Remove the pan from the oven and allow the brisket to cool. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board, trim the fat, then slice the meat against the grain to the desired thickness. (If you slice it too thin, the slices will fall apart when you are ready to heat it up and serve it.) Return the slices to the pot, overlapping them at an angle (I now think it’s just: Make sure the slices are all fully covered in the sauce.) so that you can see a bit of the top edge of each slice,
cover the pan with foil, (put on the lid) and refrigerate overnight.
5) The next day, remove any congealed fat from the top of the sauce. Heat the brisket, covered, at 350° F (Don’t ever ever turn your oven up any higher than 350° F to braise your brisket — it will be like a sweat lodge for your brisket and it could definitely dry up. Lots of recipes call for 325° F.)
for 20 minutes, then uncovered for another 20 to 30 minutes until hot and the sauce has reduced a bit. (The notion of reheating it for 40-50 minutes seems excessive to me now. Further, I am not a fan of uncovering the brisket in the oven. When I am ready to serve my brisket, I reheat it slowly on the top of the stove.)
6) Serve with the sauce. (Oh, and because I like a smooth sauce better than a rough one, I put the sauce in the blender. Which also seems to thicken it and kind of silken it. Braised brisket is never really a pretty dish but this helps. It looks way less homely.)
The recipe, as it appears in Stephanie Pierson’s “The Brisket Book.” The author has since revised it. Photograph by Stephanie Pierson
Serves 8 to 10
One 4- to 5-pound beef brisket
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large onions, peeled and cut into eighths
Two 14-ounce cans jellied cranberry sauce, sliced
1) Sprinkle both sides of the brisket with the garlic powder, paprika and salt and pepper taste. Tightly cover the brisket with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two days.
2) When you’re ready to finish the dish, preheat the oven to 500° F.
3) Unwrap the brisket, place it in a roasting pan, and roast for 20 minutes on each side. Remove the pan from the oven and decrease the temperature to 350° F. Place the onions under and around the brisket, then cover the top of the meat with the cranberry sauce slices. Tightly cover the pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil and cook until fork tender, about three hours.
4) Remove the pan from the oven and allow the brisket to cool. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board, trim the fat, then slice the meat against the grain to the desired thickness. Return the slices to the pot, overlapping them at an angle so that you can see a bit of the top edge of each slice, cover the pan with foil, and refrigerate overnight. The next day, remove any congealed fat from the top of the sauce. Heat the brisket, covered, at 350°F for 20 minutes, then uncovered for another 20 to 30 minutes until hot and the sauce has reduced a bit. Serve with the sauce.
I saved the email Rabbi Posner sent me giving permission to use Roberta Greenberg’s Temple Emanu-El brisket recipe because it was so charming. It read:
“You have my heart-felt blessing to use the recipe. I ran this, of course, by my wife, of 41 years. She said, “Davey…what about my recipe for “Steak Continental?” I responded, “Tzipi…please…don’t get involved… I want to keep my job.”
Brad Zimmerman’s road hasn’t been easy — and he lets you know why in his new one-man show. Photograph courtesy of Symphony Space
Ever wondered what it’s like to be an aspiring entertainer stuck waiting tables for decades? I wouldn’t recommend asking one. Instead, you might take a seat at Brad Zimmerman’s one-man show, “My Son the Waiter, a Jewish Tragedy,” which opened last week at Stage 72 at New York’s Triad Theater.
After 30 years waiting tables and trying to find success as an actor and comedian, Zimmerman can finally, quite possibly, make his mother proud.