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]
Growing up in a small Jewish community in the Northwest, Shabbat in my family was celebrated with Kiddush, an occasional family dinner and a loaf of challah if we were not too late stopping by a local bakery that knew what this braided treat was. My experience bared little resemblance to the Shabbats of my counterparts in larger Jewish centers in the States.
So, it wasn’t until I moved to Israel earlier this year that I truly understood why so many describe as being “home” on Shabbat. There’s a certain ambiance and feeling when you’re in Israel that cannot be duplicated. Whether you are in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv on a Friday, the rush and excitement throughout the city as it prepares for the holiday is palpable. From the fragrant smelling shuk on Friday morning, to the overflowing tables of challot in the many bakeries, to the bus driver wishing you a “Shabbat shalom,” that makes Shabbat un-ignorable and meaningful.
On Fridays, you don’t have to go far before someone is inquiring about your Shabbat plans. “What are you doing for Shabbat?” I’m often asked. Before responding, I’m bombarded with an invitation: “You’re coming over to our house,” they say. Striking up a conversation on the bus or in a shop, it’s not unlikely that you will be invited to random stranger’s home for a Shabbat meal.
For the past two years, I have had the privilege of serving as an AmeriCorps Volunteer Coordinator at the Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center. In 2011, I partnered with the Temple Beth David Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and Long Island Cares, a major food bank, to collect and distribute fresh produce to local food pantries for Care to Share. This initiative, a collaboration of UJA-Federation of New York, AmeriCorps, Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty and Hazon, aims to feed the hungry during the Sukkot and harvest season and raise awareness about the importance of healthy eating and nutrition. Volunteers helped promote and support this initiative in Suffolk County by spreading the word and donating fresh fruits and vegetables straight from their home gardens or purchased from a store. Two volunteers I worked closely with, Beth Needleman at Temple Beth David and Elana Sisson at Long Island Cares, played vital roles in helping collect 505 pounds of fresh produce to give to local food pantries, an amazing accomplishment that allowed us to help approximately 490 families on Long Island. We take pride in helping those in need by making their holiday season more abundant and special.
The growth the new food movement has brought about many positive changes, namely an increase in the number of young famers. There has even been an increase in the number of young Jewish farmers in the last few years, bringing us back to our roots an agricultural nation. It appears that the “farm to table” movement is doing more than bringing fresh produce to the dinner table; it is also becoming a way of life, encouraging more people to get their hands dirty. Women are making waves in the corporate sphere and pioneering brilliant entrepreneurial ideas from their kitchens, but it seems that relatively few women have taken up shovels and seeds and headed back to the land. And when it comes to full-time Jewish female farmers, the numbers are still exceptionally low.
Emily Jane Freed, perhaps better known as Farmer Freed, is leading the way as one of very few Jewish female farmers in America. It’s really no surprise that Emily found herself working in agriculture. Growing up in Sonoma County, California, she spent much of her childhood outside playing in the yard. She had local milk delivered to her house, and her parents volunteered at a Food Coop. She was at least 12 years old before she had her first candy bar. Her mom cooked what Emily describes as “pure and healthy food” using natural sweeteners like carob as opposed to refined sugars.
When I talked to cookbook author Susie Fishbein in September, she was at home in Livingston, New Jersey poised to whip up her mother’s recipe of peach cake with soy milk for Shabbat dinner.
The 44-year-old mother of four (her youngest child is 10, the oldest 18) is proudly awaiting publication of her eighth cookbook in a series that has motivated Jewish cooks since its inception in 2003. “Kosher by Design Cooking Coach: Recipes, Tips and Techniques To Make Anyone a Better Cook” hits the shelves October 23rd.
Not one to kick back resting on accolades, Fishbein travels often for inspiration or to make store, TV and food festival appearances.
Chatting with her, she’s completely forthcoming about her lack of culinary training and it’s immediately clear that family comes first and accomplishments are a team effort. Even after selling more than 450,000 books, Fishbein sounds enthusiastic, approachable and genuinely thrilled that the “KBD” series has resonated with people from so many different countries and backgrounds.
“There is only one original Sacher-Torte,” our tour guide told us, “and it is here, at the Hotel Sacher.” My two friends and I exchanged glances. “That’s the chocolate cake we’re supposed to try,” said Sam. Eric put his hands on both our shoulders. “Um, yeah. We’re doing that.”
We were three American Jews in Vienna, the birthplace of my grandfather. We befriended a pair of wandering Israelis — Yuri and Ohad — on our tour, and after its conclusion the five of us rushed to the Hotel Sacher to try the world-famous cake.
The hotel’s main café seemed like a ballroom. Fabrics that would make an interior designer weep lined the walls, chairs and booths. Windows and mirrors everywhere. Chandeliers and candelabras. Everything white and red. The waitstaff sported the same outfits that Hotel Sacher servers have probably worn since Eduard Sacher founded it in 1876.
Wearing tourist garb — T-shirts, shorts, sneakers, backpacks — we blended in about as well as Crocodile Dundee in the Hamptons. But our waitress treated us like dignified guests, anyway. We ordered the “Original Sacher-Torte” and some of the hotel’s gourmet coffees.
This year make room for chocolate in your Sukkot celebration. Sukkot’s theme of openness symbolized by the leafy ceiling and flimsy walls tempts creative approaches to menus, decorations, and customs. Deuteronomy 16:14’s challenge “v’samachta b’chagecha” (to rejoice in the festival) could easily be fulfilled by layering chocolate onto the holiday’s menus. Sukkot’s custom of welcoming honored guests, known as ushpizin, (traditionally Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David; additionally more recently, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Miriam, Abigail, Esther) into the Sukkah. What better way to honor a guest than to treat them to tantalizing chocolate concoctions.
It could also be fun to recall some of the earlier Jews with significant connections to chocolate by extending a symbolic Sukkah invitation of ushpizin to colonial American traders, retailers and manufacturers such as Aaron Lopez, Rebecca Gomez and Daniel Gomez. From the first of the Jewish chocolate makers ever, in Bayonne, France, include Abraham D’Andrade. Cite Jews who developed the navigational sciences of the 15th-16th centuries which in turn created the opportunity for European first contact with cocoa beans, such as Abraham Ben Samuel Zacuto.
Did you hear that Michelle Obama won the presidential candidate’s spouse cookie-baking competition (sponsored by Family Circle)? Whether this news was or wasn’t on your radar, the cookie-baking competition was held yet again this election cycle. Indeed, despite some predictions that not using oats in her cookie would lose her the coveted prize, Obama emerged victorious with black-and-white chocolate cookies, defeating Ann Romney’s M+M cookies, avenging her loss to Cindy McCain’s oatmeal butterscotch variety in the last round.
It’s rare to diss cookie-baking on a food blog. Even for non foodies, cookies are fairly uncontroversial and baking them is generally agreed to be a fun activity, if sometimes messy. I’ve hardly ever met a cookie I’ve turned down, for instance, be it oatmeal or chocolate, molasses or sugar. Beyond that, baking cookies marks my calendar in lovely ways: my dad and I bake chocolate chip cookies together every year for Thanksgiving while mom and I bake meringue cookies annually for Passover.
All that being said, why in this day and age do we still demand this somewhat farcical activity from the spouses of our candidates? It’s symbolic of the entire troubling phenomenon that American still have very rigid gender expectations for our would-be First Ladies, more than we may even have for the women in our own homes and communities. It’s why Michelle Obama never mentions her hard-charging career, for instance.
If you’re reading this before dinner, beware: The hot-off-the-presses Time Out list of the 100 best dishes and drinks in New York will have your stomach rumbling. We at the Jew and the Carrot were kvelling over some of our favorite Jewish-inspired culinary picks that made the list. Shelskey’s Smoked Fish’s Clementine and Ginger Rugelach, for example, a tangy answer to the original, was one of our favorites. Another one was the caviar knish at Torrisi Italian Specialties, a chi-chi update on the Old World classic. Nor could we wait to sink our spoons into the Deli Ramen at Dassara, a Japanese noodle dish spiced up with matzo balls and strips of smoked meat.
Another mouth-watering entry was the breakfast burger at Mile End Sandwich, which Jay Cheshes says “puts [the McMuffin] to shame.” We would have also voted for the delectable smoked meat hash, the perfect Saturday morning staple. And there was the old standby: Marlow & Sons’ smoked whitefish on a bagel. Rounding out the list was the spicy carrot horseradish from Gefilteria, a ”fiery, flavor-packed chutney” that writer Leah Koenig recommends in a Bloody Mary. Was there anything that Koenig wished that Time Out didn’t leave out? Lagman soup from Cheburechnaya in Rego Park, Queens, a stew thick with beef and noodles. There are probably a few others we’d wish they’d have considered (the Deli Charcuterie Platter at Kutsher’s Tribeca and Kasha Varnishes with lamb meatballs at ABC Kitchen to name two), but we’re too distracted by visions of dancing rugelach to bother.
What’s your all-time favorite Jewish food?
Manna, the unknown substance upon which the Jews subsisted in the desert, has been a subject of mystery and wonder to the Jewish people for many thousands of years. Last night, a trendy New York beit-midrash study group called LABA brought the question to the table once again as part of their year-long discussion of food and eating. When I spoke to event organizer and Laba artistic director, Elissa Strauss, she explained that Manna is a miracle and a mystery. It’s not what we think of when we think about Jewish food, but it was a really important part of the Jewish experience in the Desert.
Restaurants with views of New York’s skyline are rare, and in the kosher world, non-existent. Well, that was true until this Sunday, when Prime at the Bentley opened atop the Bentley Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
The Mediterranean restaurant is a three to four month pop-up project from Joey Allaham, the owner of The Prime Grill, Solo, and Prime KO, who wanted to give the kosher community a taste of one of the year’s biggest dining trends.
With its 21st floor penthouse view and a second-story rooftop to boot, diners can start their meals with tuna sliders or fried artichokes before enjoying delicacies like veal scallopini ($42), chicken “parmesan” ($28), or the Bentley burger ($12), a 12-ounce black angus patty with crisp “bacon”, sun dried tomato, mayonnaise and Arugula on a brioche bun.
If Jewish chefs were rock stars, then the weekend of October 12-14 would be their Lollapalooza, a veritable festival of culinary treats and talk. As part of the NYC Food and Wine Festival, Noah and Rae Bernamoff, the minds behind the Montreal-style deli Mile End, are co-hosting a nine-course Shabbat dinner, complete with bone marrow matzoh balls, deconstructed babka, and braised lamb brisket from many of the top Jewish restaurants across the country. (As the website remind eaters, those with dietary restrictions need not apply.)
And in case you don’t get enough talk about gefilte fish and brisket there, the following day ABC Home, in conjunction with Tablet Magazine and Mile End, will host a Future of Jewish Food panel that will leave you drooling. “Top Chef” judge Gail Simmons tops the list, joined by James Beard Foundation Vice President Mitchell Davis and Time Out Food and Drink Editor Jordana Rothman. Panel moderator Joan Nathan will lead the discussion about Jewish food in the home, followed by a conversation with some of the country’s top deli men, including Wise Son’s Evan Bloom and Peter Levitt from Berkeley’s Saul’s Delicatessen. But after the talking comes the best part: House-made pastrami from each of the featured delis.
During the High Holy Days when we are asked to take stock of our own lives and to squarely confront our own mortality, it is appropriate to also examine the well-being of the larger Creation upon which we depend, and of which we are a part. When we consider water, it has been quite a year indeed. We have witnessed a frightening series of droughts, forest fires, floods, ice melts, heat waves, and other extreme weather events. On top of these natural phenomena, hydrofracking has emerged as one of the most significant environmental issues of our time. Kyle Rabin, Director of GRACE Foundation’s Water and Energy Programs, notes that, “It takes 4.5 million gallons of water to drill and fracture a typical deep shale gas well, and up to 1 million gallons of that hazardous water-sand-chemical mixture flows back up to the surface which, if mishandled, can pose a threat to nearby water resources.”
The Torah is full of references to “mayim chayim,” “living waters.” The language of mayim chayim is used in a number of contexts. It is used to describe the fresh, potable water that Isaac’s servants find when re-digging Abraham’s stopped wells (Genesis 26:19), and by the prophet Jeremiah who refers to the Creator as the “Source of Living Waters,” (Jeremiah 17:13). Finally, the language of “living waters” in used commonly in the context of ritual purification for both people and for objects (Numbers 19:17 for example).
You may want to hold off on that lox to go with your bagel and schmear — at least until you can be sure that the smoked salmon was not produced by the Dutch company Foppen.
There has been a widespread salmonella food poisoning outbreak linked to Foppen’s lox, which is sold in the United States by Costco, under its Kirkland house brand. In response to notification on Monday of the outbreak by Foppen, Costco has removed all of the lox from its shelves and has blocked it from being scanned at its stores’ checkouts.
Ayala Moriel, a Vancouver-based artisan natural perfumer is attracting some interesting attention this sukkot and it’s not for her sukkah. Moriel has bottled the scent of the holiday (or atleast it’s signature fruit) in her Etrog Oy de Cologne. The perfume is made by blending the essence of etrog or citron with smells of pomelo, Japanese mint, green myrtle, honey, lemon myrtle and frankincense.
The scent is one of the latest among the approximately 50 all-natural hand crafted fragrances Moriel has created for Ayala Moriel Parfums, the company she started in 2001. “It’s climbing fast onto my bestseller list. It’s nice to see something new so well received,” she said about the etrog cologne, which has more staying power than most citrus fragrances, which tend to dissipate quickly.
Although Moriel is known mainly for her botanical fragrances, some of which are considered by experts to be as refined as some of the classical European perfumes. She has also begun to expand her offerings to include perfumed tea and chocolates.
“It’s like adapting a short story into a movie” Moriel said of her process of producing food stuffs that correspond to her perfumes.
Stuffed vegetables are a central part of the Jewish culinary canon, but growing up I thought they were limited to cabbage and peppers. Only when I moved to Israel did I come to appreciate the sheer multitude of vegetables that can be stuffed — peppers and cabbage yes, but also tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, eggplant, onions, and more. Of all of them it was the stuffed onions that were a true revelation, those delicate, tear-inducing layers wrapped around sweet and savory mixtures of meat and stewed until rich and tender.
They make the perfect dish for Sukkot either as a side or centerpiece. While there are no foods specific to the fall harvest holiday, stuffed items — in the form of kreplach, stuffed vegetables, fruit-filled pastries, and whatever else you might imagine — have become the standard. Some believe that stuffed foods represent the bounty that comes with a good harvest. Others say that stuffed foods are akin to being wrapped in a Sukkah. On a practical level, stuffed vegetables can also be made ahead, are good hot or room temperature, and can be easily transported to the Sukkah. Whatever the reason, it’s a delicious custom.
Pastrami is no longer just deli fare. In New York, you’ll find it in tacos, ramen and even Kung Pao. [Fork in the Road]
In the Jewish Cookery Book, the first kosher and Jewish cookbook published in America, author Esther Levy provides a recipe for challah but calls it something completely different. Curious? Find out what she called it. [Haaretz]
Celebrate fall and have a delicious meal in the Sukkah with Ruth Reichl’s pumpkin pancakes. [Ruth Reichl]
If you need a break from hummus on your challah, try this delicious sounding bean dip with dill, mint and parsley. [David Lebovitz]
Yehuda Goldberg, owner and chef at Sepha Catering in Toronto is offering his clients something unusual.
As far as Goldberg knows, he is the only kosher caterer in the city — and perhaps anywhere — using the French cooking method sous vide. The technique, which means “under vacuum” in French, calls for food to be sealed in an airtight plastic bag and immersed in a bath of low temperature water for extended periods of time resulting in extremely moist and flavorful dishes.
The technique is part of the school of molecular gastronomy, which uses modern technology and science to manipulate food. Avant-garde chefs like Grant Achatz and Ferran Adria have used carbon dioxide to create bubbles or foam, liquid nitrogen for flash freezing and shattering and ultrasound waves to control cooking times. Until now, molecular gastronomy was virtually unheard of in the kosher community, but Goldberg, who hails from a large Lubavitcher family and trained in Europe, hopes to change that.
We chatted with him about ultra-moist gefilte fish, a 27-hour brisket, and what sous vide chefs call “the danger zone.”
If you’re Jewish, and into food, and not outraged, then you’re not paying attention.
Americans like to think of ourselves as a generous people, and we are – even though special interests transform much of our international food aid programs into a wasteful boondoggle that undermines the abilities of communities and countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to feed themselves. And that’s what’s happening now. Food aid is critical and important, but for it to work, it needs to work right, and right now, not enough of it is.
Here’s why: if children are starving in part of Ethiopia, it makes sense for US aid dollars to buy food from farmers close by in other parts of Ethiopia or neighboring countries. Buying locally develops and sustains local agriculture, and gets the food to those in need quickly. But instead current US law requires virtually all food aid to be bought from heavily subsidized US agribusinesses and shipped overseas. That means that more than half of every food aid grain dollar is wasted in subsidizing large companies and shipping costs and takes up to 14 weeks longer to reach hungry people than buying food locally. And it’s even worse than that, because sending free or subsidized US grain to developing countries such as Haiti can undermine local agriculture in the long-term, making future famines more likely, as communities are no longer able to feed themselves in the face of future shocks such as drought. Communities in which I have worked as a volunteer with American Jewish World Service are now far more vulnerable to hunger are a result of of subsidized US food dumped into their countries.