The Jew And The Carrot

What Makes the Jewish Deli American?

By Ted Merwin/Haaretz

Thinkstock

When Haaretz’s food and wine critic, the late Daniel Rogov, moved from Paris to Tel Aviv in the late 1970s, he discovered a cornucopia of Jewish foods from all over the world, stemming from the manifold cultures from which Jews had immigrated. What he missed was one of his favorite foods from his childhood in Brooklyn: a pastrami sandwich on rye.

Indeed, what is arguably the quintessential American Jewish dish has never played a major role in any other Jewish cuisine in the world. There is something irreducibly American about the deli sandwich, which bespeaks the unique history of American Jews.

Much of the Jewish deli sandwich’s popularity in America is tied to the evolution of the sandwich itself, which exploded in popularity after the First World War. Even before the advent of the mechanical bread slicer in Iowa in 1928, the sandwich (originally invented by Rabbi Hillel the Elder, as we commemorate each year during the Passover seder), became one of the most popular of all American foods, with more than 5,000 sandwich shops in New York by the mid 1920s. In a city defined by its manic energy, the sandwich became the perfect fuel for people on the go.

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Debates: Should Foie Gras Be Banned?

By Blair Thornburgh

Courtesy of Hudson Valley Foie Grasa

It’s not only the humble hot dog getting a grilling in the media these days: a much fancier Jewish food has been making headlines and igniting the passions of foodies and lawmakers alike. Is it a killer kugel? A rogue rugelach? Or a fiendish…foie gras?

Yes, the delicacy of pate made from fatty bird liver, which as of yesterday is banned California (after a seven-and-a-half year grace period passed after a 2004 law), is thoroughly Jewish, says Michael Ginor, acclaimed chef and author of “Foie Gras…A Passion.” “Duck and goose fat made a good substitute for pork,” says Ginor, who is also the president of Hudson Valley Foie Gras in Ferndale, New York.

The rich foodstuff is practically synonymous with luxury, a perennial favorite of gourmet chefs that’s singular in its sumptuousness. “It’s unlike any other animal product that I know of,” Jon Shook, owner of the Los Angeles restaurant Animal, told the New York Times. “We’re working on dishes to replace it, but you can never really replace foie gras.” Still, not everyone’s so eager to tuck in to the treat. To produce the highly-sought-after enlarged liver, geese or ducks must be force-fed for the last days of their lives leading up to slaughter. The process — called “gavage” — has long been a lightning rod for the ire of animal-rights activists, spurring California lawmakers to push for a statewide prohibition the on production and sale of foie gras.

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CSA: Swiss Chard; From Leaves to Pilaf

By Dahlia Abraham-Klein

Dahlia Abraham-Klein

Typical of crops that grow well in the late spring, is the Swiss Chard, which is making its first appearance in the local farmers markets and CSA’s. It contains a lot of fiber, and a host of antioxidant vitamins. It is a tall leafy green vegetable with a thick, crunchy stalk that comes in a fuchsia, white, organge or yellow stem with wide fan-like green leaves. Chard belongs to the same family as beets and spinach and shares a similar taste profile: it has the bitterness of beet greens and the slightly salty flavor of spinach leaves. Both the leaves and stalk of chard are edible. In fact, chard and beets formally share the same Hebrew name, selek.

It is uncertain how chard, a native of the eastern Mediterranean, moved to the west and grew plentifully. However because it grows best in coastal areas with plenty of rainfall, it’s easy to grow chard in the northeast. Their leaf regenerate after cutting, extending the life cycle of this hearty vegetable. It tolerates heat and cold, which is why it grows well on the eastern tip of Long Island, where my CSA is located.

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Mixing Bowl: Bourekasabich; Shabbat Dinner Ideas

By Devra Ferst

iStock

The Nosher’s Shabbat recipe round-up includes a recipe for fig taleggio pizza and roasted peaches served with lavender ice cream. If you’re cooking this for Shabbat, we would love an invitation! [My Jewish Learning]

Boureka + Sabich = Bourekasabich. A delicious and rich combination of two Israeli foods. [Midtown Lunch]

Take a tour of Jerusalem’s Machneh Yehudah market in photos. [The Kitchn]

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Jon Stewart's Hot Dog Bris

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Flickr: Stephen Cummings

If you were worried that the Hebrew National class action case had slipped by Jon Stewart, fear not!

After a clip from CNN about the controversy ran on “The Daily Show” last night, Stewart exclaimed “WHAT? Not 100% kosher! Or as it’s known to Jews: not kosher!” Impressing us with his Talmudic knowledge, he offered a few possibilities for how exactly the hot dog meat could indeed not be kosher. “Some of the rats that fell into the meat pulverizer have cloven hooves?” he quipped hitting on some of the fine points of kashrut, as well as the unappetizing shortcomings of the meat industry in general.

Video Below

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Shabbat Meals: Learning To Cook the Classics

By Helen Nash

Thinkstock

It was not until I married my late husband, 54 years ago, that I began to be seriously interested in the preparation and presentation of food. Until then I knew very little about food — almost nothing

I was born in Poland and when the war broke out I was only 4 1/2 years old. I have no recollection of what we ate at home before the war started. During the war we lived in Russian labor camps, moving from place to place where we hardly saw any vegetables, fruits, meat or fish, eggs or cheese. It was mostly a ration diet of subsistence level.

Coming to the United States as a teenager I still was not particularly interested in food. Just getting acclimatized to a new country, a new culture and a new lifestyle was challenging enough.

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What Drives Our Interest in Food Justice?

By Molly Zeff

Molly Zeff
Equal Exchange worker-owner Molly Zeff in Nicaragua with a co-operative’s farm partner and one of their faith-based partners from the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

When is the last time a complete stranger asked you to tell your personal story explaining why you care about a political or social issue?

As part of my job as a community sales representative at Equal Exchange, I ask customers, who are, for the most part, strangers, to share their personal stories all the time. Why are they spending their limited time on Fair Trade, promoting the programs of our worker-owned co-operative? Why do they care so much about the farmers growing our food?

During phone calls, customers I’ve never met in person share stories of deeply humbling international trips to visit coffee farmers; stories about their grandfather, a small-scale tobacco farmer, being taken advantage of by a large agribusiness; and stories about the first time they heard a news report on the widespread use of child slaves in the cocoa industry.

These unique stories led to the same conclusion: The people who grow our food deserve higher wages and more humane treatment.

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Rozanne Gold's Tales of the Mayor's Kitchen

By Rebecca Flint Marx

Courtesy of Rozanne Gold
Rozanne Gold cooking in the Gracie Mansion Kitchen in 1978 for Mayor Ed Koch.

Before Rozanne Gold wrote 12 cookbooks, won four James Beard Awards, created the menus for three of New York’s three-star restaurants, inspired the New York Times’ “Minimalist” column and invented the concept of Hudson Valley Cuisine, she was the private chef to Mayor Ed Koch.

Gold, who was only 23 when she moved into Gracie Mansion in 1978, spent a year squeezing fresh grapefruit juice for the mayor’s breakfast and creating the sort of simple yet sophisticated dishes that would become a hallmark of her work. It was also here that Gold prepared her first Seder, even using the mayor’s personal tips for matzo balls.

The Gracie Mansion Conservancy recently announced that the residence’s kitchen would undergo a $1.4 million renovation, its first since 1985. Gold spoke with us about her time there, reminiscing about everything from the fern wallpaper to former New York City Mayor Abe Beame’s abandoned flanken.

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Cheese, A New Culture of Kosher

By Emil Boch

Kosher cheeses from around the world can be impossible to find. Just try to locate a hekhshered English Lancashire, Greek Halloumi, Spanish Cabrales, or triple crème from France and you will be utterly disappointed. For American home cooks, or even professional chefs, this can put a halt to some recipes that delve into the cultures of faraway places that could intrigue and delight one’s family, friends, or clientele. Cheese is an integral part of many country’s cuisines and something that had been made at home for centuries. While some varieties require a few specialty ingredients and long tedious processes, others can be produced very simply in under a few hours without much supervision — a superb way for the home chef to add a bit authenticity to a regional recipe while still sticking within kosher confines.

Indian cuisine can be prepared best as a dairy meal, the main reason for this being the consistent use of ghee (clarified butter). This key ingredient is easily made at home by slowly heating a desired amount of butter in a saucepan and ladling off the milk solids that rise to the top. You are then left with a translucent yellowish cooking oil that is great for anything from simmering to sautéing at high heats. Without the milk solids, the clarified butter has a higher smoke point, but still maintains a rich flavor. Ghee is used in many traditional recipes and adds richness to vegetarian dishes such as dahl makhani, lentils cooked in a garlicky, buttery sauce, and chana masala, chickpeas simmered in a spicy tomato & onion base. Another ingredient that will generously diversify your Indian recipe repertoire is paneer, a traditional Indian cheese that can be made at home with only two ingredients. Paneer, with its versatile mild flavor, can be used in many ways — appetizers, main course, and desserts

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Best of the Kosher Wursts

By Blair Thornburgh

Courtesy of Jack’s Gourmet

The jury’s still out on the case of whether Hebrew National’s kosher or not. Luckily, there are many more meaty options for this summer’s weenie roasts, after all, there are few things are more delicious than a grilled-to-perfection hot dog. While beef hot dogs are an undeniable simple pleasure of backyard cuisine, the standard supermarket franks are far from the only options. These days, kosher cookout guests can enjoy a huge variety of the tasty and tube-shaped. From basic beef to lower-fat chicken to the more exotic tastes of chipotle peppers and smoked duck, there are plenty of bun-ready bites to sample, many sourced from grass-fed animals and sustainable farms. To be quite frank, you might need a bigger grill.

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CSA: It's Garlic Season Ya'll!

By Miriam Leibowitz

WikiCommons

Last fall, as my CSA was winding down, one of the farmers, Mark, gave me a LOT of garlic cloves from his planting stash. They were 2 inch cloves, huge by any standard, and I was loathe to relegate them to the dirt for replanting, when all I wanted to do was devour them.

I took several to the garden I tend at my synagogue, and planted the rest at home. After planting each bulb at a depth of about 2 inches, I covered them with soil, watered them, and at home I mulched them with about 4 inches of straw. The cloves grew slowly over the winter, and this spring I had 45 gorgeous garlic plants growing at home.

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Mixing Bowl: Pastrami Knish; Farm Bill

By Devra Ferst

iStock

Catch a sneak peak of “The Mile End Cookbook,” which has a whole section on DIY deli. We’re getting hungry just thinking about it. [Grub Street]

This week the Senate passed the farm bill. Now, on to the House! [New York Times]

When it comes to food labeling, it looks like kosher is king. [NPR]

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UK's Lone Kosher Pub Loses Certification

By Sarah Kessler

Thinkstock

“It’s not actually a Jewish pub,” explained Robert Greene, business partner at The Castle in North London, which has a dance floor, garden patio, real ale menu and a halachic twist: it’s the only kosher pub in the country.

“We’re providing a service that everyone can enjoy, the food just happens to be kosher — I mean — it is still kosher but it just hasn’t got a certificate at the moment,” he added.

So it was the only kosher pub in the country, licensed by the Federation of Synagogues Kashrus between Hanukkah of last year and last week.

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The Unlikely Beginnings of a Jewish Cook

By Rhea Yablon Kennedy

Bill Cox
Members of the Videofreex collective pose in a Manhattan loft circa 1970. The author’s father, Chuck Kennedy, stands in the top row, second from left. Photoshopped from an original by Bill Cox, courtesy of Videofreex.com.

More than anything else, I can thank a salmon dish for bringing me into this world. It was that take on a fish ubiquitous to Jewish tables that nudged my Yeshiva-educated mother to fall for my lapsed Catholic dad.

“This is impressive!” My mother exclaimed upon her introduction to the salmon and other tasty wonders on her first date with a new guy. “Who catered this party?” She asked.

Her date, the long-haired, bearded technician for the Videofreex video collective shrugged. “Oh, I cooked it,” he said.

My mother is still blown away when she tells this story. My father’s dedication to good food has stayed alive all those years and traveled with me thousands of miles.

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Does Hebrew National 'Answer to a Higher Authority'?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Flickr: Stephen Cummings

Kosher BBQ enthusiasts and other fans of the essential kosher hot dog, Hebrew National — which advertises that they “answer to a higher authority” — have been following a recent lawsuit alleging that the company’s franks and other products are not kosher.

The suit was filed against ConAgra, the parent company of Hebrew National, by 11 plaintiffs who live around the country on May 18 in Minnesota’s state court. The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages and restitution for ConAgra’s “deceptively and misleading mislabeling Hebrew National products as strictly 100% kosher, when they are not,” according to court documents. These products include Hebrew National’s line of hot dog/beef franks, salami, sausage and deli meats. At issue is not whether or not the meat used is beef, but rather whether it is slaughtered and handled according to kosher standards.

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Shabbat Meals: Red Mullet alla Livornese

By Alessandra Rovati

Dinner in Venice

My most lingering impression of New York City, after the excitement of my arrival (in 2003) had worn off, was that all the buzz and the people were there only to hide a deep and persistent potential for loneliness.

This feeling of being alone in a crowd reached its peak on Shabbat when, ironically, I was almost always invited out. But meeting so many people at the same time just seemed to make it more difficult to focus and build real friendships.

A few weeks after my move, I was fortunate enough to meet Lea and Gastone at a lecture. They were an older couple from Livorno, Italy, a large port city on the west coast of Tuscany, who had come to New York in the 1970’s when Gastone was hired to work as a foreign correspondent for Italian television. Lea’s soft Tuscan accent and her husband’s Old World elegance immediately put me at ease, and I was happy to let them “adopt me” for the occasional meal.

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A Walk in the Life of a Vegan

By Julie Mirliss

Although I just moved to New York City a little over two weeks ago, I somehow have my morning routine set. I skip over the seemingly endless amount of spam mail and jump straight to the 5-10 emails from almost every website out there offering coupons towards restaurants, events, and more fun deals around the city. While it’s easy to pass over many offers, one deal stood out that neither my roommate nor I could overlook. Since we both are eager to explore this city and try new things, no convincing was necessary to purchase last week’s Google Offer for two tickets to The Seed: A Vegan Experience

Since around 2004, interest in veganism has steadily been rising, due to people’s increasing awareness of how their diet affects their health, the environment and animals. While seemingly unusual and unrealistic for many, this plant-based lifestyle has found its way into mainstream, with many celebrity advocates such as former President Bill Clinton, Alicia Silverstone, Steve Wynn, Mike Tyson, Carrie Underwood, Ozzy Osbourne, Russell Simmons, and many more. Nowadays, vegan options are showing up on menus at restaurants around the country, making this lifestyle not seem so crazy, but surprisingly delicious and doable. (Not to mention the many rewarding health benefits!)

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Dutch Debate Over Kosher Slaughter Ends

By JTA

The Dutch Senate formally scrapped legislation to ban ritual slaughter in the Netherlands.

Fifty-one of the 75 senators voted Tuesday not to ratify the law passed last year by the parliament.

The vote is the final word in a protracted public debate about animal welfare, religious freedom and integration that began in September 2008, when tiny Holland’s Party for Animals submitted a bill to ban the slaughter of conscious animals. Islamic and Jewish law require that animals be conscious at the time of the slaughter.

Last week, the Dutch Senate ratified a deal to adapt ritual slaughter to the state’s animal welfare norms.

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In a Pickle: Giving a Full Sour Its Due

By Louis Finkelman

thinkstock

Consumer Reports recently recruited a team of five expert tasters to sample 10 different brands of pickles. After three days of pickle chomping, the taste testers reached a conclusion: Only the Whole Foods house brand, 365 Everyday Value, earned the ranking of “excellent.” Trader Joe’s pickles came in second. Almost all of the other brands, including Vlasic, B & G, Claussen and Boar’s Head kosher dill spears, merited the rank of “very good.” One poor entry, the Ba-Tampte Kosher Dill Deli Spears pickle earned the sad rank of “good,” the lowest rank of the bunch.

How did Consumer Reports go so wrong?

A look at the report makes clear that the experts were not looking for the kind of pickle that the man in the appetizing store fished out of a wooden barrel for me when I was a child.

They did not seek a true sour pickle, or even its less mature relative, the half-sour. Taste testers on the investigative team at Consumer Reports stated that they were looking for pickles with “crispy skins,” and “crunchy insides.” They note without comment which pickles have “bright colors,” as if this does not disqualify a pickle from consideration and might even qualify as a virtue.

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Turning the Tables: Why I Like the Big Gulp Ban

By Rabbi Noah Zvi Farkas

A lot of ink has been spilled about Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on large sodas in New York City. The central question is whether citizens should sacrifice freedoms such as the ability to choose an oil tanker-sized soda in order to ensure more healthy society. This battle of values pits freedom against health: Is there anything Jewish about this kind of debate?

As American Jews we certainly value our freedom. If we didn’t value liberty even in its most basic form as freedom from oppression, there would be nothing to our sense of exceptional nature of the American Diaspora. Our ancestors would have seen nothing in this land between the Atlantic and the Pacific worth crossing vast oceans to achieve. In the Torah, our quest for freedom begins at the birth of our nation: “Remember this day, on which you went free from Egypt, the house of bondage, how the lord freed you from it with a mighty hand.” (Exodus 13:5) Freedom is very much part of who we are. So, why not be able to drink what we want, when we want? God freed me from slavery, so I can slurp!

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