Tamar Adler's Fried Jewish Artichokes
Save the Bubbes!
The Curious History of Kosher Salt
Shiva for Stage Deli
Berlin's Jewish Foodie Comeback
The Great Deli Rescue
Romping Through the Jewish Pumpkin Patch
Haimish to Haute, NYC Transforms Jewish Food
Bay Area's DIY Jewish Food Movement
Yid.Dish Recipe Box
'Inside the Jewish Bakery’
The Bacon Problem
Manischewitz Goes Sephardic
Jews and the Booze
Jews and Beer
Taking the Food Tour That Keeps on Feeding
At Kosher Feast, Fried Locusts for Dessert
Live Long and Super: Supermarket History
A Slice of Hebrew Pizza
Grow and Behold: A New Line of Kosher Chicken Launches A Conversation Around Jewish Food Ethics
When In Rome… Eat Like the Jews Do
A Letter to Our Readers
JCarrot Archives: 2006-August 2010
Shabbat Dinner, With Panache
As I suspect is the case with many Jewish families, my family has been in a gefilte fish crisis for as long as I can remember. When a family grows up with homemade gefilte fish from the hands of a Jewish bubbe, and then bubbe deems making the holiday treat from scratch “too much work,” eating jarred gefilte fish just won’t cut it. Panic ensues.
We’ve resorted to what can be best described as gefilte roulette: each year we try out a new “homemade” gefilte fish from various kosher specialty stores. Sometimes we stick with one variety for a few years, then we discern subtle changes that leave a bad taste in our mouths — one store’s fish becomes too sweet or not sweet enough, another’s is too salty, and one tasted spoiled. Despite the minor flavor and textural nuances, these commercially produced gefilte fishes are all strikingly uniform in their long loaves and pale complexions. But, when done right they can be tasty.
What happens after Farm-to-Table? Bloomberg Businessweek reports on municipal-wide composting, writing “Farm to table is good. Farm to table back to farm is even better.”
The Progressive Jewish Alliance in LA has created an innovative infographic, bringing the Seder plate in to the modern context of food deserts — areas with little or no access to the food needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
The Atlantic attempts to answer why Americans love Manischewitz wine, especially on Passover.
Disappointed you missed the White House Seder? Obamafoodorama has the details and the White House’s Seder recipe collection.
Eating Jewish shares haroset recipes from Surinam, Italy, Iran and Israel. The Seders are already over, but haroset is great on plain or Greek yogurt year round.
TIME magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people includes two foodies this year — chef Grant Achatz and Michelle Obama, for her healthy food initiatives.
The sacrificial lamb of the Passover story rarely makes it into the Passover meal other than as a symbol on the Seder plate. But, by serving it as a main course — smoked, smothered in harissa and sprinkled with fresh rosemary — chef Aaron Israel of Mile End Deli enlivened the Passover story for 80 diners at the Seder in the James Beard Foundation pop-up restaurant at Chelsea Market on Tuesday night. The event was one of a number of iterations of the Foundation’s pop-up restaurant, which will host noted chefs for 27 days this spring.
The Passover story, Seder and food are framed in many Jewish circles as things to be reinterpreted each year, by each family or group performing a Seder. Many cooks turn to Sephardic traditions to spice up the standard Ashkenazi staples or even look to other cultures (a co-worker made a Mexican brisket for her Seder this year). But it is rare that cooks look back at Ashkenazi culinary traditions and think how they can reinterpret the Seder classics.
The Beard Seder honored both tradition and innovation through a surprisingly creative and yet familiar meal. Each of the five courses Israel created was inspired by an item on the Seder plate — karpas, haroset, maror, betzah, the egg and zeroah, or the lamb shank. The dishes, which were served communally at long tables, looked deep into tradition for inspiration, bringing modern food sensibilities to the table as well as a handful of ingredients from other traditions.
When most of us go to an Israeli market or shuk, we experience a colorful hustle and bustle, and plenty of shoving and shouting going on around us. Nir Avieli, on the other hand, stands among the fish mongers, vegetable sellers and spice merchants and sees a precise order in all of this chaos.
Avieli, an affable and outspoken professor of anthropology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, studies food and culture. “My main interest is food as a cultural artifact – how food reflects and sometimes even produces culture,” he explained. He spent three years in a town in central Vietnam studying its food ways, exploring its marketplace, and discovering how food and power can be closely related.
Back in Israel, Avieli has focused his research and teaching on issues of food and power, and has once again turned his attention toward markets. On his own and with his students, he has explored the markets in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beer Sheva, and has come up with some unique findings. I recently sat down with Avieli and asked him how anthropologists work methodically amid the tumult of a crowded shuk, and whether his years of observing Vietnamese markets helped him understand Israeli ones.
I have a complicated relationship with egg salad. As a child I consumed it the way other kids inhaled fruit roll-ups. A creature of consistency, I demanded egg salad on challah every day for lunch. Then I went to the doctor, who determined I had the cholesterol of a 97 year-old Kentucky Fried Chicken employee. I was 9.
My egg salad days were swiftly replaced with peanut butter on whole wheat eternities, and egg salad became a Shabbat treat. We went to my Bubby’s for Shabbat dinner every week. There, she plied us with traditional Czech delicacies like schnitzel and palacinki (delicate crepes stuffed with fruit), and of course egg salad.
But Bubby’s egg salad was a far cry from the bright yellow, creamy, mustardy deli staple. It was a more mature, mayo-free affair made with chopped eggs and sautéed onions and dashed with sweet Hungarian paprika. Given its ratios it could’ve just as well been called onion salad. Bubby mushed it flat like a paté and served it as an appetizer, with chunky slabs of challah. It kept us busy while she finished readying dinner in her small kitchen, which smelled like sautéed onions, cigarettes and icing sugar.
When I first baked matzo in my clay oven in Israel, I tried to find native wheat to use in my recipe. After all, the first wheat varieties evolved in the Fertile Crescent and were likely used in the first pieces of matzo baked. Search as I did, I was unable to find any heritage wheats. Nothing. Israeli bakers explained to me that their wheat is imported from American mega-farms, with 10% local wheat mixed in. Even that 10% is modern wheat bred for the global industry.
Loss of heritage wheat is a world-wide silent crisis. Like other modern plants bred for yield, modern wheat is dependent on agrochemicals to survive. Nutrition and flavor are forgotten in exchange for higher production. Just as the potatoes in Ireland were wiped out by blight in 1845 due to uniformity, modern wheat is a disaster waiting to happen. Global warming looms menacingly over modern uniform wheat fine-tuned for predictable conditions. Heritage wheats evolved without chemicals, are tall to compete naturally with weeds, have extensive roots that absorb organic nutrients, and have diverse characteristics to make them adaptable to various circumstances.
When I first went gluten-free two years ago, people regularly asked me: “What on Earth do you eat?” In general, the diets of most people I know are centered around items like bread and pasta, so they couldn’t fathom how I could eat enough to stay alive without eating those staples.
The funny thing is that I eat a more varied diet than I did before I went gluten-free. I started using more whole, fresh ingredients like fruits, vegetables and proteins. I started thinking outside the box — literally. I can’t remember the last time I cooked something that wasn’t almost entirely from scratch.
Having food allergies, I am vigilant about what I eat, and that has made me think more broadly about what I put into my body. When was the last time you looked at that box of microwave mac-n-cheese to see what was actually in it?
At first glance one might assume that a Sipping Seder, made up of six potent cocktails inspired by the Seder plate, is simply the grown up equivalent of the primary school’s set’s chocolate Seder — an excuse to over indulge, or a means to induce an alcoholic haze to counter the stress of a family Seder. Or perhaps, the maror and shank bone inspired drinks are simply the latest in the long line of Jewish kitsch.
But to meet the creators of this newest Passover culinary innovation is to quickly understand that kitsch, humor and pandering were the furthest things from the minds of Rob Corwin and Danny Jacobs, two serious cocktail enthusiasts. Outsiders may be oblivious, but their cocktail creations are cultural expressions with historic and social value. That seriousness played out in every stage of developing the recently launched Sipping Seder.
Matzo is bread made from flour of members of the wheat and barley families mixed with water and then, to avoid engendering hametz, baked within 18 minutes of mixing. Historically, it was customary for each household to bake their own matzos. The result would be virtually unrecognizable to modern American Jews, it was a relatively soft, thin round loaf akin to a firm (pocket-less) pita bread.
For thousands of years, matzo was made fresh on a daily basis throughout Passover, except for the Sabbath. Mishaps in the kitchen before Passover were no problem, they were simply thrown out or eaten before the holiday, but mistakes during the holiday contaminated a family’s kitchen with forbidden hametz. Starting in the late Middle Ages, to avoid even the possibility of creating hametz on Passover, Ashkenazim developed a stringency to bake their matzo only before the onset of Passover and never during the festival. At this time a decision was made to make thinner more crisp matzos to further protect against hametz.
In 1886, Rabbi Abramson from the Lithuanian town of Salant purchased the passport of a dead man to escape from Europe — and possibly conscription into the Russian army — the name on the document being Dov Behr Manischewitz. Using his new name, Manischewitz along with his wife, Nesha, immigrated to Cincinnati, where he served as a ritual slaughterer and part-time peddler. For his first Passover in American, with matzo impossible to obtain in his new hometown, Manischewitz made his own. Two years later, he started a small matzo bakery in his basement for family and friends. Demand grew both from the Jewish community and from an unexpected market. At the time, Cincinnati was a prominent starting point for pioneers heading West, who needed durable and nonperishable items to take in their wagons for the lengthy, dangerous trip. Matzo’s keeping ability proved ideal for pioneers.
More and more, young Jews and families are creating their own Passover traditions in restaurants. Joan Nathan reports for the New York Times.
One last dessert idea: matzo toffee with chocolate, almonds and sea salt. Need we say more? Thank you Serious Eats.
Matzo brei — ah, the perfect Passover brunch food. Try a recipe with bananas and pecans on The Kitchn, with pear and sour dried cherries on Serious Eats, or with lox, dill and onions on the New York Times.
According Kosher Nexus there’s a “Matzah Hotline” (1-888-MATZAH) to answer your Passover questions. There must be loads of people with questions, since we kept getting a busy signal.
Any chef will tell you that the secret to a great Passover dessert is not trying to make kosher-for-Passover versions of year-round cakes. Don’t even think about baking a loaf cake or pie that requires switching out cups of flour for loads of matzo meal or potato starch. Instead, stick to recipes that have little or no flour, or recipes that call for nuts instead of flour.
Flourless chocolate cake is the most well-known Passover-friendly dessert, but we checked in with four talented chefs — a Jewish cookbook author, a Food Network test-kitchen director, a fine-dining restaurateur and a Food Network host — for some more unusual recommendations. Whether it’s a refreshing granita, decadent chocolate truffle, a Mediterranean-style walnut and date cake or the more traditional mandel bread, we think these desserts are winners — on Passover and all year long.
I have a confession. I pretty much hate Jewish Food. Not all Jewish food, of course, but the ubiquitous beige and brown kugels and meat-heavy holiday tables I grew up with never really did it for me. Passover in particular, with hidden matzo meal and farfel at every turn was never something I looked forward to. But at the same time the experience of Passover as a whole always had a strong impact on my understanding of Jewish values, history and biblical narrative.
Passover (Chag Ha Aviv, or the holiday of spring) is meant to do more than recall the exodus, we are to celebrate the abundance of spring vegetables and herbs that have just sprouted. I took a vegetarian cooking class for Passover a few years ago taught by Rabbi Hillel Norry of Congregation Shearith Israel in Atlanta. He taught that Passover did not need to be thought of as a week of deprivation. It is a time to rejoice in abundance of spring and to enjoy unprocessed, wholesome and healthy food. It is the Jewish version of a “cleanse” both spiritually and physically. Focus less on replacements for bread and other starchy items, let the seasonal produce shine, and take the time to prepare it impeccably.
My family moved from Georgia to Israel when I was seven years old to escape the brutal anti-Semitism of the Georgian civil war in 1992. Less than four years later, our parents moved me and my sister to Queens, NY. As a 10 year old, I took this third major upheaval in our lives the hardest. For months I walked around muttering “I want to go home,” in both Hebrew and Georgian, rebelling against the thought of settling in to yet another new life, fearing that my family would once again be uprooted. My mother patiently sat me down one day and asked me where I thought home was, exactly. I couldn’t answer her because I wasn’t sure myself.
In those first few years in Queens, as we adjusted to our lives in the very Jewish neighborhood of Rego Park, my parents emphasized just how important it was to stay together as a unit. “If there are cracks in the family, there is no hope,” my father used to say whenever my sister and I squabbled. And until we headed to college, he and my mother made it a point to maintain Friday evenings as our sacred day for gathering to celebrate not just Shabbat, but more importantly, our family. Dinner was always followed by a movie and late-night conversations — where we had come from, what we survived and where we were going to go as a foursome was retold and reimagined every Friday evening.
The Passover seder is Jewish drama. Over the evening, a tale of slavery and liberation, despair and hope, narrow straits and open possibilities unfolds. We experience this drama through food. We lift high the matzah, the bread of affliction, for all to see; we taste the painful maror to remind us of embittered lives and oppressive work; we drink four cups of redemptive wine. Food brings these experiences to life. Through eating, we bring these symbols into our bodies.
The Jewish people have retold this drama every year for literally thousands of years; but each year is different. In every generation we continue the work of the Exodus, continuing to fight for freedom and justice in the world. This year, many Jewish groups are adding a chapter to the seder’s never-ending story of oppression and freedom: food justice.
Uri L’Tzedek, in partnership with Hazon and the Bronfman Alumni Venture Fund, just released their first Food and Justice Haggadah Supplement, (available for free download), featuring 26 essays, insights and action to unite food, social justice and ethical consumption.
To read the first installment of Foods of Freedom click here.
The early years of Nelson Mandela’s life as an organizer and revolutionary were marked by cross-cultural experiences centered around the table, even when such alliances were frowned upon politically. The Indian South African community, and the solidarity it showed in passive resistance campaigns, deeply influenced Mandela’s later mass actions and encouraged Mandela and his colleagues to work across racial and cultural lines. Among his greatest influencers was Amina Pahad, who became politically active in her teenage years, and welcomed activists of all backgrounds into her home, truly letting “all who were hungry come and eat” and creating a safe haven filled with political debate and good meals.
“I often visited the home of Amina Pahad for lunch, and then suddenly this charming woman put aside her apron and went to jail for her beliefs.…”, recalled Mandela in his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom.”
After the bitter herbs, charoset, salt water and the symbolism that goes along with them, the Passover seder can easily slip into a festive meal containing minimal meaning, save for the deliciousness of this year’s soup versus last year’s. Though our Passover entrees are often filled with significance, as foods of family tradition and memories of Passovers past, main dishes during the seder should not be overlooked as an opportunity to infuse a holiday meal with meaning. This year we have chosen recipes from two nations, which in the last two decades have found new freedom — Egypt and South Africa. We hope that these dishes spark lively conversation about the path to modern freedom around the Passover table.
At the start of 2011 the world watched as the Egyptian people overthrew longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak. It is not often that we can so easily honor the Haggadah’s instruction that “In every generation one must look upon himself as if he personally has come out of Egypt.”
The Jewish community of Egypt dates back to the time of the prophet Jeremiah (587 B.C.E.) and has a long and storied presence in the country. By the sixteenth century it consisted of Arabic-speaking, North African and Spanish Jewish immigrants. Today, that community has all but disappeared, but the Jewish connection with Egypt lives on through historical ties, the Haggadah and of course, food.
“Right after Purim,” a friend told me the other day, “we stop buying any more hametz [leavened bread products]. We have just four weeks to use up everything that we already have in the house!”
Her strategy is a common one. As the holiday of Passover approaches, a holiday where Jews search for, remove and burn every last crumb of bread or bread products in their house with a feather, many find themselves cutting back on the hametz early in anticipation.
As I prepare for Passover, my thoughts, like my friend’s, are on the crackers in the pantry, the crumbs in the breadbox, the extra loaf of challah I froze a while back. But standing in my kitchen, contemplating that crack that collects crumbs under the cutting board…my gaze comes to rest on a small jar on the counter, covered by a cloth, that contains the ultimate hametz: my sourdough starter.
Passover (and its many accompanying recipes) is in the air. We’ll have Egyptian, South African, vegetarian and numerous other recipes for you next week. But if you simply can’t wait to start your Passover reading, check out Saveur for an Iraqi beet stew with lamb meatballs, Serious Eats adds some suggestions for spicing up your Passover menu and Susie Fishbein offers up some suggestions to Epicurious.
Restaurants like Brooklyn’s Traif and Los Angeles’s The Gorbals, which serves matzo balls wrapped in bacon, “are garnering praise for embracing Jewish tradition while also rejecting it. But a chef turned rabbinical student suspects they’re just lazy,” on Tablet.
David Fox has a problem with his rabbi. I sit across from David, at his office desk, in the family factory H. Fox and Company, deep in Brooklyn. David’s family founded the company and for the past century it has manufacturing a wide variety of flavored syrups. Today, however, I am only interested in one, Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup, which is widely regarded as the essential ingredient for the classic egg cream, once described by Mel Brooks as “the opposite of circumcision” as it “pleasurably reaffirms your Jewishness.”
It is only Hanukkah, but the time has come once again, as it has for more than a hundred years, to ready his plant to produce the Passover batch. Fox’s U-Bet is used all around the world, and year-long; Passover is no exception.
Kashering the syrup for Passover is no small task. First the ingredients need to change. Only real sugar will do for replacing the corn syrup, producing something a bit sweeter while maintaining the smooth, round taste that distinguishes the syrup from other brands. But sugar is expensive. “Yet we don’t charge more.” Why not? “We are the only chocolate syrup that I know of that’s kosher for Passover,” he explains. “We just don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”
“If I catch one of you putting garlic powder in your soup…oy va voy…I’ll sue you”.
On a recent Monday evening, Moroccan born Chef Lévana Kirschenbaum welcomed guests to her Upper West Side home for a cooking class on Moroccan street food. Switching between English, French, Hebrew and Spanish, Kirschenbaum crafted a night of tasty food, bits of kitchen wisdom and hilarious one-liners, like the garlic powder reference above. The menu consisted of chickpea soup (“magnificent and plebian”) and carrot Swiss chard salad (“you’ll understand why we Moroccans eat our vegetables”) among other dishes, and the emphasis was on healthy, simple, quick recipes bursting with flavor.
I sat down with Chef Lévana, former part-owner of renowned New York City restaurant, Levana, one of the first restaurants to offer kosher fine dining, and author of three cookbooks including the forthcoming “Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen: Glorious Meals Pure and Simple,” to talk about her crusade to “spread the good word” about the limitless taste potential of good-for-you food and the cultural attitudes that prevent us from associating “healthy” with “delicious.”
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