Growing up in Israel during the 1980’s, falafel was king. Twice a week I traveled from my Kibbutz to the city of Petah Tikva, for an intense ballet class. To the naked eye I seemed like any other disciplined ballerina, but actually my mind was filled with sinful thoughts of the tahini dripping falafel sandwich that awaited me at the end of the pirouette session.
Then came the dilemma: a falafel sandwich with fries and all you can eat salads at Mordechai’s, or the classic fix at Chatukka, “The most Yemenite falafel in town” (that was, and it still is, their bizarre tagline). At both places, while standing on line, you’d get a crunchy green ball from the server to eat with your hands. That’s how they whet your appetite and welcome you, Israeli style.
Since the days of those post-ballet snacks, falafel has sadly lost is crown as the national dish of Israel. Every Israeli still holds a firm opinion on “where one can get the best falafel,” but chances are that you’ll hear more passionate and emotional arguments about the best hummusiahs (cafes which specialize in the chickpea dip) these days.
While traveling in Washington DC with my boyfriend Dov on a hot summer weekend, I was refreshed by the large variety of seemingly-healthy restaurants around. Among them were a wide range of well-known hot spots like Whole Foods, as well as some lesser known options like the produce stands at Eastern Market. But, finding a place to eat for Dov and I can be difficult: Dov keeps kosher and I do not.
Although I did not grow up in a kosher or vegetarian home, I do not eat meat very often, so Dov’s degree of keeping kosher would not be too great of an adjustment for me. As my exploration of Judaism has deepened over recent years, my relationship with Kashrut has changed and presents me with the potential to deepen as well. This personal struggle was exasperated during my trip to DC with my kosher partner. As it turns out, all these struggles were brought to life in trying to find a place to eat that satisfies the needs of both Dov and myself. Bounded by the battle between Halakha and healthy, I chose healthy.
Israelis love their hummus. It is a nation of Zohans who have no qualms eating it three times a day and any time in between.
But when I told my Israeli friends I wanted to try hummus ice cream they looked perplexed. “Hummus ice cream? Who would want to eat that?” or “That sounds disgusting. I’ve never heard of such a flavor!” my friends declared. Despite their intense fondness for hummus, Israelis are traditionalist and want their hummus doused with fruity olive oil and sprinkled with pine nuts, not perched on top of an ice cream cone. They love the idea of tehina ice cream “It’s like halva. It makes sense,” a friend told me. On the other hand, almost everyone I spoke to dismissed chickpea ice cream as a tourist gimmick.
Well, perhaps they’re right. For a brief time this chickpea gelato grabbed some attention from the media. ABC news featured an article about this new-fangled flavor from Lagenda, an ice cream parlor in Yaffo. “It’s tasty but not more than that” was the verdict of one taster. Despite the attention, it didn’t garner enough interest with the locals. With a rare show of solidarity, patrons continued to stream to the hummusias (cafes that specialize in hummus) to get their hummus fix.
If you’re a fan of Ben and Jerry’s, you’ve likely heard of some comically flavored ice creams — Americone Dream or Phish Food, anyone?
This summer, in honor of National Ice Cream Month (yes, it’s a real thing), we’ve rounded up the craziest Jewish ice cream flavors from herring to cholent and haroset to jelly donuts.
Fan favorites include everything from tzimmes (honey carrot ice cream) scooped up at Max & Mina’s Ice Cream in Queens, N.Y., to hummus, tehina and za’atar offered at Lavan Restaurant in Jerusalem and local Tel Aviv ice cream parlors.
It’s mid-July and farmer’s markets and gardens are brimming with gorgeous produce. You don’t have to look far to find interesting ingredients for a summer meal — some of them are already a part of your everyday veggies. Instead of throwing away veggie leaves or discarding what are typically thought of as weeds (like dandelions and purslane), a slight change in perspective will reveal an even wider array of summer produce right in front of your eyes.
This week’s featured CSA veggie is beets. Often the leafy beet greens are discarded in favor of the rich root which is commonly baked, boiled, or made into soup. But beet greens are also a delicious and versatile summer veggie, and by putting the greens in a pan, rather than in the bin, you will gain a delicious and nutritious addition on your plate. Beet greens are actually so tasty that whole varieties have been cultivated so that the plants produce copious amounts of tender, sweet leaves and only the suggestion of a red beet.
A knife slides seductively down a slender stalk of celery. A plump loaf of rye splits to reveal a seductive sprinkling of seeds. Tender slices of brisket fall on a cutting board as a voice-over moans “you’re driving me meshuggeneh” before dissolving into a breathy series of “oys.”
Sound like a bizarre fetish video better left to the dark corners of the Internet? Actually, this awkwardly literal foray into food porn is meant for public consumption. It’s a promotion for Kutsher’s Tribeca, which calls itself a “modern Jewish American bistro” in New York that wants to make Jewish food “sexy.”
But does Jewish food need sexing up? Implying it does is shorthand for saying it’s gone stale. But as anyone who’s partaken of American Jewish cuisine, be it a piled-high pastrami or a humble hamentashen, can tell you it’s delicious. And these days, there’s no shortage of chefs eager to tap into tradition and turn out posh matzo brei and borscht-inspired beet salad for brunchers — not that there’s anything wrong with that. Jewish food is still fresh.
Take a tour of Uri Buri’s ice cream shop in Acco, where he makes locally sourced seasonal ice cream flavors like yogurt with lime and poppy seeds. [Serious Eats]
A kosher food truck rolled up to Wimbledon last week, giving kosher tennis fans some options other than a tuna fish sandwich. [Chabad.org]
Paris-based food writer, David Lebovitz, continues to blog from his trip to the Holy Land. This week he shares his recipe for tahini and almond cookies. [David Lebovitz]
A first look at New York’s newest hip kosher restaurant, Jezebel. [Grub Street]
Last week’s op-ed by Mark Bittman made its way around my circles in seconds. Bittman validated what many of us in the natural foods arena have been saying for a long while — that dairy doesn’t necessarily do the body good. The same can be said for wheat, corn, soy, meat and many other high-allergen foods. It doesn’t mean that everyone needs to give them up, and it doesn’t mean that all sources of dairy and producers of dairy are inherently bad. Just read the comments (all 772 of them at the time of writing this article) and you will see that Bittman has opened up a hot topic here.
I’ll try to avoid such intense controversy — but I do recommend reading Bittman’s article and discussing these topics amongst yourselves: Jews and Lactose; Jews and Food Allergies, and the ongoing debates surrounding them. Many who might not tolerate dairy in its unfermented form (milk, cream, most butters) might very well tolerate fermented dairy (yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, sour cream, cheeses, etc.). As a natural foods chef I always encourage my clients to consume the highest quality dairy available to them — be it raw or low heat pasteurized, un-homogenized if possible and always organic.
It goes without saying that Nora Ephron was a woman of excellent taste. And though she never wanted to become a published cookbook author or be labeled as a “Jewish” writer, a recipe of hers that’s just surfaced melts both identities together: it’s for, of all things, a traditional tzimmes, that classic Ashkenazi dish of stewed fruit and vegetables.
For a girl who grew up “not eating a lot of Jewish food,” the warm and witty writer certainly had an appetite for eating and talking about it, whether it was Russ & Daughters’ smoked butterfish or the iconic (and, ahem, exciting) deli fare at Katz’s. The force behind food-centric flicks like “Heartburn” and “Julie & Julia” was also a famous home entertainer whose self-avowed trademark was “slightly too much food” and an almost mother-like insistence that guests partake as much as they pleased. “You should always have at least four desserts that are kind of fighting with each other,” she once told an interviewer at Epicurious.
“She wanted people to experience what she experienced and love what she loved,” remembers Abigail Pogrebin, a writer and friend of Ephron’s who interviewed her for the Forward last year.
When I was growing up, every Thursday night in my house was cooking night. Ovens running, music playing, pans spattering, my sister, mother and I would gather in the kitchen to prepare the Shabbat meals. The rest of the week my sister and I could do whatever we wanted as long as our homework was done, but Thursday nights we belonged to the kitchen. Singing, cooking, chopping, arguing, laughing. We’d stand over our dishes and unite — and fight — like the modern Jewish version of the sewing circles of yore, with knives in place of needles (both tools that could second as weapons if need arose).
I learned how to cook those Thursday nights, and I grew to love baking, especially cakes that I could frost in different ways. My mom is famous among my friends for her excellent cooking, and I inherited that acclaim as I learned to make my own dishes and shared them with friends and guests. Reading recipes off well-worn cards with hand-written edits or finding new recipes to try in papers and cookbooks, the experience was as much about spending those hours with the women in my family as it was about measuring ingredients, mixing, and ending with a personal edible creation. My sister specialized in cholent, while I would spend hours perfecting a cake recipe and decorating it just so.
Even before its planned July 17 launch in Phoenix, KC Kosher Co-op — which delivers bulk discount kosher goods in 17 cities — is ruffling feathers. Since its 2007 debut, the business has expanded into cities with limited kosher availability but significant Jewish populations, including Las Vegas, Columbus, Ann Arbor, Savannah, Raleigh, and Boca Raton. Though kosher co-ops of varying size have done business across the country for years, KC is the only national operation of its kind with a full-service online operation.
As the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix reported last week, Phoenix kosher consumers have hailed the co-op’s arrival. But the city’s kosher merchants are feeling threatened – and some local rabbis have even framed the co-op’s imminent arrival as an ethical issue. “This kind of enterprise… is at the expense of something else, which has long-term consequences,” Rabbi David Rebibo, head of the Greater Phoenix Vaad Hakashruth, told the Jewish News. “We have a certain moral obligation to be conscious of this potential damage that we can do to someone.”
It is commonly remarked that the best lies told are those that contain some truth. And so it often seems to be with the argument, which returns like the tides every few years, that shechitah, kosher ritual slaughter, is intrinsically inhumane. That it stands apart from the modern, civilized form of animal slaughter the rest of the world engages in and that this dark, antiquated and backwards practice must be brought into the light and abolished by right-thinking, morally upright persons of conscience.
The most recent foray into this field, by James McWilliams, makes some excellent arguments that seem simple and logical to the common man. This would seem to point to his overall conclusion, that kosher slaughter is “gruesome” being true. While it is certainly true, and sad, that kosher slaughter, like any slaughter can be gruesome, it is by no means inherent to the details of kashrut. McWilliam’s sullies his valid points by mixing them with half-truths and assumptions.
The beginning of June was busy in the Greater Boston area — garlic plants sent their scapes into the air, rainbow chard darkened their multi-color stalks and a whole slew of salad greens begged to be harvested. Intoxicated with the potential energy of fresh produce, New England provided an enchanting background to engage in matters of Jewish sustainability and food systems issues.
This is the environment in which the Jewish Farm School and Hebrew College hosted a one-week intensive course called “To Till and To Tend.” The course aimed to focus on sustainable agriculture, food justice and the Jewish tradition through a hands-on, skill-building week. In the mornings, we worked at the day’s chosen organic farm or urban garden and posed a number of questions to the farms’ managers: How did you become interested in farming? Why are we planting strawberry plants? Where are these lettuce heads being donated? What’s it like being a woman in a male-dominated field? What is this?!
Once upon a time in the 90’s, I pitted my first quart of sour cherries looking out on the woods. We were a shaggy group of New York artsy types: half in Birkenstocks, the others in boots. There on the back porch of a summer cottage named Ravina, I wondered about how those bright red cherries had traveled from an orchard in the Catskills to the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City then back up to the Catskills to this cabin to be among trees again.
I used a wine bottle for a rolling pin. My efforts to remove the pits with my Swiss army knife resulted in a bowl of muddled fruit and stained fingers. The antique oven only had two settings: “off” and “burn.” My friends used words like “rustic” and “charming” to describe that first pie, but truly it was a mess. One of us had left some wet paintings out near the bug zapper and that was cause for greater visual admiration than that first pie out of the oven. But when I scooped the warm chunks of pie onto our plates after dinner, the combination of the sweet juices, bitter-tart cherries, and the tender, buttery crust ceased all the banter and apologies. I saw my life in that bowl of mangled cherries.
A Dutch lawmaker resigned from his party in protest of its support for banning ritual slaughter, among other issues.
Wim Kortenoeven announced his resignation from the Party for Freedom at a news conference last week in The Hague. Founded in 2005 by Geert Wilders, the party follows an anti-Muslim, pro-Israel policy.
“Regarding ritual slaughter, I came under intense pressure from Wilders to vote against my conscious,” Kortenoeven said.
In 2011, the Party of Freedom voted in favor of a bill to ban ritual slaughter in The Netherlands. Kortenoeven voted against the bill. He was the only party member who defied party discipline. Though passed into law, the Dutch Senate scrapped the ban last month.
Warm up the defibrillator, the Instant Heart Attack Sandwich has life at New York’s 2nd Avenue Deli.
A U.S. District Court Judge in Manhattan ruled late last week that the sandwich cannot be confused with the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas and thus the deli can keep the sandwich — two latkes stuffed with corned beef, pastrami, salami or turkey — on the menu.
Judge Paul Engelmayer also said the deli can introduce the Triple Bypass sandwich — three stuffed latkes — noting that it would not be confused with one from the Heart Attack Grill, which sells giant cheeseburgers.
The fantastic Paris-based food writer David Lebovitz is in Israel and has taken us along for the ride on his blog. [David Lebovitz]
An introduction and an ode to the Israeli snack food Bamba. [Serious Eats]
New York’s newest hip kosher restaurant Jezebel is finally set to open. [Women’s Wear Daily]
One mother schlepps kosher meat to a Reform summer camp. Should the Reform movement’s camps offer kosher meat? [Huffington Post]
Food plays an important role in Judaism and in the First Narayever community. Food brings people together, connects us, and is an important part of holiday traditions and life cycles.
In 2006 the First Narayever Congregation launched the first Jewish Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in Toronto in partnership with Everdale Organic Farm and Environmental Learning Centre. In 2008, we joined Hazon’s world-wide network of Jewish CSAs. This inspired us to look at what more we could do in our community.
In preparation for Passover each spring, Jews stock their cupboards with matzo, observing the Biblical injunction to abstain from leavened food for eight days.
And when the holiday ends, a box or two of matzo is usually pushed to the back of the pantry or tossed out with the trash. After all, it’s nearly impossible to end Passover without some extra matzo — and what use is there for the bread of affliction once you’re back to eating bagels?
Tom Kramer of Ambacht Brewery, a Belgian-inspired artisanal microbrewery in Hillsboro, Oregon, has the answer. Ambacht’s Matzobraü is a sweet, complex beer with a rare seasonal ingredient: leftover matzo from the local Jewish community.
As soon as the sun rose on Friday mornings over Harare, Zimbabwe, my husband, kids and I would pile into a small plane and fly to the crystal-clear waters and pristine sandy beaches of the idyllic island of Magaruque, off the coast of Mozambique.
There wasn’t much on this island, other than a charming lodge. Still, it was our Shabbat home when we lived in Harare in the mid-90’s. We’d set out having stocked the plane with the necessary ingredients and some pre-prepared foods, including roska (our sweet Sabbath bread), bourekitas (our beloved savory pies) and wine. We would also take our Sephardic Shabbat candles — a cork topped with a cotton wick floating in a glass filled with a thick layer of oil — which is the customary on Rhodes where my family is from.