Coffee can help us survive insomnia, late-night hours at the office, and wicked hangovers, but can the bitter brew really tell us about our past? According to Robert Liberles in his most recent book, “Jews Welcomes Coffee,” there’s a lot to be discovered through the bean — including insights into German Jewish history.
When coffee arrived in Europe in mid to late 16th century, wine and beer were the beverages of choice (mid-afternoon beer break, anyone?). Bitter and packing doses of caffeine, coffee was seen as an exotic and suspect drink, that was accepted by some and feared by others.
More than in any other European nation, coffee faced significant backlash in Germany where it was seen as a potentially destructive beverage for a nation with deeply entrenched beer industry and “liquid nationalism.” Frederick the Great, believed coffee’s popularity at beer’s expense would damage the national character. “My people must drink beer,” he said. “The King does not believe that coffee drinking soldiers can be depended on to endure hardship.”
When it comes to leafy greens, there are some big players that tend to dominate our salads, soups, and suppers: romaine, baby spinach, and perhaps even a few “exotic” varieties like arugula. With CSA deliveries and farmers markets well underway, we get to meet some new possibilities that can enhance (and dare I say, replace?) the regulars we so often lean toward. Nothing against romaine and spinach; they have many redeeming qualities, and are favorites for good reasons. Yet there are other leafy greens just as delicious, and with the bonus of adding significantly more vitamins and nutrients to your dishes.
Kale is one of these leafy greens. New to many people, and gaining popularity due to its health benefits and versatility in cooking. In the same family as cabbage, kale comes in a variety of forms, such as ornamental, curly, and dinosaur — which I assure you, is as fun to eat as it is to say. Kale’s bright flavor and rich texture easily distinguishes it from other garden greens. It also comes in many colors, dark green and beautiful purple being the most common kinds in CSA boxes and markets today.
5,606 new food products put on the market in 2011 carry a kosher label. That’s a whole lot of new options. Let us know your favorite! [Food Navigator]
We’ve tried a lot of babka here at the Jew and the Carrot. But this almond cream filled babka is calling us at the moment. [Serious Eats]
The New York Daily News is reviving its restaurant coverage and Forward/JCarrot contributor Michael Kaminer will be one of the new restaurant critics. Bon Appetit, Michael! [Diner’s Journal]
Last summer I had the opportunity to attend the Hazon Food Conference through the generosity of Pursue. As a full-time food justice community organizer at that time, I had considerable information floating around my head about sustainability, structural racism’s role in our food system and the path our food takes from farm to fork. What I didn’t know much about was knishes.
Our first night at the conference, we were afforded the opportunity to participate in any number of DIY workshops, and I headed straight for Laura Silver’s knishery. The table was laid out with lumps of dough and bowls of mashed potatoes seasoned with caramelized onions, salt and pepper; I dove right in!
“If there is such a thing as rock star status in the world of soil physics, then Daniel Hillel has attained it,” Eric Herschthal wrote in a 2010 article titled “The Man Who Made The Deserts Bloom” in The Jewish Week.
Now, two years later, Hillel, an 81-year-old American-born Israeli scientist has won this year’s World Food Prize for his water-saving agricultural methods used first in Israel, and then around the world. These methods, known as micro-irrigation and drip-irrigation have increased crop production on arid lands in 30 countries.
It was a fortuitous encounter with Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, that set Hillel on his remarkable path. According to Herschthal’s article, Ben-Gurion met Hillel when he and his wife Paula came to visit Sde Boker, a kibbutz in the Negevwith the mission of settling the desert that Hillel had helped establish in 1952.
Despite a Jewish population of nearly 20,000, there is one lone kosher restaurant, Lokanta Levi, in Istanbul. Although it is adjacent to the Spice Market, its location is discreet and difficult to stumble upon, and it has an almost clandestine feel. The Muslim chef who was trained by his Jewish predecessor serves Sephardic-Turkish specialties like spinach “flan,” stuffed artichoke bottoms, and tender stewed meats in the intimate restaurant that overlooks the Bosporus.
As one might infer from the lack of kosher eateries, many of the Jews who remain in Turkey today do not keep kosher or observe Shabbat. But they keep their heritage alive through a tight-knit community and community organizations that works to preserve their traditions, the ladino language, and the food.
Still, one almost has better luck finding Turkish Shabbat foods — like bourekas and boyos (small spinach pies) — outside of Turkey. There are more Turkish Jews in Israel today (77,000 according to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics) than in Turkey.
In this week’s Forward, food writer Katherine Martinelli travels to Turkey to cook with Selin Rozanes. Her family, like many other Jewish families, likely immigrated to Turkey in the 15th century. Today she preserves the recipes of the Jewish Turkish community by offering cooking classes and leading culinary tours. (Read the complete story here and read about Turkish Shabbat dishes here.)
Below, Rozanes shares her recipes for Beef and Leek Patties and for a zucchini flan below.
This past Sunday, I found myself standing in a synagogue parking lot, resplendent in bright yellow tights, red shorts, a red shirt and a yellow satin cape and a rack of ribs emblazoned across my chest. But, I didn’t stand out as much as you might imagine. I was at the first annual Long Island Kosher BBQ Championship, where I was a judge and I was ready to eat!
If this is the first time you’ve ever heard of a kosher BBQ competition, you may think that this is a unique event — something new, but by the end of August 2012, there will be five annual kosher BBQ competitions in the United States.
The first kosher BBQ competition in the country was started 25 years ago by Melvin Katz and Ira Weinstein, members of Congregation Anshei Sfard Bet-El Emet (ASBEE) in Memphis, Tenn. The two had a friendly rivalry going for years, to see whose smoked brisket was the best. After approaching the officials of the world-famous Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest about creating a Kosher event, and being turned down, the two started their own meaty competition. The annual event now includes more than 40 teams that travel from as far as New York to compete.
If you closed your eyes, you could easily imagine the scent of rich tomato and onion wafting from Jennah Craig’s East Bay apartment, and the joyful colliding of conversations ricocheting down the hallway coming from an airy apartment complex in downtown bustling Tel Aviv. That was exactly the feeling this gathering was going for. A group of ten young adults who’ve all settled in the Bay after years living in Israel, we rolled up our sleeves to create a Middle Eastern-style feast of Shakshuka (see recipe below) and homemade pita, and toasted to some of our most memorable meals cooked in the Holy Land.
Danna Rubin, Northwest Regional Director for Masa Israel Journey, spearheaded the edible effort after hearing from a number of MASA Israel program alums that the thing they missed most from their time spent in Israel was spent making a mess on the stove, in good, raucous, company. “A big part of living in Israel is gathering together and cooking meals together; something less prevalent in American culture,” says Rubin.
I wasn’t introduced to artichokes until I was ten and I’m not sure how I survived those ten years without them. Scary looking on the outside, but delicate, meaty, and a fun appetizer activity on the inside. Artichoke quickly became a staple at our family Shabbat dinner table, kids scrambling to drag the leaves through their teeth and reach the flavorful heart.
Native to the Mediterranean, Jews and artichokes have a long history together, dating back to the Talmud where Jews were given explicit permission to go through the extensive process of preparing an artichoke on festival days (BT Beitzah 34a). As the cultivation of artichokes spread throughout the Mediterranean, Sephardic Jews became infatuated with the vegetable, using it in countless recipes. According to Jewish food scholar Gil Marks, in Italy artichokes became known as “the Jewish vegetable,” partly because they were available and cheap in the Roman ghettos. While this nickname was originally derisive, fried Carciofi alla Giudia, Jewish Artichokes, is now a source of pride in Italy, especially in Rome where it is sold in restaurants that line the streets of the old ghetto.
Some of the world’s finest caviar is coming from a kibbutz in Northern Israel. Who knew? [NPR]
The owners of Schmendrick’s bagels are sharing their story and secrets of opening an artisanal bagel company. Last week we shared wtih you the beginning of their story, now, check out part 2 of the doughy tale. [Serious Eats]
The Napa Valley Register is hosting a small kosher wine tasting this weekend followed by an alfresco lunch. [Napa Valley Register]
This story is cross-posted from JTA.
Dutch Agriculture Minister Hans Bleker signed an agreement with Jewish and Muslim religious leaders and slaughterhouses that will prevent a ban on ritual slaughter.
Under the agreement signed Tuesday, animals can continue to be ritually slaughtered as long as they lose consciousness within 40 seconds of their throats being cut. After 40 seconds they must be stunned, which is prohibited under both Jewish and Islamic law.
A prominent Dutch rabbi, however, criticized the covenant as “unacceptable.”
“The government is concerning itself with issues such as how to perform the cut. That is the domain of rabbis and the Jewish community,” Lody van de Kamp, a rabbi and politician, told the daily Reformatorisch Dagblad Wednesday. “The government should stay out.”
Like many Jewish families, food has always been the center of our holiday celebrations. I have fond memories of the special meals that my grandma would lovingly prepare for our family. I also remember her and other family members gently coaxing me to finish the contents on my plate. “Ess, mameleh, ess” (eat, little girl, eat), my grandma would say. Between my father’s side, which survived the Great Depression in America, and my mother’s side, which survived the Holocaust, there was always reason to give thanks and finish what was put in front of you, without a fuss. So, from my childhood onwards I always cleaned my plate and often ate when I wasn’t even really hungry. This eventually caught up with me.
It wasn’t until I was in my Masters program in nutrition that I began to look more critically at where some of my own eating issues stemmed from. One of the most fascinating things I learned in my Pediatric Nutrition course was about children’s innate ability to self-regulate their food intake based on caloric density. Children actually respond to the energy content of foods by adjusting their intake to reflect the energy density of the diet, meaning, that unlike adults, a child will stop eating when they have taken in enough calories. They still rely on adults to offer a variety of nutritious and developmentally appropriate foods though, since the ability to self-regulate excludes the ability to choose a well-balanced diet.
Being from solid Ashkenazi stock, Friday night dinners invariably meant several ways with chicken: chopped, boiled and roasted. Although it was the least glamorous — the boiled chicken — that most excited me.
Chicken soup is a much loved dish and I’m always partial to a bowl or two, especially with my mother’s kneidlach. But it was the by-product that got my taste buds going.
I shouldn’t call it the by-product because the chicken is the main event, everyone just forgets about it and goes straight to the diluted version — what is soup if not a watery take on a solid? Chicken soup is genius in so many ways, but particularly because you can remove the primary ingredient and the soup is in no way diminished and the chicken tastes delicious.
I realized this curious fact early on in life and it led to a pleasurable pre-Shabbat ritual. Returning home from school I would sneak into the kitchen and sidle over to the large glass rectangular dish that contained the chicken. It would sit there looking somewhat wan. The skin had probably fallen off in the pot and other than boiling water and some aromatics, there was nothing to give it a hint of color. But I could readily overlook the aesthetic shortcomings. I was focused on a sandwich and no good sandwich will ever get mistaken for an oil painting.
He’s traveled all over the world and eaten some seriously strange foods (a porcupine dish in Vietnam immediately comes to mind), but for the last episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations”, the chef and TV host plans to face a Jewish favorite — the pastrami sandwich.
Bourdain made headlines last week when he announced that his hit Travel Channel series would be ending, and that he’d move over to CNN to host a weekend show. While we’re excited to see what Bourdain will do at CNN, we’re particularly intrigued to hear that he wrapped up “No Reservations” at Jay & Lloyd’s Deli, a kosher spot in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.
When Abbie Rosner, A Jewish woman from Washington, DC, moved to Israel’s lower Galilee in the late 1980s she probably didn’t anticipate developing a fascination with the foods of the bible, learning to forage wild edible plants, or befriending the neighboring Arab Bedouins. But that’s exactly what happened, as she explains in her new book “Breaking Bread in the Galilee. Part culinary memoir, part study of the traditional foodways of the region, and part ode to the lasting friendships she’s made, it’s a delightful and heart-warming look at the power of food as both a link to the past and a tool of communication.
Israel is commonly referred to as the Land of Milk and Honey, but Rosner delves deeper into this, turning to the bible as a literal description of the agricultural landscape of the Galilee. “I set out on an adventure, using the local foods of the Galilee as my compass, to trace the living links to the ancient past of my contemporary agricultural landscape,” she writes in the introduction.
One of my all-time favorite comfort foods is a PB&J.
Seriously. Peanut butter and jelly make me happy. A toasted PB&J is even more heavenly. With a tall glass of milk (or milk substitute, if you can’t do dairy). But the one thing I don’t miss about my childhood sandwiches is the jelly or jam we used to eat.
I’ve always disliked oversweet jams, but until last summer I was never brave enough to try making my own. It seemed so hard! Truthfully though, homemade jams are incredibly easy as long as you have a large wide stockpot, a wooden spoon, and some glass jars.
“I’ve been living in East Palo Alto for 24 years, and this is the first bagel shop I’ve ever seen here,” said Rafael Avila, the baker at Izzy’s Brooklyn Bagels. Undeterred, Avila was busy baking batches of bagels on June 1, the grand opening of Izzy’s new location in this Bay Area city with a mainly Latino, African-American and Pacific Islander population, and virtually no Jewish residents.
After being in business in nearby Palo Alto for 16 years, Izzy’s Israeli-born owner, Israel Rind, wanted to expand operations. While past attempts to establish viable outlets in Sunnyvale and San Francisco (locations with relatively large Jewish populations) were short-lived, Rind is hoping that this unusual move will pay off.
People come from all over the Bay Area to Palo Alto to buy Izzy’s bagels, which satisfy even highly discriminating ex-New Yorkers — myself included. The Bay Area in general is a relative desert when it comes to good bagels, and Izzy’s has cornered the market for kosher ones. Customers also appreciate the store’s appetizing treats like smoked salmon and whitefish salads, Middle Eastern fare like hummus and tabouleh, and kosher pizza and pastries.
“¿Que es eso, el blanco?” (What is this, the white [thing]?) I asked, jabbing with my fork at the white, slimy thing on my plate. The waitress looked at me and laughed. I had been in Spain all of 5 hours and I was tired, hungry, confused by the language and the food, and missing home terribly. Apparently whatever was on my plate was so commonplace that even to ask was seen as nothing short of idiotic. I asked again, trying to sound like I had something of a Spanish accent, instead of my Midwestern drawl, “¿Que es eso?” (What is this?) The waitress came back, and rattled off a sentence so fast that I must have looked like I had gotten hit with a truck. I sat there blinking for a few seconds and she said one word, slowly, so my jet-lagged brain could process, “espárrago.” (Asparagus)
Built on Mount Carmel overlooking the Mediterranean coastline is northern Israel’s capital city and culinary hot spot, Haifa. Unlike Jerusalem where there are distinct Jewish, Arab and Christian quarters, the members of the five religions of Haifa (including two sects of Islam) for the most part peacefully coexist and often intermingle. The diverse population is seen in the city’s art and music scenes and most deliciously in its food.
In downtown Haifa, Arab hummus shops are housed in old Ottoman buildings with small barrel-vaulted ceilings and Arab artwork decorates the walls. These family restaurants are welcoming, featuring signature Arab hospitality. Most offer generous portions of salads like steamed cauliflower covered in fresh tehina, cabbage, beet and carrot salads. Try both warm and cold hummus platters and pitas fresh from the oven. A typical post-hummus delight is the strong coffee spiced with cardamom. When you finish, stroll down the streets and sample various styles of baklava and other sweets in bakeries that bring the neighborhoods together and stop in the outdoor markets, or shuks. Here you’ll find the freshest produce, multiple varieties of olives, fresh fish and cheeses that arrive daily.
The city is also host to several chefs who are reinvigorating local ingredients with modern twists at upscale restaurants.