Across the country, Jewish environmental and farming programs are (pun intended) taking root in the Jewish community. Whether they are semester long fellowships (like Adamah and Urban Adamah), programs at summer camps (like Eden Village, Kibbutz Yarokand Amir Project, to name just a few), the number and variety of these programs is increasing.
The East Coast-based Jewish Farm School has been offering alternative spring break programs and hands-on, skill-based Jewish agricultural educational programs for several years, but this June they are taking the field to the next level: in partnership with Hebrew College, JFS will offer a one-week, service-learning program that combines farming experience with Jewish learning aimed towards college-aged students. This program, called “To Till and To Tend,” is the first of its kind to offer college accreditation for participants. The program is structured similarly to the Jewish Farm School’s alternative spring break trips, which immerse participants in organic farming environments, but it is the collaboration with Hebrew College that makes this program so unique. For the Jewish Farm School, “To Till and To Tend” is only the jumping-off point to a semester-long, gap year-style program they hope to pilot in the future.
Cross posted from KosherEye.com
So, what do you know about coconut milk? Or coconuts for that matter? Yes, coconuts do grow on palm trees. They are considered a fruit and not a nut. They are oval shaped and can weigh up to 3 pounds at maturity and are covered with a husk. Under the husk is a hard shell, which is sphere shaped, and within that inner shell is the seed. It is from the seed that we derive the delicious white edible coconut meat. And no, the liquid that is in the core of the coconut is not coconut milk but coconut water — a delicious and hydrating drink popular throughout parts of South America.
Coconuts are a prehistoric plant that are believed to have originated somewhere in the South Pacific — there are differing opinions on this so don’t quote us. They are water resistant and can stay afloat, so who knows where they have traveled from or to. Just like the Jewish people, they have been disbursed around the globe.
Simply stated, coconut milk is the end product of steeping fresh grated coconut meat and water, which is then strained to produce the coconut milk.
Noah Bernamoff and Rae Cohen made quite the splash (at least in our circles), when they opened Mile End, a Brooklyn-based Montreal-style delicatessen, where they are pickling, curing and smoke everything from scratch.
The two now plan to expand their business to Manhattan’s Nolita, where they’ll open Mile End Sandwich sometime around April 23 and later this summer, they’ll also open a storefront next to their new Red Hook kitchen, where they make all the food for their Brooklyn and Manhattan locations.
We caught up with Bernamoff to find out more about the new spots, Mile End’s upcoming cookbook and what he thinks of the growing popularity of Jewish food.
Spring has sprung and the change is showing in our farmers markets. Here are 16 ways to prepare asparagus. [Serious Eats]
Nicholas Kristof illuminates what’s really in commercially produced chicken. [New York Times]
Ruth Reichl offers tips for better hummus. [Gilt Taste]
Chicken soup dripping in schmaltz, sweet noodle kugel swimming in cream and butter and sprinkled with brown sugar, potato pancakes fried in oil, with that deep fried odor that permeates the house for days (can’t you just smell them right now?), beef brisket made any number of ways. I imagine many of us have a special family recipe handed down to us, for any or all of these and other traditional Jewish food dishes that are typically served during any holiday. Even if we don’t have a stained or yellowed recipe card, we have searched the web for someone else’s traditional recipe.
It wasn’t until I became a nutrition student that I began giving thought to the nutritional value (or lack thereof?) of our cherished recipes. But then again, what’s the point? If these traditional foods are only eaten three or four times a year, why not enjoy the calories, fat, carbohydrates and sugar that they so richly provide? We all need a diet “cheat” day once in a while, right? Well, right for some, but for those with metabolic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, or obesity who are trying to improve symptoms, unhealthy changes to their (hopefully) healthy lifestyle can be dangerous. For example, an insulin dependent diabetic works diligently each day by monitoring blood glucose levels and adjusting their diet appropriately. Even one time, eating “cheat” foods can lead to spikes in blood sugar and serious consequences such as imbalances that may be difficult to restore, leading to other problems.
I was making my Passover shopping list the other day when it all came back to me. Eggs! Pesach is about eggs. I had five dozen on my list, and the thought of all those eggs brought back my Passover memories.
Of course, eggs are a symbol of spring, for Christians who color them, roll them on the lawn and hide them from children, and Jews, even pagans. It’s as simple as this: As the days get longer, chickens lay more eggs. We eat what we have. For Jews, that eggs are plentiful around Passover is very fortunate, because eggs can be used as a leavening agent. Some people even make what they call a “Passover roll,” which is nothing more than French pâte a choux, cream puff pastry, using matzo meal instead of flour, and many eggs to get them high and light.
My maternal grandmother lived in the same two-family house that my family did, and I would always help her prepare for Passover. Not only was I her chief kitchen helper but I was also her beast of burden. From about age 8 and well-beyond the time I left the nest at 22, besides kitchen duty, it was my job to schlep her everyday pots and dishes down to the basement, carry her Passover pots and dishes and glasses to her kitchen upstairs, and stash in a basement refrigerator, dozens upon dozens of eggs, cases of eggs, that were delivered to our door in Brooklyn by the “egg man,” from where I do not remember. I’ll bet they weren’t from free-roaming birds.
“In every generation a person is obligated to see him or herself as though he/she had personally been redeemed from Eqypt,” we read in the Haggadah during our Passover seders. In recalling our people’s experience in Egypt, we are urged to remember that we were once slaves. We tell the details of the story, act it out, and eat charoset, symbolizing the mortar with which our ancestors made bricks for the Egyptians — we attempt to “experience” what slavery felt like.
Though we may not be actual slaves ourselves today, our history moves us to ask “Where does slavery exist today?,” “Who is enslaved?,” “What is that slavery like?” Unfortunately, this is the issue with most chocolate in the world. The majority of all cocoa is grown in West Africa, where hundreds of thousands of children have been documented working in their cocoa fields. They spend long hours working in hazardous conditions, and losing their childhoods to bring us our favorite chocolate treats. The situation is particularly serious in the Ivory Coast (the source of about 50% of our cocoa), where the U. S. Department of State estimates that more than 109,000 children in Cote d’Ivoire’s cocoa industry work under “the worst forms of child labor,” and that some 10,000 are victims of human trafficking or enslavement. Those who labor as slaves also suffer frequent beatings and other cruel treatment.
Judging from the huge sacks of potatoes Jewish home cooks heft into their shopping carts at this time of year, I’m just one more cook going through Passover Potato Dependency or PPD. I imagine thousands of lunchtime plates bearing fluffy mashed potatoes, or golden fried potatoes, all over Israel, every day, for a week. Ballast for the empty stomach. A reliable background for the rest of the meal.
But several days into Passover week, I’m looking for something different to do with potatoes. Homemade gnocchi fit my need for a savory, satisfying main dish that needs only a leafy salad to accompany it. Matzo meal makes their texture a little rougher than conventional gnocchi but they’re delicious all the same.
You may choose to serve them with butter and plenty of grated cheese, or with tomato sauce. I suggest the herby mushroom sauce below, which makes use of any leftover clear soup and can be dairy or meat, depending upon what your Passover hungry stomach craves.
Rachel Raj is one of the queens of Budapest Jewish cooking. The daughter of a noted rabbi, she authored a food column for a local Jewish magazine, makes guest appearances on TV talk shows, and a few years back anchored a 10-part series on Jewish cuisine on a leading Hungarian food channel.
Writing in Saveur, David Sax described her as a “high-octane food television host” who is the Hungarian equivalent of her American near-namesake Rachael Ray.
Model-thin and with long, dark hair, Raj, 31, prefers to describe herself as a modern-day Yiddishe Mamma. “Not someone who sits in a chair and says ‘eat,’” she says. “I like to dress up, I have a profession, I have two young kids — but on Shabbat I serve a four-course Friday night meal.”
It may sound impossible, but believe it or not, you can survive a whole week of Passover without eating a single potato. And you don’t even have to eat much matzo, either. This is what Aviva Kanoff is out to prove it in her new cookbook, “The No-Potato Passover.”
The book is a helpful and attractive guide for those of us looking to cook light, healthy and easy-to-prepare meals over the holiday. In fact, many of Kanoff’s recipes are appropriate for healthy (kosher) eating year-round.
Although almost all of the book’s recipes would look delicious to anyone, it definitely helps to be predisposed to liking quinoa and spaghetti squash. These two items figure prominently among Kanoff’s dishes, as do a few other key ingredients, like almond milk and ground walnuts and almonds — all flavorful substitutes for either less healthy traditional Passover foods or ones forbidden on Passover all together.
Jews across the world today will participate in the second-most-common spring ritual — lugging to work and parks brown-bag lunches filled with leftover turkey or brisket and some matzah. Last year at a local farm (a favorite spot for kids on spring break), a group of friends in Los Angeles set up a kind of “leftover shuk” where families traded their cold seder delicacies in hopes of finding something new and tastier. Most of us don’t like leftovers — they smack of age and rejection. Nobody wants to eat that again.
But I love leftovers, especially at Passover.
A new dish on our plate creates excitement and anticipation. The aroma wafting off the spoon, the split-second burst of heat touching our lips just before we take a bite, the taste rouses our slumbering taste buds creates something new, alive, even sexy. There is great spirituality in this newness. In fact, the Passover Sacrifice of the Exodus story — embodied by the shank bone on our seder tables — symbolizes this very act of newness. “You shall eat the flesh that same night … Do not leave any of it over until morning, if any of it remains in the morning you shall burn it.” (Exodus 12:8, 12:10)
The African American chef in the rainbow kippah looked up from arranging his implements to survey the crowd assembling before him. “What about the people coming in?” he murmured, and was told, “We’re out of chairs.”
More than 100 people had come in. The chef’s eyes widened theatrically. “It’s mamash a nais!”
“Truly a miracle” — as an estimation of the turnout for “Kosher/Soul,” Michael Twitty’s lecture and cooking demonstration at the Jewish Museum of Maryland — might be hyperbole. After all, with a title like that, and a menu boasting black-eyed pea hummus and egg rolls with turkey pastrami and collard greens, who wouldn’t want to be there if they could? But the back story is no small wonder.
The act of eating in the Jewish tradition is never simply the consumption of food. Food is respected as fuel for sure, but food as a source of physical nourishment cannot be stripped from its other central roles as symbol, ritual object and identity builder. From Eve’s first bite in the Garden of Eden, food has assumed a unique place in our people’s collective meaning making project.
The role of food at the Pesach Seder is an example par excellence. The Seder is, at one level, the gastronomic event of the year. We cook for days in advance and relish having our taste buds becoming reacquainted with the familiar dishes of years (and generations) past. And, on another level, the Seder is clearly much more than a feast. We come together to tell our people’s story; we teach our children and remind ourselves, who we are, where we came from, and where we are seeking to head.
And, fundamentally, the eating and the storytelling are inextricably intertwined.
The (dis)connection between the foods on our Passover table, and the Spring season did not occur to me until early adulthood, when I began cooking myself in earnest, and focused our meals on vegetables of all kinds, the whole year round. One year, I looked around the Seder table and realized that apart from the parsley laid out for saltwater-dipping, the meal — which included classics like matzo ball soup and brisket — was woefully lacking in greens, particularly for those of us who are vegetarians.
Considering that the Passover is not only celebrated in Spring, but also contains both symbolic and literal references to the season, it seems a shame to waste an opportunity to allow our Seder meal to embody the bright, fresh tenderness of early Spring. When I began designing the meal for my own family, I decided to use Passover as an opportunity to rediscover fruits and vegetables that may have fallen out of rotation during the winter months and to cleanse our palates a bit from the cold-weather stews, casseroles, and other heavily-cooked foods. The following recipes are ones we eat both at the Seder and during the week, they enliven our table and are a nice compliment (or antidote!) to the traditional matzo balls and kugels.
If you are hosting Seder, you’re probably already deep into hours in your kitchen. But if you’re still looking for some Passover recipes, for Seder and the week ahead, we’ve got you covered. And if you’re panicking about your Seder, take a look at The Daily Meal’s Kitchen Solutions.
These Greek zucchini fritters with feta and tzatziki sound positively delicious and spring like. [Serious Eats]
Dahi Ke Aloo, an Indian potato and yogurt soup would be a nice change from the Passover classics. [The Daily meal]
In last week’s food section, we gave you 10 amazing Jewish sandwiches from across the country, which in true “top list” fashion sparked some debate over which sandwiches were really the best and which were missing from the list. Luckily, a tidy little poll let readers kvetch constructively by voting for their favorite (with a write-in option). With over 600 votes, favorites were all across the board — and world.
On April 2, food activists in California won their first victory in their campaign to require mandatory labeling for food with GMOs: genetically modified organisms. The Committee for the Right to Know announced that they had collected the 800,000 signatures necessary to establish a 2012 ballot initiative so that voters can have their say on the issue next fall.
With nearly 80% of conventional corn and soy in America containing genetic material from other species designed to help them resist pesticides, it’s difficult to avoid these so-called “Frankenfoods,” unless they are clearly labeled. Across the European Union, GM food must be labeled, but not so in the US.
Never in the history of gefilte fish — perhaps the most haimish of Jewish dishes — has it drawn so much attention from the discerning food world. In Adeena Sussman’s recent article, “From Haimish to Haute” Zach Kutsher, owner of Kutsher’s Tribeca commented: “It’s our most controversial menu item.” Indeed their upscale preparation sparked intense debate among New York’s top food critics who placed more weight and emphasis on it than any other dish of the Jewish food revolution we seem to be in the midst of.
But Kutsher’s isn’t the only place responding to the call for a makeover of this oft-disliked — or perhaps misunderstood — dish. “More than almost any other Jewish food, gefilte has a bad reputation,” said Jeffrey Yoskowitz, one of three young New Yorkers who recently launched The Gefilteria, what they call a “pushcart start-up,” that sells sustainably sourced artisanal Jewish foods.
The trick with Sephardic haroset is in the mixing. You use your hands, you call for more grated apple until it feels wet enough, then you add ground almonds until the raisin mush gets a little itchy between your fingers.
Haroset is the Seder plate’s sweet counterbalance to the bitter herb. No specific recipe is prescribed, so each tradition has come up with its own version. Ashkenazic haroset has lots of wine and nuts and is gross; Sephardic haroset is sticky and delicious.
Our Sephardic haroset is, I suppose, of the Spanish and Portuguese sub variant. Our family got to New York in 1654, and though they stopped off a couple of places on the way they never stuck around long enough to add figs or oranges or dates or, god forbid, coconuts to their haroset recipes.
Passover, though one of my favorite Jewish holidays, is also one of the most challenging for me. As a vegetarian and Ashkenazic Jew, major staples in my diet such as beans, tofu, tempeh, seitan, and brown rice are suddenly banned. I have met some vegetarians/vegans who “go Sephardic” for Pesach so that they have more food options, even going as far as consulting and getting permission from their rabbis to do so. But bringing kitniyot (foods such as: rice, corn, soy beans, string beans, peas, lentils, mustard, sesame seeds and poppy seeds that are not allowed to be consumed during Pesach under Ashkenazic custom) into my home would be a big no-no, and personally I wouldn’t feel comfortable observing the holiday differently. I’ve had 11+ years to figure out and fine-tune the ins and outs of a vegetarian Pesach and I’m here to share some of my must-have foods, while still following Ashkenazic tradition and staying healthy.
Let me preface my suggestions by explaining a little bit about my background and how I observe Passover. I was raised in a Conservative kosher home, where the only foods that enter our kitchen for the holiday are ones that bear a Kosher for Passover (K for P) symbol. Even though there are so many vegetarian/vegan packaged goods that I love and are chametz-free, they will not be coming into my home without the K for P symbol. For some readers, this may be stricter than you’re used to. Ultimately, you have to do what you feel comfortable with on this holiday. As a result, I tend to cook nearly all my meals from scratch. Cooking in bulk and not minding repeat meals is helpful, as is finding a grocery store (or online kosher shop) that carries a variety of products, which thankfully gets easier every year with the ever-expanding selection of Passover foods on the market.