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
“What Are Your Favorite Sustainable Food Stories in America?” Serious Eats asks, for The Perennial Plate, a video series that will tour the country to tell the story of sustainable foodies, farmers and chefs.
Not only is Sunday but it’s macaron day as well. And no, not the type we eat for Passover, but the French sandwich cookies that come in almost any flavor imaginable. If you’re looking for some high quality cookies of either variety, check out Tablet’s recent post.
Late night guy Larry King opens his West Coast Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. in Beverly Hills today, where he’ll manufacture the signature Brooklyn water, which reportedly gives New York bagels their taste and texture, Daily Dish reports.
Just like the elements of the seder plate or oil fried latkes, most Jewish holiday foods recall the story of the holiday. Purim is no different — we feast on hamantaschen that represent Haman’s hat (or pockets, or ears, depending upon which story you buy). But one of the central themes of Purim, hippuch or sudden reversal, is often left out of our celebratory food for the holiday. By adding dishes that include an element of reversal we can recall the story of the holiday at our own banquet. This year, I will serve Shirin Polo, a traditional Persian rice dish, which is served upside down to tell the Purim story through food.
Throughout the Megillah, things are reversed and turned upside down, over and over. Haman holds a great deal of power, until in a split second during a banquet, Esther changes everything, and his plot to annihilate the Jews is foiled. The very gallows Haman built to hang Mordechai was used to hang himself. Finally, fact that Esther, a Jew (even in hiding) was the queen of Persia is a reversal of expectations and norms of the time. So it seems only fitting to eat meals of foods that incorporate the idea of hippuch.
Recently, the phenomenon of value-added products has come to the forefront in the Jewish community, particularly through two innovative Jewish food businesses. The first, Adamah’s value-added lineup of dills, sauerkraut, pickled beets, and bomb jelly, has flourished in the New York area since its inception in 2007. The second line, comprised of the olive oils and jellies made by kibbutz Neot Smadar in the Arava desert, testifies to the business and marketing sense necessary for a small farm to succeed financially.
Before we dive deeper, let’s back up for a second and define. Value-added products are the result of engaging with a natural or cultivated resource like a vegetable or an olive and transforming it into something new and improved. Take sauerkraut, for example. By shredding a cabbage, smushing it down so that it sits in its own released juices, and adding a little salt, a fermentation process begins that adds to the shelf life, taste, and positive digestive bacteria of what once was just a cabbage. We’ve got a great side dish now to bring out at dinner, and from the producer’s point of view, this slight alteration provides a much nicer profit for the effort.
Poulet sofrito, a braised chicken dish with lemon, cardamom and turmeric, was the Sabbath dish at my parents’ home in London after they left Egypt in 1956 following the Suez crisis. In Egypt it had been our cook Awad who prepared it. Without the distractions of life in Cairo within a large extended family, my mother took to cooking with passion — to please her husband, and when her children left home, to bring the family together on Friday nights. My two brothers and I never missed coming with our families. My mother always cooked at least three chickens and any leftovers were eaten as cold chicken sofrito on Saturday.
The Jewish community of Egypt was ancient but it had been joined by the twentieth century by a mosaic of people who arrived in waves from different parts of the old Ottoman world. Families held on to their different cultures and their special Sabbath dishes. What my mother cooked was what my father’s family, the Doueks who came from Syria, and her own family, the Sassoons normally ate. Her father had come from Syria and her mother from Turkey.
Of the many unusual ingredients in Persian cuisine, rose water, which tastes like flower petals, may be the most exotic. Persians, according to Reyna Simnegar, the Jewish, Venezuelan-born author of the new cookbook “Persian Food From the Non-Persian Bride, and other Kosher Sephardic Recipes You will Love!,” consume rose water in order to carry on “the enchantment and mystery, the passion and romance that are characteristic of their people and their culture.”
Such personal reflections on the Persian ethos permeate the book, and the author’s friendly voice guides the reader through this lavish book of over 100 recipes. The text, devoted to the subject of Persian recipes — both specifically Jewish as well as other popular foods of Iran — is as much an education about Persian culture as it is a tutorial on Persian culinary practices. Being half Persian myself — my father grew up in Iran — and a devotee of the cuisine’s healthy seasonality and sweet-and-sour flavor profile, I got excited when this handsome tome appeared in my mailbox.
As the title suggests, Simnegar is married to a Persian, and the book is peppered with anecdotes about quirky Persian customs. She recalls being shocked when her father-in-law tore pieces of challah on shabbat, and threw one at each guest; throwing it, she later discovered, signifies that the bread is not the bread of mourners. Despite the often goofy tone of the writing, the book is nevertheless a thorough primer on Persian food as well as a guide for kosher cooks who wish to prepare a Persian meal for Shabbat or a holiday.
Masquerades, double identities, and hidden truths are the very essence of Purim, the story, the parties, the carnivals, and as it turns out the food too. Traditionally, across the Jewish landscape, food was as integral to Purim celebrations as it was to Passover or Rosh Hashana. In addition to gifts of food, there is the mandatory celebratory meal, the Purim Se’udah or feast. The menu of this meal historically varied by community with local tastes and traditions. But common across the landscape were “hidden foods,” which looked like one thing on the outside, but like the story of Ester revealed secrets below the surface. Folding, rolling, stuffing and cramming away from rabbinic view, Jewish women through the generations created culinary complements to hidden motifs of the Purim story.
How and when this tradition developed is shrouded in mystery, as the evidence was eaten and not recorded, but recipes passed through the generations and diverse communities, with very different culinary traditions, all found hidden foods tucked into their Purim menus. Persian Jews who laid special claim to the holiday — given that the story of Purim story is set in ancient Persia — have a tradition of eating gondi a meatball with the surprising filling of raisins and nuts, in a sweet and sour sauce. From the Greek Island of Rhodes there is a custom of sticky honey cookies called travadicos which are filled with nuts. The Jewish community of Italy added spinach ravioli and manicotti to the mix. The legacy of Eastern Europe takes shape with kreplach, delicate dumplings filled with meat and challahs stuffed with onions and poppy seeds.
When a stooped, ball cap-wearing elderly man buying challah, salad and stewed chicken fricassee at Toronto’s Harbord Bakery says, “they’ve been keeping me alive for years here,” he is by no means exaggerating. Indeed, the Kosower family, owners of this legendary establishment since 1945, have been provisioning loyal locals with exceptional quality breads, baked goods and Jewish appetizing items for generations.
Today, as the only remaining Jewish retail bakery in downtown Toronto, Harbord Bakery is still in its original location on Harbord Street and is still using its original family recipes. They are attracting the young Jewish singles and families who are moving back into the neighborhood, now referred to as The Annex and considered a prime, trendy residential area. It’s the kind of crowd that appreciates the fresh, artisanal and gourmet food offered not only by Harbord Bakery, but also far more recently opened neighborhood Jewish food businesses like the Israeli Aroma espresso bar and Caplansky’s Delicatessen.
We asked you for your most creative mishloach manot, (edible Purim gifts), recipes and you responded well. (To learn more about this tradition, see this morning’s post We received several hamantashen recipes including ones filled with cheesecake and even brownie bits. There was also the double chocolate hamantashen with chocolate dough and nutella filling — yum!. But our favorite was a recipe that has it’s root in the 1930’s and combines prune and apricot butters, raisins, walnuts and citrus zest. We also like the surprisingly simple recipe for candied ginger we received. Finally, I also share with you my personal recipe for blood orange maple nut granola, which I will be sending to my friends this Purim. Happy cooking and happy Purim.
Forgot to send us your mishloach manot ideas? Tell us about them in the comments.
Hamantaschen from Amy Mates
Amy writes: This recipe was given to me by my mother, taught to her by a kindly neighbor, Mrs. Bailen, on Norfolk Street on the Lower East Side in the 1930’s after her own mother had died and she became the one in charge of all the cooking. We all loved these as kids, and for many years my mom would send delicately wrapped ‘hummies’ to her children across the country, and even to her ‘machatunim’ after I was married. (The original recipe called for cooked pitted prunes, and it took my Great Aunt Bea to tell my mother in the l950’s that in America you can buy a ready made jar of Lekvar and save yourself a lot of work.)
On Purim, the standard Jewish holiday cliffnote, “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat” gets a special addition: “Let’s help other people eat, too.” Purim, which starts Saturday night and goes through Sunday, is a holiday that not only requires a banquet (se’udah), but also that we send gifts of good food to our friends, and help out the less fortunate in our community, as per Mordecai’s specific request in the book of Esther: “And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters to all the Jews…that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending food one to another, and gifts to the poor.”(Esther 9:20-22)
What kind of a gift is food? Unlike other presents, food disappears once consumed (in this case, often leaving a trail of hamentaschen crumbs). Yet a gift of food — cookies, cakes, fruits, nuts and other treats are common on this holiday — sends two special messages that are appropriate for a day of celebrating our success escaping national collapse. Food keeps our physical bodies alive and is also a celebration of life, having within it the capacity to elevate the basic experience of eating into one of delight and joy. Giving the gift of food says at once: “I don’t want you to be hungry” and “I want you to really enjoy life.” In the face of the grim story of Purim, not only should we note that we’re indeed still alive enough to eat — we should revel in it.
Chef Eldad Shem Tov, who trained with some of Europe’s best chefs, is trying to bring Israelis inventive upscale culinary options like never before. But will his Jaffa-based food experiment survive? Haaretz reports.
New York Times Op-Ed page connects Denmark’s blazing innovation in food and new green technologies. René Redzepi, the chef at Copenhagen-based Noma, one of the world’s best restaurants, is married to Jewish woman. And while you will find local scurvy grass on the menu, you may find some hyper-local treyf too.
In the summer of 2010 kosher-observant whisky drinkers were surprised to hear that the OU had just certified three scotches from the LVMH Group (Moët Hennessy - Louis Vuitton) — Glenmorangie Original, Glenmorangie Astar and Ardbeg. These were three among many with no heksher that had long been enjoyed by minyans and at Jewish celebrations across the world.
There seems little halahic rationale for certification. By law, custom and practice scotch whisky must be produced solely from malt, barley and water with the intercession of some distiller’s yeast. No animals are harmed in the process, cultic practices are not invoked and adulteration of the spirit would be a shande to the distillery (though they might not use that word).
Ardbeg is on the island of Islay in the west of Scotland, but the Glenmorangie distillery is on the drier east coast. It’s perched above the swampy shore of Dornoch Firth just downhill from Tarlogie Springs from where it receives its pure, clear water. In my role as intrepid whisky correspondent for the Forward, I was happy to investigate what distinguishes an OU kosher malt from, well, a non-OU kosher malt by visiting the Tain distillery where the Glenmorangie whiskies are produced.
An account of his visit to the distillery will appear in the Forward soon but for those who are already thinking about stocking up for Purim here are my tasting notes, including some rarer whiskies below.
Imagine removing the sweet and sticky poppy seed filling from a hamentaschen. Now, roll this into soft and light yeast dough to form a log. After baking, cut into slices, and admire the black swirl against the light pastry, a kind of Ashkanazi yin-yang delicacy. It used to be a classic Purim treat, both in my family and in Poland and Israel.
My family tradition of delicious and sweet poppy seed rolls stems from my late grandmother Rachel. Born in Poland, she made aliyah to Israel in her youth. Throughout her life, she prepared traditional Ashkenazi dishes. Her yeasted poppy seed rolls were Purim favorites, and also frequently made an appearance during the rest of the year. Even into my father’s adulthood, my grandmother baked huge batches of these pastries for Purim and packed them up to give to my father and his siblings. With Purim approaching, I decided to recreate the recipe that I had heard so much about.
As with many other Jewish holidays, the tradition of poppy seeds for Purim is rooted in symbolism. Apparently, we Jews blot out the name of the evil Haman by gobbling up poppy seed desserts. According to the “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food” by Gil Marks, the Yiddish word for poppy seed, mohn, is similar to the Hebrew pronunciation of the villain of the Purim story, Hamohn. Thus, the Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern Europe celebrated Purim with the poppy seed hamentaschen that are well known today, as well as poppy seed cookies and filled yeast pastries like my grandmother Rachel’s poppy seed roll.
Several years ago, a friend invited me to a Shabbat dinner in Brooklyn. When I arrived, I was greeted by a glass of red wine, and lots of friendly, familiar faces. And then I saw it: a huge spread of take-out Chinese food, complete with plastic containers, paper cartons, and piles of napkins. Wait, what? I confess: The food snob in me was slightly taken aback by the prospect of serving mediocre take-out food to guests.
To be fair, this visceral response to the sight of take-out cartons comes from my upbringing. When I was growing up, my mother loved to entertain, and much of her joy in welcoming people into her home still comes from preparing food from scratch. This means days of preparation, especially cooking. The way she sees it, entertaining is as much about impressing the guests with a splendid feast as it is about people getting together to enjoy themselves. I’m my mother’s daughter, and a professional chef to boot — I could no more invite people over and serve them store-bought food than I could ask them to pay for their meal.
Most Fridays, I bake two loaves of challah for Shabbat dinner. Sometimes I have no other plans for dinner beyond the challah, and I scramble to add something to complete the meal. I use a standard recipe, which varies weekly based on how much whole wheat flour I add, whether there are raisins on hand and how much time there is to let the dough rise. The loaves are always slightly different, even between the two loaves on the same week there is often variation, one dough compliant and neatly braided, the second straining against the twists and curves.
These days I bake with my nearly four year old son, my 14 month old daughter watching from her baby carrier or toddling around on the floor. My son loves the routine. He can turn on the mixer, add ingredients and even break the eggs. He can sense when more flour is needed and when the dough is the right consistency to be left alone to rise. He has even developed a magic word — geech — he likes to shout to help the dough rise.
Vibrant Tel Aviv manages to pack in the energy of New York, the leisurely pace of Florence, and a Mediterranean climate to boot. While the political and religious soul of Israel may lie in Jerusalem, the youth and vigor can be found in rowdy yet cultured Tel Aviv. The city is home to numerous galleries and museums, hosts countless dance and music performances, and boasts a culture of culinary innovation with chefs who are on the forefront of Israeli cuisine.
Still, while Tel Aviv may be a foodie city in Israel, a kosher paradise it is not. Meat is mixed with milk, shrimp is served with bacon, pork chops are common, and places don’t like to close on Shabbat. Most chefs who are pushing the envelope are doing it secular style in order to compete with their peers around the world. Still, there are more kosher options than your average American city and the quality far surpasses that of your typical kosher restaurant.
It’s not uncommon, while hanging out by the food table at a synagogue Kiddush, to overhear one member boasting to another about the superiority of a particular family recipe — brisket, apple cake, or other. But at some congregations, this culinary kvelling is taken to a whole other level in the form of competitive cook-offs and bake-offs, in which shul-goers cum amateur chefs vie for the top prize (and recipe bragging rights).
In the case of Manhattan’s The New Shul, that prize is the Golden Schmaltz Award. The independent congregation held the fourth round of its annual cook-off this past weekend. This year’s theme, “Sweets to the Sweetest,” focused on desserts, but the cook-off tradition began with the “Battle of the Briskets” in 2007, after one member got tired of hearing another constantly lauding his brisket recipe and was confident that his own was tastier. “Basically, he told him — in a good natured way — to ‘put your money where your mouth is,’” executive director Amy Eichenwald Golding recounted humorously.
The world is not short on Jewish cookbooks. At the risk of blatantly stereotyping here, I would venture to say that if there’s one thing the Jewish people love more than books, it’s food and eating. So perhaps it’s no surprise that books specifically designed to celebrate food and lead to more eating would be available in abundance.
While the range of Jewish cookbooks is broad — there are books devoted to Jewish baking and Jewish holiday food, and books that explore the Jewish cuisines in such far-flung locales as Aleppo, Syria, Italy and New York City — the overarching focus of these books is almost invariably on culinary tradition. Call them classic dishes, time-honored tastes, or bubbe food — the Jewish cookbook canon seems resolute on connecting Jews to their roots through the belly.
I recently found myself deep in conversation with Ari Hart, co-founder of the Orthodox social justice movement Uri L’Tzedek. By using Torah as a lens through which to view contemporary issues, Uri L’Tzedek empowers the Jewish community to act as leaders in fighting for justice. The group is currently pressing Flaum Appetizing, a Brooklyn-based food production and distribution company, to compensate a group of former employees over $260,000, in compliance with a National Labor Relations Board mandate.
Flaum, which produces appetizer salads and distributes Tnuva dairy products and Bodek cut vegetables throughout the New York area, dismissed seventeen workers in May 2008 after they organized to protest unfair treatment and underpayment. When the case went to court in February 2009, the NLRB ruled that the firings were illegal and awarded the workers close to $260,000 in backpay. Flaum has yet to remunerate its former employees and is attempting to exempt itself from payment altogether.
Former Top Cheftestant and member of the tribe, Spike Mendelsohn will open Sixth and Rye, a kosher food truck serving deli specialties this April in the nation’s capital, The Feast reports.
As ex-Hasid Joshie Berger tried his first bite of treyf and learned to cook with the other culinarily-challenged participants on the “Worst Cooks in America,” he heralded a change in food television, Jeffrey Yoskowitz writes at the Atlantic.
We’ve heard of food inspiring poetry, but these are definitely the first Pastrami Haikus we have ever read. Courtesy of Serious Eats.
Artisanal, the delicious cheese company, store and restaurant in New York, is launching a line of kosher cheese in time for Passover. Help them name the new cheeses in their contest.
Purim might just be the perfect Jewish foodie holiday — we are required to feast, drink in revelry and to give one another food presents, or mishloach manot. The latter is the perfect project for passionate cooks and anyone who is testing the waters with DIY gifts.
The tradition of giving edible gifts comes from the Megilah we read on Purim: “They should make them days of feasting and gladness of mishloach manot [sending portions] one to another, and gifts to the poor.” More specifically, are supposed to send at least one person two different foods or drinks that are ready to be enjoyed without much preparation.
What homemade mishloach manot will you be sending your family and friends this year? Email us your ideas and recipes at firstname.lastname@example.org by Thursday, March 10th. The top treats ideas will be printed on the blog on Monday March 14th, giving you plenty of time to whip up batches of homemade granola, apple sauce or inventive hamentaschen!
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