The Jew And The Carrot

Does Hebrew National 'Answer to a Higher Authority'?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Flickr: Stephen Cummings

Kosher BBQ enthusiasts and other fans of the essential kosher hot dog, Hebrew National — which advertises that they “answer to a higher authority” — have been following a recent lawsuit alleging that the company’s franks and other products are not kosher.

The suit was filed against ConAgra, the parent company of Hebrew National, by 11 plaintiffs who live around the country on May 18 in Minnesota’s state court. The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages and restitution for ConAgra’s “deceptively and misleading mislabeling Hebrew National products as strictly 100% kosher, when they are not,” according to court documents. These products include Hebrew National’s line of hot dog/beef franks, salami, sausage and deli meats. At issue is not whether or not the meat used is beef, but rather whether it is slaughtered and handled according to kosher standards.

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Shabbat Meals: Red Mullet alla Livornese

By Alessandra Rovati

Dinner in Venice

My most lingering impression of New York City, after the excitement of my arrival (in 2003) had worn off, was that all the buzz and the people were there only to hide a deep and persistent potential for loneliness.

This feeling of being alone in a crowd reached its peak on Shabbat when, ironically, I was almost always invited out. But meeting so many people at the same time just seemed to make it more difficult to focus and build real friendships.

A few weeks after my move, I was fortunate enough to meet Lea and Gastone at a lecture. They were an older couple from Livorno, Italy, a large port city on the west coast of Tuscany, who had come to New York in the 1970’s when Gastone was hired to work as a foreign correspondent for Italian television. Lea’s soft Tuscan accent and her husband’s Old World elegance immediately put me at ease, and I was happy to let them “adopt me” for the occasional meal.

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A Walk in the Life of a Vegan

By Julie Mirliss

Although I just moved to New York City a little over two weeks ago, I somehow have my morning routine set. I skip over the seemingly endless amount of spam mail and jump straight to the 5-10 emails from almost every website out there offering coupons towards restaurants, events, and more fun deals around the city. While it’s easy to pass over many offers, one deal stood out that neither my roommate nor I could overlook. Since we both are eager to explore this city and try new things, no convincing was necessary to purchase last week’s Google Offer for two tickets to The Seed: A Vegan Experience

Since around 2004, interest in veganism has steadily been rising, due to people’s increasing awareness of how their diet affects their health, the environment and animals. While seemingly unusual and unrealistic for many, this plant-based lifestyle has found its way into mainstream, with many celebrity advocates such as former President Bill Clinton, Alicia Silverstone, Steve Wynn, Mike Tyson, Carrie Underwood, Ozzy Osbourne, Russell Simmons, and many more. Nowadays, vegan options are showing up on menus at restaurants around the country, making this lifestyle not seem so crazy, but surprisingly delicious and doable. (Not to mention the many rewarding health benefits!)

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Dutch Debate Over Kosher Slaughter Ends

By JTA

The Dutch Senate formally scrapped legislation to ban ritual slaughter in the Netherlands.

Fifty-one of the 75 senators voted Tuesday not to ratify the law passed last year by the parliament.

The vote is the final word in a protracted public debate about animal welfare, religious freedom and integration that began in September 2008, when tiny Holland’s Party for Animals submitted a bill to ban the slaughter of conscious animals. Islamic and Jewish law require that animals be conscious at the time of the slaughter.

Last week, the Dutch Senate ratified a deal to adapt ritual slaughter to the state’s animal welfare norms.

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In a Pickle: Giving a Full Sour Its Due

By Louis Finkelman

thinkstock

Consumer Reports recently recruited a team of five expert tasters to sample 10 different brands of pickles. After three days of pickle chomping, the taste testers reached a conclusion: Only the Whole Foods house brand, 365 Everyday Value, earned the ranking of “excellent.” Trader Joe’s pickles came in second. Almost all of the other brands, including Vlasic, B & G, Claussen and Boar’s Head kosher dill spears, merited the rank of “very good.” One poor entry, the Ba-Tampte Kosher Dill Deli Spears pickle earned the sad rank of “good,” the lowest rank of the bunch.

How did Consumer Reports go so wrong?

A look at the report makes clear that the experts were not looking for the kind of pickle that the man in the appetizing store fished out of a wooden barrel for me when I was a child.

They did not seek a true sour pickle, or even its less mature relative, the half-sour. Taste testers on the investigative team at Consumer Reports stated that they were looking for pickles with “crispy skins,” and “crunchy insides.” They note without comment which pickles have “bright colors,” as if this does not disqualify a pickle from consideration and might even qualify as a virtue.

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Turning the Tables: Why I Like the Big Gulp Ban

By Rabbi Noah Zvi Farkas

A lot of ink has been spilled about Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on large sodas in New York City. The central question is whether citizens should sacrifice freedoms such as the ability to choose an oil tanker-sized soda in order to ensure more healthy society. This battle of values pits freedom against health: Is there anything Jewish about this kind of debate?

As American Jews we certainly value our freedom. If we didn’t value liberty even in its most basic form as freedom from oppression, there would be nothing to our sense of exceptional nature of the American Diaspora. Our ancestors would have seen nothing in this land between the Atlantic and the Pacific worth crossing vast oceans to achieve. In the Torah, our quest for freedom begins at the birth of our nation: “Remember this day, on which you went free from Egypt, the house of bondage, how the lord freed you from it with a mighty hand.” (Exodus 13:5) Freedom is very much part of who we are. So, why not be able to drink what we want, when we want? God freed me from slavery, so I can slurp!

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Hebrew National Accused of Being Unkosher

By JTA

A lawsuit filed against Hebrew National alleged that its hot dogs and other products are not actually kosher.

The class-action suit, filed in May in a federal court in Minnesota, accuses ConAgra Foods — the business designation of Hebrew National that is certified kosher by Triangle K — of several transactions that would render the meat being processed as not kosher.

The suit also accuses the company of mistreating its employees, especially its kosher supervisors and slaughterers. The firm AER provides the kosher slaughtering services at Hebrew National facilities in the Midwest.

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Jews and Coffee — Talk Amongst Yourselves

By Emily Shire

Wikicommons

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.”

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CSA Cooking: All Hail Kale

By Lindsay Baker

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.

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Mixing Bowl: 5,606 New Kosher Products; Ultimate Babka

By Devra Ferst

iStock

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]

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Knish Knosh in Nashville

By Miriam Leibowitz

Miriam Leibowitz

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!

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World Food Prize Goes to Israeli Innovator

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Courtesy of World Food Prize

“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.

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A Turkish Shabbat Meal — Outside of Turkey

By Katherine Martinelli

Sarah Isikli / Savores de Siempre

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.

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Sephardi Recipes in the Sultan's Shadow

By Selin Rozanes

Katherine Martinelli

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.

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Ready, Set, Smoke: Kosher BBQ Competitions Heat Up

By Steven Weinberger

Steven Weinberger

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.

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Hookah And Shakshuka: Bay Area Israeli

By Laura Rumpf

Laura Rumpf

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.

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CSA: Celebrating Spring With Artichoke Soup

By Jessica Fischer

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.

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Mixing Bowl: Israeli Caviar; Kosher Wines in Napa

By Devra Ferst

iStock

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]

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Kosher Slaughter Escapes Ban in Netherlands

By JTA

JOOST J. BAKKER

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.”

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Ess, Mameleh, Ess: Raising a Healthy Jewish Child

By Jackie Topol

Hazon

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.

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