I’m counting the Omer and reflecting on my garden this year: What has been accomplished, and what remains unfinished? (the metaphors abound).
The winter here in southern California is enviable to gardeners everywhere. We can plant in December what others can only begin to plant — if they’re lucky — now. Lettuces, chards, carrots and beets, and peas to name a few. By now, early May, I can start to put in summer’s heavy hitters; tomato seedlings, sweet corn, cucumbers and green beans from seed. Nature makes it easy to garden here the year round, if you can keep yourself motivated.
Last summer, the rows of corn I’d sown in the spring towered over the rest of an abundant garden, and gave us more ears than we knew what to do with. We steamed, grilled, roasted, and gave it away. I sent my five year old out to the garden before dinner to pull off a few ears and she quickly learned to sit on the back stoop and shuck them, as expertly as any farm-raised kid. We had tomatoes and tomatoes and tomatoes, summer squash, okra, zinnias and cosmos for the butterflies and for cutting, cucumbers and Japanese eggplants, Hungarian and Thai peppers and so much butternut squash we had enough to eat through November.
After Israel’s tent protests of last summer dwindled, organizers Julian Feder and Yigal Rambam wondered how they could help the movement live on. They wanted to create a concept that would embody the ethos of the protests, which started in response to the high cost of living. So, in conjunction with entrepreneur Ofir Avigad they’ve launched Tel Aviv’s first cooperative bar and restaurant.
Although Bar Kayma, which means sustainable in Hebrew, was thought up by three people, everyone who purchases a share will own a bit of the restaurant and have a say in everything from how its run, to what food they will serve. The 80 people who have signed up in the three short weeks since the project started decided on making the spot vegan and committed to paying workers above average wages, both of which promote their sustainable ethos.
In addition to having the option to participate in the management of the restaurant, shareholders will also get all food and drink at the bar at cost (a significant discount), while regular customers will pay full price. Still, one of their biggest goals is that the space be affordable for everyone. They’re working on sourcing the best ingredients for the least amount of money, which is no small challenge.
Katherine Martinelli caught up with Avigad to talk about Bar Kayma, which is slated to open in June.
Shabbat happens every week. Twenty five hours of it. That means that over the course of a year, there are 1300 hours of Shabbat for relaxing, eating, and sharing with others. At least that’s how I usually spend those hours, and for all of 2011, I decided to document those experiences, especially the eating, in a blog I called 25×52. 2011 was a big year for me; I turned 30, I had a baby, and since I knew my life would never be the same again, I wanted to document the cooking, the hosting, the impending sleeplessness, and the incredible hospitality of my community. Plus, the year started on Shabbat; everything aligned.
My year of blogging came and went. It was fun and rewarding and challenging in many ways, and it felt only right to end the project with as much panache as I started. For most of the blog, I reported on what happened at Shabbat meals without going too far out of my way to find things to write about. But, in honor of the final Shabbat of 2011, I orchestrated two incredible meals (I also decided 2012 is not the time to be bashful). I cooked my heart out, and I encouraged my friends to do the same. The results transcended my expectations. And, while some may say I have a proclivity towards over-ambition when it comes to cooking and entertaining, especially with a baby around, somehow it all came together.
SEJNY, POLAND — The first time I visited Lithuania in 2006 I was overwhelmed by the extraordinary sensation that I was traveling through a giant Jewish deli that extended across the entire country. Blintzes! Latkes! Sour cream! Herring! Smoked fish! Black bread! And even — on the breakfast buffet of one hotel I stayed in — vodka, at 8 in the morning.
Recently I spent a week in the far northeast of Poland in the town of Sejny, so close to the border with Lithuania that my cell phone kept jumping back and forth between the two national networks.
I was there for a series of events hosted by Borderland Foundation, an organization that works toward inter-ethnic cultural and artistic interchange, along with promoting an understanding of Jewish culture, heritage and memory.
In New York City, it’s difficult to come up with a kosher food concept that’s truly novel. But chef Alexandre Petard seems to have done it with the recently opened Latin-fusion eatery Ladino Tapas Bar & Grill.
“I had been approached by people to open Kosher restaurants, but they’re always steak or sushi. I just don’t find that very interesting,” Petard said. “I realized that the kosher world didn’t have any Spanish-style tapas restaurants, and there’s been a huge explosion of those kinds of restaurants outside the Kosher world, so I started testing recipes. It just worked,” he said.
Petard, a third-generation chef, who worked with famed French restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten. He also worked at upscale kosher restaurants like the now-shuttered Box Tree and Bistro Grill on Long Island.
With Shavuot around the corner, I’m thinking about milk chocolate and Israel, where there are several unique local options. As Janna Gur, Editor of Israel’s Al Hashulchan–The Israeli Gastronomic Monthly explained to me in a phone conversation, Israelis love chocolate and have a distinct preference for milk chocolate. The history of these chocolates tells us something about the growing years of the country itself.
The Elite brand developed several favorites in the milky realm. M’kupelet, bars of thinly folded milk chocolate similar to the Flake Bar of Cadbury from 1920, have been produced by Elite since 1935. The fondly remembered Hayal-Hayelet, a fifty-gram milk chocolate bar, was sold to Israeli soldiers at subsidized prices at canteens. Chocolate eating in the Tzava, the Israeli army, provided, as one person described to me, another means to klitah or absorption into Israeli society for what he called “exotic populations, immigrant groups from Morocco, Yemen, Ethiopia.”
This morning the Orthodox Jewish social justice organization Uri L’Tzedek announced a major victory in their 2-year campaign against Flaum Appetizing, a Queens-based hummus producer and food distributor that had repeated labor violations, including wage theft and overtime violations. Flaums has accepted a global settlement which will return over $500,000 to workers for these violations.
The victory comes after a long campaign fought by the workers’ group, Focus on the Food Chain, in partnership with Orthodox social justice organization, Uri L’Tzedek: The Orthodox Social Justice Movement. The campaign and its unlikely partnership spanned from street corners to corporate headquarters, college campuses to houses of worship across the United States. The campaign ultimately convinced 120 grocery stores, multinational corporations, spiritual leaders, and thousands of consumers to support the Flaums workers in their quest for justice.
Workers were subjected to wage theft including a failure to pay overtime and at times the minimum wage, for grueling work weeks as long as 80 hours. Workers from Latin America faced discrimination and abuse including anti-immigrant insults from senior management. When workers demanded payment in accordance with the law, 17 were illegally fired. Flaums lost a National Labor Relations Board trial and multiple appeals, but was still resisting compliance. This global settlement resolves both the NLRB retaliation litigation and a federal lawsuit over unpaid minimum wage and overtime.
At first glance, Irving Langer’s “The Kosher Grapevine” would seem to be just another wine primer. Langer guides the novice through the usual wine primer topics: Which grapes make what kind of wine, how it’s done, how to taste wine, what kind of stemware to pour it in, how to match wine with food, and even how to face down a snobby restaurant wine steward. And, of course, Langer explains what makes wine kosher. It’s the sort of “how-to” guide of which there seem to be a jillion on the shelves of Barnes & Noble — some worse, some better than this one.
But Langer, a retired real estate maven, is up to much more than plodding through the basics one more time. He’s got an agenda, and an unusual one at that. Langer wants to show that the traditional “sacramental” wines, loaded up with sugar, are not what observant Jews (like himself) should consume. It’s dry, modern wines that are called for, and the more nuanced the better. “I am convinced,” he says, “that the fine kosher wines being produced today provide us with an opportunity to relearn the skill that the sages of the Talmud certainly possessed: the ability to experience pleasure as uplifting and edifying.”
Brisket: It’s a staple on the Shabbat table and on the picnic tables of barbecue joints in the South. And self-proclaimed “Czar of Street Food,” Daniel Delaney is bringing it to New York City in a big way.
Delaney, 26, is the founder of Brisketlab, an “underground smoked meat guild” that will distribute pounds of barbecued brisket to its members this summer, with a side of booze and music. As a food writer and barbecue acolyte, Delaney was frustrated by the lack of craft barbecue experimentation in New York. So he bought an 18-foot-long smoker off a friend of his in Texas, hitched it to a trailer, and brought it back North with a truckload of indigenous Texas oak, what Delaney calls “the Rolls Royce of wood.”
Mile End Sandwich, the newest deli shop from Mile End Deli, a Montreal-style deli in New York, has opened its doors and it’s serving smoked meat and breakfast sandwiches. [Grub Street]
Russ and Daughters, the iconic New York appetizing shop, shares their recipe for chopped liver with caramelized onions. [Serious Eats
The New York Times announces the winner of their Essay for Ethical Meat Eating Contest. Tell us why you think eating or not eating meat is an ethical decision. [New York Times]
It’s thanks to one rabbi that The Jew and the Carrot discovered kosher bacon syrup, and thanks to another that it even exists.
On Tuesday, Rabbi Menachem Creditor of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, California posted a photo on Facebook of his hand holding a bottle of Torani brand “Bacon Flavoring Syrup.” His comment on the photo was: “This is hekhshered bacon-flavored syrup. Not sure where to begin.”
A mom in St. Louis had a say in the results of Hazon Colorado’s Best of the West Kugel contest. Nancy Green’s daughter, Hannah Green, a student at the University of Denver, was attending the Rocky Mountain Jewish Food Summit in Boulder on Sunday. And Hannah was so excited about being a kugel judge that she texted her mother — who quickly texted back what Hannah should look for. Nancy wrote that the “qualities of a good kugel” include moistness, holding together somewhat (but not too much), and good flavor and texture.
Taking her mom’s advice to heart, Hannah even re-tasted entries and changed some of her ratings. When the ratings of all 13 judges, chosen at random, were tallied, first place went to Sara Rachlin in the Sweet division, while Lindsay Gardner won top spot in the Savory category with a three cheese and spinach kugel. Shari Goldstein took the Sweet second place, and Benjamin Stuhl was second in Savory, with all four taking home prizes.
Read on for the winning kugel recipes and share your kugel recipes in the comment section below.
Orange juice has always had an important place in my life. It started when I was about 5 years old.
I spent my childhood in Gabon, Africa. The rhythm of life there is nothing like a Western developed country. We lived a calm and stress-free life. My dad used to call it “heaven.”
Everyday, my brother and I would get picked up from school at noon for a three-hour lunch break with the complete family at home. As my father’s car would pull into the house’s driveway, Aisha, our housekeeper, would stand by the door and greet us with glasses of fresh squeezed orange juice, while my mother cooked lunch. In each glass, she had placed a red plastic straw, one of those that fold at the top. The rule was that we had to finish the glass before going off to play. Looking back, I think it was my mother’s way of keeping us busy and gaining some time to prepare the meal.
Today kicks off Bike Month in cities all over the country, including New York. As the weather warms, it’s a great time to celebrate two-wheeled transportation, whether you’re getting some place you have to go (like work) or going someplace fun (like the beach) getting there can be part of the excursion. Of course, once you start talking about biking, you need to talk about eating. Hazon organizes Jewish bike rides all over the country, both large and small, and I took a poll among our riders to find out what favorite foods our riders just can’t live without.
Most honorable mentions went to the banana: a sweet, filling, nutritious snack that comes with its own biodegradable packaging. Many riders also bring nuts and dried fruit, which are easily transported and not generally affected by extreme temperatures or rough handling in a backpack or bike bag.
The cooperative enterprise, popular in the early days of Zionism, has made something of a comeback over the past year.
Following last summer’s social justice protests, dozens of cooperatives have been founded. These include the Ha’agala co-op in Mitzpeh Ramon, which competes with the local branch of the Super-Sol grocery store, a social workers’ cooperative and a co-op in northern Israel made up of teachers employed by manpower companies.
Next month, a pub-restaurant co-op is slated to open in Tel Aviv, while in Jerusalem a plan for a cooperative coffee shop is beginning to take shape.
Read more at Haaretz.com.
It’s springtime in Israel, and in the shuk, fresh garlic bulbs, still attached to their green scapes, lie piled on vendor’s stands. I pull out the biggest, most attractive ones for dishes like garlic soup, pickled garlic, chicken roasted on a bed of whole garlic bulbs, spring herb pestos and my favorite, garlic confit — a luscious spread of roasted garlic and herbs.
I pick up ten kilos of fresh green garlic that festoon the laundry room. The scent pervades the house and smells a bit like sausage. Until the juicy bulbs begin to dry inside their purple-tinted sheaths, (about four days) my teenager won’t invite friends over, embarrassed by the scent. When the atmosphere returns to normal, so does my daughter’s social life. Yet put a little dish of garlic confit to smear on challah in front of her, and she hardly wants to eat anything else.
On an unseasonably warm, November morning, four female college students and their academic advisor boarded the subway to Hunt’s Point in the South Bronx. On this particular morning, we prepared for a day of experiential learning as part of our Fellowship in Jewish Social Entrepreneurship that is run by the Jewish Theological Seminary. In addition to interning in a field of social justice, fellows attend twice monthly sessions run by already-established entrepreneurs in the social justice field. As part of this fellowship, I interned on the Food Programs team at Hazon, but I wouldn’t begin to realize the effects of the work I was doing until the end of this influential field trip.
Throughout my time in college, my interest in the role of food in daily life grew, which was part of my attraction to Hazon. I liked how Hazon viewed the importance of healthy and sustainable food, through an explicitly Jewish lens. Though this field trip occurred only a few months into my internship at Hazon, I was beginning to see the complex web food spun in daily life. Each holiday has specific foods that we, as Jews, culturally favor. In addition, I had the opportunity to work with members of CSAs, and I saw that people are truly invested in where their food was sourced and who was involved in producing it. As a student living in Manhattan, food is not a privilege; I have choice and agency in what food I choose. On our field trip, the other fellows and I learned that food to residents of the South Bronx played a very different role.
Tucked away on a side street in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, La Vara is an artfully decorated, cozy restaurant specializing in Sephardic and Moorish cuisine. It’s the latest project by husband and wife team Alex Raij and Eder Montero, who own two Spanish restaurants in Manhattan.
Raij wanted to explore the Jewish element in Spanish food and took the name La Vara, meaning the branch, from a locally-published Ladino newspaper from the mid-20th century. The name does more than just signal the restaurant’s Sephardic cuisine, it points to Raij’s broader fascination with how niche communities draw on and influence the larger environments they inhabit. To craft the menu, she delved deep back into Spain’s rich history for inspiration, unearthing ancient Spanish-Judeo dishes that were transformed by the Inquisition.
A month after their opening, we chatted with Raij about her culinary inspirations for La Vara, why she chose to make it non-kosher and how the restaurant fits into the current Jewish restaurant scene.
Esquire Editor at Large and experiential journalist A.J. Jacobs embarked on a quest to improve his mind by reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. That resulted in the publication of his first book, “The Know-It-All” in 2005. Three years later came “The Year of Living Biblically” chronicling his attempt to raise his spiritual consciousness by growing a wild beard, riding the subway dressed like Moses, and following all the laws of the Bible in their literal sense. Now the 44-year-old Manhattanite has recounted how he tried to achieve bodily perfection in “Drop Dead Healthy” — published earlier this month.
To be sure, a healthy diet and good eating habits would figure into Jacobs’ latest experiment. The question facing the author over the course of his two year investigation, however, was: What exactly is the healthiest diet and what are the healthiest eating habits? Jacobs discovered that some people follow healthy eating habits with a dedication that is akin to religious devotion, like the macrobiotic diet or the author’s Aunt Marti and her raw food regimen. One of the lesser-known habits that Jacobs uncovered has a name that even sounds a lot like a religion very familiar to readers of The Forward. It’s called “Chewdaism.”
Kutsher’s Tribeca is launching Brisket Mondays — a different preparation of brisket will be offered each week. We’re so there! [Eater]
Spice advice from Lior Lev Sercaz, our favorite Israeli spice master. [Food 52]
An Israeli chef and a Palestinian chef work side by side in a DC catering company. [Slate]