Over the last year my boyfriend Uriel and I — like so many other members of our generation — have become avid canners. Our experiments with blueberries, peaches, and rhubarb have resulted in stacks of colorful Ball jars lining our countertops.
As the waning summer limits the availability of berries and empty counter space becomes a valuable commodity, it’s hard to justify making more jam. The jams will stay unspoiled for a year and there’s a limit to how much we can eat. But I’m not quite ready to put my canning tools away.
On a recent drive from Pittsburgh to Washington DC, I convinced Uriel that we should pick apples along the way and make apple butter for our mothers for Rosh Hashanah. It was, I insisted, a win-win. We wouldn’t miss out on fall canning; and it would be a heartfelt New Year’s present. At the orchard we filled a bushel sized basket for only $7! It seemed like a great price for a bushel, but we were unaware that there were over 100 medium-sized apples in our basket.
When we got home, we broke out the cookbooks. To my dismay, our cursory recipe review revealed that we would have to peel the apples, a tedious and time consuming task that I desperately hoped we could avoid.
A Greek-American friend of mine told me about Artopolis bakery in Astoria. This bakery is the real deal; there are both savory and sweet pastries of all varities – from spanakopita, to biscuits, to cakes, to tarts. Once I knew of its existence, I found myself going out of my way to stop by Astoria and load up on their treats. I immediately fell in love with a cookie called melamakarona. These honey soaked biscuits were kept in a tray behind glass, which added to the allure. They looked so precious; their golden-brown color, glistening with honey and topped with chopped walnuts. The aroma is fragrant, with hints of clove and cinnamon. The texture of the cookie is baklava-esque, as it’s soft from the honey bath it sits in.
It’s the start of chag season, and over the next few months our tables will be filled with food and surrounded by friends and family. But some of the classic dishes (you know the ones – think brisket, sweet and sour meatballs, and honey cake) can look drab, even when prepared by the most skilled home cooks. As comforting and delicious as Bubby’s cooking is, sometimes it can all get a little, well, brown. This year we turned to food styling pros for some holiday table tips.
Before you even get to the food, you set the mood when you set the table. For a formal feel, break out the good china, but also don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through here. Tori Avey of the popular food blog The Shiksa in the Kitchen says, “I enjoy seeing color on the table, so I tend to use very colorful place settings. I like hand painted vintage dishes, Moroccan-style plates and glasses, and wood serving platters and utensils.” Feel free to forgo conventional wisdom and mix and match for a fun and whimsical look.
For many, the term “Jewish food” means one of two things: bubby’s matzo balls and the like, or, simply something that’s indefinable. The latter might be because Jews lack one specific country to point to for a cuisine, making Jewish food a mix of a number of different influences. And as Jewish cookbook author June Feiss Hersh said in a panel discussion at the New School earlier this year, “We’ve been thrown out of every best country in the world.”
However, Italy is a different story. This weekend, in a panel discussion presented by the Museum of Jewish Heritage, a 300 person audience learned why.
Cookbook author Jayne Cohen, who moderated, began with a brief history of Jews in Italy. To make a thousands-of-years-old story short, Italy was one of the only countries that Jews were not kicked out of (rather, they were confined to ghettos from the end of the 15th century to the mid-19th century).
Using what was locally and legally available, they crafted a cuisine that fit within their own dietary restrictions. The ghettos around Italy varied (the inhabitants of some were allowed to leave during the day to work, some allowed non-Jews in), and while some had their distinct specialties, one consistency throughout Italian ghettos was that there were many restrictions placed on the food that they were allowed to have.
My fondest memory of our Rosh Hashanah table is from even before we sat down to eat. As I was growing up, one of my chores on the Jewish New Year was to help set the table. Every year, as my mother would leave the plate of apples and honey on the table while she attended to some other kitchen task, I would sneak over and try to grab an apple slice off the pile, dip it in honey, and sneak out. The trick, of course, was making sure that pile of apple slices looked undisturbed. I had to choose my apple slice carefully, making the whole effort sort of like a fruit-base Jenga puzzle. Pulling on the right slice was crucial. Once I achieved success (yes! no one would know!) dipping it into the honey presented its own challenges. How to get the delicious bee-nectar out without spilling a drop on the white table cloth? It took a few years, but I mastered the art of rolling the apple slice just right so the honey would curl its golden fingers around the wedge like an infant reflexively grabbing his mothers finger. And then, crunch!
Where did the custom of dipping apples in honey come from anyway? The earliest sources I found regarding eating symbolic foods on the New Year are in the Talmud (Keritot 6a), but apples are not mentioned. Only dates from which honey could be extracted. Other foods included pumpkin, fenugreek, leeks, and beets, all symbols of fertility.
As soon as September starts, my mind turns to high holiday cooking and the intoxicating smells of one my Sephardic family’s favorite dishes – Salade de Piments, more widely known as matbucha. It is a transporting elixir of garlicky, semi-caramelized roasted peppers and tomatoes. Layered with smoky, piquant and subtly sweet flavors, it’s a perfect counterpoint to any meal — from brisket to omelet — or simply savored on bread.
Despite the lengthy prep time, the dish has been relished by Mediterranean Jews for nearly 500 years. I love to serve it for Rosh Hashanah when local peppers and tomatoes are bountiful.
My family’s Salade de Piments recipe has roots in the Spanish Inquisition when, rather than face death or conversion, my ancestors chose exile to Melilla, a coastal town in Spanish Morocco. It was around the same time that Christopher Columbus returned from the New World with his exotic booty, including peppers plucked from South America; tomatoes followed from Peru via Cortez in the mid-1500s.
Many of us are blessed to have locally sourced organic honey available, made with the nectar of wild flowers. When local honey isn’t available, however, the only alternative is purchasing honey produced abroad. And our choice, in that situation, DOES make a difference!
Whether the thought of cooking another kugel drives you insane or you’re just too far away to go home for the holidays, these restaurants have your back in the tastiest of ways. While some chefs have opted to go the more traditional route by doing their best to recreate one of grandma’s meals, others use the holiday as an opportunity to strut their stuff and put their own gourmet twists on old favorites. If you’re having trouble deciding where to eat, look out for our “Critic’s Picks”
Artisanal Formagerie and Bistro Critic’s Pick!
Gouda matzo balls anyone? For an entire week, Artisanal Formagerie and Bistro will offer a French-influenced cheese-centric holiday menu that can be ordered à la carte, as a prix fixe, or to take home. Entrees include a seven-hour brisket with carrot kugel and cold poached salmon served with latkes and horseradish sour cream. Desserts like challah pain perdu and an apple tarte with cheddar cheese crust are sure to ring in a sweet and cheesy new year.
Details: September 16-23. 3-course prix fixe $47 pp, 4-course prix fixe with cheese flight $58 pp. 2 Park Avenue. (212) 725-8585.
The secret to feeding a picky child? Matzo brei says Ruth Reichl. [Gilt Taste]
Serious Eats hung out with one of our favorite chefs, Israeli-New Yorker Einat Admony. Check out their great Q and A. [Serious Eats]
To Market, To Market. Take a tour of a Schwartz’s Kosher Supermarket in Williamsburg and see what Old World gems you find. [Serious Eats]
Jewish food porn ahead: Mile End’s cookbook trailer. Yum. [Youtube]
Shabbat cooking: give this Senegalese chicken and onion dish a try for your next Shabbat dinner. [Saveur]
The power of food never ceases to amaze me. It has the power to not only provide nourishment for our bodies, but it can build bridges in the most seemingly unusual and unexpected ways.
This Rosh Hashanah marks my second as a Jewish woman. I converted in August 2011, though I’d considered myself Jewish for some time before I made it official in the mikvah. Despite my convictions to adherence to Jewish practice, I worried that I’d lose important parts of my black American identity. Like many, I converted under Ashkenazi auspices and as much as I enjoy my partner’s bubbie’s matzah ball soup, I longed for the comfort foods and traditions of my family.
Merging the southern family traditions passed down to me from my mother, who learned them from her mother, with my new Jewish traditions is an important part of how I identify as a Jew. During Rosh Hashanah 2011, I discovered a welcome tradition buried within the Sephardic traditions black-eyed peas and greens.
Eric Ripert is the reigning king of seafaring foods in the United States and his Philadelphia restaurant 10Arts reflects his passion for poisson. The restaurant, located in the Ritz Carlton, is led day-to-day by chef Nathan Volz,.
Volz says he strives to craft dishes that “look hearty but are actually very light and packed full of flavor.” One of his signature dishes is a piece of stripped bass, swimming in a chorizo broth. His striped bass preparation was inspired by one served at Eric Ripert’s most famous restaurant Le Bernardin where “they use a variation on the sauce for one of the dishes and I fell in love with the bass and made it more rustic by leaving in the vegetables and the chorizo…The bass is always something customers come in for. It’s definitely a favorite.”
Although it’s an complex and sophisticated dish it works just as well in the home kitchen “because the hardest part about the dish is the sauce and that can be done earlier in the day or the day ahead. It’s something that could be finished last minute.” Still, there are a few more steps than your average three step meal.
When Jodi Ettenberg quit her job as a New York lawyer to travel around the world and chronicle her journey on a blog called Legal Nomads, she thought she was going on a year-long trip. That was four years ago.
Since then, traveling and experiencing places through food has become her passion and vocation. She works as a freelance journalist, photographer, and food writer wherever she is — everywhere from Mexico City to the plains of Mongolia. This fall, she will release her first book book called “The Food Traveler’s Handbook: How To Find Cheap, Safe and Delicious Food Anywhere in the World.”. The Jew and the Carrot spoke with Ettenberg while on a stop home in Montreal to talk about her favorite country to eat in, her writing, and the thrills and tastes of long-term travel.
This article originally appeared in j., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California.
When Steven Kent did an internship at The Farm, a hippie commune in rural Tennessee, he had an epiphany. Eating a steady diet of sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, sourdough bread and other fermented foods, he found the digestive problems that had plagued him since college largely vanished.
From Sandor Katz, whose book “Wild Fermentation” is widely considered the bible of fermented foods, Kent learned about tempeh, a soybean product that’s originally from Indonesia.
The encounter with this little-known Asian staple changed the life of this Jewish guy from Virginia in a major way.
In Oakland some time later, a friend showed him how to make it. When he fried some up, he found it was “so good” that about a year ago he used his bar mitzvah savings to start his own artisanal, small-batch tempeh company, called Alive & Healing. In addition to being sold in the freezer case at San Francisco’s Rainbow Grocery and the Santa Rosa farmers market, his tempeh can be delivered straight to your Bay Area home.
Kent, who is 27 and goes by the name Stem, works out of an industrial kitchen space in Windsor, in Sonoma County. He suggested I come on a Wednesday, to see one batch of tempeh cooked and processed, and another finished and packaged. In a few hours, I got a good idea of how the tangy-better-than-tofu product is made.
Food porn alert: Eater gets a first look inside “The Mile End Cookbook.” Even the matzo looks mouthwatering… [Eater]
Tips and ideas for cooking with the flavorful sesame, salt, sumac and herb mixture of za’atar. [Epicurious]
Back-to-school tips from a new blog dealing with kosher, allergen-free living. [Kosher Food Allergies]
At home with kosher culinary queen Helen Nash. [Tablet]
Mackerel Carpaccio with caramelized figs and ceviche with black lentils from a culinary tour of Israel. [Washington Post]
When I arrived last week at 2nd Avenue deli in midtown Manhattan for lunch with Nick Wiseman and Barry Koslow — the owner and chef of soon-to-open upscale DGS Delicatessen in D.C. respectively — I found my dining companions already elbow-deep in an impressive spread of traditional deli stand-bys.
Among the half-eaten offerings, I spied the remains of a corned beef sandwich, a hearty plate of kasha varnishkas, crisp gribnes, a knish the size of a softball, kreplach with fried onions, sweet noodle kugel, fatty cholent, pickles, cole slaw, and countless cans of Dr. Brown’s sodas in at least four flavors.
Wiseman and Koslow were in the homestretch of a whirlwind New York deli research trip, their second in the last few months. Also in tow: Wiseman’s cousin and DGS co-owner, Dave Wiseman, and the eatery-to-be’s newly hired general manager, Brian Zipin. Together the foursome had noshed their way through a marquee-worthy spate of New York deli institutions, old and new. On this trip, they’d already visited the much touted Montreal-style eatery Mile End, new-ish smoked fish emporium Shelsky’s, Borsht Belt-inspired Kutsher’s and Lower East Side landmarks Kossar’s Bialys and The Pickle Guys.
Israel’s leading rabbi has warned Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders that his party’s support for a ban of ritual slaughter of animals in the Netherlands is “anti-Semitic” and could drive away the country’s Jewish community.
Wilders rose to prominence in the Netherlands denouncing the growing influence of Islam in the West, calling for a ban against Muslim immigrants, a halt to the construction of mosques and a ban on Muslim face-veils.
Some of his most outspoken supporters are in the conservative, pro-Israeli movement in the United States. Wilders calls himself Israel’s “greatest friend” and has also proposed creating a national Dutch holiday to commemorate the victims of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
In a letter to Wilders on Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters on Wednesday, Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, called on Wilders’ Freedom Party to stop backing a ban on ritual slaughter.
It is the strongest public condemnation yet of Wilders’ position on the policy and comes two weeks before the Netherlands holds a general election September 12 in which he is expected to take a sizeable portion of the vote.
Labor Day approaches predictably every year, on the first Monday in September. When it was declared a federal holiday in Connecticut in 1894, thirty states were already celebrating, many with street parades and festivals for workers and their families. The idea resonated for the American people then and it continues to resonate now.
While the picnic traditions and celebratory gatherings were with Americans from the beginning, backyard BBQ’s and the social ban on wearing white after Labor Day weekend evolved later. Of greater importance, is taking a moment to pause and reflect on the truer meaning of Labor Day. Personally, I’ll take the opportunity to reflect on the power of advocates of fair trade, conditions and wages. I’ll choose to pause and give thanks to workers who labor in all sorts of ways. Not so different from the impetus for the holiday in the first place!
We didn’t observe Shabbat. Well, maybe once or twice. Or perhaps I should say, not formally. Yes, we sat down for dinner as a family. Delicious food was served and we talked about our days. But we didn’t light candles. We didn’t say prayers and we didn’t break bread.
Growing up in Long Island’s suburbia, we were the type of family where the kids went to Hebrew school three days a week but we rarely ever went to services. We went to Jewish sleepaway camps and spent weekends on youth group retreats, but religion was not part of home life. Pepper steak, however, was.
It’s rare that food is served with as much ceremony as my paternal Grandmother Millicent Bloomberg’s pepper steak. In old-school style we’d start our meal with a halved grapefruit (carefully pre-sectioned until the serrated edged grapefruit spoon was invented) or slices of cantaloupe before moving onto the flank steak-and-green pepper stew. A portion would be scooped over rice (usually white) and sided with a lettuce-based salad.
Food is an integral part of every community. I know this first-hand because I have had the privilege of travelling to many different types of communities from Australia, to Israel, Costa Rica, Panama and Mexico, and 35 of the 50 states. My first thought when I go somewhere new is inevitably: What am I going to eat? To be on the safe side, I usually learn how to say “vegetarian” or “no meat” in the local language before I go. I’ve learned ‘tzimchonit’, Hebrew for vegetarian; sin carne–without meat in Spanish; and ‘no meat for me, mate’ in Australian. With these few phrases I have happily consumed delicious fish and veggies all over the world.
A new season means a new crop of cookbooks, and this fall’s set to be spectacular. Eater recently put up a two-part post with their top picks. From fresh spins on Jewish deli fare to Middle Eastern comfort food to new books by big names like Mark Bittman and Jacques Pepin, there’s plenty of volumes we can’t wait to tuck into. What books are you excited to add to your kitchen shelf? Tell us in the comments.
“The Mile End Cookbook: Redefining Jewish Comfort Food from Hash to Hamentaschen“
by Noah and Rae Bernamoff
Save yourself the trip to New York and recreate the nouveau-Jewish takes on classics from blintzes to tzimmes at home with the first book from the masterminds behind Mile End. For the extra-ambitious (or hungry) the book also breaks down the process for pickling, preserving, and smoking delicatessen staples.
“Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Yottam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Just like the city itself, “Jerusalem” brings together a melting pot of cultures and tastes. In a beautifully-photographed collection, the authors mix their east- and west-side heritages to create colorful vegetarian dishes, rich, sweet desserts, and more.
“The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook“ by Deb Perelman Award-winning blogger and perennial fan favorite Deb Perelman puts out her debut collection at last. With the same eye for bright, appealing photographs and ear for friendly, encouraging instructions that made her website a hit, Perelman dishes up recipes for everything from cocktails to chocolate crepe cake.
“Jewish Cookery Book: On Principles of Economy” by Esther Levy and Joan Nathan This reissue of the classic, historical cookbook now comes with an introduction by Jewish culinary expert Joan Nathan. Originally published in 1871, the book covers maintaining a household, following Jewish dietary laws, and a variety of medicinal recipes in a kind of Jewish primer for immigrants living in America before the turn of the century.