Chef Michael Solomonov has been busy this week trying to get a new passport — and he’ll need it. In a few days he will travel to Budapest and Paris for a week long trip of “More eating than you could possibly understand,” as he describes it, with his business partner Steve Cook and sous chef Yehuda Sichel. This trip — which will include visits to the cities’ Jewish quarters — isn’t a glutton’s vacation. It’s research for their new kosher restaurant Citron and Rose, set to open in Merion, a suburb of Philadelphia, this summer.
Solomonov and Cook already own four restaurants in Philadelphia, including the highly praised upscale Israeli restaurant Zahav. But the food they will offer at the sleek new 75-seat place, Citron and Rose will be the “Other side of what we do at Zahav,” said Solomonov. Instead of concentrating on Middle Eastern and Sephardic flavors, the team will turn their attention to Europe. “You think of pierogies and stuffed cabbage — they’re not so sexy, but there’s great European, Eastern European and Central European food that just needs a platform,” he said. The restaurant will focus on meat, but offer numerous vegetables options as well. Meals will be accompanied by small plates in hopes of giving diners a broad taste of these cuisines and dishes. “We want it to be an experience. We want to showcase as much as we can,” he added.
Walking inside from the cold wintery streets of Montréal, where the smell of onions and carrots fill the two-story shul, one can hear Friday night prayers ring out from a boisterous crowd of 20-somethings, excited university students and local community members welcoming the Shabbat Queen. The smells come from the Shabbat dinner last week, which consists of a warm chicken soup with kosher organic grain-fed chicken from a farm located in the Eastern Townships of Québec, a locally-grown bean puree and, “Spectacular Salsa” with local tomatoes, onions, and garlic, a cabbage salad with carrots and beets, and a frittata with mushrooms, onions, and eggs. And that’s just the first course.
Thanks to the Shefa Project, a student-run organization aimed at engaging Jewish people with sustainable solutions to environmental problems, members of the Ghetto Shul in Montréal, Québec enjoy weekly Shabbat dinners that are local, sustainably-grown and kosher. The initiative called Sustainable Shabbat began in 2010, when second year Agriculture student Aryeh Canter started holding educational programs at the Hillel at McGill University. Canter was interested in promoting sustainable practices within the Jewish student community at McGill. The programs became more practical when Canter’s friend Jordan Bibla found organic kosher chicken raised in Québec and they applied for grants from Gen J, a Jewish community grant organization, and the Student Society at McGill University.
Fridays meant one thing to me growing up: the smell of my mother’s challah. Sometimes I would come home from school, ready for the weekend, and it would already be there — that comforting aroma of bread and honey. I would quickly run to the oven where the bread was baking and check to its color. When it turned the perfect shade of golden brown, I would remove it.
Other times my mom waited for my triplet sisters and me to get home from school before she started baking. We would run upstairs to change, trading our school clothes for t-shirts that would soon be caked in flour. We would pull up benches to the island in the kitchen, and get to work.
Sandor Katz is so intimately associated with the making of sauerkraut that he has adopted “Sandorkraut” as his nom de cuisine. The author of the book “Wild Fermentation”, Katz is a guru of sorts, spreading the gospel of one of the world’s most widely used culinary practices and in the process inspiring legions of followers to discover the ease and pleasure of home fermenting.
After discovering the book a few years ago on a farm I worked at in southern Vermont, I began to experiment with some of Katz’s recipes. The recipe I explored (and adapted) the most is his recipe for kimchi.
Dragan Jankovic, a slim bespectacled man with a quick smile and thinning hair, is the living local repository of Jewish heritage in Pirot, an ancient market town in southeastern Serbia whose Jewish community was wiped out in the Holocaust. A photo-journalist who long worked for a local newspaper, Jankovic is a devout Christian, but became fascinated with Jewish history and culture as a student in Belgrade more than two decades ago. He made friends there at the Jewish Historical Museum, and since returning to Pirot he has spent years collecting material and memories about Jewish history in his hometown.
Dragan was our guide when I spent a day in Pirot during Passover as part of a fact-finding team examining the state of Jewish heritage sites in southern Serbia. “Ah, Passover,” he said. “Matzo! I tasted it once, 20 years ago, in Belgrade — someone from the Jewish Museum gave it to me, and I’ve never forgotten!” He smiled — wistfully, I thought — at the memory.
Cross-posted from JTA.
The new Jewish food movement arose in Boulder, Colo. organically, so to speak.
No large federation or organization swooped in to make sustainable farming and eating within a Jewish framework a priority.
Yet in this city of 100,000 — some 13,000 residents are Jewish — “green” has long been a way of life. So it’s not surprising that interest in sustainability has led to a variety of Jewish grass-roots projects such as the establishment of greenhouses in food deserts, a chicken and egg co-op, community farms and an organic chicken schechting (kosher butchering) project, along with — thanks to a $335,000 grant from three foundations — the arrival of Hazon, a national Jewish environmental group.
The grant, which brought Hazon to the region in December 2010, came from the Rose Foundation and the locally based Oreg Foundation and 18 Pomegranates.
On April 29, the partnership among the local funders, activists and environmental organizations will culminate with the Rocky Mountain Food Summit, which will be held at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
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.