Last year I moved across the country to complete a seven-month internship program. There wasn’t a lot of time to make friends, but I found that sharing food seemed to foster a sense of camaraderie. I was excited when one day a fellow intern invited me to her home for Friday night dinner. Since I’m gluten-free my initial instinct was to offer to bring a dish so she wouldn’t have to go out of her way but I also knew that my standards of kashrut were not as strict as hers. We compromised and agreed that I would bring fresh vegetables for a salad from the farm I was working on, and she insisted on trying her hand at making gluten-free challah.
Later that week we sat around the Shabbat table and bit into the tough pieces of densely packed bread before bursting out in laughter. It wasn’t very tasty, but I was touched by the kind gesture and it the first of many Shabbatot I spent at her table. So earlier this summer when The New York Times ran a piece called “The Picky Eater Who Came to Dinner”, I was upset at the article’s snarky tone which laments how hard it has become for Americans to break bread together.
While Roasted Red Pepper hummus may get more press time, you might be surprised to learn that sun dried tomato is sneaking up as the next big thing in flavored hummus. We saw it everywhere. Deeply hued, this rich and tangy red tomato hummus blend wowed us—in more ways than one. In general, we were confused whether to consider it hummus, given that it didn’t look, smell, or taste like the chickpea stuff. But, as we all had to admit, it did taste pretty good.
Well, almost all of us. Our resident Israeli, wouldn’t taste any of the stuff, shouting at us that “Israeli’s do not eat sun dried tomato hummus!! Its an abomination.” He then took off in a huff, and, thankfully, left his share of pita slices behind.
A note on scoring: Each hummus was rated on a scale from one to five based on texture, taste, appearance, smell, and tomato-ey goodness
If you’re a hummus fiend — which I proudly am — you might have noticed a change in your grocer’s selection of hummus in the past couple of years. Suddenly, your options are no longer limited to just pine nuts or no pine nuts.
Welcome to the world of flavored hummus, where ingredients like horseradish, edamame, and guacamole rule the supermarket shelves, alongside exotic seasonings like chipotle and the bizarre buffalo sauce.
Ten years ago, you had to move the guacamole and salsa aside in order to find even just a single lame tub of hummus. It was probably Sabra, and it was almost definitely the original flavor. Cut to 2012 — Sabra now makes 19 different hummus flavors, and Tribe follows with a close 16. Whole supermarket display cases are devoted to the chickpea treat.
But is this latest crazy trend worth all of the hype (and shelf space)? We were curious. So we took it upon ourselves to try the 12 wackiest flavor of hummus we could get our hands on (we know, our jobs are tough). Check out our scores below to find out which flavors to take a chance on and which to leave at the store.
In my experience, there’s often a token non-Jew at Friday night dinner or at the Seder — the Shabbos Goy or the Passover Goy, some call them (affectionately).
Last Friday, however, I experienced the unfamiliar sensation of being the Shabbos Jew at a Friday night dinner with several Catholic friends. And when I call them Catholic, understand what I mean: One is a seminarian in Rome and another is a playwright studying at Catholic University – and our host for the evening, Sarah, has a degree from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.
I’ve gotten used to feeling the Shabbos spirit at Friday night dinners with eclectic companions. (And my roommates — a lesbian lapsed Catholic and a Puerto Rican lapsed Pentecostal — have gotten used to things like knishes and kasha varnishkes.) Even so, this meal was a mish-mash of cultures — in the company and in the food served.
A little piece of Texas has landed in the Bronx. Ari White, owner of Gemstone Catering, is dishing out slow-cooked brisket, pulled barbecue chicken sandwiches, kosher baby back ribs (using veal instead of the traditional pork), and much more at his Texas Smokehouse BBQ Pop-Up restaurant in Riverdale this week.
White has set up two tents — one housing buffet-style food (served by members of his staff), and the other with long, country-fair-style picnic tables along with a drinks and dessert table featuring sweet tea, Texas-sized chocolate chip cookies and peach cobbler (pareve of course). The down-and-dirty parking lot setting feels just right.
White, who is modern Orthodox, is well-known in the New York-area shul kiddish community for his Texas-style cholent (in which smoked ribs and brisket take the place of stew meat). And earlier this year, he won first place in the ribs competition and second place for his brisket at the Long Island Kosher Barbecue Championship, competing under the team name, “Smokin’ for Life.”
The winner of our taste test for best Israeli-style hummus in New York City was unanimous — Mimi’s Hummus in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn makes an exquisitely creamy hummus.
And it’s not just the Forward staff that’s obsessed with the restaurant’s namesake dish. The cozy 8-table restaurant has garnered great praise for its takes on favorites like shakshuka, lamb meatballs, and tabouli, but it’s the house specialty that’s the main draw — and for good reason.
In addition the classic-style, piled with chickpeas and generously sprinkled with herbs, Israeli chef Mimi Kitani draws on her Iraqi and Moroccan background to spin out flavorful hummus garnished with mushrooms, extra tahini, and spiced meat and pine nuts.
The Jew and the Carrot talked to Kitani about her cooking, how her restaurant started, and how she really feels about supermarket hummus.
Jews are no strangers to dietary restrictions. The laws of kashrut govern what we can and cannot eat (pork, shellfish, mixing milk and meat). When food allergies are introduced into an already restricted diet, the task can seem insurmountable.
I know that’s how I felt when my identical twins were diagnosed with food allergies while I was nursing them. They were reacting to allergens in my diet. Knowing the enormous benefits of breastfeeding, I was committed to nursing them and had to radically alter my own diet. While never having food allergies myself, feeding my allergic children has given me expertise by default.
After a week of packaged hummus, the Forward’s taste testing team was particularly excited for this day of hummus week: freshly-made hummus from some of New York’s top Israeli spots. Eager looks and impatient sighs of “Are you ready yet?” attested to the anticipation and eagerness that permeated the office on the morning of testing.
New York’s hummus scene is as diverse as its Middle Eastern immigrant populations. Sahadi’s in Brooklyn serves an uber creamy Lebanese-style hummus, while Manhattan’s Moustache restaurant offers a zesty Greek hummus pizza.
Since comparing hummus from different traditions is like comparing apples and oranges, we stuck with what we know, Israeli hummus. With some help from hummus aficionados, we narrowed the field down to six finalists — all made in New York City proper and all in the Israeli style.
All this week on the Jew and the Carrot, we’ll be taking a close look at the world of hummus. Check out our first post here.
After tasting six classic hummuses, we turned our sights to its next of kin: spicy hummus. Home cooks have been spicing their hummus for generations — adding a little bit of paprika here, or a dash of cumin there, to add a nice kick to their meal or snack.
Hummus companies have taken the work out of spicy hummus and started blending in a variety of spices into their classic recipes. We tasted six different varieties of packaged spicy hummus, to find the best option on the shelf. During our tastings, we tried a few varieties of Jalapeno flavored (which we were surprised to find is a commonly sold hummus), some that were merely labeled “spicy,” and one that tempted us with “40 spices.”
What did we discover? Each spicy hummus somehow tasted different than the last. Even more surprising was how many of them didn’t taste spicy at all.
It seems, hummus is everywhere — and in every flavor. Even an innocuous trip to the corner deli leaves one dumbfounded.
Sabra boasts of 19 different flavors, with more on the way. Tribe follows with a close 16. Trader Joe’s, which sells an extensive line of house-brand hummus, offers three different versions of the original flavor, a hummus ground with edamame, and a special three layer hummus dip with cilantro jalapeno hummus and spicy hummus layered over the original.
Louis Fellman, the founder and owner of Abraham’s Natural Foods explains the hummus flavor boom as a relatively new phenomenon. According to Fellman, who has been making and selling hummus since 1985, the question he used to ask, “do you like hummus,” has morphed into, “which hummus do you like?”
On a recent evening at my local market — with $5 in my pocket, and eyes bigger than my stomach — I stopped in the hummus aisle to pick up a tub for the next-day’s lunch. I always go for my favorite: Sabra with Pine Nuts. But, as I reached past the five shelves stocked with hundreds of red-topped hummus tubs, my stomach and eyes began flitting excitedly through all the various labels. Luscious Lemon? Spinach Artichoke? Basil Pesto? And what about these small tubs of Abraham’s hummus that I see innocently sitting on the next shelf over? Could these be worthy of a spot in my refrigerator?
And so the idea for The Great Hummus Taste Test was born. I gathered together a diverse panel of Forward and Hazon staff to taste their way through 32 different varieties of hummus, all in the quest to determine which of these chickpea tubs were worth scarfing down on a nice carrot-filled summer evening.
Like many other CSA members, I have a love/hate relationship with lettuce. Oh it starts off innocent enough — the first tender bunches of arugula in early June herald a summer of fresh green things to come, blissful after a winter of squash and canned tomatoes and covert glances at California produce. Arugula and salad mix give way to the glory of the lettuce family, full heads of bib, romaine, oak leaf. Fractal symmetry amazes, salad possibilities tantalize.
But the magic fades quickly. Lettuce, again? Where are the tomatoes? The bushy purple-green heads languish at the back of the refrigerator, emerging a week later with frostbitten edges, only to be composted in order to make room for this week’s share…of more lettuce.
Chef Tamar Adler shares her secrets for making “brighteners” out of simple ingredients to breathe life into leftovers and more. [Food 52]
Kansas City goes kosher: the capital city of ‘cue is hosting its first-ever kosher BBQ Festival and Celebration with 16 teams set to compete for the inaugural honor. [Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
Daniel Delaney is popping up again this Fall with BrisketTown, an eat-in shop in “North Brooklyn or Lower Manhattan” that will feature sumptuous slabs of his oak-smoked, Texas-style specialty. [Grub Street]
The ever-appetizing Russ and Daughters gets a cameo as a date location for Louis C. K. and guest star Parker Posey to nosh on nova lox in an episode of FX’s “Louie.” [Eater]
Veterans of New York’s hummus scene, chefs Yigal Ashkenazy and Sharon Hoota, along with Nir Mesika of Tel Aviv and Milan, are setting up Brooklyn shop Zizi Limona, which will feature “modernized Mediterranean cuisine” and sell retail goods like pickles, cheese and produce. [Grub Street]
The New York Times Mimi Sheraton revisits New York institutions like Kossar’s and Katz’s to sample timeless “lost and found” specialties like pastrami, rye, and bagels and schmear. [The New York Times]
After careful planning and preparation, a team comes together for the ultimate test of their skills. Judges are watching, reputations are on the line, and the heat is palpable. A record is about to be broken — but not in London. Last Saturday, 10 Jordanian chefs achieved gastronomic glory when they fried up the world’s largest falafel.
The champion chickpea fritter weighed in just shy of 165 pounds, over three times as heavy as the previous title-holder. The recipe was scaled-up, too: 176 pounds of chickpeas, 11 pounds of onions, and over four pounds of parsley were mixed by hand before a 25-minute dunk in 92 gallons of vegetable oil. After being carefully inspected and certified “ginormous” by Guinness Book of World Records officials, the colossal falafel became a feast for 600 gathered at the Landmark Hotel in Amman, Jordan.
When you edit stories about Jewish food everyday — whether they’re about food carts, bagels or hummus (next week we’ll dedicate the entire week to the dip) — you sometimes get so caught up in the details that you forget to step back and look at this rich cultural world you cover.
Yesterday, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to contemplate the big picture of Jewish food with one of the most passionate Jewish foodies I know — James Beard Foundation VP and cookbook author Mitchell Davis.
Each week Davis hosts a radio show called Taste Matters on the food radio station Heritage Radio Network. And yesterday, the taste that mattered was decidedly Jewish. Check out my conversation with Davis to gain perspective on the world of Jewish food, hear what the Forward has in store for Rosh Hashanah and learn how to update holiday dinners without ditching your grandmother’s brisket recipe.
Click here to listen to the podcast.
Imagine this: you’re at your local greenmarket vegetable stall picking out a beautiful green speckled summer zucchini. Standing next to you is a man choosing his summer bounty. You begin to discuss recipes, and he explains his approach to summer vegetables. “Keep it simple,” he says, and continues to describe his plans for the zucchini he just picked up, “I’m going to slice it thinly and drizzle with good quality vinegar”.
Who are you picturing standing next to you in this scene? An up-and-coming farm-to-table chef? A food-blogger? In fact, you are speaking to Maimonides, the 12th Century Jewish scholar and physician, and he is explaining to you his philosophy of summer seasonal cooking.
It took me a while to feel acclimated and comfortable in Amsterdam, the city where I studied abroad. Riding my bicycle along those too-worn streets was terrifying at first—surrounded by spinning cars and fast-talking people who smiled with wide wide teeth. Everywhere I went, there was meat and French fries and eight different kinds of yogurt, but never any leafy greens or seitan skewers to roll around on my tongue. Everything about it was both strange and familiar — and the two twisted together constantly. An odd combination of competing realities, each one struggling to declare dominance over the other.
I had never imagined that the Shabbas dinners of my childhood would play a role in my 20-year-old life overseas. And yet, my Friday afternoons always took me to the city’s outdoor markets and ended in my cramped apartment’s communal kitchen — with sweat jewels adorning my upper lip and tomato seeds lining my inner arms. Within the whirl, of cobblestones and beer mugs, this became my oasis.
Two hundred years ago, famed philosopher Hegel wrote “The Science of Logic.” Sixteen decades later, Hall of Famer Ted Williams penned “The Science of Hitting.”
Are we now ready for “The Science of Bagels”?
Dan Graf is. While the 27-year-old resident of Oakland, Calif., hasn’t written a book (yet), he definitely is trying to re-write the predominantly steamed, bready and flavorless history of bagels in the San Francisco Bay Area.
And he’s doing it with science.
Graf is the founder and so far the sole employee of Baron Baking, which has been operating in earnest for about seven weeks. Most of Graf’s business is with 26-year-old Saul’s Delicatessen in Berkeley, which jettisoned a relationship with a local upstart Montreal-style bagel baker in favor of Graf’s more traditional New York-leaning style. He is also supplying two other local eateries.
Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with Rabbi Paula Winnig, Executive Director of the Bureau for Jewish Education in Indianapolis. At 101 years old, the BJE is the oldest continually active interdenominational Hebrew School in America. In addition to covering the traditional Hebrew School topics, Rabbi Winnig’s curriculum integrates food at every opportunity: The older children learn about agriculture in Israel and enjoy Israeli breakfasts on occasion and the pre-schoolers learn about compost!
It’s no surprise that Rabbi Winnig feels it’s important to put food on the agenda: raised in Northern Wisconsin, she spent much time during her childhood on her aunt’s farm. While others were eating frozen TV dinners, Rabbi Winnig was making her own raspberry wines and jams. Her great uncles owned a meat packing business and her mom made her own yogurt. “This ‘new food movement’ everyone is talking about?” she told me, “It really isn’t so new to me!”
In the fantasy phenomenon Game of Thrones, we meet a lead character, Eddard Stark, as he is about to execute a man. (Bear with me here — I promise there’s a point to this!) After the act, Eddard asks his son why he, a lord, should perform such a task when he could command anyone else to do so in his place. After his son fails to give a satisfactory answer, Eddard responds, “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.”
I have a feeling Eddard Stark would like Jenny Sabo, one of the two women highlighted in Jamie Jelenchick’s documentary Montana Fare. Though Sabo is no lord of a legendary city, she is just the same, swinging her own sword. Sabo is a farmer in southwest Montana who grows much of her own food, including her primary focus, cattle. A former vegetarian, the decision to eat meat again came with a caveat: “If I’m going to eat meat, I’m going to be responsible for…raising it, and killing it, and putting it in the freezer myself. I think it’s irresponsible to ask somebody else to be the butcher all the time.”
Don’t tell the rabbi: Bartenura is no longer the lame Kiddush wine preferred by Jews with weak stomachs and alcohol intolerance. Hip hop rappers and a new media campaign are turning the cheap “soda wine,” equally loved and mocked by kosher-keeping Jews, into the hippest drink of the year.
Made from the newly-popular Moscato grapes, Bartenura has been rapped about by Drake (who happens to be Jewish) in his song “Do It Now”: “lobster and shrimp and a glass of Moscato/for the girl who’s a student and her friend who’s a model.” DJ Khaled went so far as to include a close-up of the blue bottle in his video, “I’m On One.”