Allison Kaplan Sommer took a foraging walk with Israeli Chef Moshe Basson. Check out what she learned here and read on for Passover recommendations and recipes from the chef.
When most of us think of bitter herbs on the seder table, we think of bottled beet colored or white horseradish bought at the grocery store or maybe a whole root, slivered, or ground. Families who can’t handle the horseradish burn, sometimes resort to romaine lettuce.
This is the story of a fishpond.
Not just any old fishpond, but a fishpond in Muchucuxcah (Pronounce the x like a sh), Mexico, four hours west of Cancun.
I was in Muchucuxcah for ten days in January with American Jewish World Service’s Rabbinical Students Delegation. We were there to learn about global poverty, to see quality development work firsthand and to work on said fishpond.
If you want to skip the cooking this year, and leave the seders up to the professionals, we really can’t blame you. Here are 19 restaurants across the country offering seder dinners. You don’t have to do much, just make a reservation (in most cases), show up and be treated to a tasty meal.
Another perk, you won’t be limited to your aunt’s matzo ball soup or dry brisket. Here, the dishes even cross cultures — Passover tacos, anyone?
These Kosher for Passover breakfast options actually make Passover food sound delicious: smoked salmon hash, asparagus frittata with horseradish sour cream and matzo granola. [Chow]
Jewish Spanish restaurant La Vara is finally getting ready to open. We can’t wait to sample the menu. Get a sneak peak here. [Grub Street]
Consumer Reports tries to pick the best bagel and fails miserably. [TheAtlantic]
Unexpected Knaidlach: For writer Amy Spiro, it’s not about heavy or light matzo balls, but flavor. Check out her recipes for some unconventional matzo balls. [The Jewish Week]
And then comes Friday night, the beginning of Shabbat. The wind up to observing the Sabbath is at times chaotic, because while that sun sets Friday night, no matter what, Shabbat doesn’t make itself. In Hebrew, to observe Shabbat is to be shomer Shabbat, a “guardian” of the Sabbath. I always thought it sounded like Shabbat was prone to attack, or would wander off alone if not for your protective skills. Not so far from the reality.
Tuesday I invite guests before they get a better offer, Wednesday I’m digging in the freezer for that London broil I bought on special, Thursday I buy and clean the vegetables, and if I’m motivated, bake challah. Friday night those candles are lit, and after the blessing, we’re done doing, making, creating and a whole long list of other things, which includes cooking.
Murray Lender, unfortunately, did not live long enough to read in the upcoming May issue of Consumer Reports that it gave his frozen bagels high marks (while daring to question the supremacy of the New York bagel, no less).
Lender, 81, died in a Miami hospital on March 21 from complications from a fall, according to his wife Gillie Lender. Her husband had already lost his ability to speak following a stroke 13 years ago.
Imagine a modern, hip Israeli incarnation of Willy Wonka and you have a picture of Shimon Pinhas, the man behind Raw Chocolate Love. His company is one among a handful in New York that produces raw vegan chocolate, and one of the few with kosher certification. Shimon, whose dark curly hair protrudes in every direction and almost resembles steel wool, gives the impression that he is a man who can do anything, a presumption that is not far from the truth. When he arrived in New York twenty years ago without a word of English, he had already worked in construction, electrical work, and theater in his native Israel. His present occupation as a chocolatier on the border between Brooklyn and Queens follows an 18-year career running a music studio in the East Village.
While reporting “If the Slivovitz Hasn’t Killed You Yet, Have Another Shot,” for the Forward’s food and drink section, I talked to a lot of serious slivophiles. Some of them discovered the super-potent plum brandy later in life, but for many the appeal went back to childhood, growing up in families who drank slivovitz in an almost ceremonial fashion.
My experience doesn’t date back that far, but slivovitz and I have crossed paths on a few occasions. My first encounter with the liquor was as a teenager, when my grandmother gave our family a bottle for Passover. I don’t recall the brand, but it was one of the squat green bottles that used to dominate the slivovitz market in North America, and which were usually imported from the former Yugoslavia. Slivovitz reentered my life more recently at The Zlatne Uste Golden Festival, an annual Balkan music event in Brooklyn, where it is celebrated as a regional specialty. But after talking to a good many slivovitz aficionados, it became apparent that my knowledge was seriously lacking. For the sake of journalistic inquiry, further research was required.
(Cocktail video below)
I began sharing Shabbat meals with my husband Jeff when I was 19, while living in the dorms of Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva. Each student apartment was equipped with a small kitchen and, as an aspiring cook and baker from a young age, I was thrilled to have my own cooking space. Each week I would return from the dusty shuk with a wide (and random) variety of produce and no plan whatsoever for to how to turn it into a cohesive menu.
This was during a delightfully naive and unselfconscious phase in my journey as a cook. I cannot remember questioning my culinary ability once during that year and a half in the desert. I chopped, sautéed and boiled our food into dishes that my then boyfriend was quick to declare the best he’d ever tasted. In retrospect, my food was heavy on the beans, potatoes, and cumin (Jeff smelled vaguely like New Delhi after a week of eating my vegetable soups), and my onions had not yet found that happy medium between nearly-raw and somewhat-carbonized. But I felt very adult dishing out my version of vegetarian Shabbat hamin, vegetable soup, and little apple cakes to my future husband, roommates, and anyone else who happened by, and I happily used our two little burners, electric kettle, and small toaster oven to their utmost potential.
This event is dedicated to a woman named Inez,” said Rabbi Ari Hart, one of the co-founders of Uri L’Tzedek, a Modern Orthodox organization that promotes social justice. Their signature program is the Tav HaYosher (Ethical Seal), a certification program for kosher restaurants that meet basic criteria for ethical treatment of their labor. Hart was speaking Sunday night to a packed house in a basement auditorium at the JCC of Manhattan, the setting for “FesTAVal,” a celebration of the recent addition of the 100th Tav-certified restaurant.
Inez, Hart told the crowd, was a woman he and fellow co-founder Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz met in Postville, Iowa shortly after the 2008 immigration raid on Agriprocessors, the large kosher meatpacking plant there. Inez, an illegal immigrant who had worked for Agriprocessors, was wearing an electronic monitoring anklet. Her future was uncertain, but she told Hart and Yanklowitz of the dream she used to have of a better life in America. “That dream was stripped away from her by Agriprocessors. We knew the Jewish community shouldn’t stand for that in the food that we eat,” Hart told the energized crowd. Businesses that have that Tav HaYosher, he said, “have affirmed not just kashrut [kosher standards], but yashrut [ethical standards].” Food workers, Hart said, “are the most vulnerable workers in our society.”
Temple Shalom won the first turkey chili competition at the Kosher Chili Cook-Off in Dallas.
More than 4,500 chili fans attended the competition Sunday at Tiferet Israel in Dallas.
As always, the event featured meat and vegetarian categories, but turkey was added to the mix as the cook-off celebrated its 19th anniversary. Empire Kosher Poultry donated the turkey.
Moishe House Dallas won in the beef category after securing a spot at the last minute off the waiting list. Congregation Shearith Israel and the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas finished second and third among the beef entrants.
Congregation Anshai Torah in Plano took home the crown for vegetarian chili. The People’s Choice award went to the Ann and Nate Levine Academy.
During the event, participants were able to sign up to become bone marrow donors.
“Okay, it’s time to pass the buck,” he said placing the kid in our arms with a seriousness that belied the playful tone of the pun. The rest of the Adamah staff sang a song, the lyrics of which are stenciled onto a rafter of the milking parlor: Ivdu et HaShem b’simcha — serve God in joy.
Home-cooked meals in citrus-tree-lined gardens, glasses of wine overlooking rolling green hills, and fresh cheeses a stone’s throw from the grassy pastures — what better reason to go touring the Judean hills outside Jerusalem?
This March marks the 12th annual Mateh Yehuda rural food festival, which pulls together artisans from three dozen communities within the Mateh Yehuda regional council.
The bucolic Judean hills are home to a few towns, the largest of which is Beit Shemesh, and dozens of smaller communities, many of which are connected to the outside world via winding roads and no more than a few buses a day. While the area does have some relatively new occupants drawn to the rural lifestyle, many residents are immigrants who have been living there since they left countries including Morocco and Iraq 50 years ago.
When thinking about fine dining, or really even just food that you want to eat, airline meals are not what comes to mind. While most major carriers have done away with meal service on domestic flights, the meals wrapped in foil are still alive and kicking on international routes.
The challenges of preparing and serving food at 30,000 feet places severe limitations on what can be served, however, standard airline meals have come a long way from the slop that used to be served. On a recent transcontinental flight (in coach), my seatmates were given the choice of three different entrees for dinner, and two for breakfast. And all of the different choices looked edible and tasty. I however, wasn’t so lucky.
Over at Smitten Kitchen, Deb Perelman bakes up potato knishes two ways: Classic and Red Potato Knish with Kale, Leeks and Cream Cheese. [Smitten Kitchen]
Six delicious hummus recipes. We can’t wait to try the lemon hummus with labneh [The Daily Meal]
Advice can come from surprising places. Here are 10 Leadership Tips from Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman’s Deli. [Forbes]
Five news bites from the world of food policy. [Serious Eats]
This year it seemed that even the Sugar Maple Trees at Isabella Freedman Retreat Center in Falls Village, CT celebrated Purim. We’ve been tapping about 30 trees over the last three weeks, during this short late-winter maple syrup tapping season. On the day before Purim, unlike any other day until now, some of the buckets were bone dry. Maybe the trees were reminding me to fast? Purim night, conditions were terrible for sap flow; the temperature stayed above freezing all night and by nine in the morning it was already over fifty degrees. The trees flow best when it dips below freezing at night and reaches forty degrees during the day, so I would never have predicted that by eleven o’clock on Thursday morning most of the buckets would be full to the brim with cool sweet sap.
Appropriately, on the night of Purim the trees couldn’t tell the difference between good conditions and bad conditions. Thursday morning, I did a mad dash to collect all the sap before the buckets overflowed.
When my husband David was little, “Shabbat Can Be,” a 1979 children’s book, was a regular accompaniment of his family’s Friday night dinners. I had learned early on in our romance that David’s family had been more observant than mine. David would tell me stories about sitting on his mother’s lap at weekly services, and singing and dancing around the dinner table with his sisters. It wasn’t though until I stumbled upon “Shabbat Can Be” on David’s mother’s bookshelf one day that I came closest to understanding what Shabbat had meant to David growing up. The illustrations, had a groovy “Brady Bunch” feel and the text, bore out its central Reform-infused message —that the rituals and meanings of Shabbat were adaptable. They were not inherited but actively made and remade in the space and time of the Sabbath.
But the message of “Shabbat Can Be,” like the songs of Debbie Friedman or the do-it-yourself wisdom of “The Jewish Catalog,” never reached my family’s home on Long Island. Our conservative synagogue instilled a bleaker outlook, one more obligatory than spirited. I fasted on Yom Kippur, and looked forward to our Passover seder every year (and the matzo pizza that followed), but I knew little about Shabbat. From what I could tell, it seemed more restrictive than anything else — a mysterious force that kept stores in Cedarhurst closed on Saturdays. During high school, one of my best friends became Shomer Shabbos, and when she would no longer come to movies on Friday nights, it only seemed to reaffirm what I already suspected: that real Judaism, like Shabbat, meant sacrifice, not celebration.
Living in a small Brazilian village an hour’s drive from the northeastern city of Recife, it’s easy to forget the rhythms of the outside world. We had barely finished cleaning up from the revelry of Carnival, when an email arrived to remind me of the onset of Purim and that the costume wearing, drinking in the streets, and sweet treats, were yet to be over. Purim, at the back end of Carnival, seemed a perfect fit for my adopted Brazilian community. And just like that I was making hamantashen, the signature, three-cornered holiday cookie.
Now, it’s true that Recife was the first Jewish community in the New World, where Sephardic Jews found refuge when the area was a Dutch colony between 1630 and 1654. But if Jews ever stepped foot in my little shtetl, Paudalho, 22 miles inland, their presence is lost to the mists of history. Today — more than 350 years after the Recife Jews fled the conquering Portuguese for another Dutch colonial backwater, New Amsterdam — the Jewish population of Paudalho stands at exactly one. I am also the only American and the singular graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
When I arrived to Buenos Aires, I was impressed by a bustling city at the intersection of Latin America, Europe and the United States. One can find beautiful French architecture housing Peruvian-owned fruit and vegetable stands and a dialect that more closely resembles Italian than the Spanish of South America. As a vegetarian in a city that boasts the best beef in the world, I found myself scouring the local cuisine for something I could figuratively and literally sink my teeth into. Empanadas proved to satisfy my desire for street food. The main vegetarian options offered Swiss chard, cheese and onion, Roquefort cheese, and corn with salsa blanca.
Yet as I explored Buenos Aires’ Jewish neighborhoods, I found comforting culinary similarities with home including hummus, gefilte fish and knishes. Amongst its cultural intersections, the city is home to the largest Jewish community in South America. Similar to New York, Buenos Aires welcomed a large Jewish immigrant population starting in the mid-nineteenth century. An array of traditional recipes accompanied the wave of immigration, which introduced such foods as knishes to the Buenos Aires gastronomical spectrum.
How can these two kindred food offerings, empanadas and knishes, co-exist in one city? What does the knish offer that the empanada is unable to provide, and vice versa? From the mere description, empanadas and knishes are quite similar: leavened dough stuffed with traditional, hearty favorites that are then baked or fried. Both were brought to the Western Hemisphere and popularized as working class favorites as they became a portable and affordable lunchtime staple.
Exploring local cuisines around the world when you keep strictly kosher can be supremely challenging. So when celebrity kosher chef Susie Fishbein tasted an authentically prepared Cornish hen with a chocolate port sauce in Portugal at a Shabbat dinner, she was excited and intrigued. This summer, she will help other kosher foodies, get an authentic taste of another cuisine.
Fishbein, author of the “Kosher By Design” cookbook series, will team up with Jerusalem-based Naomi Boutique Kosher Tours for a 10-day kosher adventure in Tuscany from June 29 until July 9. Forty or so high-end foodie travelers who keep strictly kosher will stay with Fishbein at the 900-year-old Villa Principessa, the former home of Elisa, Princess of Lucca, and sister of Napoleon Bonaparte and enjoy authentic Tuscan food and kosher Italian wines with her. Fishbein will not be doing the cooking herself, but she will serve as a VIP host and a “cook’s friend,” answering questions and explaining fine points as local chefs conduct master classes.