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.
My first date with my husband was at Hummus Place, a small Israeli owned restaurant in New York City’s Greenwich Village. At that point, I thought I knew what hummus was: a healthy chickpea spread we’d buy in college to dip baby carrots in or spread on bread for sandwiches. What else was there to know? Well, according to my Israeli date, a lot. Lucky for me, I had him, a dedicated hummus “connoisseur,” to show me the error of my foolish American thinking.
Our server, like all the servers, seemed to have just emerged from some sort of magical Tel Aviv-New York pipeline hidden in the restaurant’s kitchen. I watched my future husband order for the two of us in Hebrew with relief, because really, I had no idea what I wanted despite the limited menu, which featured four different types of hummus. He chose hummus masabacha (hummus with whole chickpeas and tahini) and hummus ful (hummus with fava beans). The hummus ful came with a sliced hardboiled egg, and both were served warm with a smattering of olive oil, paprika, parsley and a little zing of spice. Also available was the classic hummus with just tahini or hummus with mushrooms.
Israeli culture balances itself between hot modern trends and deep traditions. This trickles down, even to our choice of tea. Made with fresh herbs or traditional bagged tea, the drink is incredibly popular.
When it come to modern innovation in our teas, two relatively new shops on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street, one of the main fashion thoroughfares, are stirring things up. One is Palais Des Thes, the upscale tea chain with outlets in only seven cities outside France, Tel Aviv being one of them. The store, open since 2010, offers what’s considered some of the world’s most exclusive green and black tea leaves, including artistically molded blocks of pu’er, that fermented, aged Chinese tea whose price recently soared and then crashed in yet another investment bubble.
Purim might be over but you can still savor some hamantaschen out in Midwood, Brooklyn. [Serious Eats]
Or, feast like the Persians with a homemade feast. [Haaretz]
The Gefilteria, which will sell sustainably sourced gefilte fish and DIY gefilte fish kits, along with other updated Jewish classics will launch this weekend. [Grub Street]
Legendary cheese monger, Anne Saxelby, provides her picks for great places to eat on the Lower East Side, including some great Jewish classics like Kossar’s Bialy’s. [Edible Manhattan]
I don’t know when it happened, but one day I started liking a little spice in my food. It started slowly, little by little, and before I knew it, I found myself sprinkling red pepper flakes or squirting Sriracha on many of my meals. Not to say that I don’t appreciate non-spicy cuisine. On the contrary, I love simple roasted vegetables with the perfect sprinkle of sea salt, or a sun-warmed summer tomato with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. But I also love reaching for hot sauce to give certain dishes a kick. Not one for Tabasco-style sauces (no flaming XXX bottles here), I started experimenting with more complex chili sauces. After a recent affair with North African cuisine inspired by picking up a few recipes from a friend’s Jewish Moroccan mother, I have been enjoying harissa, a blended hot pepper condiment. Most people think Jewish food is quite tame in the spice department, but not so! This fiery condiment is a testament the diversity of Jewish culinary roots, and our love of flavor. If you’ve ever asked for your falafel “spicy” — then you, too, have had harissa.
I have often wondered, during yet another endless Yom Kippur service, why we couldn’t do something more engaging of our full selves. Emulate, say, some Native American traditions and have a peyote ritual. Something sweaty, visceral, more likely to have me encounter the Divine than an endless repetition of blood spattering in the Temple. Put the “high” in High Holidays, if you will.
And yet I’m drawn to Jewish tradition. I find myself looking to contextualize new, powerful experiences in the language of Judaism, to ritualize them through the religion of my ancestors. I love deep fried food, hence “Deep Fried Shabbat” has become a staple event in our house for Shabbos Hanukkah.
Purim’s always been the rebel, the James Dean of Jewish Holidays — you get drunk, dress up, get to go trick-or treating (ok, not really but that’s what you told yourself in yeshiva when your mom wouldn’t let you out of the house with so much as a decoder ring on October 31). So it was the natural place for me to create a new ritual, born of something utterly secular and fascinating.
If there’s anything that reminds me of a day’s end, it’s a hot pot of tomato sauce bubbling on a stovetop. There was often one in my home on Friday nights growing up, attended to diligently by my mother, who would stir the ground veal meatballs within gently.
Spaghetti and meatballs: the perfect Shabbat meal. My lawyer father worked brutal hours early in his career, and though we didn’t eat dinner as a family every night, on Friday we waited until he finished with work, made it through rush hour traffic, offloaded his briefcase, snapped open a bottle of beer and plopped down to eat. The meatballs would simmer away patiently, soaking up sauce and getting only more delicious as we waited.
When finished, they were spooned over bowls of whatever noodles we had in the house. Sometimes it was spaghetti and sometimes it was cappellini, but if it was linguini, my father might muster his best Felix Unger and say: “It’s not spaghetti, it’s linguini!” We’d laugh, recalling the scene from “The Odd Couple” in which Walter Matthau, at his wit’s end, throws Jack Lemmon’s plate of noodles at the wall and proclaims, “Now it’s garbage!”
The sky didn’t fall, the earth didn’t stop turning, and most importantly, the smoked meat didn’t stop coming from the cramped galley at Schwartz’s, the legendary Montreal deli that was sold yesterday to a group of investors including Mr. and Mrs. Celine Dion.
As the Forward reported last month, news of Schwartz’s pending sale sparked rumors of – horrors! – franchises and brand extensions. But Schwartz’s officially changed hands Monday afternoon, according to the Montreal Gazette, and new owner Paul Nakis, who leads a consortium of investors, has pledged that there are “absolutely no plans to franchise” the deli.
Hy Diamond, who bought Schwartz’s in 1999 and sold it to the group, said he will “coach” the new owners on the running of the place, according to the Gazette.
It’s been over two decades since Zohar Zohar, the dark-haired, soft-spoken owner of Zucker Bakery, a new Israeli pastry shop and café in the East Village that serves Jewish delights, has lived on Kibbutz Sarid in northern Israel. She grew up there with her grandparents and parents (most of her extended family lived in Czechoslovakia and died in the Holocaust), running around the grounds with playmates as a child and working in the kitchen, cooking rice and chicken for the thousand person community, as an adult. Her most vivid memories were visiting her grandparents, relaxing in their living room and eating homemade cookies. “I think there is something special about the way you feel when you go to your grandparents,” she says. “And that’s the way I remember it.”
Although Zohar, who left the Kibbutz when she was 21, has lived in New York City for 17 years, finished culinary school, worked 90-hour weeks at prestigious restaurants such as Daniel and Bouley and raised two kids, she still craves those moments of being at her grandmother’s house on the kibbutz. With Zucker Bakery, which she opened in September, she’s on a mission to recreate them with treats like rugelach and babka, along with Israeli treats like honey almond fingers, each of which has a personal story behind it.