Food plays an important role in Judaism and in the First Narayever community. Food brings people together, connects us, and is an important part of holiday traditions and life cycles.
In 2006 the First Narayever Congregation launched the first Jewish Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in Toronto in partnership with Everdale Organic Farm and Environmental Learning Centre. In 2008, we joined Hazon’s world-wide network of Jewish CSAs. This inspired us to look at what more we could do in our community.
In preparation for Passover each spring, Jews stock their cupboards with matzo, observing the Biblical injunction to abstain from leavened food for eight days.
And when the holiday ends, a box or two of matzo is usually pushed to the back of the pantry or tossed out with the trash. After all, it’s nearly impossible to end Passover without some extra matzo — and what use is there for the bread of affliction once you’re back to eating bagels?
Tom Kramer of Ambacht Brewery, a Belgian-inspired artisanal microbrewery in Hillsboro, Oregon, has the answer. Ambacht’s Matzobraü is a sweet, complex beer with a rare seasonal ingredient: leftover matzo from the local Jewish community.
As soon as the sun rose on Friday mornings over Harare, Zimbabwe, my husband, kids and I would pile into a small plane and fly to the crystal-clear waters and pristine sandy beaches of the idyllic island of Magaruque, off the coast of Mozambique.
There wasn’t much on this island, other than a charming lodge. Still, it was our Shabbat home when we lived in Harare in the mid-90’s. We’d set out having stocked the plane with the necessary ingredients and some pre-prepared foods, including roska (our sweet Sabbath bread), bourekitas (our beloved savory pies) and wine. We would also take our Sephardic Shabbat candles — a cork topped with a cotton wick floating in a glass filled with a thick layer of oil — which is the customary on Rhodes where my family is from.
Visitors to Budapest this summer will be out of luck if they hope to soak up Jewish cool at Siraly, the funky café in the heart of the old inner city Jewish quarter that became famous as the flagship of the city’s alternative Jewish youth scene.
Local authorities in the city’s Sixth District closed Siraly in May saying its three-floor building on Kiraly Street was unsafe. Since opening in 2006, Siraly had operated as a semi-squat, and the closure order came after years of wrangling with district and city authorities over its legal status. Siraly’s co-founder and program director Adam Schoenberger, the 32-year-old son of a rabbi, believes political motives were behind Siraly’s closure.
“Not necessarily anti-Semitism,” he told me as we sipped lemonade at another Jewish quarter cafe, around the corner. “But maybe part of a campaign by conservatives against liberal-leaning youth in general.”
At a training given by the People’s Institute on undoing institutionalized racism, I heard a story. It was about a group of friends headed on a picnic by a river. The first friend shows up, basket in tow, to see babies (!!) floating down the river. In astonishment, she drops her bag of baguettes and cheese and immediately grabs an infant. The second friend arrives, and the first shouts, “Drop your things! There are babies in the river!”
The rest of the party arrives and they too, forget their lunch plans and begin plucking babies out of the river, feeding and burping them in astonishment as they try to keep up with the flow of babies by the minute. Finally the last friend arrives. “What are you all doing?” she asks. “Come on! There are babies in the river!” the group replies. She looks at them, puzzled. “Haven’t you seen what is happening at the top of that hill? Someone’s throwing babies into the river…”
When Haaretz’s food and wine critic, the late Daniel Rogov, moved from Paris to Tel Aviv in the late 1970s, he discovered a cornucopia of Jewish foods from all over the world, stemming from the manifold cultures from which Jews had immigrated. What he missed was one of his favorite foods from his childhood in Brooklyn: a pastrami sandwich on rye.
Indeed, what is arguably the quintessential American Jewish dish has never played a major role in any other Jewish cuisine in the world. There is something irreducibly American about the deli sandwich, which bespeaks the unique history of American Jews.
Much of the Jewish deli sandwich’s popularity in America is tied to the evolution of the sandwich itself, which exploded in popularity after the First World War. Even before the advent of the mechanical bread slicer in Iowa in 1928, the sandwich (originally invented by Rabbi Hillel the Elder, as we commemorate each year during the Passover seder), became one of the most popular of all American foods, with more than 5,000 sandwich shops in New York by the mid 1920s. In a city defined by its manic energy, the sandwich became the perfect fuel for people on the go.
It’s not only the humble hot dog getting a grilling in the media these days: a much fancier Jewish food has been making headlines and igniting the passions of foodies and lawmakers alike. Is it a killer kugel? A rogue rugelach? Or a fiendish…foie gras?
Yes, the delicacy of pate made from fatty bird liver, which as of yesterday is banned California (after a seven-and-a-half year grace period passed after a 2004 law), is thoroughly Jewish, says Michael Ginor, acclaimed chef and author of “Foie Gras…A Passion.” “Duck and goose fat made a good substitute for pork,” says Ginor, who is also the president of Hudson Valley Foie Gras in Ferndale, New York.
The rich foodstuff is practically synonymous with luxury, a perennial favorite of gourmet chefs that’s singular in its sumptuousness. “It’s unlike any other animal product that I know of,” Jon Shook, owner of the Los Angeles restaurant Animal, told the New York Times. “We’re working on dishes to replace it, but you can never really replace foie gras.” Still, not everyone’s so eager to tuck in to the treat. To produce the highly-sought-after enlarged liver, geese or ducks must be force-fed for the last days of their lives leading up to slaughter. The process — called “gavage” — has long been a lightning rod for the ire of animal-rights activists, spurring California lawmakers to push for a statewide prohibition the on production and sale of foie gras.
Typical of crops that grow well in the late spring, is the Swiss Chard, which is making its first appearance in the local farmers markets and CSA’s. It contains a lot of fiber, and a host of antioxidant vitamins. It is a tall leafy green vegetable with a thick, crunchy stalk that comes in a fuchsia, white, organge or yellow stem with wide fan-like green leaves. Chard belongs to the same family as beets and spinach and shares a similar taste profile: it has the bitterness of beet greens and the slightly salty flavor of spinach leaves. Both the leaves and stalk of chard are edible. In fact, chard and beets formally share the same Hebrew name, selek.
It is uncertain how chard, a native of the eastern Mediterranean, moved to the west and grew plentifully. However because it grows best in coastal areas with plenty of rainfall, it’s easy to grow chard in the northeast. Their leaf regenerate after cutting, extending the life cycle of this hearty vegetable. It tolerates heat and cold, which is why it grows well on the eastern tip of Long Island, where my CSA is located.
The Nosher’s Shabbat recipe round-up includes a recipe for fig taleggio pizza and roasted peaches served with lavender ice cream. If you’re cooking this for Shabbat, we would love an invitation! [My Jewish Learning]
Take a tour of Jerusalem’s Machneh Yehudah market in photos. [The Kitchn]
If you were worried that the Hebrew National class action case had slipped by Jon Stewart, fear not!
After a clip from CNN about the controversy ran on “The Daily Show” last night, Stewart exclaimed “WHAT? Not 100% kosher! Or as it’s known to Jews: not kosher!” Impressing us with his Talmudic knowledge, he offered a few possibilities for how exactly the hot dog meat could indeed not be kosher. “Some of the rats that fell into the meat pulverizer have cloven hooves?” he quipped hitting on some of the fine points of kashrut, as well as the unappetizing shortcomings of the meat industry in general.
It was not until I married my late husband, 54 years ago, that I began to be seriously interested in the preparation and presentation of food. Until then I knew very little about food — almost nothing
I was born in Poland and when the war broke out I was only 4 1/2 years old. I have no recollection of what we ate at home before the war started. During the war we lived in Russian labor camps, moving from place to place where we hardly saw any vegetables, fruits, meat or fish, eggs or cheese. It was mostly a ration diet of subsistence level.
Coming to the United States as a teenager I still was not particularly interested in food. Just getting acclimatized to a new country, a new culture and a new lifestyle was challenging enough.
When is the last time a complete stranger asked you to tell your personal story explaining why you care about a political or social issue?
As part of my job as a community sales representative at Equal Exchange, I ask customers, who are, for the most part, strangers, to share their personal stories all the time. Why are they spending their limited time on Fair Trade, promoting the programs of our worker-owned co-operative? Why do they care so much about the farmers growing our food?
During phone calls, customers I’ve never met in person share stories of deeply humbling international trips to visit coffee farmers; stories about their grandfather, a small-scale tobacco farmer, being taken advantage of by a large agribusiness; and stories about the first time they heard a news report on the widespread use of child slaves in the cocoa industry.
These unique stories led to the same conclusion: The people who grow our food deserve higher wages and more humane treatment.
Before Rozanne Gold wrote 12 cookbooks, won four James Beard Awards, created the menus for three of New York’s three-star restaurants, inspired the New York Times’ “Minimalist” column and invented the concept of Hudson Valley Cuisine, she was the private chef to Mayor Ed Koch.
Gold, who was only 23 when she moved into Gracie Mansion in 1978, spent a year squeezing fresh grapefruit juice for the mayor’s breakfast and creating the sort of simple yet sophisticated dishes that would become a hallmark of her work. It was also here that Gold prepared her first Seder, even using the mayor’s personal tips for matzo balls.
The Gracie Mansion Conservancy recently announced that the residence’s kitchen would undergo a $1.4 million renovation, its first since 1985. Gold spoke with us about her time there, reminiscing about everything from the fern wallpaper to former New York City Mayor Abe Beame’s abandoned flanken.
Kosher cheeses from around the world can be impossible to find. Just try to locate a hekhshered English Lancashire, Greek Halloumi, Spanish Cabrales, or triple crème from France and you will be utterly disappointed. For American home cooks, or even professional chefs, this can put a halt to some recipes that delve into the cultures of faraway places that could intrigue and delight one’s family, friends, or clientele. Cheese is an integral part of many country’s cuisines and something that had been made at home for centuries. While some varieties require a few specialty ingredients and long tedious processes, others can be produced very simply in under a few hours without much supervision — a superb way for the home chef to add a bit authenticity to a regional recipe while still sticking within kosher confines.
Indian cuisine can be prepared best as a dairy meal, the main reason for this being the consistent use of ghee (clarified butter). This key ingredient is easily made at home by slowly heating a desired amount of butter in a saucepan and ladling off the milk solids that rise to the top. You are then left with a translucent yellowish cooking oil that is great for anything from simmering to sautéing at high heats. Without the milk solids, the clarified butter has a higher smoke point, but still maintains a rich flavor. Ghee is used in many traditional recipes and adds richness to vegetarian dishes such as dahl makhani, lentils cooked in a garlicky, buttery sauce, and chana masala, chickpeas simmered in a spicy tomato & onion base. Another ingredient that will generously diversify your Indian recipe repertoire is paneer, a traditional Indian cheese that can be made at home with only two ingredients. Paneer, with its versatile mild flavor, can be used in many ways — appetizers, main course, and desserts
The jury’s still out on the case of whether Hebrew National’s kosher or not. Luckily, there are many more meaty options for this summer’s weenie roasts, after all, there are few things are more delicious than a grilled-to-perfection hot dog. While beef hot dogs are an undeniable simple pleasure of backyard cuisine, the standard supermarket franks are far from the only options. These days, kosher cookout guests can enjoy a huge variety of the tasty and tube-shaped. From basic beef to lower-fat chicken to the more exotic tastes of chipotle peppers and smoked duck, there are plenty of bun-ready bites to sample, many sourced from grass-fed animals and sustainable farms. To be quite frank, you might need a bigger grill.
Last fall, as my CSA was winding down, one of the farmers, Mark, gave me a LOT of garlic cloves from his planting stash. They were 2 inch cloves, huge by any standard, and I was loathe to relegate them to the dirt for replanting, when all I wanted to do was devour them.
I took several to the garden I tend at my synagogue, and planted the rest at home. After planting each bulb at a depth of about 2 inches, I covered them with soil, watered them, and at home I mulched them with about 4 inches of straw. The cloves grew slowly over the winter, and this spring I had 45 gorgeous garlic plants growing at home.
Catch a sneak peak of “The Mile End Cookbook,” which has a whole section on DIY deli. We’re getting hungry just thinking about it. [Grub Street]
This week the Senate passed the farm bill. Now, on to the House! [New York Times]
When it comes to food labeling, it looks like kosher is king. [NPR]
“It’s not actually a Jewish pub,” explained Robert Greene, business partner at The Castle in North London, which has a dance floor, garden patio, real ale menu and a halachic twist: it’s the only kosher pub in the country.
“We’re providing a service that everyone can enjoy, the food just happens to be kosher — I mean — it is still kosher but it just hasn’t got a certificate at the moment,” he added.
So it was the only kosher pub in the country, licensed by the Federation of Synagogues Kashrus between Hanukkah of last year and last week.
More than anything else, I can thank a salmon dish for bringing me into this world. It was that take on a fish ubiquitous to Jewish tables that nudged my Yeshiva-educated mother to fall for my lapsed Catholic dad.
“This is impressive!” My mother exclaimed upon her introduction to the salmon and other tasty wonders on her first date with a new guy. “Who catered this party?” She asked.
Her date, the long-haired, bearded technician for the Videofreex video collective shrugged. “Oh, I cooked it,” he said.
My mother is still blown away when she tells this story. My father’s dedication to good food has stayed alive all those years and traveled with me thousands of miles.
Kosher BBQ enthusiasts and other fans of the essential kosher hot dog, Hebrew National — which advertises that they “answer to a higher authority” — have been following a recent lawsuit alleging that the company’s franks and other products are not kosher.
The suit was filed against ConAgra, the parent company of Hebrew National, by 11 plaintiffs who live around the country on May 18 in Minnesota’s state court. The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages and restitution for ConAgra’s “deceptively and misleading mislabeling Hebrew National products as strictly 100% kosher, when they are not,” according to court documents. These products include Hebrew National’s line of hot dog/beef franks, salami, sausage and deli meats. At issue is not whether or not the meat used is beef, but rather whether it is slaughtered and handled according to kosher standards.