When he opens Peck’s Specialty Foods in Brooklyn this fall, Theo Peck will be continuing a family tradition that started over 100 years ago.
Peck’s great grandfather was the founder of Ratner’s, the Lower East Side dairy restaurant (and kosher institution), which opened in 1905 and closed its doors in 2004.
“I grew up at Ratner’s,” says Peck. “I distinctly remember going there after school on Fridays, and eating pierogies and potato pancakes in the bar room off the side of the restaurant. My relatives — who all worked there — would sit around drinking whiskey, smoking cigarettes and talking about their friends and family members’ upcoming surgeries.”
In 1996, Peck returned to the family business, opening The Lansky Lounge, a speakeasy-style bar attached to Ratner’s. (“We were the only nightclub in New York City that was closed on Friday nights,” he says.)
After leaving the lounge, Peck went to culinary school. He planned to open his own restaurant in 2008, but his funds were lost in the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme.
If you’ve looked at a thermometer lately, watched weather on the ones or stepped outside you’ve probably noticed that much of the country is in a heat wave. Never one to ditch my favorite hobby just because it’s getting a little hot in the kitchen, I’ve taken to preparing cold soups and so have many of my friends. So I asked around for everyone’s favorite cold soup recipes and was offered so many delicious recipes, I don’t know which to make first. These six are perfect for Shabbat or lunch during the week.
What’s your favorite cold soup? Tell us about it in the comments.
1) This red pepper soup is the “perfect summer soup,” says my friend Ari. “It wasn’t as complicated as many Ottolenghi recipes are, but had just the right amount of spice and herbs to make it an Ottolenghi classic.” [Yotam Ottolenghi’s Chilled Red Pepper Soup]
2) Monte Mathews who runs the food site Chewing the Fat offers his take on a classic vichyssoise. While the recipe calls for chicken stock, vegetable stock will work just fine. [Not My Mother’s Vichyssoise]
3) Fresh off of her honeymoon, my colleague Abigail Jones tried her hand in the kitchen to make this watermelon gazpacho. “It’s fast, easy and fresh. It’s also fool proof: drop a tomato, some watermelon and a few other veggies into a blender, then, you know, blend. And it’s delicious: a cold burst of fresh summer flavors, plus that great taste of feta mixed in. The best part? Chunks of watermelon you add to the soup before serving.” [Tyler Florence’s Watermelon Gazpacho]
4) Ingredients columnist Leah Koenig is one of my go to recipe gurus. She swears by this green gazpacho that’s made with greens (of course), walnuts and Greek yogurt. [Green Gazpacho from Leite’s Culinaria].
5) For a taste of the old world, try Leah’s own farmers’ market schav. It cooled down Jews on the Lower East Side long before the days of air conditioning. [Market Schav]
6) What would a roundup of cold soups on a Jewish site be without borscht? Every family seems to have their own take on the classic dish, but if you want to try something different, give this chunky borscht topped with avocado a try. [Chunky Borscht]
Even if your bubbe lives far away, you can still have a taste of the Old World. This priceless video by the team at the Forverts shows you how to make borscht with matzo balls. It’s perfect for this time of year. Check out the video below and share your borscht memories with us in the comments.
There I was, like a character out of a Nora Ephron film, standing in the middle of Zabar’s, asking anyone within earshot the difference between their two beet soups. The bustling Manhattan store’s two versions of borscht boast the same color, almost the same ingredients. Scrutinizing the two containers, I hold them up to the sage pastrami-slicer behind the deli counter, asking him how the two vary. Can I eat either cold? He shrugs, smiles and nods.
A few days later, shopping at my favorite Eastern European food emporium, M & I International in Brighton Beach, I spy a big pot of ruby-red borcsht labeled red borscht. But when I say want to eat it cold, the woman immediately turns her back and strides over to the fridge, pointing to another pot covered with plastic wrap. As I pay $6 for the tall tub of pink soup, the friendly Russian explains with great urgency that the cold version boasts sour cream and yogurt and should never ever be heated. If you enjoy pairing cold borscht with bread, buy or bake dark, old-world, farmer’s rye.
The pleasant dilemma is that there are as many versions of cold borscht as there are countries in the Olympics. Even the name and spelling changes with its place of origin depending on whether you’re concocting Latvian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Polish, Russian or Belarusian borscht.
Beets — most people either love them or hate them. It’s amusing listening to other CSA members pick up beets with the consistent refrains of yippee or oh-no. They really are a polarizing vegetable. This is unfortunate, in my opinion, given their availability for much of the growing season and their ability to keep well beyond many other vegetables. They are one of the crops that does very well from early summer all the way through the season, so you might find them now at the markets starting, with the beautiful (edible) leaves still attached. The beets are smaller in early summer, with delicious, sweet flavor, so grab them up while you can!
Here you’ll find some tips on using and cooking with beets, plus a recipe for the all-time Jewish favorite, borscht.
Gold’s borscht, once a mainstay of the Jewish food scene has slipped in popularity in recent years. The owners are hoping to make a comeback says the Wall Street Journal.
Masbia, a kosher soup kitchen with four locations in New York City, is struggling to feed a growing community that cannot afford to feed itself, reports the New York Daily News.
The Jerusalem Post explores Israel’s beer renaissance.
For Sarah Karnasiewicz of the LA Times, borscht is “my family’s edible valentine,” she shares her ode to the dish and several recipes for varieties including spiced mushroom borscht and a white borscht.
Gearing up for Passover, Epicurious wants to know, is “Matzoh, Better Plain or Dressed Up?”
In Florida noted chef Michael Baum is remaking himself and the knish with his gourmet interpretations of the classic Jewish snack, writes the Miami Herald.
“The perfect borscht is what life should be but never is,” writes Alexandar Hemon in The New Yorker food issue this past November. Until recently, I simply figured I’d never tasted “the perfect borscht.” My first impression of the Eastern European delicacy was the purple liquid my father would buy once a year on Passover. On the second or third day, after having his share of matzoh, he would take out the glass Manischewitz bottle of purple borscht and mix it with just a bit too much sour cream. While he always offered us a taste, my siblings and I would politely decline.
Yet, when my mother and I found ourselves in Moscow and Kiev last month, I decided to give it a second chance, this time fresh from a simmering soup pot instead of the jar. Borscht in Yiddish or bohrshch in Russian (there are many spellings – it’s the food equivalent of the word Hanukkah), loosely translates to a soup with a beet base. In Moment magazine, cookbook author Joan Nathan explains that in the 18th century, before potatoes were the food of the masses in Russia and Ukraine, red beets made up much of the local diet.