“With a name like Angus Johnson, you can probably guess I wasn’t born Jewish,” Berkshires farmer Angus Johnson said, beginning his story.
He was, however, born into a long line of farmers. For five generations, the family farm was diversified between livestock, vegetables, orchard fruits and bush fruit, all raised and grown sustainably. For the last 16 years, Johnson has supported research on safe and sustainable farm practices and represented 13 states in helping farmers convert to grass-based agriculture through his involvement in the Northeast Pasture Consortium.
As most farming practices stand today, animals are fed a grain-based diet, whereas grass-based agriculture has been shown to be more beneficial to human health. Johnson will go into detail on why this matters later.
Over the years, Johnson had been no stranger to Judaism; however, when he met, fell in love with, and married his Jewish wife, Dr. Allison Bell, his interest and study of Judaism deepened, as did his questions about Kashrut. He made an Orthodox conversion in Teaneck, New Jersey, in June 2009 and began to focus on kosher agriculture.
While his wife sparked his interest in Judaism, it became clear within five minutes of speaking with him that Johnson is Jewish because he truly wants to be.
Photographs: © 2014 Helen Norman
Around the time I was 15, I stopped eating anything that contained gluten and soy, two ingredients that are found in the majority of American food products. Gluten is the protein found in wheat and several related grains, such as barley and rye, and soy refers to any product made from the soybean — from soybean vegetable oil, a common oil used in American restaurants, to soy lecithin, an “emulsifier” (or food thickener) found in most American processed foods.
To add to my list of restrictions, I had already been mostly off of dairy products (I say mostly because scientists devised a wonderful enzyme pill in the 1970s that allows lactose intolerant people like me to normally digest a moderate amount of dairy) for several years. An enormous variety of foods that I had enjoyed as a kid — from pizza to bagels to Chinese food doused in soy sauce — was suddenly off-limits as I tried to diagnose the cause of what had become chronic stomach pain.
(Reuters) — Lee Brian Schrager’s passion for fried chicken led him to travel around the United States and convince celebrity and local chefs to share their recipes in his new cookbook “Fried & True.”
In the book co-written with Adeena Sussman, Schrager shares more than 50 recipes for fried chicken from his contributors including double fried chicken and another with Asian-inspired ingredients.
The 55-year-old founder of the Food Network South Beach and New York City Wine & Food Festivals spoke to Reuters about what makes the best fried chicken and sharing recipes.
What is the secret to making great fried chicken?
Lee Brian Schrager: The right temperature with the frying oil. If the oil is too hot, it’s going to be burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. If it’s too cold, it will get too greasy. Starting the oil at 370 degree Fahrenheit (188 degree Celsius) is the key.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s Seeded Chicken Schnitzel with Parsley-Caper Mayonnaise
Adapted from ‘Fried & True’ by Lee Schrager With Adeena Sussman
For the parsley and caper mayonnaise
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup sunflower oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups loosely packed parsley leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon salt-packed capers
For the chicken
4 skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 lbs. total), each piece cut into 3 long strips
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds (or extra white, if not available)
2 tablespoons flaxseed
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds, roughly crushed
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup sunflower oil
Buka’s Nigerian Chicken Pepper Soup
1 yellow onion, diced
Few sprigs of fresh mint
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
4 cups of chicken stock
Fresh habanero peppers (to taste) chopped fine
1 tbsp pepper soup spice
Salt to taste
Place chicken, onion, thyme, habanero peppers, salt and spices in a large pot.
Cook on a low flame for 25 minutes.
Add the stock and boil for an additional 20 minutes.
Remove from heat
Stir in mint and serve.
pepper soup spice sold at Buka Market
Not up for cooking for the Seders this year? Not a problem. Restaurants around North America are offering seats at the Seder table for those who are hungry for updated Jewish fare like matzo balls in a lemongrass broth, tropical haroset and Turkish flourless chocolate cake.
At some, a Seder service will be led, while at others it’ll be strictly BYOH (bring your own Haggadah). We’ve rounded up some great choices, but there are many others out there. So please add additional suggestions from your city in the comments section below.
Note: These dinners are non-kosher, unless otherwise noted.
186 Franklin St., (212) 431-0606
Passover diners will enjoy Kutsher’s nouvelle twist on Borscht Belt Seder classics, like sweet onion butter for the matzo, wild halibut gefilte fish, and beef brisket with kasha, veal bacon and creamed spinach.
Details: March 25 and 26. Seder seatings at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. $85 per person ($49 for kids under 10), 20% gratuity added to all checks.
Take a walking tour of Jewish food in San Francisco with the guys from Wise Sons Deli. Yum. [Serious Eats]
Saveur.com suggests adding white chocolate to your smoky baba ghannouj. An interesting idea. [Saveur]
Passover baking might go down easier if we all tried these chocolate raspberry macaroons. [Serious Eats]
This might be the best veggie Shabbat dinner recipe we’ve heard of in a while — Dan Barber’s cauliflower steak. [Food 52]
But, if you prefer chicken, here’s an excellent tutuorial on how to know when your bird is done. [Food 52]
On a balmy afternoon in January of 1969, my mother and her family left their sprawling farm in Cuba for the promise of a new life filled with opportunity in the United States.
Like many other immigrant families, they worked hard to assimilate into the culture of their new home country. My grandfather went to work at an automobile factory, while my mother and her siblings attended school in an unfamiliar language. With a picture-perfect house in a sunny southern California suburb, they soon morphed into a seemingly typical American family — but anyone invited over for dinner would quickly realize that their Cuban traditions remained.
While her neighbors busied themselves by hosting cookouts on their backyard barbecues, my grandmother spent the better part of her day sweating over that night’s offerings, which she made with the produce from her small makeshift replica of the family’s old farm that she built in the backyard. Dinners featured classic Cuban dishes like starchy yucca smothered in sauce, cumin-scented black beans to drape over white rice, a fresh and crisp salad jeweled with plump slices of avocado, and aromatic and savory meat dishes, which slow roasted in her tiny oven — the scent wafting through the neighborhood like an unspoken invitation to come by for dinner.
Spring has sprung and the change is showing in our farmers markets. Here are 16 ways to prepare asparagus. [Serious Eats]
Nicholas Kristof illuminates what’s really in commercially produced chicken. [New York Times]
Ruth Reichl offers tips for better hummus. [Gilt Taste]
In the almost feudal state that Nicaragua was 90 years ago, daughters of wealthy families were taught French and needlework, and were expected to marry well. They knew nothing about how their food was cooked, their clothes made, or their households provisioned. They weren’t allowed to associate with the servants, or even to enter the kitchen. Finishing school in Switzerland, then marriage to a suitable boy — those were girls’ expectations in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, back when my Mom was growing up.
My mother’s parents, descendants of Spanish Jews, owned sugar-cane and coffee plantations. They were proud of their Sephardic heritage, but for the exception of lighting Shabbat candles and abstaining from pork and shellfish, they had dropped Jewish observance. Sad, but maybe inevitable in a country where only a handful of Jewish families have ever lived.
Start the year off well, be bold, shine forth with simplicity. Rosh Hashanah foods are meant not just to tickle our taste buds but also to inspire. The flavors and textures of holiday foods are meant to encourage the turn towards new possibilities. According Gilda Angel, the author of the “Sephardic Holiday Cooking,” Turkish Jewish cuisine, which relies on bright flavors of vegetables, side lining the heavy spices that dress up other Middle Eastern Jewish culinary traditions, is the perfect way to give the New Year a bright bold fresh start.
Like other Sephardic Jews, Turkish Jews who are originally of Spanish decent make food a spiritual centerpiece of the holiday. Drawing on the ancient Talmudic custom of eating foods that embody the wishes that we have for the New Year, Sephardic Jews around the world have developed complex holiday menus utilizing the ingredients that correlate to the blessings for the New Year. For those worried that there might be a negative decree in the coming year, try eating pumpkin dishes, such as the Pan De Calabaza, a pumpkin bread from the menu below, which will work to annul the decree. Leeks, like those who found in the Keftes De Prasa, or leek fritters, also below help give us luck instead of strengthen those who seek to triumph over us.
Of all my food memories, the ones that tug most deeply at my heartstrings are dishes I attribute to my maternal grandmother, Inka Bruck. There was the cake she made for my birthday every year, Hedgehog cake (decorated with M&Ms for eyes and slivered almonds for quills!), the Andes mints she kept in the glass candy dish in her living room for our visits, and most of all, a traditional Central European comfort food made for special occasions: Chicken Paprikash.
Despite the fact that she strongly identified with her Czech background, my grandmother rarely spoke about her upbringing — preferring to distract me with treats as well as Czech endearments, songs and games from her childhood. Reflecting on this after her death, I assumed that the pain of having had her family broken apart and killed during the Holocaust was something she didn’t want to introduce into our relationship given the fact that I was so young. For this reason I chose to fill in my only half rendered image of her with this indelible connection to food. I clung to my existing memories of her in the kitchen of her San Diego home and relished stories about my Grandmother’s marble baking slab in the kitchen of my mother’s childhood home, which she used to make pie crusts and other homemade desserts.
T’beet, a chicken stuffed with rice and spices and cooked buried in more rice and spices, was the traditional Sabbath lunch of the Babylonian Jews of Iraq for generations. I say “was” because apart from the older generation of exiled Iraqi Jews, like my mother and a few relatives, very few people make this dish today.
Mesopotamia (and modern day Iraq) was, until relatively recently, a mosaic of different ethnic and religious communities, including a Jewish community that dates back 2600 years. Despite its diversity, all Iraqis shared a common cuisine, with each religious group developing their way of cooking certain dishes and inventing others which were typical of their community.
For the Babylonian Jews the most important dish was their emblematic Sabbath meal called t’beet. The aromatic spices of cinnamon, cardamom and pepper used in this slow-cooking dish give the rice and chicken a wonderful and delicate flavour. It was to the Sabbath what turkey is to Thanksgiving, with one exception, we had it every Saturday, fifty-two times a year.
Last week, a bill in the Maryland legislature that would have banned the use of arsenic in chicken feed was killed. Since the introduction of the bill in February, a public controversy has arisen over this little-known poultry industry practice. The months of debate, culminating in this week’s disappointing defeat, force us to closely question what goes into the food that we eat and whether industrial kosher meat production truly upholds Jewish values — ethical treatment of animals, protection of the environment and care for our own bodies.
In 1944, the Food and Drug Administration approved roxarsone, an arsenic-containing organic compound, for use in chicken feed. This metallic element, which in some forms is a powerful poison, is used “for increased rate of weight gain, improved feed efficiency, and improved pigmentation” of chicken. It also protects against parasites, according to a report by Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. These broadly worded designations allow for widespread use. Indeed, the routine practice of industrial poultry producers is to dose chicken feed with roxarsone and other pharmaceuticals in order to get as much meat as possible as quickly as possible from each bird. But exposure to certain types of arsenic in humans causes cancer and may contribute to other health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and impaired intellectual function.
Poulet sofrito, a braised chicken dish with lemon, cardamom and turmeric, was the Sabbath dish at my parents’ home in London after they left Egypt in 1956 following the Suez crisis. In Egypt it had been our cook Awad who prepared it. Without the distractions of life in Cairo within a large extended family, my mother took to cooking with passion — to please her husband, and when her children left home, to bring the family together on Friday nights. My two brothers and I never missed coming with our families. My mother always cooked at least three chickens and any leftovers were eaten as cold chicken sofrito on Saturday.
The Jewish community of Egypt was ancient but it had been joined by the twentieth century by a mosaic of people who arrived in waves from different parts of the old Ottoman world. Families held on to their different cultures and their special Sabbath dishes. What my mother cooked was what my father’s family, the Doueks who came from Syria, and her own family, the Sassoons normally ate. Her father had come from Syria and her mother from Turkey.
That first Friday after the clocks fall back can be a serious shock to the system. An entire hour of daylight: gone. It’s a bold move. What happens next is more insidious. Over the next month or so, the light will continue to slip away, but quietly, dwindling by mere seconds each day. Those seconds add up; each Friday, we’ll be out a handful of minutes that, just the week before, we didn’t think we could do without. In other words, squeezing in all of our cooking before Shabbat is only going to get harder. Cooking most of the meal beforehand will take us only so far. To get us the rest of the way there, we’ll need a second strategy, one that can be summed up in three little words: mise en place.
Mise en place, literally “putting in place,” refers to the advance measuring, chopping, pouring, and arranging of ingredients for the dishes you’re planning to prepare. Chef Anthony Bourdain has gone so far as to call mise en place “the religion of all good line cooks.” I’ve never cooked on the line, but even at home, it’s easy to understand what he means. When I’m sailing swiftly through a recipe, neck and neck with the sinking sun, I stand proudly among the converted.