From the destruction of Sandy, a Far Rockaway bagel shop rises. [Eatocracy]
A look at Katz’s through the years. [EV Grieve]
It’s almost Purim. Check out this guide to hamantaschen in NYC. [Village Voice]
10 beautiful and edible gifts to give Purim. [Food 52]
Which brisket was crowned king? [Serious Eats]
Head to Mile End when you feel like Montreal-Jewish-Sichuan. [Bon Appetit]
Since being aurally haunted by hundreds of toy noise makers during one Purim celebration in my childhood, Purim has been banned from my top 10 list of favorite holidays (making way for more quiet and civilized holidays where you soberly eat matzo ball soup with your family). In my wimpy eyes its only point of redemption is hamantaschen. This year, I have reinterpreted the triangle cookies two ways — one sweet and Asian inspired and the other savory and filled with delicious rich cheese.
My favorite varieties of classic hamantaschen can be found at a few hidden deli counters in New York and in care packages from the mother of a dear college friend, Brian. When we were in college, Brian’s apartment was good for three things: throwing wild patio parties, eating spray can cheese, and hosting impromptu hamantaschen eating parties as soon as his Purim care package arrived. His mother’s hamantaschen were soft, doughy, slightly smashed from the shipping process, and swimming in powdered sugar (perfect for the morning after those legendary patio parties). So when I decided to make hamantaschen this year — with a personal twist — the obvious starting point was tapping Brian’s mom for her recipe.
One of these recipes draws on my Asian heritage and uses black sesame seeds in place of the traditional poppy seed filling. Black sesames are common in Asian cooking and have a smokier and nuttier flavor than their white counterparts. The other is an homage to my cheese and spinach obsessions and is as perfect for an appetizer or party hors d’oeuvre as it is sacrilege.
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.
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.
“What Are Your Favorite Sustainable Food Stories in America?” Serious Eats asks, for The Perennial Plate, a video series that will tour the country to tell the story of sustainable foodies, farmers and chefs.
Not only is Sunday but it’s macaron day as well. And no, not the type we eat for Passover, but the French sandwich cookies that come in almost any flavor imaginable. If you’re looking for some high quality cookies of either variety, check out Tablet’s recent post.
Late night guy Larry King opens his West Coast Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. in Beverly Hills today, where he’ll manufacture the signature Brooklyn water, which reportedly gives New York bagels their taste and texture, Daily Dish reports.
Masquerades, double identities, and hidden truths are the very essence of Purim, the story, the parties, the carnivals, and as it turns out the food too. Traditionally, across the Jewish landscape, food was as integral to Purim celebrations as it was to Passover or Rosh Hashana. In addition to gifts of food, there is the mandatory celebratory meal, the Purim Se’udah or feast. The menu of this meal historically varied by community with local tastes and traditions. But common across the landscape were “hidden foods,” which looked like one thing on the outside, but like the story of Ester revealed secrets below the surface. Folding, rolling, stuffing and cramming away from rabbinic view, Jewish women through the generations created culinary complements to hidden motifs of the Purim story.
How and when this tradition developed is shrouded in mystery, as the evidence was eaten and not recorded, but recipes passed through the generations and diverse communities, with very different culinary traditions, all found hidden foods tucked into their Purim menus. Persian Jews who laid special claim to the holiday — given that the story of Purim story is set in ancient Persia — have a tradition of eating gondi a meatball with the surprising filling of raisins and nuts, in a sweet and sour sauce. From the Greek Island of Rhodes there is a custom of sticky honey cookies called travadicos which are filled with nuts. The Jewish community of Italy added spinach ravioli and manicotti to the mix. The legacy of Eastern Europe takes shape with kreplach, delicate dumplings filled with meat and challahs stuffed with onions and poppy seeds.
We asked you for your most creative mishloach manot, (edible Purim gifts), recipes and you responded well. (To learn more about this tradition, see this morning’s post We received several hamantashen recipes including ones filled with cheesecake and even brownie bits. There was also the double chocolate hamantashen with chocolate dough and nutella filling — yum!. But our favorite was a recipe that has it’s root in the 1930’s and combines prune and apricot butters, raisins, walnuts and citrus zest. We also like the surprisingly simple recipe for candied ginger we received. Finally, I also share with you my personal recipe for blood orange maple nut granola, which I will be sending to my friends this Purim. Happy cooking and happy Purim.
Forgot to send us your mishloach manot ideas? Tell us about them in the comments.
Hamantaschen from Amy Mates
Amy writes: This recipe was given to me by my mother, taught to her by a kindly neighbor, Mrs. Bailen, on Norfolk Street on the Lower East Side in the 1930’s after her own mother had died and she became the one in charge of all the cooking. We all loved these as kids, and for many years my mom would send delicately wrapped ‘hummies’ to her children across the country, and even to her ‘machatunim’ after I was married. (The original recipe called for cooked pitted prunes, and it took my Great Aunt Bea to tell my mother in the l950’s that in America you can buy a ready made jar of Lekvar and save yourself a lot of work.)
On Purim, the standard Jewish holiday cliffnote, “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat” gets a special addition: “Let’s help other people eat, too.” Purim, which starts Saturday night and goes through Sunday, is a holiday that not only requires a banquet (se’udah), but also that we send gifts of good food to our friends, and help out the less fortunate in our community, as per Mordecai’s specific request in the book of Esther: “And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters to all the Jews…that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending food one to another, and gifts to the poor.”(Esther 9:20-22)
What kind of a gift is food? Unlike other presents, food disappears once consumed (in this case, often leaving a trail of hamentaschen crumbs). Yet a gift of food — cookies, cakes, fruits, nuts and other treats are common on this holiday — sends two special messages that are appropriate for a day of celebrating our success escaping national collapse. Food keeps our physical bodies alive and is also a celebration of life, having within it the capacity to elevate the basic experience of eating into one of delight and joy. Giving the gift of food says at once: “I don’t want you to be hungry” and “I want you to really enjoy life.” In the face of the grim story of Purim, not only should we note that we’re indeed still alive enough to eat — we should revel in it.
Imagine removing the sweet and sticky poppy seed filling from a hamentaschen. Now, roll this into soft and light yeast dough to form a log. After baking, cut into slices, and admire the black swirl against the light pastry, a kind of Ashkanazi yin-yang delicacy. It used to be a classic Purim treat, both in my family and in Poland and Israel.
My family tradition of delicious and sweet poppy seed rolls stems from my late grandmother Rachel. Born in Poland, she made aliyah to Israel in her youth. Throughout her life, she prepared traditional Ashkenazi dishes. Her yeasted poppy seed rolls were Purim favorites, and also frequently made an appearance during the rest of the year. Even into my father’s adulthood, my grandmother baked huge batches of these pastries for Purim and packed them up to give to my father and his siblings. With Purim approaching, I decided to recreate the recipe that I had heard so much about.
As with many other Jewish holidays, the tradition of poppy seeds for Purim is rooted in symbolism. Apparently, we Jews blot out the name of the evil Haman by gobbling up poppy seed desserts. According to the “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food” by Gil Marks, the Yiddish word for poppy seed, mohn, is similar to the Hebrew pronunciation of the villain of the Purim story, Hamohn. Thus, the Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern Europe celebrated Purim with the poppy seed hamentaschen that are well known today, as well as poppy seed cookies and filled yeast pastries like my grandmother Rachel’s poppy seed roll.
Purim might just be the perfect Jewish foodie holiday — we are required to feast, drink in revelry and to give one another food presents, or mishloach manot. The latter is the perfect project for passionate cooks and anyone who is testing the waters with DIY gifts.
The tradition of giving edible gifts comes from the Megilah we read on Purim: “They should make them days of feasting and gladness of mishloach manot [sending portions] one to another, and gifts to the poor.” More specifically, are supposed to send at least one person two different foods or drinks that are ready to be enjoyed without much preparation.
What homemade mishloach manot will you be sending your family and friends this year? Email us your ideas and recipes at firstname.lastname@example.org by Thursday, March 10th. The top treats ideas will be printed on the blog on Monday March 14th, giving you plenty of time to whip up batches of homemade granola, apple sauce or inventive hamentaschen!