Last week, I offered some homemade latkes to my upstairs neighbor, Caitrin Kiley. As she happily ate a few (with sour cream, for which she has a slight preference over apple sauce), she casually mentioned her family’s Christmas morning tradition.
The Kileys, a Catholic family from Connecticut, have a longstanding routine. Assorted relatives sleep over on Christmas Eve, everyone gathers around the Christmas tree to open presents and then they start making breakfast, filling the house with the smell of — what else? — latkes.
How long had this been going on? I asked.
As far as Caitrin knew, her entire life.
Jewish relatives? A few, by marriage, but they don’t come on Christmas.
Some obscure Quebecois custom? Caitrin wasn’t sure. All she knew was that latkes had always been an integral part of her family’s Christmas morning.
God bless America, I thought to myself, and resolved that this merited further investigation.
The Geltwich, an ice cream sandwich created by Jared Goodman for his Hanukkah pop-up. Photograph by Jared Goodman
(JTA) — Hanukkah menorahs burn in the window of Miss Zumstein Bakery and Coffee Shop on Portland’s east side, and inside 22 guests sit facing one another at a long row of tables.
The group is celebrating the third night of Hanukkah with sweet and fatty treats. But, rather than sufganiyot, the jelly donuts that have become an iconic Hanukkah dessert, ice cream sundaes are front and center in this latest installment of the Morgan Street Theater, a culinary pop-up devoted to three-course tasting menus of ice cream sundaes accompanied by stories.
At the head of the table stands Jared Goodman, the chef, master of ceremonies and sole proprietor of Morgan Street Theater. His short-cropped brown hair, oblong glasses and boyish face, matched by a boyish enthusiasm, make him seem much younger than his 34 years. His apron’s psychedelic swirl of skulls, enormous snakes and what appear to be geishas playing Kleenex-box guitars, makes a slightly surreal contrast to his self-description as the stay-at-home dad to a 2 1/2-year-old daughter.
After introducing himself, he begins the evening with a retelling of the Hanukkah story which, he confesses, he has not rehearsed.
“There were these people called the Jews. And the Jews were living in … I’m gonna need some corrections here … I think in the land that is known as Israel … Palestine … we’ll call it the Middle East. The Jews were living in the Middle East. And they were living under the Syrians. But I’ve heard it was either the Syrians, the Greeks or the Romans. So we’ll say they were living under non-Jewish rule.”
Orange marmalade flavored with 10-year-old whisky. Photographs courtesy of Blake Hill Preserves
I first met Vicky Allard and Joe Hanglin, the culinary couple behind Blake Hill Preserves, at KosherFest 2013, the annual celebration of all things kosher. Tucked away in the New Products room, slightly removed from the hubbub of hungry throngs sampling free food, the two stood behind a modest table covered with tiny spoons, crackers and a glistening kaleidoscope of preserves. My feet were sore; my palate spent, but Vicky’s chirpy British accent and a cracker slicked in amber roped me back in for a final nibble. Or, well, three. OK, maybe four.
The other day I came across a link on Tablet to a Munchies video of comedian Eiot Glazer in a kitchen, wearing an apron and making gold-dusted Hanukkah gelt. The gelt looked really good, and Glazer’s banter was a hoot — take a look. (Start paying attention to the video close to the 1½-minute mark — trust me on this.)
By the way, upon further exploration I also found a video of Gefilteria’s Liz Alpern making apple-pear sauce for latkes. Definitely also worth a peek.
h/t Tablet Magazine
Photograph courtesy of Breads Bakery
I cannot tell a lie: I’ve never made sufganiyot. I feel a little sheepish about this, because when you’re a food editor and a recipe developer, as I am, people seem to expect that you’ve done it all.
I was so impressed when I read Gayle Squires’ story last week about tackling jelly doughnuts for the first time, and her step-by-step recipe sounds fabulous, but aside from a short period when I made my own beer-batter-fried fish, and one or two attempts at fried chicken, I’ve just never been the deep-frying kind.
A quarterly shipment, pre-flight. Photograph courtesy of Koofsa
Inbal Baum, founder and guide of Delicious Israel culinary tours, has launched a mouth-watering new business for U.S.-based foodies who swoon over Israeli flavors but can’t find an exciting range of authentic products here.
With the recent launch of Koofsa (which means “box” in Hebrew), Baum is offering an enticing opportunity for people in the U.S. to support Israel’s small food producers, family food businesses and other culinary creatives, while tasting a wide range of Israeli edibles in their own kitchens.
Image courtesy of William Greenberg Desserts
First, we had Hanukkah bushes. Then came Mensch on a Bench.
But is the world ready for Hanukkah gingerbread houses, a Semitic spin on the most goyish of holiday foods?
William Greenberg Desserts thinks so. The venerable bakery — which sells only kosher products — offers festive gingerbread abodes, complete with microscopic mezuzahs and miniscule menorahs, as it has for the past decade.
Buying fair trade chocolate — in the form of gelt, or even sufganiyot — makes particular sense on Hanukkah, when we celebrate freedom from tyranny. Photo courtesy of Ilana Schatz.
When I first learned about the issue of trafficked child labor in cocoa fields, I immediately thought of the gelt that I’ve eaten every Hanukkah since I was a young girl. The sweetness of its taste in my mouth while playing dreidel is deeply embedded in my memory.
But now I had been introduced to its true bittersweet character.
Today, young children are trafficked and forced into working on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, where more than half the world’s cocoa is grown. Many have been kidnapped from surrounding countries and brought to the Ivory Coast against their will. They are forced to work long hours, often without pay, and receive no education. Their work involves hazardous chemicals and pesticides and dangerous machetes.
Photograph courtesy of Ilana Schatz
On Hanukkah, chocolate need not be confined to gelt. After tasting one of these warm, chocolate-filled sufganiyot, you won’t want to return to the old jelly-filled standard.
Use fair trade chocolate to ensure the freedom of cocoa workers on the holiday that celebrates the Maccabees’ fight against oppression.
¾ cup warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (keep some handy for your work surface)
¾ cup sugar
½ tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large eggs, separated
Peanut oil, as necessary
¼ cup 70% Fair Trade bittersweet or milk chocolate
¼ cup raspberry jam (optional)
Photograph by Jon Wunder
Gift No. 3
The holiday season is upon us, which for many means a time of social gatherings, family, friends and traditions both religious and secular.
This time of year brings me back to my youth, when I believed December was the time the Jews celebrated Hanukkah as well as Passover — when Santa Claus passed over our house and went to everyone else’s. Were it not for Cecil B. DeMille and his documentary, “The Ten Commandments,” I might still be disillusioned.
Needless to say, as an adult I have no sentimental attachment to any of December’s celebrations, but thanks to Shmaltz Brewing Company, that is all about to change. Because if there’s one tradition I can full invest in, it’s one that involves craft beer.
So, this Hanukah, I decided my pre-schooler and I would go nuts. Old enough to be involved, we went shopping- silver tinsel, an extra menorah, flour, sugar, cookie cutters and sprinkles were all purchased and waiting for Hanukah break. We decorated the house, rolled out dreidel cookies, set up the menorahs, and fried latkes…. And it was only day one of vacation. The only thing left to do was make sufganiyot.
This has been a tremendous year for cookbooks. Choosing just eight to recommend wasn’t easy, but we taste tested, read and, frankly, salivated over a lot of photos to find the best books to recommend to you this Hanukkah season. You will find four here and four more at forward.com/food, one book for each night.
While a hefty vegetarian and international vegan book are among our favorite this year, carnivores need not worry. A book devoted solely to chicken fat — imagine! — made our list, plus one with four seasonal brisket recipes that helps you bring home the deli with an easy do-it-yourself pastrami recipe. Books from two Israeli chefs introduce some Middle Eastern flavors, and a husband-and-wife team offer some refreshing reinterpretations of Jewish classics.
All these would make a great Hanukkah gift, or perhaps leaving a marked-up clipping of this list lying around in a prominent place could yield some favorable results — not only for you, but in the form of some shared memorable meals in the not-too-distant future.
1. What does Portland, Ore., know from Jewish deli? A lot, as it turns out, thanks to Nick Zukin and Michael C. Zusman, authors of “The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home.” Featuring recipes from Portland’s Kenny & Zuke’s Delicatessen as well as other new wave Jewish delis, like Mile End and Caplansky’s, this book is perfect for anyone who wants to try boiling his or her own bagels at home or making an extraordinarily succulent and flavorful pastrami — no smoker required. But simpler deli recipes abound, as well. There are numerous variations on egg, potato and chicken salads, as well as soups from matzo ball to kreplach, mushroom barley and borscht.
2. The buzz still hasn’t died down from last year’s “Jerusalem,” but already, the London-based Israeli Jewish and Palestinian dynamic duo Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi have another book out: “Ottolenghi: The Cookbook.” This is the third year running that an Ottolenghi book is on our list. Featuring dishes both savory and sweet from their incredibly popular London takeout shops, “Ottolenghi” was their first book to come out in the United Kingdom, but it just made its way stateside. While salads and vegetable sides dominate (along with mouthwatering photos), there is a fair number of entrees, and plenty of tempting sweets. Their roast chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey is perfect for a holiday meal, and sweet potato galette with goat cheese is on our next dinner party menu. Surprising combinations also sneak into the book, like mixed mushrooms with cinnamon and lemon.
3. In New York, Einat Admony is the queen bee of Israeli cooking. The chef and owner of Taim falafel and the more upscale Balaboosta released her first book this year: “Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Recipes To Feed the People You Love.” The book’s gorgeous photos and straightforward recipes will call even the most timid cook to the kitchen. While the title is Yiddish, Admony herself is of Persian and Yemenite heritage, and it shows in her well spiced recipes, like her mom’s chicken with pomegranate and walnuts, and lamb chops with Persian lime sauce and kubaneh, a Yemenite bread baked overnight. A variety of Israeli dishes — and some Palestinian ones — are sprinkled throughout.
4. “The New Jewish Table: Modern Seasonal Recipes for Traditional Dishes” by Todd Gray, Ellen Kassoff Gray and David Hagedorn grew out of a New York Times article by Joan Nathan about non-Jewish chefs married to Jews. The owners of Equinox restaurant (Kassoff Gray is Jewish, Gray is not) in Washington, D.C., have updated Jewish classics with more flavorful and modern takes, like fig and port wine blintzes, and falafel with pickled vegetables and minted lemon yogurt. While one or two mixed meat-and-milk dishes do appear, each recipe is classified as meat, dairy or pareve, and entire kosher menus are suggested for the Jewish holidays. Matzo-stuffed Cornish game hen for Hanukkah, anyone?
Who knew there could be good chocolate Hanukkah gelt? I figured it had to be waxy and tasteless, left in its foil to decorate a festive table rather than my mouth. A lovely audience in New Jersey shared their favorite Jewish chocolate experiences with me recently and mentioned, among other things, chocolate covered matzah and chocolate macaroons. They did not mention gelt. When I noted that omission, one woman sharply retorted, “Chocolate gelt is sucky.”
And so it often is. Or has been.
Several companies sell gelt. My quality test sampled some, not all. My criteria for gelt goodness includes whether the product is fair trade, kosher, and/or organic. I also care about appearance and taste and quality.
Leave the bad bottle of wine at your local liquor shop and pick up one of these Israeli treats for your holiday party host. We promise, they’ll be grateful. Oh, and it would only be right to get yourself one too, right?
A Nutty Spread
No trip to Israel is complete without a slice of fresh halva cut from a mound of sweetened sesame paste in one of the country’s legendary markets. Longing for a taste of home, Shahar Shamir, who lives in Brooklyn, has reimagined the snack as a line of spreads called Brooklyn Sesame. His nutty tahini pastes are sweetened with honey and blended with a choice of roasted pistachios, sesame seeds or caraway seeds. A recent addition to his line includes a cocoa and sea salt option that would be exceptional atop a good bowl of vanilla ice cream. The pastes are delicious with cheese, on bread or frankly, straight off of a spoon.
Brooklyn Sesame’s Halva Spread; $8-14
I know what you are thinking…. the Hanukkah story had a femme fatale?? When you think of Hanukkah you probably think of how the Maccabees defeated the Syrian-Greeks in a revolt that recaptured the Holy Temple. And once the Maccabees did, the first order of business was to light the menorah in the Temple, but very little oil was found and would only last one day. The miracle of Hanukkah was that the little vile of oil that was supposed to last for one day lasted 8 days. It is for this reason that we eat foods fried in oil (typically olive oil because it’s a characteristic of the Land of Israel). What you may not know is that there is an underlying story of events that led to the victory of the Maccabees and it all started in the town of Bethulia, in the Judean Desert with a woman named Judith.
Judith was a pious woman who had a plan to save the Jews by pretending to surrender to an Assyrian general, Holofernes. The Holy Temple in Jerusalem was seized and the Jews could not practice their religion. Judith used her beauty and charm to ingratiate herself onto Holofernes. She brought him her homemade cheese and wine (nothing like food to a man’s stomach) and went back to his tent, for “something something”…. Or so he thought.
Ever wondered what a Jewish reggae superstar eats on the road? Matisyahu’s personal chef shares his vegan chulent recipe and more. [What Does Matisyahu Eat?]
Who should regulate kosher and halal food? The Economist chews on a meaty question. [The Economist]
If you didn’t get your fill of fried deliciousness during Hanukkah, Venetian Carnival Galani provide a compelling new reason to break out the oil. [Dinner in Venice]
It may not be a Jewish holiday, but Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to eat chocolate. Check out these edible valentine recipes. [Food 52]
There’s a new cookbook about shmaltz! (More details to come soon on JCarrot.) In the meantime check out this first look. [Eater]
Eight desserts for eight nights of Hanukkah. Personally, we love the marshmallow dreidels. [Serious Eats
Some seriously wacky bagel flavors are coming out of The Bagel Store in Williamsburg. Sweet potato bagel? French toast bagel? What kind of schmear goes with that anyway? [Serious Eats]
Early in 2012, Eden Village Camp, the Jewish organic farm camp in Putnam Valley, NY, converted its backup diesel engine to run on used vegetable oil.
Its first test came this past summer, on July 15, 2012, when a big storm hit. The 200 campers and staff were confined to the dining hall until the storm passed. After a thunder crash, the electricity went out, and the campers let out a collective howl in the dark. A moment later, the camp could hear the hum of its backup generator starting up, and the lights returned – and the air was soon filled with a slight scent of French fries. That is the trademark scent of a generator powered by waste veggie oil!
Stephen Colbert inspired Ben & Jerry’s “AmeriCone Dream” ice cream, and the company named its “Late Night Snack” flavor for Jimmy Fallon. So, Neal Gottlieb thought it was time for that other late night funnyman — Jon Stewart — to also have his own ice cream variety.
As it turned out, Gottlieb was better positioned than most people to do something about this. As “founding twin” of the Northern California-based Three Twins organic ice cream company, he was able to whip up some flavors he thought might please Stewart’s palate.
This was exactly two years ago at Hanukkah time, and Gottlieb was thinking Jewish. He came up with three original flavors for the Daily Show’s host to sample: “Land of Milk and Honey” (So smooth and creamy even a goy will enjoy); “Carl’s Kugel” (Oy vey! cream cheese, cinnamon, apple sauce and golden raisins!); and “8 Crazy Nights” (Sweet potato latke ice cream with Hanukkah gelt).
Tonight will be the fifth night of Hanukkah, meaning I’m right on schedule. I have entered into the arena of latke fatigue — and perhaps you have to. It’s at this point in the holiday that I have had more than one too many classic, plain potato latkes. Many of them were delicious, made up of layers of pillowy shredded potatoes surrounded by perfectly crisp and crackly edges. But, at this point, both my mind and my palate are coated in a thick layer of oil and are in need of something new — a flavor to temper the richness of all the oil. If I were a chef on a cook-off show, this is when I would reach for the “acid,” to “balance the flavors.”
To find latke inspiration, I had to leave tradition aside to seek out something different — and, I knew just where to find it. For the past four years, the New York’s Annual Latke Festival has pitted chefs from some of the city’s top restaurants against one another in a latke showdown. This year was no different: 17 chefs took on the challenge to create a latke that would satisfy some 300 guests and a group of judges with some very serious food credentials.