The Jew And The Carrot

Latkepalooza: Philly's Potato-Pancake Smackdown

By Michael Kaminer

Photograph courtesy of Abe Fisher.

Leeks and feta cheese. Cajun seasonings. Black garlic jam and pickled apples.

These are latkes?

Welcome to Latkepalooza, the annual Philadelphia smackdown that challenges local chefs to reinvent the humble potato pancake.

On Sunday, December 7, nine eateries across a wide swath of Philadelphia’s stellar restaurant scene will showcase recipes created especially for the 12-year-old cook-off, now a hot ticket for Philly foodies.

The event began in 2003 “as a way to blend a popular Hanukkah tradition with Philadelphia’s growing foodie culture — a direct result of the city’s restaurant renaissance,” said Sahar Oz, director of programming at Philadelphia’s Gershman Y, which launched — and still hosts — the event. More than 350 latke lovers are expected this year.

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Potato Latke with Gin-Cured Salmon, Pickled Beets and Boursin

By Yehuda Sichel

Photograph and recipe courtesy of Abe Fisher.

The Latke

Makes one big latke, cut into wedges to serve

2 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons flour
2½ teaspoons salt
1 egg

  1. Combine all ingredients quickly, don’t overmix.

  2. Using a skillet or sauté pan over medium heat, fill hot pan halfway with oil.

  3. Let oil get hot (a dollop of the mix should sizzle) before adding all of the mixture to the pan.

  4. Cook 5 minutes on the first side, flip and cook 5 minutes on the second side, flip and cook 2 minutes, flip again and cook 2 minutes. Remove from oil and drain.

Gin Cured Salmon

1 side of filleted salmon, pinbones removed
1 cup kosher salt
3 tablespoons granulated or brown sugar
1 bunch dill, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
¼ to ½ cup of gin

1) Combine all salt, sugar, dill, parsley. Then add ¼ cup gin to dry ingredients, until mixture has a wet sand consistency. Use this “sand” to pack the fish, laid out on a sheet tray with space in between each piece.

2) Pack fish with wet sand mixture. Let it sit in fridge 7 days, uncovered, to cure.

3) After 7 days, slice thinly to serve.

Pickled Beets

2 bunches of baby beets, rinsed but skin on
2 cups water
2 cups white distilled vinegar
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons ground allspice
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup chopped chives, to garnish

1) Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

2) Place beets, liquids, sugar, allspice and salt in a pan. Cover, and cook in oven for 45 minutes, until beets are fork tender. Allow beets to cool in the liquid. (Peels will come right off.) Discard peels and cooking liquid.

3) Dice beets small and mix with chopped chives, reserving a few to garnish finished dish.

Homemade Boursin-Style Cheese

1 head garlic
Olive oil for drizzling
Salt to taste
¾ cup butter
1 cup cream cheese
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons dried chives
2 tablespoons fresh dill
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
½ cup sour cream

1) Preheat oven to 275˚ F.

2) Wrap whole head of garlic in foil. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and bake for 1½ hours or until very soft.

3) Combine butter, cream cheese and roasted garlic in a food processor with white pepper. Process until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl and fold in chives, dill, parsley and sour cream. Salt to taste. Store up to a week in the refrigerator.

To assemble the dish:

Serve latkes hot, cut into wedges. Schmear boursin across each plate; place one latke wedge down; top with two shingles of sliced salmon; add second latke; shingle two more layers of salmon. Top with pickled beets; garnish with chopped chives.

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Michael Solomonov's Culinary Tribute to Slain Brother

By Liz Steinberg

liz steinberg
Michael Solomonov puts the final touches on dinner commemorating the 10th anniversary of his brother’s death.

For Israeli-American chef Michael Solomonov, this weekend’s dinner in an Israeli park had been in the making for 10 years – ever since his younger brother David was killed on duty in the Israel Defense Forces.

Michael Solomonov, the owner of Zahav, an award-winning Israeli style restaurant in Philadelphia, was just launching his culinary career when David Solomonov was killed by a sniper just days before he was scheduled to complete his military service. His brother’s death is one of the main factors that pushed him to focus on Israeli food, he says.

A picture of his brother hangs in the room of Michael Solomonov’s 2-year-old son, also named David. The father and son say “good-bye to Uncle David” every time they leave the room, the chef says.

“That ‘good-bye, Uncle David’ thing we say every morning, that’s what we’re doing here tonight,” he told the crowd of 120 at the dinner in the Tel Aviv suburb of Kfar Sava.

Solomonov. 35, was born in Israel to a Bulgarian-Israeli father and an American-Israeli mother, and grew up moving between Israel and the United States. He and his brother had lived on different continents in the years prior to David’s death, but they reconnected a month beforehand.

That’s when Solomonov visited Israel for the first time in four years, “and got to sort of rekindle a very meaningful relationship.” He and his brother spent several weeks together, which happened to include a lot of eating.

Then, on Yom Kippur 2003, shortly before David was due to be discharged, he was killed while patrolling on the Lebanese border, near Metulla. A few months later, Solomonov, then sous-chef at Vetri, hosted a dinner for David’s army unit in partnership with his employer, chef Marc Vetri.

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Roll Your Own Montreal Bagels — In Philly

By Howard Shapiro

Howard Shapiro
Roll-your-own bagel night at Spread Bagelry

The humble bagel is a staple of Western Jewish culture, but what most of us know about it amounts to little more than a shmear. After all, bagels are generally something we buy, not bake.

This makes the bagel ideal for a hands-on workshop, especially at a restaurant-bakery called Spread Bagelry, one of the few United States outposts for what many people would call the food at its very best: the Montreal-style bagel. It’s never made by machine, boiled in honey water, and always baked in a wood-fired brick oven that’s hotter than yours.

And so last night, about 40 people drifted into Spread in downtown Philadelphia, pumped by the promise of watching the bagel-making process and even attempting to roll their own.

“We’re going to discuss them, we’re going to show you how to roll them, we’re going to show you how we boil them and then bake them. We’re not going to show you the recipe,” Larry Rosenblum told the eager onlookers as his business partner, Mark Cosgrove, stood ready to take the rings of imperfect doughy circles they’d be rolling through the process.

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Shabbat Meals: Snapper Provencal

By Devra Ferst


For most people, the Reading Railroad is a valuable spot on the monopoly board. But Philadelphians will proudly claim it their own. The old terminal, of a 60-mile train line that ran between Philadelphia and Reading (from 1839-1976), has housed The Reading Terminal Market since 1893. Filled with open stalls for butchers, Amish farmers, cheese makers, bakeries and coffee roasters, it is a food lover’s paradise, with endless alleys and indoor streets to explore. It is one of the rare remnants of a generation of markets that were created around the turn of the century by city officials concerned with the public health problems caused by outdoor markets.

Every Friday morning for 30 years some members of my family have visited the Terminal. We shop for groceries, say hello to old friends, sip coffee and munch on croissants from our favorite bakeries. The ritual has become so ingrained, that it might be easy for us to overlook the practical purpose of our trips — to stock up on fresh produce and to pick up our Shabbos fish from Tang at John Yi’s Fish Market. (Fish for Shabbos dinner has long been a family custom.)

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