The Jew And The Carrot

Tu B’Shvat Cocktail: The Arbor and the Ale

By Naomi Major

To celebrate Tu B’Shvat, a fig-scented cocktail. Photograph by Jon Wunder.

Writing for the Forward, I’ve learned so much. My education continued this week when I was asked to create a cocktail recipe to celebrate the upcoming holiday of Tu B’Shvat. I am delighted to write about Tu B’Shvat, mainly because up until several days ago my thought was “Tu B’Sh what?”

I knew nothing about it.

To research this lesser-known holiday, I turned to my favorite holiday experts, Fannie Engel and Gertrude Blair, my chosen “first ladies of Jewish history and traditions.”

Tu B’Shvat, or Chamishah Asar B’Shvat, simply means the 15th day of the month Shvat. It is the “New Year of the Trees.”

What? An actual holiday, with rituals surrounding it, celebrating trees? That’s a holiday I can get behind! Arbor Day is good and all, but this is a full-on holiday. And who doesn’t want to celebrate trees? Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz, is probably arbor-averse, but that’s understandable because she was attacked by trees. (That wasn’t really the trees’ fault; the onus there lies fully with the Wicked Witch of the West.)

But I digress.

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Tofu With Apricots, Olives and Almonds

By Jean Hanks

Moroccan-style tofu with apricots, olives and almonds. Photograph by Susan Voisin.

This flavorful, hearty vegetarian dish serves as a delicious main course any time of year, but is particularly appropriate for Tu B’Shvat. It’s simple to prepare and looks beautiful when fully assembled. I came across the recipe in the “Vegan Holiday Kitchen,” by Nava Atlas, this past fall while searching for a meatless addition to my Rosh Hashanah dinner. I often find tofu bland, but the combination of the spices, the salty olives and the sweetness of the apricots made for a bold, aromatic meal.

With olives and wheat being two of the seven fruits of Israel, the inclusion of olives and couscous makes this recipe a great choice for a Tu B’Shvat seder. Add dried figs to incorporate a third of the seven species. For a non-vegetarian twist, substitute mildlyspiced cooked chicken for the tofu.

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Maia's Mom's Challah with Olive Oil

By Kathy Beitscher

Olive-oil expert Maia Hirschbein’s mother used to use low-quality olive oil in her cooking, but when she switched to the high-quality stuff, her challah and other dishes were transformed. Thinkstock

½ cup warm water
1 package or 1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup warm water
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 eggs
A little less than 2⁄3 cup sugar
4 cups flour (or as much as needed to make dough)

1) Place warm water in warm bowl and sprinkle in yeast and sugar. Let stand a few minutes. Then add remaining ingredients.

2) Stir together and knead for about 5 minutes. Knead with love. Place in bowl cover and place in warm spot 3 to 4 hours.

3) Punch down dough. Divide and braid. Place on greased cookie sheet Brush with egg and sesame seeds if desired. Let stand 30 minutes.

4) Bake at 325˚F for 30 minutes. For holidays add raisins.

This article first appeared on J. Weekly. Alix Wall is a personal chef in the East Bay and beyond. You can find her website at The Organic Epicure.

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A Manischewitz Cocktail: Now That’s Chutzpah!

By Naomi Major

A tart, refreshing, sophisticated cocktail designed to use up the post-holiday concord wine. Photograph by Liza Schoenfein

The Chutzpah!

Yields 1 cocktail

2 ounce concord wine such as Manischewitz
1 ounce orange juice
1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ounce vodka
2-3 ounces dry sparkling wine such as prosecco or cava
Slice of lemon, cut into a round

Fill a shaker with ice and add all ingredients except the sparkling wine. Shake vigorously and pour into ice-filled highball glasses. Top with sparkling wine and garnish with lemon slice.

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New Year's Balm

By Adeena Sussman

Photograph by Liza Schoenfein

In this simple cocktail, sweet notes of apple and honey are tempered with tart lemon juice and a hint of rosemary — rumored to be one of Drambuie’s secret ingredients.

Yields one cocktail

2½ ounces Drambuie
1 ounce apple cider
1 ounce vodka
1 ounce lemon juice
1 drop Angostura bitters
1 sprig of rosemary
Seltzer water
Apple slices dipped in honey for garnish

1) Combine first five ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.

2) Top with a splash of seltzer and garnish with a thin slice of honey-dipped apple.

Adeena Sussman is a food writer and recipe developer whose work has appeared in Food & Wine, Martha Stewart Living, Epicurious and Gourmet. Her most recent cookbook, co-authored with Lee Schrager, is “Fried and True: More than 50 Recipes for America’s Best Recipes and Sides” (Clarkson Potter, 2014).

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Spiced Honey-Rosemary Roasted Nuts

By Adeena Sussman

Photograph by Liza Schoenfein

These are the perfect accompaniment to a honey-laced New Year’s cocktail.

3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups mixed raw nuts (such as walnuts, pecans, almonds and hazelnuts)

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

In a medium bowl, whisk honey with sugar, rosemary, salt and pepper. Add mixed nuts, toss to coat and spread evenly on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.

Roast until fragrant and golden, 12-13 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool completely and loosen nuts into a serving bowl. Spiced nuts can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Adeena Sussman is a food writer and recipe developer whose work has appeared in Food & Wine, Martha Stewart Living, Epicurious and Gourmet. Her most recent cookbook, co-authored with Lee Schrager, is “Fried and True: More than 50 Recipes for America’s Best Recipes and Sides” (Clarkson Potter, 2014).

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Recipe: Ottolenghi's Fig Salad With Radicchio and Hazelnuts

By Yotam Ottolenghi

Photograph by Jonathan Lovekin © 2014

Serves 4 as a starter

2 small red onions (7 ounces)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup hazelnuts, with skin
2 ounces radicchio leaves, roughly torn
1 1/3 cups basil leaves
1 1/3 cups watercress leaves
6 large ripe figs (10½ ounces)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt and black pepper

1) Preheat the oven to 425˚F.

2) Peel the onions, halve lengthwise and cut each half into wedges 1¼ inches wide. Mix together the wedges with 1½ teaspoons of the olive oil, a pinch of salt, and some black pepper, and spread out on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking, until the onion is soft and golden and turning crispy in parts. Remove and set aside to cool before pulling the onions apart with your hands into bite-size chunks.

3) Turn down the oven temperature to 325 F. Scatter the hazelnuts in a small roasting pan, and toast for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, roughly crush with the flat side of a large knife. Assemble the salad on 4 individual plates. Mix the radicchio, basil and watercress together and place a few on the bottom of each plate. Cut the figs lengthwise into 4 or 6 pieces. Place a few fig pieces and some roasted onion on the leaves. Top with more leaves and continue with the remaining fig and onion. You want to build up the salad into a small pyramid.

4) In a small cup, whisk together the remaining 2½ tablespoons olive oil, the vinegar and cinnamon with a pinch of salt and some black pepper. Drizzle this over the salad, finish with the hazelnuts and serve.

Reprinted with permission from Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi, copyright © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.

“Plenty More” is available for purchase through online booksellers such as and

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Recipe: Honey Cake for a Sweet New Year

By Rose Levy Beranbaum

Photograph by Ben Fink

My fellow writer, talented friend and poet from Montreal, Marcy Goldman, is the authority on Jewish baking in Canada. She has developed the first honey cake I have ever loved, in good part because it is moist, flavorful and not too sweet.

Special Equipment: Two stacked baking sheets and one 9- to 10-inch (12 to 16 cups) one-piece metal tube pan, preferably nonstick, encircled from the bottom with 2 cake strips, bottom coated with shortening and topped with a parchment ring, then lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray.

Baking time: 70 to 80 minutes
Serves: 12–16

4 large eggs, at room temperature (3/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons/187 ml; 7 oz./200g)
1 cup canola or safflower oil, at room temperature (237 ml; 7.6 oz./215 g)
1 cup strong black coffee, at room temperature (237 ml; 8.4 oz./237 g)
½ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed and strained (about 2 large oranges) (118 ml; 4.3 oz/121 g)
¼ cup whiskey or rye* (59 ml; 1.9 oz./55 g)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (20 ml)
1 ¼ cups superfine sugar (8.8 oz./250 g
½ cup light brown Muscovado sugar or dark brown sugar, firmly packed (3.8 oz./108 g)
3½ cups all-purpose flour, preferably bleached, sifted into the cup and leveled off (14.1 oz./400 g)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder (0.6 oz. 18 g)
¾ teaspoon baking soda (4.1 g)
½ teaspoon fine sea salt (3 g)
1 tablespoon unsweetened (alkalized) cocoa powder (5 g)
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon (8.8 g)
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup honey (237 ml; 11.8 oz./336 g

1) Preheat the oven 20 minutes or longer before baking; set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F.

2) In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, coffee, orange juice, whiskey and vanilla until lightly combined. Add the superfine sugar and brown sugar, and whisk until dissolved into the liquid mixture.

3) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa, cinnamon, ginger and cloves on low speed for 30 seconds. Remove the bowl and whisk beater. Add the liquid ingredients and sugars, and stir with the whisk beater until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the honey. Place the bowl back on the stand and reattach the whisk beater. Start on low speed, then gradually raise the speed to medium and beat for about 1½ minutes. The batter will have the consistency of a thick soup. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and set it on the stacked baking sheets.

4) Bake for 45 minutes. For even baking, rotate the pan halfway around. Lower the temperature to 325 F and bake for an additional 25 to 35 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted between the tube and the sides comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven. During baking, if using the 12-cup pan, the center will rise to a little above the top of the pan, but on cooling it will be almost level with it.

5) Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. To loosen the sides of the cake from the pan, use a rigid sharp knife or stiff metal spatula, preferably with a squared-off end, scraping firmly against the pan’s sides and slowly and carefully circling the pan. (If using a nonstick pan, use a plastic knife or spatula.) In order to ensure that you are scraping against the sides of the pan and removing the crust from the sides, leaving it on the cake, begin by angling the knife or spatula about 20 degrees away from the cake and toward the pan, pushing the cake inward a bit. It is best to use a knife blade that is at least 4 inches long and no wider than 1 inch.

6) Dislodge the cake from the center tube with a wire tester or wooden skewer. Invert the cake onto a wire rack that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. Remove the bottom and center tube, and peel off the parchment. Re-invert the cake onto a serving plate or cake carrier.

7) Let the cake cool for 2 to 3 hours, or until cool. (The cake can be served warm, but the pieces will be fragile. Slice with a sharp serrated knife, and lean the cut-side piece against a pancake turner to move it for plating.)

Store airtight: room temperature, 3 days; refrigerated, 7 days; frozen, 2 months.

Notes: If using a two-piece tube pan, encircle from the bottom with 2 cake strips; coat the bottom of the pan with shortening, and cut a 10-inch parchment round. Cut a circle from the center of the round to fit over the center tube. Slide the parchment ring down the center tube and press it onto the bottom. Press the outer part of the parchment against the sides of the pan, pleating as necessary to create a seal where the bottom part of the pan meets on the pan’s sides. Lightly coat the inside of the pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on top of the stacked baking sheets to catch any leaking batter.

*Orange juice, coffee or water can be substituted for the whiskey or rye.

Reprinted with permission from the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt from The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Photography by Ben Fink. Copyright 2014.

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From International Journey to Cultural Connection

By Len Zangwill

Len Zangwill

The falafel stand was a key stop on the “tour” of Israel. Organized within my son’s active imagination, the imaginary tour was inspired by a Happy Birthday Israel program at our synagogue. This trip was special because it included a participatory component beyond a float in the Dead Sea, a dip in the Mediterranean, a stop at the Western Wall, or, for that matter, visiting a falafel stand. The extra component was helping to “prepare” a special (birthday) meal for Israel–on a kibbutz no less. The menu, as arranged by our youthful tour guide (age 4), included falafel, pita bread, hummus and Israeli salad along with tahini. We had a wonderful time “preparing” the meal and enjoying it. Our son beamed as his satiated parents expressed their appreciation for his culinary creativity. It added a different dimension to the trip.

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Fire-Roasted Eggplant for Lag Ba'Omer

By Lauren Greenberg

Growing up, the only thing that Lag Ba’Omer signified was a time for bonfires. In the New York suburbs the closet we got was barbeques, which for me meant an opportunity to eat watermelon. Barbeques were never particularly exciting to me, and when I got older and became a vegetarian, they held even less appeal. Furthermore, the holiday of Lag Ba’Omer also never fully made sense to me. Why were bonfires the hallmark of a celebration for ending of the plague killing Rabbi Akiva’s students?

Like many other confusing cultural phenomena, I put this aside and continued to care little about the holiday and the inevitable celebration of meat, knowing that while the appearance of veggie burgers could never be counted on since the number of vegetarians is consistently underestimated, my trusty watermelon would undercut these issues.

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Red Velvet Macaroon Cake Is for Lovers

By Molly Yeh

There is a sad truth about Passover: Its dessert always falls short. Hanukkah has donuts, Purim has hamantaschen and Rosh Hashanah has honey cake. Poor Passover has no signature sweet.

Perhaps you’ve put in the extra effort to make a kosher for Passover cake for your Seders past, but if you’re like me, you’ve never found one you love enough to sacrifice sweet brisket-braising time to make it each year. But as Julia Child said, “A party without cake is just a meeting.” So, this spring I set out to create a kosher for Passover cake that wouldn’t compromise even a crumb’s worth of quality.

I pulled my copy of Dan Cohen’s cookbook, “The Macaroon Bible,” down from my shelf and got started. Cohen’s recipes call for small batches that produce rich and chewy macaroons that come in flavors like rice pudding and salted caramel. Each recipe highlights the thick coconut shreds and sweet condensed milk that make up its base. His recipes have made macaroons a year-round treat in my home — passing the test of something that’s conveniently kosher for Passover but not designed for it.

This cake batter borrows from Cohen’s recipe and enhances the celebratory qualities of a macaroon. It takes a traditional Passover dessert and morphs it into a beautiful, festive and delicious centerpiece. It’s a Passover cake for all seasons.

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Video: DIY Chocolate and Cinnamon Babka

By Forward Staff

Homemade babka is a pure delight, filling your home with the smell of yeasty bread, cinnamon and chocolate. This video breaks the whole recipe down.

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Za'atar Chicken Fit for a Valentine's Shabbat

By Molly Yeh

Photos by Molly Yeh

I love a good fried chicken. I love schnitzel, I love katsu, I love anything fatty and breaded and crispy. If my Valentine presented me with a heart-shaped schnitzel on the 14th, I think I’d propose right then and there.

The problem is, I also love feeling good and fitting into the cute Valentine’s Day outfit that I’ve had picked out for weeks. In other words, I want my Valentine’s Day dinner to be as yummy as a schnitzel but much healthier than one.

Oven frying (baking a breaded cutlet, rather than deep frying it) is an obvious answer but I’ve never been a fan of it. With the fake fried food experience, I feel sad and cheated, and cheated is the last thing anyone wants to feel on Valentine’s Day. So… Za’atar to the rescue! It’s one of my favorite spice blends and I am a firm believer that za’atar, like chocolate, can make anything better.

Let’s also not forget that Valentine’s day falls on Shabbat this year. The amazing earthy flavor of za’atar with the crunchiness of panko on this chicken is a beautiful thing, and it is bound please a crowd for your Friday night dinner or a special date without an overwhelming amount of prep. This dish will leave you feeling great, and you may even gain a whole new respect for oven fried chicken like I did. It’s breaded without being heavy or oily and it’s paired with a sweet balsamic date chutney, to add a little extra sweetness to your night.

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Each Flavor was a Journey

By Daniela Rusowsky

Flickr: lchunt

When I came across the Zurückgeben grant, which supports creative projects of Jewish women living in Germany, I decided to present a documentary proposal on a Jewish topic. I worked hard to get the figures; concept and team together, but in the last minute the main character of the story desisted on taking part of the film. There was only a week left for the deadline, and no story… In parallel, I was working in another idea that linked migration, with motherhood and food. I mixed up both projects and that is how the documentary “Each Flavour is a Journey” was born (no typos…just British spelling). It was the perfect mix of everything I am interested in: filming, cooking, migration, life stories and Jewish culture.

The film was done with an extremely low budget and a very talented team, who devoted their time and expertise to bring the film into shape. During the production I met a remarkable group of human beings, who opened my eyes to new worlds, which were so far, almost unknown to me. I grew up in Chile, and my childhood flavors melt between the local kitchen of empanadas, pastel de choclo (corn pie) and alfajores, with the taste of the Besarabian Jews, who carry a traditional Ashkenazi cuisine, with a Mediterranean twist. For me the definition of Jewish food was fried gefilte fish with smoked eggplant puree.

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Israel's Four O'Clock Meal

By Haaretz/Hedai Offaim


In the afternoon you become somewhat hungry and restless, and can’t find anything to revive yourself. Lunch has been consumed and forgotten, and you haven’t started preparing supper, so you open the refrigerator or the pantry, but find only vegetables and canned food that don’t meet your growing need to bite into something tasty and meaningful.

It’s important not to skip the meal that on kibbutz was called aruhat arba ‏(literally, “the four o’clock meal”‏), which the British call afternoon tea and which features tea or coffee and a cucumber sandwich or cake. There’s something about those afternoon meals that sometimes makes them more important than all the others.

All at once the hustle and bustle of the day ceases, the problems of the workday are forgotten and set aside. The ceremony of the light meal symbolizes the start of a relaxed afternoon with the family or an evening stroll in the park, or even a short twilight snooze in the armchair on the balcony. The remainder of the day gets a second chance if the first part was stressful or tiring.

For those along the Mediterranean coastline there is no food more suitable than a terrine to mark the onset of the free afternoon hours. This baked dish, which took its name from the traditional pan in which it is baked in France, is no more than a perfectly compressed gel of meat or fish or vegetables in a batter, which is sliced like a cake and served on thin pieces of toast with hot peppers or sweet jam. On the one hand, the flavors are as deep and full as in a whole meal. On the other hand, an entire meal is condensed into that one slice, which expresses attention to detail but leaves room for supper.

Read more and get a recipe at

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Whisky-Infused Cocoa 'Honey' Cake

By Rachel Grossman

Rachel Grossman

For once I have not stopped to ponder all the ups and downs of the last year, which is something I tend to do monthly, if not weekly. So the fact that I’ve forgotten to do this in the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah is a minor victory for the semi-neurotic.

Frankly speaking, the last year was a long one that rode in on an even worse one. So when I began to bake and write about my baking through a life-affirming lens, I forced myself to focus on the very positive, and the very now. It occurred to me that with all that’s wrong here and all over the world, looking straight ahead was hard enough – forget looking forward and forget looking backward.

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Rocky Mountain Challah (With Tofu!)

By Becky Cohen

Courtesy of Stephanie Botvin

I got to sit down with Stephanie Botvin, winner of the 2013 Challah Contest at the Rocky Mountain Food Festival, who was already convinced from the start that she made the best challah in Denver. After having tasted her challah, it was no surprise why she won.

With a unique cake-like consistency, the use of honey, tofu (replacing eggs), and whole-wheat flour, this challah definitely sets itself apart from the rest. Stephanie told me how her challah baking brings her into the Shabbat spirit, how her participation in the food festival helped her shed new light on Jewish food issues, and how her transition to Denver from the East Coast inspired her to make this award-winning challah in the first place. She generously gave me a loaf to take home, which was finished off that afternoon.

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The Perfect Dip: Carrot Hummus

By Molly Yeh

Molly Yeh

After 10 delicious and extraordinary days of eating Israel’s best hummus, shawarma, and halva, with 40 of my new best friends, one amazing memory from my Birthright trip stands out — an afternoon at Israel’s Shvil Hasalat (“Salad Trail”) farm. Deep in the desert, right near the Gaza strip, the Shvil Hasalat grows everything from San Marzano tomatoes to strawberries to lemon basil using an intricate temperature and bee-controlled greenhouse system.

Running around these houses, tasting anything we pleased, was comparable to a real-life Willy Wonka Factory. I had my first chocolate tomato, some amazing rosemary… and when some mischievous boys went searching for the Khat in the herb house, I may or may not have followed them.

After the tasting, we entered into a Chopped-inspired competition, where we divided into four teams and were challenged to create three dishes centered on a secret ingredient, using pita, tahini, olive oil, and whatever we could find in the greenhouses. I was on team Purple Carrot, which was headed by one of the Israelis in our group, who also happens to be a chef at Tel Aviv’s new hip restaurant, Popina. Just my luck!

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Jews: The People of Garlic

By Avery Robinson

Courtesy of: Avery Robinson

I grew up avoiding garlic. Pesto did not exist in my house, garlic bread was unique to summer camp, and dishes would begin with plain cooked onions. My family was the antithesis of everything culinary ethnography told me was Jewish.

Apparently, we are “the people of garlic,” but if you had spent any time in my childhood home, you would think we were vampires. Spending two weeks at Yiddish Farm harvesting garlic scapes and embracing this bulb was a very different and fragrant experience.

Shortly after leaving Egypt, Goshen, and the burdens of slavery, the Jewish people yearned for the garlic and onions they had enjoyed in Egypt (Bamidbar 11:5). In a handful of places in the Talmud, we are referred to as garlic eaters. Throughout the Ashkenazi experience in Europe, Jews were notorious for their alliumic odor (for more on this, read Maria Diemling’s article in Food and Judaism). And now, this is the largest crop of the new, Jewish, organic-certified farm in the Catskills.

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Rosh Hashanah Cookies for the Gods

By Alexa Weitzman

Alexa Weitzman
I live in Queens, NY, a true melting pot of ethnic cuisines. All the unique and distinct flavors of places like Thailand, India, Greece and China inspire me – I eat the food at authentic restaurants around the borough, and then bring the flavors home with me, incorporating the ingredients and methods in my home kitchen. That is what happened with these cookies.

A Greek-American friend of mine told me about Artopolis bakery in Astoria. This bakery is the real deal; there are both savory and sweet pastries of all varities – from spanakopita, to biscuits, to cakes, to tarts. Once I knew of its existence, I found myself going out of my way to stop by Astoria and load up on their treats. I immediately fell in love with a cookie called melamakarona. These honey soaked biscuits were kept in a tray behind glass, which added to the allure. They looked so precious; their golden-brown color, glistening with honey and topped with chopped walnuts. The aroma is fragrant, with hints of clove and cinnamon. The texture of the cookie is baklava-esque, as it’s soft from the honey bath it sits in.

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