“You know tomatoes are ready when they easily pop right off at the stem,” announces Marybeth Lybrand, the Master Gardener at the Peninsula Jewish Community Center’s Gan Tzedek, or Justice Garden. “If you have to really tug to on the tomato, leave it on the vine because it needs more time to grow”, she says to a group of young children and their parents on a Sunday afternoon Garden Service Day.
Having never before seen a purple tomato and uttering “It’s so purple!” more than once, I was urged to try one. I pulled lightly at the stem of one with dark purple, almost black skin. Deep in color all the way through, it had an intensely sweet, smoky flavor.
When we were younger, my cousins and I had an aptly named band called “The Cousins”, where we rocked out in the basement on inflatable guitars and microphones from bar mitzvah give-aways. We grew up in the same schools, with mostly the same friends, living just a couple miles apart from each other–except for a little while when all 6 of us lived under one roof. And yet, even though we were already spending most of our time together, I always was particularly excited to see my cousins on the holidays. Something about the way chicken soup flavored the air of our house and moving the furniture to make room for 30 people and watching my mom make 5 desserts without getting any flour on the floor (unless we offered to help), made seeing my cousins on the holidays something separate from the ordinary, something holy. Or maybe, it was simply because the holidays drew a bigger audience for “The Cousins” than a regular Shabbat dinner.
To me, Rosh Hashanah feels like the pinch of white dress socks with lace sticking out of shiny black party shoes, like the stiffness of a skirt that makes it so much more difficult to run around a synagogue lobby. I hear the distinct vibrating sounds of an apple going through the peeler for my mom’s apple cake, and can taste the remaining stringy apple peel as I collect it in my hand before letting it fall to the garbage. I remember the excitement of the doorbell ringing as our house fills up with guests, always beginning with my grandparents and ending with my cousins who were notoriously late to everything, significantly cutting into our pre-meal practice time.
The fall holidays are a time when we re-evaluate, take stock of our actions and future endeavors. Starting with Slichot and moving towards Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we spend time thinking about the big questions in our lives. However, as I cook and can foods, putting up jam and chutney and pickles, freezing apples for wintertime pies and applesauce and arranging with a farmer for my freezer lamb, I reflect on my future in a different way. I do these preparations, in part, to commit to thinking about food—where it comes from, and how we eat it—for months to come. It also tastes good, is less expensive, and likely healthier than some of the other options. It’s also “fast food!” In winter, I grab a jar from my basement pantry and put it on the table. It’s ready to eat faster than take-out.
In a bigger sense, asking why and where are Jewish concepts. Long discussions in Talmud tractates cover the smallest details of our lives by asking why and how and where and how much. While many of us don’t manage Daf Yomi — studying a page of Talmud a day —we can continue asking these important questions. I heard the beginnings of that kind of traditional questioning recently.
Before my blood ran Michigan maize and blue, I would not be surprised if it were apple cider for 4 months out of the year. Beginning every Labor Day weekend and lasting through Thanksgiving, my neighborhood mill has churned out the best cider one could hope for—pure, unadulterated, unpasteurized, unfiltered, fresh, and preservative-free.
As far back as the photo albums go, there are pictures of my brothers and me sitting on a stoop at the Franklin Cider Mill drinking cider. Each time the fall albums come out, we remember our annual treks to be the year’s first customers every year and of the apple press and fresh cinnamon spice doughnuts, beckoning us to head over for just one more… or maybe it is the tashlikh ceremony that we used to hold during the 10-days where our parents reward us with delicious and fresh doughnuts when we cast our stale-bread sins into the river.
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.
As a college student in New York, potluck Shabbat meals were a weekly occurrence. Of course, not everyone could cook, or even had time to, so those guests were assigned the shopping jobs — drinks, fruit, and challah. As a rule, anyone assigned to bring challah really only had one choice — Bagel City. Anything other than the sweet, doughy loaf was unacceptable.
There are quite a few local challah companies in the Chicago area, though in the store-bought challah category, none inspire my taste buds quite like Bagel City. Native Chicagoans seem to prefer Breadsmith, a Skokie-based bakery with franchises across the Midwest and Texas, but many feel there aren’t enough good options. A quick Facebook poll resulted in multiple commendations of Whole Food’s challah, what many would deem a non-traditional source. Others recommended Mindy’s Homemade, but unfortunately only whole wheat loaves were available, so in the interest of consistency, I left it out of the line up.
Scroll down to read descriptions of some egg challot available in Chicago grocery stores:
Don’t live in New York, or in need an easy fix? We’ve got you covered. Below are three brands available in supermarkets across the country.
The Challah Fairy Sesame Challah
The problem with tasting store-bought challah right after a freshly baked loaf is that you instantly taste the difference. Thoughts like “This is a crust? Really?” and “Nice bread, barely recognizable as challah,” overshadowed the great texture.
Zomick’s Egg Challah
Maybe it was the lingering taste of failed health inspections, or the nagging fear that a bug would suddenly appear, but this challah got a resounding “No” from all tasters. The neon yellow color stood out among the surrounding white loaves, and though the crust was acceptable, “looks don’t make up for ugly insides.” When a challah is described as “nightmarish,” it’s best to stay clear.
Trader Joe’s Egg Challah
While this was the best out of the tested supermarket challahs, participants found the texture clumpy and too much like white bread. “On the scale of dry vs. moist, I prefer my challah moist, but this is too much,” one taster wrote. A perfectly browned and glazed crust was this challah’s salvation.
The San Francisco Bay Area has one of the largest Jewish populations in North America. But unlike communities in places like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Toronto, it has no identifiably Jewish neighborhoods filled with Jewish bakeries, butchers, delis and food shops.
The lucky few who live near one of the local Jewish bakeries can stop by to pick up their bread. But for everyone else, supermarkets and even the front desks of Jewish community centers and synagogue nursery schools are the way to get the good stuff, thanks to challah distribution networks around the city.
With the High Holidays fast approaching, store shelves (and those front desks) will soon be stocked with round challahs with raisins and other treats. Here is a taste of five different plain loaves popular with Jewish residents of the Bay Area. Prices range from $2.99 to $6.75 per challah.
For bakery fiends in Israel, choosing the perfect combination of fluffy, soft, delicately sweet and lightly crispy challah for Rosh Hashanah can be a real challenge with all of the wonderful bread options available. Trying to avoid the larger, older and more industrial bakeries such as Tzvi and Viznitz bakeries in Bnei Brak or Angel in Jerusalem, we’ve compiled a list of boutique bakeries that literally take the cake. Find out where to get addicting, uniquely braided and perfectly doughy challah for this Jewish New Year.
Teler Bakery Yerushalmim (Jerusalem residents) are quick to name Teler Bread as their ultimate favorite place to buy fresh challah on a weekly basis. Avishai Teler moved his bakery from the industrial center right into the heart of Mahaneh Yehudah market on chaotic Agripas street where he also opened up a neighboring coffee shop. The store sells dozens of yeasty varieties daily and uses leavened sourdough and old-school, more traditional baking methods. Preparing its breads in a brick oven, it has already become the “house-bread” of the King David Hotel and many other top-tier hotels and restaurants.
For Rosh Hashanah, the bakery prepares round whole wheat, white and raisin challahs to keep up with the holiday spirit. The bakery boasts a rich, cakey and sweet dough. Avishai Teller, a humble and sweet man says his challahs are made to last longer, an especially important fact on long holidays. Avishai promises his challahs won’t dry up and will taste fresh throughout the long weekend. And we trust him. Prices stay between 12-15 NIS and don’t sky rocket just because of the holiday.
How do Jewish foodies satisfy their urge to engage in tikkun olam? They bake for a good cause! Challah for Hunger is the best known of these organizations, but not the only one. In Israel, one baker’s commitment to tzedakah has found a permanent home in Bakery29. For Rosh Hashanah, its pastry chefs create the moistest, most fragrant, and most decadent honey cake in Tel Aviv — all for a good cause.
Located in a restored Bauhaus building in the gentrifying Ahad Ha’Am Street in Central Tel Aviv, Bakery29 turns out gourmet baked goods with a mission. All profits go to the IMPACT college scholarship program for low-income combat soldiers who have served in the IDF.
Local wildflower honey is combined with a sprinkling of cinnamon, Muscat wine, a hint of grated orange peel, and a touch of coffee in the cakes which are baked fresh daily. The recipe has been handed down in the family of Bakery29’s proprietor, Netta Korin. “My mother is an amazing baker,” Korin shared with me. “This is the Rosh Hashanah cake I grew up with. My family brought it to Israel from Eastern Europe. They called it ‘lekach’ in Yiddish. It doesn’t feel like Rosh Hashanah unless the smell of this cake baking fills my home.”
The only High Holiday where alcohol is a requirement is Simchat Torah. This is a mistake.
Let me explain: Drinking is a part of Simchat Torah because a rabbinic interpretation for the commandment to rejoice on festivals is to drink wine. Yet the rabbis never specify Simchat Torah. As it says in Sifra Emor 12:4, “And with what do you sanctify the day [of sukkot]? With eating, drinking, and nice [literally ‘clean’] clothes.” The Rambam later re-interpreted the idea of “eating, drinking and nice clothes” along gender lines. He wrote that men should buy beautiful clothes and “ornaments” for women and celebrate for themselves by eating meat and drinking wine. But a plain sense, sources suggests that all Jewish holidays are times for drinking and dandyism.
The other reason it’s a mistake to drink only on Simchat Torah is all the great seasonal and traditional flavors. If you’re feeling ambitious, there’s plenty of time left to make your own seasonal alcoholic drink for the high holidays. This year, my friend Josh suggested we try an Apfelwein (German hard apple cider) recipe that only takes a month to ferment. The recipe is simple, though buying the necessary equipment is a high upfront cost. Unlike beer, which has to be brewed in stages, Apfelwein is a one stage process. This is especially true if you start with 100% apple juice, rather than pressing whole apples for their juice. In the end, the scariest part of fermenting your own Apfelwein is actually sanitizing the brewing equipment.
Rosh Hashanah is the perfect holiday to bring out all the stops in your kitchen. Without the restrictions of Passover, it’s a great time to get creative (I’m thinking Asian BBQ brisket) or lovingly revive a special family recipe.
But cooking a holiday meal for your family or friends can be intimidating, whether you’ve done it 50 times or it’s your first time. We’re here to help! Consider the us your virtual bubbe. Need a chicken recipe? A great pareve cake? Wondering how to host a Sephardic holiday Seder? We’ve got you covered.
Send us your Rosh Hashanah cooking questions by Wednesday, August 21st and cookbook author Adeena Sussman will answer them. Don’t worry if your questions are simple or complicated — it’s like calling the kosher Butterball hotline; any question is fair game.
Ask us your questions in the comments below; or tweet at @jdforward using the hashtag #roshrecipes or comment on our Facebook page. And don’t forget to send this along to your friends. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!
If last week was about confronting my CSA enemy, this week was all about reuniting with a good CSA friend: beets. It took me a while for my love affair with beets to ignite, but when it did, I never looked back. In addition to being gorgeous and delicious, nutritionally speaking, beets have it all: folic acid, iron, magnesium, calcium, fiber, B-complex vitamins, potassium, and more. A beautiful bunch arrived in the share, the first we’ve received this season, and I pondered which of my many favorite recipes to prepare. As I considered my options, I realized that most recipes I love call for peeling the beets—a rather arduous and messy task. No matter which technique I’ve tried—peeling while raw, roasting wrapped in tin foil, roasting not wrapped in tin foil, boiling—I’ve never found the peeling process to be as simple as every cookbook promises. So I decided to go with a simple roasted beet recipe, shared with me by my good friend Stephanie Pell, which does not require peeling the beets. Not only is this a huge time saver, but—CSA psolet challenge bonus!—you create less waste by eating the peels instead of throwing them away.
With the days of Yamim Noraim almost at their beginning not only have my thoughts turned to the dishes I want to make for all the glorious holiday meals that are coming up, but also to the fast of Yom Kippur that will end this time of introspection and atonement.
Fasting is a ritual that is not only central within Jewish tradition but stretches across other religious traditions. Muslims practice the month long fast of Ramadan, while adherents of various Christian denominations, such as Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox Church, fast during the period of Lent. The Baha’I religion has a feast similar to Ramadan and the first Sunday of each month is a fast day for Mormons.
These periods of fasting offer us the opportunity for intense spiritual connectedness and spiritual nourishment. Yet there is no doubt that by the end of the fast people’s thoughts are begin to turn towards the long awaited break-fast meal.
Just because Rosh Hashanah is over, doesn’t mean you can’t still celebrate the start of the year with something sweet. Here are 11 great honey recipes including one for Fig, Phyllo and Honey Stacks and another for Lavender Honey Thyme Frozen Yogurt. [Serious Eats]
…And if you’re going through apple withdraw after the holiday, try this simple Cranberry Apple Strudel. [Serious Eats]
If you love making your own hummus, try this DIY tahini recipe. [The Kitchn]
Take a look into how Kellogg’s keep Corn Flakes kosher in the world’s largest cereal plant. [The Jewish Chronicle]
The smell of savory challahs permeates the kitchen with sweet hints of cinnamon and raisin. We knead, stretch, sweat and grunt as we shape the dough with our fingers into elaborate braids, rolls and twists. Our hands have been inherited from a long line of women empowered by a sacred undertaking: the making of challah.
This year, I will hold a challah workshop in my home the day before Yom Kippur where female friends will gather in my kitchen to celebrate Jewish woman hood and the magic of femininity. We will take turns kneading the dough as each one of us, immersed into a state of harmony and spirituality shares prayers of healing, comfort, finding love, looking for a job and other requests.
Have you ever had red honey? Neither have we, but according to Robin Shulman, scarlet-hued honey (and orange blossom honey, Hawaiian honey, etc) are all variations of the Rosh Hashanah staple.
Robin Shulman is the author of the newly released book “Eat the City: A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Beekeepers, Winemakers, and Brewers Who Built New York.” The informative and interesting tome takes a look at the history and production of the seven different foods in New York and how they changed life of neighborhoods and the city. The chapter on honey, is one of our favorites.
We caught up with Shulman to get her opinion on the creme de la creme of honeys in hopes of upping our game for the holidays and ended up with a ton of insight into beekeeping and policy, the “infinite” types of honey and a look at what honey would have been like 100 years ago when our ancestors were munching penny candies from the corner store.
Over the last year my boyfriend Uriel and I — like so many other members of our generation — have become avid canners. Our experiments with blueberries, peaches, and rhubarb have resulted in stacks of colorful Ball jars lining our countertops.
As the waning summer limits the availability of berries and empty counter space becomes a valuable commodity, it’s hard to justify making more jam. The jams will stay unspoiled for a year and there’s a limit to how much we can eat. But I’m not quite ready to put my canning tools away.
On a recent drive from Pittsburgh to Washington DC, I convinced Uriel that we should pick apples along the way and make apple butter for our mothers for Rosh Hashanah. It was, I insisted, a win-win. We wouldn’t miss out on fall canning; and it would be a heartfelt New Year’s present. At the orchard we filled a bushel sized basket for only $7! It seemed like a great price for a bushel, but we were unaware that there were over 100 medium-sized apples in our basket.
When we got home, we broke out the cookbooks. To my dismay, our cursory recipe review revealed that we would have to peel the apples, a tedious and time consuming task that I desperately hoped we could avoid.
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.
It’s the start of chag season, and over the next few months our tables will be filled with food and surrounded by friends and family. But some of the classic dishes (you know the ones – think brisket, sweet and sour meatballs, and honey cake) can look drab, even when prepared by the most skilled home cooks. As comforting and delicious as Bubby’s cooking is, sometimes it can all get a little, well, brown. This year we turned to food styling pros for some holiday table tips.
Before you even get to the food, you set the mood when you set the table. For a formal feel, break out the good china, but also don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through here. Tori Avey of the popular food blog The Shiksa in the Kitchen says, “I enjoy seeing color on the table, so I tend to use very colorful place settings. I like hand painted vintage dishes, Moroccan-style plates and glasses, and wood serving platters and utensils.” Feel free to forgo conventional wisdom and mix and match for a fun and whimsical look.