“What foods other than hamantaschen are traditional for purim?!”
This is the question I asked myself (and google) this week. According to Wilshire Blvd. Temple in Los Angeles, there are quite a few of other more savory options. Among them are kreplach, filled with minced meat or vegetables to evoke the response of stopping and general noise making upon hearing ‘haman’. Some communities will also eat nuts and beans because *legend has it* Esther ate mostly these foods in the court of King Ahashuerus (he didn’t keep kosher).
So what about this year’s fun shabbat/purim combination?! Polish Egg Bread. Also known as “koyletsh” (or sometimes spelled: keylitsh, keylitch, koilitch, koylatsh) this is an extra rich challah type bread prepared for special occasions and Purim. Why Purim? Apparently the long strands for braiding are supposed to remind us of the ropes used to hang Haman. So morbid.
Why bake the same version is challah each week when it’s so easy to snaz it up?! This Shabbat, try it with some lavendar.
I started, of course, with Amiee’s faithful challah recipe. Instead of adding plain water to proof the yeast, I used a lavendar infused water.
1 3/4 cup water
3 tb dried lavendar flowers
Add the water and lavender to a small saucepan or pot and heat slowly to a simmer. Remove it from the heat and let it cool slightly for a few minutes. Strain out the lavender flowers and allow the water to continue to cool to yeast proofing temperature (slightly warm). Continue the challah recipe as normal! *You can keep the flower buds in the water for extra flavor and texture.
warming up on medium heat
straining out the flowers
beautiful lavender water
Three perfect maztot for your Seder
“Lo! this is the bread of our affliction.” That line comes from the Passover Seder Service or Hagadah (meaning a recitation). Now after a week of eating this stuff you may feel afflicted, but that is a result of not enough fiber (eat some prunes). Also you might feel afflicted by seeing the price of a box (or case) of Matzah. In that case I recommend that you make your own. It’s easier than you think and as an added bonus you can make it with high fiber flour, thus eliminating (if you pardon the pun) the other difficulty.
Matzah is intended to remind us of the Israelites who in their great haste to leave Egypt baked bread without letting it rise. Up until recently, raising bread was a matter of trying to entice the airborne yeast to settle and have kids on your dough, a time consuming process. It was slightly faster if you had a starter, but still could be 12-24 hours to get a dough frisky enough to make bread.
As a result Rabbinic instruction is that it should not take more than 18 minutes from the addition of the water to the finished matzah. If you work in small batches this turns out to be fairly easy. The resulting matzah is less like cardboard and more like what it was originally, rushed pita. For another take, check out Mark Bittman on matza.
Filed under Bread, Passover
Let’s get some chametz in before pesach!
Turns out, the kumquat is in season so I thought it would be fun to mix it into Amiee’s challah dough recipe. Why did I choose a seasonal fruit? Eating seasonally is something I’ve been trying to do a bit more of lately. Although our supermarkets allow us to buy foods grown virtually anywhere in the world all year round, these options are not the most sustainable. By purchasing local foods in-season, you eliminate the environmental damage caused by shipping foods thousands of miles. Buying seasonal produce also provides an exciting opportunity to try new foods and to experiment with seasonal recipes.
The most common variety of kumquat is the Nagami, or oval kumquat, which grows to be about two inches long and an inch in diameter–so cute a tiny! Kumquats have a pale orange rind that’s edible; unlike other citrus, the rind is actually the sweetest part of the fruit! The inner flesh and juice are sour and contain seeds, which you shouldn’t eat, so when you make the puree make sure to take them out!
I know I have mentioned this on an individual basis, but about two years ago all five of us heathens took a week long trip to New Orleans together (along with about 30 others). We spent five days gutting the homes of some amazing families, who had endured unbelievable turmoil in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, so they could begin rebuilding and getting their lives back together. After the work we headed for a much needed weekend with real beds, showers and some seriously good times in the French Quarter. I believe all of us went on at least one other service trip to NOLA, but that one where we were all there together stands out in my memory as the one where we did the most meaningful work and where we also had the most fun. I recall beginning our Friday night with the five of us chillin’ in a delightful window booth in the amazing club, d.b.a on Frenchman St. They have probably the greatest selection of whiskeys (along with an array of draft beers) I’ve encountered, with the addition of mellow live music to boot. We had some great food that weekend too, but nothing topped the homemade red beans and rice, jambalaya and barbecued chicken the homeowners made us during the week. With Mardi Gras approaching on Tuesday I wanted to give a little nod to the Crescent City and tried to think of a way to add a Jewish flair to a French Quarter classic. Given the propensity of deliciously trafyey pork and shellfish in NOLA cuisine this was proving to be a bit of a stretch, but once again my inspiration came from the Cooks Illustrated magazine. They had an article recently which had determined that Challah makes the best bread pudding. I had found my Jewish angle and I also love bread pudding. I suspect the gene for loving bread pudding is located closely to the one that had me develop a taste for scotch and bourbon, and I can thank my dad for both. I also got to combine those two joys by adding some bourbon to the bread pudding. I’ll warn you, this recipe is not for the literal faint of heart, and Lipitor may be an advisable accompaniment with dessert, but as they say in the Big Easy … “Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!”
Today it snowed in NYC. A lot. And though it doesn’t even compare to the snow falling in neighboring cities, NYC high-ups decided to freak out and shut everything down. I’m not complaining. Instead, I’m cooking. A newly opened Montreal/Jewish style deli in Brooklyn inspired me to get in touch with my Canadian roots and experiment with a Montreal bagel. I went to ‘mile end‘ deli on Monday in hopes of tasting such a bagel, but their weekly shipment from Canadia had already been sold. I left disappointed, hungry, and even more determined to understand this whole Montreal bagel thing. Turns out they are pretty similar to a New York style bagel except for a few key differences: more dense, bigger hole, and sweeter. I can get behind that. There is debate around which is better, but I recommend trying both before aligning with one or the other.
Here’s how I did it, with the help of Montreal baker Marcy Goldman:
A Hot Bagel Dog: you know you want it
Tomorrow, like many Americans, I will be ensconced on my couch enjoying the game and waiting for a commercial that will be worthy of Monday morning water cooler conversation. Since kickoff on the West coast falls in the late afternoon, I will need some snacks to go with my cheap beer.
In thinking about what a Jew should eat during the Superbowl, I asked my Facebook friends for suggestions. The best one I got was football shaped matza balls. That sounded tricky to pull off.
Instead I decided that since watching TV was the eptimome of a lazy man’s approach to sports, that a lazy food was in order. It should be a energy saving food, one that lets you eat fat, protein and carbs all at once. It should also combine at least two classic Jewish dishes.
I present you with… the Bagel Dog.
This isn’t that hard to do, but make the dough now (on Saturday, wait until after Shabbat if you need to) and then finish them up tomorrow afternoon just before they flip the coin.
Recipe after the break
Toasty and tasty pita with za'atar
Let me start of with a word of caution. If you choose to proof your dough in the oven (as I do) it might be worth your while to attach some sort of tag or sign to the oven controls alerting other household members to the presence of a bowlful of live organisms inside. Those tiny bugs (I speak of yeast here) while hardy will perish once the oven becomes warmer than 140F, which will happen if someone else preheats the oven to do some baking.
However, as Scarlett observed, “tomorrow is another day”. On this fine Monday we are making pita. Now, pita is available in every country around the Mediterranean, from the Moroccan r’ghayef to Italian Piadina and of course the many variants of pita ranging from the soft small Greek variety to the large Iraqi pita (called a lafa in Israel).Where good pita is not available is around the Bay. In fact the best thing on offer is pita baked in LA, frozen and trucked up here. Good pita is fresh, as in the restaurant owner just sent a kid running back to the bakery to get more, fresh. After an hour or two they start to harden up and become better suited to throwing than wiping up hummus or holding a tasty bit of kabob.
These pita are inspired by the small Armenian bakery just on the edge of the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem’s old city. This small bakery has served countless Israelis, tourists and religious pilgrims over the years. The specialty of the house is pita baked with a topping of olive oil and za’atar. Za’atar for those of you not familiar is prepared from dried leaves of the hyssop plant, mixed with salt and toasted sesame seeds. Like everything else in the spice rack, freshness is the key. So if you are buying this outside the Levant smell it first and make sure it still smells fresh. Rancid sesame seeds are nasty!
Recipe after the break Continue reading
What you can't see is almost a stick of butter
Babke, is Polish for grandmother. Which is odd because these tasty yeast cakes bear no resemblance to little old peasant women. Rather, it resembles brioche, the bread with the butter baked in and a dough so rich you cannot really make it by hand. Babka are part of the shared culinary legacy of both Jewish and Catholic communities in Eastern Europe. Among the Poles, a babka was prepared for Easter using fruit or rum. The Jewish version however leans towards chocolate. This preference is immortalized by Elaine in Seinfeld season 5 with the line “(the cinnamon babka is) a lesser babka” (this is after they see the last chocolate one get snapped up).
While all of this is terribly interesting, it does not explain why I had to ransack several Jewish and non-Jewish cookbooks to find a recipe for this dessert. One thing I can tell you is that in many cookbooks the first entry in the B’s is bacon (including the ’31 edition of the Settlement Cookbook, written mostly by Jewish housewives). After a fair bit of digging I was able to find a few recipes to work from. The one that provided the most help oddly was the new Gourmet Today published just on the eve of that fabled magazine’s demise.
Recipe after the jump