There is a saying that “if you fail, try and try again.” Luckily I only had to try once. I made pumpernickel a few months ago. It turned out horrible, so I tried again, and succeeded.
So there are two types of pumpernickel. First, is what you are probable familar with – the Jewish-American pumpernickel. It is very similar to a rye bread and it’s great with deli meats. The second is the German pumpernickel, from which the first originates. It is much denser, all rye flour, and takes days to rise. It all started several centuries ago, and today this German pumpernickel is very hard to find in US markets.
The large amounts of rye in the German bread make is rather difficult to digest. I will leave out all the pleasant details, but this is how is became known as “Satan’s farts” (or “pumpernickel” in the German language).
Because I have digestion problems on any day of the week, I decided to make the American-Jewish varietal. Read on…
Painstaking research was conducted
What does a Jew do for Christmas? Well this Jew travels to cold weather (which we lack around the Bay) and enjoys the holiday in the company of his non-Jewish relations. I actually did some of the cooking for Christmas dinner this year. I made a roast turkey, gravy from turkey fat, and a Bailey’s Irish cream cheese cake.
But, how could I journey to the heartland of America, Wisconsin and not talk about beer. Now, California has a great beer culture with dozens of small craft brewers offering their wares at Whole Foods and Bev Mo. But during a quick two day run from Racine to Lone Rock took us past several small breweries, all worth the trip.
Most of these places don’t even Pasteurize their beer. This means it cannot not be stored at room temperature and therefore generally doesn’t get shipped more than an hour’s drive away. But if you ever get out to Madison, then point the car west and make a beer and cheese run.
a taste of summer
Salsa makes everything better. Especially after a long day of travel and realizing 30 minutes before landing that all of the movies and food on the plane would have been FREE. That was disappointing. Dinner, however, was not. tonight my old roommate whipped up a college classic to top our cod: mango salsa. What makes this Jewish? Jews made it on erev erev Christmas. (and it’s all kosher by ingredient!)
crab cheese wontons
I have to admit I am a little burnt out on Jewish food after the hefty string of Hanukkah posts so I though I would cure that with a little bit o’ trayfe for Christmas. I also thought, what better way to do that than to simultaneously reinforce the stereotype of Jews eating Chinese food for Christmas. Like most stereotypes this one is based in some truth, being that in the past, Chinese immigrants often didn’t celebrate Christmas either and Chinese restaurants would be open on the holiday. These days, especially in the Bay Area, people are significantly more integrated (and inter-married, for that matter) and the majority of Jewish and Chinese-American families have some sort of celebration to attend with family or friends on Christmas, but I still know of some Jewish families who hold on to the tradition of Chinese food and a movie on Christmas. I still had some wonton wrapper in my freezer heading toward freezer burn that were leftover from making Aushak, the Bay Area is smack in the middle of dungeness crab season, and I really didn’t get in enough frying over Hanukkah so I decided to make some crab cheese wontons for my Chinese food for Christmas edition.
Crab Cheese Wontons or Crab Rangoon has it origins in Oakland, and originally appeared as an appetizer at Trader Vic’s (now in Emeryville), in 1957. I, on the other hand, developed an affinity for them after spending countless nights as a teenage hanging out, after hours, at Hunan Chef Wong (now The Hunan Chef) in Pleasanton. A friend of mine from high school’s family owned the restaurant, so he usually worked until closing there and I was waiting table at a pasta place in town and would usually drive past on my way home after my shift to see if he was still there. This was a pattern for a number of people and on any given weekend night there would be anywhere from 4-20 people hanging out, drinking beer and playing cards or dominoes. At some point, due to the various substances consumed, we would get the munchies. Sometimes we would just wander over to the 7-11 or Jack-in-the-box for snacks, but on occasion we could convince my friend would cook for us. This restaurant was not only a fun place to hang, but they actually have really good Chinese food and if we were really lucky he would make us our favorite… crab cheese wontons. I have never been able to recreate his recipe (mostly because he would never tell me what it was), but even the passable facsimile I make conjures up warm fuzzy feelings of nostalgia. My friend still owns the place, although I haven’t been there since I moved from Pleasanton. From the website it looks like they remodeled and I immediately thought of the night a bunch of us created a bizarro time-capsule out of a recently emptied Patron tequila bottle and hid it under one of booth seats. I imagine it was found by a very confused contractor.
recipe after the break
Tastes like old times
Liverwurst, or liver sausage is a Midwestern staple. When I was a kid we would go one town over to Cedarburg (not that i lived in a town per se, Mequon in those days had 62 square miles, 15,000 people and 4 stop lights) to buy meat. Paules’ Market (long gone sadly) was the place to get local meat. I can still recall the liverwurst, made from pork liver wrapped in a opaque casing that had to be peeled away. A quick lunch on the farm could be made from a few slices, sharp mustard and two slices of wheat bread.
The flavor of liverwurst is very distinctive, as opposed to liver pate or chopped chicken livers. It was this distinctive flavor that lead me to think that I could recreate it with beef or calves’ liver (which would make it kosher, if you use kosher meat). So a little internet research combined with consultation with Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing and I was ready to give it a try.
Some notes on materials and process. This takes a while to make. Leave yourself plenty of time and keep everything well chilled. If you break the emulsion (meaning the fat and meat separate) what you end up with is very tasty dog food. Also there are several options for casings. I used muslin cloth. You could also use a beef middle or hog bung.
Recipe after the break
A New Orleans style chanukah doughnut.
straight from the source, c/o marc
My first encounter with the delicious beignet was with none else than the fabulous writers of this here blog. A week of gutting walls, removing roofing, bonding with katrina survivors and avoiding crocs in the bayou was highlight by some fabulous New Orleans food, including a trip to Cafe du Monde. Their famous square, sugar-covered doughnuts are heavenly so it’s no surprise that they are a tourist hotspot. Since chanukah begs us to embrace the oiliest of foods, I thought this would be a fun twist on the french treat–you can let me know what you think. Wikipedia shares lots of fun facts about the beignet (did you know they were originally made with chestnut flour?!) but I’ll leave the rest of the researching to you. Let’s get eating…
p.s. for a more detailed explanation of sufganiyot, check out Amiee’s post.
Because Marc is wonderful and brought me a pre-made mix, I don’t know exactly what went into my beignets. I DID however find a yummy sounding recipe for beignets on this new orleans cuisine blog.
method after the break
When I lived in Israel (the second time) something wonderful happened- we got cable. Well actually not cable, but satellite TV. Until then, we had suffered with Israel’s two over the air channels. One was government run, the other was worse. Since our kibbutz never had the money to pay for cable (let alone get us wired) we were ecstatic when Yes Television set up shop in the Holy Land.
I promptly discovered my favorite cooking show on BBC. It was called Ready, Steady, Cook. In brief chefs were presented with ten quid worth of random groceries that they had to transform into a multi-course meal. I loved the sheer improvisation of it and it mirrored my own approach to cooking.
Last night I played that game by pulling together a little Ashkenazi casserole from things in my fridge. These things consisted of leeks, smoked salmon (thanks mom), eggs, some cream, cheddar cheese, mushrooms and of course potatoes. You should take the opportunity to see what you can hustle out of your own larder this weekend.
Recipe after the break.
What could possible make the fried potato goodness that is a latke any better? Our friends the sweet potato and zucchini can answer that question (with flying colors!). Even better* are the locally grown, PURPLE organic taters I threw in from my CSA. You can even pretend that these are healthy and we’ll just ignore all that oil :) For more fun alternative and sustainable latke recipes, check out one of my favorite blogs The Jew and the Carrot.
*what would actually be better is losing the zucchini and adding in some carrots or parsnips for the sake of using seasonal produce…but i have a soft spot for the zuc.
Get ready for some delicious latkes, mid-eighties cartoon style ;) after the break
honey yummy sufganyiot
Fried doughnuts or fritters are common at Hanukkah in almost all Jewish communities. In fact, you can probably determine the geographic origin of many Jewish families simply by finding out what they call these treats. Israelis and Ashkenazim call them sufganyiot and typically they are filled with jelly. Others are sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar or tossed in a sweet honey or citrus syrup. The European Sephardim call them bimuelos, in Egypt they are zalabia, Persians refer to them as zengoula, and my personal favorite are the Greek loukoumades, or as Greek Jews call them zvingous. I first encountered loukoumades at the fabulous Oakland Greek Festival, which is held every year in May. At this festival you can determine the best treats by the length of the line for it and in the case of the beer, gyros and loukoumades, the wait is totally worth it. (As an aside, we Jews could really take a cue from the Greeks on how to put on a super-fun ethnic festival, ours tend to lack beer, have a poor selection of food and are overwhelmed with organizational politics) So for this year’s Hanukkah I decided I would make my own loukoumades instead of having to wait all the way until May to get my next fix.