Monthly Archives: February 2010

Keisjeliesj (aka Kicheleh, aka Dutch Puffed Purim dough)

These are from Theeboom Bakery in Amsterdam

American Purim is usually celebrated by many things, one of which is the Hamantaschen. First, let’s get a little background on the Hamantaschen. It is triangular and usually filled with jelly (though my mother ingeniously fills them with chocolate). The word “Hamantaschen” was erroneously thought to mean Haman’s hat, and shaped accordingly. Anyone who knows a bit of German will immediately negate this claim – the word taschen actually means “bags” in modern German, but a few centuries ago, it also meant pockets. So there you have it, Hamantaschen actually means Haman’s pockets. Hope yours aren’t too full of lint!

A few years ago, I spent several months in Amsterdam. Before Purim, I went to the local (really the only) Jewish bakery in town, and asked for Hamantaschen. The puzzled response, as though I was speaking a foreign language (well I guess I was) surprised me. I soon discovered that I would not be able to get Hamantaschen like my mother’s in A’dam, but rather a puffed treat that is the cookie made for Purim. I was a bit upset, but what could I do I was a long way from home.

So Kicheleh, in Yiddish (the Dutch word is Keisjeliesj – a similar sounding word), are fried dough with powdered sugar, and what is the standard Dutch Purim treat. They are shaped to emulate Haman’s ears. I made them last night for dinner, and all my friends argued they are better than Hamantaschen. I disagree, but to each is own.

On this blog we focus on food and its delights. However, for each holiday there is an underlying theme. The other common (and commanded) thing to do on Purim is to give gifts to the poor. As important as food is, there are more important things in the world. So eat your Hamantaschen, and kicheleh, until bursting, but do make sure that you give a something to those who need it most. Chag sameach!

Recipe below:

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Bread, Other Stuff, Parve, Purim

Honey Wheat Hamantaschen

It’s okay, go ahead and get excited for this Trader Joe’s Honey Wheat Pretzel inspired Purim treat.

The strongest memory I have of Purim from my childhood included mass-produced, store-bought Hamantaschen served to my Temple community during the Purim Carnival. Chalky, bland, high-fructose-corn-syrup-y and double the price in tickets of all the good carnival games, I was a little less than interested. That’s why I was so excited when my friend and expert baker, Dara, shared her dough recipe with me.

Filling for Hamantaschen is where the FUN comes in. Be creative. Go wild. This year, I am using organic apricot preserves, dark chocolate and slivered almonds.

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Poppy Seed Hamantaschen

Poppy Seed Hamantschen

While Gordon made Haman’s Ears for Purim, I decided to go for something a little less cannibalistic and make the traditional hamantaschen. Many a young Jewish-American child will learn this week in Hebrew school that the triangle shape of the hamantaschen represents the three corners of Haman’s hat, but in Israel they are still referred to as Haman’s Ears. Back in my younger days I used to make these every year around Purim, but haven’t made them in many years. I used to take a short cut and fill them with fruit preserves, which still produces a delicious treat, but I decided to change it up a bit and go for the more traditional poppy seed variety. I also noticed as I was pursuing recipes that the doughs were all variations on rolled butter cookies, so rather than futz around with them I decided to use my favorite from Cooks Illustrated. You will need about a cup of poppy seeds for the filling so I suggest you find a place to buy them in bulk, as they will be significantly cheaper that way. A couple of warnings about the poppy seeds: One, stock up on dental floss and make sure you check your teeth after consuming one of these, as they will most likely be riddled with seeds.  Two, don’t eat these if you have a drug screen coming up. You will consume way more poppy seeds in one of these cookies compared to the average muffin or bagel (and I dare you to eat just one) and you may very well test positive for opiates for up to 48 hours. So either way, these are not good pre-interview snacks, but post-some-Purim-worthy-inebriation they are delightful.

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Dessert, Holidays, Purim

Haman’s Ears – Oznai Haman

Sweet Haman's Ears

There is only one mandatory action on Purim, that is to hear the story of the deliverance of the Jews from the hands of their enemy, Haman. One might debate whether this was due to Esther’s sexual manipulation of the king at her uncle Mordecai’s urging or it was in fact due to divine intervention.

What is not in debate however is the ferocity of the Jewish observance of the event. Jewish custom is to get stinking drunk and yell, scream and stomp every time Haman’s name is read aloud and generally remind everyone that we hold grudges for a very long time.[Don’t believe me, the Jews are the only people to remember the tribe of Amelek- just so we can observe the commandment to blot out their memory. That’s more than 2000 years of holding a grudge because they tried to jump us in the desert.]

This extends into the foods consumed on Purim. Oznai Haman (Haman’s Ears) come in several forms, ranging from stuffed cookies to this interesting fried pasta recipe I found. Of all of the Purim foods I have seen these turned out to be the most life-like and perhaps raising the greatest number of questions for a liberal western Jew to answer as he presents a plate of these fried ears to his kids.

I invite you to offer your own thoughts on consuming something that looks so much like a body part, and remind you that between Haman and his 10 sons (who were all impaled on wood spikes) there would have been 22 ears, snacks for everyone.

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Filed under Dessert, Gadgets and Gear, Jewish, Pasta and Grains, Purim

Fun with Stats

One of the things we heathens do on a regular basis to amuse ourselves is browse through the blogs statistics and the part that provides us no end of giggles are the search engine terms. I admit we are easily amused.  Now we get a lot of the obvious things like searches for a particular item we have written about, like coffee cake, but some of the search strings are so unique we spend a fair bit of time trying to guess what motivated the searcher to begin with. Today I am going to share some of our favorites from the past 30 days with some commentary. If its enjoyable we might make this a semi-regular bit.

hannuka potatoe krugel:

Did you mean: hanukkah potato kugel?…  I’m not sure if this is more indicative of the searcher’s inability to spell or our inability to spell.

breakfast seinfeld jewish bread:

What you are looking for is babka and if you were a true Seinfeld fan you would remember it was from the episode entitled “The Dinner Party” and Jerry and Elaine were getting it for dessert. This may also be the first time “Seinfeld” has been used as an adjective. Alternately you can call it what Gordon’s kids do, “that really sweet bread”.

parve crab rangoon recipe:

Please don’t make this. There is really no point. Once you have used imitation crab and some sort of soy based cheese-like product, it isn’t really crab rangoon anymore. Make it dairy or make something else.

does jewish rye bread make people fart?

Its not so much the rye bread, as the Jewishness. Jews have a serious genetic propensity for gastro-intestinal issues like celiac disease and lactose-intolerance. I suspect the searcher was someone’s new romantic partner checking on this oddly specific excuse for farting. I warn you, get used to it. It gets worse as we age.

gathering chicken eggs on shabbes:

This is actually a pretty sticky halachic issue, for which there is no definitive answer, and normally I would say this is not the place to find the answer to that, but I will do my best impersonation of a Talmudic scholar…. Most orthodox Jews would not eat an egg that was gathered on Shabbat due to the restrictions on gathering things in general, and there are even some who wouldn’t eat an egg laid on Shabbat, but there are many exclusions for farm related work to prevent discomfort to animals or waste of food… Oh who am I kidding, you think the chickens give a crap if its Shabbat? Just gather the f-ing eggs!

jewish stock photos:

What they were looking for were non-copyrighted photos of Jewish items, but what they got were photos of our chicken stock and matzo ball soup.

are snails trayfe?

Ummm yeahh… You know the word trayfe but can’t deduce that shelled gastropod mollusks are not kosher. Try searching for “kosher escargot”, maybe you’ll find something to serve with  your parve crab rangoon.

and now our most frequent search term
jewish food in the hands of heathens

98% of these searches are from my parents. If I were a really good daughter I would teach them how to bookmark the blog, but letting them keep doing it allows me some fantasy that people we don’t know have been hearing about the blog and seeking us out.

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Ma’amoul – Menena (Walnut & Date Tartlets)

Hot and Tasty Ma'amoul Cookies

The next major holiday on the Jewish calendar is Purim. While we will crank out several variants of the traditional hamantachen (I know Amiee is working on her poppy seed filling) I wanted to try something new. In asking around I was told by my spouse that her co-worker who is Israeli of Egyptian descent makes Ma’amoul for Purim. Intrigued since I had never even heard of them I quickly consulted Claudia Roden who supplied a recipe that I then modified. Roden does not mention a holiday connection, but says her mother kept a box of these around all the time. But, since every good tradition has to start somewhere- I am going say this is indeed a Purim treat, sweet like the deliverance of the Jews from Haman.

Some notes on production. The dough will look loose and crumbly at first, let it rest to firm up. This is traditionally made with rose-water, which I do not keep on hand but feel free to swap out some of the milk for an equal amount of rose-water. Third, you can make any filling you want, Roden says that pistachios were the most prestigious given their price. Last, Roden says her mother made a design on the top with “dented pincers”. Having no idea what that might look like I did a Google image search and found that many people use a mold to create intricate designs that would make any Christmas cookie baker proud. I decided that I would keep it simple, scoring the tops with a fork in the manner of my own grandmother’s sugar cookies.

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Filed under Dessert, Israeli, Purim, Sephardic

Challah Bread Pudding

bread pudding

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 phenomenal 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 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!”

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Bagels, Montreal Style

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:

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Bagel Dogs

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

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Bread, Deli, Meat

Mustard

homemade mustard

With the great American tradition of Superbowl Sunday approaching, the heathens started contemplating how we could make the traditional tailgate fare “Jewish”. This proved to be somewhat challenging.  I believe Gordon will be gracing the blog with bagel dogs, which gave me the idea to make homemade mustard, because what good bagel dogs need is some good mustard.  It is actually a pretty simple task, and the end result is far superior to any store-bought mustard you can buy. Also given the long running debate over whether mayonnaise is goyisha food, it seems pretty well established that mustard is a perfectly acceptable Jewish condiment.  While I can’t confirm it, many of the major western brands of mustard have suspiciously Jewish sounding names, Guldens, Plochmans, Heinz and Colman (who owned Frenchs for a long period). Also, the spicier, coarser, style  is a staple in Jewish delis, which is probably how it came to be known as deli mustard. Gordon has done several posts on deli meats that he has piled on rye and slather mustard on, including pastrami, liverwurst and of course tongue. Now the tradition of Jews eating tongue with mustard goes all the way back to Genesis, when Abraham is visited by three men and serves them bread, a calf, cottage cheese and milk (along with a variety of other bizzaro rules, the stuff kashrut is based on doesn’t appear until later, in Leviticus) Additionally, Abraham had just circumcised himself because God told him to,  so the man was obviously not thinking clearly. The men eat the food and tell Abraham that his 99 year old wife Sarah will soon have a son (Issac), whom he later offers as a sacrifice. Further along in the story it becomes clear these men were angels (surprise, surprise) and the Talmudic scholar Rashi determined that Abraham actually served them tongue and mustard, which he decided was the food of angels. Two of these same angles, later that day head on over to Sodom and Gomorrah, so it might have been the spicy mustard that got them all riled up… but the point of all that is that Jews have been serving mustard with their deli meat since they became Jews.

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Cured and Pickled, Deli, Jewish, Other Stuff, Parve