Author Archives: Marc

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

Satan’s Farts – Pumpernickle

Yummy pumpernickel

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…

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Jerusalem Pretzels

 

Yummy pretzels. Dup in mustard, oil, hummus, or whatever else you may fancy...

 

When I think of pretzels, I think of a Sunday afternoon at the ballpark, with a hot dog in one hand and a pretzel in the other. The pretzel is really scrumptious, though not so nutrious. I’d bet though, you have no idea why it is called a pretzel or why they are usually in that shape…

The pretzel was “invented” in 610AD in southern France/northern Italy. The folded section symbolizes a child’s folded arms during prayer and the three different section symbolize the Trinity. Pretzels, or Pretiola in Latin as they were originally called, were given by monks to children who did well is Bible school. Over the next few centuries the Pretiola migrated to Germany and became the “Pretzel.”

So what does this have to do with Jerusalem (aka Jewish) Pretzels? To be honest, I have no idea. In doing research, I could not find the historical origins of the Jerusalem Pretzel. I found the recipe in Janna Gur’s cookbook, and have eaten them many times in the Old City. She claims post-the-Jews-regaining-Jerusalem, the Jews discoverd that their Arab friends had a tasty treat. Jeruslaem Pretzels, though, are shaped in an oval, presumably because the Arabs and Jews knew the historical roots of the “normal” pretzel. Also, in my research, I discovered the beigeleh, which in Yiddish would mean little bagel. It looks similar to me, but not quite the same. So in sum, pretzels taste good, so just eat them!

Today, I tried making this recipe using weights instead of volumes (ie, 500g and not 1/2 cup). It worked really well, and I recommend it, but I will include the volumes in case you don’t have a scale. So the pretzels are fairly easy to make, but the true ones use no salt and plenty of yeast. They can be enjoyed alone, dipped on olive oil, or even zatar. They are coated with generous amounts of sesame seeds. I recommend eating them immediately; or once they are cooled, freeze them in a ziplock bag and they can be reheated at 350F in the oven.

Recipe…

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Filed under Bread, Goyish, Israeli, Parve, Pasta and Grains

Chanukah Menu

On Friday night, Dec 11th 2009, Jews around the world will be lighting the menorahs and eating oil filled food, in celebration of Chanukah (I feel like I am teaching 3rd grade again). With Thanksgiving coming in a few days, you might not be able to plan for more than one festivity at a time, but I find myself planning for holidays about one month in advance (I’m cutting it close this year…).

As a slight diversion from the usual topic, let’s talk about menu planning. I see the menu as having four essential components, 1) taste, 2) nutrition, 3) ease of cooking, and 4) seasonality. For sake of not making this a novel, I will only touch on each of them briefly.

Let me lay out what my tentative menu will look like, then I will explain why

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Filed under Fish, Fruit and Vegtables, Hannukah, Jewish, Other Stuff

Pickling

Sauerkraut

My first ferment - a nice sauerkraut with purple cabbage

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a seminar entitled, “Yes We Can (and Pickle).” In addition to the fairly funny title, the event, put on by Avodah and AJWS, was devoted to food awareness. One of the workshops I went to was, not surprisingly, about pickling. I did not realize how much I didn’t know.

So let’s start with the basis. Pickling is a process used to preserve foods, such a cucumbers, by removing “bad” bacteria that rot food. It has been used for centuries to preserve food reaped in the warm months (before the times of refrigerators). Most cultures have their own variety  using different food (kimchi, miso, and sauerkraut, for example). Many pickles are made via “quick fermenting,” during which vinegar is added. The vinegar kills all the bacteria. However, there are good bacteria, which aid in the digestion process, making them preferable to keep. The better way, in my humble opinion, is to use just water and salt, which accomplishes the same thing. Here, the yeast in the air ferments the sugars and kills off only the “bad bacteria,” leaving the good stuff

I spent last week in New York City. New York is known for many things, but pizza and delis are for sure on the top of the list. I definitely did not leave being deprived in either category. But when I was walking in the streets, I was reminded also of the pickle’s Lower East Side historical roots, as I was found stands with dozens of different types of pickles. Possibly a hallmark of Jewish delis, the kosher dill arose during the 1800s. Everyone around the U.S. knows the kosher dill, and I have even seen them in supermarkets in the deep South. Today, ironically, kosher dills are not necessarily kosher, but rather only refer to the particular recipe with the generous amount of garlic in the brine, though the historical name still remains.

So why bother pickling? Here are three reasons: (1) It is really fun – it’s sort of like a science experiment. (2) They are tasty. (3) The bacteria in fermented pickles (ie, not the ones with vinegar) have probiotics, which are good for you.

So here’s the recipe…

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Filed under Cured and Pickled, Deli, Fruit and Vegtables, Jewish, Kashrut, Parve

Halvah

Opening.

In Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda shuk (outdoor market), you can finds stands full of halvah

Halvah is really the epitome of Jewish cuisine. Since about two mellenia ago, the Jews have been in exile, moving from one place to another, finding a new home whenever they were kicked out. While all this was happening, they incorporated the local food from the region into their diets. So, for example, traditional Ashkenazi food is very similar to Polish, Germany, Hungary, etc food (eg, kosher dill pickles). Halvah is no exception – the Jews borrowed it from their neighbors and changed it a bit.

Halvah probably originated in India. Traders from there brought this treat over the the middle east, and hence the name Havlah is derived from the Arabic word meaning sweet. In each country, this sweet dessert has a different base: semolina, beans, and pumpkin, for example. Though I am not sure, I would imagine that Jews in middle eastern countries (Mizrachim) have been munching on this sweet for centuries. But since the early 1900s, it has been a mainstream all-around Jewish treat. As a matter of fact, the first US halvah factory was established in… you guessed it… Brooklyn in 1907. Today, Jewish halvah, as opposed to others, is made from sugar/honey and tahini (sesame paste). Jewish/Israeli Halvah is fairly distinct in that it is dairy-free (pareve), as the Jews took a great treat and adapted it to fit their dietary needs.

When it comes to desserts, I am a schlemiel – I always seem to screw it up. I figured that this though, couldn’t be too hard. But…. well… Anyway, be sure to heat the sugar syrup to the corect temperature (click on the link to read more), and be sure to have ample time to allow for refrigeration.

Recipe after break…

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Filed under Dessert, Israeli, Jewish, Parve, Sephardic

Kasha Varnishkes (with color!)

IMG_0031There might not be a more boring Asheknazi dish out there. Kasha Varnishkes (or just Kasha as my Mother calls it) is bowtie pasta with buckwheat. The tan of the noodles, with the brown of the grain, along with the white of the onions and the gray of the mushroom might sound bland… and it is. Yet, for some reason, it is a classic family favorite. So where does kasha varnishkes even come from? Great question. Kasha, in Yiddish, means buckwheat, and varnishkes comes from “dumplings” (wait for it…). The Jews used to put the kasha (buckwheat) in dumplings. But over the years, the Jews got lazy, they found out about the wonders of Italian pasta, and voila, now we have “buckwheat dumplings” without the dumplings.

Many people simply add goodies with the cooked buckwheat to the noodles, without use of the oven. This is great, but I find that putting it in the oven for the final step gives the noodles a nice addition: the noodles on the edge turn crispy and delicious. I find this to be critical, but this step, I guess, is optional.

The other day, as I reached for the bowties at the grocery store, there were nice colorful (spinach, tomato, and squash medley) bowties right next to it. I thought, hmm, there will add some color… As I started to make this dish, I couldn’t go wrong. It is so simple. As I took it out of the oven, I had a quick taste, and some was awry. I screwed up! I forgot the add the water. Anyway, I tried to salvage it by adding water after the fact. It finally  tasted ok, although my girlfriend of Russian decent was quick to notice my misstep.

Continue for recipe…

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Filed under Deli, Jewish, Other Stuff, Parve, Pasta and Grains

Yet another addition… Marc

Well, I have to say thank you Amiee, Gordon, and Dafna for inviting me to write. It is a real honor to be among such a distinguished group of foodies.

Undoubtedly, I will bring a new flair to the group – little meat, a plethora of fish, no trayfe, and NO dairy. Many ask me what I do actually eat, which is most often followed by my bitting response of “nothing.” If you ever come over and have my cooking, you would be utterly amazed what someone can do with such stringent restrictions! This no diary business of mine puzzles many. I actually strongly dislike the taste of diary (though I did have chessboard pizza last night), and it upsets my tummy. This fits into Jewish cuisine quite well though: the two largest groups of people in the world with lactose intolerance are… Asians and Jews.

As was previously alluded to, I do like being Jewish. My speech is peppered with Yiddish and my sarcasm, or lack thereof, highly mimics that of Larry David. I apologize if you find this too Jewy, but this is a Jewish blog after all…

Recipes are a bit difficult for me. “Take some onions, stir them in… some salt… some of this… and…” I will do my best to recipe-ize my cooking. But a word of caution, being in the kitchen is so amazing because there is food waiting to be make into yummy art. Use these recipes, and all your recipes, as a stepping stone for new ideas. Don’t be confined by what you read – be adventuresome!

So what makes food Jewish? I can’t give a good answer (wikipedia tries). However there is one thing that almost everyone can agree on (and this is extremely uncommon for Jews): food brings people together. For yontifs, simchas, and even shivas, all the Jews do is cook and eat. I love cooking, but, in the spirit of Jewish mothers, I make sure to fed family/friends/roommates/etc so they never go hungry!

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