Category Archives: Ashkenazi

Polish Egg Bread (for Purim and Shabbat)


“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.

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Bread, Jewish, Purim, Shabbat

Chocolate Hazelnut (aka Nutella) Hamantaschen

Nutella Hamantaschen

As you may have noticed, the Heathens produced quite a few hamantaschen recipes last year for Purim, so I was struggling a bit to come up with something unique. I re-read Marc’s post and was reminded that his mother uses chocolate in hers, and the same day went digging through my freezer. I came across a bag of Oregon hazelnuts, that were given to me by my friends, Penny and Bill, brought back from one of their many trips to Eugene to see family and the Ducks. At that point I recalled of the joy of the ultimate combination of chocolate and hazelnuts:  Nutella. The ingredients of Nutella are relatively simple (sugar, oil, hazelnuts, cocoa powder), and I realized I could easily make my own with my unearthed treasure of hazelnuts.  I adore Nutella and will put it on just about anything, so filling  hamantaschen with it may be the most deliciously evil idea to occur on the blog since the (in)famous animal style latke.

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Dessert, Holidays, Jewish, Purim

The Wise Sons Chronicles – Off the Grid Pop-up Brunch

Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen made their public début at Off the Grid: McChoppin Hub on Saturday. They served a fantastic brunch with your choice of corned beef hash, bialy with lox, or cheese blintzes and babka as a side.  Since I had my fill of cheese blintzes last weekend I went for the corned beef hash and a bialy with cream cheese. As expected, the corned beef was perfection, the bialy was chewy and full of oniony goodness,   and I was ridiculously full by the end of the meal. I got there a bit early around 10am, so it was relatively quiet and my friend and I got our food super fast. By 11 the place was packed and had turned into a giant Cal-Jewish community reunion. If there is one thing you can say about the Jewish community it is that we turn up to support each other. We completely rearranged the tables in the restaurant so everyone could catch-up and at one point someone suggested that the deli be renamed Cheers. It was decided that the Wise Sons needs a permanent location soon because it is going to be an amazing hang-out and once they start serving pastrami and beer, I don’t think people will every leave. One of the best quotes of the morning was when a friend looked down at his plate of eggs, bialy and lox and said with pure joy, “I am so happy right now”.  Overall it was a fantastic morning, with delicious food, great friends, and a successful start to a new venture. They will be at Off The Grid for 3 more Saturdays at 105 Valencia, so come on out to the next one!

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Breakfast, Deli, Jewish

The Wise Sons Chronicles – Debut Prep

As I have mentioned several times before, my good friends Evan and Leo are on a quest to open a Jewish deli in San Francisco.  After choosing the name, Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, a few weeks ago, they have been on the fast track to getting word out and bringing their delicious food to the masses in San Francisco. Since I have basically been doing it anyway, I have decided to formally chronicle their journey to becoming the premier purveyors of traditional, high quality Jewish deli in the Bay Area.  Next weekend on Saturday, January 22, they will be publicly debuting their creations at Off the Grid: McCoppin Hub, and will be serving brunch at 105 Valencia inside Jackie’s Vinoteca & Cafe. They have an amazing menu planned, including lox and bialysbabka, corned beef hash (my favorite), and what may possibly be the best cheese blintzes I have ever had.

I was lucky enough to get to try the blintzes this Sunday at a rehearsal for next weekend. Their secret is using farmer cheese instead of the more familiar cottage cheese. It makes for a wonderfully smooth textured filling, and I will likely steal this tip from them for my Shavuot post in June . In keeping with their commitment to using seasonal produce, they were topped off with a dried fruit compote which made for a delightful combination of tart and sweet, that perfectly balanced with the creamy filling.

They will be serving brunch on Saturday from 9-1pm unless they run out of food before then. I am planning on heading over early to make sure I get my fill of the house-cured corned beef hash and you can expect an update of the event next week. This will be the start of a 4 week run for them at Off the Grid, with 2 Saturdays of brunch and 2 Saturdays of their to-die-for meats starting on February 5th. It was great to see them so excited and nervous for their first big event, so be sure to come out and show your support.

click for the full brunch menu

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Breakfast, Deli, Jewish, Other Stuff

Barley and Mushrooms for Tu B’Shevat

baked barley with mushrooms

Tu B’Shevat (the New Year for trees) is coming up next week and while it is a pretty minor Jewish holiday, particularly among Ashkenazi, celebrations of it seem to be becoming more common. Kabbalists in the 16th century developed a seder ritual around Tu B’Shevat and these days a lot of Jewish environmental groups host community Tu B’Shevat seders. The seder has a lot in common with the Passover seder, but the symbolic foods are typically the Seven Species of the Land of Israel (pomegranate, wheat, olives, figs, grapes, dates and barley) along with a variety of fruits and nuts… and of course 4 glasses of wine.

In addition to being holiday relevant, barley is also very healthy and super high in fiber, so it is a good addition to your menu to help you achieve any new year resolutions. Keep in mind that is also a key ingredient in the production of beer and whiskey, so it can help you break those resolutions as well.

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Holidays, Pasta and Grains

Reuben Egg Rolls for Christmas

Reuben Egg Rolls

I don’t think we have done anything quite this silly since the In-N-Out inspired Animal Style Latkes and I am fully expecting these to appear on This is Why You’re Fat sometime soon.  As I was contemplating a Christmas post my thoughts turned to the sterotypical what-Jews-eat-on-Christmas, Chinese food. I knew I wanted something a little different from standard Chinese fare, that would top my trayfe on trayfe of last year. While the exact path to this absurd idea is now lost to me, after some brainstorming,  I came up with the idea for reuben egg rolls, where Jewish and Chinese come together much like the Christmas itself.

Luckily, I now have a pretty consistent supply of deli products from Evan and Leo, who, by the way, after months and months of negotiations, have finally come up with a name for their deli: Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen. I am looking forward to buying something from them soon, but in the meantime I was happy to trade a burrito for the perfect amount of pastrami, pickles, and russian dressing.

Now I have a friend who freaked out at the prospect of a reuben without rye bread. In an attempt to mollify him I did try a few things like dusting the wrappers in rye flour and caraway seeds, but they didn’t stick well and ended up burning in the oil. So unless you want to make wrappers from scratch using rye flour think of these as a super tasty appetizer homage to the famous sandwich.

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Deli, Holidays, Meat with Dairy, Other Stuff, Trayfe

Caramelized Onions

Caramelized Onions

I’ve been doing a lot of heavy cooking with the holidays, so I figured i would do something a little easier this week. I had the good fortune to see Evan and Leo this week and they gave half a loaf of their amazing rye bread. Whenever I get decent rye my thoughts immediately turn to chicken liver and I had some in my freezer. Along with my liver, caramelized onions are always a must. As I started thinking about it caramelized onions appear frequently in Ashkenazi food, and while we have often refered to them as an ingredient we have never shown how to prepare them. Caramelizing onions radically transforms the texture, flavor and appearance of onions with minimal effort through the amazing chemistry of a slow cooking process. They become soft, sweet and full of flavor. Once you have them on hand you will find infinite uses for them. Along with chopped liver, they are amazing addition, in place of sauteed onions, to kasha varnishka, kugel, pashtida, knishes or bialys. One of my most favorite uses is to spread some goat cheese on bread and top with caramelized onions, there are few snacks quite so satisfying.

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Deli, Other Stuff

Mohn (Poppy Seed) Cookies

Mohn cookies

On my last trip to Berkeley Bowl as I was stocking up on dried chick peas for hummus,  I decided to get a large bag of poppy seeds as well.  As I have the tendency to do when faced with a bulk bin, I bought way more than I would need to sprinkle on my challah. My co-workers have been politely requesting more cookies since the day I introduced them to my crack-like peanut-butter cookies. I needed a post for the blog, I already had the oven heated from roasting pumpkin earlier in the day, and I had vague memories of the existence of Jewish poppy-seed cookie recipes. A quick perusal of the internet and my cookbooks proved I was indeed correct. Mohn (Poppy Seed) cookies originated in Germany or Poland depending on the source you consult and they are frequently served with coffee or tea. This version is only mildly sweet and has a lovely contrasting texture of the soft dough and crunchy poppy seeds. The recipes varied from softer drop cookies to crisp rolled and cut cookies. Unfortunately, almost all of them were parve and called for oil. There is pretty much nothing I dislike more than parve cookies, so I decided to substitute the oil for butter, and to get the dough to the right consistency, (and for added flavor) I added lemon juice and zest.

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Dessert, Hannukah, Holidays, Jewish, Purim

Thanksgiving Redux

Pumpkin Kugel for Thanksgiving

With the holidays rapidly approaching and Hanukkah falling a mere week after Thanksgiving this year, the heathens are in full blown production mode, getting ready to delight our faithful readers with some new holiday fare.   Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love that the entire point of the holiday is to simply share a meal with your family and friends. There are no gifts to wrap and no temple to be guilted into going to. My family has a tradition of going around the table and saying what we are thankful for.  As only can happen in families, about 25 years ago the youngest of us at the time, said she was thankful for Jello, and to this day we have a Jello mold on the buffet, despite the fact that it rarely gets eaten anymore.  Every family has the dish that it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without, and I love hearing from my friends of different ethnic backgrounds tell about dishes from their family’s country of origin that have a place of honor at the Thanksgiving table.  So, as you are planning your menu, don’t be afraid to bring in an element of Jewish or Israeli cuisine, to this uniquely American holiday. While we are roasting our pumpkins and grating our potatoes, we invite you to peruse some of our recipes from Thanksgivings past.

Dafna’s Israeli couscous – Thanksgiving Style

Ari’s Pumpkin Kugel

Gordon’s non-Jewish Pumpkin Pie – with pumpkin roasting instructions

My Sephardic Pumpkin Challah

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Fruit and Vegtables, Holidays, Israeli, Sephardic

Deli Lunch

pastrami on rye

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be invited over to my friends, Evan and Leo’s for a deli tasting.  Moishe and Leopold as they sometimes refer to themselves are living the dream. They quit their jobs and are on the path to revitalizing Jewish deli in San Francisco, by opening a true delicatessen dedicated to high-quality meats and baked goods that are worthy of the San Francisco foodie palate .  To help get their recipes down, they cooked up a storm and fed about 40 people house-made pastrami, corned beef, pickles, and  coleslaw, all on fabulous rye bread.  Leo made 14 loaves of rye and even threw in a chocolate chip challah toward the end of the evening.  He’s turned into a master baker and showed me with great pride his rye starter that he brought with him from LA when he moved back to the bay.  Evan is the meat man, and spend most of the evening slicing pastrami and corned beef, but thoughtfully smoked some shiitake mushrooms to make veggie reubens for the few vegetarians who dared to venture into the house of meat. The whole apartment has been taken over with bins of pickles fermenting, crates stacked with bags of flour and curing salts and cooling racks waiting for bread and rugelach. Evan’s roommate Robby may soon be up for an award for being the most tolerant house-mate in San Francisco, but I suppose the constant supply of food makes its easier to deal with.

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