Category Archives: Kashrut

Hillel’s Kosher for Passover BLT Sandwich

Korech, Hillel’s sandwich at the Temple. It is said that when the Temple still stood in Jerusalem Hillel would combine matza, maror and the Pesach lamb into one in order to observe the mitzva of eating the sacrifice on matza and maror (Numbers 9:11). It might also be the case that he was hungry and dinner was still being organized in the kitchen.

Now, what if we still had a temple? What if we still made the sacrifice? What would a modern chef do with such a sandwich? I think the answer would be the kosher for passover BLT. I put this to the test by taking some of the lamb saddle from our butchering class and curing it with pink salt. Cured and smoked I then sliced it up and placed it on some homemade matza, with fresh parsley, horseradish mayo and of course fresh tomatoes.

Hillel would have asked for seconds.

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Filed under Jewish, Kashrut, Meat, Passover, Smoked, Snout to Tail

Break from baking and thoughts on Kosher food

So the past week has included two cake baking disasters for me. I have a lovely post about coffee cake all ready to go, but have not successfully baked one yet. I started with a challenging one that included a tunnel of cream cheese filling that ended up just under-baked enough to collapse on itself when I turned it out. Then I decided to pare down to a simpler one with the traditional cinnamon nut crumb topping.  As it was baking I decided to type up the recipe, and I had the horrible realization that I had put in double the baking soda. By this time the batter had bubbled up the sides of the pan and the topping had sunk completely to the bottom. So with two cakes in the trash and nothing to post I decided to take a break and read the New York Times.

Low and behold there is an article on the growing popularity of Kosher foods.  This managed to raise my hackles despite the cake fatigue. Since I have already mentioned some of my issues with the kosher meat industry, I’ll give you my run down on my issues with the rest of the kosher food industry. Most packaged, canned or processed foods that bear a hechsher, do so only because the food production company has paid a company, like the Orthodox Union, to send out a rabbi inspector (a mashgiah), to check out the ingredients and the manufacturing process for trayfe or any practices that might mix meat and dairy. They typically pay a large sum of money for this service and  inspections are done about once a year. There is absolutely nothing about this inspection that looks for health or safety violations, so whatever feelings of “purity” people are getting from the hechsher are based totally in emotion.

Seriously, Extreme Torchin’ Tamale Pringles  have a hechsher and so does Toll House refrigerated cookie dough, and it got recalled over the summer for e. coli contamination. Trust me, I have learned from experience, e. coli is not something you want to encounter and a hechsher won’t protect you from it. The New Yorker Magazine did an article about a year ago on how China is becoming the fastest growing exporter of kosher food and the mashgihim who are selling their services to the Chinese factories. After the rash of tainted and toxic Chinese made food imports a few years ago, a simple hechsher is not enough to convince me of the purity of these products. As I have stated many, many, times, if keeping kosher is important to you, the best and healthiest way to do it is to eat real, fresh, food you have purchased locally and made from scratch, not from a box. If what you are looking for is purity and healthier foods … well the same logic applies.

OK… rant over. Tomorrow I am having the cookie monsters over to make peanut butter cookie and assuming I don’t totally ruin those, I will attempt my cake once again and you may eventually get to read my fascinating history of the coffee cake in America.

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Mango Salsa

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!)

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Filed under Fruit and Vegtables, Jewish, Kashrut, Other Stuff

Rugelach

Presentation is everything, until you eat them

One Rugelah, many rugelach. The suffix lach (pronounced with a guttural h at the end) indicates a Yiddish plural. In the case of these small cream cheese filled cookies, one is never enough. Also a note of clarification for all the people who have fallen in love with the sweet greasy confection offered in the bakeries of Israel- these are different. The Israeli version is parve, meaning it contains no dairy (or for that matter meat) and uses a fair amount of oil and sugar to attain its hyper-palatable state. The down side is that after a few hours the Israeli ones taste like congealed grease. The best way to eat those is on the way home from the market.

These are less filled croissant, and more of a rolled cookie. They keep well and could even be frozen (if you manage to keep them that long). This recipe comes down on my mother’s side of the family. It was scribbled in her grandmother’s copy of the Settlement Cookbook in her own long hand. When my mother operated a bakery in Salt Lake City (yes, Jews in Utah) she sold these by the dozens to Jew and Gentile alike.

When I went to look these up in Joan Nathan’s cookbook she asserted that the cream cheese dough recipe was a product of the marketing department at Philadelphia Cream Cheese. The earliest published version turned up in a cookbook written in 1950 and its provenance was given as coming from the wife of pianist Arthur Rubinstein, Nela.

While all of that may be true, and this recipe is very similar to the one that Joan Nathan offers, it still is a bit of a family heirloom and having a chance to make these with my mother over Thanksgiving was great.

A word of caution, these contain almost nothing that is good for you (well, possibly the nuts) and they turn out to be mildly addictive. I found myself idly snacking on them if I left the cookie tin to close by, or even if I was just wandering through the kitchen.

Recipe after the break

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Dessert, Jewish, Kashrut

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

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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Roast Chicken #1 (Honey-lemon)

Roast Chicken

Roast Chicken

“Why the number 1?” you might ask. Well roast chicken is such an integral part of the Jewish family kitchen I am confident that the heathens will produce multiple roast chicken recipes.  Roast chicken is a staple of Friday night dinners and holidays alike. This most likely has to do with the fact that kosher chicken was more readily available and cheaper than beef, and this has become the case once again as well. I tend to eschew meat and poultry that has been produced using factory or CAFO farming practices ,and given the propensity of these practices and a rash of other embarrassing scandals in the kosher slaughter business, I almost never buy kosher meat these day . That aside, kosher chicken has one distinct advantage: the salting process essentially makes it pre-brined.  So if you don’t feel like going through the hassle of brining, which I believe is a must, get yourself a kosher chicken. If you want to brine your own, I suggest the Cooks Illustrated Basics of Brining guide, which is free for download.

Today I have discovered that the level of attraction between brine and my kitchen floor is intractable. For the third time in about six months I have spilled several quarts of brine, soaking my throw rugs. This may have a bit more to do with my bumblebee attention span and propensity to forget to  close the jumbo zip-top bags I use for brining, before I walk away to get my meat. But a load of laundry and a second batch of brine got me back on track. One particularly handy piece of kitchen gear when roasting a chicken is (surprise) a roasting pan with a rack.  You can go crazy and spend  anywhere from $25 to $200 on a pan, but I think ones in the $50-75 are your best bet, giving you a good sized pan with a v-shaped rack. If you don’t have the cash to shell out for a pan you can also just make balls of aluminum foil to prop your chicken up off the bottom of the pan.

Last week I came into a large jar of local honey , my sweet tooth has yet to dissipate and my rosemary bushes went crazy this summer, so I decided to do a honey-lemon-rosemary chicken.

recipe after the jump

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Filed under Gadgets and Gear, Kashrut, Meat, Shabbat