Category Archives: Other Stuff

Abadi…Savory sesame cookies

"Abadi"... reads: delicious savory cookies

If you know me longer than 5 minutes, you’ll probably come to understand my deep love of fresh fruit, produce, and markets. So of course I am a little too obsessed with the shuk (everyday open air produce market) here in Tel Aviv. To say that I frequent the shuk is a bit of an understatement. I have my preferred vendors and stalls and am thoroughly proud to say that I’ve become a usual face in the market community. So I’m pretty keen on what’s going on in the shuk, I often contemplate opening my own stall there when I see vacancies. Anyways, when someone decided to open a stall dedicated to abadi cookies, I was inspired to try my own hand at making them.

 

Abadi is really the name of the brand of the cookies, let’s say like Oreos, even the weird flavors are still called Oreo cookies. And like Oreos, there’s just one brand. These cookies come in a various types, different shapes, toppings, and are offered in both sweet and savory versions. But of course the originals are the best. They are flakey and flavorful, and come in delicious little O shapes. After an intense amount of searching I finally came across a recipe in Hebrew, from one of the online newspapers here. And I must say that these turned out pretty close to the originals.

These cookies are pretty easy and fun to make (ie. good activity for the kids). You can make them into sticks or circles, top them with za’atar, sesame, or sea salt. They are perfect for when you want to a snack for coffee with company or to calm the afternoon munchies. Just be warned, they are addictive.

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Filed under Israeli, Jewish, Other Stuff, Parve

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

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

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

Garlic Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

Garlic Rosemary Mashed Potatoes, goes with everything

I really cannot type the word potato without thinking of Dan Qualye. For those of you born after the Reagan years, he was the Vice President for Bush I (aka Old 41 or George Herbert Walker Bush). He was doing a school visit and conducting a spelling bee type contest for elementary school kids when he suggested that a child needed to add an E to the end of potato. Now, in his defense the cue card in his hand apparently had a typo but let me tell you, it did nothing to improve his intellectual gravitas.

Meanwhile back here at dinner we need a starch to go along with all of the roast chicken, grilled meat and pot roast. I grew up with baked potatoes, and it wasn’t until I was older that I discovered the joys of a good mashed potato. As it climbed in popularity in my repertoire I set out to perfect this deceptively tricky dish.

There are two aspects you want to get right. One is the mouth feel of the potatoes. They should be moist, not sticky or clumped. The second is a consistent flavor profile. There is nothing worse that a dish that tastes like garlic, only when you get a chunk of garlic. Fortunately the answer to both problems lies in the use and introduction of fat. By steeping the aromatics in the fat we get an even distribution of the flavor compounds. By adding the fat to the potatoes before adding other liquids (this is important) we allow the fat to bind with the starches and prevent any clumping or lump formation in addition to spreading the flavors evenly.

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We’re huge in Australia

Last week we were contacted by Alicia from SBS Food, the Australian public television network, to be their “Featured Foodies”.  Since we will do just about anything to get readers beyond our own family, Gordon and I eagerly agreed to be interviewed for a tie-in to an episode of Food Safari focused on Jewish food. I am secretly hoping we become a phenomenon among the Aussies and I get to make regular trips down there again, but even if that doesn’t happen, we had a lot of fun doing the interview.

Check out the interview

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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

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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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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Filed under Bread, Dessert, Other Stuff