Category Archives: Other Stuff


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

Beer, and some cheese

Painstaking research was conducted

What does a Jew do for Christmas? Well this Jew travels to cold weather (which we lack around the Bay) and enjoys the holiday in the company of his non-Jewish relations. I actually did some of the cooking for Christmas dinner this year. I made a roast turkey, gravy from turkey fat, and a Bailey’s Irish cream cheese cake.

But, how could I journey to the heartland of America, Wisconsin and not talk about beer. Now, California has a great beer culture with dozens of small craft brewers offering their wares at Whole Foods and Bev Mo. But during a quick two day run from Racine to Lone Rock took us past several small breweries, all worth the trip.

Most of these places don’t even Pasteurize their beer. This means it cannot not be stored at room temperature and therefore generally doesn’t get shipped more than an hour’s drive away. But if you ever get out to Madison, then point the car west and make a beer and cheese run.

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Filed under Drinks, Goyish, Other Stuff

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

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

So So Spicy Schug… hot sauce of the Yemenite variety.


Green Schug

with pita and hummus


I LOVE all things spicy. And schug is among my favorites of spicy condiments. Schug is a Yemenite hot sauce that can be used to add some heat and flavor to savory dishes, and is a true soul mate for a good hummus. We’ve always had a container of schug on hand in our fridge and it’s replacement waiting to be cracked open in the freezer. Seeing the deep glossy green chili peppers in the shuk this week provoked my Yemenite side and attempt to make my own version of schug.

You can make schug with either red or green peppers depending on your personal preference. So I went with green schug, and let me tell you… it was exceptionally spicy and very very delicious.  But the level of heat is completely up to you.  It’s simple enough to make, just throw all the ingredients into a food processor and voila! you’ve made a perfect spicy sauce to match your palate. The product is a beautiful bright green chili paste with a great texture. I left the seeds in the chilies because that’s where all the heat comes from, but if you’re more sensitive and don’t like things too spicy and want more of the hot sauce flavor remove the seeds. Add more coriander (cilantro to Americans) to cool the peppers.  If you want more of what I call the “kick” of a hot sauce and less of the spicy add more garlic.

Here’s what I did….

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Filed under Bread, Israeli, Other Stuff, 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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Filed under Kashrut, Other Stuff

It’s Like Butter

Jewish butter, serve with bagels

Jewish butter, serve with bagels

Its like butteh” –Linda Richman

So Amiee told me that she is working on a line of baking projects and that got me to thinking about the ingredients we use and where they come from. Since we are dedicated to the DYI concept I thought that I would whip up some butter. Butter besides being useful in baking is also delicious on fresh toasted bagels and bialys. For those of you interested in the subject, the idea of non-kosher dairy products is based on not knowing what non-Jewish farmers might have been doing in the production of their milk, cheese and whatnot. With today’s industrial production that is largely a thing of the past.

In the interest of full disclosure, I also have the better part of a half gallon of heavy cream in my fridge.  I was in Costco the other day and picked it up on the premise that I would use it for topping on a birthday cake, pumpkin pie and perhaps some other dishes. A week later and I still have a pint or so left- so lets make butter!

BTW, you know that fear you have of letting the whip cream go to long and it suddenly becomes butter? Turns out it’s not that easy- takes the better part of 10 min with a stand mixer to get there. Pretty hard to do by accident.

Directions after the break

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On a scale of -5 to 5 ….

I’ll give him a 5…! The heathen’s are again awash in  awesomeness. The incomparable  Marc L. has agreed to grace our humble blog with his wealth of Jewish food knowledge and burgeoning gourmand credentials. Marc will definitely take the kashrut award in the group. While I may know a shit-load about the intricacies of Jewish-dietary law, Marc has the tendency to actually practice it a lot of it. (Dafna describes him as “super Jewish, well compared to you and I… not so much Gordon”.) I went on a rant one day, a few years ago, about how most kosher labeled and kosher catered food was processed crap and that if you just started with fresh ingredients you could make edible if not delicious kosher food and he not only agreed, but described to me how he puts an enormous amount of thought and effort into elevating kosher cuisine and incorporating green, local and sustainable food sources as well. When I had the painful task of attempting to plan a weeks worth of kosher, vegetarian dinners, for 40 hungry college students at a campground, Marc was the man I turned to to prevent me from starving everyone to death. Throw in the fact that we only had Wal-Mart in the burbs of New Orleans to do our grocery shopping and you will understand that having Marc as a wing-man/sous-chef was invaluable. (Actually… I think I may have just invented the next Food Network reality show.)   He’s also just great fun to have a beer with.. I am looking forward to seeing his fabulous contributions. Oh, and in an effort to avoid totally annoying him, I have decided to not post the photo of him attempting to french braid my hair on a bus, but it is available for viewing if you are my facebook friend.

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Noodle Kugel, like your Bubbe never made

Fresh from the oven

Fresh from the oven

Kugel seems to come in two varieties. Boring noodle and boring potato. If there was ever a dish that cried out for a makeover like a Long Island mall rat it’s the kugel. My thinking about kugel started a few weeks ago when I made a nice veggie lasagna for a synagogue pot-luck. Its always heartening to see your dish empty after dinner, but I suspect any carb would have done well amongst the myriad tossed salads on offer. But I got to thinking, is there a Jewish equivalent for lasagna? I started rooting through my cookbooks and learned that there is a theory that Jews brought pasta to central Europe from Italy. That might be, but I think we should have stayed in Italy until we mastered cheese making. I found a lot of uses for ribbon egg noodles but there was nothing that called for the bigger sheets of pasta used in a lasagna.

When I read the many recipes available for kugel the recurring theme was that most kugels were still firmly anchored in the poverty of the past. Somehow in the trend of updating knishes with smoked salmon and coming up with even more extreme versions of the deli sandwich the kugel got left on the side of the road. I decided to change that armed with a version of baked mac & cheese from Gourmet that I had made for co-workers last year. A word of warning, this one is complicated and I had to write my steps down (unusual for me) to keep everything straight. My suggestion, read the instructions before you start the test.

Recipe after the break.

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Filed under Other Stuff, Pasta and Grains