What does it take to find lasting love? Tu B’Av, the 15th of the month of Av (the 24 hours following the evening of Aug. 6, 2017) is the Jewish holiday of love, an auspicious day for single Jews to meet their bashert or soulmate. Resilience, flexibility, and steadfastness are three attributes of people who maintain successful marriages. The lekach or sponge cake is like a long marriage. It has been baked in Israel since before the foundation of the modern state in 1948. This simple, honest pastry reflects what a true and lasting love should be. [Read more…]
Three wonderful inventions of the late 19th Century made possible a brand new type of no-bake cake. Iceboxes, instant coffee, and commercially baked cookies arrived to make life more convenient. In the summer, creative housewives made use of all of them to create a deliciously cold dessert, the icebox cake.
Before there were electric refrigerators, people had a special insulated cabinet in their kitchens to keep food cold. Ice was harvested from lakes during the winter. Every day a block of ice was delivered to be placed on the top shelf of the icebox. During the course of the day, it would melt and drip into a special pan placed beneath. The pan had to be emptied, and the ice block replaced every day. The search for convenience also involved creating foods that would not need to be refrigerated.
The desire for instant coffee and tea goes back hundreds of years. People wanted the convenience of a lightweight product that wouldn’t spoil, and could be easily prepared by just adding boiling water. In the late 1800s, Sartori Kato developed instant tea powder in Japan. About five years later, France was the birthplace of instant coffee. In 1881 Alphonse Allais filed a patent for a process to make soluble coffee. His technique involved roasting the green coffee beans, then grinding and brewing them to prepare fresh coffee. Next he poured the coffee through very hot, dry air. The brewed coffee eventually dried to a powder. This powder could be reconstituted by adding it to boiling water, creating the first cup of instant coffee. All instant coffee or tea needed was an inexpensive packaged cookie to go with it. [Read more…]
Philadelphia, the city of almonds, pomegranates, olive oil, chick peas, lentils, dates, grapes, and fava beans? Thanks to the Jews who first settled the North American colonies, Philadelphia was blessed with the introduction of these Mediterranean foods. It is fun to recreate colonial recipes today in order to experience the flavors and aromas of those times and connect with an often overlooked period of the Philadelphia Jewish experience. [Read more…]
The delicious aroma of a fresh cheesy pita wafts out of a hot tabun (brick oven), tantalizing the taste buds of every passerby on a Tel Aviv street. But this is no pita; this delicacy is called khachapuri, a specialty of the Gruzinim, the Jews of Georgia.
Jews have lived in Georgia, on the border between Asia and Europe, since Babylonian captivity in the sixth century BCE. The first Jews arrived after Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem. They were ruled successively by the Persians, Mongols, Russian tsars and the Soviet Union. They are neither Ashkenazi nor Sephardi. Georgian Jews have their own customs, language and practices. They were among the first Soviet Jews to make aliyah in the 1970s.
The Gruzinim introduced Georgia’s national dish, Khachapuri, to Israel. This staple of the Georgian diet is a bread baked with three types of cheese, and topped off with an egg at the end of the baking process. Georgians love this bread so much that they consume it more than pizza! In Israel, khachapuri is a very popular choice for brunch.
(Adapted from Georgian Recipes )
For the dough:
- 3 ½ cups flour
- 1 tsp. yeast
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup milk
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- Heat the water and milk to 115 ℉.
- Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
- Cover with a clean towel and put in a warm place.
- Allow the dough to rise for 1 hour.
- Punch the dough down, and allow it to rise again for 30 minutes.
For the filling:
- 1 ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 ½ cup shredded muenster cheese
- 1 ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 5 eggs
Mix the three types of cheese together in a bowl.
To assemble the Khachapuri:
- Preheat the oven to 500 ℉.
- Roll out the dough.
- Cut out 4 ovals.
- Roll up the sides and pinch the ends to make your Khachapuri look like a canoe.
- Stuff each one with the cheese.
- Bake for 15 minutes.
- Take the khachapuri out of the oven.
- Beat one egg with 1 teaspoon of water to make an egg wash.
- Brush each Khachapuri with the egg wash.
- Break one egg in the center of each Khachapuri.
- Return the Khachapuri to the oven and bake for an additional 4 minutes or to taste.
Serve with a pad of butter. The butter and egg are mixed with a fork and knife, and then the crust is dipped into the egg, cheese and butter center.
Cuba has never been on my list of countries to visit. With the uncertainty regarding individual travel, I have always been concerned that I might be entering a country that I may not be able to exit. In 2014, president Barrack Obama eased restrictions on travel to Cuba for United States citizens. Since his election, president Donald Trump has proposed to reinstate many of these limits. Last week I took advantage of this current window of opportunity and participated in an organized trip to Jewish Cuba. During my time there, I discovered a community that was effectively forbidden to practice communal Judaism for thirty years, much like the community in the former Soviet Union. Now, Judaism is blossoming again in Cuba, and many young Cuban Jews are choosing to make aliyah, Jewish immigration to Israel.
While the guacamole craze has not spread to Israel, avocados are one of its important crops with trees that produce beautiful, plump fruits. Israelis have cultivated their own methods of preparing and using avocados, including avocado salad.
Avocados are native to Mexico. The first avocado trees were brought to Israel by the monks of the Latrun monastery, who grafted them in the monastery garden, in 1908. It took until 1927 for these trees to produce fruits. Upon seeing the success of the monks, people started planting avocados in their gardens. In the 1950s avocados were planted in commercial orchards for the first time. Today, most of the avocados planted in Israel are for export. Israelis have also grown to love them. The most popular way to consume avocado is as a salad, in a vegetarian sandwich.
Avocado season is in full swing now, and ripe avocados are widely available. This simple avocado salad uses local ingredients, and appeals to the Israeli palate. You may serve it with a fresh baguette, or sliced bread.
Israeli Avocado Salad
- 1 ripe avocado, mashed
- 1 small onion, finely minced
- 1 lemon or lime, squeezed
- Black pepper
- In a large bowl, combine the mashed avocado with the minced onion.
Season to taste with lemon juice, salt, and black pepper.
Shakshuka, the fiery North African egg and tomato sauce staple, has been discovered by North Americans. The most authentic version that I have tried in Philadelphia is prepared at Café Ole.
Shakshuka, which means “mixture” in Arabic, came to Israel in the 1950s with the immigration of Libyan and Tunisian Jews. These new Israelis prepared a delicious breakfast of eggs poached in sauce made with tomatoes and onions. They seasoned it with salt, cumin, and chili peppers. It was served with fresh, hot-from-the-oven, crusty bread. [Read more…]
Most Philadelphians associate rhubarb with pie. Rhubarb is a vegetable, yet it is treated as a fruit in our cuisine. Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews cook rhubarb as a vegetable, adding a sour note to fish and lamb dishes. The first local crops of rhubarb are ripening now, so it is a good time to experiment with someone else’s grandmother’s recipe. [Read more…]
Lag B’Omer marks the end of the 49-day period of counting the days between Passover and Shavuot. Historically, the counting begins on the day an omer (unit of measure) of barley was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem and ends on the day before an omer of wheat was brought to the Temple. In Israel, it is celebrated with picnics, bonfires, and barbecues. How can you combine the ancient Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer with an all American twist? Throw a hot dog bar party!
Whether you are lighting a bonfire or cooking on your grill, here is your game plan. Set up a buffet, and let your guests express their creativity. Mix and match rolls, sausages, condiments, and crunchy chips.
- An assortment of sliced breads
- Potato chips
- Corn chips
- Hot peppers
- Sweet peppers
- Diced onions