The Kosher Table

The Kosher Table invites you to explore culinary trends and ingredients, and the way they are intertwined with Jewish history, geography, and traditions. We can meet innovative people who are influencing what we eat and how we consume it. Together, we can travel around the world and experience its diverse Jewish communities, and the native flavors found in their regional culinary specialties. We can discover our local farms, artisanal purveyors, and restaurants. We can investigate cookbooks, and Internet resources by and for people who are passionate about food.

Community members who are fervent about food and love to write are invited to submit articles, comments, questions, and feedback to Food Editor Ronit Treatman at [email protected]

Sephardic Seder Flavors

Too Good To Passover, by Jennifer Abadi, is an exploration of the diversity of Sephardic and Mizrahi Passover traditions. Abadi spent six years interviewing people from Jewish communities in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Along with their sentimental memoirs, her subjects shared treasured family Passover recipes.

According to the people she interviewed, Passover preparations in their communities began as soon as Purim ended. I was impressed with the descriptions of the thorough cleaning, koshering, and in many cases, repainting of homes in anticipation of the Seder. Special efforts were made to ensure that the food was kosher for Passover. Animals were purchased while still alive to be taken to a shochet, or ritual slaughterer. Spices and nuts were purchased whole, to be processed in the home. Matzah was baked in a communal oven from flour that had been especially milled for the occasion. Almost all of the people interviewed said that they made their own wine. Many families had special dishes just for Passover.

While contemporary life is much easier than what Abadi’s interview subjects described, some traditions persist. For example, it was interesting to discover that some Jewish communities (Indian, Syrian, Lebanese) consume rice during Passover, while some do not. Similarly, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products are forbidden during Passover in the Indian tradition, while in other cultures, these foods are featured prominently in Passover recipes.

I was thrilled that the people interviewed by Abadi shared their treasured family recipes with her. In fact, you may enhance your Seder this year by making some of their dishes and adding them to your table. I am planning to prepare the Tunisian Rose Petal Dusted Date “Truffles” Haroset. Frankly, I was expecting the Persian Jews to be the ones to add rose petals to their haroset, so this recipe took me by surprise.

Abadi’s most important contribution is preserving the memory of the communities she describes in her book. As I read the book, I felt like I was listening to the people Abadi interviewed and being transported to their home countries.

Drunken Purim Babka

Portrait of King Stanislaus Leszczyński.

To really celebrate Purim, we should consume so much alcohol that we cannot tell the difference between Haman and Mordechai. Unlike at all the other Jewish holidays, alcohol takes center stage during Purim. Why not extend this pleasure to all the recipients of your mishloach manot packages? Mishloach manot are the gifts of food that are traditionally given out during Purim. One delicious Purim food from the Polish Jewish community that can be added to a gift package is shikkor babka, or drunken babka. [Read more…]

“Milky” Chocolate Pudding: From Childhood Treat to Adult Extravagance

How can you steal someone’s heart? One effective way is to cook a dish that transports them back to a happy childhood memory. For many people that I grew up with in Israel, the treat that accomplishes this is called “Milky.” “Milky” is a chocolate pudding snack topped with whipped cream. It is manufactured by the Strauss Group near Tel Aviv. While many of us still love this childhood nosh exactly the way it is, it can be fun to prepare our own grownup homemade version of it.

Preparing a dessert like “Milky” is not very difficult. You begin with a base of chocolate pudding made from scratch. Give it an adult touch by adding any combination of whisky, rum, chocolate liqueur, or coffee liqueur to it. Then, you may whip your own heavy cream to garnish the pudding. A final elegant touch of chocolate shavings turns a childhood treat into a refined adult extravagance.

Photo pudding with whipped cream and chocolate. by pengrin

Pudding. Photo: Pengrin

Homemade Chocolate Pudding

  • 5 squares quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 6 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup liquor
  1. Mix the cornstarch, sugar, and cocoa in a pot.
  2. Add the milk, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove the pot from the flame when the pudding has thickened.
  4. Stir in the chopped chocolate and vanilla extract.
  5. Pour the pudding into a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator.

To serve:

  1. Mix the chocolate pudding with 1 cup of the liquor of your choice. You may combine several types of liquor.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  3. Prepare the whipped cream.

Whipped cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  1. Combine the heavy cream and sugar together in a bowl.
  2. Whisk until the cream forms stiff peaks.

Add toppings

  1. Spoon some chocolate pudding into a small bowl.
  2. Top with whipped cream.
  3. Garnish with chocolate shavings.

The Big Schmear: Jewish Food Podcast

— by Samantha Voxakis

Beth Schenker sitting at a desk recording The Big Schmear podcast.

Beth Schenker recording The Big Schmear podcast.

The Big Schmear is a new podcast about all things Jewish food that invites you to listen while you nosh. Lovers of Jewish food, Jewish foodies, and people who just love to eat will enjoy hearing episodes featuring conversations with chefs, food authors, and restaurant critics.

“For me, Jewish food is ingrained in my identity: it connects me with my past through the
mem­ories of holiday meals shared with family and friends and it links me to the future as I
develop my own traditions,” said Beth Schenker, host and executive producer of The Big
Schmear. “This is truly a passion project for me and I hope to share the joys of Jewish food with
as many listeners as possible.”

An experienced producer, Beth has created numerous radio documentaries. For the past ten years she has served as the Assistant Dean for Jewish Studies/Director of Public Programming at Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago.

Upcoming episodes will feature an inside look at Kosherfest, an annual one-of-a kind, business to business, industry food conference, and episodes with famed cookbook author and Israeli food critic, Gil Hovav. New episodes of The Big Schmear will be posted on the second and fourth Monday of each month.

Exotic Winter Waffles

I stumbled upon a jewel while exploring the Queen Village neighborhood of Philadelphia: the Queen Village Food Market, which is a Turkish grocery store. Its shelves are stacked with exotic imported spreads, nuts, dried fruits, olives, spices, tea and coffee. The refrigerator offers a selection of Turkish cheeses, and the freezer has an array of sweet and savory stuffed pastries. I could not resist purchasing some intriguing spreads and some of that traditional Middle Eastern gelatinous confection called Turkish Delight.

I walked home in the ice, snow and frigid temperature that this January has brought us. To the joy of my daughter and her teachers, the weather conditions had resulted in a snow day. One way to enjoy this special time off and to make our home cozier was to bake. After my visit to the Turkish grocery store, I was inspired to prepare some exotic homemade waffles. [Read more…]

Hanukkah Food Hacks

What can be more festive than delicious holiday specialties made from scratch? For many of us, that is a voyeuristic pleasure, to be enjoyed in a magazine. Real life does not play out that way. Lack of time or attention span is no reason not to enjoy preparing your own Hanukkah treats. Here are some easy shortcuts that will help you fill your home with the aromas and flavors of homemade delicacies.

Latkes (Potato Pancakes) Photo: Jacob Kaplan-Moss

Photo: Jacob Kaplan-Moss.


An easy shortcut to fresh homemade latkes is purchasing frozen shredded potatoes, or hash browns, and frozen diced onions. [Read more…]

Armenian Thanksgiving Pumpkin

Photos of cooked pumpkins by Raffi

Photo: Raffi

What should you prepare with all those apples and pumpkins? Many people confront this question after the celebratory hayride and apple and pumpkin-picking excursion. I love to try exotic recipes with my pumpkins. This year I am making a fall dish from Armenia called Ghapama. This vegan dish, dramatically presented inside a whole roasted pumpkin, can be the star of your Thanksgiving table.

Ghapama is a harvest dish with its own special rituals. First, a fresh pumpkin is picked. Then the whole family helps to clean the pumpkin, stuff it with rice, fresh apples, dry fruits, and nuts. Then they enjoy each other’s company while the pumpkin bakes. When it is ready, everyone eats it straight out of the oven while it is piping hot. [Read more…]

Lone Soldier Center Thanksgiving Dinner

By Sara Kalker

The Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin will be hosting its 9th annual Thanksgiving celebration in Tel Aviv on Thursday November 23, 2017. Over 1,000 lone soldiers from all over the word will come to enjoy food, beer, music, football and great company at the largest annual gathering of lone soldiers. The event is made possible by individual donors in Israel and abroad, Beer Bazaar Jerusalem and communities across Israel who prepare massive quantities of delicious, homemade food.

There are nearly 7,000 lone soldiers serving in the IDF. The holidays are particularly challenging for many whose families are celebrating thousands of miles away. “For lone soldiers from North America, Thanksgiving was one of the happiest and most fun days of the year, when they got together with their families and closest friends to eat, watch football and enjoy being together,” says Joshua Flaster, a former lone soldier and National Director of the Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin. “We prepare this meal for the over 1,000 American and hundreds of Canadian lone soldiers to give them a taste of home and allow them to be together with their family in Israel”. You may be part of the fun by purchasing a meal for a lone soldier.

The evening is not just for Americans and Canadians. Soldiers from all over the world attend the massive event, enjoying unlimited turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, green beans, mashed potatoes, beer and more. “It has become a highlight of the year for lone soldiers, regardless of where we are from”, says Alan, from Mexico City.

Forbidden Foods of the Spanish Inquisition

Did you know that eating a lunch of eggplants, chickpeas, and a green salad could get you burned at the stake during the Middle Ages? This information was concealed in the archives of the Spanish Inquisition. In 1991, access to some of the records was granted to scholars for the first time. David Gitlitz and Linda Davidson were given the opportunity to examine some of these documents. They co-wrote A Drizzle of Honey based on the information they uncovered in the chronicles of the Inquisition trials. It is a scholarly masterpiece and a cookbook that reveals the customs and prejudices of medieval Spain.

The book describes the types of foods that aroused suspicion mentioned in the archives of the Spanish Inquisition. According to Dr. Gitlitz, the Inquisitors looked for Jewish ritual foods, such as matza (unleavened bread) and haroset (a mixture of nuts and dry fruits), which would be prepared for Passover. They also examined the ways in which these foods were prepared, such as not cooking on Saturday (the Sabbath). The authors extracted this information from accusations and confessions recorded by the Inquisitors.

In order to figure out what the recipes may have been, Gitlitz and Davidson referred to medieval cookbooks, translating from Catalan, Portuguese, Castilian, and Arabic. Only six cookbooks written before 1492 in the Iberian Peninsula survive to the present. The ingredients described depended on the region and the season. Since the Inquisition lasted seven hundred years, the time period during which each book was written was also relevant. Some telltale ingredients and cooking techniques flagged by the Inquisition included frying in olive oil, butchering one’s own meat and soaking it in salt water, and serving foods at room temperature.

Every recipe is accompanied by a narrative of what the accused had done to arouse suspicion, and to be reported to the Inquisitors. Bathing, wearing clean clothes, and enjoying food with friends were all actionable wrongs, used to accuse people of observing Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath. Some recent converts to Catholicism got in trouble for not knowing when to abstain from certain foods, according to the Catholic tradition. In one case, Aldonza Lainez served a cheese casserole to some workers during Lent. She was reported to the Inquisition, and had to explain this oversight.

You may try some of these forbidden recipes on November 5, 2017 at the Mikveh Israel Synagogue. Chef Chad Satanoffsky will prepare several dishes from A Drizzle of Honey. The social hour will begin at 6:00 PM, and dinner will be at 7:00 PM. Dr. Gitlitz will attend. You may sign up just for the dinner. Please go to the a la carte options. The cost is $55. If you would like to explore this topic further, here is the information about the  Society of Crypto-Judaic Studies conference.

Hebrew Cookies for Simchat Torah

IMG_6068Simchat Torah is the celebration of the never-ending circle of Torah. One wonderful way to celebrate is by baking cookies in the shape of the first word in the Torah.

Simchat Torah services begin at sunset on Thursday, October 12. The last chapter of Deuteronomy is read, followed by the first chapter of Genesis. This is the only time of the year that the Torah scrolls are removed from the ark at night.


The first sentence of Genesis in Hebrew.

The first phrase in Genesis is “In the beginning.” In Hebrew, this is written as one word, “Bereishit.”

The whole family can have fun mixing sugar cookie dough, rolling it out, and cutting out the shapes of the Hebrew letters. You may use Alef-Bet cookie cutters, or a knife. A fun tactile activity is to sculpt the letters with the dough. This is much less fussy than rolling and cutting it.

Refrigerated sugar cookie dough is perfect for this if you are pressed for time. Alternatively, if you are too busy to bake, you may purchase some Alef Bet cookies. If you like, you may decorate your cookies with icing and colorful sugar sprinkles. As you bite into each sweet letter, you will be reminded of the sweetness of learning Torah.

Sugar CookiesIMG_6067

Adapted from Alton Brown

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  4. Roll out the dough.
  5. Cut out the letter shapes.
  6. Place the cookies on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
  7. Bake for about 10 minutes.