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 food@pjvoice.org

Tropical Rosh Hashanah Chicken

As members of the Mexican Jewish community begin to plan their Rosh Hashanah menus, they discuss recipes for dishes such as gefilte fish and keftes de prasas (leek fritters). Most families preserve the Ashkenazi or Sephardic recipes they brought with them to Mexico. They also incorporate some local exotic ingredients to enhance the celebration. One dish that has made its way to many Rosh Hashanah tables is chicken cooked in a tamarind sauce. Tamarind chicken blends the sour flavors of the tamarind fruit with the complex sweetness of sugarcane and the smoke-dried spiciness of the chipotle pepper. The combination of these ingredients makes for a fun and interesting new year: a little bit tart, a little bit sweet and a little bit spicy.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tamarind2.jpg

Tamarinds. Photo: Mlvalentin.

Tamarind chicken is a Mexican dish that was made possible by the Spanish colonists. Tamarind is a very tart fruit encased in a leathery brown pod. Originally from Africa, it was nicknamed the “Indian date” because it has grown in India for so long. The tamarind was brought to America by the Spanish conquistadors. Its acid notes are tempered in tamarind chicken with sweetness from the sugarcane.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Panela.JPG

Piloncillo. Photo: Camilo Sanchez.

Christopher Columbus was the first to import sugarcane to America, planting it in Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Once the colony of New Spain was founded, which included what is now the country of Mexico, sugarcane plantations were established. The Spanish colonists learned to tame the tartness of the tamarind with the smoky, caramelly sweetness of the piloncillo. Piloncillo is made from crushed sugarcane. The sugarcane is pressed and its juice is collected in a pot. Then it is boiled and poured into a mold. When the juice dries, it hardens into a cake. Piloncillo has a stronger and richer flavor than brown sugar. For tamarind chicken, the tartness of the tamarind and the sweetness of the piloncillo are accentuated with the smoky heat of the chipotle pepper.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Capsicum_annuum_chipotle_dried.jpg

Chipotle. Photo: User:Carstor.

When the Spaniards arrived, the Nahuatl tribe lived in the area that is now Mexico. They introduced the colonists to the chipotle, a jalapeño pepper that is preserved by drying in smoke. Jalapeños are native to Mexico, and the name chipotle comes from the Nahuatl word chilpoctli, which means smoked chili. Chipotle peppers had been cultivated and consumed for thousands of years before the Spaniards arrived in Mexico. Newcomers to Mexico, including the Jews, have incorporated them into their cuisines. Chipotle peppers add subtle heat to the tamarind chicken.

Chicken in Tamarind Sauce

  • 1 cut-up chicken
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup tamarind paste
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup grated piloncillo or brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 dried chipotle chile
  1. Place the water, tamarind paste and piloncillo in a pot.
  2. Bring to a boil, and then turn off the flame.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  4. Pour the tamarind mixture into a blender. Add the garlic and balsamic vinegar, and process until smooth.
  5. Place the chicken in a large glass bowl, and pour the tamarind marinade over it. Mix it well, so the chicken is coated on all sides.
  6. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  7. Pour the chicken and marinade into a casserole dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake at 350 °F for 30 minutes.
  8. Take the foil off, and allow to bake for 10 more minutes.

Adapted from Sonia Ortiz.

King Solomon’s Dinner From Whole Foods

King Solomon’s Table, by James Beard Award-winner Joan Nathan, is a fascinating journey of Jewish recipes that takes readers through centuries and across continents. Chefs at Whole Foods were so impressed with the recipes from this book that they partnered with Nathan to make some of the dishes available at stores for the High Holidays. As a result, this Rosh Hashanah you may order traditional Ashkenazi dishes from Whole Foods, as well as specialties from the Sephardic and Mizrahi table.

Whole Foods is making an effort to reach out to the Jewish community with ancient recipes that are now new again. Long forgotten grains, such as freekeh, have been incorporated into some of these recipes.

People who love “King Solomon’s Table,” but don’t have the time or inclination to cook the recipes for their Rosh Hashanah dinner, will now have the convenience of being able to purchase some of Nathan’s recipes at Whole Foods (available only in the Mid-Atlantic states). Orders may also be placed online. This year, it is possible to purchase Jewish Italian cod, sweet and sour cabbage, seven species salad, sweet noodle kugel and tahini cookies.

For those who would like to cook a recipe from “King Solomon’s Table,” here is a delicacy from the Syrian Jewish community.

Keftes Garaz: Meatballs with Cherries and Tamarind

  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) pine nuts
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups or 350 grams)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds (907 grams) ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground Aleppo or Marash pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste or ketchup
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, fresh

Sauce

  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) olive oil
  • 1 1/2 onions, diced (1 1/3 cups or 165 grams)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
  • 2 cups (440 grams) pitted
 sour cherries or frozen dark red cherries
  • 2 cups (440 grams) dried cherries
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) beef stock
  • 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) red wine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley or cilantro
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Toast the pine nuts by stirring often in a small dry skillet over medium heat, until lightly brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove to a medium bowl.
  2. Sauté the onions in the oil in a nonstick frying pan until lightly caramelized, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Add the onions to the pine nuts, and then add the ground beef, garlic, Aleppo or Marash pepper, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Break the eggs into the bowl and stir in the tamarind and tomato paste or ketchup, mixing gently with your hands until just combined. Then add just enough breadcrumbs for the meat to become clammy.
  4. Take about 1 1/2 tablespoons of meat and slap the beef several times into the center of the palm of your hand to emulsify. Shape into small meatballs, about 1 1/4 inches in diameter. Put on two rimmed baking sheets and bake for about 20 minutes, or until done but still juicy. You should get about 36 meatballs.
  5. While the meatballs are baking, make the sauce: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until transparent. Then add the tamarind, pitted sour or frozen cherries, dried cherries, lemon juice, allspice, salt, pepper, beef stock and wine. Simmer together for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened.
  6. Mix the meatballs with the sauce and serve, sprinkled with chopped parsley or cilantro, over rice.

Note: You can make this dish ahead and freeze if you like. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight, and then reheat in a pan, covered, over medium heat until warm.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Recipe reprinted with permission.

Find Love With Israeli Sponge Cake

Doves. Photo by Robert Taylor https://www.flickr.com/photos/bobolink/

Doves. Photo by Robert Taylor

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…]

Chocolate-Coffee Icebox Cake

 Photo by t-dawg https://www.flickr.com/photos/wheatland/

Chocolate Coffee Cake. Photo by T-dawg

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…]

Khachapuri: Georgia’s Gift to Israel

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.

Khachapuri
(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
  1. Heat the water and milk to 115 ℉.
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Cover with a clean towel and put in a warm place.
  4. Allow the dough to rise for 1 hour.
  5. 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
  • Butter

Mix the three types of cheese together in a bowl.

To assemble the Khachapuri:

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 ℉.
  2. Roll out the dough.
  3. Cut out 4 ovals.
  4. Roll up the sides and pinch the ends to make your Khachapuri look like a canoe.
  5. Stuff each one with the cheese.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Take the khachapuri out of the oven.
  8. Beat one egg with 1 teaspoon of water to make an egg wash.
  9. Brush each Khachapuri with the egg wash.
  10. Break one egg in the center of each Khachapuri.
  11. 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.

Israeli Avocado Salad

Photo by T.Tseng https://www.flickr.com/photos/68147320@N02/

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

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado, mashed
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 1 lemon or lime, squeezed
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Preparation:

  • In a large bowl, combine the mashed avocado with the minced onion.
    Season to taste with lemon juice, salt, and black pepper.

Café Ole: Philadelphia’s Shakshuka Queen

Egg and tomato mixture in pan. Photo by cyclonebill https://www.flickr.com/photos/cyclonebill/

Photo by cyclonebill

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…]

Rhubarb: The Savory Vegetable of the Jews of the East

Photo by RhubarbFarmer

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…]

Food Chat: The Evolution of Jewish Cooking

As part of the national celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month, the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) hosted Evolution of Jewish Cooking in America, a conversation with Steven Cook, Joan Nathan, Michael Solomonov and Molly Yeh. The event was moderated by food writer and editor Devra Ferst. It was held before a capacity crowd of 230 people, with others tuning in via Facebook. [Read more…]

Lag B’Omer Hot Dog Bar

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.

Sausages:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Lamb
  • Venison
  • Fish
  • Vegetarian

Bread:

  • Rolls
  • An assortment of sliced breads
  • Pitas
  • Tortillas

Fixings:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Potato chips
  • Corn chips
  • Chili
  • Guacamole
  • Pickles
  • Hot peppers
  • Sweet peppers
  • Diced onions
  • Coleslaw
  • Hummus