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

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

Israeli Independence Day Parrillada

Photo by verovera78 https://www.flickr.com/photos/verovera/

Photo by verovera78.

Israelis traditionally party on Independence Day, Yom Haatzmaut, with a mangel, or Israeli barbecue. They season their meats with traditional Middle Eastern spice mixtures. The huge aliyah of Jews from Argentina has also brought recipes from one of the best cuisines of South America to Israel, including Argentinian parrillada, or barbecue.

When the sun sets on May 1, the celebrations — and the grilling — will begin. [Read more…]

Elementary School Foodies Recommend Healthy Recipes

— by Yehudeet Gore

IMG_0724At Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia, first- and second-grade “foodies” are learning about smart eating in a group called Food Power, and they have some healthy snacks to share with The Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

Guided by the Choose My Plate format, the six students hope to become experts on the food groups and the importance of balanced meals and snacks. Nate Bleier, Irmiyahu Rubin, Yaakov Noam Shrager, Shira Ben Samuel, Ahuva Ludzker and Sruli Fineman have created “superfood superheroes,” played meal-building games, and prepared extra-nutritious “power snacks.” They even took a trip to Nana’s Kitchen to learn an all-senses lesson in herbs, and they created smoothies in all colors and tastes.

[Read more…]