Strategic Feasting Before Fasting

During the 25-hour fast of Yom Kippur, many people suffer from dehydration, low sugar levels, and lack of caffeine. It is much easier to persevere and achieve success if you prepare well in advance.

Wean Yourself From Caffeine:

Photo: Nevit Dilmen

Photo: Nevit Dilmen.

The one thing regular coffee drinkers miss the most during Yom Kippur is coffee. They miss caffeine even more than water.

Coffee consumers should taper off their caffeine consumption during the week before Yom Kippur.

Avoid Dehydrating Foods:
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Sephardic Stuffed Rosh Hashanah Vegetables

Some Sephardic families have the tradition of not preparing any black foods during Rosh Hashanah in order to avoid the appearance of mourning. The mothers and grandmothers of these clans are famous for their delicious stuffed vegetables. For Rosh Hashanah, this dish is still prepared, using everything that is in season, except eggplants, black olives and dark raisins. Stella Cohen, the author of Stella’s Sephardic Table, shares her recipe for the queens of stuffed vegetables. [Read more…]

Back-to-School Bento Box

“What should I pack for lunch?” is a question many parents grapple with at the beginning of the school year. It’s not as simple as it seems to provide a healthy, nutritious meal that will actually be eaten by your child. One fun and creative solution is to send your child to school with your version of the Japanese bento box. [Read more…]

A la Karte: Boutique Kosher Catering

If you keep kosher, and you need to attend a business lunch in a non-kosher restaurant, what do you do? If you have a large family, and you are charged with cooking a kosher holiday meal for everyone, who can you call? If your family is Ashkefardic, and you would like to please all of their palates, who can cook authentically for both traditions? The answer is A la Karte Boutique Cuisine & Catering.

You don’t need to bring a brown bag to a lunch meeting in a non-kosher restaurant. Thanks to A la Karte, you may order something off the menu, and your dish will be kosher, while your lunch companions will get the regular restaurant fare. How is this possible? A la Karte has an arrangement with several restaurants in the Greater Philadelphia area to provide kosher versions of that particular restaurant’s cuisine. Of all of A la Karte’s boutique offerings, this one grabbed my attention the most.

IMG_0115With Rosh Hashanah approaching, many of us are planning a festive meal for our family and friends. It’s a lot of work! A la Karte is a wonderful resource. It is possible to order all of the traditional recipes from the extensive menu, no matter how large your group is. Best of all, A la Karte will deliver.

Ofelia Cohen, the proprietor of A la Karte, was born in Caracas, Venezuela. Coincidentally, I also grew up in Caracas, where the Jewish community was half Ashkenazi and half Sephardic. Both of us celebrated the Jewish holidays with Ashkenzi and Sephardic friends. We are used to serving foods from both traditions at our festive meals. A la Karte offers a unique menu for Rosh Hashanah, which features many of the foods, we remember enjoying during our childhood. You will find traditional Eastern European fare such as gefilte fish next to fiery North African chraime.

AaW_ic_L7mZg5z1rCVjHjyLTfGq5Chef Cohen trained as an architect before she fell in love with food. This background is put to good use in a service she calls tablescaping. For those who are too busy or artistically challenged to set a beautiful holiday table, Ofelia is available to take care of it.

She just signed a lease for a new location in Bala Cynwyd. A la Karte will be moving to the space currently occupied by Coopermarket, at 302 Levering Mill Road. Her vision is to create a prepared food kosher mini market. It will serve take out lunch or dinner, with eat-in option in a communal table. She hopes that guests of different walks of life have conversations there. She would like to see interactions between Orthodox, Reform, Conservative and totally secular Jews, all enjoying delicious kosher food together.

Lure Your Bashert with Roasted Grapes

640px-PikiWiki_Israel_3078_Ein_HahoreshSince the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, single women celebrated the beginning of the grape harvest by wearing white dresses and dancing in the vineyards. They were hoping to attract the attention of potential husbands. If pleasing the eye did not prove to be enough, some of them could try to reach their man’s heart through his stomach. An easy and delicious dish that was prepared during the grape harvest in Ancient Israel was freshly picked grapes, sprinkled with whatever herbs were growing in the vicinity, and roasted over an open fire. This was a savory treat, enjoyed with freshly baked flatbread. Its heady aroma could attract the men that may have been oblivious to the beauty of the Israelite women.

This tradition continues — in a more modernized form — in Israel today. When the sun sets this year on August 18, it will mark the beginning of the holiday of Tu b’Av, the Jewish celebration of love. Men and women dress in white and participate in various community events in the hopes of meeting their bashert (soulmate).

A fun activity you can try is to visit a farm that will let you pick your own grapes. If that is not possible, visit a farmer’s market, and buy the freshest grapes you can find. Roast them on your barbecue grill or in your oven.

Photo credit: F Delventhal

Photo credit: F Delventhal


Roasted Grapes

  • 1 cup fresh grapes
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. vinegar
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 °F.
  2. Mix all the ingredients.
  3. Place in an oven-safe dish.
  4. Roast for 15 minutes.
  5. Serve with fresh pita bread, Israeli goat cheese and olives.

Adapted from The View from Great Island

Ceviche: A Sephardic Gift to Peru

A Niche for Peruvian Fish Dish of Cevice at your Shabbat Tisch!

 

The origin of ceviche, the Peruvian national dish of fish in a citrus marinade, may be a Jewish Sabbath dish from the Iberian Peninsula. Some experts believe that a type of ceviche existed in Peru long before the Spanish arrived, in the form of raw fish flavored with fermented passionfruit juice. Escabeche is a type of fish dish that was typically served during Shabbat dinner in Spain, Portugal, and North Africa. The Jews adopted this method of preparation from the Persians. It was so well loved that it was even mentioned in “One Thousand and One Nights,” the collection of Arab folk tales.

To prepare escabeche, very fresh fish was cleaned and mixed with vinegar, olive oil, fresh laurel leaves, whole peppercorns, and wine. It was allowed to “cook” in this liquid for several hours. The escabeche was served cold. When America was colonized, many Sephardic Jews left the Iberian Peninsula to escape the Spanish Inquisition. They brought their recipes with them.

The conquistadores brought citrus fruits and onions with them to America. The recipes for escabeche were tweaked in the New World, and perhaps fused with the local Native Ameircan traditions. Sardines, Tuna, Mackerel, Hake, and Cod were used to make escabeche in Spain and Portugal. In Peru, Sea Bass and Flounder are popular choices in the preparation of ceviche. Instead of vinegar, fresh lime was used in the marinade.

This summer, try this refreshing way of preparing fish.

Photo by PROFoodie Buddha https://www.flickr.com/photos/foodiebuddha/

Photo by PROFoodie Buddha

Ceviche Clasico
Adapted from Pisco Trail

  • 1/4 Lb. very fresh sole or salmon (preferably sushi grade), cubed.
  • 1/2 tsp. salt.
  • 1/2 tsp. minced jalapeno pepper.
  • 1 tbsp. minced red onion.
  • 5 thin slices habanero pepper.
  • 1 boiled sweet potato, cubed.
  • Fresh coriander, minced.
  • 2 limes, juiced.
  1. Place the fish, salt, lime, onion, jalapeno and habanero peppers, sweet potato, and coriander in a bowl.
  2. Serve on a small plate.

Citron & Rose Tavern & Market: Lower Merion’s Kosher Food Nirvana

11025692_1621998434689092_3865754117068636563_oThe famous kosher restaurant C&R Kitchen is reinventing itself to meet the needs of the community in a much more all-encompassing way. The renamed Citron & Rose Tavern & Market will morph into a kosher high-end restaurant, take-out market, and catering venue. Just in time for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the former New Tavern Restaurant in Bala Cynwyd will be the destination of choice for prepared foods for the holiday table.

The restaurant will serve kosher versions of The New Tavern’s traditional menu such as soups and chicken Marsala, to appeal to every customer’s level of observance and budget. This restaurant will be inviting to the entire community, Jewish and non-Jewish, with its really good mainstream kosher food. It will have the highest level of dietary adherence and serve excellent contemporary food.
[Read more…]

Essen: A Little Jewish Bakery in South Philly

photo (7)As the aroma of freshly baked challah wafts down Passyunk Avenue, South Philly is returning to its Jewish roots. The source of the heavenly smell is Essen, a new Jewish bakery. “Essen,” which means, “eat!” in Yiddish, is the creation of Tova du Plessis.

Tova du Plessis, originally from Johannesburg, was dutifully studying to be a physician. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in biology, she pivoted toward her true love and attended culinary school. Ms. du Plessis honed her craft at Citron & Rose, Le Bec Fin, and The Rittenhouse Hotel. After the birth of her first child, she felt ready for another new challenge, and decided to open her own shop.

Serendipitously, the proprietor of her local bakery decided to pursue other opportunities. Tova du Plessis was able to rent the bakery with all of its equipment. She tapped into the memories of preparing Shabbat dinners with her mother in South Africa. Then, she tweaked the recipes a little bit.

13122909_487661448094640_5776031625427631548_oThree types of challah are baked at Essen. There is a fragrant, slightly sweet plain challah, a saltier seeded challah, and an exotic za’atar challah. Fresh labaneh with olive oil and za’atar is available for purchase to pair with the za’atar challah. These challahs are soft, chewy, moist, and pareve. I bought all three for Shabbat dinner. When my father bit into the plain challah, he told my mother, “this is just like the ones you bake!”

Jewish apple cake, chocolate chip – sea salt cookies, and cheese cake with house made strawberry preserves are baked on the premises. The crowning cakes of the display case are the babkas. These delicious yeast cakes are baked with cinnamon and hazelnuts or chocolate and halva.

13112996_484225865104865_1420751969339691223_oI must confess that the chocolate-halva babka was so wickedly decadent that I knew that it would be a sin for me to tempt anyone who knows me with it. This is why I sat at a table in the corner of Essen’s cozy café and ate the whole delicious slice by myself.

Essen Bakery
Address: 1437 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Phone:(215) 271-2299
Hours:
Friday 8AM–6PM
Saturday 8AM–6PM
Sunday 8AM–3PM
Monday Closed
Tuesday Closed
Wednesday 8AM–6PM
Thursday 8AM–6PM
https://www.facebook.com/essenbakery/

Grilled Pizza For Dad

Celebrate Father’s Day with individualized grilled pizzas. This meal is very easy to pull together, even if you have young children. You may purchase refrigerated pizza dough. Set out bowls with different toppings, such as olives, mushrooms, sliced onions, minced peppers, etc., and let the whole family have fun making the pizza of their choice.

Grilled Pizza

  • Refrigerated pizza dough
  • Olive oil
  • Tomato sauce
  • A selection of shredded cheeses such as: mozzarella, cheddar, Colby, Gruyere, Emmental, Edam, blue, or chevre
  1. Heat the grill.
  2. Rub the grates with olive oil.
  3. Flatten the pizza dough, and brush with olive oil.
  4. Place the pizza dough on the grill and cover.
  5. Cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Remove the pizza dough from the grill and turn it over.
  7. Spread some tomato sauce on the dough.
  8. Sprinkle some grated cheese over the tomato sauce.
  9. Place the pizza on the grill and cover.
  10. Cook for about 3 minutes.

Israeli Cheesecake for Shavuot

Photo by Christian Guthier https://www.flickr.com/photos/wheatfields/

Photo: Christian Guthier

Shavuot is the celebration of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is also an agricultural holiday marking the beginning of the wheat harvest in Israel. It is traditional to eat dairy products during Shavuot. Israelis celebrate Shavuot with an iconic cheesecake called Ugat Gvina (cheese cake). They can thank the German Templers for introducing the most important ingredient in this cake to Israel.

In 1868, the first group of these German Protestants settled at the foot of Mount Carmel. They established a colony there, followed by Sarona, near Jaffa, and the Valley of Refaim in Jerusalem. They were called “Templers” since they hoped to hasten the coming of the Messiah by facilitating the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Templers (no relation to the medieval Knights Templars) created the Jaffa orange brand and founded the first dairy farm with cows in Ottoman Palestine. Sheep and goats had exclusively provided milk up to this point. The Germans made one of their favorite dairy products at this dairy: quark cheese.

Quark cheese is a soft fresh cheese, traditionally made without rennet. It is popular throughout Northern Europe. Milk that has soured is slowly warmed until it curdles. The mix is strained through a cheesecloth, and then served. Quark cheese is lower fat than cream cheese. It has a lighter, drier, and grainier texture. The Vermont Creamery makes a kosher Quark cheese. This is the essential ingredient that gives Israeli cheesecake its light texture and distinctive flavor.

What I think of as “Israeli cheesecake” is really a German recipe introduced by the Templers.

Photo by kersy83 https://www.flickr.com/photos/kersy83/

Photo: kersy83

Israeli Cheesecake
Adapted from allrecipes

  • 18 oz. Quark cheese
  • 2 1/8 cups milk
  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp. Vanilla sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Coat a 9 inch cake pan with oil.
  3. In a large bowl, combine butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 egg, flour, and baking powder.
  4. Press into the bottom and sides of the cake pan.
  5. In a clean bowl, mix the quark cheese, vegetable oil, 3/4 cup sugar, vanilla sugar, pudding mix, egg yolks, 1 egg, milk, and lemon juice.
  6. Pour the mixture over the crust.
  7. Bake for 60 minutes.