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.

Lag BaOmer Poike

Photo by אסף.צ https://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%9E%D7%A9%D7%AA%D7%9E%D7%A9:%D7%90%D7%A1%D7%A3.%D7%A6

Photo: אסף .צ

Israel owes one of its most popular Lag BaOmer traditions to the Jewish community of South Africa. When the State of Israel was established in 1948, the proudly Zionist South African Jews provided it with the most financial support per capita of any other community in the diaspora. Just as importantly, the South African olim introduced the potjie (pronounced “poike”) to Israel. This special pot, and the stew named for it, is an indispensable part of the Israeli Lag BaOmer celebration.

A potjie is a type of Dutch oven that was brought to South Africa by the Boer colonists from the Netherlands in the 1800s. This cast iron cauldron means “little pot.” It has three small legs and a wire handle. It can be nestled among the coals of a campfire or suspended over a flame.

To prepare the potjie stew, a little oil is heated in the Dutch oven. Then, lamb cubes are browned. Some alcohol is added for flavor, usually beer, sherry, or dessert wine. The potjie chef seasons the stew, usually very conservatively. Amazingly, garlic is not a popular ingredient. The pot is covered tightly with the lid, and the stew is left to steam slowly. It is not customary to stir the contents of the pot, so that when the potjie is ready, there are layers of flavors in the stew.

Photo By Chrstphr.jones (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Chrstpher Jones

Lamb Potjie
Adapted from Joburg South
4 pounds cubed lamb
4 tbsp. olive oil
4 onions, chopped
5 celery stalks, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 potatoes, chopped
1/2 lb. green beans, with the ends cut off
2 fresh bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup red wine
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin

Heat the pot over medium hot coals.
Combine the flour, salt, cumin, and coriander.
Coat the lamb cubes with the flour mixture.
Heat the olive oil in the pot.
Brown the lamb cubes.
Take the lamb cubes out of the pot and set aside.
Place the onions and celery in the pot, and fry them a little bit.
Add the lamb cubes to the vegetables.
Pour in the stock, red wine, fresh thyme, and bay leaves.
Close the lid tightly and allow to cook for one hour.
Add the potatoes.
After 30 minutes, add the carrots.
Cook for 15 minutes, and add the green beans.
Wait 10 minutes.
Serve with rice, noodles, or fresh pita bread.

Israeli Independence Day Cupcakes

David Ben Gurion declared Israel’s independence on May 14, 1948. In the Hebrew calendar, this is the 5th of Iyar. Yom Ha’atzmaut, the national day commemorating Israel’s declaration of independence, is celebrated on this date every year.

As the sun sets, an official ceremony is held by the Israeli government at Mt. Herzl to celebrate. Twelve torches, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel, are lit. When the ceremony concludes, fireworks illuminate the skies.

The next day, the International Bible Contest is held. High school students from around the world compete for a scholarship to Bar Ilan University.

Commanders and fellow soldiers select 120 IDF soldiers who have performed their duty to their country in an outstanding way. They receive an award from the president of Israel at his residence.

The Israel Prize, the highest honor that Israel awards, is handed out. It is given for achievements in the humanities, the sciences, culture, and lifetime achievement.

The celebrations include visits to IDF bases. Weapons are exhibited for the civilian guests.

Many people participate in a festive meal, which is usually a potluck picnic barbecue. This year, Yom Ha’atzmaut falls on May 11th. You may experience this festive tradition by hosting your own Israel themed dinner. A fun activity for your family and guests is to decorate their own Israeli Flag inspired cupcakes. You may buy or bake cupcakes. Then, decorate with frosting, sugar sprinkles and Israeli flag toothpicks.

Easy Vanilla Cupcake
Adapted from The Food Network.

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 12 tbsp. butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Place cupcake liners in a muffin baking tray.
  3. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
  4. Spoon batter into each cupcake liner until it is 2/3 full.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes.

White Frosting
Adapted from MyRecipes.

  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp. milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  1. Beat all the ingredients together in a mixer.
  2. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely.
  3. Decorate with frosting, candy, and Israeli flags.

Freedom and Kitniyot For All!

Photo by By CSIRO, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35476067

Photo: Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization

In 1989 the Law Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel issued a responsum to the question Ashkenazi Jews ask every Passover: “Why are we not permitted to eat kitniyot (legumes), while Sephardic Jews are?” The Rabbinical Assembly concluded that this is a “mistaken custom” and that Ashkenazi Jews are permitted to consume kitniyot as well. This responsum technically only applies to people living in Israel. Ashkenazi Jews who live elsewhere, will need to clear this with their own rabbi if they would also like to change their family’s custom. Also this Passover season for the first time the Conservative movement has authorized Ashkenazi Jews to eat kitniyot.

If we go back to the source, the Torah has the following to say about chametz: First, we are told not to eat unleavened bread during the seven days of Passover, and to remove all leavened bread from our homes. Jews living in the diaspora added an additional day to make sure they complied with the observance of Passover on the right days of the Hebrew Calendar.

Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; howbeit the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses; for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel. (Exodus 12:15).

Then the Torah instructs us not to have any leavened bread on our property or temporary place of residence during the seven (or eight in the diaspora) days of Passover.

Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses; for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a sojourner, or one that is born in the land.

The significance of Passover is summarized by Moses in Exodus 13:3:

And Moses said unto the people: ‘Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place; there shall no leavened bread be eaten.’

The rabbis who wrote the Mishnah (10-220 CE) ruled that five types of grain were permitted for baking matzah. These are wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats. When these grains are mixed with water they ferment very quickly. They instructed that the dough must be mixed and baked in eighteen minutes or the matzah would not be considered “unleavened bread.” When analyzing rice and sesame seeds, these rabbis noted that when these were combined with water, they decayed, they did not ferment. Therefore, they were not considered chametz.

In the thirteenth century, the rabbis of Provence prohibited the consumption of rice and kitniyot during Passover. This custom spread throughout Europe. No clear reason for this new prohibition was ever provided. Some rabbis in other cities objected to this ruling, saying that it was a mistaken custom, a foolish custom, and an unnecessary stringency.

The question facing the rabbis today is, may they change a mistaken custom? They concluded that they may and they must. Doing away with this custom will return the focus of Passover to the original intent of the Torah. It will enhance the enjoyment of Passover by offering a greater variety of foods. The new ruling will make the celebration more affordable. One of the best results of this initiative is that it will lessen friction between the Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews, who will finally be able to enjoy the same foods together at the Seder.

I am an “Ashkefardic” Jew, from a “mixed” family. The Passover battles of my grandparent’s generation are legendary. The preparations for the Seder always started with a fight, which wasn’t even about the relatives. The topic was the same every year: rice or potatoes. The end result was a lose-lose truce, neither rice nor potatoes. Matzah was the only starch served during the festive meal.

Thanks to this new ruling, there may be more shalom bayit, or peace in the home. Some of the kitniyot permitted by the Sephardic Passover Guide are “Anise, Beans, Black Eyed Peas, Buckwheat, Canola Oil, Caraway, Chickpeas, Confectioners’ sugar with corn starch, Coriander, Corn, Corn Syrup, Cumin, Fennel, Fenugreek, Flax Seeds, Hemp, Kasha, Lentils, Licorice, Millet, Mustard, Peanuts, Popcorn, Poppy Seeds, Rice, Sesame Seeds, Snow Peas, Soy Oil, Corn Oil, Soy, String Beans, Sunflower Seeds, Tofu (from soy).”

This is a wonderful development for vegetarians and vegans. For the uninitiated, here are some of the most beloved recipes with kitniyot for Passover.

In the Jewish communities of Sicily, Egypt, Turkey, and Greece fava beans ripened just as Passover was celebrated. It was traditional to include a dish with fava beans at the Seder.

Photo by boo lee

Photo by boo lee

Braised Artichokes with Fava Beans (Anjinara con Aves)
Adapted from The Sephardic Kitchen by Rabbi Robert Sternberg

  • 8 artichokes
  • 1 pound fava beans
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, minced
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Place all the ingredients except the salt, pepper, and fresh dill in a large pot.
  2. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer.
  3. Cover the pot and cook for 45 minutes.
  4. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and dill.

The Syrian Jewish community has a beautiful rice dish reserved for special occasions such as the Passover Seder. This dish is famous for the beautiful golden hue and rich aroma extracted from the saffron it is spiced with.

Saffron Rice (Riz w’Zafran)
Adapted from Aromas of Aleppo by Poopa Dweck

  • 1 cup white rice
  • 3 saffron threads
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of ground cardamom
  • 1/2 cup toasted almond, pine nuts, or pistachios
  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot.
  2. Add the onion, and sauté over medium heat until translucent.
  3. Pour 1 1/2 cups of cold water into the pot.
  4. Bring to a boil.
  5. Season with the saffron, cinnamon stick, salt, and cardamom.
  6. Add the rice and bring back to a boil.
  7. Lower the heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.
  8. Sprinkle with the toasted nuts when ready to serve.

Blood Orange Salad Sicilian-Style

It is the end of the orange growing season in Israel. The blood oranges are the last to ripen. Their deep vermillion hues are like the final brushstrokes of the setting winter sun. One of the best ways to feature this tangy citrus fruit is in a Sicilian salad, which marries the flavors of winter oranges with new spring herbs.

Photo by Erich Ferdinand https://www.flickr.com/photos/erix/

Photo by Erich Ferdinand

Blood Orange Salad Sicilian-Style
Adapted from Tasting Sicily

Ingredients:

  • 4 blood oranges
  • Parsley
  • Green onion
  • Anchovy filet
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Peel and cut up the blood oranges.
  2. Chop up the green onion and parsley.
  3. Mash the anchovy filet.
  4. Mix everything together in a large bowl.
  5. Season to taste with salt, black pepper, and olive oil.