Freekeh, Lentil, and Parsley Pilaf

Sometimes, very early on Saturday morning, when the spirit moves me, and I have time, I get on the bike and go exploring the Judean hills.

Since it is Saturday morning the road is quite empty, I only encounter farmers tending to their small plots of land. This is a good opportunity to purchase freshly-harvested local freekeh.  

Freekeh is wheat that is still green. It needs to be roasted before it can be cooked.

The green wheat berries are slow roasted over coals in their hulls. Then, the peel is rubbed off. The roasting imparts a smoky flavor to the freekeh. I cook it like rice. Here is my recipe.

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Blackbird Pizzeria: A Fresh Perspective on Vegan Food

— by Ronit Treatman

How good can vegan pizza possibly be?  

Skeptical omnivore that I am, I was sure that I would leave Blackbird Pizzeria not feeling satisfied. I must admit that I was wrong.

I discovered the pizzeria’s kosher food last year, when I presented at Hazon’s Philadelphia Food Conference, where the restaurant’s offerings were featured at the lunch. My lunch was so good that it inspired me to visit the restaurant.

Full review after the jump.
The restaurant reminded me of the pizzerias I had gone to in Vermont. Everything is made from scratch, using only the finest ingredients.

The chefs are fanatical about the quality of the food they prepare. While conversing with them, I discovered that they are all vegans at home as well.

My pizza and salad were prepared to the highest standards. The chefs use the finest quality high-gluten flour for their pizza crusts, and fresh ingredients for their sauces.

The secret to their success is the Daiya vegan “cheese.” This product is kosher and free of all animal products. The “cheese” on my pizza melted like dairy mozzarella. It had great mouth feel, and I loved the flavor. Their specialty pizza menu is very creative, borrowing flavors from the Far East, Mexico, and Italy.

The restaurant also offers a wide array of vegetarian sandwiches. The bread is very fresh, and each sandwich is layered with crisp vegetables, daiya cheese, seitan, or tofu. It also offers seitan “chicken wings,” which have a wonderfully crunchy exterior, and are very spicy.

The salads at the restaurant are composed of mainly raw vegetables, which taste as though they were all sourced from a local farmer’s market.

I tried the beet salad. It was a beautiful combination of red and golden beets over arugula. Orange segments and smoked shallots added to the flavors, and pumpkin seeds were sprinkled over it for crunch. It came with a delicious shallot-thyme vinaigrette.  

The final surprise came when I tasted their brownie. Although it was baked without eggs or butter, it had a very dense, decadent chocolate flavor. I don’t know how they did it, but I will definitely come back for more!

Blackbird Pizzeria
507 South 6th Street

Hours: Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Phone number: (215)625-6660

Hashgacha (supervision): International Kosher Council (IKC)

Lose Weight the Kosher Way

Oct. 28, 2012 – 220 lb. Maximum weight. Apr. 15, 2013 – 208 lb. Start Medifast. Jul. 15, 2013 – 168 lb. Begin transition. Aug.  5, 2013 – 164 lb. End transition. Mar. 14, 2014 – 158 lb. Attained goal. Jan. 29, 2015 - 160 lb. Current weight.

Oct. 28, 2012 – 220 lb. Maximum weight.
Apr. 15, 2013 – 208 lb. Start Medifast.
Jul. 15, 2013 – 168 lb. Begin transition.
Aug. 5, 2013 – 164 lb. End transition.
Mar. 14, 2014 – 158 lb. Attained goal.
Jan. 29, 2015 – 160 lb. Current weight.

The Medifast diet has been my key to weight-loss success. I lost over 50 pounds and I have kept it off.

As long as I can remember I have had a problem with my weight. I tried a number of diets — including Atkins and Weight Watchers — with some success, but they all required a level of self-deprivation which I could not sustain, and inevitably I would regain any weight I might have lost.

Last Spring, my daughter was pestering me to try the Medifast diet, telling me how well she was doing on it. Needless to say, I was extremely skeptical given my experiences in the past. However, Gabby is quite persistent, so I let her place an order for me figuring I would try it for a few days  and when it failed, I would give any leftover food to her since it was working for her. (She went on to lose 60 pounds or about one-third of her weight!)

Despite my half-hearted commitment to the program, I immediately saw weight loss day after day, and I was surprised by how easy it was.

More after the jump.

On the Medifast diet, you eat low-carb portion-controlled meals every three hours plus a small “lean and green” meal (fresh vegetables and proteins) along with some optional snacks. I soon realized that the only times I was actually hungry was when by force of habit I neglected to eat for three hours.

There are about 70 different pre-portioned meals to choose from. Most of these are certified Kosher by the Orthodox Union. (Note that the “Vegetable Chili” is not listed since it contains beef stock and should be avoided by vegetarians and observant Jews.)

Some food is ready-to-eat (candy bars, pretzels and the like) and some requires preparation in a blender, microwave or stove-top. Each meal has similar nutritional values, so you can pick whichever one piques your interest, or even combine them to increase the variety of possible dishes using recipes that can be found online at fan websites. For example, you can combine pancake mix and brownie mix to make chocolate cake, or banana smoothie mix with pancake mix to make banana bread.

When I would see someone having a high-calorie treat like ice cream, pizza, muffins, pretzels or candy bars, I wouldn’t be jealous. Instead I would say “That is a good idea. I can do that too. I think I’ll grab a Medifast Caramel Crunch Bar” or mix up some soft-serve ice cream with Medifast powder in a blender or fry up a Medifast pancake with chocolate chips. Instead other people would be jealous of me seeing me eat what looks like a candy bar in the middle of the morning or afternoon. People might think I am glutton for eating all the time, but what do I care when I know that I am moving from “obese” to “overweight” to “normal”.

The Kaiserman JCC held their “Biggest Winner” contest during this time and I was proud to take 1st place having lost 14.83% of my weight during the contest.

As I reentered the “normal” zone, I used the Medifast transition plan for about a month, and have now successfully maintained my healthy weight for the last few months.

Gabby has now become a Medifast coach and is helping other people achieve their weight loss goals on her website. The coaching is free. You only have to pay for the food.

Weight loss has changed our lives and we would love to share our success. If you or anyone you know is struggling with his or her weight, please contact me or Gabby. We would be delighted to help.


The New Home-Made Gazoz

— by Ronit Treatman

In primeval times, the earliest humans enjoyed effervescent water from springs in which sodium carbonate from underground rocks dissolved into the water. This created the first natural soda.  

In the 18th century, Joseph Priestly discovered that holding a bowl of water over a vat of beer would infuse the water with carbon dioxide. This was the first homemade seltzer water.

Soda syphons were invented in the 1800s. These were special bottles that could dispense soda without releasing all of the trapped gases, and kept the soda from going flat. Syphons were very popular in the 1920s and 1930s.  

During World War II, the syphon factories in Europe were bombed. Carbonated water began to be commercially bottled and marketed, and soda syphons fell out of favor.

Recipe after the jump.

Soda syphons fell out of favor in Europe after World War II.

In Israel, however, soda syphons remained popular well into the 1960s. The soda they produced was called gazoz. As a special treat, children were allowed to mix the plain seltzer water with a sweetened fruit syrup concentrate.  

Now the pendulum is swinging back: Due to concern for the environmental impact of disposable soda containers, many people are returning to the tradition of making their own seltzer water at home. Instead of adding the sugar-laden syrups of the past, they are flavoring their sodas with fresh fruit.

I initiated the switch in my house by purchasing a soda-making machine from Sodastream. I chose the SodaStream Penguin Sparkling Water Maker. It comes with dishwasher-safe glass bottles. Once it arrived, it was time to get creative and make some delicious sodas.

Some of the most refreshing drinks I know are called aguas frescas, “fresh waters” in Spanish. They are made with natural tropical fruit juices, mixed with cold water. I saw no reason why this would not taste even better with carbonated water.  

Where would I get all the fresh tropical fruits that I craved in February in Philadelphia? I decided to reach straight to the source: Goya Foods sells unsweetened tropical fruit pulp. The fruits are picked at the peak of ripeness, and processed on the spot. The pulp is frozen to lock in the flavor, and then shipped to the U.S.

Here is an easy recipe for aguas frescas. I like my drinks tart, but you may sweeten yours with natural grape or apple juice. Goya Foods sells the pulp of passion fruit, papaya, mango, tamarind, guava, and coconut, among others.  

Passion Fruit Gazoz

  • 1 tablespoon passion fruit pulp
  • 1 cup of sparkling water
  • 1 tablespoon grape or apple juice (or other juice to taste)
  • ice cubes
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a glass.  
  2. Stir well and enjoy!

Make Food Fun for Kids!

— by Sarina Roffé

We get so many of our eating habits from when we are children, that it is important to teach them good habits at a young age. It seems that childhood obesity has become a national epidemic. In my granddaughter’s school this year, junk food was forbidden with lunch. The rule was a protein, a veggie and a fruit. No chips, pretzels or cookies. Lunches became more difficult when the school became a peanut free zone, and we now had to think harder about lunches. The no snack rule permeated the school and because it was a school-wide, the children learned not to expect junk food. Teaching children these good habits helps them to live a healthier lifestyle. It also helps your children avoid being overweight.

More after the jump.
There are many ways to make healthy food fun for your child. A few hints. Make sandwiches fun by using cookie cutters and letting them cut out shapes in their sandwiches. Slice carrots and use cherry tomatoes or other veggies to make faces on a sandwich. Use strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and banana slices to make food art – a butterfly, or caterpillar. Make faces out of rice cakes using apple slices for ears. Make orange juice ice pops during the summer. As parents, it is our responsibility to promote healthy eating in our children so that it becomes a habit. Check out the recipes on our website and in our app, due out later this summer.

Sarina’s Sephardic Cuisine is a collection of kosher family recipes derived from Esther Cohen Salem, Sarina’s grandmother, and Renee Salem Missry, her mother. The authentic recipes in the cooking app were handed down from mother to daughter with love and are traditional foods found in the Levant.

Italians Fall in Love With Jewish Goose Salami

— by Daniela Enriquez

One of Italy’s newest culinary trends is coming from an unexpected source: the country’s Jewish heritage.

The Cantone family, which has been producing goose salami for more than 40 years, wrote in its website that the connection between the area of Lomellina, Italy and the sausage is dating back to the 11th century.

Today, Italian goose salami is becoming much more popular, and even has a group of aficionados.

An Italian journalist and visiting scholar at the Center for Transatlantic Relations in Washington, D.C., Daniel Moro, said that “Italian goose salami is better than the meat from France.”

More after the jump.
For the last three years, The Brunoldi Ceci Association organized an annual “Jewish Style Lunch” in Lomellina to showcase the trend, with the help of other institutions, such as the Order of the Frog and Goose Salami of Lomellina.

In the latest event, last November, the attendance more than doubled compared to the previous year: about 100 participants, 80% of whom non-Jews. Except for Moro, the president of the Jewish Agency in Italy, Claudia De Benedetti, was also present.

This event is part of the “Traditions and Traces of Jewish Cuisine” initiative, which focuses on the strong link between Northern Italy, in particular the area between Milan and Turin, and the tradition of making goose salami.

Locals showed strong interest in this tradition, as they have finally discovered the origin of the “Jewish Pork,” which they have been eating for centuries.

The Brunoldi Ceci Association’s spokesperson, Gianluca Cominetti, said, “We owe the success of our initiative to the strong link that exists between Jewish cuisine and our land.”

Following the pattern of the past two events, everything about the lunch was “goose based,” with dishes made of geese exclusively from the Lomellina area:

Synagogue of Casale Monferrato.

The lunch began with an appetizer of goose liver and salami. A goose and bean risotto constituted the first dish, and stewed goose with polenta was served as the second.

The meal was accompanied by kosher Italian wines: Bonarda Croatina, Bonarda Donelasco and Barbera del Monferrato Kasher.

Topping off the meal was the traditional Krumiri, a biscotti home-made by the Rossi-Portinaro family since 1878.

The event was concluded with a guided tour of the Synagogue of Casale Monferrato.

Moro said that “plans for exporting these kosher products to the U.S., in particular goose salami, are in the works. In fact, Italy already exports kosher Italian wines and biscotti to the New World.”

Tahini-Carrot Cake for Tu B’Shvat

— by Ronit Treatman

During the holiday of Tu B’Shvat, the “New Year of the Trees,” it is always freezing in Philadelphia. I enjoy celebrating with foods that incorporate dry fruits and nuts, to honor the trees, and in hopes that spring will arrive soon.  

One of Israel’s most creative chefs, Yaron Albalak, has created a cake for Tu B’Shvat which is infused with the flavors of Israel’s trees. Almond extract, date honey, dried apricots and pistachio nuts pay homage to the bounty nature has blessed us with.  

This moist, delicious cake pairs perfectly with a cup of hot tea.

Full recipe after the jump.
Tahini-Carrot Cake — Adapted from chef Yaron Albalak

For the batter:

  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur or almond extract
  • 1/2 cup raw tahini paste
  • 1/2 cup unsulfured dry apricots, chopped
  • 2 cups carrots, grated
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the garnish:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place all of the ingredients for the batter in a bowl, and mix well.
  3. Pour into an oiled Bundt pan.
  4. Bake for 50 minutes. (Check the cake with a wooden toothpick. If necessary, allow to bake longer.)
  5. Drizzle the cake with Silan date honey, garnish with shaved halva and pistachios.  

Chicken and Root Vegetable Stew

— by Ronit Treatman

Nothing feels more nurturing on a cold winter day than a pot of stew bubbling over the stove. Chicken and root vegetables are inexpensive ingredients that can be combined to make a satisfying meal for a large crowd.

Full recipe after the jump.
Chicken and Root Vegetable Stew

  • 4 lbs of chicken drumsticks
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 leeks, chopped
  • 4 cups of any combination of potatoes, parsley root, carrots, beets, parsnip, rutabaga, turnips, or fennel, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 dry bay leaf
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick pot.  
  2. Brown the chicken drumsticks, then set aside.
  3. Add the rest of the olive oil to the pot.
  4. Saute the onion and leeks over medium heat until the onion is translucent.
  5. Add the root vegetables.
  6. Saute them with the onion for a few minutes.
  7. Add the wine.
  8. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  9. Add the seared drumsticks.
  10. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  11. Add the dry bay leaf.
  12. Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer.
  13. Cook the stew for 60 minutes.

Serve with warm, crusty bread.

The Shtetl Krupnik Experience

Suillus granulatus mushrooms, colloquially referred to as the “weeping” or “granulated” bolete.

— by Ronit Treatman

When I was a young girl, my grandmother and I would relive one of her favorite experiences from her childhood in Poland: picking wild mushrooms for krupnik, the Polish mushroom barley soup.

We woke up before dawn and drove to the pine forests surrounding Jerusalem. We arrived at the forest just as dawn broke.

The majestic pine trees became visible with the pink light of early morning. The crisp air was infused with the aroma of the trees. As we started hiking, the dry pine needles crunched underfoot.

The type of wild mushroom we picked is called Suillus granulatus, colloquially referred to as the “weeping” or “granulated” bolete.

Full recipe after the jump.
These mushrooms have a symbiotic relationship with the pine trees: The mushrooms extract nutrients from the roots of the trees. In exchange, they improve the soil so that the trees have enough water and nutrients.  

I learned to identify the weeping boletes by looking for mushrooms with a large brown cap. I would check the underside of the cap to make sure that it was a golden color.

We spent a couple of hours filling a large basket with the mushrooms we found. We stopped when we had picked enough mushrooms for our needs. We knew that other people would like to have this adventure just as much as we did, and we made sure to leave some mushrooms for them too.  

We took our fungi back home to prepare krupnik. Weeping boletes taste like Portobello mushrooms. Their strong, earthy flavor is the perfect complement for barley.  

After a vigorous hike in the cold, and the seemingly endless wait in a home filled with delicious smells, we finally got to eat the krupnik. It was warm, creamy, and delicious; the perfect taste of the Old Country.

Savta Devorah’s Krupnik

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 parsley roots, chopped
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced dill
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot.  
  2. Add the onion, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, celery, parsley roots, and barley.
  3. Saute over medium heat for about 20 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle the flour into the pot, and mix it in.
  5. Add the vegetable broth, and bring to a boil.
  6. Lower the heat to medium, and simmer the soup for 40 minutes.
  7. Add the parsley and dill.
  8. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.