Salt Water Taffy: Summer In A Candy Wrapper

By Ronit Treatman

Nothing says summer at the Jersey shore more than a mouthful of sticky salt water taffy.

Salt water taffy originated in Atlantic City in the summer of 1883. That year, a powerful storm caused flooding, soaking all the taffy for sale in the shops along the boardwalk. As the storm subsided, children still wanted to purchase taffy. One enterprising store owner named David Bradley jokingly told them he could sell them “salt water taffy.” When the customers tasted the ocean-soaked candy, they loved it. A Jersey shore summer tradition was born.

You can make your own salt water taffy at home. You won’t need any ocean water, just some sea salt.

Cherry Taffy by Monica Nguyen

Cherry Taffy by Monica Nguyen

Salt Water Taffy

Adapted from The Exploratorium 

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 cups cane sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • A few drops of grape juice, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, or blueberry juice
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Place the sugar and cornstarch in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Stir in the water, sea salt, corn syrup, and butter.
  3. Keep stirring the mixture until it begins to boil.
  4. Continue cooking the mixture until it reaches a temperature of 270 degrees Fahrenheit (check with a candy thermometer).
  5. As the taffy is cooking, dip a pastry brush in warm water and paint the inner sides of the pot with it.
  6. When the taffy reaches a temperature of 270 degrees Fahrenheit, remove the pot from the fire.
  7. Mix in a few drops of fruit juice for color, and the vanilla extract, and baking soda.
  8. Pour the hot taffy onto a buttered cookie sheet.
  9. Once the taffy is cool enough to be handled, butter your hands.
  10. Pull the taffy for about 10 minutes to aerate it.
  11. Roll the pulled taffy into a rope.
  12. Butter a sharp knife, and cut the rope into candy-sized pieces (about ½ inch).
  13. When the salt water taffy has cooled completely, wrap each piece in wax paper, twisting the ends.

Book Review: “Culinary Expeditions” Are Always Appropriate

Culinary-Expeditions_FrontCover_Nov20-1

By Ronit Treatman

The members of the Women’s Committee of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology were inspired to collaborate on one of the best books I have had the pleasure of acquiring this year.

Culinary Expeditions introduces its readers to culinary artifacts from around the world, culled from the Museum’s amazing collection. Each artifact is accompanied by a recipe that reflects the culture of its provenance. All proceeds from the sales of this book will directly benefit the Museum.

In our increasingly internationalized world, this book is the perfect gift for any occasion. Learning about each others’ cultures and foods helps us all connect with each other.

[Read more…]

A Home Away From Home for IDF Volunteers


IDF troop swearing-in ceremony. Photo by IDF.

— by Ronit Treatman

“If you will it, it is no dream,” Theodore Herzl wrote in his book The Old New Land in 1902. This phrase has inspired Jews from around the world to help make the Zionist endeavor a reality for more than a century.

This proud tradition continues to this day. Currently, 6,000 volunteers from abroad are serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. Their official status is that of “lone soldiers,” because they leave their families behind and come to Israel alone.

The Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin aims to build a community and be a family to these soldiers when they are in Israel.
In 2003, Michael Levin, Josh Flaster, and Ari Kalker sat around a table in Tel Aviv and shared fond memories of celebrating Shabbat at their Jewish summer camp in the U.S. They enjoyed telling about the delicious Shabbat dinners, and the special feeling that came over the camp as everyone sat around the table singing Shabbat songs.

They imagined that their life in Israel as IDF soldiers would be a lot like that. Instead, as foreign volunteers, they found themselves very isolated. Israel is a very family-oriented society, and Levin, Flaster and Kalker did not have their families with them. As a result, when they were on a leave, they found themselves eating cold pitas with humus in an empty apartment for Shabbat dinner.

Michael Levin was killed in action in 2006. The Center was founded in 2009. Through the Center’s work, Levin’s service and sacrifice are honored and memorialized, and his dream for lone soldiers to “never be alone” is realized.

The Lone Soldier Center has identified several needs that need to be met for lone soldiers to thrive in Israel. The Center is empowering civilians who were lone soldiers themselves to guide the future lone soldiers to success in Israel. These are the ways the Lone Soldier Center is reaching out to these soldiers:

Community:
The most important mission of the center is to provide all lone soldiers with a welcoming community, which will care for them, guide them, and support them. The center has several offices, a website, and a Facebook page that serve as resources for lone soldiers.
Meals:
Shabbat dinners and holiday meals become festive occasions when hosted by the Center. Meals are held by in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv. The Center has partnered with The Jerusalem Great Synagogue and The Tel Aviv International Synagogue to provide spaces for these meals. Volunteers lovingly organize these meals in order to create the celebratory occasions envisioned by Levin, Flaster and Kalker.
Shelter:
Most lone soldiers arrive in Israel with few clothes and very little money. If they are not placed on a closed military base, they need to find an apartment with roommates. The Center helps match them up with other lone soldiers, and makes sure that they are signing a fair lease.Landlords in Israel are only required to provide a working cooking range, but not a refrigerator in an otherwise unfurnished apartment. The Center has a warehouse full of donated furniture and refrigerators that these soldiers may borrow. Volunteers drive the furniture to the apartments, and help carry the furniture inside.
Basic Needs Package:
Every drafting lone soldier receives a donated package of clothing, food, and equipment that they will need to start their new life in Israel.
Advocacy:
Volunteers make sure that the army complies with all of its own rules and respects all of the lone soldiers’ special rights. Amharic-speaking Ethiopian-Israeli soldiers assist other Ethiopian recruits with navigating the army. An attorney volunteers to help soldiers who are finishing their military service understand their rights as new immigrants.
Tutoring:
Not all lone soldiers come from abroad. Young people who choose to leave Haredi families to enlist in the IDF are also classified as lone soldiers. These young adults grew up immersed in a Yiddish environment, as part of an orthodox Jewish community that rejects the modern secular culture, receiving no preparation to succeed in modern Israel. The Center tutors them in Hebrew, and prepares them for their high school equivalency test, .
Special Ceremonies and Social Events:
When a lone soldier is drafted or graduates from a course, all of the other soldiers have their families there to celebrate with them. The Center sends a person to every significant celebration to rejoice over every accomplishment with every lone soldier.The Center also organizes special social events for lone soldiers to enjoy during their free time. This helps lone soldiers make friends and connect with other volunteers from around the world.
Friends Chapters in North America:
The Center is run by a small professional staff and 300 volunteers. This month, it will launch chaverim, “friends” chapters in 13 locations in North America:

  • California: San Diego.
  • Florida: Coco Beach, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay.
  • Illinois: Highland Park.
  • New York: Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Queens, Scarsdale and Westchester.
  • New Jersey: Highland Park.

Through this exciting initiative, individuals in cities across the continent will have the opportunity to raise awareness of lone soldier needs and support for the Center’s programming in their communities, schools and synagogues.

The Center is a registered Israeli non-profit with 501(c) status. All money donated goes directly to benefit lone soldiers.

For more information, or to inquire about establishing a chapter in your area, please contact the Center’s director, Josh Flaster.

Baked Ricotta for Shavuot


Photo by jamesonf.

— by Ronit Treatman

Shavuot, the celebration of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, is a cheese lover’s dream.

Why cheese? The laws of kashrut did not exist before the Torah, so all of the cooking utensils were impure. Jews had to learn how to perform a kosher ritual slaughter before they could consume kosher meat. Therefore, it was easier to make dairy meals.  

The Ancient Greeks are credited with inventing the first cheesecake. It was as basic as possible: just baked white cheese.

A perfect cheese for baking is ricotta: an Italian cheese made from the liquid that remains after milk has been curdled, called whey. Ricotta means “recooked” in Italian.

Recipe after the jump.
The whey for ricotta traditionally comes from the milk of a sheep, goat, cow or Italian water buffalo. An easy and versatile way to entertain your guests during Shavuot is to start with ricotta al forno, “baked ricotta,” as a neutral canvas.

Baked Ricotta

This is the most elementary cheesecake. You may serve it as a sweet or savory dish by spooning the appropriate topping over it. The savory toppings should be presented with warm, fresh, crusty bread on the side.  

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Pour the ricotta into an ovenproof casserole dish coated with vegetable oil. Spread the cheese evenly in the dish.
  3. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Savory Topping Ideas:

  • Roasted red and green peppers, minced cilantro, and minced garlic tossed with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and black pepper.
  • Caramelized onions and sage.
  • Zest from one lemon, fresh thyme, salt, black pepper.
  • Roasted tomatoes tossed with fresh basil leaves, minced garlic, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper.
  • Roasted asparagus tossed with extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and black pepper.
  • Artichoke hearts sautéed in olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and black pepper.
  • Green olives, tomatoes, and minced garlic sautéed in olive oil with white wine, salt, and black pepper.

Sweet Topping Ideas:

  • Wildflower honey.
  • Fresh strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.
  • One pound of peaches poached in 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup of bourbon.
  • Melted semi-sweet chocolate chips.
  • Two sliced bananas sautéed in one teaspoon of butter, 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, a sprinkling of ground cinnamon, and 1/4 cup of rum.
  • Two tablespoons of orange blossom water, 1 teaspoon of sugar, a few strands of saffron, 1 cardamom pod, and a handful of pistachio nuts heated together.  
  • Fresh cherries (1 cup) simmered in 2 tablespoons water, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, a few drops of almond extract, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Distracted Driving: Where do you draw the line?

— by Peter Dissinger

It is no stretch to say that distracted driving is an epidemic in today’s world. Whether texting, fiddling with the radio, calling a friend, or even using the GPS, there are so many easy ways for any driver to become distracted in an instant. This is especially true for teens, including myself. Maybe it’s a notification from our incredibly useful smart phones or even an inclination to be reckless, but research shows that teenagers are especially at risk for these types of behaviors. It may seem shocking to some adults, but from my perspective, this is not radical data; it is the real experience of so many teenagers (and probably adults as well).

The video Distracted Driving: Where do you draw the line? was created for the “Put the Brakes on Distract Driving” campaign of the Coalition for Youth of Lower Merion and Narberth.

Cookbook Review: 4 Bloggers Dish: Passover

When food bloggers become friends, it can lead to an interesting collaboration.

4 Bloggers Dish: Passover: Modern Twists on Traditional Flavors is a wonderful compilation of creative kosher recipes from four women who befriended each other in cyberspace. If you are hoping to freshen up your Seder with bright, healthy, and creative recipes, this book is for you.

Whitney Fisch was a model in Milan when she discovered the pleasures of Italian food. Her website, Jewhungry, relates how she keeps kosher while trying everything.

Liz Rueven shares her kosher vegetarian adventures in Kosher Like Me. I especially admire her thorough research and travel adventures.

Amy Kritzer, the creator of What Jew Wanna Eat, started by preserving her bubby’s recipes. From there, she fell in love with cooking and attended the Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Austin, Texas. She shares both vintage and new recipes.

More after the jump.
Sarah Lasry, creator of The Patchke Princess (the fussy princess), is a chef, owner of Tastebuds Cafe, and cookbook author. She is renown for her creative kosher gourmet cooking.

4 Bloggers Dish: Passover: Modern Twists on Traditional Flavors includes step-by-step instructions and beautiful visuals. It offers helpful tips, such as freezer instructions, prep-ahead rules, and a to-go Guide. This book features recipes such as balsamic-braised short ribs, matzah brie caprese, spaghetti squash with quinoa meatballs, sautéed kale, tomato, and mushroom quiche with a hash brown crust, and cinnamon donut balls.

You may try out their recipe for vegetable frittatine, for Passover. Liz Rueven encourages her readers to use greens such as kale and spinach from their local farmers’ market. These greens pair especially well with sautéed mushrooms and onions. Personally, I preferred minced cilantro and low-fat cheddar. I served it with spicy Mexican salsa.

Vegetable Frittatine (Crustless quiche in individual portions)

Dairy, Non-Gebrokts (soaked matza)
Prep Time: 20 minutes; Bake time: 25 minutes
Makes approximately 12 mini frittate in muffin tins.

Ingredients:

  • Canola oil cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh herbs of choice, chopped (dill, parsley, cilantro, basil)
  • A few twists of freshly ground pepper
  • 5 oz. crumbled feta or goat cheese, or cheese of choice (shredded or crumbled)
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 6 oz. mushrooms, washed and chopped and/or one red (or orange) pepper, chopped finely
  • One generous bunch or one 5-oz. bag of organic spinach or kale, washed and rough-chopped

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350˚F with oven rack in middle.
  2. Spray muffin tin with canola oil.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs with milk. Add salt, pepper and herbs.
  4. Add cheese and mix well. Set aside.
  5. Heat olive oil in large pan.
  6. Add onion and sauté until translucent.
  7. Add mushrooms and/or peppers and sauté until soft.
  8. Add greens and toss until wilted.
  9. Drain pan of any liquid that has accumulated (save for soup stock).
  10. Cool for 5-10 minutes. Add the vegetables to the egg mixture in large bowl. Mix to integrate well.
  11. Spoon 2 tablespoon of mixture into each opening in muffin tin. Mix periodically so that ingredients are distributed evenly.
  12. Bake for 20-25 minutes until frittatine are set and tops are golden.
  13. Remove from oven and allow pan to cool for 10 minutes. Using a small spatula or a tablespoon, gently remove individual frittate from tin and serve.

Tips:

  • Serve Immediately: Because these are really mini soufflés, they are puffy and light when served immediately. If not, they do “fall” but they retain their basic shape and are still delicious. I use them as a protein-rich addition to brunch or as a light dinner with salad and soup.
  • Take to Go:  They make a convenient afternoon snack and a satisfying lunch to go. They are solid enough to pack in Ziploc bags and take along for day trips or school lunches.
  • Freezer: They freeze well in a Ziploc bag. Take them out of the freezer in advance and reheat, gently, in microwave or in oven at 325F for 10-15 minutes or until warmed through. I like them at room temp, too.

Karpas Soup


Photo: Candice Eisner. ©Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

— by Ronit Treatman

Passover offers so many opportunities for creativity in the kitchen.  On point of inspiration is the Seder plate.  Its ingredients may form the basis of many satisfying dishes.  Chef Moshe Basson, the proprietor of Eucalyptus Restaurant in Jerusalem, has created a delicious spring soup centered on the karpas, or green vegetable, which is dipped in salt water at the Passover Seder.

This velvety soup begins with fresh celeriac (celery root). Some of the celery stalks are separated from the roots, washed, and displayed on the Seder plate, to be dipped in salt water. The rest of the celery stalks, leaves, and roots are blended with almond or coconut milk to prepare a rich and creamy soup. This versatile soup is inexpensive, easy to prepare, low fat, and vegan.  It complements almost any Passover meal.

Recipe follows the jump.
Karpas Soup
Adapted from Chef Moshe Basson

  • 2 large celeriac roots, with stalks and leaves
  • 2 potatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup unflavored, low-fat almond or coconut milk
  • Ground nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Peel the potatoes and celery root.
  2. Dice them into small cubes.
  3. Pour the vegetable broth into a stockpot and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the potato and celeriac cubes.
  5. Boil the vegetables for about 30 minutes, until tender.
  6. Chop up the celery stalks and leaves.
  7. Add the celery stalks and leaves to the boiling soup for one minute.
  8. Remove the pot from the fire.
  9. Pour all of the contents into a food processor.
  10. Blend well.
  11. Add the coconut or almond milk.
  12. Season to taste with salt, black pepper, and ground nutmeg.

Pumpkin-Ginger Soup

— by Ronit Treatman

As Arctic winds blow into Philadelphia, and the snow piles up, our instinct to consume warm, hearty soups kicks in.

This is an opportunity to make use of the many varieties of pumpkins and squashes that are widely available now.  

Pumpkins are high in vitamin A, and have a good amount of vitamin C, iron, and calcium. Also, they are fat free.

When combined with onions, garlic, ginger, herbs, and spices, the pumpkin shines as a winter entree soup. Pumpkin-ginger soup can be served with a green salad, a hearty bread, and a selection of cheeses.

Full recipe after the jump.

  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup peeled and minced ginger root
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup non-fat coconut milk
  • curry powder
  • cinnamon
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • toasted pumpkin seeds
  • cilantro, minced
  • scallions, sliced
  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat.
  2. Saute the onions, garlic, and ginger until the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the vegetable broth, and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the coconut milk and the pureed pumpkin.
  5. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.
  6. Season to taste with curry powder, cinnamon, salt, and pepper.
  7. Serve garnished with cilantro, scallions, and toasted sunflower seeds.

Hanukkah-Thanksgiving Fusion Menu

— by Ronit Treatman

This year, the Gregorian and Hebrew calendars have aligned in a very special way: Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are celebrated on the same night. This will not happen again until 2070.

In honor of this tandem celebration, I invite you to combine the essential ingredient of Hanukkah, olive oil, with foods that are native to North America. This is the perfect marriage of the two holidays.

3 Thanksgiving-Hanukkah recipes after the jump.
Baharat Fried Turkey Drumsticks

Turkeys are native to North America. This recipe flavors the American food with Middle-Eastern spices, and tenderizes it with fresh lemon juice. Frying the whole turkey is too daunting for me: I prefer to prepare a platter of fried turkey drumsticks.


Fried turkey, corn latkes and carnberry-apple sauce.
  • 6 fresh turkey drumsticks
  • Olive oil
  • Baharat – Middle Eastern Spice Rub:
    • 12 lemons
    • 1 tablespoon ground garlic
    • 1 tablespoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
    • 1 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1 teaspoon fenugreek
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  1. Measure all the dry ingredients into a large bowl.  
  2. Squeeze the lemons, and mix the fresh juice with the spices.  
  3. Place the turkey drumsticks in the bowl and coat them with the spice rub.  
  4. Seal the seasoned drumsticks in a plastic zipper bag, and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours.
  5. Heat the olive oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a heavy Dutch oven. Pour in enough oil to completely immerse the turkey drumsticks. Do not cover the pot, as this would create a fire hazard.  
  6. Carefully place the turkey drumsticks in the hot oil. Do not crowd them.  
  7. Cook the drumsticks for at least 20 minutes over medium heat in the uncovered pot.  
  8. Check the temperature of the drumsticks by sticking a meat thermometer into the drumstick.  It is cooked through when the meat’s internal temperature reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

Corn Latkes (Pancakes)

Potatoes, which originated in the Andes mountains, are customarily served with the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, and are the essential ingredient of traditional latkes (pancakes). This year, we can pay homage to the corn, a plant that originated in North America. Corn, a staple of the Native Americans, can be transformed into an ancient Israelite fry bread. This is a superb accompaniment to the Middle Eastern fried turkey legs.

  • 4 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached flour
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  1. Cook the corn in boiling water.  
  2. Drain, and allow to cool to room temperature.  
  3. Mix in the eggs, flour, salt, and black pepper.  
  4. Heat some olive oil in a heavy skillet.  
  5. Spoon the corn batter into the frying pan. Flip the fritters over when they turn golden-brown.  

Cranberry-Apple Sauce

No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without cranberries, and no latke is complete without applesauce. Cranberries originated in North America, while apples came from Central Asia. For this special dinner, I combine cranberries and apples into a special sauce for the corn latkes.

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups fresh, diced apples
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup maple sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes.

I prepared a practice Thanksgivenukkah dinner for my family. The deep-fried turkey drumsticks were moist, delicately spiced, and had a delicious crackly, crunchy skin. The golden corn latkes were soft, chewy, and slightly sweet. The cranberry-apple sauce was a magnificent vermillion color, and had a perfectly balanced sweet-tart flavor.  

I loved the sauce with the latkes, while others at the table preferred it with their turkey. Either way you choose, have a happy Thanksgivukkah!

The Secret Jews of Calabria

— by Ronit Treatman

Carl Perkal, a documentary film producer who made aliyah in 1973, is working on the documentary The Secret Jews of Calabria. He writes:

Many of the Italians living in Calabria (Southern Italy) have Jewish roots going back to the Inquisition. When an American rabbi of Italian descent, Barbara Aiello, returns to her ancestral village in Calabria to encourage the locals to discover their Jewish heritage, not everyone (Jews and Christians) welcomes her.

More after the jump.
His one-hour documentary film is currently in production. He is seeking co-production and distribution agreements, and foundation or private support to complete the film.

The Secret Jews of Calabria is the first of a series.  The next film The Secret Jews of the American Southwest will be funded with Kickstarter.