Urban gardening is one of the hottest trends in Philadelphia. Even brown fields are being reclaimed with the use of elevated hydroponic planters. In addition to growing their own fruits and vegetables, many people are savoring the unique flavors that it is only possible to get from heirloom seeds. In his book, Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste: Heirloom Seed Savers in Appalachia, Bill Best, who was a professor at Berea College, provides a guide for obtaining, preserving, and sharing heritage and heirloom seeds. He introduces us to the people who have dedicated a lifetime to safeguarding our historic seeds.
Memorial Day is observed so differently in the United States from how it is done in Israel. Having lived in Israel for two years while volunteering for the IDF, I find the all-American celebratory long weekend and barbecue incongruous.
When I visit my grandparents' graves in Rishon LeZion, I always stop at the military section. I pay my respects at the grave of my neighbor who fell in 1975. I check the other tombstones for familiar last names of friends and acquaintances. I only know one person who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the American Army. While I always go "down the shore" and prepare a grilled dinner, I also add a symbolic Jewish dish of condolence.
Thanks to the Vetri Foundation's program, our school's dinning room is no longer a cafeteria. Our new philosophy is to prepare family-style rustic food with good ingredients. Family-style seating, in which teachers and students eat together, has helped encourage a willingness to taste and discover new foods. Conversations around the table encourage manners, tasting, and engagement with both classmates and teachers.
This quick weeknight pasta dish is a delicious and elegant first course for any occasion. Be sure to use a good quality smoked mozzarella, because it is the main ingredient of the dish. Smoked mozzarella has a lot of advantages, because it lasts for a long time and can be added to sandwiches, soups, stuffing, and pasta. It's a great addition to anything that you'd like to enrich and enliven.
On a recent trip to the supermarket, I bought some beautiful ripe, red strawberries. I wanted to make something cold, sweet, creamy, fresh and fruity for Shavuot. I came up with a great combination for a light dessert, or snack.
I washed, hulled and halved some juicy strawberries. Then I opened a container of plain greek-style yogurt, and drizzled in some honey for sweetness.
Ahead of Shavuot, I tried out a recipe for potato muffins that my husband found in a local newspaper. Every now and again he shoves a recipe cutting at me to try out (he has a good eye for those). So with nothing on the menu for dinner last night, I decided to give these a go. As with all new recipes I try out, I am very critical and look to see how to improve on them. But as my family was devouring them rapidly, I realized that this recipe works very well as is, and as hard as I tried, I couldn't find too much to change (I have upped the original cheese quantity, though).
Cooking with the Calamari Sisters Through: May 19, 2013.
At: Society Hill Playhouse, 507 S. Eighth St.
Information: 215-923-0210 or ComcastTIX.
— by Lisa Grunberger
Cooking with the Calamari Sisters has two weeks left of a long run at Society Hill Playhouse, and if you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and "Screw the Gym, Pass the Lasagna," as the Calamari Sisters say and go to this fabulously entertaining show.
This campy, irreverent show stars Jay Falzone as Delphine Calamari, and Stephen Smith as his sister Carmela Calamari. Yes, this is a tour-de-force drag show, complete with audience participation, improvisation, risqué humor, song and dance, and real cooking. From sausage jokes to Jesus jokes, the Calamari Sisters strikes the right balance of campy irreverence and edginess — it's difficult not to laugh out loud, and laugh you will.
A perfectly elegant dish for springtime is salmon in pastry. It is easy to prepare and a wonderful crowd pleaser. All you need is good quality salmon and frozen puff pastry.
I buy the best quality salmon I can find. Salmon does not live in the Mediterranean sea, so I have to buy it frozen. I purchase salmon that has been flash-frozen on the fishing boat. I leave it in the refrigerator overnight to defrost, then I prepare my tasty treat.
As I was driving along Montgomery Avenue in Bala Cynwyd, a new establishment caught my eye. It is a fun, brightly colored frozen yogurt shop. The name is a little unusual: Yosl's. Who gives a name like that?
Yosl's is a kosher operation. Working in the frozen confection business runs in the family. When the family lived in South Philadelphia a couple of generations ago, they ran an ice cream parlor on Catharine Street. Yos'l was the grandfather who owned it. According to their website "All of our yogurt carries the OU-D Kosher Certified Seal." Rabbi Shmidman of Lower Merion Synagogue and Rabbi Avraham Steinberg of Young Israel of the Main Line are in charge of the kosher supervision. According to Mark Rubenstein, the proprietor, "They supervise not just the frozen yogurt, but also all of the toppings."
Shavuot is like sealing the deal on a marriage contract. It is the celebration of G-d's giving of the Torah to the Jews at Mount Sinai. This is the moment when the Jews became a nation, when they accepted G-d's commandments and pledged to be "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation," (Exodus 19:6). Like any other wedding, the most important question is, "What did they eat?"
One night I decided I needed to spice up my life a little bit, in the sense of food, and what I was going to eat for my meals: dinner and dessert. For dinner I decided on brown rice, stir-fried roasted butternut squash and onions — tasty and easy. However, I always have more trouble deciding what to have for dessert, because I am not a huge fan of sweets.
"Kashrut, the kosher dietary laws, is the original practice of mindful eating, set within a holistic framework", said Sue Fishkoff at the symposium "How Kosher is Kosher?," held on April 15th as part of the What Is Your Food Worth? series, hosted by Temple University and coordinated by its Feinstein Center for American Jewish History.
Fishkoff is the author of the 2010 book Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America's Food Answers to a Higher Authority and editor of J., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California. For about ten years before she began research for her book, she said that Americans had expressed an interest in where and how we get our food. What galvanized her to write the book was that Jews were beginning the same conversation from a Jewish perspective. "Every Jewish household has a kosher story, even if the family does not follow kashrut."
"The first incidence of food justice occurred in the Garden of Eden," said Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, "when Adam and Eve chose to defy divine prohibition and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This moral consciousness formed the basis of Jewish ethical system and it was a matter of food choice."
Yanklowitz spoke on April 15 at a symposium titled "How Kosher is Kosher?," as part of the "What Is Your Food Worth" series, hosted at Temple University and coordinated by its Feinstein Center for American Jewish History.
Rav Shmuly, as he's known, burst onto the Jewish communal arena five years ago, after the scandal of Postville, Iowa, where federal agents conducted the largest immigration raid in United States' history at the Agri-Processors kosher slaughterhouse. The agents rounded up illegal migrant workers who had been abused, threatened, and paid below-minimum wages. At the time, Agri-Processors slaughtered 60 percent of the nation's kosher beef and 40 percent of the kosher chicken. Rabbinical students at the time, Shmuly and Ari Hart, had founded Uri L'Tzedek the year before, which then launched an international boycott, signed up 2,000 rabbis and community leaders, and demanded transparency in worker standards.
How are Passover and Shavuot linked? Passover is when we remember the Exodus, and Shavuot is when we remember the giving of the Torah. We build up our anticipation for receiving the Torah by counting down the days from Passover to Shavuot. This period is called the counting of the Omer. What is an Omer?
Following the success of the Joy of Aliyah online documentary series, which followed the Aliyah journey of USA TV producer, best-selling author and celebrity chef Jamie Geller, Nefesh B'Nefesh has teamed up with the "kosher Rachael Ray" to produce a sequel which is co-produced by 12Tribe Films and Israel Video Network. The new behind-the-scenes Joy of Israel with Jamie Geller series, which premiered on April 2nd, will feature monthly webisodes — to be released on the first Tuesday of every month documenting Jamie and her family's first year as new Olim, while showcasing the beauty of living in Israel.
What makes food Jewish? "The iconic comfort foods of American Jews connect us with our heritage, but most of the items are not innately Jewish", says Ariella Werden-Greenfield, a PhD. candidate in religion at Temple University. She spoke last week at the Gershman Y as part of the series on What Is Your Food Worth? coordinated by Temple's Feinstein Center for American Jewish History. Some exceptions are bulkie rolls and matzo balls, which derive from challah and matzah, both prominent in Jewish rituals.
Jews have adapted recipes to the kosher ingredients available to them in whatever land they've landed. Pastrami, from the Turkish word, pastirma, we know as spiced, dried beef, but it originated in Romania where pork or mutton were instead used. The Romanian recipe arrived with the Jewish immigrants in the second half of the 19th century. In Israel, it's made with chicken or turkey. Corned beef, a salt-cured beef, is actually Irish, but the Jewish butchers sold cuts of brisket to the Irish, so they also offered it to their brethren.
On May 14th, sixty five years ago, David Ben-Gurion declared Israel's independence and "the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel." Yom Ha'atzmaut, as it is known in Hebrew, is a national holiday in Israel. It is celebrated with the recitation of Hallel, a military parade, the International Bible contest, and the awarding of the Israel Prize. The day is concluded with a festive mangal (bar-b-q) and fireworks.
For this special day, I like to prepare a chicken recipe inspired by some of Israel's first chefs. It takes a staple of the Jewish kitchen, the chicken, and marries it with Israel's local flavors of Jaffa oranges, olive oil, and Middle Eastern spices.
What chicken recipe should I prepare? My children won't eat. They need new and different foods every day in order to remain stimulated. I looked around the house and noticed an open bottle of Arak (liquor flavored with anise seed). It inspired me! Here is my idea for a weeknight chicken dinner.
I first wrote about the vegan Vgë Café in Bryn Mawr when it just opened last spring. On a visit some time later, the Brazilian proprietor, Fernando Peralta, expressed to me his interest in obtaining kosher certification because his customers were asking for it. I advised him to speak with the owners of other vegetarian establishments. Lo and behold, I was delighted to hear right before Pesach that he is indeed now certified kosher.
The kosher supervisors are Rabbis Eli Hirsch and Zev Schwarcz from the International Kosher Council, the same agency that certifies other local establishments such as Singapore Vegetarian Restaurant, Blackbird Pizzeria, and Sweet Freedom Bakery. The IKC is based in New York (it supervises the popular Blossom restaurants) and they've recently expanded to Mexico, Portugal, and Ukraine. It was Rachel Klein of Miss Rachel's Pantry who led Peralta to IKC.
In my family, the Passover celebration begins long before the Seder. Preparing for our festive meal is a big part of the fun. One of my favorite traditions is our annual matza baking party. My husband Howard designs and builds a temporary cinder-block tabun (Biblical oven) especially for the occasion. I aspire to bake a matza with a really authentic flavor. In order to get that, I look for flour milled from heirloom seeds that were native to Ancient Egypt.
How does Howard build the tabun? He uses dry, fireproof cinderblocks, aluminum sheets, and ceramic tiles. His design protects the surface beneath the oven.
Oven-building and matza-baking instructions after the jump.
One of the staples of our seder meal is a Megina, sometmes refered to as "mina", or a "meat quajado". My mom's is made with crumbled matzah mixed in giving it a quajado-like texture once cooked, and able to be cut into and served in squares. This mina version is often made with layers of soaked and softened matzahs and constructed more like a meat lasagna. I am sharing the recipe as my mom makes it for our family and as she has taught it in community cooking classes. This is one of those dishes you can customize to your liking, adding different spices for a differnt flair (think cumin or ras el hanout or even cilantro instead of parsley, to name a few). This version is made with ground beef, although ground turkey could be a substitute.
Today I would like to share a dish with you which brings us the flavors of the Argentinian kitchen. Argentinian cuisine is a fusion of European and Latin American flavors. My mother was a culinary instructor. Here is the recipe for her saffron meatballs, which originate in Spain. The saffron is left over from the Moorish rule over Spain, which began during the 8th century and lasted for 400 years.
As I opened the cereal cupboard in the kitchen of my Sorority house, my eyes scanned the top shelf, as I looked for my Rice Chex cereal. I wanted to make something different, a fun food invention. After seeing a couple of my Sorority sisters create these crazy colored, deliciously filled bags of homemade trail mix, I decided it was my turn.
As soon as I announced that I was going to attempt to make oven-baked falafel, I was inundated with requests to publish a recipe. Falafel is a favorite Middle Eastern dish, especially where I live. No matter where you travel to in the Middle East, it is hard to miss a falafel stand on every corner of the street. Around later morning and early noon, you will notice a long line starting to form in front of any falafel vendor you see. For those of you who are not familiar with Middle Eastern food (for better or for worse, I am gradually starting to become more affluent with the culture and food that I am surrounded with), falafel is a deep-fried ball made from ground chickpeas or fava beans, depending on which region you come from. Falafel is usually served in a pita or wrapped in a flatbread known as lafa. The falafel balls are topped with salads, pickled vegetables, hot sauce, and drizzled with tahini-based sauces. Falafel balls may also be eaten alone as a snack or served as part of a meze (a selection of small dishes or spreads).
If you are bored with your usual Passover snacks, There is something new for you this year: Matzolah — matzo granola. It is a sweet, crunchy, and nutty Passover treat. Matzola was the winner of Best New Kosher for Passover Product at Kosherfest 2012.
Distributed by Streit's Matzo Company, Matzolah is made with matzos, Vermont maple syrup, California raisins, almonds, walnuts, and pecans. It is sodium and cholesterol free, and is claimed by the distributor to be a good source of fiber. This granola was invented by a family with the appropriate name Foodman of Decatur, Georgia. Matzolah will be available this year at Whole Foods Markets.
There are so many types of breaded chicken! For a new twist on an old standby, here is a recipe for oven baked chicken with falafel flavored breading. Instead of corn flakes, we crumble Bissli, the ubiquitous Israeli snack food, to make the breading.
Local food blogger Marissa McClellan has published a book on home canning called Food in Jars, based on her blog with the same name. It is full of recipes that can be made in the smallest of kitchens, and designed for small households, perfect for urbanites and suburbanites.
I went to high school in a rural setting and a lot of the farm wives had elaborated canning sessions to store away a year's worth of green beens or pickled beets for the winter. Food in Jars is a little more cosmpolitan with the standard jams and jellies but also things like cranberry ketchup, sweet cherry butter, basic pickled jalapeno peppers, and honey roasted peanut butter. There is an entire chapter on tomatoes. Most recipes make between 3 and 6 jars.
No special equipment is required beyond what one would find in a basic kitchen set up (other than the jars and lids, which you can pick up in stores), though a jar lifter and a wide mouth funnel would come in handy. For an inexpensive shower or housewarming gift, a few friends could get a themed gift of the book and those two pieces of equipment.
For the non-cook or aspirational cook, just looking at the pictures is fun. I especially like the ribbon used to tie the jar rings together. The book reminds me of the homey smells of my adolescence and the planning and resilience personified by the rows of canned food in my mother-in-law's cellar.
It's a good book by an excellent local author. Available on Amazon (print and Kindle) and likely in local bookstores.
One of the most fun activities for Purim is putting together gifts of food for friends. The legal requirement for a mishloach manot is that there will be at least two types of food that are ready to be consumed immediately. This is to ensure that everyone in the community may celebrate Purim with a feast. This mitzvah is even bigger if the recipient is an orphan, widow, or financially disadvantaged. When we give these gifts to the poor (Matanot La'evyonim) we perform a mitzvah, which may "revive the spirit of the humble" and "revive the heart of the downtrodden" (Isaiah 57:15).
This is an opportunity to be very creative. Here are some fun ideas for food packages that you may assemble. I like to place everything in a straw basket. I tie it up with cellophane and ribbons, and it is ready to be presented.
The Hebrew word for cardamom is "hel" and is, which naturally lends itself to all sorts of silly wordplay. So when I found this wonderful recipe for a cardamom sour cream cake in Rachel's Favourite Food at Home, mirth ensued.
Firstly, finding a cardamom flavored cake in a recipe book by a Irish chef, was amusing to me. Seeing as cardamom is so prevalent in Israel and the Middle East, and, for those of you who don't know, provides that distinctive perfumed taste in the locally popular "Turkish coffee", I have decided to adopt this recipe as an Israeli cake.
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