Author Archives: Aly Miller

About Aly Miller

Jewish Food of the Middle East

For over 1,000 years, Jews have lived in the Middle East, cooking the kind of food that is catching on everywhere today — rice pilafs with fresh herbs and dried fruits, mostly vegetarian dishes accented with nuts and fruits, and slowly simmered soups and stews.

Middle Eastern Jewish cuisine is definitely having a moment, as evidenced by the popular cookbooks Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi which features dozens of Middle Eastern and Jewish-inspired dishes, and Taste of Persia by Naiomi Duguid. Light in meat and full of delicious vegetables, legumes and herbs, this is the kind of food that fits into the lifestyles of many people today.

Iraqi Jewish food, for example, is inspired by the soups, rice, and dumplings (kubbeh) of their Muslim neighbors. The Iraqi Jews apply kosher laws to the cuisine, and swap hot chilis for savory local herbs like za’atar, oregano and thyme.

Persian Jewish food developed in much the same way. It’s distinct from the regional cuisine in that Jewish Persian food favors onions over garlic, and fresh herbs over hot chilis and spice. Fragrant spices like cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, saffron, sumac and turmeric are all spices that make this cuisine so delicious.

For more information on the history and characteristics of Middle Eastern Jewish cuisine read this article.

You can learn how to cook this cuisine with the recipes below:

Arab Style Tortellini (Shishbarak)
Falafel
Fassoulyeh b’Chuderah
Bamia (Okra) with Tomatoes
Sumac Chicken and Rice

Mujaderra: Lentil and Rice Pilaf

Kufteh Berenji
Kibbeh Nabilseeyah
Koofteh (Persian Meatballs)

Masgouf: Iraqi Fish

Sabich (pictured above)
Baklava with Honey and Cardamom
Cardamom Coffee Semi Freddo
Basbousa Cake with Halvah Cream and Semolina Crumble

Where to Get The Best Hamantaschen in NYC

Three years ago, I set out after work every night of the week before Purim to find the best hamantaschen in New York City. I tasted my way through the Upper East and West Sides, all the way to the Lower East Side, Williamsburg, and Midwood, Brooklyn, and I never once got sick of these delicious, poppyseed-filled cookies (my favorite!). This year, there are some new contenders in town who bring innovative, new-school approaches to these three-sided treats.

As we approach Purim, consider embarking on your own hamantaschen tour of NYC. Plus, you’ll finally have a reason to take the Second Avenue subway as you trek up to Orwasher’s. Here are the places you won’t want to miss.

Orwasher’s Bakery, Upper East Side

The 100-year-old Orwasher’s Bakery on Manhattan’s Upper East Side is one of our favorite destinations for Jewish pastries and breads. Naturally, its hamantaschen are incredible, made with soft cream cheese-enriched dough and filled with freshly made apricot or raspberry preserves. (photo above from Orwasher’s Bakery)

William Greenberg Jr. Desserts, Upper East Side

Since the 1940s, William Greenberg Jr. Desserts has been among NYC’s most celebrated kosher bakeries. Its hamantaschen are made with a rich butter dough, or with a yeasted dough (the old fashioned way), and filled with classic apricot, poppy, prune and cherry.

Photo by Paul Wagtouicz

Breads Bakery, Union Square

Breads Bakery is world-famous for its chocolate babka, but at Purim, you won’t want to miss out on its hamantaschen. Every year at Purim, Breads makes prune, apricot, poppy seed and chocolate hamantaschen, and this year it’s unveiling two savory flavors. Covered with black and white sesame seeds and filled with either roasted beets (above) or potato and caramelized leeks, they’re just as beautiful as they are delicious!

Seed + Mill is getting ready to celebrate Purim🤡🤡. We decided to collaborate with the talented chef Lior Lev Sercarz @la_boite and we created HALVATASHEN! From the 6th of March we will be offering 13 Middle eastern style Humentashen in a gorgeous jar! The Humentashen are stuffed with halva and tahini and the dough is made from chickpea flour and sesame seeds! Available at our store @chelseamarketny @la_boite, Monday 6th of March until Sunday the 12th. Please note there is limited amounts and they are going to sell out quickly… Comments below or email info@seedandmill.com if you want us to reserve a beautiful jar of halva + tahini Humentashen. Please include the date you want to pick up. We will try to accommodate as many of you as we can! Delivery services available in Manhattan 🗽Happy Purim!!

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Seed + Mill, Chelsea

This year, Seed + Mill, a local tahini and halvah maker in New York City, is teaming up with Israeli-born chef Lior Lev Sarcasz of La Boite biscuits and spices to make what they call “halvataschen”–hamantaschen filled with halvah and tahini. Made with artisanal ingredients, sesame seeds and chickpea flour, these are surely the most fashionable hamantaschen in town.

It's that time.

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Zucker’s Bakery, East Village

This charming Israeli-owned bakery in the East Village makes date-and-walnut as well as classic poppyseed hamantaschen every year for Purim. You can also get your fix of Israeli no-bake truffles and delicious, old-world-style rugelach and babka.

 

Moishe’s Bake Shop, East Village

Not much has changed at Moishe’s Bake Shop, an East Village destination for hamantaschen and dozens of other old-school Ashkenazi sweets, since it opened its doors in 1978. These super crunchy hamantaschen, filled with prune, apricot, raspberry and chocolate, are must-tries. The no-frills bakery harkens back to an East Village not yet crowded with million-dollar condos and upscale boutiques, which is reason alone to visit!

Russ & Daughters, Lower East Side

Russ & Daughters earns high scores in smoked fish and bagels, so it’s no wonder its hamantaschen are top notch as well. These delicious bite-sized treats — apricot, prune or poppy seed fillings enclosed in a soft, tart-like dough — are often named the best in the city.

Hungarian Pastry Shop, Upper West Side

A favorite among Columbia University students, this old-school cafe is the perfect place for cozying up with some tea, a plate of hamantaschen and a book. It’s one of the only bakeries in the city that makes a spiced walnut hamantaschen, so if you can’t decide between cookies and homemade baklava, this is a true winner.

Sander’s Kosher Bakery, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Dozens of small shops and kosher markets and bakeries line the bustling Hasidic corridor of Lee Ave, but the best shop for hamantaschen is Sander’s Kosher Bakery. Its cookies are made with shortbread-like dough, and filled with a creamy chocolate filling or sweet blueberry jam. At 50 cents a cookie, it’s a bargain!


Isaac’s Bake Shop, Midwood, Brooklyn

A trip out to Isaac’s Bake Shop in Midwood rewards you with some of the best kosher poppyseed hamantaschen in the city. It’s worth noting that their poppy filling isn’t pureed or blended, celebrating the satisfying crunch of poppy seeds.

All photos by Aly Miller unless otherwise noted.

The Jewish Cuisine of the Mediterranean Sea

Greek and Turkish cooking has a special way of celebrating the simple, fresh flavors of vegetables and meats, adding little spice if any. Jewish, Greek and Turkish food all borrowed from each other, a true melting pot of culinary traditions.

Turkish Jewish cooking is influenced not only by Turkish cuisine, but also by the cuisine of the Spanish Jews who settled in Turkey after the Spanish Inquisition. Vegetables like eggplant and zucchini were added into the Sephardic mix of pilafs, poultry and fish. In Turkey, stuffed vegetables and kebabs and syrupy sweets became a part of the Sephardic kitchen.

Just across the sea in Greece, a style of vegetable-centered Jewish cooking emerged, similar in most ways to Greek cooking. Leafy greens, onions, eggplant, and dozens of fresh herbs all played a huge role in Greek Jewish cuisine.

Find out more about the history and evolution of Jewish food in Greece and Turkey, here.

Savor the Jewish Mediterranean flavors of Greek and Turkish Jewish cooking with the recipes below:

Stuffed Grape Leaves
Stuffed Cigars
Fried Eggplant
Zucchini Boats Stuffed with Ricotta and Pine Nuts
Sephardic Passover Meat Pie
Turkish Coffee Ice Cream from Michael Solomonov’s New Israeli Cookbook
Lahmacun–Turkish Pizza with Chopped Salad and Herb Tahini
How to Make Bourekas
Spinach Goat Cheese Tart with Herb Butter Crust
Baklava with Honey and Cardamom
Turkish and Greek Nut Pastries

 

The Emerging Jewish-Argentinian Cuisine of Buenos Aires

The Jewish food renaissance is thriving not only in the US, but also in Argentina, where Jewish-Argentinian chef Tomás Kalika opened his fine dining restaurant, Meshiguene: Immigrants Cuisine, and plans to open another.

Everything about Meshiguene, from its Yiddish name (meaning crazy) to the klezmer band that turns up every Friday night to the menu, is inspired, at least in part, by Jewish and Yiddish culture. According to The New York Times, there’s sous vide gefilte fish, hand made dumplings, pastrami cooked over open fire, and delicious whole vegetables, grilled in Sephardic style, to name a few of their mouthwatering specialties. The place might not be kosher–the pastrami ice cream makes things pretty clear–but for Kalika, it’s still Jewish to the core.

The Times of Israel frames Meshiguene as “part of a broader trend of Jewish — but not strictly kosher — eateries in Buenos Aires, though it stands apart in its sophistication.”

Guefiltefish – Guefiltefest 🤘 #jewishfood #mishiguene #amf2017 #madridfusion #cocinajudia #cocinadeinmigrantes

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If you’ve been enjoying the number of Jewish-inspired restaurants and delis that have cropped up lately, this might sound familiar. Jewish cuisine has captured the imagination and hearts of gourmet chefs everywhere from Boston to Miami.  Jews and non-Jews alike flock to these hotspots, making Jewish cuisine a viable banner under which to open a restaurant.

Kalika blends the Russian and Polish Jewish cuisine that he grew up with, with the Israeli cuisine he learned while working in under Tel Aviv chef Eyal Shani (famous for his whole roasted cauliflower). He approaches Jewish food with French techniques and molecular gastronomy, serving up something familiar and totally novel at the same time.

At his new restaurant, Fayer, he’ll draw on a variety of Jewish cuisines and unify them under Argentinian cooking techniques like open-fire grilling, whose deep smoky flavor permeates every bite. This style of cooking, according to The Times, is what Kalika sees as “emerging Argentine-Jewish cuisine.”

Despite his gourmet approach, Kalika makes it known that “Bubbie’s are better.” Below are some recipes that we think capture the spirit of blending Jewish cuisine with that of other cultures and styles of cooking.

Pastrami Pizza
Cannoli Hamantaschen
Rainbow Cookies
Everything Bagel Sushi
Brisket Tacos
Za’atar Potato Skins
Hawaij Hot Cocoa
Grilled Cheese Latkes

Top 5 Places to Get Lox In NYC

In addition to being a classic Jewish food, lox is arguably one of the most New York-y foods you can get. We have so many great bagel shops to choose from, but, as you might know, not everyone is choosy about their lox. Next time you’re on a mission for the best bagel and lox in town, try visiting one of the five shops below. Each spot has its own curated menu of smoked fish and at least one house-cured lox.

Wondering what the difference is between lox and smoked fish? Our detailed guide to lox spells it all out. Even though lox has become synonymous with smoked fish, lox is brined, and smoked salmon is, as you might have guessed, smoked! Nova lox is brined fish that’s later smoked, and is probably one of the more popular way to top a cream cheese bagel these days.

Read below for the best lox in the city, whether you want it salt-brined or smoked.

Acme Smoked Fish
Acme Smoked Fish is the prolific smoked fish supplier that works closely with many of the lox purveyors (including the ones below) throughout the city. Every Friday, it opens its factory doors to the public, offering tastings and an opportunity to buy the smoked fish at wholesale prices. It not only makes the classics, like belly lox and nova, but also several creative offshoots like pastrami nova and mesquite nova.

Russ & Daughters

For over 100 years, Russ & Daughters has been NYC’s premier appetizing store, specializing in lox, dozens of varieties of smoked fish, cream cheese and salads. Placing your order here is a treat in more than one way — the timeless decor of the store and the friendly staff behind the counter make it an experience.

#bagel #bliss

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Zabar’s

Head to Zabar’s for high-quality smoked fish and everything else you might need on your shopping list! It was originally known for selling smoked fish, and its reputation for selling the best in the city still holds true today.

 

Barney Greengrass

Known as “the Sturgeon King of New York” since 1908, Barney Greengrass is a timeless lunch spot with delicious, house-cured lox. Lox is serves on bagels, in platters, and scrambled with eggs and onions. Have a seat at one of the formica tables, and settle in for some quality people watching as you nosh on your nova.

Shelksy’s

Brooklynites don’t have to schlep to Manhattan to find good lox anymore — they can get it in this cheery Cobble Hill storefront. You’ll find a number of different smoked-fish bagel sandwiches like “Member of The Tribe” and “Brooklyn Transplant” on the menu. It has belly lox and house-cured lox, along with bagels, bialys and plenty of schmears. It also has a delicatessen menu, which features pastrami, knishes and kasha varnishkes. You’re go-to spot for just about any kind of Jewish specialty, Shelksy’s doesn’t disappoint.

 

The Jewish Cuisine of Poland and Russia

Pickled cucumbers, borscht, kasha varnishkes, and knishes are just some of the stick-to-your-ribs foods that Polish and Russian-Jewish Cuisine is best known for. It’s no longer everyday fare, but rather the kind of meal that you cook when you’re craving something to combat the chilliest winter night.

These grainy stews, pickled fishes and soups were dishes developed out of the harsh environmental and political climates of these regions. Driven out of Germany, France and Italy, Jews went eastward to Poland and Russia, where Byzantinian Jews had settled centuries before. They brought with them several dishes that originated in Germany, like challah bread and gefilte fish, and adopted new tastes and traditions as they moved throughout Eastern Europe and Russia.

Though they’re often lumped together, Polish, Lithuanian and Russian Jewish cuisines are actually quite different. Check out this article and the recipes below to find out more!

Lightened-Up Kasha Varnishkes
Borscht
Schav (sorrel soup)
Dill Pickles
Chrein (pickled horseradish)
Blintzes
How to Make Potato Knishes
Cheese Lokshen Kugel
Cinnamon Noodle Kugel

The Best Kind of Roses are Challah Roses

Winter is the perfect time for honing your baking skills and getting creative with hot cocoa or perhaps mulled wine. We’ve been talking a lot about babka these days, but intricate challah, as recently discussed at Food 52, certainly deserves some spotlight, too!

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To make your challah bouquet, prepare your favorite challah dough. After it rises, roll out the dough, and follow a recipe for shaping challah roses. There are a few different ways to approach it — you can fill the roses with a sweet filling, or you can wrap the challah into roses without filling them (above).

If roses aren’t your thing, we’re sure you can twist and shape challah into just about anything — treeshearts, and even birds! We’d love to see what you come up with — just tag your challah creations with @jewishfood and #noshthis.

by SoniaPaladini.it

Challah with Honey and Blueberries by Sonia Paladini (above)
Challah Al Miele from Pepper’s Matter
Honey Rose Challah from Metukimsheli.com (English version at bottom)
Challah Rose from The Kosher Channel
Floral Challah from The Kosher Home on a Budget

Meet the Israeli Chef Now Contributing to the New York Times

Israeli food has officially become mainstream, now that Israeli chef, Yotam Ottolenghi, has a column in the New York Times food section! He made his debut recently in an article titled “Yotam Ottolenghi: Eat Your Sugar.”

You may be most familiar with his cookbooks like Jerusalem and Plenty, but he’s actually no stranger to journalism. He’s worked on the news desk at Haaretz, and has more recently contributed regularly to The Guardian. This is Ottolenghi’s first gig with an American newspaper, which is exciting for many reasons, not least in relation to measurements — you’ll no longer need to translate grams into cups!

In his inaugural post, Ottolenghi revealed that his recipes, which he’ll post occasionally, will focus on “all things baked and sweet.” It’s a bold statement to make in our present sugar- and refined flour-fearing world, but we’re on board! He’s not afraid to use a little sugar, and neither are we! His first two recipes are for Pastry Nests with Poached Pears and Feta and Saffron Cream and Pomegranate and Rose Granita, whose bold fuschia is here just in time for Valentine’s Day or for brightening a snowy winter night.

Photo from Ottolenghi’s Facebook page.

 

 

7 Incredible Ways to Eat Bagels and Lox

It’s National Bagels & Lox Day, and to celebrate this chewy, briny match made in heaven, we’d like to spotlight the many ways in which these two complementary foods can be enjoyed. You can make a bagel sandwich with cream cheese and lox, of course, but, as with so many of our favorite Jewish foods, the possibilities are endless!

If this foodie holiday caught you by surprise, that’s OK — most of these recipes just call for store-bought bagels and lox. And if you’re a vegan, try out our roundup of lox-less bagels and lox! Here are some inventive recipes to get you started:

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Quiche
Smoked Salmon Bagel Bar from What’s Gaby Cooking
Lox Bagel Pizza from Shutterbean
Bagel and Cream Cheese Strata from Food 52
Smoked Salmon Bagel Bites from Rachel Ray (with bagel chips)
Bagel with Wasabi Cream Cheese, Smoked Salmon, Avo and Ginger by Drizzle and Dip
Bagel Quiche from Recipe Girl (this is just dying for a little lox on top)

Best Jewish Food in Chicago

Chicago has always been teeming with Jewish and kosher-style delicatessens and restaurants–you”ll probably recognize some of these if you live there or grew up there. Some of the best noshings are had at old-school delis, or new delis and diners that are nostalgic for the past. There’s also a kosher diner, and a unique kosher butcher that makes the best sausages and hot dogs in town. These places serve up not only classic deli fair, but also several sandwiches, hot dogs, and burgers completely unique to Chicago.

Gino blesses 🙏 each sandwich! #DELIcious 📷 by @knowherechicago

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Manny’s Deli

Since 1942, Manny’s has been serving up Reubens, chopped liver, kishke, kasha and so much more in its old-school cafeteria-style restaurant. The walls of this Chicago institution are plastered with newspaper clippings and memorabilia that prove just how much people love this place.

Milt’s Barbecue for the Perplexed

According to its website, inspiration for this kosher restaurant “comes from Maimonides, the prominent 12th-century Torah scholar. His ‘Guide for the Perplexed‘ addresses questions of philosophy and theology that are still relevant today.” Milt’s is known for pairing barbecue with philosophical lectures. With solid vegetarian options — tofu tenders and a hearty vegetarian chili, to name a few — along with meat fare, this BBQ joint has something for everyone.

It’s called a sandwich . Real turkey . Real corned beef. Real good .

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Eleven City Diner 

This new-school diner is full of nostalgic touches, drawing inspiration from the Jewish delis and casual family restaurants that the owner grew up with. Visit it if you’re craving all-day breakfast, knishes, or melts in the heart of the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

 

Romanian Kosher Sausage Co

No post about Jewish food in Chicago would be complete without mention of Romanian Kosher Sausage Co. Eater Chicago describes it as “a gem that’s been doing things the right way for over 50 years,” one of the most beloved butcher shops in Chicago. In addition to sausage, Romanian makes corned beef, kishke and beef chopped liver, which is apparently the best in the city.

Ken’s Diner, Skokie

This ’50s-style diner has been a kosher destination for over 30 years. It makes several different specialty burgers and a sprinkling of Ashkenazi dishes like chicken schnitzel and pastrami.

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