Monthly Archives: September 2011

Shabbat, the Remix

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Holidays on by .

You know the Sabbath Manifesto — the project that seeks to introduce people to relax, rest, and get back to basics, and to “tune out” for one day? It’s basically what us Hebrews refer to as “Shabbat” — but a sort of modernized, remixed Shabbat for the 21st century.

Shlomo Carlebach once pointed out that Orthodox Jews pray for Jerusalem every day, but the people who actually founded the modern State of Israel. And this new video — which is a cool, strange hybrid of a public-service commercial and a bunch of right-wing yeshivish Orthodox Jews in an insurance commercial — is moving and curiously spot-on.

I mean, my first instinct is to say, what in the name of G-d is going on? My second instinct is to say, ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE LOOK EXACTLY ALIKE. (Bearing in mind that, with very minor cosmetic distinctions, I pretty much look exactly like all of them.) But the more I think about it, the more I realize that (a) it’s a targeted ad campaign, (b) those people are exactly the target, and (c) it’s really freakin’ effective.

We all need to spend less time on our computers and our various gadgets. Or, forget that — we need to spend less time in our own self-involved pursuits, stet. Yesterday I got distracted from playing with my kids while doing some weed-whacking. I had a moment where I realized, Oh, crap, garden shears are the prehistoric equivalent of a BlackBerry. So our yard isn’t quite as hazardous as it used to be, which is good for my kids (and anyone else who comes over). But it’s still no replacement for quality time with the folks.

(hat tip to my mother-in-law for sending this)

Posted on September 12, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

My Culinary Journey

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

June Hersh is the author of The Kosher Carnivore: The Ultimate Meat and Poultry Book, available this week. She will be blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning‘s Author Blog.

If you had told me on my 55th birthday that in the coming year I would have a cookbook published and a second one in the works I would have told you to promptly return your crystal ball to Amazon and ask for a full refund. Prior to that year I had many roles, foremost mother and wife, and secondarily as a teacher at the Solomon Schechter Day School, founder of Fancy Schmancy, a children’s clothing company, and resource coordinator for my family’s lighting business. But cookbook author was not on my resume.

After we sold our business, my sister stated what would become our mantra– we did well, now let’s do good. I took those as marching orders and proceeded to discover my newest incarnation, cookbook author. It seemed like a natural choice. I have always been a student of everything food, an adventurous eater and fearless cook. I find that there are not many endeavors that give you the instant gratification cooking does. Maybe it’s the Jewish mother in me, but the act of nurturing and nourishing is in my DNA. So many of my favorite memories are set around the kitchen table as a child, watching my mother lovingly prepare even the simplest dish. She could turn grilled cheese and tomato soup into a five star experience. So it seemed so natural that this would be the niche that I found to bring a new richness to my days.

My first project was Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival, a book focused on the stories and recipes of Holocaust survivors. I would personally interview each and every survivor or their family member and write their remarkable story and recreate their cherished recipes. The good would be that I would donate all the proceeds to the Museum of Jewish Heritage, an institution that stands as a living memorial to the Holocaust. The experience was life-changing and resulted in a beautiful book that has raised both funds and awareness.

Once I was bit by the cookbook bug I didn’t want it to end. That incredible project was something that excited me every morning and kept me up at night. I dream in shades of medium rare, so it seemed to be an organic decision to write a book focused on meat and poultry. Happily, St. Martin’s Press agreed. The Kosher Carnivore was a revelation as it took my cooking to the next level. This time I wasn’t rebuilding other people’s recipes, I was creating my own. What could I do to meld succulent lamb shanks with pomegranates bursting with ripe seeds? How could I incorporate the summer’s sweetest peach into a gingery glaze for chicken? What new twist could I put on roast duck that would make the skin so crispy you could hear it crackle down the hall? My aim was to develop eclectic and innovative delicious food that happened to be kosher.

Shopping bags were replaced by grocery bags as I spent hours behind the counter of some of New York’s finest butchers. Donning an apron, I would carefully watch the butcher turn cuts of beef into works of art. I drooled over the fatty cap that rests atop the prime rib oozing with marbling. I marveled as the butcher ground brisket and chuck to create the juiciest hamburger blend. I questioned every stroke of the knife and every emphatic crash of the cleaver until I felt assured that I knew exactly how to expertly prepare the meat I was toting home. I returned from my visits with the same glow others get from an amazing facial.

I am now a veritable walking encyclopedia of bits of information about kosher cuts of meat. Invite me to a dinner party and I will regale you with cooking tips, wine suggestions and cookware advice. Want to hear how to best sear a duck breast or grill a juicy rib-eye? I’m your girl. And because I do love meat and potatoes, I can tell you how to turn Yukon golds into pareve mashed potatoes so creamy you want to take a nap in the bowl. My on-off switch is usually on, but a soft kick under the table or a gentle hand on my knee, tells me to change the conversation and save my riveting news about short ribs for another time.

Over the next few days I want to take you along on my culinary journey as I navigate the world of cookbook writing. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Moroccan Lamb Shanks with Pomegranate Sauce

Lamb shanks are rich, meaty, and succulent as the layer of fat that envelopes each shank bastes them while they cook.  This Moroccan version features aromatic spices, which blend to give the shanks a punchy taste, while never overpowering their natural flavor. The addition of pomegranate juice brings a subtle sweet tart flavor to the sauce.

Behind the Counter The singular taste of lamb shanks really has no equal. Alternate cuts  short ribs (+$) or osso buco (+$) or even turkey drumsticks cut osso buco style (-$)

About 4 servings

Start to Finish: Under 3 hours

4 (12 – to- 16-ounce) lamb shanks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 dozen juniper berries
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup sweet red wine
2 cups beef stock
1 cup pomegranate juice (derived from the seeds of 1 large or 2 medium pomegranates), or 1 cup bottled juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the shanks with kosher salt and pepper.  Heat the olive oil in a braising pot and brown the shanks, over medium to high heat, on all sides, about 10 minutes.  Be sure to stand the shanks on the edges to brown all sides.  Remove the shanks and cook and stir the onion and garlic, over medium heat, until lightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the spices, tomato paste, wine and stock.  Stir over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add the shanks to the pot cover and roast at 350 degrees for 2 hours. Check the shanks every 30 minutes, turning them over in the sauce each time you check and admire them.  While the lamb cooks, Process the pomegranate seeds if starting from scratch (see feedback), otherwise take a well deserved break.

When the lamb is nearly cooked, after 1½ hours, add the pomegranate juice.  Continue cooking 30 minutes longer or until the meat on the shank is buttery soft and nearly falling off the bone. When finished, the sauce will be thick and concentrated (you can thin it with a little water or stock if needed). Spoon the sauce over the shanks and serve alongside rice, noodles or couscous.

Feedback

While pomegranates are loaded with antioxidants, their real power is to stain anything porous they come in contact with.  If you are working with fresh pomegranates, I applaud your initiative.  Late fall, October and November is the best time to buy fresh pomegranates, when they burst off the shelves with ripe seeds.  Here are some tips for handling this persnickety fruit.

1. Wear something that can take a joke, you could end up looking like a victim from Law and Order, stained with red splatters

2. Cut, then squeeze the pomegranates over a bowl so you don’t lose any of the precious juice.  There is additional juice in the tiny seeds.  To juice those, fill a bowl with water, with your fingers gently loosen the seeds, over the bowl, and separate them from the papery membrane.  The seeds will fall to the bottom of the bowl, while the thin fiber will float. Strain the water, reserving the seeds.

3. Pulverize most of the seeds in a blender (reserve a few for garnish). Strain the liquid pressing on the solids to extract all the juice. Discard the solids.  Between the squeezed juice and the pureed seeds, you should have about ¾ – to- 1- cup of fresh juice from 1 large or 2 medium pomegranates.

Alternatively, you can buy pomegranate juice.  It’s cleaner, easier but not nearly as much fun!

Check back all week for more posts and recipes from June Hersh.

Posted on September 12, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

9/11 Ten Year Anniversary Links

This entry was posted in General on by .

With the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 this Sunday, people far and wide are doing all they can to remember, commemorate, and honor the tragedy of that day. If you’re looking for accounts from 2001 and what’s happened in the past 10 years, from a Jewish perspective, here are some links to get you started:

– 9/11 is a national day of service. Here’s a database of places where you can volunteer.

– Irving “Yitz” Greenberg noted that Israel’s experience with terror offered American Jews the chance to share Jewish and Israeli experiences with the rest of America.

– The UJA-Federation of New York has put together a list of resources on 9/11 including readings, prayers, and songs of healing.

– 10 years worth of articles about 9/11 from The Jewish Week.

The New York Times tells us how to teach kids about 9/11 in our schools, and why it’s important we do.

The Forward highlights a study which suggests religious victims coped better with the attacks.

– Jay Rosen, the chairman of the Journalism Department of NYU, shares the e-mails he sent out on 9/11 and the days following.

Posted on September 9, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Songs for Jewish Cowboys

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Let’s get started for the weekend early with a little song. Matisyahu might be JDub Records‘ biggest export, but this is what we’re dancing to during these pre-Shabbat hours today: SoCalled’s amazing song about Jewish cowboys (another of our obsessions), “You Are Never Alone.”

 

 

Posted on September 9, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

The Grandparent-Grandson Relationship

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Earlier this week, Avrom Honig shared a behind-the-scenes look at the photoshoot for Feed Me Bubbetalked about coming to the Big City, and introduced us to his production assistant, Zadie. He has been blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning‘s Author Blog.

Well, if you’re watching this blog closely you have seen already part 12, and 3.  Now I am thrilled to present to you part number 4 featuring the star of the show herself.  Bubbe is here to talk a bit about the importance of having a grandparent and grandchild relationship.
We want to thank all of you for joining me over these past few posts.  If you want more entries from me, leave comments below, and who knows, maybe we might do some future updates from the Book Tour with more behind the scenes action if you are interested.

For now thank you to all that have purchased our book Feed Me Bubbe.  Due to your support we can proudly state that we are an Amazon Best Seller in the Kosher Category.  We know this is just the beginning and we look forward to having you join us on our facebook page and over at http://www.feedmebubbe.com.

Avrom Honig and Bubbe’s new book, Feed Me Bubbe!, is now available.

Posted on September 9, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Kosher Zombies & Vampires

This entry was posted in Practices on by .

Are zombies kosher? Or, more specifically, can zombies keep kosher? Asks a friend, the amazing comic writer Ashley-Jane Nicolaus:

Long story short, a friend of mine moved to a new place next to a really really old Jewish cemetery – so that got us thinking, if the zombie apocalypse were to happen, are brains kosher? Inquiring minds need to know…

I’m no kosher expert, but a few decades of eschewing the swine have prepped me with a little background knowledge. Not to mention thoroughly geeking out with random books of Jewish law. So here’s the deal.

imaginary kosher animalsYou can actually eat the brains of a kosher animal. Well, some kosher animals. My mother-in-law (who, I should note, is a native Australian) LOVES cracking open fish skulls & sucking the brains out. (I’m a vegetarian & i think she does it to psyche me out. It doesn’t work.)

But that’s not what you want to know. If you want to know about zombies, you want to know about REAL HUMAN BRAINS. Well, humans — or any part thereof — is not permissible to eat, regardless of whether you’re talking about kosher-keeping humans or non. (You really wish that whoever started the blood libel rumors had Google access to give them a clue.) In order for any animal to be kosher, it has to have cloven hooves and chew its cud. So basically, if you’re a kosher zombie, you are screwed.

One additional consideration: Kosher vampires are screwed as well. In the process of making meat kosher, the animal’s body has to be completely drained of blood. So you know how, on Buffy, when Angel and Spike became good guys (or impotent), they had to drink the blood of animals? (Just kidding. You don’t actually need to know that.)* Animal blood is out, too. I suppose there’s a case to be made that, when a life is at stake,** Jewish laws such as kashrut don’t apply. Then again, zombies and vampires aren’t technically alive, are they?

If you’re curious for more, you should probably check out Are Dragons Kosher?

__________
* — I believe a similar thing happened in Twilight, but I’ve mostly blacked it out.
** — Notice how I avoided a pun about stakes? Joss Whedon is rolling over in his grave.***
***– Apologies. I know Joss Whedon is not dead.

Posted on September 8, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Meet Our Production Assistant, Zadie

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Earlier this week, Avrom Honig shared a behind-the-scenes look at the photoshoot for Feed Me Bubbe, and talked about coming to the Big City. He will be blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council andMyJewishLearning‘s Author Blog.

Hope you’ve enjoyed parts one and two, and now, this time, I have a special guest for all of you. We got one of the big unknown stars of our show, Zadie.  “Zadie” is the Yiddish word for “grandfather.” Zadie plays a huge roll on the show making sure to keep everyone in line.

Any good production is all about having a behind-the-scenes team that really makes sure that everything is perfect. There are times that we are shooting videos where Zadie stops us before we even record because a phone may need to be taken off the hook, or perhaps an item is in the kitchen needs to be adjusted because it just doesn’t look right.

There are many times when during the process of making the book where Zadie looked over everything multiple times to make sure the pages were in the right order and that nothing was missing. In fact there were sections of the book that we knew we wanted to be in the book but if it was not for Zadie reminding us we probably would have never had it in the book. This includes menus, cooking terms, and even Bubbe’s favorite Yiddish songs which can all be found in the back of the book.

We have one more post coming up, and of course another special guest.

Just wait and see, this is a special one!

Avrom Honig and Bubbe’s new book, Feed Me Bubbe!, is now available. Come back all week to read his posts for MyJewishLearning and the Jewish Book Council‘s Author Blog.

Posted on September 8, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Feed Me Bubbe’s Journey to New York City

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Yesterday, Avrom Honig shared a behind the scenes look at the photoshoot for Feed Me Bubbe. He will be blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning‘s Author Blog.


If you want to know more about Feed Me Bubbe and an introduction to how we got started then be sure to check out Part 1.  Just for those joining us we created a book based upon our hit online and televised cooking show because our audience really wanted it.  Of course before I knew it we had an agent, a publisher, and found myself heading to New York City to represent our new book.

The name of the organization was the Jewish Book Council and I would be presenting a two minute speech to representatives from the Jewish Book Network.  To someone that was not used to speaking in front of a crowd this could be a huge undertaking.  In fact they even told us that the on deck chair was nicknamed the sigh chair, or the deep breath chair.  The reason for this is because everyone gives a big breath before they go up on stage, perhaps a sign of nervousness.

In my case I had nothing to be nervous over and just pretended that I was standing in front of the camera or friends just talking normally.  It really was a change of pace for me looking at such a large crowd but, I didn’t mind and adjusted my microphone and just went for it.

Of course I had a good meal before the presentation over at a restaurant in New York City called Noi Due which I was told is pronounced as NOY – DUE – E.  What impressed me about the place is everything was so light and yet filling.  For akosher establishment it was incredible.  You would never believe walking in that it was actually a kosher restaurant from the menu, the decor, and even the customers.  It just looked like any other amazing restaurant located in New York.

What made this place even more amazing is that it was a dairy restaurant.  Usually in New York I go to meat restaurants making sure I have food that is filling and satisfying but I have to say Noi Due is the exception to the rule.  The waiter recommended a delicious cake which looked so heavy and yet was light and went down very easily.  In fact it looked so incredible here is a picture:

Next time, I have a special guest for you that you are sure to love.

Check back all week for more posts from Avrom Honig, co-author (with his bubbe) of Feed Me Bubbe.

Posted on September 7, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Top Five Weirdest Quiz Questions

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Are you into our Quiz Challenge yet? If not, you’d better get moving — the month of September is already underway, and some people are racking up some serious points! (Remember, you get points for every correct question, not the percentage of questions — so if you don’t know the answer, just guess a lot!)

Today I thought I’d comb through the quizzes and give you the top five weirdest quiz questions I can find. We have a couple thousand questions in the system, so it’s a pretty wide pool to choose from….

5. What book contains formulas that were ostensibly used to create golems?
(from the Magic & the Supernatural quiz)

4. What were the first Freedom Seders?
(from the War & Peace quiz)

3.Why are Hasidim especially careful about selecting somebody to slaughter their meat?
(from the Afterlife & Messiah quiz)

2. Which of these is not one of the steps of a traditional conversion?
(from the Who Is a Jew quiz)

1. (for today, anyway…) True or false: Aristotle is never mentioned in the Talmud.
(from the Jewish Thinkers, Jewish Thought quiz)

That’s where my brain is today. If you think you’ve got the correct answers, go take that quiz! And if you need me, I’ll be in the Jewish Sports quiz. By this time tomorrow, I might have answered ONE question right.

Posted on September 6, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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