This time of year, I love thinking back on the highlights of what I ate, what I made and what I want to create in the coming year. I focused a lot this year on my cakes, which I will be sharing on the blog in 2014 (stay tuned!), and I expanded my vegetarian repertoire significantly. And meanwhile, the Jewish food scene was busy with its own 2013 agenda, some of which I found exciting, and some that I would be happy to see not make a re-appearance in 2014.
Gluten-Free Everyone and Everything
If one more person tells me they are going gluten-free or their doctor has told them they have a gluten allergy, I am going shove a loaf of challah right into their mouth. Ok, I know that might sound harsh. But it seems like everyone around me has gone gluten-free this year, no!?
If you ask me, Jews have always been the kings and queens of gluten-free cooking and baking, since it’s pretty close to a Passover diet! For example, my Passover Sweet Potato Pie with Macaroon Crust is also…gluten-free. A happy side effect.
But aside from my snarky attitude about the gluten-free fad, there are great resources out there including Rella Kaplowitz’s kosher gluten-free blog and even an entire Jewish cookbook dedicated to classic Jewish baked goods called Nosh on This. And don’t forget to check out our very own recipe for the Ultimate Gluten-Free Challah.
Pop-Ups Popping Up
Pop-up restaurants have been, literally, popping up all over the country for the past couple of years. In fact the first time I experienced a pop-up was in New Orleans about 3 years ago. The general concept of a pop-up is for a chef or group of chefs who want to try something different, or who don’t have their own space, will use a traditional restaurant space or other space and open a restaurant for a short amount of time. And in 2013 pop-ups have taken on a distinctively Jewish flavor. Devra Ferst wrote in The Forward that “New York Pop-Ups Deliver the Country’s Most Exciting Jewish Fare.”
Earlier this year The Kubbeh Project from Naami Shefi made the biggest headlines, opening for three weeks in the East Village of New York City.
And Danya Cheskis-Gold has run a Shabbat dinner series called Pop-Up Shabbat since July 2013, an intimate Shabbat dinner with innovative food, music, drinks and new friends. When Danya created Pop-Up Shabbat it wasn’t just about the food, it was also about creating a different kind of Jewish experience. She explained,
“I’ve got 15 years of Jewish education, summer camp, and USY under my belt, and my grandparents met at a Zionist meeting, so you might say I’m pretty identified with my religious and cultural background. I’ve tried out synagogues all over the Manhattan and hippie minyans in Brooklyn, but nothing’s been quite the right fit. So, I started Pop-Up Shabbat. It’s my DIY Judaism – it makes me feel connected to the community and traditions that I most love about being Jewish, but in a way that’s relevant for me, others like me and fits in with my lifestyle.”
A Return to Meat
I am not anti-meat by any means, although I do eat a mainly vegetarian diet these days for health and environmental reasons. So when I do eat meat I want to know that it is quality which is why it was great to find out that in 2013 the Prime Hospitality Group started serving certified Angus Beef at most of their NYC restaurants, a trend I expect to see spreading in 2014 as people become increasingly concerned about the quality and origins of the meat they consume.
But there were several other exciting meat-centric trends this year including a focus on BBQ and upscale steakhouses, which Dani Klein from YeahThatsKosher.com was kind enough to share some of his thoughts about:
Smoking meat isn’t something commonly found in kosher restaurants until recently. Smokey Joe’s in Teaneck, NJ has been pleasing Bergen County residents with their flavors for a few years now, but BBQ has truly exploded in 2013. What was formerly known as “Hakadosh BBQ” (currently “Wandering Cue”), originally a pop-up BBQ event in Westchester County hosted by caterer Ari White, turned into a year of appearances throughout NYC and beyond, especially at street fairs and events. One of those events was the 2nd annual Long Island Kosher BBQ Championship, where professional and amateur BBQ-ers battled it out. Outside of the NYC area, Milt’s Barbecue for the Perplexed opened in Chicago to rave reviews.
Lots of NY kosher steakhouses in the news this year. The Prime Grill moved to a new, larger location further north in midtown east, in addition to giving “Prime at the Bentley” a permanent home at the Bentley Hotel (which was originally a pop up restaurant in late 2012). Mike’s Bistro announced that it is leaving the Upper West Side and moving to Midtown East. In addition to the opening of Chagall Bistro in Brooklyn, two new high end kosher steakhouses opened their doors in the second half of 2013: La Brochette, a French steakhouse on Lexington Ave, replacing a previous kosher restaurant; and Reserve Cut, a beautiful, modern steakhouse opened up in the Setai downtown by Wall Street. This year also saw the close of J SOHO (formerly “Jezebel”) which was open for barely more than a year.
The Croissant Craze
If you haven’t heard of the Cronut, a donut-croissant hybrid that took over NYC this year, you might have been living under a rock in 2013. The cronut even hit Israel, with multiple varieties sweeping the country. And just recently in NYC, a new croissant hybrid came onto the scene at Bubby’s: the crnish, a croissant-knish combination.
I predict there are many more Jewish food mash-ups in store for 2014, and I can’t wait to see what crazy combos are born.
If Christmas is a time for tradition and family, then count me in! But I’m not talking about building gingerbread houses and trimming the tree. Our Jewish Christmas traditions were more about moo shu, a movie (ideally in the Home Alone series) and maybe a trip to the local casino. Usually, we’d pile in the car and head over to Cheng Du, one of the only restaurants open that day in town, and fill up on chicken & broccoli, vegetable dumplings and fortune cookies. And then an hour later when we were hungry again, finish the leftovers.
A few years ago, maybe turned off by the crowds or MSG, or inspired by my love of eating at home, I decided to start making my own Chinese food for Christmas instead. One bite of my homemade General Tso’s Chicken and I was hooked! This year, I took the decidedly unkosher Crab Rangoon and swapped the crab for lox. The result? Like a fried version of my favorite bagel breakfast. Why didn’t I think of this sooner? Now you can have lox and schmear for every meal. Christmas can’t come soon enough!
8 ounces cream cheese (dairy or pareve), at room temperature
4 ounces lox, finely diced
1 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 Tbsp chives, minced
Pinch of salt
20 wonton wrappers
Canola oil, for deep frying
In a small bow, mix the cream cheese, lox, sugar, green onions and salt well.
Place about 1 heaping teaspoon of the cream cheese filling in the middle of a wonton wrapper.
Fold two pointy ends of the wonton wrapper together to make a triangle.
Fold the other two ends to make a tiny parcel. Using a little water, pinch to seal tight and make sure there is no leakage.
Heat up a heavy bottomed pot of 2-3 inches of oil to 350 degrees F and fry the rangoon in batches until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.
Can you believe 2014 is just a few weeks away!? This time each year I think about how awesome it is that Jews get not one but two new years – two opportunities for reflection, for looking ahead and for resolutions.
It’s been a great year at The Nosher – so many fun recipes, stories and tips that we got to share together. Like my tips for making perfect challah every time, or my friend Danielle’s favorite tiny kitchen tools that you just can’t live without.
But it always comes back to: the food! So here are my favorite recipes from 2013.
What was your food highlight from 2013? The best dish you made? Or the best thing you ate? Share below!
The best challah recipes of 2013:
The best desserts of 2013:
The best savory dishes of 2013:
This warming lentil soup is thick and robust with bold flavors from artfully balanced spices. It’s even better after the first day and it freezes well, too.
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 6 oz. package beef-flavored Facon, trimmed of fat and minced (optional)
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 14 ounce can of peeled, chopped tomatoes
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups green or red lentil, rinsed and examined for unwanted particles.
chopped parsley or cilantro for serving
Sautee onions until translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, stir and cook lightly for another 3-4 minutes. Add carrots, celery and canned tomatoes to pot. Bring to a low simmer.
Add all spices, adjusting to taste. Add vegetable or chicken stock, holding back 1-2 cups if you prefer thicker soup.
Add cooked Facon and lentils and simmer for 1.5 hours, stirring periodically. Add more stock as the lentil break down and thicken, if you prefer a looser soup.
Ladle into individual bowls and garnish with fresh parsley, dill or cilantro. Stay warm and enjoy!
It may come as a surprise that food bloggers like to get to know…other food bloggers. Who else can relate to the frustration of food photography, keen interest in food trends and a generally obsessive interest level in, well, food?
I love getting to meet other food bloggers, and a few weeks ago I had the chance to sit down at NYC’s midtown Macaron Café (a favorite spot of mine, and not just because the macarons are delicious and kosher) with fellow food blogger Liz Rueven of Kosher Like Me.
What was the inspiration for starting to write Kosher Like Me?
Not everyone keeps kosher quite the same way. Many Americans keep “kosher like me,” meaning, they will eat in non-kosher restaurants, but only strictly vegetarian dishes. And so I wanted to share the research I was already finding about non-Kosher restaurants that had vegetarian-friendly dishes and menus. In the past I would tell waiters at restaurants that I was vegetarian. But when I wrote this blog, I didn’t want to write about being vegetarian – I wanted to write my “Kosher Like Me” truth. About one third of my readers are vegetarian, also looking for veggie-friendly restaurants and recipes; one third of my readers are “Kosher Like Me” eaters; and one third are just health-conscience people.
What has been the most exciting thing to occur as a result of blogging?
Last year I was invited to speak on a panel at the Hazon Food Conference. It was exciting to be surrounded by people passionate about about kashrut and food grounded in Jewish tradition and a sustainable approach to the land and animals.
What has been the most surprising thing about writing your blog?
I never expected to encounter so many personal stories about kashrut and food, especially in unexpected places. Restaurant chefs often have a story that surprises me, including the owner of Macaron Café. When I met her I asked, “why did you make your macarons kosher?’ She explained that when she first had a business it was located in the garment district of New York City, where a lot of Orthodox Jews also work. She had many requests to make her Parisian macarons kosher, and so she did.
What is your favorite NYC-area restaurant that you keep coming back to?
Like-minded eaters have the easiest time facing a menu where all is fair game, and that means any of the great vegetarian restaurants in NYC. Candle Cafe is close to my apartment so we order in from there or I eat at the counter if I am solo. I love Dirt Candy for Amanda Cohen’s more refined and innovative treatment of veggies, too. I also love Hangawi, which is Korean and vegan.
My favorite non-vegetarian restaurant is Rouge Tomate on the Upper East Side of New York City. The food is always inventive and exquisitely plated but be prepared for smaller portions. They have plenty of vegetarian and fish choices and most often use veggie broth . The waiters are well trained to answer honestly and patiently when questioned about ingredients.
Got any advice for someone who wants to start their own food blog?
If you are thinking about starting your own blog, you should start by reading the blogs that interest you regularly and consider why you admire them or find them useful. Ask the editor of one of those blogs if you might contribute. Suggest a few ideas or an area of that blog’s content that you would like to add to. Editors are always looking for content and will likely welcome your inquiry. It’s a great way to check out what a blogger’s world is really about.
What’s on the horizon for Kosher Like Me?
I am on the verge of re-designing the blog in order to make it more user-friendly. After two and a half years, a lot has changed about what I want to share with my readers!
You can read more about Liz Rueven here and check back tomorrow for her recipe for hearty lentil soup.
Bagels, rugelach, and babka, oh my!
The most delicious giveaway of the winter is officially on until Thursday, December 19, and four of you are about to win a selection of incredible kosher goodies from our friends at Kosher Gift Box, our favorite online purveyor of Jewish nosh. For FREE.
The grand prize—get ready for it—is the NYC Brunch Basket, full of fresh bagels, rugelach, lox, and cream cheese ($119.99 value) sent overnight straight to your front door.
And the lucky runners-up?
One will get this Collector’s Tin of Rugelach ($44.99 value).
Another: this Fresh Challah Variety Pack with four delicious flavors ($34.99 value).
And the third: this amazing Babka Two-Pack with cinnamon and chocolate loaves. (Because why choose?) ($27.99 value).
Scroll back up to enter today!
Update! The winners are in! Congratulations to Jeff of Nashville, Tennessee; Natali of Hollywood, Florida; Erin of Niagara Falls, New York; and Alicia of West Bloomfield, Michigan. Happy noshing!
For some time now I had in my head that I wanted to make a brownie that involved halva, that delicious Middle Eastern sesame confection. I researched. I pondered.
And then when I got a jar of the brand-new Soomsoom Foods Tehina, I knew it was my sign to go for it. What I loved about using this particular sesame paste was the super smooth consistency, easy pour-ability and also the fantastic plastic container. Much less messy or tricky to open than the metal cans!
While I chose to sprinkle the halva pieces on top of the brownies, you could also mix them into the brownie batter itself, or make a double batch of the brownies and do a layer of brownie filled with the tahini-cream cheese filling. The possibilities are endless.
Want to make this “semi-homemade” or pareve? Use some tried-and-true store-bought brownie mix and mix as directed. Add 1/4 cup chocolate chips to batter, and sprinkle 1/2 cup crumbled halva on top for another variation.
For the halva-cream cheese layer:
5 oz cream cheese
2 Tbsp butter, softened
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbsp flour
½ cup tahini
For the brownie layer:
¾ cups flour
1/3 cup Hersheys Special Dark Cocoa
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
¼ cup butter, softened (1/2 stick)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
1/4 cup chocolate chips
For the top:
¼ cup – ½ cup crumbled halva pieces
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line an 8 x 8 baking pan with cooking spray.
For the brownie layer:
Sift flour, cocoa, cinnamon, salt and baking powder into a medium sized bowl.
In a small bowl cream the sugar and butter together until smooth, add eggs one at a time, beat well then add vanilla.
Fold egg, sugar, butter and vanilla mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients. Fold in chocolate chips.
Spread 3/4 of the brownie batter into the bottom of an 8 x 8 baking dish.
For the halvai-cream cheese layer:
Cream together butter, sugar and flour. Add cream cheese and mix/blend until smooth.
Scrape bowl and add the egg and beat until light and creamy.
Scrape down bowl again and add the tahini. Beat one minute or until the tahini is mixed into the cream cheese mixture completely.
Randomly dollop the tahini-cream cheese topping over the brownie batter. Dollop the remaining brownie batter on top.
Sprinkle halva pieces on top. Swirl the topping together into batter using a butter knife.
Bake at 350 for around 40-45 minutes.
Allow to cool and cut brownies into squares.
This time of year can be strange for Jews, and Christmas parties can exacerbate the weirdness. Many a Jew has gone to a Christmas party wondering: Is it okay if I eat Christmas cookies? Is it okay if I make them? Do they have to be in the shapes of Jewish stars and dreidels?
For me, the Christmas cookie tradition has never posed much of a problem. I grew up making traditional Christmas cookies like gingerbread men with my mom, who wasn’t Jewish, and I love spending weekends making batch after batch of holiday cookies for my husband’s office and other loved ones. The concept that food is love transcends ethnicity or religion, and so I relish this time of the year to show my affections through the universal language of COOKIES.
Holiday cookies don’t have to be overtly for “Christmas” in fact my fellow food-loving writer Tamar Fox suggests a Hanukkah Sugar Cookie, with a special Austrian twist, perfect for a Jewish celebration or for other holiday treats.
Another way to update a cookie-classic with some Jewish spirit? Shades of Blue Rainbow Cookies from Nosher contributor Joy Prevor.
Or go totally “non-traditional” with my Salty Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies! My husband loves these, and who doesn’t just love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate.
Here are some of my other favorite cookie and treats recipes that I will be making later this week, Do you bake holiday cookies? Post your favorite recipes below!
Chai-Spiced Cookies from Whole Foods (pictured above)
Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti from King Arthur Flour
Poppy Seed Hanukkah Sugar Cookies from Weelicious
Oreo Cheesecake Brownies from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen
Salted Fudge Brownies from Food and Wine
Traditional Rugelach from Joan Nathan
Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips and Cherries (pictured below)
Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah. Sigh. This has been such an exciting year to celebrate. But between Thanksgiving, the long holiday weekend and eight nights of latkes and sufganiyot, my stomach is sure ready to move on to lighter fare.
I’ve put together some of my favorite healthful eating ideas to help you detox from the eating debuachery of the past week. Got a great a recipe to get our eating on track? Post below and let us know!
Don’t forget dessert: Strawberry Lemon Granita
When I used to live in Washington, DC there was a little bar I loved frequenting which served, among other delicious items, tater tots, grilled cheese and even homemade tomato soup – all the best childhood comfort foods, just a bit upgraded. At some point in the restaurant’s history it changed over the menu to tapas (small Spanish-style plates), and the tater tots and grilled cheeses were a thing of the past. Sigh.
I love updating comfort foods, like my Sweet Potato Mac n Cheese and Shakshuka Pizza among other dishes. There is something so exciting about taking a bite that is both new and also brings back fond memories.
So on a cold November day a few weeks ago when my friend’s son requested soup for lunch, I knew right away I wanted to make something a 3 year old would enjoy as much as I would: creamy, healthy tomato soup with just a spoonful of playful alphabet letters, a throwback to childhood classics. Everyone enjoyed the tomato soup that day, including my 1 year old daughter, the 3 year old Jonah and me and the husband.
Make sure not to add the alphabet pasta until you serve otherwise the pasta will absorb too much of the soup and it will have a mushy, non-soup-like consistency.
2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 14 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 ½-2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Salt and pepper
½ cup alphabet or other small pasta
½ cup heavy cream (optional)
Add butter or oil to a medium pot over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic until translucent.
Add crushed tomatoes and stock. Season with salt and pepper to taste and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat after 10 minutes to low.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta around 6 minutes or according to directions. Drain pasta and drizzle with a tiny amount of olive oil to prevent pasta from sticking. Set aside until ready to serve.
If you want the soup to be a smoother consistency, you can puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor. If not, you can leave soup as is.
If making the soup dairy, add heavy cream before serving.
Add a heaping tablespoon of pasta to each bowl. Sprinkle chopped chives on top and serve.