Author Archives: Shannon Sarna

Shannon Sarna

About Shannon Sarna

Shannon Sarna is the editor of The Nosher. Born to an Italian mother who loved to bake, a Jewish father who loved to experiment, and a food chemist grandfather, loving and experimenting with diverse foods is simply in her blood. Her writing and recipes have been featured in Tablet Magazine, JTA News, The Jewish Week, Joy of Kosher Magazine and Buzzfeed. She graduated from Smith College in Northampton, MA with a degree in Comparative Government and Spanish Language and Literature and currently lives in Jersey City, NJ. To see what Shannon is cooking and eating, follow her on twitter @shasarna and on Instagram.

VIDEO: How to Make Ashkenazi Haroset

Putting the final touches on your Passover seder menu? Don’t forget one of the most important, and easiest, dishes: the haroset.

Haroset symbolizes the mortar used by the slaves in Egypt, and so it’s not only a tasty part of the seder, it’s a pretty important part of the Passover story as well.

There are dozens of ways to make haroset, and different Jewish communities from around the world all have their own version. But today we are going to focus on one of the most popular ways that North American Jews enjoy haroset, and that is the apple, walnut, cinnamon and sweet wine version that many of us know from our childhood and beyond.

After spending time with my own 90 year old grandmother and talking haroset, I learned she never even made hers: her dear friend Clare, of blessed memory, used to make a large enough batch for both families. (Note: Clare was a much better cook than my grandmother. So, thanks Clare.)

How to Make Simple, Delicious Ashkenazi Haroset

We based our version on this classic recipe from Claudia Roden. But here is another version I like to make with candied walnuts, pomegranate juice and pomegranate seeds.

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Posted on March 26, 2015

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

Eating My Way Through Yemen, Philly, Tel Aviv and NYC

I am more often found in my own kitchen working on recipes than out and about eating at restaurants, but this past week I found myself enjoying everything from Yemenite fish stew on the Upper West Side to Tel Aviv-style hummus in Philadelphia. I don’t always rave but truly: every bite was delicious.

Last week in New York City, well-known food writer Adeena Sussman along with renowned Israeli chef and food personality Gil Hovav hosted a week of pop-up dinners and brunch at the charming Upper West Side restaurant Vino Levantino. I didn’t totally know what to expect – the only other Yemenite food I had tasted before was lechoh bread this past summer in the market in Tel Aviv.

Yemeni cocktail

Gil Hovav introduced the event sharing funny and touching stories from his childhood in Israel about Yemenite food and his family. Plates of hummus and a smoky egpplant dip were soon spread out on the table, along with fluffy pita. But the best starter of all was the light yet spicy cocktail made with fresh ginger and grapefruit juice, an olive oil rim and a unique spice mix made by Lior Lev Sercaz of the NYC specialty spice shop La Boite (where I have visited, and yes, it is kind of awesome).

The kubaneh, the crown jewel of the dinner, was delicious and unique but made even more special by the love both Gil and Adeena expressed for it. Kubaneh I learned is almost like the Yemenite version of challah, though it is eaten Saturday morning and cooks overnight. It was crusty on the outside, while being moist on the inside, I imagine a result of being cooked in olive oil for so long.  I was slightly suspicious of a fish stew, but it was so rich and flavorful made with red snapper and hawayejj, a spice mix with Yemeni origins. A simple but perfect dessert of tahini cookies, semolina cake, pistachio and dried fruit was a flawless conclusion along with a “white coffee” made with ginger and cardamom. I was in love. I am in love. I left wanting more, and I remain hopeful that Adeena and Gil will soon deliver.

Yemeni dessert

I didn’t expect to be transported so quickly from the classic, spice-filled Jewish cooking of Yemen to borscht-belt inspired tapas, but nevertheless, this weekend I found myself surrounded by small plates “inspired by the cuisine of the Jewish diaspora” at Abe Fisher in Philadelphia. One of the exciting restaurants by Chef Micheal Solomonov, I was blown away by the light and spicy borscht tartare salad, pastrami hash knish and even duck confit blintzes.

Panna cotta at Abe Fisher

Dessert was divine: the maple bacon and egg cream gave the impression of drinking a classic egg cream, with a foamy chocolate on top akin to the drink I enjoyed throughout my childhood, but it was anything but a simple egg cream. The panna cotta was creamy and rich with a tangy citrus topping.

And most impressive of all was the attentive service from the staff. Perhaps it’s because I was removed from New York for 36 hours, or maybe it’s just because Solomonov is running a great operation, but all the staff we encountered were helpful, accommodating and passionate about the food of Abe Fisher.

For lunch on Saturday I found myself transported once again to another Jewish cuisine, this time to Tel Aviv at another Solomonov establishment: Dizengoff. The tiny restaurant is a hummuseria featuring a super simple menu of perfectly prepared hummus in various flavors which change daily, homemade pita bread, pickles, salad, limonana and beer. We arrived at noon and very quickly there was a line out the door. The hummus was perfectly creamy and the fact that they are making their own pita in-house is impressive to say the least.

bialy at chestnut street bagels

Sunday morning found me wandering in search of bagels and cream cheese for my husband and daughter who were snug in bed enjoying a lazy morning. I was lucky enough to stumble upon Chestnut Street Bagels, producing high quality, crusty bagels with all the fixins – even whitefish salad. I opted for a bialy with butter for myself, an absolute favorite and was not disappointed. Even for a New Yorker.

Different cities, vastly different cuisines, all absolutely delicious. And I guess that’s one of the things I love about Jewish food: it’s diverse, interesting, ever-changing and it’s everywhere these days.

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Posted on March 25, 2015

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

Free Stuff: Artisanal Gefilte Fish Delivered to Your Door

We talk about the love and hate of gefilte fish a lot at The Nosher, and we know some of you love it. And others loathe it.

The Gefilteria gefilte fish

Enter The Gefilteria‘s gefilte fish: this is anything but that jarred stuff that looks like wet dryer lint. The brainchild of Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern, The Gefilteria is churning out carefully sourced, boutique gefilte fish among other re-imagined Old World Jewish foods. And as a small producer based in New York, they have a limited quantity of their coveted gefilte fish this Passover season.

 

gefilteria logo

But two very lucky Nosher readers will get to enjoy this item as part of their Passover Seder delivered to your door (*within the continental U.S.) via partner Challah Connection. How to score one of these precious loaves? Enter below! All you need to do is sign up for our newsletter.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted on March 22, 2015

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

Raspberry Swirl Chocolate Torte with Pecan Crust

Yield:
8-10 servings

Passover desserts can really be the worst. Canned macaroons. Dry cake. And while I know many people who love it, super rich flourless chocolate cake is just not my thing. I don’t enjoy how dense it is, even if i love chocolate. And I do love chocolate.

chocolate raspberry torte for Passover

Instead of the traditional, flourless chocolate cake, I wanted to create a chocolate dessert that was a bit lighter, while still remaining rich and chocolaty. The raspberry jam adds a slight tang to the torte, and pecan crust lends a nice crunch. I literally could not stop eating this, and so I gave it to my neighbors to eat instead. Suckers.

Note: After you bake the pecan crust it might look a little funny, like it didn’t work – almost a little too bubbly. I was also worried when I made it, but it is totally fine. I would also recommend topping your torte with fresh raspberries and even a few sprigs of mint for an extra beautiful presentation.

SONY DSC

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Raspberry Swirl Chocolate Torte with Pecan Crust

Posted on March 19, 2015

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

How to Make Perfect Chicken Soup and Matzah Balls

Yield:
8-10 servings

More than any other question that I get from friends and readers is how to make a great chicken soup with matzah balls. Chicken soup is universal, comforting and enjoyed year-round, as opposed to some traditional Jewish foods that are only enjoyed at a particular holiday.

It’s not complicated if you follow a few easy steps, and this year we decided to help out even further by making a short video to help take away the mystery of making perfect chicken soup every time.

How to Make the Perfect Chicken Soup

We love debating sinkers versus floaters when it comes to matzah balls, right? Well I am firmly in camp fluffy. How to make fluffy matzah balls for your soup? Roll them very gently in the palms of your hands, make sure to wet your hands with ice water in between rolls and don’t forget the schmaltz. Or you can watch this video to help make the perfect fluffy matzah balls to go with your chicken soup.

The Secret to Fluffy Matzah Balls

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Best Chicken Soup

Posted on March 17, 2015

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

Masala Lamb Stew with Creamy Coconut Quinoa

Yield:
4-6 servings

Passover is the holiday I plan for all year long, partially because I hate it so much. I loathe giving up my beloved bread and pastry for an entire week, though usually my thighs thank me for the brief respite. Nevertheless I seek inspiration everywhere: in cookbooks, online and out and about when I am eating.

masala lamb stew w quinoa1

This recipe was inspired by a dish my husband and I ate in Los Angeles back in December at a downtown restaurant called The Industriel. I have never been much of a quinoa fan, but when I tasted their braised lamb served with rich walnut-quinoa porridge cooked in milk, I knew I had to try and make a version for myself. Cooking the quinoa in coconut milk adds a richness and heartiness to the quinoa that I really enjoyed, and it was almost like I was eating rice or pasta with my stew. Almost.

masala lamb stew w quinoa2

If you aren’t a fan of Indian spices, you could also try a more Middle Eastern flare my replacing the masala with Ras-el-hanout or harissa, which would also pair nicely with the creamy coconut quinoa. And despite my kvetching over the lack of carbs, this dish is absolutely delish, Passover or not.

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Masala Lamb Stew with Creamy Coconut Quinoa

Posted on March 12, 2015

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

New Passover Cookbooks to Make Your Life Easier

It happens every year: Purim has just passed, and now it is time to focus on Passover right away. Yes folks, we are here whether we like it or not. For those of you who haven’t started cooking yet (oh yes, I know lots of people who have) and who haven’t had their menus planned since December (I know those too) there are a few new cookbooks out this year to help make your holiday a little more delicious.

new passover menu by Paula Shoyer

Paula Shoyer, author of The Holiday Kosher Baker among several other cookbooks, has released her newest collection: The New Passover Menu.

This cookbook is anything but traditional, and shows a distinct European flare, perhaps a result of Ms. Shoyer’s time spent in culinary school in Paris. In fact, she dedicates an entire section to a French dairy menu, a welcome addition for this dairy-lover, and a distinct difference from most meat-heavy Passover cookbooks.

Chicken Soup with Chicken Meatballs and Zucchini Spaghetti

She also includes some more traditional favorites, like matzah ball variations, lamb stew and several kugels. But it’s her Italian, French and even BBQ dishes that really make this new book unique. And of course her desserts like date and pistachio roll and flourless chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting.

gluten free around the world for web

Another beautiful cookbook available for Passover and year-around cooking is Aviva Kanoff‘s second cookbook, Gluten-Free Around the World. This is not an explicitly Passover cookbook, but many of it’s recipes are already appropriate for Passover without any adaptation. Aviva once again wows us with a colorful account of travel and food that brings world flavors into the kosher home.

Kanoff’s fish dishes are particularly noteworthy, including plantain crusted red snapper, rosemary walnut crusted salmon with garlic aioli and Tuscan tuna steaks with basil yogurt sauce, just to name a few. Not exactly your bubbe’s poached salmon, eh?

Passover doesn’t have to be all brisket, potato kugel and tam tams, and both these cookbooks bring flavors and cooking techniques from around the world to expand the boundaries of your kitchen. We will be featuring recipes from both Shoyer and Kanoff’s cookbooks as part of The Nosher’s Passover line-up, so stay tuned this month for more.

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Posted on March 11, 2015

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

How to Make the Perfect Hamantaschen (With Videos!)

Yield:
Around 2 dozen

Now it’s all here in one video, in one post–from A-Z, from Ahasuerus to Zeresh–how do you make those perfect hamantaschen? Here you have it, in short little videos with my own two hands and messy kitchen.

This little guide is geared toward avoiding the worst pre-Purim fate: making beautiful, delicious-looking hamantaschen and then opening up the oven only to find they have exploded all over the place.

With these few easy steps, we think all bakers can avoid the curse of the leaky hamantaschen.

Find our classic hamantaschen dough recipe below, and tons of variations here.

And without further ado, here is a 1-minute video that combines all the steps (including a surreptitious Nutella-lick) into a quick jaunty watch:

Now let’s take that one step at a time:

Step 1: Make the dough and chill it for at least an hour.

Step 2: Roll it out your chilled dough to 1/4-1/2 inch thick:

Step 3: Cut out your cookies using a regular old drinking glass or 2.5 inch round cookie cutter.

Step 4: Place a scant 1/2 teaspoon of filling in each round, then fold the sides up pinching carefully along the edge and three corners.

Step 5: Place cookies in the freezer for 5-10 minutes before baking. This will help the cookies set and further ensure no leaking.

Bake, cool, and enjoy!

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Perfect Hamantaschen

Basic Hamantaschen Recipe

Posted on February 27, 2015

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

Israelis Cure Peanut Allergies, Kosher Pot and Sausage Trucks in NYC

Another week and another new kosher food cart has hit the streets of New York. Or so it seems recently.

Food trucks became all the rage in New York about six years ago. And I should know – I gained 7 lbs sampling the abundance of fusion tacos, schnitzel sandwiches and red velvet whoopie pies when the trend first arrived. I then spent hundreds of dollars on a personal trainer to lose the weight. Thanks food trucks.

guys in front of shuka truck

But many years later, kosher food seems to finally be jumping on the bandwagon. I recently spent time with the Israeli threesome behind The Shuka Truck, and just yesterday stopped by The Holy Rollers (ten points for a great name) a new meat-centric sausage cart parked in midtown.

I love hot dogs, and I once even ate four in one sitting washed down by a pitcher of margaritas. Not my finest moment. I have also taken a sausage-making class. So with my love of hot dogs and sausage in mind, I was pretty excited to try the new cart. I ordered two of the sausage heroes, both topped with pulled brisket, pastrami and chili, and truth be told, I was a bit underwhelmed despite the abundance of meat. I thought the brisket was too sweet and saucy, there was too much bread, and not enough sausage because they don’t actually give you a whole sausage: they cut it in half. But they charge you nearly $15 for the hero, quite a bit more than your average $2 street hot dog, and certainly more than I prefer to spend on an average lunch.

holy rollers

However, my co-workers thought the sandwiches were great and really loved all the meat together. In fact my vegetarian co-worker was so enchanted by the scent of pastrami she decided to forgo her vegetarianism and didn’t look back, also loving the sausage hero. And so, it might just be me. Or it might be that the Holy Rollers have a decent product and hopefully will improve as they become more experienced. So if you love a whole lotta meat on top of sausage drenched in the sauce of your choice, you will probably enjoy the Holy Rollers and I would say go check them out. You can find them on Facebook.

Moving on from my own eating adventures to the news of the week: have you heard the recent news that the key to avoiding peanut allergies in kids might be the Israeli snack bamba? But no, seriously. A recent medical study has released findings that, contrary to what has been a popularly held belief for Americans, exposing children to small amounts of peanuts can actually ensure their ability to tolerate the food. And the study specifically explored why Israeli Jewish children had less incidents of peanut allergies than their American counterparts. One of the reasons? Bamba. So go ahead and enjoy your peanut-flavored snacks, and make sure to give it to your kids or grandkids too.

bamba

New Yorkers are about to get yet another new kosher restaurant. Tablet reports that Top Chef alum Alex Reznik is set to open a much-anticipated restaurant, Bedford Kitchen in Queens in six weeks from now.

And perhaps the most controversial of news this week was reported by the New York Post: a company in Colorado is working with rabbis in New York on a plan to start selling legal, edible marijuana products that are certified kosher. Marijuana itself doesn’t need to be certified kosher since it is a plant, but any edible item made with marijuana would need certification.

So there you have it, this week in kosher and Jewish news.

Got some news to share from your neck of the woods? Post on our Facebook page or email me at ssarna@70Facesmedia.org.

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Posted on February 26, 2015

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

Triple Chocolate Hamantaschen

Yield:
2 dozen

Just when you thought you were sick of hamantaschen recipes I have one more. But it’s worth it, I promise.

triple chocolate hamantaschen

When people talk about hamantaschen it’s always about the filling: classics like poppy and apricot or more updated fillings like fluff or peanut butter and jelly. I love getting creative with the fillings (speculoos hamantaschen anyone?) but this year I also wanted to give a little love and attention to the dough. And what better ingredient to include than chocolate.

triple chocolate hamantaschen3

Once you have made your chocolate dough you can still get creative with the fillings, although my favorite was the delicious and easy nutella filling which perfectly complimented the dark cocoa powder in the dough and the sweeter white chocolate drizzle on top.  But you could also try filling the chocolate dough with raspberry jam, peanut butter or even halva.

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Triple Chocolate Hamantaschen

Posted on February 24, 2015

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