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.

This Week in Kosher Food Trends

This past December I had the pleasure of attending for the first time the annual Latke fest held at the Metropolitan Pavillion in New York City. The event was a Jewish food lover’s dream – I was overwhelmed by delicious latke choices, even after two months of latke testing in my own kitchen. I was also somewhat surprised by how orderly the event ran: the guests were polite, there was ample room to move around and I was able to sample almost everything I wanted. I am still blown away by the creative combinations dreamed up by chefs from all over the New York City area including my own favorite: a chopped liver topped latke from Shelsky’s in Brooklyn.  I went home happy, full, a little buzzed and inspired from the innovative approaches to Jewish food.

KFWE crowds

Two weeks ago I attended the Annual Kosher Food and Wine Experience, also held at the Metropolitan Pavillion. But to walk through the doors you wouldn’t recognize the same room. The civilized, jovial atmosphere was gone, replaced by pushy hoards of people vying to get their money’s worth from the event, or single women decked out in their finest looking for a husband. I had to elbow my way in to get a taste of wine; I said excuse me to deaf ears; and several times as I tasted some of the liquor offerings I was chastised like a teenager to ‘be careful.’

I expected a lot of people. Fine. What I did not expect was the fighting I only ever see at the baby lamb chop station during a bar mitzvah shmorg. Silly me – throw a bunch of otherwise normal Jews into a room with meat and wine and everyone will revert back into pack behavior. I was joined by fellow food and wine lover Liz Rueven of Kosher Like Me who helped me traverse the treacherous terrain. Here we are taking a selfie while tasting some red wine.

Liz and Shannon at KFWE

And aside from the jostling crowds, there were a few food highlights: I was finally able to try The Wandering Que’s much talked about brisket, and it was divine: well seasoned and fall apart tender. I also fell madly in love with the chipotle and cinnamon prime rib from T-Fusion Steakhouse, and not just because the guy serving me was a shameless flirt. It was amazing, I could not stop talking about the great flavor and perfectly cooked meat.

T-house fusion steakhouse

The wine was overwhelming, and due to the massive crowds, it was nearly impossible to speak at any length with the wineries. Nevertheless two of my favorites were the Drappier Brut Champagne Cart D’or ($49.99) and the Shiloh Shor Cabernet Franc ($29.99).

In other Jewish food news, there are two new kosher food carts that have recently hit the streets of NYC: The Shuka Truck, serving up different kinds of shakshuka and Holy Rollers, serving up some interesting combos of hot dogs and sausages. I haven’t been able to try Holy Rollers yet, though plan to go soon.  But I can say with confidence to check out the Shuka Truck. The food was delicious and the three Israeli friends running the shop are adorable and hysterical.

kitchen sync umami burger

Another exciting piece of news from the kosher food world: a new food delivery service called KitchenSynch has launched – the first and only Glatt Kosher meal kit delivery service that brings you all of the pre-measured ingredients you need to prepare a complete meal from scratch. So for those of you who get nervous about cooking, or want to branch and try new things, but with some of the guess work removed – this is a great option to try.

Kitchn Sync provides the seasonings and ingredients for the main course & side dishes, all individually wrapped and pre-portioned. Each delivery comes with a recipe card with step-by-step instructions that can be saved for future use. Sample dishes include Bimbimbap Bowls, Sangria Chicken with fruit glaze, and Roasted Tea Infused Chicken with cauliflower fried rice.  All chicken, meat, veal, lamb, and turkey used in the meals are locally sourced and under Glatt Kosher national kosher supervision. Kitchn Synch is the brainchild of Douglas Soclof, founder of Dougies BBQ & Grill who shares “I saw a missing niche in meal delivery kits for them. It’s for anyone looking for great quality, delicious food delivered to their door.” For more information check out their website, Kitchen Synch.

Got some kosher or Jewish food news to share from your hood? Email ssarna@70facesmedia.org or post below!

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Posted on February 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

Rosewater and Pistachio Hamantaschen

Yield:
Around 1 1/2 dozen cookies

Each year as Purim approaches food bloggers like me scramble to find the most unique, creative and sometimes bizarre ways to make “hamantaschen.” I would be lying if I said I was immune to this pressure. But I have taken this annual challenge as an opportunity to focus on delicious flavor combinations for hamantaschen, not just crazy ideas, hence my most recent recipe: Speculoos hamantaschen which pretty much blew my chocolate ganache and salted caramel hamantaschen out of the water.

rosewater pistachio hamantaschen3

I was also thinking about color this year, and the Persian-inspired combination of rosewater and pistachio. Since picking up rosewater in Israel this past summer, I have tried using it in a number of dishes. I really love the subtle, fragrant flavor, although I have also learned that a little goes a long way: it can pack quite an overwhelming floral punch if you use too much.

Since the Purim story of Esther, Mordechai and Haman takes place in ancient Persia, what better flavors to use than rosewater and pistachio? You will love the rich yet subtle flavor of these treats, plus the color is just so pretty you can’t help but be thrilled to see these lined up on a platter at a Purim party.

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Rosewater and Pistachio Hamantaschen

Posted on February 18, 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

Inedible Hamantaschen Jewelry

Do you love food so much that you would wear it around your neck? Or hanging from your ears?

If the answer is yes then you are in luck because that’s exactly what sisters Jessica and Susan Partain are making with their company Inedible Jewelry.

The Martha Stewart Show

I first came across their adorable pieces of “inedible jewelry” while scrolling through instagram. I discovered their hamantaschen jewelry – that’s right, hamantaschen jewelry – and I wanted to learn more. They have challah charms, pomegranate earrings and even matzah jewelry, truly a Jewish female food lover’s dream come true. Jessica was kind enough to give me some of her time over the phone earlier this week, where I learned about how she turned a hobby for dollhouse food into a full time jewelry business.

The sisters aren’t Jewish (it’s ok guys, not everyone is perfect), but food has played an inspirational role in their upbringing. Jessica shared with me that her Italian grandmother was a huge influence in their life. “There was never just dinner – it was a 12 hour eating marathon. One time we even were walking out the door headed to a restaurant and she asked, ‘does anyone need anything to eat before we go to dinner.’ ”

inedible collage1

The sisters actually got started by making food for their dollhouse as kids, sculpting handmade, tiny food for their dolls who were “vastly over fed.” When they were in high school they decided playing with dollhouses wasn’t acceptable anymore, so they decided to focus their talents on jewelry. And in 2006 Jessica and Susan turned their part-time hobby into a full-time business, at least for Jessica who runs the business full time out of their native Charlottesville, Virginia. The vibrant farmer’s market in Charlottesville has even served as an incubator for their business, providing a great space to build up their following and test out ideas.

They don’t just make Jewish food of course, but a variety of classic American eats, sweets and even special orders. What’s the craziest request they ever got? A Japanese dessert called Taiyaki, or what is also known as “waffle fish.” And we thought gefilte fish was a strange dish. “Food speaks to such varied, but specific traditions and celebrations. That’s one of the reasons we love making our jewelry,” Jessica shared. People have even proposed with their jewelry!

Check out all their creations including their various hamantaschen pieces on Etsy. And if anyone wants to order me a challah necklace, you know where to find me.

hamantaschen jewelry collage

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Posted on February 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

Speculoos Hamantaschen

speculoos hamantaschen1 text

Speculoos, or European cookie butter, seems to be all the rage these days. Trader Joe’s makes their own brand and also has several speculoos related products including a chocolate bar and even flavored cookies. Food52 has a recipe for making your own cookie butter and Kitchen-Tested has a vegan recipe as well. I bought mine at Target, but I wager most major supermarkets will have it in stock.

I don’t always fall into trends, but I will admit: speculoos cookie butter is delicious and addictive. It is sweet, it tastes like a cookie but has the smooth, creamy consistency of peanut butter. I am not one to eat peanut butter right out of the jar, but dear god help me if I see a spoon near a jar of speculoos.

speculoos hamantaschen2

And so, it seemed perfectly obvious when my husband suggested a speculoos filled hamantaschen. I went to work right away, filling each triangle and then drizzling the finished product in dark chocolate and topped with pearl sugar. After all, a European cookie butter hamantaschen needs an extra sophisticated topping. I also added a pinch of thick sea salt to take the sweet flavors up a notch.

Note: the speculoos will spread a lot when it is baked, so make sure to pop your assembled cookies into the freezer for 5-10 minutes before baking. This will help ensure the cookies remain intact.

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Posted on February 9, 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

This Week in Noshing

I feel like I have barely left my apartment building for the past several weeks. Every week has been another snow storm, another reason to hunker down, bake something and avoid the wet, dreary weather. All you people living in warm climates – I know you have no idea what I am talking about. But my friends in Boston can certainly sympathize as the Northeast braces for more potential snow in the coming week.

While I might be going a bit stir crazy, the time indoors has allowed me to explore some new recipes and ingredients.

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I love making banana bread, pumpkin bread and zucchini bread, but sometimes you just want to shake things up a bit, you know? I came across this recipe for banana pineapple bread from The View from Grand Island, and I knew at once I needed to make it. The bread came out perfect and I loved the slight crunch from the poppy seeds. The pineapple added a nice tropical touch, a welcome flavor in this winter weather.

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I also made this chicken and chorizo gumbo from Better Homes and Gardens Magazine.It was SO good, and much easier than I thought; I was a bit nervous to try my Northern hand at making such a Souther staple. I even replaced the okra with broccoli stems because that’s what I had in my fridge. If you are wondering: Kosher chorizo? The answer is yes! Have you heard of Jack’s Gourmet Kosher Sausage? They have a number of delicious flavors which you can find at your local kosher market or even order online. I have also made this potato and kale soup with chorizo using the sausage. It is spicy, but delicious.

chorizo

It’s officially citrus season! I look forward to blood oranges all year, and so last week during the snow storm I invited some neighbors over and made a batch of blood orange martinis, one of my favorite ways to enjoy the winter fruit.

blood orange martini

And in case you missed it, I also made my husband’s absolute favorite: spiced chocolate pudding pie with bourbon whipped cream.

pudding pie

I still have a few recipes up my sleeves including some upcoming hamantaschen recipes for Purim. I also came across this adorable idea for a heart-shaped caprese salad that I think could be made with triangle or other kid-friendly shapes, or even Jewish-shaped cookie cutters for holidays. And next week I will be checking out the Ninth Annual Kosher Food and Wine Expo where I am hoping to take in some great new kosher wines to share with you all too.

What are you cooking up? Don’t forget to tag your photos with the hashtag #noshthis on instagram, twitter or post right on our Facebook page to be featured as part of our monthly photo contest.

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Posted on February 4, 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

Love and Pudding Pie

Yield:
6-8 servings

chocolate pudding pie1

My mom was always baking when I was growing up. Nothing complicated, in fact, quite the opposite: leftover slices of white bread became bread pudding, banana bread was a frequent way to use up mushy bananas and we even got scratch-made chocolate chip cookies on rainy days. But perhaps the dessert I remember most fondly is my mom’s pudding pie. Also uncomplicated, she would make it from a box of pudding mix and pour it into a graham cracker crust, with several bowls filled with the leftover pudding for us to enjoy. I even loved the thick skin that would form on top.

Fast forward, and chocolate pudding pie is now my husband’s favorite dessert that I make. I don’t know quite how long ago, but probably shortly after we were married his cousin gifted me the Williams Sonoma Baking Book which has become a go-to for lots of my own rainy day baking projects. I found this chocolate pudding pie recipe and have been making a slightly altered version ever since. In fact, it’s probably the dessert I make most frequently because I know how much my husband covets the dessert.

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Unlike my mom’s version, I do make the pudding from scratch using whole milk, egg yolks, corn starch and a few special spices. But true to my mom’s version, I prefer using a store-bought graham cracker, or sometimes when I am feeling like we need a little extra chocolate, a chocolate cookie crust, which makes this recipe pretty simple to whip up even at the last minute. The taste is a little more sophisticated than your average chocolate pudding, a little bit decadent and absolutely easy as pie.

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Spiced Chocolate Pudding Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream

Posted on February 2, 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

King Cake Challah

Yield:
1 large challah cake

King cake challah3

I have always had a love of affair with the city of New Orleans. I have traveled there nearly ten times since my early 20’s: for work a few times, but more often, to visit our growing number of dear friends who live there. I love the warmth of the city, the vibrant culture and history, the music, and of course, the food.

While I enjoyed many delicious eats over my travels to the city, the first time I tasted a King Cake was three years ago, just a few months before our daughter was born. I was seven and a half months pregnant, waddling around Mardi Gras with an enormous protruding stomach, enjoying every moment, especially all the food. To welcome us to the Mardi Gras festivities, our dear friend Melanie arrived with a beautiful, colorful King Cake from Cake Cafe. This was no ordinary King Cake – it was stuffed with goat cheese and apples, and it was one of the best treats I have ever enjoyed. So much so that each year since, my husband longs to have another one, but there is just nothing comparable in the New York area.

king cake generic

For those not familiar with a King Cake, it is a Christian tradition that marks Kings Day (when the three kings brought gifts to baby Jesus) and so a small baby Jesus is traditionally baked inside a King Cake. It also marks the coming of Mardi Gras season in New Orleans, when it’s commnon to encounter many varieties of King Cake throughout the city between early January and Mardi Gras itself.

A King Cake should also not be confused with The King’s Cake, or a galette des rois, a beautiful French pastry that, to me, tastes like an enormous, buttery almond croissant. You may see it in your local bakery topped literally with a crown. It is absolutely delicious as well, but different from a King Cake. A King Cake in its modern form tastes most closely to a cheese danish or Entenmann’s coffee cake.

So what is a challah queen like me supposed to do with a love of King Cake, but no quality one available? Make a king cake challah of course.

I flavored the dough with some traditional king cake flavors, such as cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon zest. But the most fun parts of this challah creation are the icing and the colorful sprinkles. Gold, purple and green are the colors of Mardi Gras, and are the distinguishing factor between merely a round cheese danish, and a King Cake for Mardi Gras.

I didn’t bake a baby Jesus in the challah of course, but it would be perfect with a cup of coffee in the late afternoon. Or for breakfast, who am I to judge how you start your day? And while it won’t ever be the same as the amazing version from our time in New Orleans, at least it brought back some fond memories of New Orleans and our dear friends who welcome us back time and time again.

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King Cake Challah

Posted on January 29, 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 Use Schmaltz

My friends, family and even random Facebook buddies all know that I love using schmaltz. But the most frequent question I receive on the topic: how should I use leftover chicken fat?

Let’s start at the beginning.

Photo credit: Amy Kritzer of What Jew Wanna Eat

Photo credit: Amy Kritzer of What Jew Wanna Eat

First, what is schmaltz and how do you make it? Schmaltz is most commonly chicken fat, but can also be duck fat (my favorite) or goose fat (even better).  You can buy chicken fat in most grocery stores or butcher shops, but it is also very easy to make.

Most Jews I know use their schmaltz once per year, when they make chopped liver. I will admit: I love having an excuse to go a little schmaltz crazy when I make my Tuscan-style liver every year for Passover. Or maybe even when making matzah balls. But there are lots of other ways to use up that fat for delicious results throughout the year.

I know some of you are ready to yell at me. Schmaltz is unhealthy! Why are you advocating adding more fat to your diet? And to you people I will say, you are probably reading the wrong blog. But also, I am not advocating more, regular, excessive schmaltz consumption; I just want to share some other ways to use small amounts of the fat in order to add lots of flavor.

Some of my favorite ways to use a little shmaltz in my cooking:

– Swap out half the oil in a base of a soup, and saute your onions, garlic and/or vegetables in the golden fat for an extra flavor boost.

– Make caramelized onions using schmaltz for a great sandwich or hamburger topping.

– Swap out some of the oil in a savory noodle kugel or potato kugel recipe for schmaltz

– Drizzle on top of roasted vegetables or potatoes.

fries1

And even more great recipes ideas:

Duck fat french fries from The Food Network

Deviled eggs with schmaltz and gribenes

Chicken fat roasted vegetables with gremolata from Food and Wine

Ultra crispy potatoes from Serious Eats

Green beans with schmaltz fried shallots from Melinda Strauss

Blueberry port duck with duck fat potatoes from Busy in Brooklyn

duck-breast-with-potatoes

Has your schmaltz craving and questions been answered? If not get yourself a copy of Michael Ruhlman’s Book of Schmaltz for even more recipes and tips.

Great recipes to share? Still more questions? Post below!

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Posted on January 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

Homemade Granola Bars for Tu Bishvat

Yield:
16-20 granola bars

Tu Bishvat is not the holiday that commemorates the destruction of the temple; that’s Tisha B’Av, though I understand why it can be confusing.

granola prep

I had not even heard of Tu Bishvat until college when I attended a seder celebrating the holiday. And while it may sound a bit crunchy to celebrate a holiday for the trees, nuts and fruit, it comes at a time in our lives as modern Jews when appreciating our natural resources and the environment is more important than ever.

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You can host a full-on seder, or also just take a moment to appreciate and acknowledge our relationship to the land. You can even make a batch of fruit-filled sangria, though my daughter and I decided to try our hand this year at chewy granola bars packed with dried fruit and almonds in honor of Tu Bishvat. We chose to use a combination of dried cherries, blueberries and raisins, though you could use any combo of dried fruit that you like.

This recipe was inspired by this version from Alton Brown

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Homemade Granola Bars for Tu Bishvat

Posted on January 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

Reuben French Fries

Yield:
8 servings

Every year when I work on a new recipe in preparation for Superbowl Sunday, I write and reflect on the same fact: I have zero interest in football, but I just love Superbowl snacks. Potato skins. Nachos. Chicken wings. Brisket sliders. All the most delicious and unhealthy bites you can imagine.

I love breaking out my deep fryer for a batch of wings, but it can be time consuming and even a bit messy. Sometimes, you just don’t want a layer of oil all over your kitchen, ya know?

Reuben Fries2

One of the reasons I love this recipe so much, aside from how delicious and fun it is, is that you can improvise to make it any way you like: make a super spicy coleslaw, or your family’s favorite recipe for coleslaw, add corned beef and pastrami, or swap out the regular fries for some sweet potato fries or even tater tots.

You can also make it easy on yourself and just buy a bag of frozen fries. Prepare them as directed and top with chopped corned beef, coleslaw and Russian dressing. No one will be the wiser, and maybe your kitchen will remain that much cleaner. You can also buy Russian dressing, or make your own. I like using this recipe, I just omit the onion.

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Reuben French Fries

Posted on January 20, 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