What’s that saying – no rest for the weary!?
I got back from three weeks in Israel this past Sunday morning (during which time I was mostly working). Unpacked. Attempted to get back on New York time. And almost immediately was back to work in my kitchen baking batch after batch of macaroons and challah rolls for New York City’s first ever pop up Shabbat – “Shabubbe.”
I am so excited (and nervous) to be included in this first Shabbat pop-up restaurant and honored to be among so many culinary creatives. In fact, some of the same talented people, including the folks at Gefilteria, who brought you The Kubbeh Project earlier this year, will also be participating in tonight’s first pop-up Shabbat restaurant. Personally, I love the idea of finding new ways for Jews to meet one another, celebrate Shabbat and enjoy amazing Jewish food.
So what am I making? It may not seem like the season for macaroons. But I really love the traditional Passover treat. In fact, I first fell in love with chewy, coconut macaroons….at the movies! When I was in high school I used to frequent a small movie theatre nearby in Connecticut. It was the only movie theatre featuring a multitude of foreign films and documentaries (yes, I am a HUGE nerd). The movie theatre also featured – you guessed it – huge, moist coconut macaroons that were half dipped in chocolate. I was used to the canned variety my grandmother would buy at Passover, and could only wonder why all macaroons didn’t taste as good as the ones sold at my favorite movie theatre,
Well, fast forward, and I would like to think I have perfected recreating this childhood favorite, and even added my own spin.
So for ShaBubbe tonight I made two different kinds – macaroons with mini chocolate chips dipped in dark chocolate, and plain macaroons with dark chocolate and salted caramel sauce dirzzled on top.
How to make your own?
I like using this recipe from Martha Stewart! Try drizzling some melted chocolate on top along with this recipe for salted caramel sauce. The best part about the caramel sauce? It makes a big batch, so you can use the leftovers for an ice cream topping. Or to dip fruit. Or heck, just dip a spoon in it and enjoy.
Maybe next week will be quieter. But for now I have to get back to baking challah!
Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom, however you will be enjoying it.
Hi everyone – I am back from Israel! Hope you have been enjoying all the amazing guest posts while I ate my way through Israel the past few weeks!
We landed yesterday morning at 5:30 am, and the first thing I am missing? You guessed it – Israeli breakfast! Is there anything more delicious to the eyes (and mouth) than a huge spread of salads, freshly baked breads, cheeses and fruit!? The Israelis sure know how to do breakfast.
Coming back from Israel always has a bittersweet feeling to it. On the one hand, you are eager to return home. And on the other hand, you feel like you are leaving the other part of your ‘home’ and family behind. In some ways this is an appropo feeling to be carrying with me for the next 24 hours, as we commemorate a number of tragedies that befell the Jewish people on Tisha B’Av.
I will be missing the beautiful beaches and sunsets of Tel Aviv; and missing the rhythm of a Jewish week: the excitement and busy-ness before Shabbat, and the quiet, calming atmosphere that takes over even Tel Aviv. And most of all, I will be missing the wonderful food of Israel.
So what did we eat? I imagine you have been waiting to find out. More accurately? What DIDN’T we eat!? I will share the highlights.
With the Summer Israel heat, keeping cool and refreshed is a top priority, and so one of my favorite uniquely Israeli treats I enjoyed was an iced limonana. Limonana is a minty lemonade very common throughout Israel. But the iced limonana was so refreshing, I just couldn’t get enough – it was like a slushy! Thankfully The Shiksa has a recipe so I can recreate it at home soon! Want to take it up a notch? Add a shot (or 2 – hey I won’t judge) of Arak, also known as Raki, an anise-flavored liquor.
Since it opened, I have heard so much about the famed restaurant Mahane Yehuda, inspired by and close to the Mahane Yehuda market (shuk) in Jerusalem. The restaurant is not kosher, in fact, there are many obviously treif (or non-kosher) items on the restaurant’s menu. But it’s actually one of the things that I think is so cool about it. Not everything in Israel is kosher, not all Jews keep kosher, but we can all be inspired by the same culinary influences of Israel.
The food itself is incredible and diverse. And equally stand-out is the atmosphere – an open kitchen allows you to experience the food from start until it hits your plate; loud, lively music pipes through the restaurant while the host and waiters dance along smiling; and the décor inside includes baskets full of fresh fruit and vegetables, reminding you precisely of the shuk nearby that inspired.
There were so many dishes to choose from, but we chose three items that were either highly recommended or seemed a bit ‘different’ from typical Israeli fare, including creamy truffle polenta, sautéed sweetbreads with malawah and a Persian stew similar to gormeh sabzi, made with swiss chard instead of spinach!
Heading to Jerusalem and want to check it out? Make sure to make a reservation well in advance! We actually got lucky, showed up early for lunch and they were able to seat us. They may have regretted that decision after our daughter ran around the restaurant and I kept snapping photos. But we enjoyed, so thank you!
When I was in Israel a year and a half ago, a friend recommended I visit the Olia stand at Ha Carmel market in Tel Aviv – and wow was I happy that I heeded that advice! I came across their Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette which is addictive as a salad dressing. So on this trip, I made sure to send the husband to stock up some of our favorite products including three different kinds of olive oil, the fig balsamic and a pomegranate balsamic. Hoping this will last us, at least until the next trip! But you don’t need to go all the way to Israel to enjoy – you can actually order Olia products online too.
There are so many other amazing treats we enjoyed on this trip, but they will have to wait for now. For those fasting during Tisha B’av, I wish you an easy fast. I will definitely be thinking about Israel in the coming days as we reflect on Jerusalem.
Well, I am off to Israel tomorrow for THREE WEEKS. Yes, I know, very exciting. And perhaps most exciting is that I am bringing my one year old daughter.
I didn’t get the chance to travel to Israel until I was 21 (ten years ago!) when I went on a Taglit Birthright Israel trip. It was an amazing experience for which I am grateful and I have been back many times since, both for work and pleasure. But it feels like a true privilege to be able to bring my daughter at such a young age.
It probably goes without saying that by far one of my favorite parts of traveling to Israel is the FOOD. I love the fresh fruits and vegetables, the breakfast, the array of salads, the outdoor markets and the numerous bakeries offering dream-worthy pastry and breads. Rugelach, hmmmmm.
As it so happens, some of my daughter’s absolute favorite foods are quite Israeli: cucumber tomato salad, hummus, pickles and white cheese. I am excited to see my little lady enjoying her favorite foods in Israel during the next few weeks. And hopefully trying a few new ones too!
I am sure that I have some great foodie adventures in store while I am away, which I look forward to sharing with you. Want to share in my food adventures? Don’t forget to follow me on instagram and twitter for real-time food (and baby) photos and updates.
And in the meantime, I hope you enjoy some of my friends and fellow bloggers who will be sharing recipes, stories and all kinds of cooking tips while I am away including strawberry rhubarb ice cream, grilled artichokes and a slew of veggie-friendly dinner ideas to get you through the nine days.
I am actually really excited about our Shabbat dinner tonight. I am trying out some new recipes, and experimenting with some gluten-free dishes now that my sister is on a gluten free and dairy free diet. My idea of Hell is a world where I couldn’t eat bread or dairy desserts.
So what’s on deck for this week’s Shabbat menu?
When I saw this recipe for Indian Barbecue Chicken, I knew I had to make it! Instead of using chicken breasts, I am going to make a whole roasted chicken and then serve the barbecue sauce on the side.
My sister has decided she is going to make some Shaved Zucchini Noodles with Kale Pesto. I am eager to see how they turn out. While searching for recipes I also came across this recipe from Whole Food Diary for Zucchini Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes and Kale Pesto. It looks incredible, gluten free or not. This recipe has also inspired me to look into buying a “spiralizer” to make cool, uniform veggie pasta!
Instead I decided to make this recipe from Whole Foods for non-dairy Rice Pudding, made with coconut milk and cinnamon. I also added a tsp of vanilla extract and star anise for a little extra punch. It smells divine and I can’t wait to serve it to my sister.
Shabbat Shalom and happy cooking!
Have you heard about The Hester? Operating out of the Ditmas Park, Brooklyn home of Itta Werdiger Roth and her husband, the writer Matthue Roth, The Hester is part speakeasy, part pop-up locavore restaurant, part music club and 100% kosher. Crain’s called it a “Secret Schmooze club” back in December.
But what is it exactly? How does one go? Where did it come from? And what is in store for its future?
This week I had the chance to chat with Itta and learn more about how The Hester was born and what lies ahead for the one-of-a-kind kosher food venture.
Melbourne-born Itta comes from a large, Lubavitch family for whom “community entertaining” was just part of her upbringing. Itta is one of seven children and credits her love of entertaining to her large family who was always opening up their home for celebrations, including a large Purim party they held for their community each year.
“I feel like I was just born into it,” she shared. “The act of opening up your home. A lot of people grow up that your home is a private place, but that’s just not how I grew up.”
But what makes The Hester unique isn’t just about the space it’s operating in: it’s also very much about the food, which focuses on local, seasonal items. “It’s a celebration of really good vegetables” says Itta. The menu features dishes that are dairy but also items catering to those with special diets. At one of their last events they featured a seasonal rhubarb cocktail, and Itta herself has been churning out homemade ice cream in flavors such as lavender vanilla. Drinks and music are an integral part of The Hester experience, but Itta herself focuses on ensuring the quality of the food that is served.
Like her love of entertaining and opening her home, Itta credits her love of cooking and fresh ingredients to her family, especially her mother and grandmother.
“I always had an interest in food, especially eating it. Everyone in my family was a good cook. My mom is a great cook and grows fresh herbs in her garden. Freshness is one of the biggest things I learned from my mom, in fact, I cannot even remember a dish that she used dried herbs for.”
It may seem like a big leap to go from a general love of food and entertaining, to running a kosher speakeasy out of your home. But Itta makes it sounds like it was the most natural of evolutions.
Itta accidentally fell into a personal chef type of job and it ended up suiting her quite well. She went on to have a number of different food related jobs including working at the Brooklyn kosher restaurant Pardes, which she credits for teaching her about how a restaurant runs and the importance of presentation of food.
After moving into their Ditmas Park home, Itta started putting the pieces of The Hester together, talking about her vision for the project, collecting random things like extra wine glasses and tables and chairs from local restaurants. When Itta’s cousin, who is a musician in Melbourne, told her he was coming to NYC and was looking for a venue to perform, Itta exclaimed, “I know just the place.”
They had no idea how many people would show up on that first evening, but in the end there were over 100 people crammed into Itta and Matthue’s home, definitely too tightly packed in, but having fun all the same. “The food was great. The music was great. People had a great time. I kept thinking, ‘this is totally where I want to be right now,’” said Itta.
Sometimes the name of a band or restaurant is completely random. But that’s not the case with The Hester, whose name has an awesome story behind it. Itta explained to me that it was pretty close to opening night, and they still didn’t know what they were calling the new endeavor. Itta started researching the names of different speakeasies and Jewish gangsters for inspiration. And pretty soon her sister discovered a woman named Kate Hester, a real woman, who had owned a saloon in Pittsburgh that continued to operate even after a ban on liquor. Kate operated the saloon illegally, and whenever her patrons would get too rowdy she would say, “speak easy boys.”
Itta says “she was like the mama of speakeasies.” And thus the name, “The Hester” was born. But the name is also a biblical reference to Esther as well as a nod to Jewish Eastern European immigrants who settled in New York on Hester street. Any way you slice it, a pretty cool name. And Itta is a pretty cool kosher speakeasy mama in her own right.
When I asked Itta about her and her husband, who is a writer and video game designer, and whether she thinks they are out of the box for the orthodox community, she pushed back, saying, “There’s lots of different kinds of people, and some of them are orthodox. Maybe we are unique in some ways, and maybe we aren’t so unique also. But it’s time that people stop stereotyping. There are a lot of Jews who think that what we are doing is just for kosher people, but it’s not. It is a unique experience for everyone, not just kosher-keeping Jews.”
So what’s next for The Hester? Itta shared that she is ready for her vision to move from operating out of her house and into a more permanent space. And while she has thus far operated without official kosher supervision, she recognizes that it won’t be practical not to have a hechsher moving forward.
She has enjoyed hosting small sit down dinners of 20-25 guests in the past couple of months and aims to do more of those, while still hosting larger events from time to time. Not surprisingly, the smaller events are more manageable for Itta and her staff and take less out of the busy mom.
No, I am not going gluten free. I remain the self proclaimed queen of challah and all delicious carbs. But my sister was recently diagnosed with a gluten and dairy allergy, and so researching and coming up with creative meal and snack ideas for her has been my latest project.
It suddenly seems that everyone has a gluten allergy and that gluten free baking and eating and packaged foods are everywhere, no? I am not sure I buy into it. But it’s not my stomach, I love my sister and so I will do whatever I can to be supportive.
Last week week we made a version of these Chocolate Covered Frozen Banana Peanut Butter Bites. Ours didn’t turn out quite as beautiful as these, but we will be working on round two this weekend and I remain hopeful. We also decided to sprinkle a tiny bit of sea salt on top of each one. You know I love anything sweet and salty! And regardless of how pretty they were (or were not) they were delicious!
In my recipe searching I also came across a recipe for these Gluten Free Vegan Banana Peanut Butter Chip Cookies which look simple and yummy.
Friends and foodies have been sending me ideas for recipes for my sister including Spaghetti Squash Bolognese and this Vegan Sweet Potato Quinoa Chili, both sound hearty and healthful, And while I keep suggesting different combinationsof entree salads, my sister insists salad can get boring after awhile, and so I am now on the lookout for non-salad lunch and dinner options. (got any good ones? send them my way!)
I fully recognize my shortcomings in the area of a restrictred diet such as this, but I did find a great list of bloggers who ARE the experts. Check out this list of 10 Inspiring Blogs for Gluten Free Food & Cooking from The Kitchn.
Got a good gluten free, dairy free recipe for us? Please comment below and let us know! We are on the lookout and can’t wait to get some more creative ideas to stay satisfied and healthy.
I always advise people never to try new things when you are bringing something or hosting a meal. And what did I decide to do? Try a new cake recipe to bring to someone’s house who I had never met. This past Thursday night, I opened my trusty copy of Kosher By Design Entertains and decided to make a simple vanilla and chocolate swirl cake recipe for Shabbat dessert. Easy enough, right? Wrong!
The recipe itself was great – the cake batter was awesome! I mean, obviously I licked the spoon. And then disaster struck: I let the cake cool 15 minutes and removed the cake. And it broke. Broken Bundt. #fail. So now what!?
Well, at 11:00 pm I decided to make another dessert. This time I would make my tried-and-true, always-a-hit salty doubly chocolate chip cookies. Except that somehow I under-baked them too much, and they were more like slightly baked cookie dough rather than perfectly chewy cookies. Yet another fail!
What was going on with me!?
Whenever I am whipping something up in the kitchen, I always post the photos to Instagram (are you following me yet? well why the heck not! Follow me here!). And on Thursday night I posted the photo of my poor, poor broken bundt. And lo and behold, a fellow pareve baker suggested I turn the cake into a trifle. Genius!
And that’s just what I did.
Now, the cake recipe is really the least important part. So to make this trifle you can use the same recipe from Kosher By Design Entertains, or you can use a store bought angel food cake or you can even use brownies if you want to be really indulgent.
For you dieters out there….you can actually leave out the cake entirely and simply layer different kinds of fruit together with chocolate mousse and some slivered almonds for crunch. Like a dessert parfait, but with chocolate mousse. Ok, ok, not exactly diet food. But slightly less carb-heavy.
For the trifle I made I used this recipe for the chocolate mousse. But truth be told, usually I live and die by this recipe for Olive oil and chocolate mousse from The New York Times. You can use any mousse recipe that suits you.
Don’t have a trifle dish? You can use just a big glass bowl! I bought mine from Target! But you can also order one from Amazon like this one.
Well, happy broken bundt baking everyone!
1 cake, such as chocolate cake or angel food cake.
1 batch chocolate mousse
2 cups fresh berries
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
fresh berries for garnish
In a medium saucepan, add berries, water and sugar. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until you have a syrup-like consistency. Mash berries or put through food processor for a smoother consistency. Allow to cool slightly.
In a large glass bowl or trifle dish, break up around 2 cups of cake or brownie into bottom of bowl. Add layer of chocolate mousse and a drizzle of berry syrup.
Repeat until you have 3 layers and have used up most of the cake and mousse.
Garnish with fresh berries.
After our daughter was born, the number of people who told us “it goes by soooo fast” was too many to count. And they were right. A year has passed, and I can’t believe our daughter is a walking, babbling one year old little lady.
When I started thinking about my daughter’s first birthday party, which was quite literally 6 months ago, I knew that I didn’t want to be too stressed about an event that would be far more about us and our family than about our daughter. After all, how much will she possibly remember!? And I have seen many friends stay up all night obsessively decorating cakes and cupcakes for their child’s first birthday party, and I knew I did not want to be doing that!
Being a baker and food blogger I have a lot of friends who share my passion for baking and, well, food. And so instead of stressing myself out I asked my talented friends to make their “specialties” for the birthday party.
I was blown away by what they produced! Chocolate covered strawberries in several varieties made by my dear friend Laura; chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache frosting and pink sparkly sprinkles from Sara Bakes Cakes; Strawberry Sugar Cookies by Brittany the Baker; Mini Panna Cottas with Macerated Strawberries and Tuiles from my dear friend and trained pastry chef Danielle Feinberg; and the most stunning strawberry and lady bug themed cake by my dear friend Kim Stoll. Not only was the cake beautiful to look at, but it was also delicious: fluffy white cake with a delicious strawberry buttercream made just for Ella, since strawberries are her absolute favorite.
And while I tried to sit back and truly not make anything, I had to whip up just one thing for my little lady’s birthday. I decided to go simple and classic with a homemade funfetti cupcake topped with my favorite new sprinkles: confetti sprinkles! I think the sprinkles add a fun, modern twist on the classic birthday cake. And you can order your own confetti sprinkles in several varieties on Amazon! (Yes they are kosher!) And for you fellow bakers out there I used an 8B tip, also from Wilton, to make those cool swirls with the icing.
In typical Jewish mom fashion I was worried for weeks whether there would be enough to eat…and now I will be eating birthday cake for the next week. But hey, I am not complaining. I mean, who doesn’t want to eat a delectable slice of birthday cake before bedtime!?
We’ll probably scale back on the party, and the number of desserts, for next year. But this was a super fun way to celebrate our lady turning one with our friends and family. I was so proud of the beautiful things my friends created and so honored that instead of me staying up till 2:00 am decorating, they were willing to do it for me! Those are some good friends!
Persian Jewish food seems like the latest cuisine to tackle for adventurous cooks: exotic, a bit challenging and trendy. But what is it about Persian food that has inspired home cooks to take on the traditional fare? Perhaps it is the popularity of The Shahs of Sunset? Perhaps it’s the fact that traditional Ashkenazi Jewish fare has been taking center stage as the North American food scene focuses on comfort foods? Or perhaps it’s just something new that requires a slightly different perspective on cooking?
Reyna Simnegar was not born Persian, but is proud of her “adopted Persian heritage.” So much so that she blogs about her food and wrote a cookbook this year called Persian Food From The Non-Persian Bride. It is a beautiful cookbook with mouth-watering photos, and a perfect assistant for those trying master the art of Persian cooking.
Reyna puts a lot of herself into the book – not only her beloved recipes, but also photos and stories about (very large!) family. Her style is casual and warm – you really feel like you are sharing a glass of tea in her kitchen while she explains her recipes. She also includes some non-traditional Persian recipes that she has come up with over the years, things like “Persian Mussaka” and her favorite roast recipe that she assures are crowd-pleasers.
Her cookbook has a few unique features that makes the Persian recipes less daunting including a guide to herbs, ingredients and special tools commonly used in Persian cooking. Very helpful for those not as familiar with the array of new ingredients.
Reyna and her husband became Orthodox together as adults, and so to be honest, the cookbook at times has a bit of a religious undertone. But if you can get past this subtext, the recipes are accessible and interesting. And I do really enjoy Reyna’s candor and sense of humor.
I love Persian food, especially some of the traditional stews and crispy rice I have tasted with my Persian friends over the years. I also love the Persian culture, especially some of their over-the-top ways, which Reyna talks a bit about in her cookbook. We’ll be featuring one of Reyna’s traditional recipes later this week, but in the meantime, here was a quote from the cookbook that I enjoyed and thought got at the heart of what it means not only to enjoy this style of food, but also this incredibly special culture.
“Disclaimer: Throughout this book I relate many funny episodes and nuances I have experienced during the many years I have had the honor to be exposed to Persian Jews. Many of these episodes exemplify stereotypes, and throughout the book, I may seem to be mocking various behaviors and expressions. Often, I am making fun of myself and the people I love. Please take my words and memories as what they are: simply funny in the context they were expressed. I treasure my Venezuelan heritage, and I treasure my adopted Persian heritage with all my heart. Let us all laugh together at life!”
Indeed, Reyna, let us all laugh together at life and enjoy cooking some delicious comfort food, no matter the variety.
Last week I was looking for a last minute marinade and came up with a brilliant new “everything” marinade for my chicken. I subscribe to the school of ziploc bag marinating which is easy and is my fool-proof method to ensure flavorful, moist roast chicken. And as I was trying to figure out what to marinate my chicken with, I just decided to throw all my favorite ingredients into the ziploc bag for my chicken.
Well lo and behold – it was so good that I knew I needed to recreate it! Here’s my recipe that marinates 2 whole chickens: 1 can of beer, 1/4 cup dijon or whole grain mustard, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 2 Tbsp horseradish, 2 Tbsp honey, 2 Tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Whisk all ingredients together and pour half over each chicken. Place chicken and marinade in plastic ziploc bag and allow to marinate overnight.
I also came across this recipe for creamy Hearts of Palm and Avocado salad, a perfect Summery side dish.
Want to make an all-in-one perfect chicken and veggies? Check out this gorgeous recipe from our friend Amy at What Jew Wanna Eat for Shabbat Chicken with Spring Vegetables.
I am a bit obsessed with the combination of lemon and za’atar on potatoes, so for yet another week I will be making my Za’atar Roasted Potatoes with an extra squeeze of lemon on top.
We are hosting a dessert party this Sunday in honor of my daughter’s first birthday (hold tight – pictures coming next week!) so I actually decided to forgo dessert this evening in favor of some fruit. I know, this is very unlike me, but after all, summer is upon us, and therefore less clothing…eek! I can skip dessert every once in awhile. As I am writing this I am questioning this decision, but hopefully I can stick with it.
But if you are looking for a perfect pareve summer dessert, look no further than this Strawberry Lemon Granita recipe, which doesn’t require any special equipment like an ice cream maker. So refreshing, sweet and simple to make!
And how could we have Shabbat without some challah!? Shabbat Shalom everyone and happy cooking!