Traditional Jewish Food
JNS.org covers traditional Jewish food around the world and in Israel, as well as news from the Kosher food industry. Mollie Katzen, who is listed by the New York Times as one of the best-selling cookbook authors of all time and has been named by Health Magazine as one of “The Five Women Who Changed the Way We Eat,” is a regular contributor. To select another topic, choose from the other content “categories” in our navigation bar.
Food innovation is the next course in the storied U.S.-Israel partnership. Rutgers University’s Food Innovation Center and Tel-Hai College in Israel’s northern Galilee recently announced the New Jersey-Israel Healthy, Functional, and Medical Food Alliance, a venture that will create synergies between start-ups and more established food businesses in America’s so-called “Garden State” and the Jewish state. The key players are Member of Knesset Erel Margalit and Lou Cooperhouse, director of the Rutgers Food Innovation Center. Among other things, the alliance will explore personalizing food based on individuals’ metabolic makeup. “The goal is hopefully [that] someday we will all be taking fewer pills, eating better, and maybe eating foods that have some clinical efficacy that can mitigate disease or be proactive for health and wellness,” Cooperhouse says.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that…we can never get tired of Hanukkah latkes and sufganiyot (the holiday’s deep-fried jelly doughnuts). But there’s no harm in adding some culinary variety to this year’s Festival of Lights. Pastry chef Paula Shoyer offers a doughnut recipe with a twist as well as two alternative recipes that are great for Hanukkah and will satisfy any sweet tooth.
Babka. Strudel. Stollen. Danish pastry. Not to mention Gugelhopf and Charlotte. The names set the mouth to watering and conjure up lovingly concocted pastries that feed the body and comfort the soul. If you didn’t have a grandmother who baked these delicacies, you wish that you had. The newly published “A Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets,” arriving just in time for Rosh Hashanah, enables the cook to bring a meal to its magnificent conclusion. The concoctions are so numerous and sound so delicious, one wonders how the author was ever able to choose what to bake.
Rugelach (singular: rugala) are a beloved Jewish pastry, with a quirky history to boot, but they often present a kosher conundrum. Though parve rugelach are often a preferred dessert after a meat meal for those observing kosher laws (which stipulate a waiting period between eating meat and dairy), some of today’s most popular rugelach are known for their dairy fillings. “Kosher bakeries sell versions that are dry and filled with over-processed fillings, giving the cookies a fake, too-sweet taste,” says kosher pastry chef Paula Shoyer. “As a result, I rarely buy them, or even eat them, at kosher events. The only rugelach I have enjoyed in years are from Zabar’s in New York, and those are good because they are made with butter and have so much chazerei (Yiddish for junk) in the filling.”
The new Clearly Kosher® bottled water brand says its product is, “Better than perfect.”™ What might not be so clear to Jewish consumers, however, is why water would need to brand itself as “kosher.” Kosher experts tell JNS.org that there are advantages to having a kosher certification even when a particular product doesn't need one. “It is all marketing. ... There is a perception among consumers in general that when something is kosher certified, it is enhanced—that may or may not be true,” says Dr. Avrom Pollak, president of the Star-K certifier.
Standing between a display table full of touchscreen tablets and a colorful spread of Israeli cuisine favorites, World Jewish Heritage Organization (WJH) founder Jack Gottlieb delivers a toast. “Israelis like projects,” he says. “We wanted to create a Jewish UNESCO and Jewish TripAdvisor in a combined application.” Gottlieb’s references to the U.N. agency and the travel website combine to describe a new interactive mobile app being launched by WJH, which is also rolling out an eBook on Jewish and new Israeli cuisine titled, “Israel’s Top 100 Ethnic Restaurants.” On Jan. 14 in New York City, WJH hosted “Celebration of Jewish Ethnic Flavors,” a cocktail hour and dinner event to launch the eBook.
In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” whose emergence has led to the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the Jewish community to take on this issue and do something about it,” says Nigel Savage, Hazon’s founder and president. Ahead of Hazon's eighth annual Food Conference, JNS.org interviews various leaders and followers of the Jewish Food Movement—most of whom started or increased their involvement in the movement due to the conference.
At the turn of the century, a young Jewish immigrant arrived in New York. So begins the history of many American Jewish families. It is Albert Allaham's story, too, with a few unusual twists. He arrived in the U.S. almost 100 years after the massive waves of European Jewish immigration. Rather than coming from some small town along the Danube, Albert's shtetl was Damascus. His first American business was not a pushcart on the Lower East Side, but rather a family-run butcher shop in Brooklyn. “Allaham” means “butcher” in Arabic, making it an appropriate name for a family with more than 200 years of experience in the meat business. Now, Albert is making his mark in the world of fine kosher dining at Reserve Cut, the elegant restaurant he opened in lower Manhattan in 2013.
Omelet sandwich: 5 shekels. Turkish coffee: 5 shekels. Tuna sandwich: 5 shekels. Fresh-squeezed orange juice: 5 shekels. Cheese burekas: 5 shekels. There’s plenty more on the Cofizz menu, but you get the idea. Dani Mizrahi and Amir Amshalm, two Israeli men in their early 30s, had an idea: Why not run a take-out food joint in busy neighborhoods around Jerusalem where everything costs the same thing? Five shekels converts to about $1.50. “We are in this business not only to make money,” says Mizrahi. “We also want to help people make it.”
Asheville, N.C., and Little Rock, Ark. Not exactly the Jewish capitals of America, but they are both home to major Jewish food festivals. "We have no Jewish deli in Asheville at this time," said Marty Gillen, chairman of Asheville's HardLox Jewish Food and Heritage Festival. "We say that HardLox is the only day of the year that you can get real Jewish food in Asheville." In Little Rock, most of the roughly 10,000 annual attendees at the annual Jewish Food and Cultural Festival "are non-Jews, many of whom are experiencing Jewish food for the first time or for the only time that year," said Marianne Tettlebaum, director of the Jewish Federation of Arkansas.
The history of the knish represents more than just the lineage of a fried, dumpling-like food. It demonstrates the often-central role of food in communities and cultural legacies. Laura Silver knows that all too well. She has consumed knishes on three different continents, and her exhaustive research on the iconic potato treat has resulted in her new book, “Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food,” which was released in early May.
Jaime Geller's grandparents really knew how to cook. Somehow, they could create the most scrumptious meals using no fancy equipment, and not even measuring spoons. Now, the creative force behind JoyofKosher.com and Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller magazine presents a few of her favorite traditional recipes—with a twist.
Cheesecake expands the joy of the Shavuot holiday. Small cheesecake bars, topped with early strawberries, are a wonderful way to usher in the transition-to-summer month of June. A Thai tea cheesecake is beautiful and surprising, rounding out your holiday with a sense of orange expansiveness—and it is actually easier than handcrafting blintzes, writes Mollie Katzen, one of the best-selling cookbook authors of all time.
The growing demand for natural, organic, vegetarian, fiber, and gluten-free alternatives among kosher consumers was apparent at Kosherfest 2013, the annual trade show of the kosher food industry. “We are constantly looking to find ways to be innovative with modern health trends,” Manischewitz Assistant Brand Manager Avital Pessar told JNS.org.
All kinds of uber-creative latke recipes appear around Hanukkah-time: apple-parsnip latkes, sweet potato-leek latkes, sweet cheesy latkes, and savory cheese and chive latkes. But the truth is, you can’t go anywhere in the world of latkes until you’ve mastered the classic potato version, says celebrity chef Jamie Geller, who likes to try the latkes, keep them warm, and then layer them with show-stopping toppings. JNS.org presents two Hanukkah recipes from Geller's upcoming cookbook: latkes with caviar and cream, and cardamom-scented Hanukkah cookies.
While planning what to cook on Passover’s big seder night, it’s easy to forget to plan your meals for the rest of the holiday week. Suddenly, you find yourself staring at the wide-open cupboard with nothing but matzah staring back at you. But do not worry—Passover isn’t Yom Kippur, and with the right preparation, you can still eat a decent meal. Celebrity chef Mollie Katzen, one of the best-selling cookbook authors of all time, offers some exciting vegetarian, pareve and dairy-based recipes to spice up your daily meals during the eight days of Passover.
Nothing says Jewish food like a bowl of matzoh ball soup or a slab of pastrami on rye. But will Mediterranean gefilte fish or facon also be on that list one day? Fake bacon was just one of the many novelties unleashed on the Jewish culinary scene at Kosherfest, the nation’s largest annual kosher-food trade show, from Nov. 13-14.
Wine has always been an integral part of Judaism, but Israel has only recently come into its own as a producer of quality wine—notably quality wine that happens to be kosher. These days, a tourist can easily create a winery-based itinerary through the Jewish state, and JNS.org correspondent Lisë Stern did just that this fall.