One of my favorite strategies for moving outside the box of the standard Shabbat dinner menu is to look to the global canon beyond the Eastern European standards I grew up with. The Jewish cuisines of Spain, North Africa, and the Middle East — all warm-weather climates — are particularly ripe with summer cooking inspiration. This chicken dish, for example, is often served on Shabbat by Moroccan Jews, but it was delightfully unfamiliar to me when I first started making it.
In America, Hanukkah food typically refers to two things: latkes, Eastern European fried potato pancakes, and sufganiyot, jelly-filled doughnuts that are favored in Israel and increasingly popular here. While very different in composition, what ties these two foods together is that they are fried in oil — a technique that directly connects to the “miracle of the oil” in the Hanukkah story.
On Sukkot, which begins tomorrow night, Jewish families around the world will head outside to eat under the stars. As the Jewish calendar’s harvest festival holiday, there is a tradition of building temporary outdoor huts called sukkahs, which serve as al fresco dining rooms during the weeklong holiday. As wonderful as it is to have an excuse to dine in the great outdoors, autumn can be an iffy time of year — sometimes gloriously crisp, other times uncomfortably chilly.
Passover is almost here — do you know what you’re cooking yet? Most likely, you’ve got the main building blocks set: classics like matzo ball soup, gefilte fish, brisket and roasted chicken. But when it comes to sides, there’s lots of room to mix and match with seasonal vegetables and Passover-friendly starches like potatoes and quinoa. Here are ten delicious, vibrant side dishes to adorn your Passover table.
Chef Einat Admony knows a thing or two about “leaning in.” As creator of the popular New York eateries, Taim Falafel and Balaboosta, she has helped bring inspired Middle Eastern fare to New York City. The Israeli-native (her mother is originally from Iran; her father from Yemen), has a brand new cookbook out too. Also called Balaboosta, it shares many of her best dishes pulled from the restaurants and her Mediterranean roots. (See our peek inside it here.
Around the World in 30 Soups: This month we’re collaborating with chefs, cookbook authors, and our own Kitchn crew to share a globetrotting adventure in soups from countries and cuisines around the world. Today’s stop: Israel. Yes, matzo technically rose out of Egypt (playful pun intended) when the Jews had to flee last-minute and their bread didn’t have time to rise.
Summer baking sounds like a contradiction. Who wants to turn on the oven when the temperature tops 90 degrees in the shade? On the other hand, the anticipation of fruit pies, cobblers, and tarts at the end of a meal make it worth heating up the kitchen. I found that making a quick tart with puff pastry is the perfect compromise on a hot summer day, and it ends Shabbat dinner on a delightfully sweet note.
Every fall, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) rolls around right as the apple harvest comes into full swing. The timing could not be more fortuitous, since apples dipped in honey are the holiday’s best known food symbol — an edible representation of one’s wishes for a sweet and round year ahead.
Whether served hot or cold, brimming with meat or completely vegetarian, the beet soup known as borscht has become a staple of the Ashkenazi Jewish repertoire. Perhaps that is because, amidst a sea of brown, heavy dishes — potato kugel, challah, cholent, latkes, and so on — borscht’s ruby color and tangy-sweet flavor offers a bright counterpoint. I love to make borscht, but I do not fancy the cold version that is popular during the warm summer months.
Fried jelly doughnuts, called sufganiyot, are a common Hanukkah treat in Israel, and are increasingly popular in the United States. But while homemade doughnuts filled with strawberry or raspberry jam are delicious as a once-in-a-while treat, they make the house smell like fried food and leave a pesky amount of cooking oil behind to dispose of. These gougères, which come sandwiched with fig preserves, offer a savory, sophisticated twist on sufganiyot.
Bubbly Champagne makes the perfect, effervescent pairing for potato latkes and other fried foods served on Hanukkah. Here, apple cider enhanced with homemade fennel seed syrup and offset with a splash of lemon juice puts a cozy, winter-friendly spin on a classic Champagne bellini. The fennel syrup is simple to prepare and keeps well in the fridge, making it the perfect prep-ahead base for holiday cocktails.
Most of the best — and best-known — dishes in the Eastern European Jewish cannon are heavy, rib-sticking things. They are delicious, to be sure, but not exactly foods you want to eat on a sweltering Friday night. This summer, break out of the traditional Shabbat dinner mold by swapping the classics with fresher, lighter fare that keeps the spirit of the holiday without weighing you down. Here are a few suggestions pulled from my new book, Modern Jewish Cooking.
Because Shabbat comes every week, it often feels like as soon as the dishes from this week’s dinner are over, I am starting to plan the next one. Over the years, I have come up with a few strategies to keep the planning and prep simple and organized, so I can enjoy it almost as much as the dinner itself. Before crafting a menu, I check in with guests about their dietary needs. We keep a kosher home, so we are already set for both kosher and non kosher guests.
Making guests feel comfortable is my primary goal at any dinner party I host. On Shabbat, that can be a little tricky. On top of the typical considerations — things like food allergies and guest compatibility — there is just a lot of stuff that happens during Shabbat dinner that can be confusing to people who have not experienced it before. Of course, every Shabbat dinner is a little different. Some folks are very traditional and follow all the rules; others, not so much.
This is the dish my guests were most enamored of during our summertime Shabbat dinner (it is always the simplest things, right?). It’s inspired by the Jewish Roman recipe, concia, which is hundreds of years old. The Jews of Rome knew their way around summer vegetables — including zucchini, which they sliced, fried in olive oil, then marinated with chopped fresh herbs, garlic, and vinegar. The zucchini browns and turns silky, almost creamy, in its olive oil bath.
Every year people tend to get obsessive over their seder menu planning. And for good reason — Passover rivals Thanksgiving in culinary importance. But with so much attention paid to two seder meals, it is easy to forget that Passover and it’s many food restrictions, last an entire week. That means no sandwiches, no quick pasta dinners, and certainly no takeout pizza. I used to let the prohibitions get me down, but I have learned it is much more effective to stay positive.
Passover has a lot of inherent food restrictions. The no bread thing is a given. But oats, barley, spelt, and rye are also off limits, as is anything made from wheat flour (which is basically everything). For many Jews, particularly those of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) descent who tend to be more stringent, corn, rice, legumes, soybeans, lentils and all sorts of other unexpected staples are also off the table. Phew.
Cleaning the kitchen for Passover is a surprisingly serious business. Observant Jews go to great lengths to rid their kitchens of all chametz (any products made from wheat, oats, barley, spelt, or rye) and make physical and spiritual separations between their year-round kitchens and their Passover kitchens. The first year I attempted the task, I started out strong with heaps of enthusiasm and a fresh pair of yellow rubber gloves to boot.
In my recent interview with cookbook author and magazine editor, Janna Gur, she described a recipe so delicious that I just had to share it. The recipe is for Syrian herb and meat latkes, called ijeh b’lahmeh. They’re shaped into patties, bound with eggs, and fried in oil just like Hanukkah latkes. But instead of the grated potato most of us are used to, these latkes are made with ground beef and a delightful mess of chopped mint, parsley, cilantro, and scallions.
With Hanukkah around the corner and Christmas coming soon, holiday cookbook season is in full swing. Among the piles of recently published, glossy tomes, the book I’m most excited about is Jewish Soul Food: From Minsk to Marrakesh by Janna Gur. Gur is the longtime editor of Al Hashulchan, a popular food publication in Israel.
Many families celebrate Rosh Hashanah at home by eating apples dipped in honey. The apples’ round shape symbolizes the passing of time — Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year after all. And the honey represents people’s hopes for sweet times ahead. This year, double up on the apple and honey tradition by toasting the New Year with hard apple ciders and mead (honey wine). Here are four good picks from two people who really know their cider and mead.
Matzoh, the flat, unleavened bread eaten during the holiday of Passover, is one of the most distinctive Jewish foods. Made from nothing more than flour (typically wheat, but also barley, spelt, rye, or oat) and water, it represents the simple bread the Israelites took with them when they left slavery in Ancient Egypt. When most people think of matzoh, they envision flat, square crackers dotted with fork prick-like perforations. They also tend to think, “boring.
Each spring, Passover arrives on the cusp of spring. Winter’s chill has faded, the days are longer and warmer, and hopeful green buds have started to appear on tree branches. It is the perfect time to celebrate a holiday focused on freedom. Passover, after all, commemorates the Israelites’ Exodus from ancient Egypt, and their transition from a life of slavery to one of freedom.
Whether you grew up eating them or not, homemade hamantaschen are a special treat. The triangle-shaped cookies, which are traditionally served during the Jewish holiday of Purim, come stuffed with jam, ground poppy seeds, and many other delicious spreads. And when made well, with a supple dough and warm, sweet filling, they can be ethereal. The problem is, making hamantaschen at home can be tricky.
Purim is the Jewish calendar’s biggest party festival. The holiday celebrates the biblical story of the heroic Queen Esther, a Jewish woman who rose to become the Queen of Persia and saved her people from destruction at the hands of her husband’s ill-intentioned advisor, Haman. People celebrate Purim by gathering in synagogues to read Esther’s story aloud. They then head off to parties to celebrate the ancient victory by wearing costumes, getting tipsy, and, of course, eating.
The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah typically arrives in December, but I start getting excited for it sometime around Labor Day. I love lighting the menorah (Hanukkah candelabra) and watching the candles’ reflection, warm and comforting, in my window. And I crave the overall feeling of coziness that comes with the season. But what I long for most are the latkes — fried potato pancakes that Jewish families fry up during the eight-day holiday.