Tag Archives: Food

Recipe: Sumac or Za’atar Latkes

Both sumac and za’atar (hyssop) were biblical spices, the former used to impart a lemony flavor to food, and the latter to season almost anything. During the time of the Macabbees’ revolt in late autumn, and lemony sumac berries had just been harvested, and za’atar grew wild in the hills.

Today, the word za’atar refers to a spice blend of hyssop, salt, sumac and sesame seeds, popular on bread, in salads, and over yogurt cheese. You can find sumac and za’atar in Middle Eastern and Persian markets. This recipe was created by Nadav Granot, chef at the biblical gardens of Neot Kedumim, in Israel.

SUMAC OR ZA’ATAR LATKES

Makes about 8-10 (Serves 4-5)

  • ½ cup virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 medium-large)
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt (slightly less if using za’atar)
  • 1 tablespoon prepared za’atar mix or dried crushed sumac
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 – 2 ½   tablespoons hot water
  • Thick Yogurt or Sour Cream

Pour ¼ cup oil into a frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic till lightly golden, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the sumac or za’atar.

Stir in the onion and garlic mixture and beat in the eggs. The batter will be thick and sticky.

Add 2 tablespoons water (or more if necessary) so that the batter is the consistency of pancake batter.

Heat the remaining oil and use a small cup or soup ladle to form 3-4 small latkes each time. Fry on both sides till golden. Serve with a dollop of thick yogurt or sour cream.

Adapted from The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking, by Phyllis Glazer with Miriyam Glazer (Harper-Collins 2004).

Rededicating Hanukkah Foods

By Merav Levkowitz

For those of us with food allergies and intolerances, social events tend to be awkward and isolating. So many Jewish events revolve around food and involve eating in social settings or at the houses of others. Though many Jews are used to  accommodating kashrut, vegetarianism, and lactose intolerance, which is common among Jews (but irrelevant during a kosher meat meal!), it can be uncomfortable to ask even the most accommodating host to modify his/her menu or recipes and cook differently, especially when old family recipes are at hand. Celiac disease is one such dietary restriction that requires extra attention and is rising in the prevalence in general and especially among Jews.

Celiac disease is, in a nutshell, an autoimmune digestive disease in which the body is unable to tolerate gluten, the protein in wheat, barley, rye, and oats. The exact cause of Celiac disease remains unknown, but it is genetic and often triggered by environmental factors or intense physical event like illness, pregnancy or severe stress. In response to the offensive gluten, the immune system attacks and destroys the villi, the finger-like projections that line the inside of the small intestine and absorb nutrients into the bloodstream. Celiac disease that goes undiagnosed can manifest itself in a wide range of deceptive symptoms, including digestive issues, fatigue, infertility and seizures, among others, and can ultimately result in malnutrition and elevated risks for many illnesses and infections. Once diagnosed, the only way to treat it is to maintain a diet that is strictly free of gluten, which, in addition to being found in the primary grains mentioned above and their products, hides in many other products, like sauces, dressings, food fillers, lip gloss, and envelope adhesive.

In the Jewish world, a gluten-free diet means no challah, matzoh balls, sufganiyot (doughnuts), or even latkes (potato pancakes). Even with the increased awareness and greater supply of specialized products available in stores, maintaining a gluten-free diet often gives the impression of perpetual Passover. We Jewish Celiacs get used to reading labels and asking questions religiously, hosting, testing gluten-free recipes, cooking for ourselves and knowing that we will have to satisfy ourselves solely with the aroma of most challot. Although we cannot eat matzoh, during Passover we bask in the joy of knowing that for eight days our friends and family may get a small taste of what we experience year-round. Still, there is a feeling of loss that comes with not being able to participate in many Jewish rituals, mitzvot, and family traditions.

But with Hanukkah approaching, there is hope for Celiacs and our friends to reclaim the holiday this year and make it safe and enjoyable for all! Try out these flourless potato latkes and gluten-free sufganiyot, and check out this line-up of other gluten-free Hanukkah recipes. Hanukkah is, after all, about rededication and miracles and what better way to celebrate this than by sharing doughnuts that are safe for everyone?!  Happy cooking, and happy Hanukkah!

Kosher Goes Green

By Lily Hoffman Simon

Have you ever sat in an empty Chinese restaurant on Christmas day feeling like you are the only person in the whole country not congregating around a tree?  For those who keep kosher, resisting the temptation to order shrimp for their fried rice sometimes seems like just one more thing that sets Jews apart.  Sometimes, one can’t help but wonder: What’s the point?

This question comes into starker light when considering that traditional kashrut inadequately addresses contemporary ethical issues of the gastronomic variety. For example, if you type ‘agriprocessors’ into Google, you will be bombarded with information about the ethical misconduct of one of America’s biggest kosher meat producers, including cruel animal abuse, refusal to recognize its workers’ union, questionable environmental behavior and charges for breaching child labour laws.  How can these practices in good conscience  be considered “Kosher”?

Kashrut’ comes from the Hebrew root meaning “fit” or “proper,” and denotes guidelines for appropriate eating and consumption. The animal being consumed must be slaughtered in a way that ensures little physical discomfort for the animal. An animal must not be eaten with its mother’s milk, to signify the separation between its death and its source of life. A mother and child animal must not be killed on the same day.  All of these rules, and others, are intended to create a social, ethical consciousness surrounding the food we eat, as well as promote a spiritual relationship to food. But are these rules enough to ensure an ethical food industry?

The limitations of traditional kashrut have sparked critical analysis of the dietary laws. Proponents of kashrut reform advocate for changes in the standards of kashrut to follow suit with the changing food industry and the new ethical dilemmas its presents. A simple hechsher (the symbol of kashrut certification) no longer seems to be enough to ensure ethical food.

At the forefront of addressing these questions stands the Eco-kashrut movement, which emphasizes the environmental impact of the globalized food industry, which values efficient mass production over environmental consciousness. Advocates of eco-kashrut encourage environmental and animal-friendly ideas about food, such as organic farming, free-range livestock and sustainability, as a contemporary means to maintain an ethical conscious. Eco-kashrut also connotes a lifestyle outside of the realm of food, providing commentary on the environmental and spiritual implications of issues such as plastic production, energy consumption and general sustainability. With Hanukkah just around the corner, the Shalom Centre’s Green Menorah Project provides an interesting example of the key role environmentalism plays in the holiday.

Spiritually speaking, eating with an ethical understanding can unite food consumption with nature and God.  The Conservative Movement of Judaism has gone so far as to develop its own eco-kosher hechser, called a hechsher tzedek (justice certificate), to supplement traditional kosher standards. Other initiatives to create “social hechshers,” which denote just worker-producer relations among other socially responsible considerations include Tav Chevrati, created by Bema’aglei Tzedek, and Magen Tzedek’s initiative to label food that is conscious of environmental implications, animal welfare, and labour relations.

So the next time you scan a package of meat for a hechsher, maybe think about all the other aspects of production that are not considered in the traditional kashrut certification process. After all, if kashrut is intended to provide an ethical guidance, it might as well be relevant to the ethical questions of today’s times.

Recipe: Bumuelos In Red Wine Sauce

Here’s another great Hanukkah recipe.  Jews of Spanish origin developed bumuelos or buñuelos—fritters or pancakes fried in olive oil and dipped in honey or sugar syrup or sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar—as sweet Hanukkah treats.  Here’s a modern take on the Sephardi classic!  Read more on the history of Hanukkah foods in Moment‘s latest “Talk of the Table” here!

BUMUELOS IN RED WINE  SAUCE

Makes about 14-15 (Serve 2-3 per portion)

For the Bumuelos:

  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup butter
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 ½ cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • Canola oil for frying

For the Red Wine Sauce:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • ⅔ cup dry red wine
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 whole cloves

Prepare the Red Wine sauce first: Mix the ingredients together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the syrup thickens to the consistency of honey. Keep warm. (Overcooking the sauce will make it harden). Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil and set aside. Place the flour in the bowl of a mixer. Turn the mixer on low speed and add the boiling liquid mixture. Continue mixing on low speed until a soft dough is formed that leaves the side of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Heat 1½” canola oil in a wide pan. Line a plate with paper towels. Using a medium ice cream scoop or two tablespoons, form a ball of the mixture and slip into the hot oil. If the ball is difficult to form, beat in an additional tablespoon or two of flour. Fry 4-5 balls at a time on medium-high heat till golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on the paper toweling to remove excess oil. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Reheat the wine sauce over low heat until very warm.  Pour 3 tablespoons of sauce on each serving plate. Set 2-3 bumuelos on top and serve.

“Adapted from The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking, by Phyllis Glazer with Miriyam Glazer (Harper-Collins 2004).”

Recipe: Sweet Potato Latkes with Spiced Maple Syrup

With Hanukkah approaching fast, people everywhere are getting excited to dine on treats such as latkes and Sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts).  But after eight days, those delicious dishes can get tiresome.  This year, why not try out a little variation? According to Phyllis Glazer, modern takes on traditional foods are becoming all the rage in Israel (check out her article on the history of latkes in the current issue of Moment here!).  Here is one of our favorites:

Sweet Potato Latkes with Spiced Maple Syrup

Makes 10-12  (4-6 servings)

For the Latkes:

  • 1 pound sweet potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼  cup matzah meal
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch white pepper
  • 2-4 tablespoons light olive oil for frying

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup real maple syrup
  • ½  teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • ¼  teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Chopped fresh coriander or mint leaves to garnish

Directions:

Scrub the sweet potatoes, peel and shred them on the fine side of a grater or in the food processor. Transfer to a wire-mesh strainer and squeeze to remove moisture. Let stand in the strainer or a colander placed over a bowl for 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a fork and add the matzah meal, sweet potato, salt and pepper. Let stand an additional 5-10 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the sauce: In a small pan combine the ingredients for the sauce, heat over low heat and keep warm.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet and add a small ladleful of the batter. Flatten gently and fry on both sides till golden-brown.

Add more oil to the pan as necessary, and fry the remaining latkes.

Place the latkes on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil. Pour some of the heated sauce on individual plates and arrange three latkes on top per serving, or use a serving platter and pass the sauce separately. Garnish with fresh coriander or mint.  Serve with sour cream or plain yogurt if desired.

“Adapted from The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking, by Phyllis Glazer with Miriyam Glazer (Harper-Collins 2004).”

This Falafel Was Made For You And Me

It looks like the international system of governance is finally paying off. I mean, despite reports that the US and its allies are looking to bypass the UN in order to impose sanctions on Iran, we can all rest assured. The international system of dialogue is finally being put to good use.

Right.

Lebanon is suing Israel for ownership of its national foods, including falafel, hummus, and tabouleh. I am not making this up. The LA Times and Ha’aretz report:

“In a way the Jewish state is trying to claim ownership of traditional Lebanese delicacies like falafel, tabouleh and hummus” [Lebanese Industrialists Association Fadi] Abboud said. According to Abboud, the Lebanese are losing “tens of millions of dollars annually” because Israel is selling and marketing traditional Lebanese dishes.

“The Israelis are marketing our main food dishes as if they were Israeli dishes, Continue reading