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Cooking Jewish is tradition—heirloom recipes passed down through the generations. Cooking Jewish is devising modern spins on old classics. Cooking Jewish is preserving memories as we create new ones. Cooking Jewish is cooking from the heart, a memory in every bite.
And you don't have to be Jewish to cook Jewish!
There are very few dishes that can be exclusively called Jewish. Wherever Jews have wandered, they have incorporated the cuisine of their neighbors into that serendipitous amalgamation we think of as "Jewish food."
We are the ancestors of the coming generations and the keepers of memories for our children. We treasure our heritage as we create new traditions.
Food and family, family and food....I can't think of one without the other. Let's eat together, celebrate together, and enjoy!
My story in this month's Orange County Jewish Life magazine discusses the weird convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah this year with lots of suggestions for celebration.
In a jam? Try this recipe for Hanukkah doughnuts.
The Orange County Register/Fullerton News Tribune
November 29, 2007
by Judy Bart Kancigor
An old joke goes like this: The Jewish holidays are always either early or late. They’re never on time!
Hanukkah sneaks up on us early this year. We’ll begin lighting candles at sundown on December 4, so prepare for an oil crisis, and I’m not referring to the price of gas. Who knew when Judah Maccabee's tiny flask of oil miraculously burned for eight days that for thousands of years Jewish families would celebrate by frying!
While Jews of Eastern Europe descent eat mountains of latkes (potato pancakes), the Hanukkah treat in Israel is sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts).
Fullerton's Pnina Shichor, a former teacher and proprietor of Bound to Travel on Euclid, has been making them for years.
"When my children were young," she recalled, "my cousin, Esther Schechter, and I would do Hanukkah at Rolling Hills Elementary School. We'd tell the story, sing songs, and teach the children to make sufganiyot."
When the Shichors were considering transferring daughter Nomi to Jewish day school, Nomi said, "But, Mom, if I go there, who will do Hanukkah for our class?"
Pnina's mother-in-law, Malka Suranyi, brought the recipe from Budapest where the family survived under Nazi rule. Luckily an uncle owned an exclusive men's clothing store, which the Nazis wanted, so they kept the workers alive. After the war the Communists took over, and Pnina's husband, David, professor of criminal justice at Cal State San Bernardino, was barely 16 when the Jewish Agency smuggled him and other children out of Hungary.
While Jews of Eastern European descent celebrate Hanukkah with mountains of latkes, Sephardic Jews fry sufganiyot. But for everyone – and every holiday – there’s always…chocolate?
Yes, just about everyone’s favorite ingredient never goes out of season, claims award-winning author Alice Medrich, whose book “Chocolate Holidays: Unforgettable Desserts for Every Season” (Artisan) offers 50 luscious, decadent recipes to crown every holiday and celebration.
“I wanted to do a season-to-season book,” said Medrich by phone from her Berkley, California, home. “Other ingredients we like to cook with change with the seasons. The constant is chocolate.”
Jewish cooks know that Hanukkah is all about the oil. The symbolism goes back to ancient times, when Judah Maccabee and his tiny army defeated the Syrian-Greeks and recaptured Jerusalem. In attempting to rededicate the Temple, they found only enough oil to burn for one day. Miraculously it lasted eight days, and we've been celebrating with a frying frenzy ever since! But who says traditional potato latkes are the only fritter fit to fry?
“Chocolate Banana Blintzes are fried, and Hanukkah is a great excuse to serve them,” noted Medrich. “They are just so delicious, a fancy party dessert that’s easy to do.” Restraint, she said, is sometimes the secret ingredient. “A little burst of chocolate sauce in a hot crepe with bananas is more seductive than a chocolate blintz with chocolate filling,” she writes.
Another lesser-known Hanukkah tradition involves the story of Judith, a beautiful Jewish widow, who dined with the enemy general Holofernes. She plied him with cheese to make him thirsty for wine, and when he fell into a drunken stupor, she beheaded him with his own sword. Because her bravery is said to have inspired the Maccabees, some communities remember Judith by eating cheese during this holiday.
Last Thankgiving for the first time I had the most beautiful platter of neat turkey slices. I followed this video from the NY Times.
The man is a genius!! End of turkey hassles! The only thing I did differently (and it actually worked even better) was I removed the drumstick first and then held on to the thigh bone and slid my knife down that bone to remove it with no meat on it. Then it was a simple matter to remove the thigh - whole! Slicing boneless meat is a breeze! We will never carve a turkey on the bone again! My platter looked just as great as his! We should have taken a picture!
I’m scared. I’ve been toying with the idea of making all new dishes for Thanksgiving this year, but I keep hearing that old mantra in my head: “You don’t mess with Thanksgiving!” Why fix something that’s not broken?
Former long-time Fullerton resident, Linda Gomberg, seconds the notion. The five Gomberg children and their four spouses, plus 12 grandchildren, will gather in the Gomberg home, as they do every year, to enjoy a menu that seldom varies.
“One time I switched out and bought a different kind of squash for my apple stuffed squash, and they went crazy,” she recalled. “I have so many people, and they all know what to expect.”
Daughter-in-law Glenda will bring the mashed potatoes. Daughter-in-law Carolyn will make her fat-free, sugar-free pumpkin pie. Linda will serve two kinds of stuffing with homemade croutons.
“I stuff the bird with giblet stuffing and make an extra vegetable stuffing with no drippings for my vegetarian granddaughter,” she added.
“(Husband) Ray likes candied sweet potatoes, and I love turkey, especially the wings. I buy extra wings and legs and have been making it the same way for forty years.” Green beans with almonds rounds out the menu.
“We’ve got one diabetic, one fat-watcher, various weight-conscious people and a vegetarian,” Linda noted.
The weight-conscious will need all their will power to resist the desserts: “I’ll make a chocolate fudge pie, pecan pie, key lime pie, and I always do a chocolate chip bundt cake. I buy a sugar-free apple or cherry pie.”
But Thanksgiving dinner is just the beginning of the Gomberg celebration. On Friday the whole gang (all 23 of them) will take off for Desert Springs, leftovers in coolers, as they have been doing for years, for a weekend of family fun. Full story with recipe
Okay I lied. I did make one new dish and it is in the freezer as we speak. I didn't add the pistachios - I will do that last minute.
The original recipe was from Julie Sahni, but I combined it with a bunch of things I saw in other recipes. Julie called for a whole teaspoon of cayenne. I used 1/4 teaspoon and it still has quite a kick, so I'm suggesting you start with 1/8. I added the lemon juice, honey, pomegranate molasses, preserves and cumin and substituted apricots for the raisins. Sahni has you cook the pistachios in the chutney but I like the crunch of adding them last minute. Also, it was my idea to saute the shallots first. That little bit of margarine gives a nice flavor. Anyway, I thought it was delicious!
Here's the recipe:
Cranberry-Fig Chutney with Cinnamon and Pistachios
makes about 7 cups
I met chef Annie Miler of Clementine (across from Century City, 310-552-1080) and award-winning pastry chef Sherry Yard of Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in Beverly Hills (310-385-0880) a few years ago at a gala fundraiser for Women’s Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR). I couldn’t resist the opportunity and asked them to give us some tips for the holidays.
“Thanksgiving is about cooking with your friends and family, not about being one person performing,” said Miler. “That’s what makes it stressful. Relax!”
The day prior to Thanksgiving is the single busiest day of the year for Clementine, she noted. “I always have a set of family members here before Thanksgiving and Christmas to help pack gravy and get the orders out. For our own dinner I could just order from Clementine, but this year my mom wants to make everything herself. After days of packing gravy she may decide to order!”
“Desserts like apple pie and pumpkin pie always taste better the next day,” observed Yard, “so why not make them the day before. And this will free the oven to let the turkey spread its wings!”
She also suggested measuring and prepping ingredients for dishes that need last-minute attention the night before.
Try a trifle for an easy, but showy dessert, she suggested. “Buy some gingerbread cake and layer it with whipped cream – fold in candied ginger – and sprinkle the cake with a simple syrup made with brandy or Jack Daniels.”
For an easy take on Miler’s hors d’oevre, serve bruschetta: roasted balsamic onions on toasted French or Italian bread slices.
Sherry Yard’s intense and velvety chocolate ganache is the basis of so many memorable desserts from truffles to mousse. For her “It” tart, pour the ganache into tart shells and top with tiny grapes that have been rolled in melted chocolate (no need to temper), then dusted with cocoa powder.
You’ve done it again, haven’t you? It’s Thanksgiving and you’ve made way too much food. Again. That beautiful bird getting its final basting today will be tomorrow’s turkey mole or turkey pot pie. The bones will become a hearty soup, and by next week your family will be singing in chorus, “Oh, no, not stuffing and sweet potatoes again!”
Every leftover will find a home, but where will the cranberry sauce end up, in the disposal?
If you’re like me and can’t stand waste, here are some fresh ideas for recycling today’s gleaming red relish into tomorrow’s tasty treats.
Whether you are using canned whole berry cranberry sauce or making your own, use it instead of sweetened applesauce in your favorite cake or bread recipe. Try adding some instead of ketchup next time you make meat loaf (1/2 cup to 2 pounds meat). Use the whole berry or the melted jellied mixed with chili sauce for a zippy topping for chicken or meat balls or mix either with some honey or maple syrup (2/3 to 1/3) as a glaze for a roast.
After today’s cooking extravaganza the thought of preparing any of these may leave you breathless. Freeze the leftover cranberry sauce in ice cube trays so you can use what you need later.
To most of us the name Ocean Spray is synonymous with cranberries, and indeed 70% of the world’s cranberry consumption comes from Ocean Spray. Once we had our own Ocean Spray bottling plant right here in my home town, Fullerton. Full story with recipe
Thanksgiving is around the corner, and even those who count the can opener as their favorite (and only) kitchen tool are planning to pull out all the stops for this feeding frenzy of a holiday. Decisions, decisions, decisions. Fresh turkey or frozen. Free range or…not. To brine or not to brine. And that’s just the main dish. Come to the side of the plate, and the real confusion begins. What on earth is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams? Well, when it comes to potatoes I know whom to turn to.
Distinguished cookbook editor Roy Finamore, with Fine Cooking magazine's Molly Stevens, offers 300 exciting, spud-studded recipes from appetizers, soups and salads through main courses, breads and even desserts in One Potato, Two Potato (Houghton Mifflin), an encyclopedic, lavishly photographed guide to everything you ever wanted to know about this humble vegetable.
Sweet potatoes, botanically unrelated to the potato, but included in the book nonetheless, are often mislabeled as "yams," Finamore explains. The true yam is more like the potato and not nearly as sweet as the sweet potato. Its texture upon cooking is also more like that of the potato, rather than the custardy texture of the sweet potato. Chances are your candied “yams” are really candied sweet potatoes.
“It’s an American thing, this confusion,” writes Finamore, who credits vegetable authority Elizabeth Schneider for tracing the mix-up to the African slaves, who began calling the American sweet potato “yams” because of their resemblance to the yams they remembered back home. “But the resemblance ends there,” continues Finamore. “Yams and sweet potatoes come from different families and have different flavors and different uses.” Full story with recipe