Kosherfest 2012 serves up fake bacon and real innovation


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?

Facon, you ask? As the name implies, it’s fake bacon, and it was just one of the many novelties unleashed on the Jewish culinary scene at Kosherfest, the nation’s largest annual kosher-food trade show, which took place Nov. 13-14. Thousands of rabbis, restaurateurs, chefs, foodies, and at least one hungry journalist crammed into the Meadowlands Expo Center in New Jersey to nosh on the food samples and get a hold of the latest trends in cuisine that adhere to Jewish dietary law.

As one might expect, bagels and lox, a broad selection of cold cuts and a variety of pickles—cucumbers, cabbage and mushrooms—were on display. But the old staples were clearly fighting for prominence with a smorgasbord of new offerings that either borrowed from international cuisines, like the Japanese or Italians, or offered observers of kashrut a small taste of what dietary law forbids, like facon, the faux bacon.

“There’s no law anywhere that a Jew should not be allowed the flavors of the world,” declared Alan Broner, co-owner of Jack’s Gourmet, which markets the product that won the 2012 Kosherfest award in the best meat category.

Broner said facon was the invention of his business partner Jack Silberstein, a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, and is made of beef plate—a fatty cut located behind the brisket—that is then seasoned, smoked and fried. The result, he said, is an accurately treif-tasting delicacy that is entirely kosher.

“The prohibition is not to have beef baked and smoked to taste like,” paused Broner, as he looked for the right word, “to taste like something else.”

Jeffrey Rappoport, a blogger who ate bacon before starting to eat kosher at age 13, almost had tears in his eyes when he took a bite.

“That’s amazing!” he said, planting a kiss of joy on Broner’s head.

“The buds don’t forget,” responded Broner, who had a taste for treif before he began observing kashrut at age 30.

Not everyone was as thrilled with facon, however.

“It’s kind of bland,” said storeowner Sandra Steiner, evaluating a slice of the cleverly dressed up meat. “I won’t buy it.”

She added, however, that she might not be the best judge as she has been kosher her whole life.

“Now,” she said, “I don’t feel so bad for never having never tasted real bacon.”

Facon was just one of the many novelties at this year’s Kosherfest, where innovation was clearly the name of the game.

JoburgKosher, a company originally from South Africa, partnered with New York businessmen to bring a taste of their homeland like bilatong—a dried meat similar to beef jerky—and boerewors, a type of Boer sausage, to the U.S. market.

“It tastes like a dried pastrami,” said Benny Goldis, a local partner of JoburgKosher, putting it in terms local Jews would understand. “People can take bilatong on vacation or on business trips. It’s a new food I’m sure people will love.”

Even the oldest names in the Jewish food industry like Manischewitz are acutely aware that palates are becoming increasingly sophisticated and demanding as part of a global trend.

“People want different flavors and worlds whether they are kosher or not, Jewish or not Jewish,” said Alain Bankier, co-president and CEO of the fabled food company. “People want innovation and we are happy to provide it to them.”

That’s why Manischewitz, which is associated with foods like matzoh, farfel and kosher wine, launched a new line this year that includes Moroccan roasted vegetables and chicken couscous sauces, red velvet macaroons and Mediterranean gefilte fish, which are East European-inspired fish balls “with flavors of rosemary, oregano and olive oil.”

Those worried food fads are destroying authentic Jewish cooking need not worry. At the fair, there were still plenty of traditionalists ready to make sure old favorites would not die out.

Steve Leibovitz, the owner of United Pickles, the company behind Guss’ Pickles, reigned over a big barrel of sours, half-sours and green tomatoes, handing them out to passersby much the same way his grandfather, Max Leibovitz, did when he opened up on the Lower East Side 118 years ago.

“When he came to the U.S. from Russia in 1897 he sold pickles out of a pushcart on the street,” said Leibovitz, who dubs himself the company CPM (Chief Pickles Maven). “Now we’re in Walmart. We serve most delis around town and my sauerkraut is at every Nathan’s (the fast food chain largely known for its hot dogs) in the country.”

Though United Pickles has a nationwide reach, it remains a family affair. Steve’s son, Andrew Leibowitz, stood behind the counter watching his father greet customers and talk to the competition, who came by to say hello and talk shop.

“I’m ready to continue the tradition,” said the 30-year-old, who will represent the fourth generation of Leibovitz family members to sell pickles, observing his father at work. “I’m learning a lot from him.”

Breaking the Fast


Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins at sundown on Sunday, Oct. 8, during which time a strict fast is observed

Prior to the fast, it is customary to serve a family dinner consisting of simple foods prepared with a minimum of salt and spices.

After the fast, dairy foods are traditionally served, and of course bagels are an important part of the after-fast menu, often accompanied by smoked fish and salads.

If there is one favorite item in the Jewish-American cuisine, it is certainly the bagel. Their popularity has spread to almost every part of the U.S. And many shops specializing only in bagels have popped up everywhere. We can choose from egg or water bagels, whole wheat, oat bran, rye, onion, blueberry, cinnamon-raisin, cheese and even chocolate chip bagels.

There are many opinions as to where the bagel originated. Some say Germany, while others insist it was Austria, Poland or Russia, although scholars claim that the word “bagel” is derived from the German word “bugel,” which means a ring or curved bracelet. No matter where they came from, we know that the bagel is here to stay, and they are not just for breakfast.

Few of us have attempted to bake bagels in our home kitchens.

I love making bagels, but it is true that they do take a lot of time. Bagels are made in a unique manner; they are first boiled, then baked, which gives them their distinctive shiny, chewy crust.

This year, for break-the-fast, bagels will be my theme – a bagel buffet, with enough delicious toppings to satisfy everyone.

Let your family and friends have fun creating their own open-face bagel fantasy from a selection of interesting toppings.

Izzy’s Authentic Bagels

I never knew how to make perfect bagels until I met Izzy Cohen, an elderly retired baker, who made bagels for his friends. He came to my house to demonstrate his technique, bringing his own high-gluten flour. Once you learn the basic process, you’ll love making bagels in many varieties – plain, onion, poppy seed, cinnamon, or your own special creations. You might have to go to a health food store to find the malt for this recipe.

  • 2 cups cold water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon malt
  • 1 tablespoon safflower oil
  • 8 cups high-gluten flour (12 to 13 percent gluten) or 8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour mixed with
  • 1/4 cup powdered gluten, plus more as needed
  • 5 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal

In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer, blend the water, sugar, salt, malt, and oil on medium speed.In another large bowl, mix 6 cups of the flour with yeast; gradually add flour mixture to water mixture and blend until the dough comes together. Add the remaining 2 cups flour, beating until smooth. (If any dry flour mixture remains in the bottom of the bowl, add several drops of water to moisten it and continue beating 5 minutes.)

Transfer dough to a lightly floured board, cover with a towel and let rest 5 minutes. Divide dough into 15 pieces and cover with a towel while you knead and shape each piece. Knead by folding each piece in half and pushing out any air pockets, then fold in half again and repeat. Shape into a rope about 5 inches long; form into a doughnut shape, overlap ends by about 1 inch, and knead into a smooth perfect circle. Repeat the process with remaining pieces of dough.

Sprinkle cornmeal on the board and place bagels on top. Cover with a towel and let rest 5 minutes.Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Fill a large heavy pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. Working in batches, drop 4 to 6 bagels (do not crowd) into boiling water and boil 10 seconds only. At this time, bagels should rise to the top of the water. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a wire rack and drain. Transfer bagels to a parchment-lined baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool on a wire racks. Makes about 15 bagels.Variations: Mix together chopped onion and poppy seeds or caraway seeds with a little coarse kosher salt. After boiling and draining bagels, press the top of each bagel into seed mixture and bake as directed.

Toasted Garlic Bagels

Instead of garlic toast using French bread, try my version.

  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter or non-dairy margarine
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons minced parsley
  • Salt
  • 8 bagels, sliced in half

In a processor, mix butter and garlic until well blended. Pulse in parsley. Season to taste with salt. With a rubber spatula, transfer mixture to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. (You can also shape the mixture into a cube, wrap in plastic wrap and foil, then freeze it; defrost until spreadable before use.)

Preheat the broiler. Spread the butter mixture on the bagel halves, place them on a baking sheet, and broil until the butter mixture bubbles and begins to brown. Serve immediately.

Grandma’s Chopped Herring

  • 1 pound schmaltz herring fillets or 1 jar (1 pound) pickled herring fillets in wine sauce
  • 2 slices challah or egg bread
  • 1 medium onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 green apple, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 4 teaspoons vinegar
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons safflower or vegetable oil

Soak the herring in cold water overnight. Drain well. Bone and skin the herring and cut it into pieces. Soak the challah in cold water for a few minutes and squeeze out the water.

Place the herring, challah, onion, and apple in a food grinder and grind. Chop the hard-boiled egg whites and combine with 3 teaspoons of the vinegar. Mix the whites into the herring mixture. Spread the chopped herring on a platter. Mash the egg yolks with the remaining 1 teaspoon vinegar and spread over the top of the chopped herring.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Just before serving, pour 2 or 3 tablespoons of the oil over the top. Serve with toasted bagels.

Broiled Lox and Cream Cheese on a Bagel

  • 8 bagels, sliced and toasted
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
  • 1/2 cup diced smoked salmon
  • 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a medium-size bowl, mix together the cream cheese, sour cream, onions and smoked salmon. Fold in capers. Season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly on toasted bagels. Broil 3 inches from the heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Italian Deli Platter

  • 12 thin slices of tomatoes
  • 12 thin slices of mozzarella cheese
  • 12 anchovy fillets

On a large platter, arrange slices of tomatoes. Top each tomato with a slice of cheese and an anchovy fillet. Serves 12.

Smoked Whitefish Platter

  • Lettuce leaves
  • Smoked whitefish or cod fish
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • Sliced onions

On a large platter, arrange lettuce leaves, white fish, cucumbers and onions.

Out of Dough


America’s largest bagel chain finds itself in the hole.
The Einstein/Noah Bagel Corp., which owns 539 bagel shops across the United States, announced last month that it won’t be able to pay off a $125 million debt and may haveto shut down unless it finds new financing. Other bagel makers are in similar straits, victims partly of overexpansion but mainly of changing American tastes, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The popularity of bagels took off about a decade ago, when health and weight-conscious consumers soughta substitute for the high-fat doughnut. An average sized plain bagel has only 1 gram of fat but 300 calories compared to a chocolate glazed doughnut’s 14 grams of fat and 260 calories.

bagels

Shawn Kearns, manager of research for Einstein Bros. Bagels in Golden, Colo., inspects a batch of freshly baked beauties. As supermarkets, doughnut chains and coffeehouses offer bagels and consumers quit worrying about fat grams, bagel bakery chains are finding themselves with more storesdoing less business.

With booming economic times, however, and few signs that past diet regimens have notably slimmed theAmerican figure, consumers are ready to live it up, say the experts. “Americans are either tired of experts telling them what’s good or bad for them, or they’re just too tired to care,” notes the Times.Giving weight to the analysis is the fact that while Noah shut down 14 of its stores last year, doughnut chains such as Krispy Kreme and Winchell’s are opening up new locations at a record pace.

To some extent, the chain’s stores became victims of their own success, with convenient supermarkets, doughnut shops, and coffee joints like Starbucks jumping in and offering bagels to their customers.The company was formed in March 1995 through the combination of four leading regional bagel retailers Brackman Brothers Bagel Bakery in Salt Lake City, Bagel & Bagel in Kansas City, Offerdahl’s BagelGourmet in Fort Lauderdale and Baltimore Bagel Co. of San Diego.

The Complete Bar/Bat Mitzvah


America’s largest bagel chain finds itself in the hole.
The Einstein/Noah Bagel Corp., which owns 539 bagel shops across the United States, announced last month that it won’t be able to pay off a $125 million debt and may haveto shut down unless it finds new financing. Other bagel makers are in similar straits, victims partly of overexpansion but mainly of changing American tastes, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The popularity of bagels took off about a decade ago, when health and weight-conscious consumers soughta substitute for the high-fat doughnut. An average sized plain bagel has only 1 gram of fat but 300 calories compared to a chocolate glazed doughnut’s 14 grams of fat and 260 calories.

Shawn Kearns, manager of research for Einstein Bros. Bagels in Golden, Colo., inspects a batch of freshly baked beauties. As supermarkets, doughnut chains and coffeehouses offer bagels and consumers quit worrying about fat grams, bagel bakery chains are finding themselves with more storesdoing less business.

With booming economic times, however, and few signs that past diet regimens have notably slimmed the American figure, consumers are ready to live it up, say the experts. “Americans are either tired of experts telling them what’s good or bad for them, or they’re just too tired to care,” notes the Times.Giving weight to the analysis is the fact that while Noah shut down 14 of its stores last year, doughnut chains such as Krispy Kreme and Winchell’s are opening up new locations at a record pace.

To some extent, the chain’s stores became victims of their own success, with convenient supermarkets, doughnut shops, and coffee joints like Starbucks jumping in and offering bagels to their customers.The company was formed in March 1995 through the combination of four leading regional bagel retailers Brackman Brothers Bagel Bakery in Salt Lake City, Bagel & Bagel in Kansas City, Offerdahl’s BagelGourmet in Fort Lauderdale and Baltimore Bagel Co. of San Diego.

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