A Charedi Orthodox man participating in the kapparot ritual in Ashdod, Israel. Photo by Dima Vazinovich/Flash90

Animal rights group sues police for not stopping Yom Kippur kapparot ritual


An animal rights group filed a lawsuit against two Southern California police departments for not enforcing animal cruelty laws by halting a pre-Yom Kippur ritual.

The lawsuit filed this week naming both the Irvine and Los Angeles police departments is aimed at stopping Chabad of Irvine’s kapparot ceremony in which a chicken is swung by its legs and then slaughtered. It is the second attempt in recent years by the San Diego-based Animal Protection and Rescue League to halt the ceremony.

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Santa Ana says both police departments protect the “illegal killing of animals” by not cracking down on the kapparot ceremonies, the Orange County Register reported.

A lawsuit filed by the group against Chabad in 2015 on the basis of animal cruelty said the chickens are crammed tightly into cages and mishandled, and are disposed of and not used for food.

A federal judge in May dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Virginia-based United Poultry Concerns claiming that the practice violates the state’s unfair competition law.

Kapparot is an ancient practice performed annually by some Jews between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. By performing kapparot, one’s sins are said to be symbolically transferred to the chicken as part of the process of atonement ahead of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The meat of the chicken is then donated to charity.

Some Jews perform the ritual using money in place of a chicken.

It’s not a bird – it’s SuperMeat: Israeli startup aims to grow meat without the animal


The founders of an Israeli food tech startup want you to enjoy your meat without the guilt — in fact, without the animal.

SuperMeat, which launched in December and began an online crowdfunding campaign Monday, is developing a method for bioengineering “cultured meat” from animal cells. Its tagline: “Real meat, without harming animals.”

Imagine a chicken breast without the chicken, developed in a machine from cells taken from a living bird and cultured in a nutrient-rich stock.

The company has won notice in Israel with slick marketing, celebrity endorsements and news coverage. But the increased awareness has raised tough questions for two highly principled groups of Israeli eaters: Kashrut observers and vegans.

SuperMeat’s co-founder and co-CEO, Koby Barak, himself a longtime vegan and animal rights activist, said his company’s cultured meat will be both kosher and vegan-friendly, and he has the supporters to prove it.

“I have spoken to about 10 rabbis and I don’t see any problem. It will be kosher,” Barak told JTA. “The vast majority of the vegan-vegetarian movement is very supportive, and we thank them for really supporting us.”

Among rabbis and vegan activists, though, the debate over exactly what to make of SuperMeat, and cultured meat in general, is far from resolved.

SuperMeat is not the first cultured meat company, but it is the first to focus on chicken. Others have already produced beef, and at least one is working on pork. Mark Post, who made headlines with the first cultured hamburger in 2013, told JTA he hopes to be the first to get his product, recently branded Mosa Meat, to market — in four to five years.

What SuperMeat thinks makes it unique is its patented technology, which is being developed by a company co-founder and its head of research, Yaakov Nahmias, a biomedical engineer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Production is to work like this: Cells will be harmlessly taken from a chicken and put into a special machine that simulates the bird’s biology, allowing them to self-assemble into meat.

Barak said the process could revolutionize how the world eats, striking a major blow against environmental degradation, animal suffering and global health pandemics. Other meats could be made using more or less the same process, he said.

The Indiegogo fundraising goal is $100,000, which Barak hopes will demonstrate consumer interest to investors, from whom it will need to raise millions more.

Science aside, SuperMeat certainly stands out for its marketing. Between the videos of actors and models on the company’s Facebook page are taped testimonials by haredi Orthodox and religious Zionist rabbis.

Dov Lior, the chief rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba in the West Bank, and Yuval Cherlow, a Ranaana rabbi who helped found the religious Zionist rabbinical group Tzohar, argue on video that SuperMeat will be parve. They say animal cells don’t count as meat and that SuperMeat’s process anyway transforms the cells into an entirely new substance. Based on similar logic, they say, gelatin derived from pigs is kosher – a position with which many other Orthodox rabbis disagree.

“Here, from the beginning it’s not considered meat because it’s a microscopic thing. … And even if it were really meat, because it changed its form, a ‘new face has arrived here’ and it’s not considered meat, and it’s clearly parve,” said Lior, using a Talmudic expression meaning that something that had previously been forbidden is no longer forbidden because of changing circumstances.

On the other hand Yisrael Rosen, head of the Zomet Institute, which works to reconcile Orthodox Jewish law and technology, says SuperMeat is meat and suggests it will need rabbinic supervision.

Cherlow told JTA he expects haredi Orthodox and religious Zionist rabbis to be divided on this issue. He said that’s partly because religious Zionists are willing to consider extralegal factors, like the welfare of the planet, more than haredi Orthodox rabbis would. Israel’s Chief Rabbinate will err on the side of the haredim, Cherlow predicted.

“The Rabbinate is trying to include everyone, so therefore it will go to the more extreme opinions,” he said. “But I think when there is a big need, I think most of the rabbis will say you should” accept the more lenient position.

Asked if cultured pork would be kosher, Cherlow said: “Emotionally it’s more difficult. But logically it’s the same answer.”

The New York-based Orthodox Union has yet to take a position on cultured meat. (The group doesn’t recognize pig gelatin as kosher.) But Rabbi Moshe Elefant, the chief operating officer of the OU’s kashrut department, suggested the product sounded a lot like meat. He also confirmed that the OU’s position would be based solely on Jewish law.

“We of course are very concerned about the environment, but our first consideration is always halachah,” he told JTA.

SuperMeat’s concerns are more in line with those of vegans and animal activists. After all, much of the company’s staff comes from that world. Like Barak, SuperMeat co-founder and co-CEO Ido Savir has been a vegan and animal rights activist for nearly two decades. Both men left jobs in Israel’s high-tech industry to join the company and focus full time on the cause of cultured meat.

These deep roots in Israel’s surging vegan and animal rights movement give SuperMeat street cred. Enthusiastic supporters include the vegan activist and restaurateur Ori Shavit and leaders of the Israel-based advocacy groups The Vegan North and 269.

“I’m a great admirer of the dedication of the people behind the project,” said 269 founder Sasha Boojor, who is known for having used a hot iron to brand himself with his movement’s numbers during a 2012 animal rights protest in Tel Aviv. “Of course it would be best if people decided to stop eating animals all together, but it’s not the reality we’re facing right now. And this research can address the suffering of hundreds of billions of animals who are suffering each year for no reason at all.”

Boojor added: “If people eat cultured meat, I have no problem at all. I don’t have a problem eating it myself.”

But other activists caution against being seduced by SuperMeat.

“SuperMeat is not the change of mindset that we are working on,” said Sharbel Balloutine, the founder of an Arab-Israel group called The Vegan Human, which works with Jews to promote veganism and animal rights. “We are working on compassion. We are working on justice. And that’s what really attracts me to my vegan activism.”

Anonymous, another Israeli activist group, sent JTA a statement saying: “We wish SuperMeat best of luck with the research, we welcome any initiative that can help animals. However, we must remember that as consumers, we don’t need to wait for a scientific breakthrough in order to save animals. … There is no nutritional need for meat.”

Nahmias, the scientific brain behind SuperMeat and a rare omnivore on staff, told JTA his work is motivated by his love of schnitzel, an Israeli staple that he said is becoming increasingly unsafe to eat.

“As a kid, I was eating what my mother and my grandmother were cooking. And I want my kids to be able to eat the same kind of schnitzel,” he said. “That’s the reason that I do this.”

Simply perfect grilled chicken, sure fire summer fun


It's hot, you're busy and company's coming for dinner. Nothing's easier than tossing some chicken on the grill. Am I right?

Not at all! Think about it: When was the last time you had a properly cooked piece of chicken from somebody's backyard grill?

“Never” is my guess — even from your own. Don't take it personally. The fact is that hardly anybody knows how to grill chicken that isn’t coal-blackened or outright charred in some places or practically raw in others.

The trouble is the chicken. While it’s a favorite choice for grilling, especially in summer, the how-tos are not obvious. Chicken is nothing like burgers or hot dogs, pork chops or rib steaks; it's tricky to deal with the fat under the skin that drips onto the fire and causes flare-ups. What makes matters worse is marinade, which causes the grill to smoke heavily, turning your chicken gray instead of enticingly browned.

On top of that, it's tough to determine when chicken is done all the way through; it always seems to take longer than it should. So you pull it off too soon and end up with (gulp) pink, undercooked chicken.

So who am I to give advice? Well, I wrote a cookbook all about cooking every cut of grass-fed beef, and now I'm tackling poultry. Listen, I've had my own share of chicken troubles in the past. The worst was when I served underdone chicken to a Muslim exchange student who told me that it was against his religion to eat it. That low point kicked off a self-improvement project: learning the techniques for grilling chicken right.

Top 5 grilling tips

1. Use bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces. Grilling experts highly recommend thighs, and I agree that they are the moistest, but legs, breasts and wings also benefit when the bones and skin are left intact, as they help to insulate the meat from overcooking — and they make it taste much better. (However, if you're committed to boneless, skinless chicken breasts, the techniques you practice with the remaining tips will help you master those, too, with practice.) Pasture-raised chickens, especially those from heritage breeds, are not only tastier but also more sustainable than factory-farmed birds, so seek them out in your area at the farmers market or local grocer.

2. Season the chicken well with salt and save the marinades for after cooking. Most people make their first mistake before they even fire up the grill: They don't season the chicken enough. With your best-quality kosher or sea salt, sprinkle all sides of the chicken pieces as if you're dusting them finely with confectioner's sugar. Everyone loves marinated chicken, but submerging your chicken in any sauce — even barbecue sauce — will bring you more cooking complications, not more flavor.

3. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat and control those flames. Unlike other foods that respond well to intense heat, chicken calls for moderate or medium-high heat (between 350 F and 400 F). Whether using a charcoal or gas grill, test the heat patterns by placing your open palm about 5 inches above the grate. If you can hold it there for 5 seconds, you're in range. Also note where the heat is less intense. In the event of a flare-up, immediately move the chicken to these cooler parts of the grill to prevent charring.

4. Brown chicken pieces skin side down for longer than you think you should. Always cook the chicken skin side down first and plan to leave it there for the next 20 minutes or more — or until it is nearly all the way cooked. Why? You'll end up with crispy and beautifully browned skin (remember, it insulates the meat), plus the chicken will be cooked evenly to the bone. In general, it takes 25 to at least 30 minutes to cook bone-in chicken at this temperature, so aim for cooking it skin side down for three-quarters of the total cooking time — 20 to 25 minutes — before flipping and finishing it on the second side.

5. Use your grill like an oven. After laying the chicken pieces on the grate, put on the lid. Now your grill will radiate the heat above as well as below, which is exactly what chicken needs to get cooked all the way through. The lid also controls air flow and keeps the flames on a charcoal grill from getting out of hand. Dripping fat will likely incite flare-ups, so monitor the cooking and move the chicken away from flames to those cooler areas of the grill whenever necessary. If you're at all uncertain that the chicken is done, insert the tip of an instant-read thermometer close to the bone or just cut into the center for a visual check.

Foolproof finishing strategies

Once your chicken is seasoned and fully cooked to an enticing golden brown, let it rest near the heat for 15 minutes or so. Grilled chicken doesn't need much embellishment, although cilantro pesto, peach chutney or avocado salsa — or any other fresh and tangy sauce — will liven it up. [aside]

But what about those pesky marinades? Think wings, which are first deep-fried and then tossed with sauce. The same principle applies to grilled chicken: Cook it well first, then brush or toss it with any homemade or bottled marinade or sauce. Let it warm-marinate until ready to serve or put it back on the grill for a few minutes to marry the sauce to the chicken as it reheats.

Now you're the expert.

Compassionate kapparot: use coins, not chickens


How does one remove sin and guarantee one’s name in the Book of Life during the Ten Days of Repentance? Here’s one way that does not work: Take a factory-farmed white hen out of a battery cage in the sweltering heat, wave it over your head, say “This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my atonement.” Then summarily cut its throat and toss it in the trash to die. This, tragically, is the modern version of the High Holiday ritual of kapparot taking place in some parts of Jewish Los Angeles.

Since roughly the 12th century, this controversial blood ritual of Kapparot, performed between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, has had its proponents and plenty of opponents within the traditional Jewish world. Joseph Caro, author of the Shulchan Aruch, as well as Nachmanides, opposed this ritual, which infringes on the laws of tza’ar ba’alei chayim (animal cruelty), bal tashchit (wanton waste) and the creation of n’veilah (carcasses unfit for consumption). Some have objected because it too closely resembles ancient Temple practices, others due to a longstanding, nefarious anti-Semitic impression upon non-Jews that we are devil-worshippers offering up to Satan. Just search “satan” and “kapparot” on YouTube and you’ll be shocked. More basically, Jewish law teaches, “The law of the land is the law” (dina d’malchuta dina), which means that those who perform the ritual must follow legal statutes; in Los Angeles City, the municipal code itself outlaws animal sacrifice, effectively banning the ritual altogether.

Last year, a handful of entrepreneurs offered this ritual for $18 for one chicken on-site, or $26 per chicken with a minimum of two if performed at home or office. In at least one instance, they used factory-farmed hens for both men and women, contradicting Jewish custom of using hens for women, roosters for men. In at least three sites, they dumped the chickens into the trash, and one business even erected misleading signs to falsely suggest that they were giving the chickens to tzedakah. Having led a “Compassionate Kapparot” ceremony using money instead of chickens with some of my colleagues, I was even invited in to videotape a bucket of ice with chickens allegedly prepared for donation to a food bank, later verified to be entirely false.

Countless concerned Pico-Robertson neighbors and activists as well as the press documented the mockery of decency: While alive, these chickens endured horrific heat, without food, water or shade, feces and urine covering those on the bottom layer of the battery cages. After they were slaughtered, their carcasses were simply dumped and incinerated, never given to tzedakah nor a food bank (since these operations were unlicensed, no food bank could even accept the chickens due to the disregard for food safety laws). By the end of the week of kapparot protests, with countless calls to the sanitation department, the health department, Councilmember Paul Koretz’s office (who also sent a reminder to Jewish organizations in his district that the practice is against municipal code) and so many other agencies, the California Department of Food and Agriculture shut down these operations. 

This year the anti-cruelty momentum is growing. If we were in China, this new year might be The Year of the Chicken. In the face of agencies committed to enforcing the law, outspoken animal rights activists, a petition drive with more  than 7,000 signatures, overwhelming opposition in both the Jewish Journal and Los Angeles Times and even the attention of elected leaders, finally, the kapparot profiteers who were shut down last year are no longer offering this ritual publicly. Hundreds if not thousands of chickens will be saved, and Jewish compassion for all life finally honored communally. While some may continue to offer the ritual in select locations, contrary to the law, the most blatant disregard for compassion toward animals will not take place in 2014.

Most Jews eat chicken; few are “radical vegan rabbis,” as one disingenuous defender of this ritual who earns a pretty penny commercializing kapparot attempted to tar me last year. One need not be reduced to a caricature to oppose this practice. In fact, the tide of opposition to chicken-based kapparot has forced this defender’s operations underground this year, limited to home and business delivery. Virtually no one who opposed the protesters last year believed that the chickens were being dumped, but if they knew, most said they would oppose it. All it takes is the tiniest scintilla of rachmanut, compassion. The cruelty and undue suffering of these beautiful tossed birds makes this optional custom unfit for a 21st century Jewish community that prides itself on our collective deep regard for all life.  

As a people, we have always championed compassion, justice, and law. Kapparot with chickens is none of those three things. The ritual symbolizes atonement, but it does not actually create it; atonement ultimately comes from God. Even psychologists have long taught that violence toward animals desensitizes children to violence later in their lives; why should we allow our Jewish neighborhoods to be transformed into slaughterhouses and our dumpsters into morgues each year through this antiquated, largely abandoned custom? Despite attempts to distract from the core issues, this is not a matter of religious freedom; it is a matter of conscience and respect for life.

Meanwhile, on the morning before Yom Kippur, I will, indeed, practice a fully accepted alternative approach to kapparot, as provided in the most common Orthodox prayer book in America (Artscroll): I will wave a bag of coins over my head and say, “This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my atonement” and give them to tzedakah or to a homeless person in my neighborhood, with prayers that I can practice kindness and compassion toward all of Earth’s inhabitants, in this new year.


Rabbi Jonathan D. Klein is co-founder/director of Faith Action for Animals.

Thousands of kapparot chickens die in New York heat


Thousands of chickens designated for the pre-Yom Kippur kapparot ritual died in New York due to unseasonable heat.

An estimated 2,000 chickens died Wednesday in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park on Wednesday, when temperatures climbed into the mid-90s, the New York Daily News reported.

Chaim Singer, 32, told the newspaper that water and shade were provided for the animals. But activists have long claimed that thousands of chickens suffer and die unnecessarily during the kapparot ritual, in which a chicken is swung over the head in a symbolic transference of a person’s sins.

“I am horrified, I am upset, but I am not surprised,” said Rina Deych, 57, a member of the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos.

[Related: Atonement chickens — swung and tossed]

Two L.A. kaporot ritual sites shut down


Just hours before Kol Nidre, more than 100 chickens intended to be used for kaporot ceremonies won a reprieve. Kaporot, which means “Atonement,” is a 1,000-year-old custom observed by some Orthodox Jews between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in which an individual swings a live chicken over his head three times and says a prayer— as a ritual transference of sins to the chicken.

According to Steve Lyle of the Public affairs office of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, inspector Rhett Dunn of the department issued a notice of violation to two sites on Pico Boulevard, at Ohel Moshe and at Bait Aaron. This means “the practice must cease,” Dunn said. “We determined it was an unlicensed slaughter plant,” Lyle said by phone from Sacremento.

Lyle said the notice of the ritual practice taking place came to the department from the Los Angeles County Health Department.

“We respect the right of religious practice of all religions in California,’ said Lyle, who added that up until the day of the inspection he “was not aware of this activity.”

[Related: Thousands of kaporot chickens die in New York heat]

After the ritual, the chicken is kosher slaughtered and meant to be given to the poor, though the Jewish Journal has uncovered evidence that last year almost 10 tons of dead chickens may have been tossed away.

As reported earlier, at the location operated by Bait Aaron visited by a Jewish Journal reporter, dead chickens were being butchered inside a covered area off of an alley.

“Our office works towards compliance, and going forward we welcome discussions on the practice,” Lyle said.

After the closure, several cages of live chickens remained in the alley behind the Bait Aaron, which was closed down and cleaned up—as was Ohel Moshe. A woman from West Los Angeles drove down the alley looking for the ceremony, and was upset that it had been closed.

Niloo Khodadadeh, a protestor, stood with her arms spread holding onto the cages, “Have mercy,” she said.

Sunday’s protestors sought kaporot concessions


With chants of “Shonda,” and “Shame,” a group of around 75 protestors demonstrated on Sept. 8 in front of two sites on Pico Blvd where kaporot ceremonies were taking place.

Kaporot, which means “Atonement,” is a 1,000 year old custom observed by some Orthodox Jews between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that consists of an individual swinging a live chicken over his head three times and a saying a prayer— in effect ritually transferring his sins to the chicken.

Afterward, the chicken is kosher slaughtered and customarily is either prepared and eaten by the kaporot observer, or given to the poor, though an article in The Journal reported that last year nearly 10 tons of kaporot chickens may have been  thrown away.

The protest was led by Rabbi Jonathan Klein, co-founder of Faith Action for Animals, an organization that supports the well-being of animals.

To demonstrate an alternative to using chickens, “Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, led the group, many of whom were animals rights activists, in a kaporot ceremony using money,” Klein said.

“People pulled coins out of their pockets and put them into plastic bags and waved them around their heads three times, and read the formula,” Klein added.

The protest, which was monitored by LAPD officers, at times grew loud, and heated with protestors leaning up against the enclosure where the kaporot was taking place and chanting and shouting into it in both English and Farsi.  “Genocide is wrong whether against Jews or Against chickens,” read a sign held by one protestor, “Kapporot not in the Torah,” read another.

Other protestors gave water to the chickens kept ready in cages nearby.

“I’m trying to keep kids off drugs, and they are calling me a murderer,” said Rabbi Moshe Nourollah, whose Jewish outreach organization Bait Aaron organized the kaporot ceremony behind Young Israel of Beverly Hills, from whom they rent the space. According to Rabbi Nourollah, the money collected—a fee is asked for each chicken—is used to help fund his organization.

“They were screaming at little kids,” said Meir Nourollah, the rabbi’s son, a schochet who traveled from Israel to ritually slaughter the kaporot chickens for Bait Aaron.

“It’s not surprising that people became so emotional,” Klein said. “They saw the blood spurting out and on the ground,” he said.

At one point during the demonstration, a blue City of Los Angeles Department of Sanitation truck stood idling a few blocks from the demonstration.

“I am here for a dead animal pick up at 8701 Pico Blvd.,” the truck’s driver sadi when asked by a Jewish Journal reporter. The address is where the kaparot ceremony was taking place. After an LAPD officer spoke to the driver, the truck pulled away.

After the protestor walked a few blocks east to Ohel Moshe, where kaporot ceremonies also were being held, Klein, in view of the group, and accompanied by the an LAPD officer met with a synagogue official, to see if some agreement could be made concerning the chickens.

“Absolutely no progress was made,” he announced after rejoining the group on the sidewalk.

However, later in the day, Nehemia Shoob, a Beit Aaron representative offered as many as three chickens per day to be rescued, if the group would refrain from loud protesting of the kaporot ceremonies.

“It was some small measure of opening,” said Klein, who said he would offer the saved chickens to rescue farms and households equipped to keep chickens.

There was another opening as well.

Around the kaporot site, posted flyers announced that the “Chickens used for Sapporo at Young Israel of Beverly Hills are being donated in (sic) The Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition.”

When reached for confirmation, Ted Landreth, a founder of the Coalition confirmed that chickens for kaporot were coming to the coalition and had been donated the previous year as well.

The day after the protest, when Rabbi Nourollah was asked if the dead kaporot chickens were trashed, he said, “We give all of them away,” and showed a receipt for the Midnight Mission in downtown Los Angeles indicating that several dozen chickens had been donated.

Several other chickens that had been slaughtered and butchered were shown in a barrel with ice.

“There would have been chickens,” said Rabbi Nourollah, “But the protestors drove people away,” he said.

“We will be taking the matter to health officials,” Klein said.

Empire halts production for a day, leading to fears of kosher chicken shortage


Empire Kosher shut down production of kosher chickens for one day, leading to fears of a shortage for Passover.

The plant in Mifflintown, Pa., was scheduled to resume production on Monday after closing down on Feb. 28, Haaretz reported. Empire, which has a regular production schedule of Monday to Thursday, is the largest kosher poultry producer in the United States.

Company spokesperson Elie Rosenfeld told Haaretz that the plant did not slaughter the tens of thousands of chickens that arrived on Feb. 28 because about half of them were not at the appropriate weight. Waiting until Monday to process them allowed the birds time to grow.

An unnamed source told the newspaper that the birds were not processed because too many of them had snapped leg tendons, rendering them unkosher.

The snapped tendons are part of a mutation of a chicken virus called avian reovirus, the Forward reported. The virus is not harmful to humans.

Empire was hit by the virus in late January and early February, according to the Forward, which reported that 10 percent of slaughtered chickens at its Pennsylvania plant were unkosher at the peak of the virus.

Even before the temporary shutdown, which at least one observer told Haaretz would lead to a shortage of kosher chickens at Passover, “there were shortages in the last couple of weeks, since they started checking the tendons,” said the manager of the meat department at Gourmet Glatt in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, who also asked that his name be withheld.

“In high season we were short,” he told the Israeli paper, adding that Gourmet Glatt turned to other slaughterhouses.

More cluck for your passover buck


I have always enjoyed researching and developing new dishes to serve during Passover, but have you ever heard of Mock Gefilte Fish? Because everyone loves chicken, I am constantly looking for new and different chicken dishes to prepare, and I find that each recipe has a story all its own.

Mock Gefilte Fish, made with ground chicken, really tastes like gefilte fish. An ancient and popular dish substituting ground chicken or turkey for the fish, it was served during Passover among the Vishnitz Chasidic Jews, and called falsher or “false fish.” The Chasidim, who were very strict, fearing that fish may have contained some undigested bread, abstained from eating it during Passover.

We like the idea of surprising our guests by serving this just-like-the-real-thing “gefilte chicken” — chilled on a bed of lettuce, with horseradish, at the seder. And it solves the problem for those who cannot or prefer not to eat fish.

 

I can’t imagine a Passover dinner without chicken soup with matzah balls, but the question I am often asked is “How can I make my chicken soup taste like chicken?” My answer is always the same: “The more chicken you put in your soup, the more flavor it will have.” I always make my mother’s matzah ball recipe, which produces the lightest, best matzah balls I have ever tasted.

The secret for flavorful soup is to use whole chickens that have been tied (or trussed) with kitchen string to keep them intact. Add water, lots of vegetables, salt and pepper, bring to a boil, and simmer for 1 hour or until the chicken flavor is intense. When cool, carefully remove the chickens from the soup to be used for other dishes on the seder menu.

The leftover chicken soup that you served for Passover seders can be pureed with the vegetables in it and served during the remaining days of Passover. In addition, you can serve it with a Parsley Pesto Sauce, either drizzled on or mixed in.

We often cut the soup chicken into quarters or pieces and bake them in a rich tomato-mushroom sauce until the chickens have absorbed the flavor of the sauce. Then, just before serving, we transfer them to a large platter to serve as part of our seder dinner. Or, for another meal, spoon the tomato-mushroom sauce onto individual heated serving plates, place the chicken on the plates and top with mushrooms and vegetables.

Another use for leftover chicken is Chicken-Fennel Salad, served on a bed of lettuce for lunch, or as a main course. Bake popular “sliders” using my recipe for Passover Rolls. They can be filled with sliced chicken or chicken salad, and are great for the children to take for lunch.


MOCK GEFILTE FISH

Mock Gefilte Fish. Photos by Dan Kacvinski

2 1/2 quarts chicken broth
2 onions, sliced
5 stalks celery, sliced
5 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds ground chicken or turkey
2 eggs
1/2 cup matzah meal or potato starch
Lettuce leaves
Red horseradish

In a large pot, combine the chicken broth, 1 onion, 3 stalks celery and 3 carrots. Bring to a boil over high heat, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a food grinder or wooden bowl, combine the chicken with the remaining onion, celery and carrots. Grind or chop the mixture until well blended. Transfer to a glass bowl. Add the eggs, matzah meal and 1/2 cup chicken broth from the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Blend well. The mixture should be soft and light to the touch.

Wet your hands with cold water and shape the mixture into 2-inch ovals. Place the balls in the chicken broth in the pot. Bring to a boil, cover partially, and simmer for 30 minutes or until done. Transfer to a large glass bowl with the broth. Cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Serve on a bed of lettuce with horseradish.

Makes 16 to 18 portions.


JUDY’S PASSOVER CHICKEN SOUP WITH THE FLUFFIEST MATZAH BALLS

2 (3-pound) chickens, trussed
2 pounds chicken necks and gizzards, tied in cheesecloth
4 large onions, diced
1 medium leek, sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 to 3 cups thinly sliced carrots (16 small carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces)
2 to 3 cups thinly sliced celery with tops (5 stalks celery with tops, cut into 1-inch pieces)
3 medium parsnips, thinly sliced
Water
12 sprigs fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large, heavy Dutch oven or pot, place trussed chicken, necks and gizzards, onions, leek, carrots, celery, parsnips and enough water to cover. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Using a large spoon, skim off and discard the scum that rises to the top. Cover, leave the lid ajar, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Uncover and simmer 30 minutes longer, until chickens are tender.

Using two large slotted spoons, carefully remove the chickens from the soup and transfer to a large platter. Let soup cool to room temperature, then chill. Skim off fat that hardens on the surface and discard.

Makes 12 servings.


THE FLUFFIEST MATZAH BALLS

3 eggs, separated
About 1/2 cup water or chicken stock
1 to 1 1/2 cups matzah meal
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Place egg yolks in a measuring cup and add enough water or chicken stock to make 1 cup. Beat with a fork until well blended. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks; do not overbeat. In a small bowl, combine matzah meal with salt and pepper. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the yolk mixture alternately with the matzah mixture into beaten egg whites. Use only enough matzah meal to make a light, soft dough. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and let firm up for 5 minutes. Form into balls.

Bring soup to a slow boil. Using a large spoon, gently drop in matzah balls. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 10 minutes (do not uncover during this cooking time).

Makes 8 to 10 matzah balls.


PARSLEY PESTO SAUCE

1 cup finely packed fresh parsley leaves, without stems
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnut pieces
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup olive oil
Pinch sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Put the parsley, basil, pine nuts and garlic in a processor or blender. Pulse until finely chopped. With the machine running, slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin stream. Add sugar, salt and pepper.  Pour into a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Makes about 2 cups.


ROASTED CHICKEN IN TOMATO-MUSHROOM SAUCE

1/2 cup olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 can (15 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, with juice
12 medium mushrooms, quartered
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chickens from soup, cut into pieces
Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large roasting pot, heat olive oil and add the onions, minced garlic, carrots and celery; sauté until soft. Add tomatoes and mushrooms, mix well, bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, adding additional wine or liquid if needed.

Transfer the chicken to the roasting pot and baste with the onion-tomato mixture to coat the chicken. Add the parsley, rosemary and salt and pepper. Bake, covered, 30 to 40 minutes, basting occasionally, until the chickens are heated through.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.


CHICKEN-FENNEL SALAD

Chicken-Fennel Salad

4 cups diced poached chicken
1 cup diced fennel
4 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 to 2 cups mayonnaise
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Romaine or iceberg lettuce, for garnish

In a large mixing bowl, toss together the chicken, fennel, green onions and parsley. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add to the chicken mixture and mix gently until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve on a bed of lettuce or tucked into a Passover Roll, resembling a slider.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


PASSOVER ROLLS FOR SLIDERS

Chicken sliders with Passover Rolls

1 cup water
2 cups safflower or vegetable oil
2 cups matzah meal
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a heavy saucepan, bring the water and oil to a rolling boil.

In large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the matzah meal and salt. Pour the boiling water mixture into the matzah mixture and blend well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until completely blended. Let mixture rest for 10 minutes, covered.

With well-oiled hands, tear off pieces of dough and shape into rolls. Place 2 inches apart on a well-oiled foil- or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to cooling racks.

Makes about 12 large or 24 small rolls.


 

Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (Morrow, 1988) and “The International Deli Cookbook” (Chronicle, 1994). She teaches cooking classes through American Jewish University’s Whizin Center for Continuing Education. Her soon-to-be-published cookbook, “Italy Cooks,” is based on 35 years of travel to Italy. Her Web site is judyzeidler.com.

For more Passover recipes visit jewishjournal.com/passover_food.

Chicken and Duck Soup


You will need one whole duck for this preparation. Have your butcher separate the breasts and legs from the bird and de-bone the legs. All the leg and breast meat should still have its skin on. Ask your butcher to grind all the meat for you. You will have approximately 1 3/4 pounds of ground duck. Make sure you collect all the bones from the duck for the broth.

Duck Dumplings

2 boneless duck legs with their skins (approximately 3/4 lb.), put through a meat grinder

2 duck breasts with their skins (approximately 1 lb.), put through a meat grinder

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 medium-sized Spanish onion, minced

1 tsp. ground cardamom

1/2 cup matzah cake flour

3 tsp. salt

Broth

3 lbs. of chicken back bones

The bones of one de-boned duck with its wings

2 tbs. olive oil

2 large onions, peeled and quartered

3 ribs of celery, whole

1 carrot, 1/2-inch-thick pieces

1 head of garlic sliced in half, separating the top from the bottom

1 tbs. turmeric

4 dried Persian limes (lemon omani*), put in a towel and crush the limes open.

1/2 tbs. dried mint

Sea salt to taste

1 cup chopped fresh spinach

Juice from 1 fresh lime

Fresh herbs such as mint, dill and parsley, chopped

Rinse bones with cold water and set aside. In a large stock pot heat olive oil and add the onions, celery, garlic and carrots, and stir while cooking for approximately five minutes until onions become translucent but not brown. Adjust the flame in order to not brown vegetables. Add the turmeric, crushed dried limes and the mint, and continue to sauté for an additional two minutes. Add the chicken backbones, duck bones and enough water to cover the bones by approximately six inches. Bring to a boil and ladle off the coagulated albumin and fat that will rise to the top. Reduce to a low flame and simmer for 2 1/2 hours.

In the meantime, to make the dumplings, mix the ground duck meat with the garlic, onion, cardamom, matzah cake flour and salt. Roll into 1-inch diameter meatballs. Refrigerate until the broth is ready.

When the broth is ready, carefully pour broth through a strainer and into a clean pot. Bring the broth back to a simmer and add the chicken dumplings. Place a lid on to the pot, and let cook for ten minutes or until the dumplings have cooked all the way through.

To serve, place a couple of dumplings into each soup bowl along with some freshly chopped spinach, herbs and, if using, the blanched fava beans. Taste the remaining broth and adjust the saltiness. Add the juice of the fresh lime and ladle the soup into bowls.

To find lemon omani visit these Web sites: www.kalustyans.com and www.sadaf.com

Thinking Outside the Matzah Ball Box


When the Israelites rushed out of Egypt, Pharaoh’s men on their heels, they hurriedly bundled their belongings, food included, to carry as much as they could on their backs and donkeys. Seeking to nourish themselves throughout their desert journey to the Promised Land, they rolled together unleavened bread crumbs, eggs and oil to create a round, nutritious finger food. They heated these in water jugs, along with chicken bone scraps, to preserve them and give them flavor. And that’s how matzah ball soup was born.

At least that’s how the matzah ball legend should read. The round dumpling traditionally made of matzah meal, eggs, and some kind of fat is so entrenched in Jewish tradition that its history seems to date back to the Torah itself. The icon of Jewish pop culture, the staple of deli menus, the culinary gem of bubbies worldwide, matzah ball soup is the unofficial symbol of Jewish cuisine, the soup of the one God.

But like many dishes generally regarded as “Jewish foods,” like gefilte fish and cholent, matzah ball soup originated in Eastern Europe. The Yiddish word for matzah balls, “knaidelach,” comes from the German word for dumpling, “knödel.” The matzah ball may very well have been the vanguard Jewish food of its time, an adaptation of the gentile dumpling suited to Passover restrictions and pantries, invented by the Martha Stewart of the shtetl, her (or his?) name now lost in obscurity.

Since then few Jewish chefs, professional and amateur, have dared to tamper with the matzah ball. In that sense, the matzah ball is the “ultra-Orthodox” Jewish food. The most popular recipe for many home cooks today may very well be the one on the matzah meal box. But with the growing sophistication and cross-fertilization of many types of cuisines, that’s changing.

“I think traditional cooks are breaking out; they’re more sophisticated,” said Adeena Sussman, a recipe developer, food writer and cooking instructor based in New York. “Everyone is traveling more and interested in ethnic cuisine. There are a lot of kosher Web sites where you can get kosher gourmet products. Actually, I think Jews who keep Passover strictly are those who are seeking the most innovative ideas because they are those who follow the laws for eight days and are trying to keep their families well-fed and interested for eight days.”

One of the most popular maverick matzah ball soup recipes has been Susie Fishbein’s tri-color matzah ball soup, as featured years ago in her popular “Kosher by Design Entertains” cookbook (Mesorah Publications, 2005) and on “The Today Show” with Katie Couric. The recipe calls for a green maztah ball made with pureed spinach, a yellow matzah ball made with turmeric and a red matzah ball made with tomato paste. 

“It was a funky spin on something traditional, and that’s what I do,” said Fishbein from her home in New Jersey. She sought a matzah ball soup that wasn’t only flavorful, but visually appealing and healthful, especially for the children. “I’ve had mothers come up to me in shul and say ‘I only make the green ones, and they’re called ‘Shrek matzah balls,’ and my boys love them.’”

Matzah balls are like a “blank canvas,” ripe with possibilities for adding flavor and color. Last year Sussman developed a “dill-infused chicken soup with herbed matzah ball gnocchi” recipe featuring matzah balls shaped like the Italian potato dumpling and rolled with spinach, parsley and dill. Green herbs are intuitive additives, because they often compliment the flavor of the chicken soup and also reflect the spirit of spring. Sussman recommends ground chicken, ground beef and horseradish as other nontraditional additives.

But not every ingredient works. “There were definitely things that were not winners,” said Fishbein, recalling her own experimentation. “Blueberry matzah balls are hideous. Carrot matzah balls covered with carrot juice were hideous.”

Like the Torah, matzah balls are open to a variety of interpretations and subject to intense debate. Surprisingly, some of Southern California’s top chefs believe the matzah ball is sacred. 

“I don’t want to recreate the matzah ball; I think it tastes fine how it is, as long as it has a light texture,” said Suzanne Tracht, executive chef at LA’s Jar chophouse on Beverly Boulevard. “They shouldn’t be too hard. You shouldn’t use them for weapons….The most important part of the matzah ball, since it’s basically a dumpling, is the broth — that’s where it comes out.”

Every year, Tracht holds a Passover seder at her restaurant, and this year she’s making a consommé with lemongrass, galangal and ginger. “We make it so intense that we clarify the broth, as well, so that it has a more rich and intense flavor.”

Todd Aarons, executive chef at the gourmet kosher restaurant Tierra Sur at the Herzog Wine Cellars in Oxnard puts his “stock” in the broth, as well. “I’m a purist. I would play around with the broth first, and I’d probably keep the matzah ball intact.” For his own matzah ball soup, Aarons likes to use duck and chicken bones for a deeper flavor. “When I eat it, though, it doesn’t remind me of my mom’s, which is okay.”

He became convinced of the powerful absorption properties of the matzah ball after his Yemenite wife served regular matzah balls with her Yemenite soup, traditionally made with chicken, beef and exotic herbs, including hawaij, a Yemenite spice mix consisting of cumin, coriander, pepper, cardamom, cloves and turmeric. He likens matzah balls to bread used for dipping. “Every culture has a chicken soup. You can explore all different kinds of chicken soup and throw a matzah ball in, and it would work.”

In fact, the matzah ball is the only Ashkenazi food that has been warmly embraced by Sephardic traditions, especially in Israel. “Sephardic cooking is much more popular in Israel now than Ashkenazi cooking — Israel is a warm country, the ingredients are more suitable for Middle Eastern food,” said Janna Gur, editor-in-chief of Israel’s leading gastronomic magazine, Al HaShulchan, and author of “The Book of New Israeli Food” (Schocken, 2008). “Many recipes make the crossover to Ashkenazi households, but not vice versa, except for matzah ball soup.”

Another (chicken or beef?) bone of contention among chefs and cooks relates to texture: dense or light and fluffy?

Cookbook author and food writer Judy Zeidler, also a bubbe of seven, prefers fluffy matzah balls, hands down. “When I got married, my mother-in-law always made sinkers — matzah balls so hard they sink to the bottom of the pot. I grew up with my mother’s matzah balls. Like clouds, they floated to the top of the soup. My husband thought they were ridiculous, but he thought they were so much easier to eat and so much more flavorful.”

To make matzah balls as fluffy as her mother’s, she recommends separating the yolk and whites and then folding the yolk and matzah meal into egg whites beaten into soft peaks. Seltzer is recommended instead of water to increase fluffiness, and chilling matzah balls plays an important part in determining texture.

“Chilling will make it much easier to roll so you can manipulate them,” said Fishbein. “If you can roll them right at the outset you have a lot of matzah meal in them, and they probably won’t be very fluffy.”

Sussman is the only one interviewed for this article who prefers dense matzah balls, or, as she likes to call them, “matzah balls al dente”, an Italian term to describe pasta that is firm but not overcooked.

But home cooks shouldn’t feel discouraged if they can’t think out of the matzah meal box. “My mother used to make matzah balls from scratch,” said Sussman, “but one year we actually tried the mix and found that it worked quite well and started making them from the mix, not because we couldn’t make it from scratch, but because we liked them.”

Atoning for the sin of rushing dinner to get to Kol Nidre


I consider Yom Kippur eve the sandwich holiday. Not because I would ever serve my family and friends sandwiches before going to synagogue on the eve of a solemn fast. I see the start of Yom Kippur this way, because it’s sandwiched between two days of Rosh Hashanah celebrations and the Day of Atonement. Not to mention the eight-day festival of Sukkot, which rushes in four days later.
 
With the emphasis that night, as it should be, on getting to Kol Nidre services on time, sometimes little thought is given to this very important meal whose menu should be in perfect balance to ready people for the fast ahead. Ideally dinner on Yom Kippur eve should be hearty but light, nourishing but satisfying, tasty but not too luxurious. The challenge is daunting at a time when school and fall activities have just begun, and the Jewish calendar is so full.
 
I recall one year when I was still peeling potatoes an hour before eight people were expected for dinner on erev Yom Kippur. I panicked, fearing that we’d never get to Kol Nidre services on time.
 
Fortunately my husband always comes to the rescue whenever I’m in a jam. He microwaved the potatoes, threw together a salad and broke into a sweat basting the chicken. I set the table, barking orders, as our 9-year-old daughter scampered to her room to avoid my tension. I swore I’d never do that again. Since then, I’ve given much thought to organizing this special dinner to save time, lower stress and serve foods that will facilitate a meaningful fast.

 
With Yom Kippur beginning this year on a Sunday night, people who observe the Sabbath have additional considerations. If possible, they should complete the bulk of their organizing and food preparation by Thursday, leaving Friday free to focus on Shabbat cooking. After Friday evening, their next opportunity to address the Yom Kippur eve meal is Sunday morning, when the countdown begins. Although I’m embarrassed to admit it, I’ve solved this dilemma by imitating a staple of women’s magazines — the make-ahead menu. The day after Rosh Hashanah, while I’m sipping coffee and drizzling honey over a piece of challah, I start planning for Yom Kippur eve. I fine-tune my menu and compose a shopping list.

 
On each of the following days, I prepare a dish and freeze it, or I make most of the steps in the directions, refrigerating foods until I’m ready to proceed. On the day of Yom Kippur eve, I have only a few last-minute touches to handle. I glide into the holiday with a sense of serenity, a far cry from the frenzied person I used to be. For peace of mind, I now serve the same menu every Yom Kippur eve. It meets my most important criteria: healthy, appealing and easy to execute. This menu can be expanded to include additional dishes, but it’s filling enough to stand alone.
 
Inspired by Greek Jews, who often partake in stewed chicken and tomatoes before the Yom Kippur fast, I created my own version of this traditional dish. The chicken is sautéed and then poached in plum tomatoes, which simmer into a sauce that moistens the chicken. However, this dish is fairly bland and doesn’t cause undue thirst the next day. The ample tomato sauce calls for a bed of rice. Throughout the world, chicken and rice are served on Yom Kippur eve, because they are filling and easy to digest. However, many people, particularly when pressed for time, have difficulty finessing rice, which needs some tender loving care. They end up with a sticky ball of starch, rather than a pot of fluffy rice. My recipe, relying on a bit of olive oil, comes out perfectly every time.
 
Roasted Autumn Root Vegetables are a medley of seasonal produce flash-cooked at a high temperature. You can prepare this dish three days in advance, finishing it quickly just minutes before serving dinner.
 
Filled with dried fruits, flakes of oatmeal and a dollop of honey, Baked Stuffed Apples is not an indulgent dessert. For that reason, it’s a nutritious and appropriate way to end the pre-fast meal.
 
When it comes to Yom Kippur eve, my motto is to do as much as possible as soon as it’s feasible. On the morning after Rosh Hashanah, finalize your Yom Kippur eve guest list. Decide what you want to serve. Select which linens you will place on the table. White is traditional on Yom Kippur. If you’re using the tablecloth and napkins from Rosh Hashanah meals, make sure they’re washed and ironed or back from the dry cleaner on time.
 
If you’re expecting a crowd, you may have to expand your dining table. Know in advance how many leaves you’ll require. If you need a folding table, make sure it’s clean and in good condition. If you have to borrow a table and chairs from a family member or friend, organize this well in advance.
 
I suggest setting the table after breakfast that morning. Eat lunch in your kitchen or on the living room coffee table. To make life easy, order a pizza. Although it goes against my creative nature to be repetitive, under certain circumstances, it makes sense.
 
On Yom Kippur eve, I’m a big proponent of the preset menu, one you can follow year after year. Select a combination of recipes you can manage. Of course you can make reasonable substitutions, such as casseroles or other make-ahead dishes. But with so much going on, Yom Kippur eve is not the time to strike a new course or leave things to chance. It’s the time to be methodical and calm, to guide yourself and your family into a peaceful fast.
 

Poached Chicken Breasts and Tomatoes

 
3 tablespoons olive oil, or more if needed

Feathers fly as fugitive fowl frustrates Pico-Robertson


For most of last week, a fugitive chicken mystified and delighted residentsof the traditionally Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood.
 
Rumors of its provenance flitted about for days, then came to perch on anespecially good story:
 
The chicken, according to neighborhood resident Rabbi Joel Rembaum, belongedto a local mashgiach, or kosher supervisor. Every year around Yom Kippur,the mashgiach, like many traditional Jews, buys a chicken in order toperform the ritual of kaparos, which means atonements. This year, it flewthe coop. 
 
If true, that’s one smart chicken. 
 
Early in the morning on the day before Yom Kippur, groups of Jews gather tohold squawking chickens by the feet and twirl them over their heads whilechanting a prayer. After the twirling, the chickens are ritually slaughteredand given to the poor. 
 
The ritual dates back to the Middle Ages.
 
 The idea was that since the Hebrew word for man (gever) and rooster were thesame, a man’s sins — and his punishments — could be symbolicallytransferred to the rooster, in the same way that during the times of theTemple, people brought animal sacrifices as penance for their sins. 

Therefore, while slinging the chicken during kaparos, the person chants,”This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my atonement. Thischicken shall go to its death, and I shall proceed to a good, long life andpeace.” 
 
For several reasons — not the least of which is its obvious cruelty — thecustom has fallen out of fashion. Some people perform kaparos by swinging abag of money over their head and then donate that money to charity. 
 
The fugitive chicken — black and white with a rust-colored spot and abright red cockscomb — roams from lawn to sidewalk, from rooftop todriveway. 
 
“I think one family is feeding it,” a resident said. 
 
But the story of the chicken’s provenance proved as flighty as the chickenitself. Calls to local stores with and without mashgiach’s met with denials. 
 
Speculation centered on Eilat Market, where giant Farsi-language postersadvertise for kaparos on behalf of Natan Eli Hebrew Academy. A marketemployee said all chickens were accounted for. 
 
“Everyone has seen it,” a local rebbetzin said, “but no one knows who’s itis.”
 
In the meantime, local animal rights groups and vegetarian activists havegeared up an annual campaign to protest traditional kapparos rites. In apress release entitled, “Jewish chicken-killing ritual Kapparot is illegal,inhumane and unnecessary. It is animal cruelty,” the activists call for animmediate end to the practice. The press release citesJewish as well as other sources as opposing the ritual.
 
It quotes General Manager of LA Animal Services and ex-pastor Ed Boks asstating, “Some of our nation’s healthiest animal husbandry practices andlaws originated in the ancient traditions of the Torah. Nowhere is thepractice of Kapparot even mentioned in the Torah. It is a pagan traditionthat has been muddled into the religious practices of a small Jewish sect.Kapparot should have no place in the 21st Century Los Angeles community.”
 
Via the Internet, activists are circulating notice of a protest againstkapparot to be held Sunday, Oct. 1 in front of Ohel Moshe temple at 8644Pico Blvd from 10-12:30 p.m. “begging people not to kill the chickens.” 
 
As for the fugitive chicken, as of press time, no one had claimed it, and noone had rescued it either — leaving the bird to fend for itself in a cityof speeding cars and hungry cats. 
 
Now that’s a sin worth atoning for. 
 
— Staff Report


Mark the New Year with late summer harvest menu


A recent trip to Italy made me aware of the wonderful possibilities of growing your own lush, flavorful garden-fresh food. The villa where we stayed was entirely self-sufficient, with magnificent varieties of produce, eggs gathered from the hen house and the proprietors even making their own wine and olive oil.

 
If you have a garden, you know the pleasure of eating the freshest of salad greens, tomatoes, vegetables and fruits. And since the weather is still warm as Rosh Hashanah arrives at sundown on Friday, Sept. 22, take advantage of the healthy garden bounties and prepare a light menu featuring the late summer harvest of fresh vegetables and fruits to celebrate the New Year.

 
If you’re not a gardener, visit some of the local open-air farmers’ markets. The Wednesday morning Santa Monica farmers market is one of the largest, and there is an organic Saturday market as well, where the selection and variety is very impressive.

 
After a special round challah and apple slices dipped in honey, start the dinner with a simple salad of avocado and tomato slices served on a bed of pungently flavored arugula and dressed with a tangy orange vinaigrette. Hopefully, you will be lucky enough to make it with full-flavored tomatoes from your garden; nothing compares with vine-ripened tomatoes. If they are not available, your local farmers’ market will have a selection of the tasty heirloom tomatoes.

 
Arugula is not only trendy and delicious, but very easy to grow, and seeds are available at most nurseries.

 
Next, serve a chilled beet borscht, my version of gazpacho, and pass around bowls of chopped cucumbers, green and yellow bell peppers, and chives, for a colorful do-it-yourself garnish.

 
The main course is a whole roast chicken that has been butterflied and baked on bed of fresh vegetables — a combination of garlic, onions, celery, carrots, parsnips, squash and potatoes, and garnished with fresh herbs from your garden. With this dish we will drink a special toast for a peaceful year with a glass of young, fruity chardonnay.
 
For dessert, late summer pl
ums, arranged in colorful circles on a light pastry dough make a delicious eye-appealing tart. Serve a sweet late harvest wine or hot tea with lemon, and let the children choose their favorite fruit juice.

 
Cold Puree of Beet Borscht
4 medium-size beets, unpeeled
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Diced cucumbers
Diced green and yellow red peppers

 
Scrub the outside of the beets using cold water, place in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer until a fork inserted in the beet is tender, about one hour. Cool. Remove the beets, but reserve the liquid. Peel the skin, which should come off easily, and discard.

 
Dice the beets and return to the liquid. Place half of the diced beets and liquid in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer puree to a bowl and repeat the process with the remaining beets and liquid. Add lemon juice, sugar and salt to taste and mix well. To serve, ladle into shallow soup bowls and garnish with cucumbers and peppers.

 
Makes eight to 10 servings.

 
Avocado, Tomato and Arugula Salad

 
Usually avocados are served mashed or chopped. For this dish, simply slice the avocados and tomatoes, which enables them to harmonize with the pungent-flavored arugula.

 
2 avocados, peeled and seeded
Juice of 1 lemon
2 large tomatoes, sliced
3 cups loosely packed arugula, coarse stems discarded
Vinaigrette dressing (recipe follows)
Pomegranate seeds for garnish, optional

 
Cut each avocado into nine to 12 lengthwise slices. Sprinkle with lemon juice and set aside. Slice tomatoes and set aside.

 
Wash arugula and dry. Slice and mound arugula on chilled plates, fan the avocado slices around the mounds and arrange the sliced tomatoes in the center.

 
Spoon enough vinaigrette over each salad to coat leaves, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, if desired. Serve immediately.

 
Makes six to eight servings.

 
Vinaigrette Dressing
1 tablespoon Dijon-style prepared mustard
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup walnut oil
Salt, freshly ground black pepper

 
Place mustard, vinegar, lemon juice in a processor or blender. Add oil in thin stream and blend until slightly thick and creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 
Butterflied Roast Chicken With Medley of Vegetables
1 (4-pound) or 2 (2-pound) whole chickens
1 onion, sliced and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 parsnip, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium potato, diced and steamed
2 tablespoons minced parsley
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

 
Marinade
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon each dried basil, thyme and rosemary, crushed
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 to 3 cups dry white wine

 
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Split the chicken along the entire length of the back, removing backbone from tail to neck. Open it out, skin side up. With a mallet or the heel of your hand, flatten the chicken, fracturing the breastbone and ribcage, so it lays flat. Arrange vegetables on a foil-lined large roasting pan, and place the chicken on top, skin-side up.

 
Mix garlic and rosemary together. Working with your fingertips, separate the skin from the meat of the chicken, beginning at the neck end, being careful not to tear the skin. Place sliced garlic and rosemary under the skin, including the drumsticks and thighs. Mix together the olive oil and herbs and rub it on the top of the chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

 
Pour the marinade over the vegetables and chicken and bake for l0 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees, and bake for 45 minutes to one hour longer, depending on the size of the chicken. Baste every 20 minutes. If chicken browns too quickly, cover it loosely with foil. If the marinade cooks away too quickly, add more. Remove the foil during the last 10 minutes, allowing the chicken to brown.

But Is It Kosher?


In September 2003, Whole Foods quietly removed one brand of kosher chicken from its shelves and replaced it with a different brand.

The switch received little notice — outside of a Jewish Journal article — but it caught my eye. A representative for Whole Foods claimed the previous chicken brand didn’t meet the chain’s standard; its feed was not organic, and the chickens weren’t raised and slaughtered in the most humane way possible.

Up until then I’d assumed that kosher meant, well, kosher. It surprised me that a company well-known for its concern for animal well-being and food safety would deem anything kosher treif, or unfit. Long before Whole Foods was even a glimmer in the eye of the Prius-tocracy, hadn’t we Jews been telling ourselves and others that we were practicing humane slaughter and thoughtful animal husbandry — embodied in the very laws of kashrut? What did Whole Foods know that I didn’t?

It turns out Whole Foods was on to something seriously wrong with the kosher food industry, and the industry is due for a change.

I grew up eating meat of all kinds. One afternoon during my sophomore year at college, I found myself on an idyllic Maine isle, plunging a live lobster into a pot of boiling water. By dusk I was a vegetarian, and I stayed that way for the next 14 years. I wasn’t squeamish: I’d fished my whole life, and even hunted. As a cook in various restaurants, I’d gutted shoals of fish, whacked through sides of beef and deconstructed flocks of poultry. But at that moment I figured, if I could survive without taking another life, so much the better.

Then I met my wife, Naomi Levy, rabbi and carnivore.

I loved the woman very much, so I had to come to terms with two of her seemingly contradictory traits: She loved meat, and she didn’t cook. I still love her; she still loves meat, and she still doesn’t cook.

The thought of cooking two entrees a night for the rest of our lives didn’t appeal to me. I compromised and began eating fish. Then came the first of many Friday night meals together. I put a piece of grilled salmon on the Sabbath table, and Naomi put on her best game face: What’s Sabbath without roasted chicken? So I started eating chicken. And then came her pregnancies, when she expressed numerous times that a) she would kill for a big juicy grilled steak and b) she was carrying our baby.

So there was the occasional steak.

All along, I rationalized the meat on our table by its kosher pedigree. In my mind, and in the minds of most Jews, the meaning of “kosher” had long swelled beyond its strict Levitical denotation of permitted and forbidden animals and their prescribed method of slaughter. I believed that “kosher” meant a higher concern for cleanliness, for the health and welfare of the animals, for the sanctity of Creation.

And it wasn’t just me. The dictionary definition of “kosher” includes “genuine and legitimate.” If I had to kill to eat, at least the meat was kosher.

But the alarm bell that Whole Food rang was soon followed by a cacophony of criticism and investigation.

In December 2004, the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released an undercover video taken at the AgriProcessors Inc. plant, a kosher beef abattoir in Postville, Iowa. The plant supplies kosher beef for the Aaron’s Best/Rubashkin brand. The tape showed practices that were obviously cruel and created a firestorm of criticism and countercharges. The Orthodox Union, which overseas the kashrut of the plant, said the offending practices would be corrected — they have been — and accused PETA of launching an assault on the institution of shechitah (kosher slaughter) itself.

The made-for-media PETA fracas birthed a larger, more thoughtful crossdenominational concern over current kosher slaughter practices. Earlier this year, Jonathan Safran Foer, author of the best-selling novel “Everything Is Illuminated” (Houghton Mifflin, 2002) and last year’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (Houghton Mifflin), released a PETA-produced video over the Internet that condemned modern kosher slaughter practices, calling them anathema to the spirit of the kosher laws.

The author’s calm, well-reasoned arguments are buttressed by on-camera interviews with Rabbi David Wolpe of the Conservative Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, the Orthodox founder of CLAL — The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

The video, titled “If This Is Kosher …,” is available for download at www.HumaneKosher.com. It interweaves Foer’s and the rabbis’ comments with footage from the AgriProccessors plant and from kosher egg and meat suppliers in Israel. In one scene, egg industry workers fill a plastic-lined, 55-gallon garbage can with live male chicks, superfluous to the process. In another shot, the bags are sealed and dumped.

“To be Jewish,” Foer says in the video, “is to strive to make the world less cruel and more just — not only for oneself and not only for one’s people but for everyone. One doesn’t have to consider animals as equal to humans — I don’t — to give them a place in this inspiring idea.”

Wolpe and Greenberg — both vegetarians — signed on to a letter, along with dozens of rabbis, calling on the Orthodox Union to do more to promote humane treatment of animals in the kosher facilities it oversees.

In the midst of these criticisms came the results of another investigation by The Forward newspaper last month charging the Rubashkin factory with unfair labor practices, unsafe working conditions and labor intimidation. “AgriProcessors’ final product — sold under the nationally popular Aaron’s Best brand — is priced significantly higher than standard meat,” reporter Nathaniel Popper wrote. “Its kosher seal gives it a seeming moral imprimatur in an industry known for harsh working conditions. But even in the unhappy world of meatpacking, people with comparative knowledge of AgriProcessors and other plants — including local religious leaders, professors, and union organizers — say that AgriProcessors stands out for its poor treatment of workers.”

The manager of the plant, Sholom Rubashkin, denied the charges, but the plant has been subject to half the violations in all Iowa meatpacking plants so far this year, according to The Forward’s analysis of OSHA statistics.

“The bottom line here is that I’m not sure these devout Jews are using Jewish ethics to treat their workers,” one critic said.

I don’t know if Rubashkin is the exception or the rule in an industry that is increasingly concentrated in a few large hands, and whose imprimatur of kashrut comes from a handful of rabbinic authorities.

But I do know my definition of kosher is now much more narrow. In marketing terms, the brand has been tarnished. Kosher is not necessarily clean, or humane, or just. Long synonymous in our hearts and minds with good and pure, kosher is in danger of meaning just one small group’s interpretation of what’s legal.

What happened?

The purveyors of kosher goods became prey to the same market forces that have undermined the integrity of the entire American food chain. The food industry has fed America’s insatiable appetite by disregarding health concerns and riding roughshod over animal welfare and environmental welfare.

The demand for meat has led to the industrialization of farming, to feedlots holding up to 100,000 cattle, to the rapid and often sloppy dispatch of thousands of animals per day.

Kosher slaughterers piggyback — so to speak — on this industry by sending rabbis into nonkosher slaughterhouses to kill selected animals. Rubashkin itself noted that it slaughtered 18,000 cows in a seven-week period, which it said inevitably leads to error.

Kosher food, which we had always taken to stand apart from and above from the larger culture, has acquiesced to some of the industry’s worst practices.

Strictly speaking, the laws of kashrut do not address issues of responsible, ethical food production and healthful eating.

“The nature of kashrut is thus at once mysterious and obvious,” scholar Meir Soloveichik wrote in a penetrating essay in the journal Azure’s winter issue. “While God does not explain the importance of cud-chewing or leaping, of split hooves or scales, the Bible insists that it be perfectly clear to the non-Jew that the Torah-observant Israelite lives a life that reminds him constantly of his unique relationship with God.”

The exact meaning of these laws may remain obscure, but they are clearly meant to set us apart and elevate our souls.

For someone who loves both to pet animals and to eat them, the laws of kashrut speak to the tension between our higher and lower impulses, between the hunter Esau and the shepherd Jacob; between the carnivore wife and the conflicted husband.

Perhaps no religion better understands this eternal and inherent contradiction than Judaism. The laws of kashrut help us shuttle between our hungry selves and our compassionate ones, between the sanctity of all God’s creatures and their deliciousness.

If the kosher food industry is interested in retaining the deeper meaning of the label it bestows, its manufacturers and rabbis must figure out how to restore the spirit of kashrut to kashrut. The Jewish teaching of tza’ar ba’alei chayim — forbidding cruelty to animals because they are part of God’s creation — is the obvious place to start.

Kosher certifiers should cooperate with organizations like Animal Compassion Foundation, founded with a grant from Whole Foods, which are in the vanguard of conscientious animal husbandry and slaughter. The kosher label should not just imply the humane, responsible treatment of animals and the just treatment of food industry workers, it should certify it.

 

A Man for All Seasonings


The Rabbi of Chelm was teaching a class,

“Rabbi,” a student asked. “Why is the sea so salty?”

“Idiot,” the Rabbi intoned. “Because it’s full of herring.”

Like many baby-boomers today, I sometimes feel older than Keith Richards up a palm tree. So when Irv and Eddie, my better elders, invite me to go out with them, I tag along, if only to combat creepy self-pity.

“I know you wanna start out with creamed herring,” says Eddie as we roll into Nate’n Al, a famous Beverly Hills delicatessen where Larry King has breakfast every morning and Eddie and Irv like to kibitz on Saturday night.

Irv’s walker goes up against a wall, joining the half-dozen others already parked there.

“Like umbrellas in Seattle,” Eddie says. Once seated, the two friends observe an ancient Jewish ritual of the booths: talking about meals they’ve had in other restaurants. Every place from IHOP to Hop Li is on their carte du jour.

“It’s terrible,” Irv says about the latter Hop.

“I know,” Eddie replies. “You said they threw the food at you.”

“It was frightening.”

“I wouldn’t want to get you frightened.”

“The food is excellent,” Irv admits.

“They never threw it at me,” Eddie says. “So it must have been you!”

I enjoy hanging out with these gentlemen because they’re never less than enlightening. Tonight I learn two tablespoons of flaxseed a day can save your heart, and a martini before dinner gets the appetite up. That the Yiddish derision of “MGM” — where Irv worked for 10 years — was Louis “Mayer’s Gansa Mishpachah.”

Eddie knew Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatrist, and the doctor who discovered cholesterol. Irv claims the guy claimed credit for discovering cholesterol before anybody else.

“So we’ll order one herring,” Eddie says.

“And we’ll stab at it?” Irv says.

“We’ll stab at the herring.”

Because of glaucoma, Irv can barely read the menu, so Eddie gives him the entrees.

“Here come the combinations,” he says like the track announcer at Hollywood Park. “Turkey mushroom chow mein, fresh chicken livers, turkey blintzes with kasha, stuffed kishka plate, pot roast of beef, sweet and sour boiled beef … are you interested in chicken?”

“No,” Irv replies. “Not tonight.” He touches over the table. “Any napkins here?”

“Not yet. Here, want some sauerkraut or pickle?”

“How do you get it?”

“Well you have to know someone.”

A short discourse follows on new dill and the pickles Irv made in his basement in Bel Air that Billy Wilder and Gene Kelly enjoyed. I love the loving ease with which they kid each other’s explanations of kasha and kippers. The white meat vs. dark. And in the case of baked beans, Heinz vs. Bush, they also are not in agreement. After bandying about how tough some braised short ribs can be, Irv asks: “Did you order the herring?”

“Nobody was here yet, Irving.”

“Oh really, Ed? Why don’t you order a waiter?”

We laugh.

Eddie has a joke: “I like the table. You got one closer to a waitress?”

“They don’t have waiters,” Irv comes back. “They got tables.”

“I was saying hello to them,” Sophia explains when she arrives. She means another couple in another booth. “I known them like 20 years. How you doing?”

“See if you got a table closer to a waitress,” Eddie says.

More laughter.

“I think I’m gonna have the chicken,” he tells her.

Irv orders the chicken, too: “I used to get the half-a-chicken a lot at Canter’s, remember?”

“Each time,” Eddie replies, “it’s a different adventure.”

“Did you order herring?”

“Yes I ordered the herring!”

“Can we have some of the double-baked rye bread?” Irv asks Sophia, calling her “dear.”

“And if you get the herring over first,” Eddie tells her, “this man will make it through the rest of the meal.”

For some reason I order pastrami and a celery soda.

“What did you order?” Irv asks me. “Steak?”

“Pastrami.”

“Pastrami? I don’t recommend it here.”

“No?”

“OK,” he allows. (Whew.)

Delicatessens from here to Delancey Street come up. The Reuben at the Carnegie on Broadway that Irv says gave his wife an orgasm. The Ratner’s toothpick joke Irv insists he first heard from “Broadway Sam” at Leo Lindy’s.

“I was born above a delicatessen,” Irv says. “My horoscope sign was ‘Hebrew National.'”

That’s a joke he told for Jan Murray’s birthday at the New York Deli in Century City. Irv used to love Langer’s on Alvarado Street for their double-baked rye. Froman’s on Wilshire Boulevard for the chicken-in-the-pot. Label’s on Pico Boulevard for their platters. But Irv doesn’t enjoy L.A. delis anymore.

“The real potent garlic you used to be able to detect from 40 feet away?” he says. “Now if you walk in you don’t smell anything.”

He says it’s because all the garlic comes from China and takes weeks to get here by boat. “Consequently the taste of Italian cooking and delicatessen — anything that uses garlic, a key spice in the pickling of meats — is lacking in a certain bite.”

Irv says a food writer at the L.A. Times confirmed the China potency theory. “The only place you can find old-fashioned garlic,” Irv insists, “is at a farmer’s market if the guy with the stall grew it himself up in Oxnard. Somebody who would eat real garlic in the old days knew who his friends were, because most people would avoid him.”

Eddie doesn’t agree.

“Eddie likes every place,” Irv says. “But no delicatessen is really good unless an hour after you’ve eaten, it repeats on you.”

Hanging out with nonagenarians, I realize I am not old. I’m middle-aged and have just missed a lot.

The mushroom barley arrives, ahead of the herring plate.

“She’s bringing the herring for dessert!” Irv laughs.

“I went through this whole routine,” Eddie moans. “‘Give him the herring’ I said. Get the herring here first before we start.” He shakes his head. “I told her all that, and she still didn’t bring it.”

“Well,” Irv says. “This is the best restaurant in the world! Can’t you tell?”

 

Recipes Add Spice to New Party Trend


Although today’s bar mitzvah parties are often as elaborate as yesterday’s weddings, there’s a new trend on the horizon — a, noisy, jubilant oneg Shabbat and lunch directly after the ceremony, and a quiet, intimate dinner at home for a few close friends and family at night.

The reasons are strictly practical.

Instead of watching their parents spend exorbitant amounts of money on an elaborate Saturday night party, many bar mitzvahs are imploring that they’d rather steer the funds in another direction.

Molly wants a horse. Sammy wants to spend a summer in Israel. Tiara has her eye on Yale and plans to deposit the funds into her college account.

It’s actually a win-win situation for everyone. The stress of planning the fancy party evaporates; those closest to the event have an intimate setting to revel in their pride and joy’s accomplishment; and, at 13, the celebrant gets the satisfaction of making the first big decision as an adult and enjoying the fruits of this sagacity.

And just because the cost isn’t astronomical, doesn’t mean the setting won’t be inviting and the meal delicious. For the occasion, we’ve come up with a creative, festive menu — easy to prepare in advance, healthful and energizing.

Many of these recipes are from dietitian and chef Cheryl Forberg, who always has an eye toward health, while preparing dishes that delight the senses. The delicious almond nut torte is from L.A. chef Toribio Prado.

Edamame Guacamole with Stone-ground Corn Chips

Adapted from “Stop the Clock Cooking” by Cheryl Forberg (Avery/Penguin Putnam, 2003).

1 cup shelled edamame (fresh, green soy beans)

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 to 2 teaspoons chopped chipotle chili, with seeds

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, divided

2 large ripe avocados

1/4 cup stemmed, roughly chopped cilantro

1/2 cup finely chopped skinned tomatoes

2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion

Sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste

Corn Chips

One 9.5-ounce package stone-ground corn tortillas (12 count)

Olive oil cooking spray

Olive oil as needed

Salt to taste (optional)

Garnish

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

For guacamole, cook edamame in salted boiling water for five minutes. Drain and cool to room temperature.

Combine edamame, garlic, chili and 2 teaspoons lime juice in a food processor bowl. Process until mixture is very smooth, about three minutes. Set aside.

Peel and seed avocados; place in medium mixing bowl. Add remaining 1 teaspoon lime juice and mash with a fork, leaving small chunks. Fold in edamame mixture, cilantro, tomatoes and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with cilantro.

For chips, preheat oven to 400 F. Stack the 12 tortillas and cut them into eighths. Spread the tortilla chips in a single layer on baking sheets, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, if desired.

Bake chips until they are crisp and slightly golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer cooked chips to a basket lined with paper napkins.

Makes 2 1/2 cups.

Tomato-Ginger Bisque

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small minced onion

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1 tablespoon peeled and sliced fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, crumbled

1 small bay leaf

1 1/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth

1/2 cup white wine

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Pinch of saffron threads

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut in chiffonade for garnish

(The chiffonade cut is done by rolling the leaves lengthwise and slicing crosswise into thin slivers.)

Heat olive oil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, shallot, garlic and ginger. Sauté until translucent, stirring occasionally, about seven minutes.

Add tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf and saffron. Simmer until mixture begins to thicken, about four minutes more.

Add broth, wine and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Remove slices of ginger.

Puree soup in a food processor until smooth. Or, if you prefer, serve it chunky. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with basil.

This recipe can be prepared the day before. When re-heating it, make sure the flame is low so that liquid doesn’t evaporate.

Makes four servings.

Egyptian Eggplant Salad

The simple earthiness of this large salad melds the flavors of the East and the West.

Salad

2 large eggplants

1 1/2 heads romaine lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces

1 medium red bell pepper, cut into fine dice

1/2 medium green bell pepper, cut into fine dice

1 English cucumber, peeled and cut into fine dice

1 cup chopped green onions (green and white parts)

1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, without stems

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, without stems

Dressing

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F. Position rack in middle of oven.

Rinse off eggplant. Cut off stem end. Pierce skin with a fork. Lightly coat a 10- to 15-inch baking sheet with olive oil spray. Place eggplant on baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, turning it three or four times to roast evenly.

Remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, peel and discard eggplant skin. Remove most of the seeds and cut into chunks.

Place lettuce into a large mixing bowl. Add peppers, cucumber, green onions, parsley, mint and eggplant.

For dressing, mash garlic with lemon juice until smooth. Add cumin, salt and red pepper flakes or cayenne. Whisk oil in a thin stream until incorporated. There will be about 3/4 cup of dressing.

Pour 1/4 cup of the dressing over salad and toss well. Season with salt and pepper. Pass remaining dressing separately. This salad may be assembled the night before, including tossing it with the dressing, which gives it time for the flavors to meld.

Makes eight servings.

Grilled Chicken with Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce

Note: Pomegranate syrup (also called pomegranate molasses or pomegranate concentrate) can be found in Middle Eastern markets and in some supermarkets.

Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup finely chopped yellow onion

1/2 teaspoon saffron or turmeric

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 cups fat-free chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup pomegranate syrup

1 tablespoon sorghum syrup or dark honey

Salt and pepper to taste

Grilled Chicken

6 (3-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, without stems

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)

To prepare sauce, heat oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until light golden brown, about eight minutes. Add spices and cook until fragrant, about one minute.

Add 1 1/2 cups of the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat.

Place walnuts in food processor bowl and process until very finely ground. Add remaining 1/2 cup chicken broth, the pomegranate syrup and sorghum syrup.

Process until sauce is creamy and smooth. Carefully add the hot broth and onion mixture. Puree again until smooth.

Return sauce to sauté pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until consistency thickens, about three minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Preheat charcoal grill. Brush chicken lightly with olive oil. Arrange chicken on a rack set about six inches over glowing coals. Grill about four minutes on each side, or until just cooked through (or on a hot, ridged grill pan over medium-high heat). Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Serve each chicken breast with 2 tablespoons of sauce and garnish with chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds (if available.) Pass extra sauce separately.

Makes six servings.

Tezpishtl (Turkish almond nut torte)

From Los Angeles chef Toribio Prado

Syrup

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Cake

5 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup corn or sunflower oil

Juice and zest of 1 orange

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/4 cups fine matzah cake meal

1 1/4 cups finely chopped blanched almonds.

To make syrup, mix sugar and water together in a saucepan; bring to boil. Add lemon juice; simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Cool.

To make cake, beat eggs until frothy; add sugar and continue to beat until golden and well mixed. Add other ingredients, one at a time; stir into batter.

Pour into oiled and floured 13 x 9 x 2-inch cake pan; bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick.

Remove cake from oven; pour cooled syrup over it. Let cake stand for two hours before serving to allow syrup to be absorbed.

Makes one cake, about 18 pieces.

Honey and Marinated Fig Topping

1/2 pound dried white figs

1 bottle port wine

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 cup honey

Pinch of nutmeg

Pinch of cinnamon

Wash figs and dry well. Place figs and port wine in large bowl; marinate overnight. Drain figs; reserve wine.

In large saucepan add sugar, lemon juice, honey. Simmer, being careful not to burn sugar.

Raise flame to medium. Add reserved port wine, cinnamon and nutmeg. Reduce by half and add figs. Stir well. Serve with torte.

 

Let Your Tasteless Chicken Go


 

For many years, my daughter and I were lucky to be invited out for Passover. Besides joining a big group of people, and sampling a variety of Passover foods, I relished the added benefit of not having to plan, shop and cook for the daunting seder (first and second night) meals. Unfortunately, this also meant no leftovers, no matzah kugel in the refrigerator, no beef and vegetable tzimmes to reheat in the microwave or even charoset to sweeten the lone box of matzah sitting on my kitchen counter.

My daughter was just fine with this arrangement — except for matzah ball soup, she is not a fan of Passover fare. One year, she unintentionally lost weight by avoiding all matzah-related dishes, and living off hard-boiled eggs, fruit and cheese.

So, this year I asked myself how I could create a midweek Passover meal she would enjoy, but I could prepare easily with ingredients on hand, still keeping all bread, pasta and pizza out of sight for the required eight days.

The four questions in the haggadah, intended for the youngest person present to read aloud, begins with: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” and continues with, “On all other nights we eat either leavened bread or unleavened (matzah); on this night why only unleavened bread?” And, “On all other nights we eat herbs of any kind; why on this night only bitter herbs?” These questions, posed by children but listened to by all, bring into focus the Passover food rituals and their significance.

Somehow, these not-so-easy changes in diet are meant to convey a story — of Jewish slavery in Egypt, of the bitter trials of oppression, the unleavened bread eaten by the Jews as they hurriedly fled their oppressors, and, finally, of the fruitful and brave adaptations leading toward freedom.

For my growing daughter and I, a delicious, moist, homemade chicken meal would be different from all other nights. Because on all other nights of the year, we buy our chicken—fried, roasted or baked—from the store. On all other nights, unless immersed quickly and safely into soup, my chicken ends up dry, undercooked, overcooked or tasteless.

Determined to prepare this simple Passover meal, all I needed to buy was potato starch to replace corn thickeners. The menu: Moist Baked Chicken, New Red Potatoes, Creamed Spinach and a One-Apple Charoset.

When I began the chicken recipe, I was filled with images of past failures and anxious about wasting pounds of poultry, let alone my time. But when we sat down to our colorful meal — with orange carrots, green spinach and seasoned red potatoes surrounding truly tasty chicken — watching my daughter eat two hearty portions made all my trepidation worthwhile. I even started talking about other scary chicken dishes I might attempt.

Like the Passover haggadah emphasizes, important changes do not come about without sacrifice, and often they begin by asking a question.

Moist Baked Chicken With New Potatoes
These are the chicken parts I had in the house, but you can use all legs or breast sections, whatever you prefer. The simple ingredients will deeply flavor and moisten each bite, and it is impossible to mess up.

2 1/4 pounds chicken legs (approximately three chickens)
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless thighs
1/4 cup margarine
7 gloves garlic, cut in half
8 new red potatoes, washed, cut in half
8 baby carrots, washed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Preheat oven to 425 F.
In large roasting pan, melt margarine. Scatter garlic and carrots in melted margarine. Arrange chicken, skin side down, and potatoes skin side up, in roasting pan. Sprinkle, salt, pepper and paprika evenly over chicken and potatoes.
Bake 30 minutes. Turn the chicken and baste before baking 15-20 minutes more, or until chicken is fork tender.
Serves eight.

Creamed Spinach
I am not a fan of creamed vegetables. But for Passover, I found a version of this recipe in an old synagogue cookbook and decided a little creaminess during a holiday minus soft bread is a good thing.

1 pound chopped, frozen spinach, thawed
1 1/2 tablespoons margarine
1 glove garlic
1/2 small onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon potato starch

In a medium saucepan, sauté onion and garlic in margarine until the onion is tender. Remove garlic. In a small bowl, mix soy milk with potato starch. Stir in salt and pepper.
Over low heat, gradually add milk mixture to sautéed onions, stirring continually as sauce thickens. Stir in drained spinach, heat through and serve immediately.
Serves six.

One-Apple Charoset
This simple mixture reminds me of the one my mother serves. She uses raisins instead of dates. It would be fun to try different dried fruits and nuts, whatever you have in the house. You can double or triple this recipe as needed, but for a midweek matzah spread, this quantity is quick and perfect.

1 apple, peeled
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup crushed pecans
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
3 medjool dates, chopped small
1 tablespoon kosher-for-Passover red wine

Coarsely grate apple. In small bowl, mix apple and remaining ingredients until mixture is smooth and moist.
Serves four.

 

The Forbidden Food


I was casually walking through the meat aisle at the local supermarket yesterday morning looking for kosher chicken when I saw her holding a package of frozen shrimp.

Her hair was long and sun-bleached blonde, and her eyes were blue like the sky. I knew she wasn’t Jewish. My heart was racing like a klezmer band on speed, and I wondered what the kosher chickens might have said if they knew how badly I wanted her. The son of a rabbi, they’d probably quip. It figures.

A few months ago the story would have probably ended there. I’d have picked up my kosher chicken, a few 12-packs of Diet Coke, some Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey and been on my way. I’d have forgotten her by nightfall and remembered her the next morning when I sat down to write. How many shrimp could fit between those glossy pink lips? I might have wondered.

Okay, truthfully, I’m still thinking about it now. Four? Maybe five? Not since the bar mitzvah incident with Debbie have I been able to fully get shrimp out of my mind.

Debbie was one of the popular girls in my Hebrew School, and I had a big-time crush on her. Although we rarely talked, she accepted an invitation to my bar mitzvah party. As the night waned, I did the unthinkable: I asked her to dance. She agreed, and I did my best to hold her tight. I was a man, I imagined, and my luck with girls was sure to change.

So I looked into her eyes and said, Do you think, maybe, probably, a girl like you, I mean not you, would ever think about going out with a guy like me, I mean not me?

She batted her eyelashes and said, Of course not. You’re too shrimpy. A moment later she realized the potentially lasting effects of her words and added, I didn’t mean that in a bad way.

I was devastated. I remember crying on my mother’s lap later that day. Am I really too shrimpy? I asked her.

She smiled and said the same thing millions of mother’s have said to their less-than-perfect sons: Just be yourself Danny. That’s all girls really want.

Pish posh, I thought. No girl wants a shrimp. But I was wrong. The hot blonde apparently liked shrimp just fine.

Even a few months ago, I was afraid to indiscriminately approach beautiful women. I imagined that even the pitter-patter of my heart and my distinctly Jewish sex drive didn’t give me license to say hello. And if I did say hello, I was sure she’d look at my scrawny frame and say something like, Scram.

So late one Shabbat night in early June, I took fate into my own hands. I called my father — the rabbi — and told him my plans. I’ve decided to make a movie. It’ll be called: ‘A Sensitive Guy on the Road: Fifty Dates Across the States.’ I’ll date one woman in each of 48 states and Washington, D.C., and hopefully find true love.

That’s a bad idea, he said.

It gets better, I promised. I won’t kiss any of them for 49 dates.

Then I will ask one of them on a 50th and final date, and hopefully, you know, give her the big smootcheroo.

A reality show without sex, he said. That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard.

It’s not a reality show, I promised. It’s a critique of reality shows. I want to find out if women are willing to give a nice, sensitive, albeit short guy like me a try.

It’s still a terrible idea, he said.

The hot supermarket woman walked towards me. Closer. Closer. Eyes squinting. Still closer. Shrimp in hand. Inspecting me, judging me, making my heart flutter. Touching me with a treif hand. Sure, she touched just my shoulder. But her hand was treif nonetheless. And I liked it!

Excuse me, she said. Weren’t you on the front cover of the newspaper last week? You’re that sensitive guy, right?

I blushed. She smiled. My heart melted. Yep, I responded. I knew I should have said something funny or profound like: I’m sensitive, but I swear, I’m no shrimp cocktail, Or maybe: Sensitivity can mean so many things. Instead, I just stared at her smile. I was at a loss for words.

Yep, I said again.

That’s so cool, she said.

Wow, I thought. She thinks I’m cool.

And in that moment of pure stress and elation, I forgot about all the heartache that girls, mostly ones at Jewish sleepover camp, had caused me. I put aside my ego and my insecurities, put down my kosher chicken, swallowed hard and went for it: I really like your thighs …I mean, I mean your eyes. I like your eyes. They’re blue like the sky.

She smiled. Do you want my phone number? she asked.

I was speechless. But before I knew it, she had copied her number onto a gas station receipt and handed it to me. It was that easy. I had spent 22 years thinking I had to be tall and Scandinavian to get a goddess like her. Twenty-two years believing that short Jewish guys just couldn’t do crazy things like that unless their names are Woody Allen or Philip Roth. And all this time, it was simple: let them know I’m sensitive. Just throw it out there.


Dan Jacobs currently resides in Western Massachusetts. He will soon return to Los Angeles to live. You can learn more about his journey on his Web site:

When Everything Goes to Pot


In America, the land of excess calories, boiled chicken has a bad reputation. People much prefer their chicken fried, barbecued or sautéed.

But although they may joke about boiled chicken because of its anemic skin and bland personality, on erev Yom Kippur, it graces many a table.

Despite the jokes, my husband and I love this tender poultry almost as much as we love each other. Picture us standing side by side in front of the stove pulling lusciously moist — but barely cooled — chicken breasts from rich golden broth. We peel off weak skin and drop it into the trash. We return large chunks of chicken to the soup. With greasy fingers, we snack on the most tender morsels, the bits sticking to bones.

As much as I adore the taste of boiled chicken fresh from broth, I can’t bear the sight of it on a dinner plate. Next to side dishes, boiled chicken parts look pale, pathetic and shriveled. The best way to eat boiled chicken, before Yom Kippur or anytime, is in the precious broth that gushes from chunky vegetables, chopped herbs and chicken after they’ve steeped together for hours.

I recommend adding rice to the soup. Like boiled chicken, boiled rice is an erev Yom Kippur tradition. Scholars speculate that rice may have become a chosen food on the eve of atonement because its white color is associated with purity.

The custom of eating boiled chicken on Yom Kippur Eve is connected to the kaparos redemption ceremony, a ritual in which a person symbolically transfers sins by holding a fowl in his or her right hand and swinging it three times while reciting: “This is my change; this is my redemption. This rooster or hen shall be killed, while I shall be admitted and allowed a long, happy and peaceful life.” The fowl is never wasted; it is cooked and eaten by the person’s family or given to the poor.

The kaparos ritual is not mentioned in the Talmud. Evidence indicates that it may have begun among Jews of Babylonia. Kaparos is referred to by ninth-century scholars and became widespread in the 10th century. Today, kaparos is still practiced by some religious Jews, however, many of them use coins instead of fowl.

Ironically, even Jews with no knowledge of the kaparos ritual partake in boiled chicken on erev Yom Kippur, possibly by force of habit no longer linked to its origin. I think people instinctively gravitate to this traditional dish because there’s nothing like a homemade bowl of steaming chicken soup, glistening with goodness. Chicken soup is not only healthful, but contributes to a smooth fast because it is satisfying, nourishing and light. Brimming with vegetables and herbs, it is an entire meal in a bowl, especially if you include a carbohydrate. Salt can be reduced or eliminated to minimize thirst the following day.

Before fasting, it is tempting to indulge in delicacies, and plenty of them, to stuff yourself before deprivation. But overeating not only undermines atonement, but often causes indigestion. Junk foods, whether they be sweet or savory, lack the nutrients to fortify the body for hours of prayer and introspection.

Jews the world over are famous for chicken soup recipes, probably because they shun insipid, watery soups. Sephardic Jews in many Middle Eastern countries savor Shorbah, a chicken soup featuring cardamom and so much finely boiled rice that the broth appears creamed. In the Ashkenazi world, the broth is brimming with matzah balls, lokshen (noodles), even kreplach.

Chicken soup is one of God’s divine gifts. If you take a deep breath as the broth simmers, the scent filling the kitchen is as close to heaven as anyone on earth will get. More sustaining than the heartwarming stories in the widely read “Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul,” one sip of broth nourishes both body and spirit.

While some people may worry that a mere bowl of soup, no matter how filling, cannot provide enough energy on an ordinary day, let alone the most demanding one of the year, this humble entree need not stand alone.

Jewish holiday meals, erev Yom Kippur included, traditionally begin with a fish course. Among Askhenazic Jews, gefilte fish is customary and can be homemade — or purchased frozen or in jars. However, Sephardic cuisine offers more alternatives. Nearly every Sephardic country features a signature fish dish. Delicious recipes, such as Egyptian ground fish balls with tomato and cumin and Syrian baked fish fillets with tahini sauce, abound in Jewish cookbooks.

After the fish appetizer, I suggest serving generous amounts of challah with the main soup course. There’s nothing like the marriage of chicken soup and challah; it’s the ultimate comfort food combination. Whenever I’m sick or in need of solace, I eat the two together. No matter what, it makes me feel better.

Since the chicken soup recipe below is Ashkenazic style, it compliments pickled beets and cucumber salad, dishes typical of Central and Eastern Europe. Cap the meal off with something simple, such as baked apples. The entire menu can be prepared two days in advance, relieving stress for people who are serving dinner and rushing to Kol Nidre services.

The Ultimate Chicken Soup

3 split chicken breasts (6 pieces)

including bones

6 carrots, diced

6 celery stalks, diced

2 large onions, diced

3 parsnips, diced

1 can artichoke hearts, drained

and flaked; remove hairy centers

1 large zucchini, diced

1 large summer (yellow) squash, diced

1¼4 pound string beans,

cut into 1-inch pieces

3 chicken bouillon cubes,

plus one (4 in all)

Salt to taste (optional)

1¼4 teaspoon white pepper (optional)

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

1¼3 cup raw rice

1. Place all ingredients, except rice and one bouillon cube, into a large pot. Add enough water to cover ingredients by 3 inches. (Water level should be at least 3 inches below top of pot to avoid bubbling over.) Place lid on pot. Boil on a medium flame for about two hours, stirring occasionally to check that broth doesn’t boil away. Soup is ready when broth yellows and chicken falls off bones. Add salt, if needed.

2. Cool soup to room temperature. Remove and discard skin and bones from breasts. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and return to broth. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Skim and discard chicken fat that has risen to the top.

3. Prepare rice according to package instructions.

4. Boil fourth bouillon cube in 2 cups of water, stirring until it dissolves.

5. Cool rice to room temperature. Add bouillon water. Cover pot for 30 minutes. Rice will swell and absorb the water. If water remains, drain rice in a sieve.

6. Place rice in soup. Heat and serve immediately or refrigerate and serve the following day. Soup freezes well.

Yield: 8 servings.

Quick Cucumber Salad

1 English (seedless) cucumber

1/4 cup dill, stems removed

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 cup white vinegar

1. Cut cucumber horizontally into circles so thin, they are translucent. Place in a large, nonmetallic mixing bowl.

2. Mince dill fine and add to cucumbers.

3. In another bowl, add sugar to vinegar, stirring until dissolved. Add to cucumbers.

4. Gently toss ingredients until well blended. Cover and refrigerate for 24-48 hours. Serve cold or at room temperature. Yield: 8 servings.

Pickled Beet Salad

6 medium-sized beets, peeled and

sliced into 1¼4-inch circles

1 1¼2 cups dry vermouth

1 1¼2 cups apple cider vinegar

1 cup white vinegar

1 cup sugar

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 large onion, peeled, sliced, and

separated into rings

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons pickling spice

10 peppercorns

1 teaspoons salt

1. Place all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil and lower flame. Simmer for 1 1¼4 hours, or until beets are soft when pierced with a knife point.

2. Cool to room temperature. Remove to a nonmetallic bowl and cover. Refrigerate for 24-72 hours before serving cold or at room temperature. Yield: 8 servings.

The Market Approach to Soup

Here are some ways — more reliable than playing the stock market — to make your chicken stock or broth as rich as the liquid gold known since the time of Maimonides as a magical elixir, and more recently as Jewish penicillin.

Basic Stock: Similar to balanced stock portfolios, high flavor yields from a wide variety of sources. To make rich soup stock, place diced carrots, celery, onions and your favorite vegetables with chicken, or even turkey, parts.

Cover ingredients with 2 inches of water and boil for at least one hour, being careful that broth does not boil away. Cool to room temperature. Line a colander with wet cheesecloth. Pour broth through to filter out solids. Instead of water, start your soup with this golden nectar. When you prepare soup from stock rather than water, the broth is deeper and more decadent, too.

Future Stock: Get ahead of the game by making quantities of chicken stock and freezing them in batches for future soups. Defrost stock before adding additional ingredients to pot.

Quick Stock: When pressed for time, add a couple of bouillon cubes to the water, chicken and ingredients. Or instead of water, use canned chicken broth. Either way, season soup with less salt because bouillon and canned broth are salty.

Double Earnings: After consuming a chicken for dinner, either freeze the carcass for a future soup or make soup immediately by placing the carcass in a pot with fresh chicken, onion and vegetables.

Stock Split: While cleaning a chicken to roast for dinner, throw necks, backs, gizzards and wing tips into a plastic bag and freeze for future soup. Do not save chicken livers, because they become bitter when boiled extensively.

Stock Merger: For depth of color and flavor, add beef bones to chicken soup. Better yet, roast bones at 350 F for 15 minutes, and then steep with soup ingredients.

Liquid Assets: Save broth each time you steam or boil vegetables. Freeze and collect enough broth to add in place of water when you make soup. Although in weak solution, vegetable broth adds more flavor and nutrients than water.

Stock Market: Almost any vegetable is tasty in chicken soup, although broccoli florets completely fall apart. When making chicken soup, search your refrigerator for lettuce or other fresh vegetables that are past their prime. Use cooked vegetables, too, even if they were sautéed or made with sauces. Yesterday’s noodles, starchy beans, pasta, potatoes, couscous and corn are welcome, but should be added at the end. Divine chicken soup springs from inspiration and is completely foolproof. Everything you add to the pot contributes a seasoning spin. Some combinations will taste so outrageous, you’ll wish you could recreate them — if only you had those exact leftovers again. — Linda Morel, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Comfort Food for Rosh Hashana


For Rosh Hashana this year, I am sharing three chicken dishes that you can prepare for your family holiday meal. Every family has their own recipe for roast chicken, but if you’re looking for something new and different to serve on Rosh Hashana, try one of these.

Two of the recipes I have selected came from unexpected sources — one via chef Jonathan Waxman, who recently opened Washington Park Restaurant in New York, and the second from Neela Paniz, who owns The Bombay Cafe in Los Angeles.

But, let’s start with one of my favorites. I remember when I was growing up, I looked forward to my mother’s Shabbat dinner. It always consisted of chicken, roasted in a tomato sauce with potatoes and lots of vegetables. The potatoes are cooked in the sauce with the chicken — a very old technique in Eastern European kitchens, and it gives them a wonderful flavor. On special occasions, she would stuff the whole chicken with her famous vegetable stuffing, and fill the neck of the chicken with the same mixture, to be served separately.

So when we started our family, on Friday night and special Jewish holidays, the highlight was roasted chicken. I began experimenting with ways to update my mother’s recipe, and one of our family favorite dishes became roast chicken breasts flattened, then stuffed in the center with finely chopped sautéed vegetables, rolled up like a sausage and tied with string. Any leftover stuffing (that didn’t fit in the chicken breasts) is baked in an oiled loaf pan. This is an easy dish to serve, since no carving is necessary, and the cooking technique allows the breasts to stay very juicy.

When Waxman worked in Los Angeles, he demonstrated his version of Chicken in the Pot as a guest chef on my television program, "Judy’s Kitchen." I had never tasted chicken prepared like this before; it practically bursts with flavor.

His recipe combines chicken and vegetables; it is a spinoff of his grilled chicken and vegetable dish that became one of Waxman’s signature dishes. The chicken and vegetables are served in a shallow bowl with a mustard sauce.

If your family enjoys curry, you will love Paniz’s Authentic Chicken Curry recipe. Don’t let the number of ingredients in this dish frighten you. It’s really easy to prepare and well worth the effort. If you like it spicy, just add more cayenne. Since Rosh Hashana begins at sundown on Friday, this dish could be your answer to the traditional Shabbat cholent, which is prepared before the Sabbath and kept warm for the Saturday meal.

These three dishes are perfect for Rosh Hashana; the only decision you must make is which of them to serve. Whatever recipe you choose, make enough so your family can have a cold chicken lunch on Saturday when they come home from the synagogue, or serve the leftovers in the evening as an interesting chicken salad.

Dessert should be simple and refreshing. Serve a fruit salad topped with a scoop of fruit sorbet and your favorite honey cake.

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Molly’s Vegetable Stuffing

Chicken Breasts

  • 8 chicken breasts (4 whole, boned and
  • cut in half)
  • 1¼4 cup oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1¼4 cup dry white wine

Place a chicken breast, skin side down, on a sheet of wax paper. Cover with another sheet of wax paper and using a mallet or tenderizer, gently pound the breast until desired thickness.

Spoon prepared stuffing in the center and roll up the chicken breast, encasing the stuffing and tie with string. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts.

Line a baking pan with foil, brush with oil and arrange onions and carrots on top. Place stuffed chicken breasts on top, brush with oil and season with salt and pepper. Add stock and wine and bake at 375 F for 20 minutes, then increase the heat to 425 F and bake about five minutes more, or until chicken breasts are tender and crisp. Transfer to a cutting board and slice on the bias. To serve, arrange sliced chicken breasts on plates and spoon any juices from pan that remain. Serves 8.

Molly’s Vegetable Stuffing

  • 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in 1 cup
  • Concord grape wine
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 6 medium carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and grated
  • 2 medium zucchini, unpeeled and grated
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour
  • 2-3 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 2-3 tablespoons oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil and sauté the onions and garlic until soft, about three minutes. Add the celery, carrots, parsnip and zucchini, and toss well. Cook for five minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Drain the raisins and add them to the vegetables with the parsley. Stir in 1 tablespoon each of the matzah meal, matzah cake meal and potato starch. Add the red wine and mix well. Stir in the remaining dry ingredients, a little at a time, until the stuffing is moist and soft but firm in texture. Season with salt and pepper. Cool. Makes about 12 cups.

Authentic Chicken Curry

  • 1 piece (1 1¼2 inches) of ginger, peeled
  • 5-6 garlic cloves
  • 2 serranos
  • 1¼3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 small Spanish yellow onions,
  • finely chopped
  • Hot water
  • 2 black cardamom pods (see note)
  • or 2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2-3 pieces cassia or cinnamon sticks
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 5-6 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1¼4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1¼4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small chicken, skin removed and
  • cut into 8 pieces (1 1¼2 pounds)
  • 1 1¼2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, for garnish

Mince the ginger, garlic and serranos in a food processor and set aside. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and brown until they turn a deep red-brown color, about five minutes. Add the ginger mixture and sauté for one minute. Add 1-2 tablespoons hot water to stop the browning of the onions and mix into a paste. Add the cardamom, cassia, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, coriander, cumin, turmeric and cayenne. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons hot water. Brown for two to three minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over high heat until the oil is separated from the paste, about two minutes. (May be prepared one or two days in advance.)

Add the chicken and cook over medium heat until golden brown. Add the salt and 1¼2 cup hot water.

Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and almost falls off the bone when pierced with a fork. To serve, garnish with chopped cilantro. Serves 4.

Chicken in the Pot

  • 1 jalapeño chili, roasted and seeded
  • 1 Anaheim chili, roasted and seeded
  • 1 roasting chicken (4-5 pounds),
  • trussed with string
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3 shallots
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated, unpeeled
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 6 small red or white new potatoes, unpeeled
  • 4 fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 4 small turnips, peeled
  • 2 parsnips, peeled
  • 4 small carrots, peeled
  • 2 stalks fennel or celery, cut into chunks
  • 8 radishes, stems removed
  • 1 large leek (white and green parts),
  • cut in half and soaked in warm water
  • 1 small bunch fresh parsley,
  • tied with a string
  • 1 small bunch fresh tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium roasted red bell pepper
  • 1¼2 cup whole-grain mustard
  • 1 French baguette, thinly sliced and toasted

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Peel onions, place them in a baking pan lined with aluminum foil, and roast until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, place chicken, roasted onions, shallots, garlic cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves and roasted chilies. Add enough water to cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, partially covered. Add potatoes and continue cooking 15 minutes. Add mushrooms, turnips, parsnips, carrots, fennel, radishes, leek, parsley, tarragon and 1¼2 teaspoon of the salt. Continue cooking until chicken is tender when pierced with fork, about 30 minutes.

Remove cooked chicken to a platter and keep hot. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl and keep warm in 2 cups of the broth. Strain the remaining broth into a saucepan, reserving garlic cloves. Bring both to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes, partially covered.

In a blender or food processor, blend the roasted red pepper, mustard, eight of the garlic cloves from the soup, 1¼2 cup of the broth, and the remaining 1¼2 teaspoon salt. Pour into a bowl.

Cut chicken into serving pieces; arrange in large individual heated soup bowls, surrounded by broth and vegetables. Serve with the toasted baguette slices and the mustard sauce. Serves 8.

Pass the Egg


My parents were Elderhostel students this week at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, and I shared Friday night services with them in the Conservative tradition of my youth.

It was like coming home. The melodies, the longer version of prayers, the responsive readings in English, and the Borscht Belt- suffused jokes all flooded back to me. It was vanilla pudding for the soul.The rabbi’s sermon, related in nasal Billy Crystal cadences, told the one about the poor woman and the chicken. With her last shekel, she bought a golden egg and brought it home. One and all admired the egg.”We’ll save the egg until it hatches,” the mother said, passing it to her older daughter to admire.

“Yes, then we’ll have many chickens,” the daughter said, passing it on.

“And the chickens will lay many golden eggs,” said her younger brother, passing it on again.

“And the golden eggs will be worth a lot of money, and we’ll buy still more chickens,” said the youngest.

He tried to pass it on but the egg dropped and splattered to the floor. Oh my.

At dinner that night, I sat among the Elderhostelers as we critiqued the rabbi’s performance, just as Conservative Jews have done through the ages. What was the sermon again? We struggled to remember the botched punch line. Everyone had heard the story many times before, with many variations, including one where the children clap their hands and the eggshell breaks over them.

I loved it all, but on the way home I wondered: would future generations get the joke? So many of us live firmly within movements now; a child is raised to be a good Orthodox Jew or a good Conservative Jew. There’s a wonderful program in Israel for bright American high schoolers focused on Reform Jewish philosophy. Reconstructionists have even changed the words of some prayers.

Our children may know who they are, and certainly who they’re not. But they may not know who we are, all of us.

The immigrant experience is long behind us.

The Catskills have gone to Vegas and Comedy Central.

The glue of Jewish history and culture, trade unionism, civil rights and even Israel, which forged a unifying political and social ideology in the last century, has lost its potency. It’s enough to make you wonder if we’ll all speak the same language not far down the road.

Yet it’s not too late. In the new spiritual awakening that is influencing all branches, we find our adhesive.I resist movements. I travel around, and not only because it’s my job. It’s fun. I can, by now, sit behind the mechitzah in an Orthodox shul one Shabbat, then join the tambourines and drums of a Renewal service the next. At both, it’s a blast to hear rabbis from varying denominations reading identical classic commentaries from Chassidic masters, whether to draw the same or opposite conclusions. And it’s satisfying. I can move from the traditional Silverman prayer book to the new Reconstructionist gender-inclusive siddur “Kol Haneshamah” and find something in each to move the heart.

I’ve made sure my daughter travels, too. She went to both Reform and Conservative summer camps and was bat mitzvah in the Reconstructionist movement. When she’s away, any place where the Eternal Light hangs is home.

Maybe I’m a one-woman campaign to fight the growing compartmentalization of the Jewish people, but you can join it too. When you travel to exotic countries, I’ll bet you visit ancient temples, even participating in services that might offend you at home. I’ll bet you think it’s exotic and fascinating, how different we Jews are, and how much the same.

Why should the traveling stop when you reach your own address? There’s a ferment in Judaism today, a glorious artistic and spiritual creativity, that you miss when you hear only your same rabbi and your same study group. Stretch yourself.

Each summer, Jews go shul-shopping, trying out new congregations and rabbis for those that feel most like home. This year, do the opposite: Visit synagogues as unlike your background as you can stand. Don’t go to criticize. Learn. If what you experience is not exactly your grandfather’s Judaism, well, isn’t that good?It’s been clear for some time that what Rabbi Harold Schulweis calls “Jewish apartheid” exists among youth. Social isolation was not diminished by the decision by Camp Ramah to exclude those whose mothers are not Jewish.

But I want to go even further. Jewish apartheid begins with adults. There are too many bad jokes which start, “There were three rabbis, an Orthodox, a Conservative and a Reform …” We American Jews have far more in common even now than you’d believe from each movement’s isolationists. Once you sit down together and hear Conservative Jews using a Reform melody for the prayer over bread, you can’t miss the cross-fertilization that is going on.

You are part of a great cultural transmission. Pass the golden egg.

Marlene Adler Marks is senior columnist of The Jewish Journal. Her e-mail address iswmnsvoice@aol.com