Recipe: Fresh eggs and spring herbs come together in veggie sfougata


“My girls are laying so fast I can’t keep up with them,” Martha says. She has arrived at my door with another dozen eggs, fresh from her henhouse, no doubt laid within the past 24 hours.

In Italy an egg that fresh is a treasure. It’s called a “uova da bere,” a drinkable egg, and it’s often turned into something called zabaglione, which is not perhaps what you think it is because it is not cooked at all. For this kind of zabaglione you use the freshest egg, preferably one still a little warm from the hen’s body, and a good heaping teaspoonful of sugar. You beat the egg and the sugar together in a small bowl, using a fork or mini whisk, beating it steadily for about 10 or 15 minutes until the mixture is thick and syrupy. Sometimes a few drops of Marsala wine get beaten in as well. And then at breakfast you simply sip the lush, gooey mixture with a spoon, emitting little sighs of pleasure as you do so. (The egg-and-sugar sauce called zabaglione goes one step further and beats the mixture over — but not in — boiling water until it is thicker, almost like a runny pudding. It’s delicious served with fresh seasonal berries, so keep it in mind for strawberry season, not many weeks away.)

Martha, however, is a down-to-earth Maine girl like me, and the very idea of a breakfast of sugar and raw eggs is not on her cultural horizon. Nor on mine. Leave that to the Italians.

A Mediterranean-inspired egg dish

Instead, I decided to use the spring bounty of eggs to make a seasonal favorite from another part of the Mediterranean, the island of Crete.

Quick timeout for a food iconography lesson: Do you ever wonder at the association between Easter and eggs? When you think about hens and their lifestyle, it’s pretty obvious. Hens stop laying in winter, when the daylight hours grow short, then start up again in spring. In the natural rhythm of things, eggs become plentiful precisely at this time of year, when the light is growing stronger day by day. So Easter, whether Catholic or Orthodox, is symbolized all over the Mediterranean by eggs as icons of rebirth. So why in our modern supermarkets do we have eggs all year round? Because our hens are exposed to artificial light, often 24 hours a day, and that keeps them going strong. Or not so strong, because they must usually be replaced after 18 to 24 months.

Make this recipe your own

Back to Crete, where sfougata, a combination of eggs, cheese and vegetables, somewhere between a soufflé and a frittata, is popular for all those times when household cooks are strapped to come up with something cheap, filling and delicious. In spring, that combination usually includes greens, but I could equally imagine doing this in the autumn with mushrooms or slivers of winter squash toasted in olive oil, and at the height of summer it would be delicious with fresh roasted peppers and little chunks of eggplant. But for spring, I did it with some delicate new spinach I picked up at the farmers market along with sliced zucchini. Quintessential to the flavor, it seems to me, is a handful of finely minced dill added at the very end, so the taste stays forward.

My advice? Make this once the way I’ve detailed below, then start to experiment, using leeks instead of spring onions, or a mixture of foraged and cultivated greens (dandelion greens, beet greens, chard, maybe even a little Chinese broccoli), or adding a couple of small diced potatoes to the skillet with the other vegetables. Another great spring vegetable combination, and very much in the Mediterranean spirit, would be asparagus and fava beans, if available, or fresh peas if not.

Let your imagination play with the recipe, and you’ll find all sorts of uses for what could become fundamental to your repertoire — and a savior for all those times when you simply have run out of time and inspiration.

Although the total time listed is 1 1/2 hours, this can be broken down into manageable chunks. Make the vegetables ahead of time (even a day ahead), taking about 45 minutes, then mix up the eggs and cheese just before the meal, stir in the prepared vegetables, and bake for 25 minutes.

Sfougato of Zucchini and Spinach

Prep time: About 30 minutes.

Cook time: About 1 hour.

Total time: About 1 1/2 hours.

Yield: 4 servings as a main course, 6 as a starter.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 5 or 6 spring onions, about 1/2 pound, including green tops, chopped to make 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 pound zucchini (2 medium zucchini), thinly sliced, to make about 2 to 3 cups
  • 6 ounces to 8 ounces fresh spinach, slivered (about 4 cups)
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh dill or finely chopped fresh mint, leaves only
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • About 1 cup coarsely grated Cretan graviera cheese or Swiss gruyere (or use a mixture of gruyere and parmigiano reggiano)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of Middle Eastern red chili pepper

 

Directions

Heat half the olive oil in a big, heavy skillet over medium-low heat and gently sauté the onions until translucent, about 5 or 6 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook briefly. As soon as the zucchini slices start to soften, stir in the spinach, mixing thoroughly. If the pan seems a little dry, add 1/2 cup of water, cover the pan and cook gently until the spinach is softened and the zucchini slices are tender. If there are excess juices, raise the heat and cook rapidly to evaporate the extra liquid. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the dill, mixing well.

Use the remaining oil to grease the bottom of a rectangular oven dish that is approximately 11 inches by 8 inches. Heat the oven to 375 F.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk. Add the grated cheese and fold in the vegetables. Add salt and pepper to taste, along with a pinch of Middle Eastern red pepper flakes.

Pour the mixture into the oven dish and transfer to the hot oven. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the eggs are set and the top is nicely browned.

Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 or 15 minutes before serving. This dish can also be served at room temperature — a nice suggestion for lunch on a hot day.

Copyright 2016 Nancy Harmon Jenkins via Zester Daily and Reuters Media Express

Birds of a feather: Jews in the poultry business


The weeks before Thanksgiving, when our thoughts fly to fowl, are a fine time to discover that local Jewish families were and are major producers and innovators in the Southland’s poultry business.

Making a buck off of clucks and gobbles, Jewish families who came to the Los Angeles area built chicken ranches, egg empires, and raised and marketed turkeys. Most have closed because of urbanization, but a few families, like the Zackys, sellers of chickens and turkeys since the 1920s, are still in the business today.

Samuel Zacky, born to a Jewish family in Kiev, Russia, in 1897, immigrated to the U.S. in 1903 and entered the poultry business in 1928, when he opened Sam’s Poultry Market on the corner of Slauson and Western avenues. There, he sold chickens, turkeys and ducks to un-squeamish customers looking for very fresh birds. At that time, to prepare for Turkey Day, a customer didn’t poke through icy bins of frozen birds at Ralphs or Trader Joe’s, but instead would go to Sam’s, pick out a live bird and wait till it was dressed.

According to records, the Zacky family’s port of entry was Philadelphia, where the 1910 Census shows the  family living. Sam thought he wouldn’t be let in because he was sick at the time, said Lillian Zacky, wife of Robert Zacky, one of three sons of Sam and his wife, Esther.

By 1920, the Census shows him living in Los Angeles, downtown on Figueroa Street, and by 1940, in the City Terrace/Boyle Heights area.

“They belonged to the Breed Street Shul,” Lillian said.

Lillian Zacky, the CEO of Zacky Farms.  Photo courtesy of Zacky Farms

To stock his poultry market, he started by going out to what is now the San Fernando Valley, which was hardly inhabited then, yet “had a lot of chicken farms,” said Lillian, today the CEO of Zacky Farms, which now mostly sells turkeys.

During World War II, Sam and family moved out to a ranch in Sherman Oaks on Sherman Way and Haskell Avenue, where they raised chickens and sold eggs.

Lillian met her husband, known as Bob, at Fairfax High School, from which they both graduated. They married in 1956.

In the early 1950s, the business moved to Monterey Park. Around 1955, the year the business was incorporated, Bob expanded his father’s business by taking it into wholesale. He convinced his father to buy a truck, “and that was the beginning,” Lillian said. Soon, they purchased a poultry processing plant in South El Monte.

Lillian started working in the company’s business office part time, and then went full time. In a one-person office, she answered all calls. The business was so small that when callers asked for different accounting departments, “I started changing my voice, and I became accounts receivable, accounts payable, whatever they needed, so it would sound like a bigger business,” she said.

The business grew, distributing throughout California. But with Sam’s death in 1964, Bob and his brother Al took over management. In 1967, they built a chicken hatchery, and in 1971, with the acquisition of a feed mill, their other brother, Harry, along with Hank Frederick and Saul Brand, added expertise to the business.

Then, with Al’s death in 2001, they sold the chicken side of the business to Foster Farms, to help pay off inheritance taxes Al’s son Richard would owe, Lillian said. “It was a very tough decision,” Bob told the Los Angeles Times at the time.

In 2010, Bob Zacky died. In 2012, citing rising feed costs, the business entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy. But at auction in 2013, the Robert T. and Lillian D. Zacky Trust purchased the business, keeping it in the family.   

Today, Zacky Farms is one of the largest players in the turkey business. According to the Zacky Farms website, the company “is a completely integrated poultry grower, processor, distributor and wholesaler, with net sales in excess of $350 million annually.”

At Milken Community Schools, which Lillian’s grandchildren attended, a building bears the family name. One of those grandchildren, Leo Zacky, the fourth generation in the business, has been learning about sales and the turkey-ranching operation, now located largely in the San Joaquin Valley.

“I don’t call it a business. It’s a way of life,” Lillian said. Still passionate about her work, she gives out turkey-cooking tips and, for the last 15 years, has appeared on KTLA on Thanksgiving morning to help viewers with their turkey problems. The most common question: “What temperature to cook the turkey,” she said, adding, “Be sure to cook the turkey breast-side down.” 

Her grandfather had a poultry shop on Brooklyn Avenue in Boyle Heights, and she recalled that there “were a tremendous amount of Jews in the poultry business,” including two major players: Egg City, owned by Julius Goldman, and Norco Ranch, started by Harry Eisen.

Eisen, a Holocaust survivor, began with a backyard operation in Arcadia, then moved to Riverside County in the 1950s and built his business into one of the state’s leading egg producers. In 2000, when he sold the business, customers included Ralphs, Vons, Albertsons, Costco, Trader Joe’s and Jack-in-the-Box. Eisen, who was a contributor with his wife, Hilda, to the building of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, died in 2012 at 95.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Goldman’s Egg City, which was located in Ventura County, produced “2 million eggs a day, laid by 3.5 million hens,” according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. After the Nazis shot his father, Goldman, who was trained as a metallurgist, escaped Germany to Poland, then to Switzerland.

Goldman “pioneered a fully integrated egg production and processing plant that became a benchmark for the world’s egg industry,” the L.A. Times said. Once the “world’s largest egg farm,” Egg City ceased operations in 1993, leasing their production facilities to a competitor.

Not all egg ranches owned by Jews were so jumbo-sized.

Dennis Gura of Santa Monica recalled growing up on the family chicken ranch in Baldwin Park. “We had about 25,000 chickens. It was down the street from the original In-N-Out Burger,” he said.

His parents, Sol and Esther, having saved Sol’s service pay from the Korean War, and wanting to go into business, called on the Los Angeles Jewish Free Loan Society, Gura recalled. “They basically were offered two options for the loans: One would be a liquor store in an urban environment, and the other would be to purchase an egg ranch.” 

Esther Gura feeds the flock. Photo courtesy of Dennis Gura

At the time, the loan association had “Ben Shames, who had trained as an agronomist [and who, in the 1970s, would be executive vice president of Egg City], as a consultant,” said Gura, who works in property management.

They named the business Day-O’-Laid, and to help sell the eggs produced by their flock of 25,000 chickens, “Very early in the game, my uncle had an egg route with a truck with a cackling hen soundtrack,” Gura said.

Similar to the community of Jewish egg ranchers in Petaluma, Calif., in the 1930s, in Baldwin Park and surrounding areas, leftie politics was served up alongside the eggs. A substantial number of the Jewish ranchers were left-wingers, Gura said. Many egg ranchers were also Holocaust survivors, including the Guras’ neighbors, Bernard and Celine Volkas, who were survivors of Auschwitz.

As for Jewish life in the farming community, Gura recalled attending a Kindershule in West Covina, and joining Hashomer Hatzair, a secular Zionist youth group, when he was 9.

In the early 1960s, while holding onto the Baldwin Park ranch, the Guras opened a larger ranch in Norco with around 250,000 chickens. However, with urbanization closing in on the Baldwin Park ranch, the family closed it down in 1964. “Chickens are not good neighbors,” Gura said.

In 1965, with further consolidation in the business, like some of the other Jewish ranchers, the Guras sold the farm in Norco and moved to Los Angeles, where they invested in apartment buildings.

In addition to learning what it meant to be “economically productive,” Gura, who was 12 when his family moved, recalled, “We had eggs with some regularity, so much so that when we moved, I would not eat a cooked egg until I went to college.” 

This year, more Angelenos than ever get Passover aid from local agencies


This year, more than 1,000 Los Angeles families in need received food from organizations that provide assistance specifically for Passover.

During the weeks leading up to the first seder, on April 6, visitors to distribution sites set up by agencies, synagogues and organizations took home essentials for the holiday — wine, grape juice, matzah, gefilte fish, horseradish, eggs and more — so that they could have seders and kosher food for the eight days of the holiday.

Low-income families received assistance from Tomchei Shabbos, Global Kindness, Valley Beth Shalom, JFS/SOVA, the Israeli Leadership Council, the Iranian American Jewish Federation (IAJF) and elsewhere. Social workers from Jewish Family Service, a nonsectarian social service agency, referred many individuals and families in need to food-giving agencies. Tomchei Shabbos, which provides donations of kosher food to Los Angeles Orthodox families weekly, served additional families for Passover.

The majority of recipients this year were people who’ve lost their jobs in the recent recession, including, said Rabbi Yona Landau, executive director of Tomchei Shabbos,  “people who got sick and couldn’t work, people who were abandoned, women who were abandoned by their husbands and they have to care of the family themselves.

“There’s a lot of different cases,” Landau said. “If they didn’t get our food, they wouldn’t have any food.”

Others receiving food assistance for Passover included immigrant families of Persian, Israeli and Russian descent; seniors with disabilities; and some divorcees, all facing major financial challenges, according to Debbie Alden, a board member of Valley Beth Shalom’s Sisterhood and Nouriel Cohen, CFO of Global Kindness. Many of the recipients were formerly volunteers at these agencies and organizations — people who used to be middle-class — but are now reliant on charity.

“We had people who were donating to us a little bit, and now they are asking, which is really sad,” said Shahla Javdan, president of the IAJF.

Because of privacy concerns, no recipient families gave their names for interviews.

On the night of April 2, an elderly woman living in West Hollywood receiving a delivery from two volunteers in their 20s, told of her problems with sciatica. “Not well,” she replied to a volunteer who asked how she was doing as they brought the food into her home.

Tomchei Shabbos volunteers delivered some of the food for Passover to recipients’ homes. Some requested that the food be left at their doorsteps.

Other recipients parked at the curb at Pico Boulevard and Weatherly Drive, the site of the organization’s storefront, waited to receive the boxes filled with produce, which they loaded into the backseats of their minivans and the trunks of their sedans with the help of eager volunteers.

Tomchei boxes were marked with only families’ initials so as not to give away their identities. Valley Beth Shalom’s distributors employed a similar method for their food giveaway.

In the days leading up to Passover, people strapped for cash shopped at Pico-Robertson grocery stores Elat Market and Glatt Mart using food coupons from the IAJF. The stores cooperated with the IAJF, selling $25 and $50 coupons at a 25 percent discount to the IAJF, which then distributed the coupons to community members.

SOVA, a program of Jewish Family Service, differentiated Passover packages for Ashkenazi and Sephardic families. Ashkenazi families received gefilte fish and horseradish, while Sephardic families received rice and dates in addition to matzah ball soup mix, macaroons, eggs, walnuts and matzah.

“They will be able to do a nice seder with what they receive,” Fred Summers, director of operations at JFS/SOVA, said. “Some of the things will last longer than one night, [but] it will probably not be an eight-day supply.

The numbers of those in need might surprise some. JFS/SOVA provided for approximately 700 individuals and families for Passover, according to Summers. Tomchei Shabbos served around 600 families, estimated Landau. VBS distributed 124 boxes filled with Passover items, Global Kindness helped nearly 350 families, the Israeli Leadership Council provided assistance for more than 100 families, and the IAJF distributed between $30,000 and $50,000 in food coupons, Javdan said.

More families requested Passover food this year than in previous years, Javdan, Landau and Cohen all said, and the agencies couldn’t meet all the demand. Despite news reports that the economy is improving and new jobs are being created each month, Cohen said more people are in need this year than ever before. “Not only for Passover, but for other holidays also.”

Israeli court approves harvesting of dead woman’s eggs


In an unprecedented decision, an Israeli court has ruled that the eggs of a deceased woman can be harvested and donated.

The Kfar Saba Family Court on Sunday ruled in favor of the family of a 17-year-old accident victim, allowing the family to remove the eggs of their daughter and freeze them for donation to her aunt, who is infertile, Israel Hayom reported.

It is the first time that a court has allowed egg extraction from a body.

The girl’s organs were transplanted into four other people, saving their lives, Haaretz reported.

The Circuit


A Hungry Mob

It was a moment that the members of Women’s Department of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Business and Professional Division will never forget: a kitchen full of young women learning about and noshing on the Sicilian culinary stylings of chef Henry Hill.

Yes, that Henry Hill — the former Mafioso who entered the FBI’s witness protection program and helped the Feds root out organized crime.

By night’s end, there was red liquid splattered all over the kitchen. Thankfully, it was just leftover marinara sauce on empty plates from quickly devoured homemade Italian delicacies: chicken marsala with mushrooms, grilled eggplant rollatine, piping hot penne pasta — all kosher.

It was slightly surreal to find a former “wiseguy” giving cooking tips to 50 upstanding young Jewish women, mostly in their 30s. But there’s more to the story. Hill — best known for his Howard Stern appearances and being portrayed by Ray Liotta in Martin Scorcese’s “Goodfellas” — has been struggling to put his underworld past behind him. For 2 1/2 years, Hill, 58, has been a Beit T’Shuvah rehab resident, trying to kick his alcoholism. Hill told the room that he was proudly sober, despite a setback 10 months ago in the progress of his recovery.

The evening’s hostess, Janis Black Goldman, generously opened up her Beverly Hills home for this unique experience.

“You can be here for a good cause and meet old and new friends in a comfortable environment,” said Goldman, the daughter of philanthropists Stanley and Joyce Black. Goldman had suggested Hill to the Women’s Department after she had met the ex-mobster at a Beit T’Shuvah Shabbat event, where she enjoyed a firsthand encounter with his formidable cooking prowess.

“He’s someone in recovery that made a success in his life,” said Goldman’s sister, Jill Zalben. “People today want to see that. He’s teaching us that we can have a life and you can move on.”

Hill told The Circuit of cooking’s therapeutic nature. “It relaxes me where a psychiatrist doesn’t excite me.” His cookbook will be released by Penguin Books in October.

Hill and The Circuit notwithstanding, there was only one other XY-chromosomed guest present — Black family friend Jono Kohan.

Kohan himself comes from a Jewishly active family. His mother, the lively Rhea Kohan, emcees Jewish galas with her dazzling wit. His brother, David Kohan, co-created NBC’s hit sitcom, “Will & Grace.”

“There’s a lot of female energy in the room tonight. I find it very positive to be around,” said Kohan, obviously enjoying this most fortuitous male-to-female ratio.

Also contributing to that female energy: Michele Sackheim, division chair; Harriet Rossetto, Beit T’Shuvah director; Laurie Konhiem, The Federation’s Women’s Campaign chair; Sharon Janks, vice chair liaison; outreach committee members Cynthia Baseman, Andrea Corsun, Sara Essner, Marilyn Sonners, Galia Nitzan and Barbara Zolla; Bobbi Asimow, Women’s Campaign director, and Jody Moss, Women’s Campaign professional staff.

“I couldn’t have done this event without Henry,” said Greer Sanders, division outreach chair. “He planned the whole thing from soup to nuts.”From salad to spumoni is more like it. But you get the picture.

For information on Women’s Business and Professional Division, which will hold its annual banquet at the Four Seasons on May 8, call (323) 761-8275.

Helping Hands

More than 500 people honored Abraham Spiegel and Fred Kort at the American Society for Yad Vashem’s first West Coast Tribute Dinner at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills. For more than 30 years, Spiegel has been instrumental in helping expand Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the world’s leading Holocaust artifact repository and research center. Holocaust survivor Kort has also contributed greatly to Yad Vashem’s cause. The evening, where “The Young and the Restless” star Eric Braeden was master of ceremonies, featured a message from Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Omert and raised nearly $500,000 for Yad Vashem.

A Dozen Good Eggs

Twelve University of Judaism second-year students took part of the Sid B. Levine Service Learning Program over winter break, working with the elderly, the homeless, the disabled and adults with autism.

A Taste of the Best

Journal food writers Judy Zeidler and Judy Bart Kancigor signed their cookbooks at the delectable Food Fare, sponsored by Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. Fifty of Los Angeles’ best chefs, restaurants, caterers and wineries gave out tasty samplings of their work, while everything from cookbooks, personal trainers and symphony tickets were bid on during a silent auction. Organizers said that the annual fundraiser, which took place in the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, raised more than the $400,000 the event brought in last year.

Generation to Generation

Second-generation Holocaust survivor Ricci Zuckerman visited the students of Hebrew Academy High School in Huntington Beach. The Second Generation group founder responded to an invitation by the school’s Jewish history teacher Helen Kern.

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