Thanksgiving: Vegan and vegetarian dishes


In some ways, I’m pretty traditional when it comes to my family’s Thanksgiving Day meal: I like to plan a lot of old-fashioned farmhouse food for the holiday. 

Who doesn’t enjoy a handsome bronzed turkey with lots of stuffing, an appealing array of relishes and a lavish dessert buffet? We pour apple cider for the children, a robust red wine for the grown-ups, and catch up on all the news while enjoying our family feast. 

It should be noted, though, that not everyone is interested in the traditional turkey. Quite a few guests these days are either vegetarian or vegan, and so we always try to have a menu that will fill their plates and satisfy their appetites. That is why the side dishes are so important.

Our Thanksgiving dinner will begin with bowls of Butternut Squash Soup, garnished with my homemade salsa and served with toasted pumpkin bread. My vegan grandson, Zane, loves my Carrot-Parsnip Slaw so much he can almost eat the whole batch, so it will definitely be on our Thanksgiving menu in a double portion.

It’s never a bad idea to serve a seasonal veggie, and  because there is always a colorful selection of squash at the local farmers market, it offers the perfect solution. Just cut it into cubes and sauté with onions and tomatoes. For my husband, Marvin, it is his favorite holiday dish.

For dessert this year, I will give our daughter-in-law, Amy, the baker in our family, a recipe for a Vegan Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake to make. I also hope to surprise everyone with scoops of homemade Nondairy Coconut Gelato to serve on the side — and offer them one more reason to give thanks!

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

  • Salsa (recipe follows)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted margarine, melted
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces (about 6 cups) 
  • 5 cups vegetable stock or broth
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced and mashed with 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1/3 cup finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Prepare Salsa. Set aside.

In a small stock pot, mix oil and margarine. Add onion and cook until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add squash and stock. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the squash is tender when pierced with the tip of a small sharp knife.

Transfer the cooked squash and broth to a food processor or blender and puree in batches. Return the mixture to the pot and stir in the mashed garlic and ginger. Simmer briefly and stir in parsley. Taste and correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Garnish with Salsa.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

SALSA

  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced 
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced 
  • 1/2 to 1 cup minced fresh cilantro 
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice 
  • Salt to taste

 

In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, red onion and cilantro and mix well.  Add lemon juice and salt to taste.  

Makes about 3 cups.

CARROT-PARSNIP SLAW

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise (or vegan substitute)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 
  • 10 medium carrots, peeled and grated
  • 4 medium parsnips, peeled and grated
  • 1/3 cup raisins, plumped in grape juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice and sugar and blend well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

In a large bowl, toss the carrots, parsnips and raisins. Add the mayonnaise mixture and toss until completely combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

FARMERS MARKET SAUTEED SQUASH

  • 3 pounds assorted squash (zucchini, yellow neck, summer squash)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

 

Cut squash into 1/2-inch cubes. In a frying pan, add oil and sauté onion until soft. Add squash, tomato and basil, and continue to sauté until desired texture, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, transfer to a heated bowl. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

NONDAIRY COCONUT GELATO

  • 2 (13- to 15-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup, honey or sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

 

Shake the cans of coconut milk thoroughly to incorporate the layers that form in the can. Pour 1/2 cup of coconut milk into a medium saucepan over low to warm heat. Add the cornstarch and whisk until the cornstarch is thoroughly dissolved.

Pour the remaining coconut milk into a large pot, add maple syrup and salt, and warm the coconut milk on medium-low heat, stirring until the maple syrup completely dissolves, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Pour the cornstarch mixture into the warm coconut milk while whisking gently. Heat until the gelato mixture is thick. Pour into a large bowl, and mix in the vanilla extract. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Pour the mixture into the canister of an ice cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. 

Makes about 6 cups.

VEGAN PUMPKIN SPICE BUNDT CAKE WITH MAPLE GLAZE

  • Maple Glaze (recipe follows)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (15-ounce) can solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar

 

Prepare Maple Glaze. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Oil and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugars, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, coconut oil, almond milk, vanilla extract and vinegar. Add to dry ingredients, whisking just until combined.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then turn out on a wire rack to cool.

Drizzle Maple Glaze over completely cooled cake and let set for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

MAPLE GLAZE

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Up to 2 teaspoons cold water

 

Whisk together powdered sugar, maple syrup, coconut oil and cinnamon. If it is too thick to drizzle over the cake, add 1/2 teaspoon cold water at a time.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com

How to make perfect matzah balls [VIDEO]


The tips in the video can be used with any recipe. However, if you’d like to include a Matzo Ball recipe, I’ve included one below:

Ingredients:

6 Eggs
1 cup Oil
1 cup Water
½ tsp Baking Powder
1 pinch Salt and Pepper
18 oz (or 500 gram) fine Matzo Meal

Directions:

1. Mix all the ingredients with a fork. Adding the matzo meal gradually until the mixture is thick but not too hard. Add more matzo meal if too soft.
2. Let harden in fridge for an hour.
3. With wet hands form into about 60 balls and drop into boiling water or boiling soup. Boil for 15 min.

Visit CookKosher.com for more kosher recipes.  Rate and review the matzah ball recipe here.
http://www.cookkosher.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=392&Itemid=2.

Judy and Julia


The movie “Julie and Julia” brought back great memories of how I met Julia Child in 1978 and how it resulted in adapting her bouillabaisse recipe for a kosher kitchen.

I had just finished writing my first group of paperback cookbooks for Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and The Farmers Market when I received notice that Julia Child was giving a cooking demonstration and book signing in La Jolla to benefit the University of California San Diego Medical Center. It was one of many charity events where Julia donated her time and expertise.

I was fortunate to meet her at the beginning of the session and explained that I was having fun converting her recipes to conform to a kosher home, especially her bouillabaisse recipe, which always includes shellfish. I also mentioned that I often make her Bouillabaisse de Poulet (Chicken Poached in White Wine With Provençal Vegetables). She thought that was “just marvelous” and insisted that I meet a friend of hers who wrote about Jewish foods. 

After she finished teaching the class, we met again when I was in line to have her autograph a cookbook for me. Julia remembered the conversation that we’d had earlier in the day, and she wrote the following: “Bon Appétit to Judy who will make all of this […] kosher! Julia Child.”

A year later, she donated a cooking class to Planned Parenthood in Los Angeles. She contacted me to make sure I was attending and asked if I would assist her. Of course, I was delighted. 

I later visited her in Santa Barbara and even joined her for lunch at La Super Rica, her favorite Mexican restaurant. Many years later, I was her guest at the 80th birthday party that chef Michel Richard gave in her honor at Citrus restaurant. It was lovely sitting next to her as we reminisced about our first meeting. I still have the photo taken when we first met and the apron and champagne glasses that were made to commemorate her birthday event.

I think it was Julia Child who inspired me to write my first Jewish cookbook, “The Gourmet Jewish Cook,” and I am happy to share one of her recipes that I adapted for my book — the seafood Bouillabaisse With Rouille, which I dedicated to her. 

Thank you, Julia. 

Bouillabaisse with Rouille (Fish Stew With Garlic Sauce)

How can you make bouillabaisse in a kosher kitchen? It’s easy — just don’t use shellfish, swordfish or any other non-kosher seafood. And follow this recipe.
This stew is ideal for a large group. Just use a larger pot and double or triple the recipe. The Rouille — I give a choice here of a classic version and one featuring fresh basil — adds an extra piquant taste.
I remember the first time I met Julia Child and explained how I began with her bouillabaisse recipe and made the necessary changes for kosher requirements.  She was delighted at the idea and spoke of it whenever we met.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 leeks, thinly sliced, with greens
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 celery stalks, sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, or 3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
3 to 4 cups dry white wine
Pinch of saffron (optional)
5 cups fish stock
3 to 4 pounds white firm-fleshed fish fillets (such as halibut, whitefish or sea bass), cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
2 or 3 potatoes, peeled, diced and parboiled
salt
freshly ground black pepper
Tabasco sauce
2 large carrots, cut into julienne, parboiled and drained
Rouille (recipes follow)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onions, leeks and garlic until tender but not yet browned, about 5 minutes. Add the celery and carrots; simmer for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, fennel seeds, bay leaves and 3 to 4 cups of the wine. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Add the saffron and fish stock. Simmer for 1 hour.
Add the fish and potatoes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Tabasco. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through; do not overcook. Ladle into hot soup bowls and garnish with the julienned carrots. Let guests add Rouille to taste.

Classic Rouille

4 garlic cloves
1/2 roasted red bell pepper
2 slices white bread, crusts trimmed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
4 to 5 drops Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 to 1 cup fish stock

In a processor or blender, process the garlic, bell pepper, bread, tomato paste, paprika, Tabasco, olive oil and 1/2 cup fish stock, turning the machine on and off for 5 seconds. Then continue processing 10 seconds to make a smooth paste. Add additional fish stock if needed.

Fresh Basil Rouille

6 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
12 large, fresh basil leaves
1 roasted red bell pepper
1/2 cup fresh white bread, lightly packed
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups olive oil
2 or 3 drops of Tabasco sauce

In a processor or blender, blend the garlic, salt and basil. Add the bell pepper, bread and egg yolk. Add the olive oil in a thin stream until the sauce is thick. Season to taste with Tabasco. This sauce can be prepared a day or two in advance, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature and beat with a fork before serving.

Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (Morrow, 1999) and “Judy Zeidler’s International Deli Cookbook” (Chronicle, 1994). “Judy’s Kitchen” appears on Jewish Life Television. Her Web site is judyzeidler.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.”

Is the pomegranate the perfect fruit?


While most Jews associate apples and bread dipped in honey with the New Year, pomegranates are considered one of the most spiritual fruits of the holiday. In addition to its many culinary delights, the pomegranate is reported to have many health benefits. Called pomum granatum by the Romans, or seeded apple, the pomegranate is one of the oldest and most beloved fruits, and some believe it was the “apple” in the Garden of Eden. Many considered it a symbol of fertility, but during Rosh Hashanah we eat pomegranates as a reminder to perform acts of good deeds. Jewish tradition says that it contains 613 seeds, the same number of laws that Jews are commanded to obey.

In Muslim tradition, Mohammed said, “Eat the pomegranate, for it purges the system of envy and hatred.”

The pomegranate has always decorated our holiday table, and last year I made a centerpiece using this colorful, regal fruit. But this year it will become part of our Rosh Hashanah dinner and to that end, I’ve created several new recipes using the seeds and juice to serve during the Jewish New Year celebration.

Pomegranates originated in Persia and in the Himalayas in northern India and were cultivated throughout the Mediterranean region as well as in China. The first pomegranate trees in California were planted by the Spanish in 1769, and the Southland’s cool winters and hot summers are the perfect conditions for the fleshy red fruit. Your neighbors might even have a tree in their backyard.

When I see pyramids of pomegranates displayed in a market it’s difficult to deny them space in my shopping cart. Buy them at your local farmers market when they are in season since they keep for several weeks in a refrigerator.

In my home it’s customary to save several pomegranates for our grandchildren to help prepare when they arrive for dinner. Their task is to peel away the outer skin, find the seeds and count them before they are served with the meal.

To peel the pomegranate, gently score the leather-like skin into quarters, and then place the entire pomegranate in a large bowl filled with water. Keeping your hands under the water, gently pull off the skin and remove the seeds, which will fall to the bottom. Carefully drain the water, discard the outer skin and fibers, and dry the seeds.

We begin our Rosh Hashanah dinner with an antipasti of salads. Start with Hummus With Pomegranate Seeds, a delicious, creamy mixture of pureed chickpeas and sesame seed paste flavored with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, served with challah, pita bread, fresh vegetables or sliced jicama. Include a Cabbage-Carrot Slaw With Pomegranate Seeds served on a bed of thinly sliced romaine lettuce and topped with a generous amount of pomegranate seeds. Both salads are tasty and colorful and take minutes to prepare with the help of a food processor.

The main course is Roasted Lamb Shanks With Pomegranate Sauce, which tastes even better the next day and can be prepared in advance. Simply reheat and serve with noodles and your favorite vegetables.

For a refreshing dessert, prepare homemade non-dairy Pomegranate and Lime Sorbet and serve it with Pomegranate Jelly-Filled Cookies that are rolled in nuts, baked and filled with a dollop of pomegranate jelly.

Hummus With Pomegranate Seeds

l can (15 ounce) garbanzo beans, with liquid
1 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
1/2 cup lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup olive oil
6 fresh parsley sprigs, stemmed
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
Pomegranate seeds for garnish

Place the garbanzo beans in a processor or blender and process until coarsely pureed.
Add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and cumin; process until smooth. Continue processing, adding olive oil in a steady stream until well blended. Blend in the parsley leaves and l teaspoon of salt. Add additional salt to taste. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.
Makes about 3 cups.

Roasted Lamb Shanks With Pomegranate Sauce

8 lamb shanks, cut in half crosswise
1/2 cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
4 carrots, thinly sliced
1 (16-ounce) can whole or chopped tomatoes
2 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 (16-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 1/2 to 3 cups pomegranate juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup minced parsley
6 sprigs of fresh rosemary or 1 tablespoon dried

In a large roaster, heat the oil and sauté garlic and onions until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, tomatoes, tomato sauce and pomegranate juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
Place the lamb over the vegetables; sprinkle with parsley and rosemary and baste lamb. Bring to a boil and bake at 375 F for two and a half to three hours, or until tender. Remove fat that forms on top and discard. Transfer sauce to a saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer until sauce is thick.
Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Pomegranate and Lime Sorbet

1 cup sugar
2 cups pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons strained fresh lime juice

In a small saucepan combine the sugar and 1 1/2 cups water, bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved, and simmer the syrup for five minutes. Transfer to a large glass measuring cup, cool and chill, covered for two hours.
Remove the syrup from refrigerator and stir in the pomegranate and lime juice.
Freeze in an ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s instructions until it is almost frozen. Transfer to ice cream containers and freeze until ready to serve. Serve sorbet in scoops, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.
Makes about 1 quart.

The sweet rewards of Rosh Hashanah rituals


The change was subtle but undeniable. A slightly deeper shade of brown; carrots cut lengthwise rather than sliced; some scattered sprigs of rosemary. Any other day of the year, such a discrete rift in recipe might have gone unnoticed. But this was not any other day of the year — this was Rosh Hashanah.

“What’s up with the brisket, Grandma?” my preteen son asked, echoing my suspicions that bubbe’s famous brisket — the eternal pillar of my family’s High Holy Day feasts — had undergone an unprecedented facelift.

“I thought I’d try something a little different this year,” answered my mother (who had recently been possessed by Rachael Ray).

“But I like the old brisket,” said my younger son.

“Me, too!” agreed my daughter.

“Oh, no. Not the brisket!” added the eldest of my grumbling foursome.

“Shh, I’m sure it’s delicious,” I said, trying to mask my own disappointment in the demise of the dish of honor.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that my kids and I didn’t appreciate the wonderful meal my mother had prepared. (We did.) And it’s not that the updated version of bubbe’s famous recipe wasn’t a legitimate improvement over the original. (It was.) It’s just that it didn’t matter whether Ray herself had prepared that brisket — it wasn’t about taste at all.

In fact, prior to that particular evening, my children had scarcely given our traditional Rosh Hashanah brisket a second thought. It was not until it went MIA — and was suddenly replaced with a swankier roast — that my kids came to appreciate its significance in their lives.

Please! You may be thinking. How can you possibly suggest that a brisket could have a significant impact on someone’s life?

But it wasn’t just any old brisket; it was bubbe’s famous brisket. The same unwavering recipe that had accompanied my family’s Jewish New Year for as long as my children could remember — for as long as I could remember. In the predictable presence of bubbe’s brisket on our Rosh Hashanah table, my children found steady ground; a sturdy link between their past, present and future; and a safety net woven out of knowing where they have been and where they are going.

No, I’m not being melodramatic. Oodles of experts believe that it is in the simple repetitions of life — not in the grand black-tie affairs — that our children find the stability and continuity they need to thrive in an unpredictable world. That it is ritual and tradition — not kiddie stress management seminars or pint-sized yoga classes — that build a vital sense of emotional security in our kids.

Of course, if you asked Tevyeh the Milkman of “Fiddler on the Roof” fame, the power of tradition is not breaking news. Yet, in our rocket-paced, technology-based, achievement-driven, media-ridden society, the presence of family rituals in our children’s lives may be more integral to their emotional well-being than ever before.

Fortunately, Jewish life is positively bursting at the seams with ritual opportunity for modern parents: lighting the Chanukah candles, welcoming Elijah to our seder table, eating challah on Shabbat — all these experiences fill our children’s lives with spirituality, security and predictability. Yet the defining rituals of the Jewish New Year play an especially vital role in our children’s overall well-being, as they also carry meaningful symbolism and essential life lessons. What follows are a few of our rich Rosh Hashanah traditions and the ways they strengthen and prepare our children for the coming year — and far beyond.

10 New Traditions for the New Year

To help ensure your family enjoys all the sweet rewards of the Jewish New Year (while simultaneously taking advantage of the bountiful benefits of family rituals), here are some outside-of-the-box, ripe-for-the-picking Rosh Hashanah traditions:

  1. Visit a paint-it-yourself ceramic shop and decorate Kiddush cups, apple plates or honey bowls together.
  2. Put together baskets of apples, honey, raisins and other sweet treats, and deliver them as a family to a hospital or nursing home.
  3. Give the world a birthday present by planting a tree. (You’ll have a whole Rosh Hashanah grove before long!)
  4. Let your kids design your Rosh Hashanah tablecloths, placemats and challah covers using fabric crayons or markers. (Hint: for younger children, try cutting an apple on its side to reveal a star in the middle, dip the fruit in fabric paint and let your little stars stamp away.)
  5. Take a Rosh Hashanah family nature hike. Sit down in a shady spot and have everyone share what he or she appreciates about one another.
  6. Go apple picking. Use your haul to make Rosh Hashanah apple cakes, kugels and other goodies.
  7. Have a shofar-blowing showdown.
  8. Gather family pictures from the past year and work together to create a “year-in-review” collage.
  9. After lighting the Rosh Hashanah candles, join hands and let everyone share hopes and dreams for the coming year.
  10. Leave Hershey Kisses on your children’s pillows every erev Rosh Hashanah along with a note wishing them a sweet New Year.

This article originally appeared in the World Jewish Digest.

Sharon Duke Estroff is an internationally syndicated parenting columnist, award-winning Jewish educator and mother of four. Her book, “Can I Have a Cell Phone for Hanukkah? is now available for preorder on www.Amazon.com and will be released by Broadway Books this October. www.sharonestroff.com.

Interfaith dialogue continues locally despite Hathout brouhaha; Sukkot huts inspires home building


Interfaith dialogue continues locally despite Hathout brouhaha
 
After the brouhaha surrounding Maher Hathout, the Muslim spokesman who received a human relations prize last month amid protests by some Jewish groups, the state of interfaith relations in Los Angeles may appear to be at a low point.
 
But in fact, that is not the case, as evidenced last week, when Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Bahá’í­s and more gathered at Sinai Temple for a dinner honoring Rabbi Paul Dubin, one of the founders of the Interreligious Council of Southern California.Interfaith dialogue is “at a high point,” said Dubin, 81, seated at a small, round table during the evening’s cocktail hour. “Fifty years ago, interfaith relations really consisted of (conversations between) Christians and Jews. Today, we have more than 10 faith groups in this Interreligious Council,” said Dubin, who helped create the council nearly 40 years ago.
 
Nearby, two Hindu monks wrapped in orange cloth, representing “the fire of the spirit,” huddled together. A Catholic priest, dressed in black with the traditional white collar, greeted a Buddhist in a brown robe and jade prayer beads.
 
A Sikh wearing a white gown and turban surveyed the room with satisfaction. “People need to see us like this more — doing things together,” she said.
 
During dinner, Jihad Turk, vice president of the Interreligious Council, sat beside a Holocaust survivor, discussing ways to deal with extremist elements within religious communities. “My father is Palestinian, and my name is Jihad,” Turk said. Nevertheless, he has come to realize that “Islam and Judiasm share so much in common. We truly are close kin.”

At another table, in between bites of salmon, sweet potato and asparagus, an Episcopal priest was talking about a trip he had taken to Israel with Jews, Christians and Muslims. Across from him, the Rev. Albert Cohen, a delegate to the council who represents Protestant churches, explained why the board decided to honor Dubin.
 
“We wanted to have a dinner, and we wanted to build it around the person we loved the most,” Cohen said. “Rabbi Dubin relates to everybody.”
 
“In our religion,” chimed in Dr. Jerome Lipin, a Jewish pediatrician, “we’d call him a mensch.”
 
As dessert arrived, Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector of the University of Judaism, gave the keynote address.
 
“If we believe each of our religions is true, then how is it that all the other religions aren’t false?” he asked.
 
Dorff suggested a few ways we might believe in our own religion without negating others.
 
Humans are not omniscient, so we can recognize that our own knowledge is limited, he said. Also, if we all were intended to have the same views, then we would have been created the same. The fact that each of us is unique suggests that every one of us has an element of the sacred within.
 
Next, Dubin took the spotlight.
 
“I want to tell you why I have felt so strongly about participating in interfaith meetings and dialogues,” Dubin said. “It can be summed up in one word: pluralism. By pluralism, I mean not the toleration of another faith — I hate that word, ‘toleration’ — I mean respect and acceptance.”
 
After a standing ovation, the Rev. Gwynne Guibord, president of the Interreligious Council, announced, “Our time has ended. Go in peace.”
 
The guests dispersed into the halls of the temple. Some visitors peeked into rooms, hoping to get a glimpse of the main sanctuary.

“This is quite the place,” one said on his way out into the chilly night.
 
— Sarah Price Brown, Contributing Writer
 
Sukkot huts inspires home building for homeless
 
While many Los Angeles Jews commemorated the second day of Sukkot by eating outside in their temporary dwelling created just for the holiday, Wilshire Boulevard Temple members took the edict of the holiday even further.
 
On Oct. 8, some 300 members — adults and children — at the temple’s two locations partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles to help build real dwellings for low-income families.
 
Adults helped build housing frames, which will be used in the homes of “partner” or low-income families. The children sewed 400 pillows and made 400 welcome home signs. The congregants put together 800 outreach kits for PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) and they fed 140 families at the temple’s food pantry.
 
“The Festival of Sukkot commemorates the temporary shelter Jewish ancestors lived in during their years of wandering in the desert and represents the building of shelter,” said Rabbi Stephen Julius Stein of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in a press release. This first-time partnership between Wilshire Boulevard Temple and Habitat “helps to raise awareness and support of the need for affordable housing for local families.”
 
Habitat strives to eliminate poverty housing through advocacy, education and partnership with families in need to build simple, decent, affordable housing. Since 1990, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles has built more than 180 homes, transforming the lives of hundreds of individuals. In the fall of 2007, the organization will host the Jimmy Carter Work Project, Habitat for Humanity International’s preeminent event. The project will bring Carter, his wife, Rosalynn, and thousands of volunteers from around the world to Los Angeles to help build or renovate 100 homes.
 
“It was a very productive day as regards to Tikkun Olam at Wilshire Boulevard Temple,” Stein said.
 
For more information, visit www.habitatla.org.
 
— Amy Klein, Religion Editor

Shop for a breast cancer cure
 
With Breast Cancer Awareness Month in full swing, M”&”Ms, KitchenAid appliances and Coach key chains have consumers seeing pink. Mattel has launched a new Pink Ribbon Barbie as a way for adults to talk with kids about the disease. Dyson is featuring a limited-edition pink vacuum cleaner and Seagate has jumped on the Susan G. Komen Foundation bandwagon with a pink external 6 gigabyte hard drive.
 
Locally, the newly opened Nordstrom at Westfield Topanga will feature Fit for the Cure, a special bra-fitting event on Oct. 21. Wacoal will donate $2 every time someone gets fit for a bra, as well as an additional $2 for each Wacoal, DKNY Underwear or Donna Karan Intimates bra purchased during the event. Also, Vons and Pavilions stores are hoping to help generate $6 million as part of Safeway’s fifth annual Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, with proceeds from sales of pink ribbon pins and pink wristbands at checkstands going to services for patients and research. The grocers will also donate funds from purchases of specially marked products, and are making a free download of Melissa Etheridge’s song, “I Run for Life,” available to its customers.
 
Other retailers running special sales promotions include Aveda, Lady Foot Locker, Payless ShoeSource, Target and Bed Bath & Beyond.
 
— Adam Wills, Associate Editor

Shopping for Jews? Clean Up on Aisle 5


Anyone who walked into Albertsons in Los Altos on a recent Sunday would have run right into Margie Pomerantz’s Passover table.

There she sat, next to the kosher food display right inside the supermarket’s front entrance. A big handwritten sign reading “Passover in the Aisles” hung down from her table, on which lay piles of Passover recipe books, haggadahs and other holiday resources.

Pomerantz and her fellow volunteers from Congregation Beth David, a nearby Conservative synagogue, were out looking for Jews. In a supermarket. Unaffiliated Jews, if possible, but they weren’t being picky.

They handed out information and collected names. Someone from the synagogue will call later with an invitation to a Shabbat service or other Jewish program.

Scenes like this, with a nonaggressive method of doing outreach, are being repeated across the United States this week and next, in dozens of communities.

It’s all part of Passover in the Aisles, an initiative conceived of by the Jewish Outreach Institute (JOI).

Some Jewish groups have been doing this kind of outreach for a decade or more, but the biggest push seems to have come in the past three to five years.

It is based on the idea of “public space Judaism” — taking programs out to where people are instead of waiting for them to walk into a synagogue or JCC.

“If we wait for people to come to programs within the four walls of our communal institutions, we’ll be waiting a long time,” says Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, executive director of the JOI, which provides guidance for such programs.

Passover is a particularly good time for this kind of outreach, Olitzky says, both because it is one of the most widely celebrated holidays among all Jews, even the unaffiliated, and because it requires people to go to the grocery store to buy matzah and other Passover products.

Olitzky says his outreach model has a lot in common with Chabad’s street outreach, which he admires. But he says, what “makes ours different is we are less intrusive, less discriminating. We don’t ask, are you Jewish?”

“It’s important that Judaism be shared passionately in public spaces,” Olitzky says. “That’s what Chabad does, and that’s what we do.”

Beth David’s assistant rabbi, Aaron Schonbrun, went to a JOI conference last year and says he was astounded at the concept of liberal Jews doing this kind of outreach. It wasn’t what he learned in rabbinical seminary.

“We learned at the conference that you can’t expect people to just write that check to the federation, especially not my generation,” the 29-year-old rabbi says. “We talked about how to engage Jews in Judaism, not Reform or Conservative or Orthodox, but Judaism.”

This is the second year Beth David has done Passover in the Aisles. By 3 p.m. on Sunday, after three hours in the store, there are just nine cards filled out at the Los Altos Albertsons, an hour south of San Francisco. But the volunteers have talked to dozens of shoppers.

One young woman who filled out a card was Galit Azulay, newly arrived from Israel with her husband, who is studying for his doctorate in the area.

“We’re here to buy food for the seder,” she says, adding that the couple aren’t affiliated and don’t plan to be.

She didn’t pick up any of the information, but entered the raffle for a seder plate.

Carol Greenberg also stopped by the table. A member of a local Reform congregation, she congratulated the Beth David volunteers on their outreach efforts. “I’m so excited to see you here,” she exclaims. Greenberg picked up a copy of their recipe book.

“I find that congregations’ recipes are much better than books,” she says. She also took one of the children’s haggadahs, which she plans to give to her newborn niece. “It’ll be a nice gift from her aunt, her first haggadah.”

Store manager Aide Garcia says she couldn’t be happier to host the event. “It increases our business a lot,” she confides. “It’s a way to promote our kosher food.”

The JCC in Columbus, Ohio did its first Passover outreach in a Wild Oats supermarket in 2003. They chose a new neighborhood in the northwest part of the city, an area where young, professional Jews have been moving, to improve their chances of reaching the unaffiliated.

“In the core community, we have an affiliation rate of 90 percent, versus 20 percent in the northwest, where most of the growth is happening,” says Lindsay Folkerth, outreach director for the JCC’s J-Link project. J-Link is a community outreach program created two years ago by the local federation following a demographic study of the Columbus Jewish community by JOI.

Seattle Rabbi Dov Gartenberg says his congregants “thought it was a little strange” when he set up a Passover outreach table in a local supermarket more than 10 years ago. That was before he heard about the JOI program.

He now runs food booths at a Whole Foods store before Passover and Rosh Hashanah, and has teamed up with a popular local chef to offer tastes of Jewish holiday foods. This month they’re offering a different charoset each week, along with recipes.

Gartenberg uses the tastings as a teaching opportunity. “As they taste, I say, this is what this food symbolizes, and it becomes a basis for conversation.”

 

PASSOVER FOOD: Treats to Leaven Desire for Dessert


Passover desserts are a challenge to the cook because so many ingredients are forbidden, among them flour, grain, cornstarch, baking powder or baking soda. So we substitute matzah meal, potato starch and versatile fresh egg whites to bake all of those traditional favorites — and lots of new ones, too.

The good news is that it is not difficult — all of these carefully tested delicacies are fairly simple to prepare and will be a welcome addition to your seder dinner, as well as for family meals during Passover.

For all the chocolate lovers, the food processor Cocoa-Pecan Cookies will become a favorite. Just prepare the dough and have the children or grandchildren help by dropping them by the spoonful onto the baking sheets. The batter can be kept in the refrigerator and a fresh batch of cookies can be baked each day.

Something new for the holiday, use the charoset ingredients to make a Passover Fruit Cake filled with nuts and dried fruit that offers a tasty and a crunchy treat. It is similar to the Italian delicacy known as Panforte that originated in Sienna. The mixture is tossed together in a large bowl, spooned into parchment-lined baking pans, and baked for an hour and a half. The good news is that these loaves will easily keep for the eight days of the holiday.

During Passover last year we were invited to the home of Alice and Nahum Lainer, who love to entertain. Alice served a delicious Apricot Torte, and I persuaded her to share her recipe for this wonderful pastry. Because some Jewish households do not use matzah meal or cake meal, the combination of egg whites, apricot puree, spices and a topping of apricot jam make an ideal dessert. It is the perfect after-dinner pastry to serve your guests, accompanied by a glass of sweet wine or hot tea.

For another sweet treat, pass a plate of Rocky Road Clusters, everyone’s favorite. They are made with only three ingredients, chocolate, marshmallows and pecans. Simply melt the chocolate, add marshmallows and nuts, and fill small paper cups with the mixture. This is another great project to do with the children.

Bring a platter of the Cocoa Pecan Cookies or Rocky Road Clusters as an edible gift to share with friends and family at the Passover seder meal.

Alice’s Apricot Torte

1 1/2 cups blanched whole almonds, plus 1/4 cup sliced for garnish
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter or nondairy margarine for pan (one-quarter)
1 cup sugar, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups diced dried apricots
Zest and juice of 1 small lemon
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
8 large eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup apricot jam
Passover powdered sugar (recipe follows, optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Place whole nuts in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet and sliced nuts in a single layer on another baking sheet. Toast nuts until golden and aromatic, five to eight minutes. Shake the pans halfway through toasting to make sure nuts brown evenly. Set aside to cool.

Brush a 10-inch spring form pan with melted butter or margarine, sprinkle with sugar and tap out excess. Set aside.

Place 1/4 cup sugar, whole almonds and apricots in the bowl of a food processor; process until finely chopped, one to two minutes. Add lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and pulse to blend. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. Transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites with salt and lemon juice until frothy. Slowly add 1/4 cup sugar, and continue whisking until peaks are stiff but not dry. Fold beaten whites into egg yolks. Add apricot and almond mixture, and fold in until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake for about 50 to 60 minutes, until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. If necessary, cover torte lightly with foil to avoid burning. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the torte, and release from pan. Allow to cool completely on wire rack.

Place apricot jam in a small saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and strain. Brush onto cooked torte. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and powdered sugar.

Makes one 10-inch torte.

Passover Powdered Sugar

1 tablespoon Passover potato starch
1 cup sugar

In the bowl of a food processor, combine potato starch and sugar. Process until very powdery and resembles powdered sugar, about two minutes. Let sugar settle for about one minute before removing processor cover.

Makes about 1 cup.

Passover Fruit Cake

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter or nondairy margarine
2 cups pitted dates, thinly sliced
2 cups dried apricots, quartered
1 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 cups toasted whole almonds
1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts pieces
3/4 cup coarsely chopped semi-sweet chocolate, optional
3/4 cup matzah cake meal
1 tablespoon potato starch
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla or orange juice

Heat the oven to 300 F. Brush one (5-by-9 inch) loaf pan or two (3-by-7 inch) loaf pans with melted unsalted butter or non-dairy margarine and line with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dates, apricots, raisins, almonds, walnuts and chocolate, if using. Combine the matzah cake meal, potato starch and sugar and mix well. Add to fruit mixture and mix evenly. Beat eggs and vanilla to blend. Using a rubber spatula or hands, stir into fruit mixture until well blended. Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan and spread evenly, press into corners of pan.

Bake until golden brown, about 1 1/2 hours. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes, then turn out of pan. Peel off paper and let cool on rack.

Wrap in plastic wrap and foil. Chill at least one day or up to two months. To serve, place cake on a wooden board, and using a sharp knife, cut in thin slices.

Cocoa-Pecan Cookies

1 1/2 cups toasted chopped pecans
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup matzah cake meal
1/4 cup potato starch
5 large egg whites
1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped semisweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine pecans, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, cocoa powder, matzah cake meal and potato starch in a food processor and pulse on and off until nuts are finely grated. Add 1/2 cup of egg whites and pulse to blend.

Transfer batter to a large bowl and stir in the nuts and chocolate. In a separate bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the remaining egg whites until soft peaks form, add the remaining sugar and beat until a stiff meringue forms. Using a rubber spatula, mix half of the meringue into the pecan/chocolate mixture and then fold in the remaining meringue.

Drop batter by well-rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets, leaving 1 inch between cookies.

Bake for eight minutes. Cookies should be dull, but very soft. If not dull, bake for one more minute. Transfer parchment to a rack to cool, before removing.

Makes about two- or three-dozen cookies.

Rocky Road Clusters

1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
1 cup miniature marshmallows or large marshmallows cut in quarters
1/2 pound semisweet chocolate, melted

Place small paper candy cups on top of a large tray and set aside.

In a large bowl, toss pecans and marshmallows together. Add melted chocolate and mix well. Spoon chocolate mixture into the candy cups and refrigerate for several hours until firm. Store in refrigerator.

Makes about 24.

 

Holiday Celebration of Arts and Eats


The year-to-year tradition of celebrating Chanukah doesn’t change at our home. It always includes lighting candles, playing dreidel, eating latkes and having the children open gifts. But, the highlight of Chanukah for me is having all of our family together at the same time. It is one of the few holidays when our children and grandchildren arrive from everywhere, so we can celebrate and spend time with each other.

But, for the past 15 years, the festivities have included our special friends, artist Peter Shire and his wife, Donna. It all began when we invited Peter to visit the Skirball Museum, which was then located on the campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, next to USC. We toured the collection of Judaica in the basement of the museum, and when Peter saw the menorahs, he was intrigued by their design and how the artists had adapted the local culture and architecture into their creations.

Several days later we called Peter and asked if he would be interested in a commission to create a chanukiah for our family, and he was delighted with the idea. He combined contemporary shapes, cactus, the local mountains, and included many colorful symbols that depicted a Southern California theme.

Peter’s chanukiah has a permanent place in our art collection, and is similar to the one that he later created for the Israel Museum and the Skirball. He recently designed several more, some contemporary, with simple architecture elements, others made in the shape of birds or plants.

During the holiday, Peter always lights the candles on his California-inspired Chanukiah at our home. After they are lit, it is time to eat the first batch of crisp and hot latkes, which have been fried in olive oil to commemorate the story of the one-day supply of oil that burned for eight days. I still remember the family Chanukah celebrations from when I was young, consisting of our extended family of uncles, aunts and cousins. This was a special time when everyone eagerly awaited the latkes, and later all commented on who had eaten the most.

Of course, while the latkes are served, the children are looking over the wrapped Chanukah gifts, eager to open them, but they have to wait until after dinner when we return to the living room.

The Chanukah meal this year begins with a salad composed of chopped chicken livers, placed on a bed of baby greens and garnished with pomegranate seeds. The main course, ground chicken loaf, everyone’s favorite comfort food, is baked in a tomato-wine sauce and served with homemade cooked apple slices.

For dessert we have a cookie exchange and ask everyone to bring his or her favorite ones to go with the Chocolate Sorbet that I have made. This supersmooth sorbet, made without milk, cream, or eggs, tastes as rich and creamy as ice cream, and I think the addition of Concord grape wine really enhances the sorbet’s intense chocolate flavor. At the end of the evening there are always bags of cookies for the children to take home as a Chanukah treat.

Award-Winning Perfect Potato Latkes

This latke recipe was chosen as one of the top 10 recipes of 1998 by the Los Angeles Times. “The best we’ve ever eaten,” said their test kitchen and food editors.

4 baking potatoes, peeled

1 large yellow onion, peeled and grated

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

4 extra-large eggs

3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

Pinch of baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Olive oil, for frying

Grate the potatoes, using a food processor or fine shredder. Immediately transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and add the onion, lemon juice, eggs, flour, baking soda and salt and pepper. Mix well.

Heat 1/8-inch of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour the batter into the hot oil with a large spoon and flatten with the back of the spoon to make 4-inch latkes. Cook on one side until golden brown, three to five minutes; then turn and cook on the other side, about two minutes. (Turn once only.) Drain well on paper towels and serve immediately, plain or with topping.

Makes 12 latkes/four servings.

Chocolate Sorbet (nondairy)

3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

2 cups sugar

12 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted

1 cup Concord grape Wine

Combine the cocoa and sugar in a large, heavy saucepan. Add 4 cups of water, a little at a time, in a thin stream, mixing with a wire whisk until well blended and smooth. Bring to a boil and boil for five to 10 minutes, or until thick. Stir in the melted chocolate and port. Bring to a boil and simmer for about four minutes, or until thick, stirring constantly. Pour into an 8-cup pitcher or bowl and place in a larger bowl filled with ice and cold water. Mix until cool. Remove bowl from ice. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Process in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the sorbet to a covered container and freeze for at least one hour for flavors to mellow. If frozen solid, soften in the refrigerator and beat until smooth and creamy before serving.

Makes about two quarts.

Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (Cookbooks, 1988) and “The 30-Minute Kosher Cook” (Morrow, 1999). Her Web site is members.aol.com/jzkitchen.

 

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.

 

Make Your Seder an Affair to Remember


 

Many Passover hostesses feel enslaved by the amount of effort that goes into making an elegant seder table. On the holiday of freedom, the only thing to which you should be enslaved is your creativity. By using your imagination and listening to the tried-and-true advice of the experts, you can create a stylish and sophisticated Passover seder that will have your guests wishing for another invitation next year.

The Setting
An unordinary setting can have a dramatic effect. Elie Neuman, program coordinator of Pesach with the Chevrah in Rancho Mirage, often has special requests to prepare private seder tables overlooking the hotel’s gardens.

“A beautiful backdrop transforms the seder’s look,” he said.

This year, weather permitting, think outside of your dining room and set up a seder table in your backyard. Hang Chinese lanterns and Christmas lights for a dazzling effect. Play with the lighting by positioning standing lamps from your living room at the ends of a long table, contrasting the look of the outdoors with a homey feel.

The Menu
With the kosher-for-Passover dietary restrictions, choosing a menu can be intimidating. Levana Kirschenbaum, cookbook author and cooking instructor known by her first name, suggests preparing dishes such as roasted asparagus, grilled fish, and seasonal soups you are certain will work.

Susie Fishbein, author of the “Kosher By Design” series (see story page 38), said that food should not prevent the hostess from enjoying the seder. “Instead of making seven different courses, prepare simple dishes that show you put in time and effort,” she said. “Don’t feel like you have to make meat, chicken and fish.”

The Centerpieces
Since the Passover table is generally crammed with wine bottles and glasses, the seder plate and boxes of matzah, centerpieces can be tricky.

“With everything on the table, you don’t want the flowers to be overpowering,” said Joel Katz of Prestige Catering, who caters Passover meals in hotels throughout Florida and upstate New York. Instead, he scatters small arrangements of flowers that add color to an already busy table.

Fishbein suggested using topiaries because they provide height without obstructing the view. Since topiaries do not die, only the fruits and flowers decorating them need to be replenished. “You can start by having white roses in the topiary for the seders and switch to lemons or strawberries for the end of the holiday,” Fishbein said.

Levana explains how every hostess can easily prepare a beautiful table within her budget. “Instead of making extravagant floral arrangements, I like to bring out specific colors and textures,” she said.

Levana recommended using a vibrant colored tablecloth with a patterned texture and choosing flowers within variations of two colors that contrast with the tablecloth. As long as the flowers are in the color scheme, inexpensive ones will do the trick.

During a recent demonstration at her Manhattan-based cooking school, Levana presented a stunning arrangement of four-dozen orange-red tulips assembled in a low vase. “No one will care if you use one type of flower, as long as you do a good job,” she said, noting that this arrangement only cost her $30.

Personal Touches
The personal touch is the main component that turns an average seder into an affair guests will remember long after the holiday is over. Throughout the year, Fishbein shops for special touches. One year she found stretchy plastic frogs to use as napkin holders while another year she found glass swizzle sticks with decorative frogs, which she placed in each goblet.

Neuman suggested placing individual seder plates at each setting. This way, guests have the essentials while additional plates of marror or charoset can be passed.

Neuman also recommended anticipating what guests will need ahead of time in order to make them feel comfortable. Besides providing a large selection of wine and matzah, find out if your guests have dietary restrictions. If a guest is allergic to wheat, special order spelt or oat matzah.

Creative place cards that double as mementoes will further personalize the table. By cutting cardboard strips; gluing fabric, ribbon and beads; and labeling them with each guest’s name, you can create individual bookmarks. Place the bookmarks in a haggadah at every place setting in order for guests to know where they are sitting.

Bringing It All Together
Levana and Fishbein both stress the necessity of the hostess feeling relaxed on the night of the seder. That way the hostess can join in the seder, and with everyone else, celebrate our people’s freedom.

Felisa Billet, a freelance writer from Forest Hills, N.Y., is at work on a cookbook, a fusion of Mexican and Jewish cuisine.

 

Calendar


The Jewish Journal is no longer accepting mailed orfaxed event listing information. Please e-mail event listings at least threeweeks in advance to: calendar@jewishjournal.com.

By Keren Engelberg

Calendar

NOVEMBER 27/Saturday

SHABBAT

Hebrew Discovery Center: Nov. 26-28. Family Shabbaton with special guest speaker Rabbi Isaac Balaness. $195, $375 (couples). Ventura Beach Marriott, 2055 Harbor Blvd., Ventura Beach. R.S.V.P., (818) 348-4432.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Padua Playwrights: 4:30 p.m. Padua Playwrights presents a workshop production of “Tirade for Three” and “Gary’s Walk,” parts one and two of a trilogy by Murray Mednick. $10. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice. (310) 823-0710, ext. 4.

28/Sunday

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

San Diego Center for Jewish Culture at the Lawrence Family JCC: Noon-5 p.m. “Diversity of Life: A Photographic Exhibit” by Zion Ozeri. Free. David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla. (858) 362-1348.

EVENTS

Yiddish Alive: 4-7 p.m. A new conversation group in Orange County. All ages and experience levels welcome. Temple Beth Tikvah Fullerton, 1600 N. Acacla, Fullerton. (714) 671-0707.

29/Monday

LECTURES

Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel: 7 p.m. Discussion on “‘In God’s Image’ or ‘The Image of God’: a Spiritual Look at Your Brain.” $15 (includes dinner). 10500 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 475-7311.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Workmen’s Circle: 3-5 p.m. Stanley Schwartz presents his “The Peaceable Kingdom” sculpture. 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007.

Academy for the Performing Arts at Huntington Beach High School: 7:30 p.m. “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” the story of one boy’s journey through the Terezin ghetto on the way to the Auschwitz death camp. $6. Huntington Beach Library Theatre, 7111 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach. (714) 536-2514, ext. 4305.

MET Theatre Company: 8 p.m. Opening of “The Merchant of Venice,” the classic play reset in early 20th-century New York. $15, $12 (students and seniors). 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood. (323) 957-1152.

EVENTS

Beth Jacob (teens): 9 a.m. “NFL” Non-stop Fun and Learning, featuring four big-screen NFL games playing simultaneously. Free. 9030 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 278-1911, ext. 120.

OASIS (seniors): 1:30-3 p.m. Yiddish conversation group. All levels welcome. $5 (per trimester). Jewish Family Service, 8838 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 446-8053.

City of Hope Singers: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Vocal group for singers of all skill levels from all over Los Angeles. Hope Village, Comedy Theatre, 1500 E. Duarte Road, Duarte. (714) 562-0860.

30/Tuesday

LECTURES

Caravan for Democracy: 5 p.m. Natan Sharansky, Israeli minister for Jerusalem and diaspora affairs addresses students and faculty at UCLA. Free. www.caravanfordemocracy.org. For more information, see page 16.

The Menachem Institute: 7:30 p.m. Rabbi Laibl Wolf discusses “The Art of Jewish Meditation.” ($5 in advance), $7 (at the door). 18181 Burbank Blvd., Tarzana. (818) 758-1818.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Hammer Museum: 7 p.m. Hammer conversation with screenwriter Bill Condon and author T.C. Boyle. Free. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 443-7056.

EVENTS

Jewish Federation of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valley Jewish Book Festival: 7:30 p.m. Author Kate Wenner discusses “Dancing With Einstein.” La Canada residence. R.S.V.P., (626) 967-3656.

1/Wednesday

LECTURES

Adat Ari El: 12:30-1:30 p.m. Erika Jacoby a Holocaust survivor discusses her new book, “I Held the Sun in My Hands – a Memoir.” $3. 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 766-9426.

StandWithUs: 7 p.m. Lecture by Khaled Abu Toameh, award-winning Palestinian journalist. $10 (in advance), $15 (at the door). Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (310) 836-6140.

Jewish Book Month: 7:30 p.m. Author Ruth Ellen Gruber speaks about her latest book, “Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe.” Alpert JCC, 3801 E. Willow St., Long Beach. (562) 985-7585.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Hammer Museum: 7 p.m. Some Favorite Writers presents Jonathan Franzen. Free. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 443-7000.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple: 7 p.m. (beginners), 8 p.m. (regular class), 9:15 p.m. -midnight (open dancing). David Dassa leads Israeli dancing. $7. Irmas Campus, 2112 S. Barrington Ave., Los Angeles. ddassa@att.net.

OPEN HOUSES

Valley Beth Shalom Day School: 9:15 a.m. Kindergarten Live. 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 530-4072.

EVENTS

Temple Isaiah: 4-7 p.m. Chanukah Bazaar. 332 W. Alejo Rd., Palm Springs. (760) 325-2281.

PROGRAMS

Northridge Hospital Medical Center: 6:30 p.m. The Healing Arts program offers its monthly topic, “Balanced Nutrition for Holiday Eating.” Roscoe Campus, Penthouse Auditorium, 18400 Roscoe Blvd., Northridge. (818) 885-5488.

2/Thursday

LECTURES

Israel Cancer Research Fund: 7 p.m. Dr. Timothy Cloughesy, associate clinical professor, UCLA department of neurology, discusses “Using Molecular Biology to Individualize Brain Cancer Care.” Free. Loews Beverly Hills Hotel. 1224 Beverwil Drive, Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (323) 651-1200.

California Museum of Ancient Art: 7:30 p.m. “Warrior Women of the Bible” with speaker Dr. David Noel Freedman. First in a two-part series, “Women of the Ancient Near East.” $15 (adults), $12 (seniors), free (members). Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Piness Auditorium, 3663 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (818) 762-5500.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

L.A. Film School: 8 p.m. Larry Hankin’s “10 Funny Fables Plus 1” with cameos by Janeane Garofolo, Larry Hankin, Jeff Garlin, Jerry Stiller and others. Free. 6363 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (877) 952-3456.

3/Friday

SHABBAT

B’nai Tikvah Congregation: 6:30-7:30 p.m. A musical family shabbat. Services and potluck dinner. Free. 5820 W. Manchester Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 645-6262.

Nashuva: 6:45 p.m. Nashuva community service-oriented Kabbalat Shabbat.

Westwood Hills Congregational Church, 1989 Westwood Blvd, Westwood. www.nashuva.com.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

CSUN Arts Council: 7-9 p.m. Eighth annual high school art invitational opening reception. Thirty-nine Valley high schools and more than 200 students are participating in the show. Main Gallery, N. University Drive, Northridge. (818) 677-2226.

Camelot Artists Productions: 8 p.m. David Steen’s “A Gift From Heaven” is the story of an Appalachian family’s demise. $28 (general), $20 (students). Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 358-9936.

Vanguard Theatre Ensemble: 8 p.m. Opening night gala of the holiday play “Greetings.” Champagne reception immediately follows the show. $23. 120-A W. Wilshire Ave., Fullerton. (714) 526-8007.

Imaginary Friends Music Partners: 9 p.m.-midnight. Jazz pianist George Kahn and the George Kahn Quartet play songs from their newest release “Compared to What?” Featuring Andy Suzuki, Karl Vincent and Paul Kreibech. $10 cover, plus minimum. Lunaria Jazz Club, 10352 Santa Monica Blvd., Century City. (310) 282-8870.

EVENTS

Chai Center: Dec. 3-5. Desert Hot Springs Retreat. Hot springs mineral baths, women speakers and teachers, gourmet healthy food, stress reduction, massage and informal classes. R.S.V.P., (310) 391-6691.

UPCOMING

Sat., Dec. 11

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

MnR Dance Factory: Creative drama workshops for children with Chicago actress/writer Lisa Diana Shapiro. Free. 11606 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 826-4554.

Sun., Dec. 12

PROGRAMS

ATID (21-39): Dec. 12, 4 p.m. “Adventures in Judaism II” for young professionals ages 21-39, an afternoon of workshops, latkes, cocktails, “ultimate dreidel” and a Middle Eastern buffet. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 481-3244.

Dec. 30-Jan. 2

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Wilshire Boulevard Temple: Winter Rikud in Malibu. Israeli dancing weekend. From $175. www.rikud.com.

Feb. 17-21.

PROGRAMS

Jewish Student Union: Applications now available online for the annual JSU New York experience trip. www.jsu.org.

SINGLES

27/Saturday

Conversations at Leon’s: 7:30 p.m. Post-Thanksgiving mixer. $15-$20. 639 26th St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P., (310) 393-4616.

Jewish Singles, Meet! (30s and 40s): 8 p.m. “Not-So-Speedy Meeting” and game night in conjunction with Temple Ner Maarav. $9. 17730 Magnolia Blvd, Encino. R.S.V.P. by Nov. 26, (818) 750-0095.

28/Sunday

Jewish Singles Volleyball: 3 p.m. Volleyball and post-game no-host dinner. Free. Playa del Rey Beach court No. 11 at the end of Culver Boulevard, Playa del Rey. (310) 278-9812.

JDate: 7 p.m. (reception), 7:30 p.m. (concert). Performance by Israeli recording artist Noa. $45 (online only). Fred Kavli Theatre, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. www.jdate.com.

New Age Singles (55+): 7 p.m. “Starlight Ballroom Dance” with music by Johnny Vana Trio. $10-$12. University Synagogue 11960 Sunset Blvd., Brentwood. (310) 473-1391.

29/Monday

Nexus (20s and 30s): 7:30 p.m. (beginners), 8:15 p.m. (intermediate), 9-10 p.m. (open dance). Israeli dancing lessons and open dance. $5 (members), $6 (nonmembers). Alpert Jewish Community Center, 3801 E. Willow St., Long Beach. www.jewishnexus.org.

Project Next Step: 8 p.m. “Coffee Talk” with coffee and pastries. $7. 9911 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 284-3638.

30/Tuesday

L.A.’s Fabulous Best Connections: 6-9 p.m. Dinner at Marmalade Cafe. The Grove, Third Street and Fairfax Avenue. R.S.V.P., (323) 782-0435.

Westwood Jewish Singles (45+): 7:30 p.m. Therapist Maxine Gellar leads a discussion about “My Most Embarrassing Moment.” $10. R.S.V.P., (310) 444-8986.

The New JCC at Milken: 8-11 p.m. James Zimmer leads Israeli folk dancing. $5-$6. Salsa, swing and tango lessons for an additional $3 (7-8 p.m.). 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (310) 284-3638.

1/Wednesday

Nexus (20s-40s): 6 p.m. Volleyball followed by no-host dinner. End of Culver Boulevard, near court No. 15, Playa del Rey. www.jewishnexus.org.

2/Thursday

Conversations at Leon’s: 7 p.m. “Date or Mate, What Are You Looking For?” $15-$17. 639 226th St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P. (310) 393-4616.

J Networking: 7:30 p.m. The new Jewish networking group meets in the West San Fernando Valley. R.S.V.P. by Nov. 26, (818) 342-2898.

Mosaic: Dec. 2-5. Trip to Kartchner Caverns, Ariz. info@mosaicla.org.

3/Friday

Brandeis-Bardin/Makor Jewish Learning Circle: Dec. 3-5. Partnership weekend with the theme “The Search for Roots and Wings: Commitment and Creativity” with Rabbi Gordon Bernat-Kunin. $130 (singles), $240 (couples). Simi Valley. (805) 582-4450.

New Age Singles: 6 p.m. No-host dinner at Nibbler’s in Beverly Hills followed by Creative Arts Shabbat Service at Temple Beth Am. 1039 La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 838-7459.

Singles Toward Marriage (30-39): 6:30 p.m. Monthly Shabbat dinner with group discussions led by Rabbi Shlomo and Tovi Bistritzky. 5998 Conifer St., Oak Park. R.S.V.P., (818) 993-0441.

upcoming

Sat., Dec. 11

Sephardic Singles Havurah (40s-60s): 7 p.m. Chanukah celebration and potluck dinner with candlelighting, prayers, songs and dancing. $5. R.S.V.P., (323) 294-6084.

Jan. 21-23

J-Ski (20s-40s): Mammoth Ski Trip. $185. Also, March 2-6, Whistler Ski Trip. $759. JskiLa@aol.com.

Keren’s Corner

Le Nouvel Anti-Semitism

What’s new in French anti-Semitism? Head downtown Thursday, Dec. 2 to find out as ALOUD at Central Library presents Michael Curtis, who will discuss “Anti-Semitism in France: Past and Present.” The author of numerous books on the history of France and anti-Semitism will discuss the relationship between historic traditional anti-Semitism in France and its current manifestations, including new factors like the extreme political left and Muslim

Serve Up Something Different in 5765


Food is the centerpiece of every Jewish holiday. For Rosh Hashanah especially, our traditional foods are a kind of ritualistic prayer where we ask that the coming year be better than the last. During a time when are lives are weighed and measured, we dip the apple in honey and eat the head of a fish (or broiled cow tongue in certain Sephardic households) to ask for the next year to be sweet and prosperous. Every Rosh Hashanah you probably expect your mom’s famous roast, or the traditional honey cake, but why not make this year about trying new recipes with similar flavors. Sweet is the theme for this season and new cookbooks are varying the holiday fare by borrowing from other culinary cultures and serving up some traditional favorites with a twist. Before you gather around your table this year, check out these latest cookbook offerings and surprise your family and guests with something a little bit different.

It’s so easy to refer time and again to the family recipe book to create your Yom Tov menu, but it’s more exciting to bring other culinary traditions to your holiday table. Dispersed across the globe for centuries, Jews have adopted much of the cuisine of their host countries and incorporated local and available ingredients. Jewish cookbook queen, Joan Nathan, in her book, "Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook" (Schoken, $29.95), has updated the recipes from her two classic books, 1982’s "The Jewish Holiday Kitchen" and 1997’s "The Jewish Holiday Baker," and invites you to prepare classic dishes from Jewish households all over the globe, making this year’s holiday a cross-cultural feast.

Right before the High Holidays, the bakery is always the last place you want to be shopping. This year, instead of taking a number and waiting in an endless line, opt for the simple pleasure of making your own challah. In her book, Nathan includes an authentic Moroccan family recipe for Pain Petri (challah) to spice up your holiday table.

For the main course, go with Persian Fesenjan, a chicken stew made with walnuts and pomegranates — another fruit traditionally eaten on Rosh Hashanah at the beginning of the meal with all of the other symbolic foods. The many seeds of the pomegranate are a sign of fertility, and serving an entrée that incorporates its juice is an original way to further indulge in the seasonal fruit.

Pain Petri (Moroccan Challah)

Note: You can either make this by hand or using a food processor.

7-8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

3 eggs plus 1 yolk

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 tablespoon anise seeds

1 1/2 scant tablespoons (1 1/2 packages) active dry yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water

Place 7 cups of flour in a huge bowl. Make a well in the center and place the sugar, three eggs, 1/3 cup of oil, salt and sesame and anise seeds in the well. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, then add it to the well.

Using your hands, gradually work in the flour with the ingredients in the well. Add more flour as needed. When a medium-stiff dough is formed, knead on a wooden board for about 20 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, turn it in a greased bowl to coat the surface and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes, or until doubled in size. Punch down and knead once more. Divide the dough into five pieces. Either shape each into a round ball or make a long piece of it and twist it into a spiral with the end of the dough at the high point in the center. Cover and let rise for about 1 hour, until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.

Remove the dough to the cookie sheet. Brush with the remaining egg yolk mixed with the tablespoon of oil and bake for 35-45 minutes.

Persian Fesenjan (Pomegranate-Walnut Chicken Stew)

One 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut up

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cups walnuts, ground

1/3 cup hot water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cups pomegranate juice or 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons sugar

Brown the chicken in the oil and remove to drain on a paper towel. Brown the chopped onion in the same oil.

In another pan, brown the walnuts, stirring constantly, without using any shortening. When brown, add the onion. Then slowly add the hot water so that the mixture does not stick. It should not be too liquid — more like a paste. Then add the lemon juice, pomegranate juice, tomato paste, salt and pepper to taste and sugar, stirring with a spoon. When well-mixed, add the chicken.

Bring the mixture just to the point of boiling (not a fast boil). Decrease to a simmer and let cook, covered, until the chicken is very tender, about 45 minutes. If the sauce is not thick enough, remove the chicken and boil the liquid down until the desired thickness is reached, stirring as it cooks.

For a holiday menu rich in fruit and vegetables, a vegetarian cookbook is a great source to draw from on Rosh Hashanah when on the hunt for new recipes. Try a soup with sweet fruits and vegetables to change up the first course. Vegetarian cookbook veteran Nava Atlas, in her new book "The Vegetarian Family Cookbook" (Broadway, $17.95), offers tasty recipes for the die-hard vegetarian or for anyone looking to enrich their diet with more fruits and vegetables. With the plethora of junk food at our fingertips, it is more tempting to reach for potato chips than carrot sticks to satisfy hunger. Inspired by a lack of healthy food choices for adults and children, Atlas compiled a cornucopia of wholesome meals and snacks for even the pickiest eaters. Her Creamy Butternut Squash and Apple Soup is a great starter for the Rosh Hashanah feast, or a fabulous meal by itself when opting for a lighter lunch after days of endless holiday eating.

Creamy Butternut Squash

and Apple Soup

1 large butternut squash

2 tablespoons light olive oil

1 large red onion, chopped

4 cups peeled, diced apple, any cooking variety

4 cups prepared vegetable broth, or 4 cups water with 1 vegetable bouillon cube

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups low-fat milk, rice milk, or soy milk

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Halve the squash lengthwise with a sharp knife and scoop out the seeds and fibers. Place cut side up in a shallow baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Or, if you’d like a more roasted flavor, simply brush the squash halves with a little olive oil and leave uncovered. Either way, bake for 45-50 minutes, or until tender. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until golden, eight to 10 minutes.

Add the apples, broth and spices. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer gently until the apples are soft, about 10 minutes.

In a food processor, puree the squash with 1/2 cup of the milk until completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl.

Transfer the apple-onion mixture to the food processor and puree until completely smooth. Return to the soup pot and add the squash puree; stir together. Add the remaining milk, using a bit more if the puree is too thick.

Bring the soup to a gentle simmer, then cook over low heat until well heated through, five to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at once or let the soup stand off the heat for one to two hours, then heat through as needed before serving.

Serves six.

Honey cake is a great way to end the meal, but Lise Stern’s "How To Keep Kosher" (Morrow, $24.95) offers a great variation you might want to serve after a light pareve or dairy lunch. The sponge honey cake is a tradition not to be forgotten, but Stern livens it up hers with some honey frosting and tops it with caramelized apples. Her creation is one of the many kosher recipes she features in her book which is primarily meant to educate and excite her readers about the fundamentals of kashrut, its origins and modern-day practices.

Honey Layer Cake With

Caramelized Apples

1 large egg

1 cup honey

1 cup plain yogurt, stirred until smooth

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Oil for the pans

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray or lightly grease two 8-inch round cake pans.

Combine the egg, honey, yogurt, melted butter and vanilla in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until well blended.

Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a sifter. Sift half the flour into the honey mixture. On low speed, blend until fully incorporated. Sift in the remaining flour and blend in until smooth.

Divide the batter into the prepared pans. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes, until pale gold in color and a tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.

Cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then remove and cool on racks.

When fully cool, spread Honey Cream Frosting (see recipe below) between the layers and on the top of the cake (not on the sides). To serve, slice into wedges and put on individual plates. Top each slice with a spoonful of Caramelized Apples (see recipe below).

Makes 12 servings.

Honey Cream Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature

Pinch salt

3 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

Cream together the cream cheese, butter and salt until smooth, using an electric mixer or a wooden spoon. Blend in the honey, then the confectioners’ sugar. The frosting should be of an easily spreadable consistency. If it seems too thin, add additional sifted confectioners’ sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Caramelized Apples

2 tablespoons salted butter

3 apples (preferably pink lady or gala), peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

1/4 cup light brown sugar

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the apples and sauté for two minutes. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the apples. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat, and simmer over low heat for five to 10 minutes, until the apples are softened but still hold their shape. Serve warm; the compote may be reheated.

If the thought of slicing into a rich cake is a bit unbearable after a long meal, opt instead to prepare a helping of Yetta’s Stewed Summer Fruits. Former actress and neophyte cookbook author Pamela Hensley Vincent compiles treasured family recipes in her new scrapbook cookbook, "The Jewish-Sicilian Cookbook" (Overlook Press, $24.95). So much of our history is in our culinary heritage and Vincent offers a glimpse into the lives of her immediate family and the recipes for which they were famous. Yetta’s — short for Henrietta, Vincent’s maternal grandmother — stewed fruit is a light desert that fits neatly into the sweet holiday theme.

Yetta’s Stewed Summer Fruits

4 to 6 peaches, peeled, pitted and quartered

12 plums, pitted and quartered

12 apricots, pitted and quartered

1 pound fresh cherries, stemmed

Juice of 1 lemon (or 2 limes)

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup dark rum

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Put the peaches, plums and apricots into a pot. Add the cherries (whole & un-pitted). Add the water, lemon or lime juice, brown sugar, rum and cinnamon. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for about 40 minutes. Allow to cool. Then pour into a glass jar and store in the fridge.

Yields four to six cups.

Holiday Breads Worth the Calories


With the no-carb craze sweeping the nation, Atkins Diet adherents make sure to avoid pasta and potatoes, but when the High Holidays roll around, even purists are tempted by succulent Jewish breads.

What would Rosh Hashanah be, after all, without huge round challahs? Or Yom Kippur without bagels to break the fast? Not to mention Bukharan bread, za’atar pita and the wide variety of breads that Sephardim adore.

Atkins converts aside, bread has historically been among the most important staples in the Jewish diet. We even eat matzah at Passover — a holiday that revolves around shunning luscious, lofty loaves.

Indeed, bread was once considered a complete meal, and until recently was the mainstay of many people’s daily calorie intakes. In the Bible, bread is a symbol representing food.

"Jewish law said that if bread is served, you have a meal; without it, you are having a snack," wrote Maggie Glezer in her upcoming book, "A Blessing of Bread: Jewish Bread Baking Around the World" (Artisan).

Bread is central to Jewish celebrations. Ideally before each meal, and certainly before holiday meals, a blessing is recited, thanking God for bringing forth bread, and by implication all food, from the earth.

"At Rosh Hashanah, my family likes the same breads each year," said Glezer, an Atlanta mother of two children who bakes huge batches of sweet honey challahs and freezes them. She serves some of these airy challahs at Rosh Hashanah and the rest at Yom Kippur. But her family breaks the fast with her homemade honey cake — which Glezer considers bread.

Knowing that challah braiding is a dying art, what inspired Glezer to write a book about baking Jewish bread?

"I’m a bread fanatic and a Jew — that’s how I came to this," she said, adding that she’s been seriously studying bread baking for 15 years. An American Institute of Baking-certified baker, Glezer specializes in teaching bread techniques to both amateurs and professionals. This is her second book about bread, and she writes on the subject for culinary magazines.

"’A Blessing of Bread’ is accessible to less experienced bakers," she said.

Because Glezer empathizes with beginners relying on recipes and a picture to produce unfamiliar breads, she gives readers numerous guidelines, conveying exactly what the dough looks like at each step. Her recipes are often long, but for novices it’s like having a professional baker at their side.

With more than 60 recipes in her cookbook, Glezer encourages people to stray from the usual babkas, bagels and deli rye to try new delicacies like Turkish coffee-cake rings or Hungarian walnut sticks.

Glezer’s goal was not to include every bread recipe in the Jewish repertoire — which would take two lifetimes. Her aim was to give readers a thumbnail sketch by highlighting some recipes from Sephardi, North African, Near Eastern and Ashkenazi cultures.

To assemble this impressive collection, she spoke to and baked with people from many backgrounds. She also included lively oral histories, anecdotes and passages from folk tales.

While the book features international holiday baking, Glezer has a special place in her Ashkenzi heart for sweet challah. At Rosh Hashanah, people often drizzle honey and raisins into challah, hoping for a sweet year. Instead of the oval-shaped, braided variety, the Rosh Hashanah challah is spiraled to represent the cycle of life and the completeness of the world.

"Rosh Hashanah is apple season," said Glezer, explaining that while apples have been a symbol of sweetness for centuries, this treasured fruit has recently begun to appear in American challah recipes. Calling for huge chunks of apples, Glezer’s spin on this new genre produces delightfully moist results. Her step-by-step instructions yield a coffee cake or a sweet bread to serve with dinner.

"While my Apple Challah can be prepared in a loaf pan or a circular cake pan, at Rosh Hashanah, I prefer the cake pan for its round theme," she said.

"One of the best parts of the Holidays is Sephardic pumpkin bread," said Glezer, explaining that her recipe was inspired by one from Gilda Angel, author of "Sephardic Home Cooking."

Angel explains that among Separdi Jews, pumpkin is popular at Rosh Hashanah because it expresses "the hope that as this vegetable has been protected by a thick covering, God will protect us and gird us with strength."

While pumpkin gives the bread an appealing color, it derives its aromatic flavor from cardamom and ginger, popular Sephardi spices. Glezer suggests either fresh or canned pumpkin.

"My favorite part of writing ‘A Blessing of Bread’ was listening to bakers and others talk about their lives," she said. "Their stories are the fabric of Jewish life; their recipes the carriers of our tradition."

Hearing her rhapsodize about her favorite subject is like being with an energetic bubbie who has burned her fingers in ovens a thousand times but still exudes the enthusiasm to taste the unfamiliar, learn from strangers and share amazing recipes for a never-ending basket of Jewish breads.

Apple Challah

2 envelopes instant yeast

5 cups unbleached bread flour

1 cup warm water

3 large eggs

6 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra for the pan and dough

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

3 large baking apples (Braeburn preferred)

In a large bowl, whisk together the yeast and 1 cup of the flour. Then whisk in the warm water until yeast mixture is smooth. Let it ferment uncovered for 10-20 minutes, or until it begins to puff up slightly.

Whisk the eggs, oil, salt and sugar into the puffed-yeast slurry. When eggs are well incorporated and the salt and sugar have dissolved, stir in the remaining 4 cups of flour all at once with your hands. When mixture is a shaggy ball, scrape it out onto work surface and knead it until it is smooth and firm, no more than 10 minutes. Soak your mixing bowl in hot water to clean and warm it. If the dough is too firm to easily knead, add a tablespoon or two of water. If the dough is too wet, add a few tablespoons of flour. The dough should feel smooth, soft and only slightly sticky.

Place dough in the clean, warmed bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough ferment for one hour, or until just slightly puffy.

While the dough ferments, peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut each quarter in half lengthwise. Then cut each slice across into three pieces. End up with large, squarish apple chunks. Measure 4 1/2 heaping cups of the chunks. Reserve them in a covered container.

After initial ferment, sprinkle dough and work surface with flour. Pull out the dough. Cut dough in half into two equal pieces, keeping one piece covered while working with the other. Roll out the dough into a 1/8-inch-thick, 16-inch-long square. Scatter 1 heaping cup of apples over the center third of dough. Fold up the bottom third to cover it.

Press dough into apples to seal it around them. Scatter another heaping cup over the lower half of dough — onto the second layer of dough — and fold the top of dough over both layers to create a very stuffed letter fold. Press down on the dough to push out air pockets and to seal dough around apples. Roll dough into a bowl. Move dough in bowl so that the smooth side — without a seam — faces up. Cover with plastic wrap. Repeat with other piece of dough, using another bowl. Continue fermenting both doughs for about an hour, or until they have risen slightly and are very soft.

Oil two 8-inch round cake pans. Using as much dusting flour as needed, pat each dough half into a rough round shape. Try keeping smooth side intact on top. You won’t be able to deflate dough much now because of the apples. Slip dough into pans smooth side up and cover them well with plastic wrap. Let loaves proof for about 30 minutes, until they have crested their containers.

Immediately after shaping the breads, arrange an oven rack on the lower third position and preheat oven to 350F.

When loaves have risen over the edge of the container and won’t push back when gently pressed with a finger but remain indented, brush each with a generous tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle them with a few tablespoons of sugar. Bake for 45-55 minutes total. After the first 40 minutes, switch the pans from side to side. Bake 5-15 minutes more. When loaves are well browned, remove them from oven, unmold and cool on a rack.

Pan de Calabaza (Sephardic

Pumpkin Bread)

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 envelope instant yeast

1/3 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

About 3 3/4 cups bread flour, divided

2/3 cup warm water

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

In a large bowl, whisk together yeast, cardamom, ginger and 3/4 cup of the flour. Whisk in warm water until yeast slurry is smooth. Ferment for 10-20 minutes, or until slurry begins to puff up slightly.

Whisk sugar, salt, oil, one egg and pumpkin puree into puffed yeast slurry. When mixture is well combined, stir in remaining 3 cups flour with your hands. When mixture is a shaggy ball, scrape it onto your work surface. Knead it until well mixed, fairly smooth and firm. Soak mixing bowl in hot water to clean and warm it for fermenting dough. If dough is too firm, add a tablespoon or two of water. If dough is too wet, add a few tablespoons of flour. Dough should be light orange, firm, easy to knead and not at all sticky.

When dough is fully kneaded, set it in the cleaned, warmed bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let dough ferment about two to three hours, until it has tripled in size.

Oil two baking sheets. Divide the dough into two loaves of equal size, placing each on a baking sheet. Tent them well with plastic wrap.

Let loaves proof 60-90 minutes, until triple in size.

Thirty minutes before baking, arrange an oven rack in the upper third position. Remove racks above it. If both baking sheets won’t fit on one rack, place a rack below it, leaving room for bread to rise. Preheat oven to 350F. Beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt to use as a glaze.

When loaves have tripled and don’t push back when gently pressed with a finger but remain indented, brush them with egg glaze. Bake loaves on individual baking sheets for 35-40 minutes. After the first 20 minutes of baking, switch the pans from top to bottom or from front to back so that breads brown evenly. Bake 15-20 minutes more. When loaves are very well browned, remove them from oven and cool on a rack.

Brisket for the Soul


Exploring the stack of old Jewish cookbooks and family recipes my mother brought to me when she visited from Atlanta, I found a note. On the top of a small white paper, in her handwriting, were the words Rosh Hashanah, and then the list; Apple Charlie, Challah, Kugel, Green Bean Salad, Brisket. I asked her if this meal plan was from last year, but she said no.

"That must have been from many, many years ago," she said while standing in my California kitchen with afternoon sun lighting half her face. That must have been why, when I read it, I tasted decades of family holiday meals and decided we should buy a brisket and make it together.

She chose a nice 4-pound cut, and since the ingredients for my mother’s brisket are basic staples, salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic, onions and good wine, we lost no time shopping around. But since it cooks entirely on top of the stove, gently, over hours, it gave us lots of time to watch over a deep, bubbling, burgundy sauce, while absorbing rich scents, filling my tiny kitchen, taking us back all those years, then filling us up right where we were. And when, after an overnight of cooling, my mother showed my how to slice (carefully against the grain) and reheat (layering the tender meat) back in the gravy, framing it with softened orange carrots — I took a picture of our creation, right in the pot, because it was beautiful.

When I looked up different brisket recipes, I found all kinds of creative approaches; one using a spicy apple butter sauce, one cooking the meat in molasses sweetened navy beans, and one adding a blanket of cooked prunes. But all of them had a key element in common: time. Each requires at least an overnight of marinade and anywhere from three to six hours of low-heat cooking to soften and season the meat. For Mom’s brisket, the techniques are straightforward, the ingredients few, but if the definition of soul food is cooking simple foods, nice and slow, then a Rosh Hashanah brisket must be good for the soul.

Kaethe’s Stovetop Brisket

The seasonings and gravy for this recipe are light enough to gracefully enhance the flavor of the meat. But if you like more spice, add salt and pepper to suit your tastes and enjoy!

4-pound beef brisket

1 1/4 teaspoon salt (to taste)

1/4 teaspoon pepper (to taste)

4 large garlic cloves, sliced thin

1 large onion, sliced thin

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup dry red wine

5 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon paprika

3 large carrots

Rinse brisket in cold water and place in large dish with sides. Thinly slice garlic coves and onion and arrange under and over meat. In small bowl, combine and whisk salt, pepper, 3 tablespoons olive oil and wine. Pour over meat. Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning meat once.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in heavy, deep, wide skillet over medium heat. After scraping off — but saving — onions and garlic, place brisket in pan, searing each side until slightly brown, about four to five minutes. Place meat aside on platter. Pour marinade into pan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, return meat to pan, scatter onions and garlic above and below, and spoon liquid over top of brisket. Sprinkle top with 1/4 teaspoon of paprika. Cover and reduce heat to low, simmering approximately three hours, turning after halfway through and sprinkling other side with 1/4 teaspoon of paprika. Add whole carrots during last hour. Test with knife. Meat should be soft but firm enough not to shred.

Turn off heat. Let cool slightly, then remove from marinade.

Place meat in large dish, cover and refrigerate overnight for ease of slicing. Strain gravy to separate onion, garlic slices and whole carrots from liquid. Then store each in refrigerator overnight.

Skim fat off top layer of marinade and pour into deep, wide skillet. Mash onions and garlic with spoon and add to marinade. Heat on medium low. Test for salt or pepper preferences. Cut brisket in 1/4-inch slices against the grain and layer into marinade with carrots. Cover and rewarm approximately 30 minutes or just until gravy starts to bubble. Do not overcook. Serve brisket slices on platter with some gravy spooned over and remainder on the side.

Serves 10.

The Circuit


ADL Rock and Rawls

About 900 supporters of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
filled a Century Plaza Hotel ballroom on Dec. 7 for its 90th-year bash, an
anniversary evening capped off with a masterful performance by crooner Lou
Rawls.

“We stand for the civilized human beings of the world,” said
ADL Pacific Southwest Region Chair Bruce Einhorn, a federal immigration judge.

His half-hour opening speech stirred the ballroom crowd as
he said the ADL will fight for an Israel, “with Jerusalem as its capital, and
we will not retreat from that goal.”

The ADL gave a Lifetime Achievement Award to Billy and
Tootsie Veprin, who in their 62.5 years of marriage have remained strong ADL
funders.

“I’m almost speechless, almost,” said retired real estate
executive Billy Veprin. “Tootsie and I love you all.” 

The event’s keynote speaker was Canadian writer Irshad
Manji, the Muslim author of “The Trouble With Islam: A Wake-Up Call for Honesty
and Change,” which is coming to U.S. bookstores in January.

Manji gave a provocative speech in which she outlined
Islam’s historic anti-Semitism, especially in the Middle Ages during the
Islam’s golden age. While she noted that, “the Quran reminds us that the Jews
are an exalted nation,” Manji said that independent Islamic thought now is
nonexistent, aided by what she said were non-Muslim, “Islamo-facists — those
who romanticize Islam.”

“Our version of independent thinking died on our watch,”
said Manji, adding that Muslims today are practicing not an abundance of
tolerance but “just enough tolerance.”

After the speech Rawls covered “They Can’t Take That Away
From Me,” the tune made famous by Rawls’ old friend and staunch Israel ally,
Frank Sinatra.  

“We like to be around groovy people,” Rawls told the crowd,
before giving his trademark, low-voice “Hi baby” greeting to a woman at a table
near the stage. — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Slick YICC

Young Israel of Century City’s (YICC) Dec. 6 Night of Comedy
& Soul fundraiser brought about 300 admirers to West Hollywood’s Pacific Design
Center for music, slick sushi, elegant chocolate and clean, sophisticated
humor.

“I’m much more ambitious when I’m setting the alarm clock
than when it’s going off,” comedian Gary Gulman said.

Fellow clean comic Wayne Fetterman’s “guy” adaptation of
Janis Ian’s weepy 1975 high school girls anthem, “At Seventeen,” had the
lyrics: “And those of us who chose debate, would sit at home and … meditate.”

Jewish hipster musician Peter Himmelman performed
customized, impromptu songs and asked the audience if they wanted to hear a song
about his love for his wife or one about his father’s death, saying, “Both
songs are equally valid; they both serve Hashem.”

Among the synagogue members enjoying the laughs and
chocolate were the Museum of Tolerance’s own Rabbi Abraham Cooper and his wife,
Roz.

“Jews are best when they can laugh at themselves,” he said.
“A good place to start is the shul.” — D.F.

Happening at Hakim’s

Persian Jews in their early 20s to late 30s bought bags of
food and toys to the house of prominent general surgeon Dr. Saeed Hakim on Dec.
7 for a fundraiser for Persian Jews United (PJU) and One Degree of Separation,
a Persian student and young professional organization. The food and toys were
collected to distribute to needy children through Jewish Family Service of Los
Angeles (JFS) and the SOVA Food Pantry program.

Hakim’s daughter, Melinda, organized the event — which
featured a delicious buffet and a jazz band in the living room — after being
inspired by a friend in Baltimore who holds annual Chanukah fundraising parties
for needy children.

“I wanted it to be a Chanukah holiday party that was
something fruitful,” said Melinda Hakim, who is a medical resident at the
Doheny Eye Institute.

Mastaneh Moghadam, the Farsi liaison for JFS, briefed the
crowd about social services for the Iranian Jewish community.

“Through the family violence project and programs dealing
with violence against women, we have been able to provide programs in Farsi for
the victims of domestic violence,” Moghadam said.

She also noted that JFS provides referral services and case
management and therapy for the Iranian community. — Mojdeh Sionit, Contributing
Writer

Read Around the
World

Although J.K. Rowling has managed to lure kids away from the
television screens with her “Harry Potter” books, all around the world it seems
that getting kids to read is still a battle for educators and parents. On Dec.
5, Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy decided to fight that battle with a vengeance
by joining thousands of schoolchildren in a special reading project sponsored
by Scholastic (the publishers of the “Potter” series) called “Read for 2004,”
in which students read aloud for 2004 seconds (approximately 33 minutes).

The school invited guest readers such as grandparents,
aunts, uncles and other adult family members or relatives to join in the fun by
reading their favorite books aloud to the class and then speaking to the
students about why reading is so important. The classes involved had their
names added to a Scholastic interactive world map.

“This is part of an ongoing plan to increase reading and its
integration into the daily lives of the students at the school,” said Rabbi
Boruch Sufrin, the school’s new principal. “Reading is such an integral vehicle
educating our students.”

For more information about Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy or
a personal tour, call (310) 276-6135.

Sonia’s Story

On Nov. 18 at the University of Judaism, award-wining writer
Sonia Levitin spoke to the University Women of the University of Judaism.
Levitin was born in Berlin during the Nazi era, and her family escaped when she
was 3 years old. She has written more than 40 books, many of which reflect the
Jewish experience throughout history. At the event, Levitin spoke about her
latest book, “Room in the Heart,” a story of Danish resistance to the Nazis
told through the voices of two teenagers.

Humanitarian
Hostesses

When hostesses are united wonderful things happen. On Nov. 1
United Hostesses Charities (UHC) held its 61st annual dinner dance at the
Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where Marilyn McCoo and Billy David Jr. were the
high-octane performers. The event honored the 10 past recipients of its
Humanitarian Award and recognized their outstanding contributions to
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the community. The group supports the
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center division of cardiology and the groundbreaking
research of director Dr. P.K Shah, as well as the Didi Hirsch Community Mental
Health Center. The organization’s newest project is its UHC Cardiac/Stroke
Emergency Care at Cedars-Sinai .

Minds over Milken

While the community was all in a tizzy about the recent
Milken video scandal, at Milken Community High School, students were just doing
their thing — learning, studying and creating excellent science projects.

On Nov. 12, the American Society for Technion-Israel
Institute of Technology in collaboration with Milken Community High School held
its third annual Excellence in Science Awards Dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel,
where students Noam Firestone, Judy Reynolds, Sara Meimin, Raquel Cedar, and
Bobby Kanter received awards for their exceptional perseverance and innovation
in researching the science topic of their choice.

At the event, Technion professor Wayne Kaplan spoke about
how the Technion was a critical partner in Israel’s security, life sciences and
high technology.

Bright Bregman

Milken is not the only school whose students are being
recognized for their fabulous academic achievements. On Dec. 3 Valley Torah
High School senior Josh Bregman was nominated to compete in the national
Principal’s Leadership Award (PLA) scholarship program, sponsored by the
National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and Herff Jones,
Inc. If Bregman is one of the 150 national PJA winners this spring, he will
receive a $1,000 college scholarship.

Bregman is an all-rounder at Valley Torah. He has been the
Student council secretary, varsity basketball manager, yearbook editor and an
active Boy Scout. This fall, he plans to travel to Israel for a year abroad and
then return to study business at Yeshiva University.

“Bregman has demonstrated excellence in the classroom and in
his community,” said Gerald A. Tirozzi, the executive director of the NASSP.
“NASSP is proud to recognize such an impressive young person.”

For the Kids


Chanukah!


The holiday of lights is here
It gives me such a lift
When candles burn so bright and clear
That I can see my gift!

Have You Lost Your Marbles?

Well, you better find them to make this chanukiah!

You will need:

Nine glass jars (baby food jars work) and colored marbles.

Acetate (a clear hard plastic sheet that can be cut with scissors).

Decorate the outside of the jars with Stars of David or
Chanukah symbols.

Arrange the jars in a line and fill them with the marbles.
Make sure you fill the middle jar higher so that the shamash candle will be
higher than the others. Cut out nine circles from the acetate to fit over the
tops of the jars.

Make a slit in the middle of each circle large enough to
insert a candle.

Now you have your own beautiful chanukiah.

Or try this sweeter version:
Buy nine sufganiyot (jelly donuts) or cupcakes. Line them up.

Wrap the bottoms of the candles in tin foil (to keep them from dripping on the delectable donuts).

Stick them in the middle of each pastry. Yum!

Thanksgiving’s Sukkot Roots


Did you know that Thanksgiving is really a Jewish holiday? Although Thanksgiving is not on the Jewish calendar, historians believe that Sukkot may have inspired America’s favorite farewell to fall, often nicknamed "Turkey Day."

"The pilgrims based their customs on the Bible," said Gloria Kaufer Greene, author of the "New Jewish Holiday Cookbook" (Times Books, 1999). "They knew that Sukkot was an autumn harvest festival, and there is evidence that they fashioned the first Thanksgiving after the Jewish custom of celebrating the success of the year’s crops."

Linda Burghardt, author of "Jewish Holiday Traditions" (Citadel Press, 2001), said, "Sukkot is considered a model for Thanksgiving. Both holidays revolve around showing gratitude for a bountiful harvest."

Today Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, but President Franklin Roosevelt didn’t propose this timing until 1939.

It was Abraham Lincoln who made Thanksgiving a national holiday. Roosevelt actually changed Lincoln’s decree that Thanksgiving be observed on the last Thursday in November, which may fall on the fifth Thursday of the month.

The pilgrims’ invited local Indians to the first Thanksgiving during the fall of 1621. Historians speculate that this celebration occurred somewhere between Sept. 21 and Nov. 9, but most likely in early October, around the time of Sukkot.

"Originally, Sukkot entailed a pilgrimage to Jerusalem," said Greene, who believes the two holidays share much in common.

The Puritan Christians who landed on American shores seeking religious freedom were called pilgrims, in deference to their journey from England. Their dream of finding a place where they’d be free to worship as they pleased is a recurrent theme in Jewish history.

After their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the ancient Israelites lived for a week in temporary huts while giving thanks for a plentiful harvest. Likewise, during their first winter in Massachusetts, the pilgrims dwelled in makeshift huts, wigwams that the Indians helped them build.

While Sukkot remains a seven-day observance, the first Thanksgiving celebration continued for three days, a time frame more similar to the Jewish harvest festival than today’s Thanksgiving dinner, which often begins in late afternoon and ends several hours later.

With its pumpkin pies and cranberry garlands, Thanksgiving mirrors many of Sukkot’s customs and culinary themes.

Burghardt said she is amazed at how many of the same foods are connected to both holidays.

Piping hot casseroles brimming with vegetables and fruit grace the American and Jewish harvest tables, as do pastries that are filled with apples, nuts, pumpkins and squash. Stuffing one food inside another as a metaphor for abundance is the hallmark of Sukkot cuisine.

Yet there’s nothing more opulent than the elaborate bread stuffings found inside Thanksgiving turkeys.

Greene enjoys transforming traditional Thanksgiving recipes into kosher cuisine.

"I like mixing new and old world themes," she said.

One of her favorite recipes is glazed turkey with fruit-nut stuffing. Bursting with so much produce, it’s a one-dish harvest festival. Because the pilgrims and Indians shared roasted corn during the first Thanksgiving, Greene’s double-corn bread is a fitting choice. It is soft and moist, almost like a kugel.

Harvest-time cranberry relish is always a big hit at Greene’s house.

"Several years ago, I invited a family of Russian Jewish immigrants to celebrate their first Thanksgiving. While they adored traditional American foods, they were especially fascinated with the taste and bright color of cranberries."

But since the two holidays are so close in time, is there any reason for American Jews who celebrate Sukkot to pay homage to a second harvest festival six weeks later?

"Participating in Thanksgiving is how we feel American," said Greene, a former food columnist for the Baltimore Jewish Times, who used to submit a Thanksgiving story every year.

She agrees with Burghardt that Thanksgiving is a lovely experience. It’s an easy holiday to include friends and neighbors of other faiths.

"While Thanksgiving is not technically a Jewish holiday, it’s not a Christian one either," Burghardt said. "It’s a great equalizer with a multicultural theme."

Although Burghardt believes that Thanksgiving, with its chocolate turkeys and pilgrims, lacks Sukkot’s depth, Greene feels there’s something spiritual about the whole country partaking in a communal meal, even though menus and customs vary from home to home. At her table, she asks guest to share one thing for which they’re grateful.

"Like Sukkot, at Thanksgiving you’re supposed to invite people to share abundance with your family," Burghardt said. "You can’t serve too much food. Could there be anything more Jewish than that?"

Glazed Turkey With Fruit-Nut Stuffing

Fruit-Nut Stuffing:

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, diced

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups cranberries

12 pitted prunes, coarsely chopped

6 dried apricots, coarsely chopped

1 cup raisins

3 medium apples, cored and diced

1 1/2 cups chopped nuts

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Salt and pepper to taste

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1. In a medium-sized saucepan sauté the onion and celery in oil over medium-high heat, stirring until tender but not browned. Transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.

2. In the same (unwashed) pan, combine orange juice and sugar, bringing mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in cranberries and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer cranberries, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, or until berry skins pop.

3. Mix in prunes, apricots and raisins. Remove from heat. Transfer mixture to bowl containing onion and celery. Cool to room temperature. Add remaining stuffing ingredients and mix well.

Turkey:

1 12-14 pound turkey, completely defrosted in refrigerator

Canola oil

1. Clean turkey well and discard giblets. Rub skin with canola oil.

2. Fill the body and neck cavities of the turkey with stuffing, allowing room for expansion. Tuck the legs under the band of skin or tie legs together with heavy cord. Skewer or sew neck skin closed against the body. Place turkey, breast up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Roast in a preheated 325 F oven for about three hours.

Yield: 10 servings

Double Corn Bread

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1/3 cup canola oil

1 (about 15-ounce) can cream-style corn, including liquid.

(Note: Because cream-style corn does not contain dairy products, it is pareve.)

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with no-stick spray.

2. In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center, and add eggs, oil and canned corn. Beat wet ingredients with a fork to combine them, then incorporate dry ingredients. Stir only until all ingredients are completely moistened and combined.

3. Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cut into 16 squares and serve directly from the pan.

Harvest-Time Cranberry Relish

1 medium-sized navel orange

1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries, sorted, rinsed and drained

1 medium-sized apple, cored and cut into eighths

1 medium-sized pear, cored and cut into eighths

1/4 cup walnut pieces

1/4 cup dark raisins

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Use a sharp knife to remove the colored part of the orange rind. Set aside. Remove and discard the white pith. Cut orange pulp into chunks.

2. Put orange rind and pulp into food processor fitted with the steel blade with the remaining relish ingredients. Pulse the mixture until ingredients are finely chopped but not smoothly pureed.

3. Chill relish covered for several hours, stirring occasionally until the sugar completely dissolves and flavors blend.

Yield: about 3 1/2 cups

From "The New Jewish Holiday Cookbook," by Gloria Kaufer Greene.

Not Just for Kids


Purim may conjure up visions of kiddie games, sugar-addled
toddlers and homemade noisemakers, but it lends itself just as well to adult
forms of celebration. The Talmud instructs us to drink and make our hearts
merry with wine on Purim until we cannot tell the difference between “cursed be
Haman” and “blessed be Mordechai.”

For American Jews who were raised on G-rated carnivals held
in synagogues and schools, the idea that Purim could look more like a Jewish
variation on Mardi Gras can come as a minor revelation. Just think: Dance
parties instead of spin art; the pop of a wine cork instead of the slosh of a
doomed goldfish in a Zip-Locked baggie; and costumes that might even make
Vashti blush.

After all, the Shushan story is one of our spicier
narratives. Underneath the sanitized children’s version, there is a rich tale
of palace intrigue, sexual power struggles, violence and desire. The king
demands that Vashti parade in front of his wine-soaked friends, wearing nothing
but her crown. After Vashti’s rebellion and violent demise, Esther, a lovely
virgin, is taken to the palace, rubbed with oil and beautified for display, so
that she may be chosen as queen instead of just palace concubine. Haman plots,
Mordechai maneuvers and, ultimately, the Jews of Shushan escape death. Who
needs goldfish?

For the over-21 set, there are now more adult opportunities
to celebrate Purim than there used to be. While family-oriented events still
dominate, there has been a conscious effort in recent years to organize Purim
celebrations that will appeal to Jews who are young, single and unaffiliated.

A Green Martini Purim

ATID’s first ever Purim Bash is a case in point.

“We want to attract people who otherwise would never come to
shul on Purim,” said recording artist and Friday Night Live music director
Craig Taubman. Through his independent label, Craig ‘n Co., Taubman is
co-producing the Purim party at Bergamot Station. Taubman will be there in
tandem with Sinai Temple’s Rabbi David Wolpe kicking-off the first party
sponsored by ATID (Hebrew for “future”), a new group under Sinai’s auspices
that has been set up to fund programming for young Jewish professionals.
Inspired by their success with Friday Night Live, Taubman and Wolpe, believe
the Jewish establishment must think creatively in order to spark any interest
among disaffected, unaffiliated Jewish singles.

“We’re looking to attract people who don’t even usually
consider attending anything remotely Jewish,” Taubman said.

A DJ, guitar player and percussionist billed collectively as
Tribe 1, will provide live music. Wolpe will conduct a decidedly nontraditional
Megillah reading jazzed up by the Purim Posse, a troupe of professional actors
who, Taubman said, will dramatize a rather “spicy” version of the holiday tale.
Strolling musicians and jugglers will entertain partygoers while interactive
performers will mingle with the crowd. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Purim
celebration without costumes. Grand prize in the ATID costume contest will be
two tickets to New York City on American Airlines, with other prizes for
runners-up.

“Estherminator”

In an irreverent press release that promises to “put the
‘fun’ back into fundamentalism,” a group of New York- and San Francisco-based
actors, musicians and educators will bring “Estherminator,” their edgy version
of a Purimspiel, to Los Angeles’ Echo Club on March 16.

Billed as a “psycho-pious Purim rock opera,” Estherminator
is an hour-plus piece of Megillah-inspired performance art put together by Amy
Tobin of The Hub in San Francisco, and the New York-based Storahtelling
Project, a nonprofit group founded by artistic director Amichai Lau-Lavie.
Lau-Lavie, like his organization, has an interesting pedigree. His work as
scholar-in-residence at New York City’s Congregation B’nai Jeshurun transformed
the staid, Saturday morning Torah services into pieces of dynamic performance
art that taught — as well as inspired.

Original music is woven into show, and the evening promises
to provide a modern take on the timeless themes of power, vengeance, sex and
politics. While “Estherminator” is the centerpiece of the evening, it’s still a
party. Drinking and dancing will get equal billing, with a live DJ and a cash
bar both before and after the performance.

“We’re hoping to attract a funky and cutting-edge crowd
from the more radical, underground Jewish arts scene,” saidStorahtelling
marketing director,Stephanie Pacheco.

Brazilian Night Singles Party

What better way to honor Los Angeles’ dizzying polyglot
culture than to gather together in West Hollywood to celebrate an ancient
Persian story with booze, kosher food, music, Brazilian dancers and a
Vegas-style casino?

At Brazilian Night, the fourth annual Purim party hosted by
the Iranian American Jewish Federation’s (IAJF) Youth Division, you don’t have
to be Iranian to come and celebrate, or to meet that special someone. All
Jewish singles between the ages of 21 and 38 are welcome to dance to music spun
by DJ Shaad, dine on glatt kosher hors d’oeuvres, gamble at the casino tables
with $1,000 faux dollars in chips that will be handed out at the door, win
prizes and shimmy to the tropical beat of live Brazilian dancers.

IAJF planners say they expect a strong turnout of singles,
as they have in years past. Youth Division Chair Elliot Benjamin said this will
be the fourth year they’ve held the Purim party, and it’s always a hit.

Shushan Revisited

Now in its third year, Purim Extravaganza 3 at the Century
Club is a veritable tradition in Los Angeles. This year, the festivities are
sponsored by the Happy Minyan, Olam and the Chai Center.The party is geared
toward “Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, non-affiliates and any Jew that moves,”
host Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz says in his press release.

With Megillah readings beginningat 7 p.m. and continuing
every hour from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., the evening will also include entertainment
by Yehuda Glantz, Peter Himmelman, Gregg Fisher, The Happy Minyan Band and
comedians seen on Leno and Letterman.

For more information, check our Arts and Calendar sections.

  • ATID’s Purim Bash at Bergamot: Monday, March 17, 8 p.m.,
    Bergamot Station Art Center, Track 16 Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa
    Monica. $25 cover includes all food, drinks and entertainment. Costumes
    encouraged. Reservations are required. Call (310) 481-3244; or visit
    www.fridaynightlive.net.

  • Estherminator: Sunday, March 16. Doors open at 8 p.m. $8
    (with costume); $10 without. Club Echo, 1822 West Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles.
    For information, call (323) 761-8350.

  • Brazilian Night Singles Party: Saturday, March 15, at the
    Iranian American Jewish Center, 1317 N. Crescent Heights Blvd., Los Angeles.
    Doors open at 8 p.m. Admission is a donation to IAJF; $40 (in advance) $50 (at
    the door). Ladies entering before 9:30 p.m. are charged 2 for 1 (either in
    advance or door ticket sales). For tickets or more information, call (323)
    656-3150.

  • Purim Extravaganza 3 at The Century Club, 10131
    Constellation Ave. Century City. $15. Costumes optional. For more
    information, call (310) 285-7777 or (310) 391-7995.

Once Upon a ‘Nail’


The joyous holiday of Chanukah is replete with miracles and storytelling. Judy Aronson, Jewish educator in New England, loves telling stories at Chanukah. "The best are handed down from generation to generation. And they change in each retelling," she said. "I first heard the ‘Miracle of the Iron Nail’ in a youth group in Hartford, Conn., when I was 8 years old. Every time I tell it, I add a little something, take a little something out. It’s the same way I cook," she said, mischievously.

This is the story — I couldn’t help but add a little, take a little out:

A long time ago, young Jewish boys were stolen from their families to serve in the Czar’s army. Stalwart soldiers would sneak into their villages at dusk, and march from house to house, wreaking havoc and leaving a trail of brokenhearted parents.

The boys were taken far away, and ordered to forget about their families — especially what it was like to be Jewish. They grew up as soldiers and followed in the footsteps of their captors.

One night, a terrible blizzard blew through the camp, uprooting tents and hurling boys from their beds. Yehuda, Moshe and Reuven found themselves in the pitch-black night in the middle of nowhere. They wandered for days.

Finally, they came to a small Jewish village, looking ragged and pathetic. Instead of taking pity, the villagers ran for their lives, warning each other. "Hide everything in sight, especially your children!" But one housewife wasn’t fast enough, and as the soldiers passed her house they peered into the window and spotted a chanukiah.

Reuven suddenly remembered the holiday he hadn’t celebrated for so many years, and said to Yehuda and Moshe, "Dear friends, it’s Chanukah, remember the delicious latkes our mothers used to make? What I wouldn’t give for a latke." The memory brought tears to their eyes.

They trekked through the town, hoping somebody would give them a latke. They knocked at every door but the only response they got was, "We have no food! Go away!"

Moshe and Yehuda pleaded with Reuven. "Nobody wants us, we might as well go back to the army. At least they’ll feed us." But Reuven was adamant — they mustn’t lose faith.

He knocked at the next house. Miraculously, the door opened. When Reuven saw Nechama, a beautiful housewife, instead of asking for food he stood up straight and announced, "I come bearing food — some latkes for Chanukah."

"How can you possibly have any food?" she asked.

"Because I brought the magic iron nail. All I need is a pot," he replied.

Against her husband’s wishes, Nechama ran into the kitchen and fetched a pot. Reuven led her to the Town Square. He held up his hand and shouted, "Look everyone, I have a magic nail. I’m putting it in the pot. I’m going to make the finest latkes you’ve ever tasted."

The villagers scoffed. Someone picked up a stone and threw it. Undaunted, Reuven stirred the pot. "All I need is an onion." Nobody moved. Finally, Nechama’s neighbor dropped an onion into the pot, then quickly retreated.

Reuven was ecstatic. "We have a pot. We have an onion. Now all we need are a few potatoes." A little girl ran up, dragging a sack of potatoes, and dropped them into the pot.

The three soldiers began dancing. So did the villagers, who started peeling, chopping and grating. "Now all we need is some salt. And matzah meal," Yehuda appealed.

When someone fetched the foodstuffs, Moshe enthused, "We’re going to make it. All we need is some oil." And the oil flowed.

Boruch built a fire in the middle of the square. Rochel brought a fry pan and poured in the oil. Gila fashioned the mixture into latkes and dropped them into the pan, one by one.

The oil started to crackle. The latkes started to fry. Everyone was gleeful, full of the spirit of Chanukah.

The mayor addressed Reuven, Moshe and Yehuda. "We’ve learned there are good soldiers in the world, not just ones who will harm us," he complimented them. "You’ve brought us the most wonderful Chanukah gift we’ve ever had."

Reuven eloquently assured him, "Because you have been so kind, your people will live in peace forever more. No soldiers will harm them ever again."

"All Jewish stories have a deeper meaning," reflected Aronson, a graduate of Brandeis University and Harvard Divinity School. "It’s the community that makes the latkes, the people that create the celebration. If nobody had contributed anything, all they’d have was an iron nail. Because everybody cooperated, they not only had a feast, they had peace of mind forever more."

A Home in Nature


On Sukkot, we eat and sleep in a hut called a sukkah. We can see the stars and feel the wind. It reminds us of how dependent we are on nature to survive. This is a holiday to remember that nature is dependent on us, too. What can you do? Grow a garden. Don’t throw garbage into the ocean. Recycle. Love nature: hike in it, bike in it, swim in it!

Fruit of the Land

Y’know, it’s easy to get food nowadays. Just go to the supermarket and pick out some stuff. It wasn’t always so easy. People grew their fruits, vegetables and grain. If it didn’t rain, or rained too much, their crops would be ruined and they wouldn’t be able to eat. Dates and grapes — two of the fruits we eat on Sukkot to remind us of the fruit that grows in the Land of Israel.

Date-Raisin-Walnut Shofar

1 package (8 ounces) pitted dates

1 cup raisins

1¼2 cup sugar, divided

1¼4 pound (1 stick) margarine,

cut into small pieces

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

11¼2 teaspoons cinnamon

1¼2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 cup chopped walnuts

White decorating icing

in tube with writing tip

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Grease a large baking sheet.

In a food processor with a metal blade, pulse dates, raisins and 1/4 cup sugar until coarsely chopped.

Remove to a seperate bowl.

Place margarine and 1/4 cup sugar in food processor and process until mixed. Add vanilla and eggs and process until blended. Add flour, cinnamon, salt and orange juice. Pulse in walnuts. Mix together with raisins and dates.

Here’s the really fun part:

Remove dough to prepared baking sheet and shape it into a shofar about 17-inches long, 6 inches at its thickest point and 2 inches at its thinnest point.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned. It will feel soft in the center, but will firm up as it cools.

To decorate:

Several hours before serving, write L’Shana Tova with white decorating icing across shofar.

Makes 16 servings.

A Tuna After Atonement


Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a holiday for serious fasting — no food or drink for 24 hours. At the end of the day, thoughts inevitably turn to what to eat at sundown, and breaking the fast with family and friends.

Our family tradition has been to serve dairy and seafood dishes when we return from the synagogue. I found the perfect fish dishes to prepare for this meal when I attended a food fair at the Skirball Cultural Center. The highlight of the festival was a series of cooking demonstrations, given by well-known local chefs. They were on a stage in front of a movie-size screen so the audience could see what they were demonstrating. During each session everyone was invited to taste what the chefs had prepared.

Chef Neal Fraser, formerly of Boxer Restaurant, gave the first demonstration. He is planning his own restaurant, Grace on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. Neal prepared a dish that he called Big Eye Tuna Carpaccio With a Spanish Touch. He offered several cooking tips as he went along, and the audience clearly enjoyed his presentation. The tuna fillet was placed between wax paper and pounded until almost translucent. Neal transferred the tuna onto a plate and prepared a mixed vegetable salad that he placed on top of the tuna.

This can all be prepared in advance, and served as part of a break-the-fast meal. He also showed how to roll the tuna with the salad tucked inside and then sliced into bite-size portions, to be served as a finger food.

Next came Chef Kazuto Matsusaka, formerly of Chinois on Main, and his wife, chef Vicki Fan, who assisted him. Kazuto prepared Infused Sake, Cilantro Cured Salmon (my favorite), Vegetable Dumplings With Ponzu Sauce and Seared Ahi Tuna With a Daikon Vinaigrette. This handsome Japanese chef and his wife were a great team, adding humor and charm to their dumpling mix.

This year I will add these dishes to our traditional family buffet along with bagels, cream cheese, platters of herring and smoked salmon and a wonderful array of cold salads. Serve a variety of baked delicacies including honey cake, an assortment of sweet rolls and fruit salad for dessert.

Neal’s Big Eye Tuna Carpaccio with a Spanish
Touch

8 ounces Big Eye Ahi Tuna, cleaned

of sinew and cut into 2-ounce medallions

Olive oil

4 ounces baby arugula

1 ounce capers, chopped

3 ounces Spanish green olives,

pitted and chopped

1 ounce olive tapenade

1 bunch parsley, chopped

2 ounces sherry wine vinegar

1 ounce balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 ounces shallots, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 ounces haricot vert, blanched

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced*

For the Tuna:

Brush the fish with a little olive oil. Place between two pieces of plastic wrap.

Using a hammer or tenderizer pound the tuna until almost translucent and reserve. Repeat with remaining medallions.*

For the Vinaigrette:

In a medium-size bowl, add all of the ingredients except the tomato and arugula, and mix with a wire whisk. Season with salt and pepper. Add enough olive oil so that it is balanced with the vinegar. (The ratio of oil to vinegar is 3:1) Taste and add the peppers and tomatoes at the end.

To serve, remove the top piece of plastic wrap from the tuna, and using the remaining plastic wrap as a guide, invert the tuna onto a serving plate and peel off the remaining plastic wrap (repeat with remaining tuna). Season with salt and pepper. Toss the arugula with the vinaigrette and carefully arrange on top of the tuna.

*Variation: Remove the top piece of plastic wrap from the tuna and place a small portion of the salad on top of the tuna. Roll up the tuna and slice it into bite-size pieces.

Kazuto’s Cilantro Cured Salmon

1 (4-pound) salmon fillet, skin on

6 bunches washed and picked

cilantro leaves, chopped (about 3 cups)

1¼3 cup salt

1¼3 cup sugar

2¼3 cup freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons tequila

With a sharp knife, score the skin of the salmon in four or five places about 2 inches apart.

In a medium-size bowl, combine the cilantro, salt, sugar and pepper. Place a small handful of the cilantro mixture on the bottom of a large glass baking dish. Place the salmon fillet skin side down on top. Cover completely with the remaining cilantro mixture. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly weight it down and refrigerate for 72 hours or until salmon is firm to the touch.

Wipe off the cilantro mixture to clean the salmon filet. If serving as an hors d’oeuvres or appetizer, slice thinly. Serve with a cucumber salad, on a toasted bagel or with a German-style potato salad.

If you wish, you may also slice the salmon into 1-inch-thick slices, sauté and serve with a cucumber salad, on a toasted bagel or with a German-style potato salad. If you wish, you may also slice the salmon into 1-inch-thick slices, sauté and serve with a honey mustard sauce and mixed green salad.

Place of Balance


The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana ("Head of the Year" in Hebrew), is an occasion for celebration and feasting but also for introspection and reflection. Marking the "birthday of the world" — the creation of the universe some six millennia ago, according to the traditional reckoning — it falls on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei and is commonly celebrated for two days.

Because Judaism uses a lunar calendar adjusted to the solar year, the holiday can fall anywhere from mid-September to mid-October, and people often speak of Rosh Hashana coming early (as it does this year) or late — but, as the joke goes, never quite on time.

"On time," however, might be at the solar equinox, for Rosh Hashana is concerned with balance, with weighing and with judgment — like the scales of Libra, the astrological sign associated with this time of year. As daylight and darkness even out and summer slowly fades, it seems as if a larger drama framing human lives is being acted out above. It’s to this drama, its Creator and the individual in relationship to it, rather than to events in Jewish history, that Rosh Hashana directs itself. The holiday does not neglect festive meals, holiday clothes and family get-togethers, but its themes are existential, focusing on rigorous self-examination, free will and the possibility of personal change.

Wearing this hat, under the name Yom ha’Din, the Day of Judgment, Rosh Hashana asks that individuals assess themselves to see where they have fallen short in their relationship to their inner selves, to their loved ones, to their community and to God. Because the holiday urges return to the inner self, it has a feeling of homecoming embedded in it. This promise of homecoming may explain why even many Jews who feel disconnected from Judaism the rest of the year bring themselves back to synagogue on these High Holidays.

Rosh Hashana is also called Yom Teruah, the day of sounding the shofar, or ram’s horn, whose piercing blast is the primary symbol of the holiday. The practice of blowing the shofar is mandated by biblical law, and though the Bible offers no justification, the shofar sounds can be understood as a way of waking the inner person to self-examination, change and recommitment to the moral and ethical requirements of Jewish life.

The holiday’s tropism toward the philosophical and internal is corrected, so to speak, by an array of appealing customs. Among the best-known is eating apple slices dipped in honey with a wish for a sweet year. Many people also follow a custom of eating symbolic foods at the start of Rosh Hashana meals, with a spoken word play that explains their symbolism (see page 36). For example — to carry the verbal play into English, as many people do — beets may be served to express the hope that our opponents will not "beat" us. The head of a fish (or even a sheep) suggests, "May we be the head and not the tail."

The braided breads typical on Jewish festivals are exchanged for round loaves, to allude to the cycles of time. Some bakers decorate them with such motifs as a ladder (to recall the ladder that the biblical Jacob saw connecting heaven to earth). At Tashlich, from the Hebrew word meaning "to send," individuals or congregations go to a river or pond to symbolically empty their pockets, as if to cast the mistakes of the past year into the flowing water.

The process of personal realignment is begun on Rosh Hashana, but the struggle with the self isn’t likely to be completed in a day or two of feasting or even praying. Rosh Hashana initiates the period of the Days of Awe, an extended opportunity for making amends to others and for clarifying one’s own heart that culminates 10 days later in the austere and yet joyful fast of Yom Kippur.

Back to Basics


Once in a great while, a cookbook comes along so utterly gorgeous it practically springs from my kitchen shelf and hurls itself upon my coffee table.

Marlena Spieler’s latest, "The Jewish Heritage Cookbook" (Lorenz Books, $36), subtitled "a fascinating journey through the rich and diverse history of the Jewish cuisine" is so leap-off-the-page lusciously photographed you can practically taste the food. But lest you think this book is just another pretty face, Spieler, author of over 30 cookbooks, includes informative chapters on the history of Jewish cuisine, the holidays and kashrut as well as general guides to the preparation of all foods Jewish, everything from grilling mamaliga to pounding hawaij and berbere (spice mixtures).

"This is my first Jewish cookbook," said the California native on a recent visit to San Francisco from her home in London. "I’ve done theme books, like Mediterranean and olive oil and mushrooms, but I’ve always had a Jewish touch somewhere, including dishes either from Israel or my travels or my Jewish family and friends."

Spieler fondly remembers Sundays in her grandmother’s kitchen, her early inspiration. "My grandmother ran a law firm and worked until a few days before she died at 93. Well, she had to cut back a little — she only worked from 9 to 5 then. But on Sunday morning, people would start coming, and she would start cooking. I couldn’t say they’d come for breakfast, lunch or dinner, because it was all one meal.

"We would smell the chicken soup as we went off to synagogue school, and by the time we got home she’d have matzah brei and kasha varnishkes and meat patties with onions. This went on until late evening. Bachi really gave me the love of cooking."

Spieler traveled widely as a young adult, even lived in Israel for a year, and was working as an artist in Greece when she started including recipes with her drawings of food. A publisher offered to publish the recipes (minus the drawings) launching her career as a food writer, broadcaster and columnist.

These days, Spieler divides her time between San Francisco and London, where she is a frequent guest on the BBC. Her column "The Roving Feast" is carried by the New York Times Syndicate and the San Francisco Chronicle.

"The Jewish Heritage Cookbook" is a truly international celebration of Spieler’s curiosity about Jewish people and Jewish food. "I love meeting Jews from different cultures, because they have different dishes on the table," she said. "I love to cook and hear their stories and find it really exciting that people with such different cultures share the same heritage and holidays."

The book’s section on the festival of Shavuot (literally "weeks," because it occurs seven weeks after Pesach) is accompanied by a magnificent illustration from a 13th century manuscript of the Book of Ruth, the portion read on this holiday.

Shavuot, which began at sundown on Thursday, May 16, commemorates the giving of the Torah as well as the offering of the first fruits of the season. Spieler notes that although Shavuot meals are based on dairy products, "there are no rules that say this must be done."

Why dairy? Scholars differ, she says. Perhaps the tradition evolved because spring grazing produces more milk at this time. Also, in "Song of Songs," the Torah is associated with milk and honey. Some suggest that while the Israelites were receiving the Ten Commandments, they were gone so long their milk turned to cheese; others contend that upon their return they were too hungry for anything but milk to sustain them.

Whatever the explanation, for Ashkenazim it’s bring on the blintzes, while Sephardim enjoy cheese filled borekas.

A typical Shavuot starter in central Europe is Hungarian cherry soup perfumed with cinnamon and almond flavor. "The nice thing about this soup," Spieler noted, "is at Shavuot the days are beginning to get warm, and it is really refreshing. I eat it as often as a dessert as with a meal."

Summer squash and baby new potatoes in warm dill sour cream is a festive Israeli celebration of spring and perfect for Shavuot with its fragrant dill and sour cream or yogurt topping.

While cheesecake is traditional fare for Shavuot, we opted for cheese-filled Jerusalem kodafa drenched with syrup, an unusual dessert popular throughout the Middle East, where it is commonly made with a shredded wheat-like ingredient called kadaif. Spieler substitutes couscous as it is prepared in Jerusalem.

"In the Old City, when things were good and people were more friendly, they would make it in these big metal trays that they’d carry on their heads," she noted. "I’ve had it in the Lebanese community of London as well, but in Jerusalem, all the little tea and coffee shops serve it."


There’s Purim carnivals and Passover seders and Chanukah parties — and now there’s a Shavuot festival.

Temple Beth Am on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles claims to be the first Los Angeles synagogue to celebrate the harvest holiday with a full-fledged festival. On Sun., May 5, the temple closed off its parking lot and brought in booths and games linked thematically to different aspects of the holiday.

A "Biblical Farmers Market" offered items made from agricultural products found in the Bible. Hundreds of attendees sampled cheesecakes, fresh honey, homemade beer (barley) and a sampling of single malt scotch from Vendome Liquors (again, barley), ice cream, artisan cheeses and breads from Maison Gourmet and La Brea Bakery.

There was also a petting zoo with a Swiss cow and baby llama, an inflated "Mt. Sinai" rock-climbing attraction, a butter-churning booth, storytelling and lessons in Hebrew calligraphy.

Rabbi Perry Netter said he was especially proud that the festival taught about the biblical idea of gleaning, or leaving a portion of ones’ fields for the poor. Festival-goers brought items from their homes to give to charity as they entered.

The festival also offered a cheesecake-baking contest. The grand prize went to Fredya Rembaum, who is married to the temple’s senior rabbi, Joel Rembaum. "We know it looks bad," said a judge at the blind tasting, "but what could we do? Hers was the best." — Staff Report

A ‘Cheesy’ Holiday


My father never missed a chance to eat cheesecake. He was a furniture salesman whose territory covered the New York metropolitan area, and whenever he called on stores near a bakery, he purchased a cheesecake. While my mother and brother avoided cheese in any form, he knew he could count on me to join him at the kitchen table after dinner to sample his latest discovery.

“I like the consistency of this one,” I said one night, feasting on a slice of creamy cake from a Brooklyn bakery. We felt the best cheesecakes came from places densely populated by Jews and Italians. “But the crust is wimpy,” my father said. “A good crust should be crunchy and thick.”

“The cake could be tarter,” I said. “It’s a bit bland.”

“Yet it’s perfectly moist.”

We had no use for dry cheesecakes. Full-blooded Ashkenazi Jews, we were equal-opportunity cheesecake lovers. We adored the zesty citrus flavor infused in the ricotta cheesecakes that my father purchased in Italian neighborhoods.

“But Rueben’s really makes the best cheesecake,” my father always concluded after we consumed several slices. Since his office was close to the famed Reuben’s delicatessen, he frequently brought home their decadent cakes. Four decades later, I’m still working off the calories.

We didn’t wait for the late-spring celebration of Shavuot to partake in our favorite luxury. Reform Jews, we called Shavuot “the cheesecake holiday,” but knew little else about it.

Shavuot is an important late-spring observance that commemorates the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. It is often celebrated with all-night study and by the eating dairy foods, particularly cheese.

In Psalms 68:16-17, Mount Sinai is called by several names. One of them, mountain of peaks, Bar Gavnunim in Hebrew, shares the same root as gevinah, the word for cheese. Some historians speculate that after receiving the Ten Commandments, the ancient Israelites had been gone from their campsite for so many hours that their milk had soured and was becoming cheese. It’s possible that they fasted while receiving the Ten Commandments and returning hungry, reached for milk, a biblical version of fast food.

Accordingly, Shavuot arose as a dairy holiday. For centuries people have indulged in creamy confections for dessert, and cheesecake became the pastry of choice among Jews from Central and Eastern Europe. In the Old Country, recipes called for curd cheeses, such as pot or cottage cheese, which created disappointing results by today’s super-rich standards.

Cream cheese was the ingredient that turned a dry cake into a touch of heaven. When farmers in upstate New York invented cream cheese to duplicate French Neufchatel cheese, they never expected enterprising Jewish delicatessen owners in Manhattan to buy the product in bulk for baking.

Arnold Reuben Jr., a descendant of immigrants from Germany, claimed that his family developed the first cream-cheese cake recipe. At a time when other bakeries relied on cottage cheese, Reuben’s, then on Broadway and later on Madison Avenue and 58th Street, began baking cheesecakes with Breakstone’s cream cheese. In 1929, Reuben’s cheesecake won a Gold Metal at the World’s Fair.

Unaware of his destiny, a young go-getter named Leo Linderman left school at age 14 to apprentice in a Berlin delicatessen. In 1921, eight years after arriving in America, he opened Lindy’s, a delicatessen that he promoted by creating super-sized sandwiches with flamboyant names.

In the 1930s, this marketing genius developed a cheesecake recipe inspired by Kraft’s Philadelphia Supreme Cheesecake, and began selling a confection that competed with Reuben’s. For decades rumors circulated that Leo Linderman had stolen the Reuben family recipe after luring their German chef into his employ.

Whether the story is true or not, there were differences between the two cakes. Those old enough to remember will tell you that Reuben’s cheesecake was simple and delicious, while Lindy’s cake, as showy as its inventor, was topped with strawberries in a syrupy gel. In addition, Lindy’s crust was doughy, and not to my father’s liking.

Unfortunately, my father passed away by the time I married. But fate shined on me the day I met my husband and fell in love with his mother’s cheesecake. It is delicate and refined with a smooth texture, deep vanilla flavor and crunchy graham cracker crust.

For a change of pace, there’s nothing like a slice of airy ricotta cheesecake with its divine lemon essence. I fashioned this recipe after a cheesecake I enjoyed in Trieste, Italy, visiting my husband’s aunt. Sadly, she passed away before I asked for her recipe. For contrast, I added a gingersnap crust.

It’s impossible to discuss recipes without paying homage to the delicatessens that made New York as famous for cheesecake as for the Statue of Liberty. Since Reuben’s and the original Lindy’s restaurant have closed their doors, people who adored their luscious cakes are still haunted by delicious memories. Let’s face it — it’s been a loss for the Jews.

In the ensuing decades, I’ve tried to conjure up the qualities of the quintessential New York cheesecake: a graham cracker crust, creamy texture, distinct lemon flavor, and firm but light density. It must be taller than the tines of a fork and slightly sweet but with a little kick. The recipe below delivers on all counts. Yet authentic as it is, nothing compares to those evenings when my father indulged me with wondrous cheesecakes from the bakeries of New York.

Classic New York Cheesecake

Crust:

Heavily coat 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray

11/2 cups commercial graham cracker crumbs

5 Tbsp. butter

1 tsp. honey

1/4 cup sugar

Mix ingredients together with hands until well blended and crumbs appear moist. Pour into pan. With hands, spread evenly across the bottom and pat down firmly.

Filling:

5 8-ounce bars cream cheese, at room temperature

2 Tbsp. flour

1 Tbsp. confectioners’ sugar

11/2 cups sugar

grated rind of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp. orange liqueur

3/4 tsp. vanilla

2 egg yolks at room temperature

5 eggs at room temperature

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  • Place first five ingredients in large mixing bowl and beat on high until they are completely blended.

  • Add vanilla and 2 yolks, and beat again.

  • Add eggs one at a time, beating well.

  • Pour into prepared pan. Batter will fill pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Top will be golden. Lower oven temperature to 200 degrees and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until top browns, cake feels bouncy to the touch, and a toothpick tests clean. Cool to room temperature. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.

  • Bring to room temperature before serving.

  • Yield: 16-20 slices

Pre-Pesach Culinary Blues


The pre-Pesach season is both exciting and disturbing to my family. Exciting, because due to our exuberant cleaning for the holiday, emptying drawers, overturning mattresses and, in general, preparing the house for a visit by Martha Stewart, we find all kinds of things that have been missing in action for months.

Today, one son found a Game Boy game under a bookshelf and two week’s worth of allowance in the sock drawer. He even found something relevant to the task at-hand, which was the vestiges of a Chips Ahoy! package, still full of crumbs. My daughter found a long-lost favorite hairbrush in the closet and some packets of candy under her bed. She has no idea how the candy, a brand expressly forbidden by me, got to her room, but is sure that she had nothing to do with it.

The countervailing bad news in this otherwise sunny scenario is that we eat some strange and even terrible dinners before the festival of freedom. See, I hate to waste any food, and I have no pride whatsoever when it comes to reaching back into the recesses of the freezer or pantry and patching together something resembling a meal, even from scraps of pita bread with a terminal case of freezer burn.

A few days ago, for example, I cleaned out another freezer shelf and used it to offer up the following "meal" (perhaps this is a stretch) for the six of us: 13 fish sticks, a lone piece of petrified pizza, a cup- and-a-half of roasted pistachios, a bowl of corn and two cheese blintzes. My kids looked with horror at this sorry excuse for a family dinner and begged for cereal and — appealing to my sense of Pesach preparation — noted that we still had five boxes left. After standing guard to make sure they ate at least two fish sticks each, I gave in and watched them practically run over one another to make a real dinner out of Honeycomb, Crispix and milk.

During the rest of the year, as soon as the kids see me after school, they ask impatiently, "HiMaWhatsFaDinna?" But, once they come home and see we are wiping down linen closets and dusting off toys to make them chametz-free, they are too frightened to ask. And if they dare, it is with a quivering voice.

My husband, who has learned a thing or two in nearly 15 years of marriage, just eats what’s offered. He knows that brisket is just around the corner on seder night. The kids begin pleading for pizza. They are so earnest in their appeals, they even offer to do extremely uncharacteristic things, such as clean their own rooms and bathe without waiting for any parental threats or intimidation.

And they know they will soon get their pizza, because at a certain point, I will run out of food. And because no one is eager to eat Pesach food before absolutely mandated by law, we, along with about 4,000 of our neighbors, start hitting the kosher pizza joints. Let me tell you, if there was ever a proving ground for our perseverance as a people, you can see it in the lines at the pizza shops in the waning days before Pesach. No one has chametz in the house anymore. No one wants to cook. Everyone is turning their kitchens around to be kosher for Pesach, and we will wait as long as it takes, sometimes for days, for a hot pizza and calzone.

Well, my pantry and freezer are pretty bare right now, so this will probably be the last night I can get away with serving another in the series of pathetic pre-Pesach portions. Tonight we are having three thawed-out chicken drumsticks (age indeterminate), six bagels (with only moderate freezer burn), pretzels (only semi-stale), peanut butter and canned peaches.

With the yom tov only days away, we’re so close to repast redemption, I can almost smell the brisket now.

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner


Although it might seem a little early for Passover discussions, Jewish law does mandate that one should begin studying the Passover laws and details at least 30 days before the actual holiday. This is probably because no holiday requires more detailed preparation than Passover. Most of the preparations for this holiday tend to focus on koshering our homes, kitchens and utensils, and, of course, the menu for the big seder meal. What we often seem to forget is that the seder is not a meal, per se, nor a gathering to sing Hebrew folk songs, but it is an educational experience that requires no less preparation than koshering your oven or preparing your main dish.

The seder table is a classroom, with the haggadah serving as a curriculum outline, and the main educators being all those who consider themselves knowledgeable enough to conduct and lead a seder. The educational responsibility of the seder leader is to be prepared to teach the meaning of the Exodus and the Passover rituals to a wide variety of audiences.

Parashat Bo sets the stage for how we are to prepare for this great educational event known as a seder. Based on the rabbinic interpretation of three verses from this week’s parsha and one more verse from the Book of Deuteronomy, the rabbis of the Midrash Mekhilta, the Talmud Yerushalmi and the Passover haggadah all state that regarding the mitzvah of teaching the Passover story: "The Torah speaks in reference to four children." Following are the four key areas of focus:

1. "Your children may ask you what is this service to you? You must answer, it is the Passover service to God." (Exodus 12:26-27)

2. "On that day you must tell your child: all of this is because that which the Lord did for me when I came forth from Egypt." (Exodus 13:8)

3."Your child may later ask you what is this? You must answer him, with a show of power God brought us out of Egypt, the place of slavery." (Exodus 13:14)

4. "In the future your child may ask you what are these rituals rules and laws that God has commanded you? You must tell him, we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, but God brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand." (Deuteronomy 6:20-21)

The rabbis asked why the Torah could not consolidate all of these seemingly repetitive instructions (regarding teaching the Passover story to children) into one unified verse. Why is one mitzvah being repeated four separate times?

The answer is that although on the surface the verses seem thematically repetitive (children, Passover story), each verse actually addresses a different type of child, and, therefore, each verse is teaching its own separate mitzvah. Because of the importance and centrality of the Passover story, the rabbis teach us that each type of child requires a unique and different approach to the effective teaching of this story. When the Mishnah dealing with the Seder in Tractate Pesahim 10:4 states "According to the son’s intelligence, the father instructs him," it means that it is a commandment to address each child in his own appropriate, meaningful and relevant fashion. In other words, know your audience.

The fact that we have an entire year to prepare this Passover lecture implies the power and importance of its message. This annual lecture challenges us to link our past experiences to the present in a relevant, meaningful and updated fashion for every Jew.

So it really isn’t too early to start thinking about Passover. When you stop and think about how difficult and challenging it is to convey a meaningful message to such diverse Jewish audiences, the educational preparation for the seder should take a lot more than 30 days.


Daniel Bouskila is rabbi of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel.

Chanukah in Casablanca


We realized that Chanukah was coming when we smelled the aromas from the bakeries in the Jewish Quarter of the city, where we all lived. In Morocco we didn’t have expensive menorahs, because it was illegal to import them from Israel. Instead, every year just before Chanukah, the blacksmith added crafting tin menorahs to his regular horseshoe trade. When the holiday was over, we discarded our tin menorahs and went back for new ones the next year.

The lights were different in Morocco because we didn’t use Chanukah candles. We used wicks and olive oil. Later, I found out from my rabbi here in Los Angeles, that according to the sages, this is the preferred way to light the chanukiah.

As with all Jewish holidays, for Jews all over the world, we had rituals and special Chanukah foods.

In Casablanca, we lit the chanukiah at sunset and then celebrated with fresh mint tea and delicious fried pastries called beignets. I remember my grandmother frying the beignets, and my mother adding the fruit jelly on top, and my cousin and I sneaking a hot beignet off the tray.

Dinner would be late that evening, with lots of extended family. We always started with six or seven salads, followed by chicken, vegetables, and a special couscous that was reserved for holidays.

Chanukah Couscous

  • 1 chicken, cut up in 8 pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, chopped fine
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped fine
  • 2 carrots, peeled, cleaned and diced
  • 2 turnips, peeled, cleaned and diced
  • 2 zucchinis, peeled, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, cleaned and diced
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 500-gram package of couscous
  • 1/2 can of garbanzo beans
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In large Dutch oven, heat olive oil and put in onions to soften on medium heat.

Add chicken, skin-down, until brown. Next, add parsley, cilantro, and 1 1/2 cups of the water. Cover and cook on medium heat for 35 minutes. Test chicken for to see if its done, then add all vegetables. Simmer for seven minutes and remove from heat.

While chicken is cooking, rinse couscous and place in microwave-safe bowl to dry for 10 minutes. Cook in microwave for 10 minutes on high. Remove couscous and add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and the remaining 3/4 cup of cold water.

Open the grains of the couscous with a wooden spoon. Set aside for five minutes to rest.

Cook in microwave another 10 minutes.

Place couscous on large serving platter. Arrange chicken and vegetables on top.

Serves 4.

Holiday Heroine


Each year, Jews light Chanukah candles for eight evenings in a row, repeating the story of the Maccabees, the ancient guerrilla warriors who launched surprise attacks on the occupying armies of Syria.

Judah the Maccabee and his four brothers overthrew Syrian tyranny, restored the Temple in Jerusalem, and witnessed a miracle when a one-day supply of olive oil burned for eight days until a new batch was produced.

That miracle and the Maccabees’ daring eclipsed the tale of Judith, the beautiful widow who also met the enemy and triumphed.

During one of Judea’s darkest hours, Holofernes, a general from Asia Minor, laid siege to the town of Bethulia. In no time its water supply dwindled to almost nothing, and the town was close to surrender.

The Book of Judith, an apocryphal work that probably dates to the Second Temple period, relates how a young widow, determined to save her people, purposely beguiled the general, who unwittingly obliged by falling in love with her.

The widow and the general dined together often, until one night when Judith served him salty cheese and plied him with wine to quench his thirst, making him tipsy. Holofernes fell into a stupor. Judith grabbed his sword and cut off his head, rescuing her town and thwarting the Syrians.

Although several versions of Judith’s story circulate, none of them has been confirmed as true. Scholars who’ve studied and debated aspects of the tale for centuries, have generally agreed that it is intended to teach us that the most powerful forces can, with the help of God, be defeated by those who may appear physically weak but are in fact spiritually strong.

In spite of its dubious veracity, Judith’s legend has led to the custom for some Jews of eating cheese and other dairy foods at Chanukah. There is some evidence that partaking in cheese may be as old as Chanukah itself. The salty cheese that Judith served Holofernes may have been in the form of fried cakes.

Recipes for ricotta pancakes in Italy and feta cheese pancakes in Greece may be modern versions of these ancient fried cakes. Today, trendy chefs are reinventing Chanukah pancakes using goat cheese.

Although foods fried in oil have been the heart of Chanukah cuisine for centuries, potato latkes were once considered newcomers. Carried aboard cargo ships from Bolivia and Peru, potatoes first arrived in Europe in the 16th century, precluding the possibility that they played a part in early Chanukah celebrations.

For the most part, Ashkenazic cuisine defers to Sephardic tradition when it comes to serving cheese dishes at Chanukah. Olive oil has always been plentiful in Sephardic countries, but in Eastern Europe oil was once a scarce commodity. Ashkenazim often fried latkes in goose fat shifting their Chanukah celebrations toward meat.

Paying homage to Judith’s courage, in some Sephardic cultures women do not perform work during the first and last days of Chanukah. On the seventh night, women sing, dance, drink wine and eat foods made from cheese.

In deference to the one-day supply of oil that stretched for eight days, the shortening of choice in the recipes below is olive oil.

Although at Chanukah Jews of Eastern European descent clamor for traditional latkes, potato pancakes fried in olive oil complement these menu suggestions. The Festival of Lights offers eight days of opportunities to dedicate a dinner or a brunch to dairy fare. In the spirit of Judith’s bravery, savor cheese dishes, let the wine flow, and toast one of history’s unsung legendary heroines.

Herbed Goat Cheese Spread

  • 1 8-ounce pkg. commercial cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon parsley, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chives, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, ground or chopped needles
  • dash of white pepper

In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients until well mixed. Place in an attractive bowl. Serve with crackers or crudités as an hors d’oeuvre; or as an appetizer with pita bread accompanied by a green salad. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Ricotta & Mushroom Matzah Brei

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Salt to taste
  • Olive oil for frying
  • 12 crimini (or white) mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 pieces of matzah, broken into one-inch squares
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 9 inch deep-dish pie pan

1. Place eggs, ricotta, milk and salt in a bowl and mix well. Reserve.

2. Pour 3 tablespoons oil into a large skillet and sauté mushrooms and garlic until soft. Remove from pan.

3. Lightly sprinkle matzah with water and sauté in mushroom drippings until crisp, adding oil when needed.

4. Return mushrooms to pan and mix with matzah. Add more oil.

5. Pour egg mixture into pan, spreading evenly. Sauté until brown. Cut into four wedges. Turn wedges and brown.

6. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Swiss Cheese Quiche

  • Crust:
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick sweet butter
  • 1/4 cup ice water

1. Place dry ingredients in food processor. Cut butter into four chunks and mix. With machine running, slowly pour water through feed tube. Mix until ingredients form a ball of dough, approximately 2-3 minutes.

2. Place dough on surface sprinkled with flour. Cover rolling pin with flour, and roll dough into a circle large enough for pie pan. If dough tears, simply pat edges together with fingers.

3. Cover half of dough circle with foil and fold remaining half over the foil. Repeat with a second piece of foil, so dough is folded into quarters. Lift folded dough and place over 25 percent of greased pie pan. Unfold dough so entire pan is covered. Pat into place. Trim excess dough from rim.

Quiche:

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large zucchini, sliced thin
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 12 ounces Swiss cheese, diced
  • Cream, 1-2 cups
  • Salt & white pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large saucepan sauté onion and zucchini in olive oil.

2. Place onion mixture, eggs, cheese and salt in a two-quart measuring pitcher. Add cream until contents reach six cups.

3. Pour into prepared dough in pie plate.

4. Bake for 40 minutes or until crust browns, top of quiche turns light brown and custard feels firm. Yield: 8-10 servings