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


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

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

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

Poached Chicken Breasts and Tomatoes

 
3 tablespoons olive oil, or more if needed

Mark the New Year with late summer harvest menu


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
Makes eight to 10 servings.

 
Avocado, Tomato and Arugula Salad

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

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

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

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

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

 
Makes six to eight servings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Man for All Seasonings


The Rabbi of Chelm was teaching a class,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It was frightening.”

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

“The food is excellent,” Irv admits.

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

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

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

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

“And we’ll stab at it?” Irv says.

“We’ll stab at the herring.”

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

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

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

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

“How do you get it?”

“Well you have to know someone.”

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

“Nobody was here yet, Irving.”

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

We laugh.

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

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

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

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

More laughter.

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

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

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

“Did you order herring?”

“Yes I ordered the herring!”

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

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

For some reason I order pastrami and a celery soda.

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

“Pastrami.”

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

“No?”

“OK,” he allows. (Whew.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eddie doesn’t agree.

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

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

The mushroom barley arrives, ahead of the herring plate.

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

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

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

 

Bar/Bat Mitzvah – B’nai Mitzvah Menu Dishes Up Bonuses


With the flurry that surrounds a b’nai mitzvah celebration, we often lose sight that this day — this passage from childhood to adulthood — will be one of the most meaningful memories of his or her life.

The memories will not be of the buffet table that boasted an ice sculpture replicating a Torah or a humungous Jewish Star comprised entirely of chopped liver. And the noisy dance floor crowded with unfamiliar gussied-up guests will become a blur lost to time.

What we want a bar or bat mitzvah to remember most is the outpouring of love from those who watched as the child read from the Torah and listened to the positive intentions he or she outlined for their life. And most of all, we want a child to re-live the sense of accomplishment that results from this achievement.

Then why do we feel compelled to host a no-holds-barred celebration that, to quote Rabbi Gil Marks, “is often all bar and no mitzvah?”

To challenge this trend of pleasing business acquaintances and long-lost cousins, rather than honoring the bar or bat mitzvah, many parents are planning the Saturday night party with, rather than for, their child, so that it is more personal, more creative and more reflective of what will make him or her the happiest.

Whether the child wants a noisy bash with a DJ at the synagogue, a make-their-own-pizza party in the family room or a casual beach party roasting kosher dogs and burgers with friends, let it be filled with an abundance of amusement but a fraction of the flash.

But for the Oneg Shabbat, give your child the unique experience of creating a unique menu built around favorite foods. A few rules: no burgers, no kosher dogs, no pizza — and no deli.

Otherwise, the sky’s the limit. But, because I am the proverbial Jewish mother, here’s one very delicious suggestion: What child doesn’t covet lamb chops?

If you’re worried that lamb chops for a crowd of hungry b’nai mitzvah-goers might get expensive, consider sandwiches of boned, butterflied and marinated leg of lamb, sliced thin and then piled between pieces of rosemary or olive bread spread with Dijon mustard and accompanied by arugula.

Choose a variety of his favorite salads, some cold asparagus sticks and, for dessert, strawberry tarts.

For colorful, healthful side dishes, let your child select favorite cut-up vegetables among carrots, celery, jicima sticks, tricolored bell peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers, baby corn, broccoli and cauliflower. To accentuate their flavor, offer dressings of Thousand Island and vinaigrette and dips of olive tapenade, hummus or baba ganoush.

For a sweet life, set out platters of fresh fruit — sliced melons, pineapple, kiwi, papaya, mango and bowls of berries. And include a favorite after-school treat of sliced apples, pears and bananas with peanut butter and honey.

With your child, test the proposed recipes — from salads to dessert. Then when you’re both pleased, type up the recipes and invite your friends to play a special role in the Oneg Shabbat.

You are role-modeling friendship, generosity and a sense of community — qualities better shown than spoken. As a bonus, you are strengthening bonds, proving the paradigm, “It does take a village to raise a child.”

Given the opportunity — and a little guidance — your child can experience yet another accomplishment. Let your bar or bat mitzvah take the first step into adulthood with a healthy, delicious menu that has been specially created for his or her guests.

Baby Greens With Pansies and Blood Orange Vinaigrette

Edible flowers are grown specifically with no pesticide or dangerous chemicals. Be sure to use only flowers cultivated in this way.

Vinaigrette

1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed blood-red orange juice
1/3 cup, plus 2 teaspoons, red wine vinegar
1/3 cup, plus 2 teaspoons, cold water
1/3 cup dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups nut oil (hazelnut, walnut or pecan)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon orange zest

Place all ingredients, except oils and zest, in blender. Blend for 30 seconds. Remove mixture, stir in oils and zest, whisk to form a smooth emulsion.

Salad

3 pounds field lettuce or baby greens
3/4 cup fresh mint, torn into bite-sized pieces
3/4 cup fresh basil, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 cup pansies or other edible flowers
3/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1 1/2 cups croutons (optional)

Place greens, mint, basil, sunflower seeds and croutons, if desired, in bowl; toss with dressing and sprinkle with pansies.

Makes 24 servings.

Butterfly of Lamb Sandwiches on Rosemary Bread

Remove all sinews and visible fat from lamb. Place lamb and marinade in large Ziploc bag. Let sit for at least four hours or overnight.

Let meat come to room temperature before grilling. Place lamb on grill about six inches from coals. Cover grill, let lamb cook for 15 minutes. Turn lamb over, cook until desired degree of doneness. The internal temperature should read 140 F to 145 F.

Remove to carving board. Cover with foil; let rest for five minutes before carving.

Marinade

3/4 cup sherry or Madeira
2 1/4 cups orange juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
12 cloves garlic, finely chopped or more to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
12 pounds leg of lamb, boned and butterflied

Combine marinade ingredients and pour into saucepan. Heat on low flame until flavors are thoroughly blended, about 45 seconds. Allow marinade to cool.

Rosemary Bread

2 packages dry yeast
2 cups tepid water (90 F)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon rosemary needles
1 tablespoon kosher salt

In electric mixer bowl, dissolve yeast in water until it starts to work.

Add sugar, oils, salt, three cups flour; process for 10 minutes on medium speed, until dough leaves sides of bowl. Using either bread hook or your hands, knead in remaining flour until dough is smooth. Allow it to double in size and then punch it down. Divide in half and roll out each section to half-inch thick.

Combine garlic and olive oil; paint top of dough generously. Sprinkle on rosemary and salt. Roll into a jelly roll, pinching down sides. Put into two greased loaf pans. Let them rise until they double in size. Bake at 375 F for 40 minutes. When it’s sliced, it should look a pinwheel.

Makes two loaves.

Sandwich Garnish Suggestions:

2 cups arugula, well washed and dried
Fresh mint, chopped fine
Thinly sliced red or yellow tomatoes
Thinly sliced Bermuda or other sweet onions
Thinly sliced cucumbers
1 quart mayonnaise
1 pint Dijon mustard
Mango chutney
Horseradish
Mint jelly

To make sandwiches, slice bread thin and pile it artistically on a platter. Provide bowls of mayonnaise mustard, mustard, horseradish, chutney, chopped mint, mint jelly and platters of cucumbers, sweet onions, tomatoes and arugula.

Guests will be creative with which spreads they choose and which vegetables they select to accessorize their sandwiches. You or your child can demonstrate ideas of delicious combinations, such as: Spread lightly with mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. Place a piece of arugula, lamb a few garnishes and then another piece of arugula.

Makes 24 servings.

Crisp Asparagus Sticks

Spring asparagus is so tasty it needs little accompaniment.

3 pounds baby asparagus, with spears peeled and tough ends trimmed
1 1/2 cups lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil (optional)

Fill a large skillet with salted water to within an inch of the top. Bring to boil; add asparagus. Simmer uncovered four to five minutes until firm tender. Pierce with point of paring knife to determine doneness. Plunge immediately into ice water to stop cooking.

Dry on paper towel; toss with lemon juice, salt, pepper and olive oil, if desired. Keep at room temperature until ready to use. It will stay fresh for several hours.

Makes 24 servings.

Strawberry Brown Butter Tartlettes

Adapted from “The World of Jewish Entertaining” by Gil Marks (Simon & Schuster, 1998).

Shell (Pate Sablée)

2 1/4 cups (4 1/2 sticks) margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs or 6 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 cups all-purpose flour
Ice water as needed

Filling

6 eggs
2 1/4 cups sugar
12 tablespoons flour
12 ounces margarine

Strawberries

6 pints strawberries, stemmed but left whole

Glaze

3/4 cup currant jelly
3 tablespoons sugar

Garnish, Optional

3 cups mint sprigs, stem removed

To make the pastry: Beat margarine and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add egg and salt.

Gradually blend in the flour. (The dough should have the consistency of a sugar cookie. If it is too stiff, add a little ice water.) Form the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to one week.

On a lightly floured piece of wax paper, roll out the dough to a one-eighth-inch thick round about two inches larger than an 11-inch round tart pan.

Fit dough into tart pan and run a rolling pin over top to trim edges. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. (The shell can be refrigerated for up to four days or frozen for up to three months.)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line bottom and sides of shell with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and fill with pie weights, pressing against the sides. Bake until pastry is set, about 10 minutes.

Remove weights and foil and bake until pastry is lightly browned, about 10 minutes more. Let cool on a rack. (The tart shell can be prepared a day ahead, covered, and stored at room temperature.)

For filling: Mix together eggs, sugar and flour in bowl. In saucepan, brown butter, stirring with whisk until golden and smells nutty (do not burn). Whisk into flour mixture. Spoon into tart pans; smooth it over. Decorate tart with strawberries in circular pattern. Top with glaze.

For glaze: Place jelly and sugar in saucepan. Cook on high heat stirring with wire whisk until jelly breaks down and turns into syrup, about two minutes. While glaze is still warm, paint strawberries with soft-bristled pastry brush. Garnish with fresh mint, if desired.

Makes three 11-inch tarts.

 

There’s the Rub — in Tel Aviv


Tierra couldn’t be more Los Angeles. But for this nouveau combination of mostly organic restaurant, massage parlor and oxygen bar, you’ll have to go to Tel Aviv, where this combo venue clearly out-Hollywoods Hollywood.

The only thing missing — so far — is a Hollywood-style patron, such as Madonna or Oprah. In the meantime, you can settle happily for Yaniv Ben Rachamin, the handsome young waiter. On a recent visit, he needed some crib notes to describe the eclectic menu offerings, but he’s surefooted and helpfully well muscled for any visitors who order the seven-minute, 22-sheckel (about $4) massage with their entree.

Like the others of the wait staff, Ben Rachamin is a certified masseuse. His specialty happens to be a Chinese-style regimen whose name he had trouble translating into English. But as he willingly demonstrated, the good fight against carpal tunnel syndrome knows no language barriers. You just remain at your table in your chair and let him go to work.

Tierra’s setting in its bustling, mostly residential neighborhood is stylish coffeehouse; the food is inventive. One typical appetizer consisted of figs stuffed with mushrooms, macadamia nuts and chicken — flavored with cardamom, cinnamon and a Hindu date dressing (34 sheckels). Not all the entrees strain to be eccentric; there’s “grilled pullet and polenta” for 58 sheckels and “calamari paperdello” for 54 sheckels. Some menu offerings are mouth watering; others more creative than tasty. But there’s a full bar to wash everything down.

Co-owner Yonatan Galili says he keeps the menu as organic as possible — except when going exclusively organic would raise prices. He’s gone through several career iterations, including successful industrial engineer, to reach this entrepreneurial exploration of the mind/body/stomach connection.

He sees the massages as a way for a person/diner to “be with himself for seven minutes.” He adds: “We are very aware of the Western way of life. We serve food that is friendly to the stomach so you can eat here and then later keep on working.”

Of course, another option is to get high at the oxygen bar and forget all about working. Galili has two flavors of oxygen — “secret” concoctions created specially by an expert in designing flavors for oxygen bars. One is to relax you; the other to energize you.

The giddy feeling that ensues doesn’t seem quite legal, but apparently, it’s OK to inhale. Just be glad that you’re not the one flying the airplane home.

Tierra is located at Yirmiyahu 54, Tel Aviv, 03-604-7222. Hours: 9 a.m. to last customer.

 

A Rehearsal Menu to Tickle Your Nose


When Dom Perignon invented the creme de la creme of spirits in the 17th century, little did he know that the drink he discovered while trying to eradicate those “irksome bubbles” from his wine would be considered so romantic that wedding guests wouldn’t think of toasting generations of brides and grooms with anything less.

Since today’s weddings are rife with new traditions, why not serve your guests a rehearsal dinner menu infused with Champagne? It will be good practice for your first official dinner as a couple — which, hopefully, you will be cooking together. While it seems extravagant to heat a liquid so precious — it has sold for as much as $25,000 a bottle — chefs praise the celebratory results.

Josiah Citrin, chef-owner of Melisse in Santa Monica cooks with Champagne for the same reason he uses fresh truffles or searches out the best foie gras or caviar.

“A dish is only as elegant as its ingredients,” he said. “Champagne adds a touch of romance, a certain finesse. Its subtle acidity is the perfect foil for butter, which is why I use it in beurre blanc and other fish sauces.”

Citrin often cooks with a more moderately priced Champagne, then finishes the dish with a splash of a more expensive variety.

When deciding on which label of Champagne or sparkling wine to cook with, it’s important to really like the flavor, said Finbar Kinsella, chef at Lily’s in Louisville.

“It doesn’t have to be as expensive as the Champagne you’ll be drinking, but if you don’t like it in the glass you won’t like it on your plate,” he said. “The myth that the taste will be diffused in the cooking process is just that.”

For kosher consumers, wineries such as Baron Herzog, Hagafen, Abarbanel and Yarden make very good Champagnes.

Cooking with the world’s most celebratory drink is perfect for a wedding, New York chef Jerome Vidy said.

Originally from Apt, in the south of France, Vidy remembers, “It’s very French to always have a bottle of wine in the house, but if there’s a bottle of Champagne chilling in the fridge, you know something special is coming up. Carrying over the flavor from your flute to your plate is a wonderful way to toast your love.”

Vidy emphasizes the care aspect of cooking with Champagne since its sparkle rarely lasts more than a half hour.

“Assemble your ingredients, pop the cork and then use it immediately. In between additions, keep it in a cool place. Of course it’s fun to get a head start on celebrating by drinking and toasting as you cook,” he said.

Champagne Leek Soup With Caviar

From Josiah Citrin, chef-owner of Melisse Restaurant, Santa Monica.

Soup

1 cup white onion, sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

5 tablespoons butter, or more if needed, divided

2 quarts diced leeks, white part only

Salt to taste

1 cup Champagne

2 small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 quart vegetable stock

2 cups water

1/2 cup cream

Garnish

1 cup diced leeks, white part only

1/2 cup cream

1 cup diced white potatoes

1 sprig thyme

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup Champagne

2 ounces kosher caviar

On a low flame sweat onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons butter until translucent, about two minutes, adding more butter if the mixture gets dry. Add leeks and a pinch of salt; continue cooking two minutes longer. Add 1 cup Champagne, raise heat, and reduce the mixture by half, making sure it doesn’t boil. Add Yukon potatoes, thyme, vegetable stock and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add 1/2 cup cream. Bring to a boil again, immediately reduce heat to a simmer; cook for 10 minutes. Blend until smooth. Strain through a chinois sieve.

For garnish, sweat leeks in butter, about three to four minutes. Add 1/2 cup cream; cook until leeks are soft, about two minutes more. Boil potatoes with thyme and bay leaf until just cooked through. Drain and add white potatoes to leek-cream mixture. Mix well.

Heat soup; add 2 tablespoons butter and remaining 1/4 cup Champagne. Blend until light and frothy. Pour into a warmed soup tureen. Reheat leek mixture, adding a bit of butter, if needed.

To serve, place about 1 tablespoon of the leek mixture in the center of six soup bowls. Garnish with caviar. Carefully ladle the soup around the leeks so that the garnish is floating on top.

Makes six servings.

Spinach and Mesclun Salad With Champagne Tarragon Vinaigrette

Adapted from New York chef Jerome Vidy.

For Champagne tarragon vinegar

1 pint Champagne vinegar

1 cup Champagne

1/2 cup tarragon, thyme, and parsley sprigs

4 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole

1 teaspoon red, white and black peppercorns

For Champagne tarragon vinaigrette

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon Champagne tarragon vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons chopped shallots

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped chives

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

For salad

8 cups loosely packed greens

2 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)

2 tablespoons dried cranberries (optional)

For Champagne tarragon vinegar, pour vinegar and Champagne into a sterilized jar. Add herb sprigs along with garlic and peppercorns. Store in cool place for four weeks. When vinegar is finished strain out the herbs, garlic and peppercorns.

For Champagne tarragon vinaigrette, place olive oil, vinegar, Dijon, salt and shallots in a screw-top jar and shake vigorously for 30 seconds to blend thoroughly. Stir in herbs just before dressing salad.

Toss with spinach, mache, mesclun, and, if desired, pine nuts and cranberries.

Makes six servings.

Halibut a L’armoricaine

From Uwe Nettelbeck of Merigot, France. If halibut is unavailable, use another densely fleshed fish such as sea bass. Armagnac is an earthy tasting type of brandy, made in Armagnac, France. Or substitute with a liqueur of your choice.

2 large shallots, peeled and sliced

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

8 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and halved

2 cups good fish stock

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup Champagne

2 tablespoons Armagnac

2 pounds boneless and skinless halibut fillets, cut into 2-inch chunks

Salt to taste

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons each parsley, chervil and tarragon, chopped

In a separate pan, sauté shallots and garlic in butter until translucent. Turn heat to low, add tomatoes; cook five minutes longer. Add fish stock, white wine, and Armagnac. Turn heat to medium, add salt and reduce by half. Lower heat, add halibut to liquid. Cook gently for about six to eight minutes, until fish is cooked through. Be careful not to overcook.

Remove fish to platter. Lower heat; add cream, half the parsley, chervil, and tarragon. Gently cook until you have a thick cream sauce. Add fish back into sauce; heat through and serve. Garnish with the remaining tablespoon of chopped parsley.

Makes four servings.

Champagne-Honey Granita

From Vincent Scotto, executive chef at Gonzo Restaurant, New York City.

This smoothing, refreshing granita is delicious served with berries or sliced fruit. You can substitute sparkling wine for the Champagne.

1 (750 milliliter) bottle dry Champagne

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup honey

In a bowl combine Champagne, lemon juice and honey. Stir until honey dissolves. Transfer to a shallow stainless steel pan that fits easily into the freezer.

Freeze for about an hour. Remove and, using a pastry scraper or metal spatula, scrape the sides and bottom of the granita, mixing the frozen particles into the less frozen center.

Freeze for about two hours longer and scrape again. Let the granita freeze for three to four hours longer, until completely frozen. Chop the granita into pieces and serve immediately or return to the freezer until ready to serve.

Makes about two quarts.

Gonzo Bellini

From executive chef Vincent Scotto of Gonzo Restaurant, New York City.

1 pint strawberries or peaches

1/4 cup sugar

2 bottles Champagne.

Puree strawberries or peaches; place in pan with the sugar; bring to boil, cool. Add ice and Champagne.

Champagne Apricot Truffles

From Kathy Cary, chef-owner of Lilly’s Restaurant, Louisville. The recipe was inspired by Camille Glenn, the dowager of Southern cookbook writers.

1 cup dried apricots, cut into sixths

1 cup Champagne, or more to cover the apricots

1 pound bitter chocolate

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup Champagne

1/4 pound shelled pistachios, toasted and finely chopped (optional)

Place apricots in a bowl. Add enough Champagne to cover. Soak apricots in Champagne overnight.

To make ganache, melt chocolate in a double boiler. In a separate saucepan warm cream to about the same temperature as the chocolate. Whip the cream into the chocolate mixture. Remove from stove. Add 1/2 cup Champagne to the ganache mixture. Cool.

With a small scoop, shape dollops of the chocolate mixture into walnut-sized balls. Press a few pieces of Champagne-soaked apricots into each of the balls. Roll completed balls in pistachios to coat the balls.

Makes about three dozen truffles.

 

Recipes Add Spice to New Party Trend


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

The reasons are strictly practical.

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

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

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

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

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

Edamame Guacamole with Stone-ground Corn Chips

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

1 cup shelled edamame (fresh, green soy beans)

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 to 2 teaspoons chopped chipotle chili, with seeds

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, divided

2 large ripe avocados

1/4 cup stemmed, roughly chopped cilantro

1/2 cup finely chopped skinned tomatoes

2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion

Sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste

Corn Chips

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

Olive oil cooking spray

Olive oil as needed

Salt to taste (optional)

Garnish

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

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

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

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

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

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

Makes 2 1/2 cups.

Tomato-Ginger Bisque

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small minced onion

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1 tablespoon peeled and sliced fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, crumbled

1 small bay leaf

1 1/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth

1/2 cup white wine

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Pinch of saffron threads

Salt and pepper to taste

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes four servings.

Egyptian Eggplant Salad

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

Salad

2 large eggplants

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

1 medium red bell pepper, cut into fine dice

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

1 English cucumber, peeled and cut into fine dice

1 cup chopped green onions (green and white parts)

1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, without stems

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, without stems

Dressing

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

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

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes eight servings.

Grilled Chicken with Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce

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

Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup finely chopped yellow onion

1/2 teaspoon saffron or turmeric

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 cups fat-free chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup pomegranate syrup

1 tablespoon sorghum syrup or dark honey

Salt and pepper to taste

Grilled Chicken

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

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, without stems

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes six servings.

Tezpishtl (Turkish almond nut torte)

From Los Angeles chef Toribio Prado

Syrup

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Cake

5 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup corn or sunflower oil

Juice and zest of 1 orange

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/4 cups fine matzah cake meal

1 1/4 cups finely chopped blanched almonds.

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

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

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

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

Makes one cake, about 18 pieces.

Honey and Marinated Fig Topping

1/2 pound dried white figs

1 bottle port wine

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 cup honey

Pinch of nutmeg

Pinch of cinnamon

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

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

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

 

Let Your Tasteless Chicken Go


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Make Menu Shine With Splash of Wine


 

Purim is always a special celebration for the children — they dress up in costumes, sing and dance. The grown-ups have their rewards, too, because it is the only holiday when everyone is encouraged to drink a generous amount of wine.

This year, the theme of our dinner is foods prepared and cooked with wine, and we ask our guests to bring a bottle of their favorite wine to share during the evening.

The menu includes a Celery Root Slaw with a Balsamic-Mayonnaise Sauce, served on a mixed green salad, and for dessert there is my Aunt Betty’s Orange Juice-Wine Syrup Bundt Cake.

Celery Root Slaw on a Mixed Salad
Balsamic-Mayonnaise Sauce (recipe follows)

2 cups salad greens
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, to taste
1 celery root (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Prepare the Balsamic-Mayonnaise Sauce, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

In a medium bowl, toss the salad greens with olive oil and salt and set aside.

Peel the celery root, wash in cold water and, using food processor or sharp knife, cut into thin julienne strips. Transfer to a large bowl, add lemon juice and toss. Add enough sauce to moisten and toss gently.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (until ready to serve) for at least two hours.

To serve, arrange the salad greens on serving plates, and spoon the slaw in the center. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or pomegranate seeds and serve.

Serves four to six.

Balsamic-Mayonnaise Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise
4 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons Homemade Balsamic Vinegar (recipe follows)
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the Homemade Balsamic Vinegar and set aside. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, sugar and balsamic vinegar and blend. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add additional sugar or balsamic vinegar to taste.

Homemade Balsamic Vinegar

1 cup sweet Concord Grape Wine
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons sugar
1 Tablespoon honey

In a heavy saucepan, combine the wine, lemon juice, sugar, and honey. Bring to a boil. Boil until reduce by half. Transfer to a glass jar. Serve on salads.

Makes about 1/2 cup.

Aunt Betty’s Orange Juice-Wine Syrup Bundt Cake

1/4 cup ground walnuts or pecans
1/4 pound unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/3 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons sweet white or red wine (Concord Grape Wine)
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 cup toasted, chopped walnuts or pecans
Orange Juice-Wine Syrup (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 10-inch bundt or fluted tube pan. Sprinkle with the ground walnuts. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, until well blended. Add the zest, juice and wine and blend well.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter mixture alternately with the sour cream until completely blended. Fold in the chopped walnuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out dry and the cake begins to shrink away from the sides of the pan. Spoon the hot syrup over the cake as soon as you remove it from the oven and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (optional).

Orange Juice-Wine Syrup

3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup Concord Grape Wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar

In a saucepan, combine the orange juice, wine, lemon juice, and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves, and simmer for five minutes. Set aside.

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.

 

B’nai Mitzvah Planning 101


So you’re going to have a mitzvah — whether it is a bar or a bat, the planning begins early. Way before Hebrew school age, you will hear at least one grandfather wistfully thinking aloud at about age 5, "In eight years, we will have a bar mitzvah."

From there it continues directly to the child. "You’re 7 years old? Why, in only six years, you will become a bar mitzvah."

As the months go by, there will be similar remarks followed by, "I know, papa. Only six more years."

About two years before, the parents will begin to pay attention. The first thing to do is set the date. Once the community calendar has the date, usually around the child’s 13th birthday, you are on your way.

Never had a bar or bat mitzvah before? It’s a piece of cake (usually pareve, even if you don’t keep kosher, in the case of a meat meal).

First you have to decide: Do you want to do what everyone else is doing, or are you going to be different?

The next step is to choose the caterer. If the affair will be held at the synagogue, you will need someone approved by your board. Set those dates and choose your menus. You will usually need something for after service Friday night as well as Saturday noon. Some choose a Saturday evening meal as well.

The bar mitzvah usually consists of a Friday night service and kiddush afterward. Held in the synagogue, we usually assume the people have had a meat meal for Shabbat and will prefer a pareve dessert. The caterers have a wonderful selection of pareve desserts — gooey or not. Along with this, the actual bar mitzvah cake might be on display. Most popular are trays of fruits and small cakes, cookies, cupcakes.

Friday night, after services, also includes coffee, tea and sodas.

Some people have a luncheon and others have a dinner; some have both. For example, some synagogues allow music during the day. In that case, you might have a very celebratory luncheon, along with a band or DJ, and cut the cake along with cutting a rug.

Where music is not allowed in the synagogue, some people choose to take the affair to a restaurant, in which case the rabbi and teachers probably cannot participate. Others wanting to celebrate the bar mitzvah with everyone will have a quiet luncheon and come back to the synagogue — after sundown — for the big celebration with music.

For the luncheon or dinner, after the menu with the caterers is selected, the next step is flowers. You should offer one or two arrangements for the bima. After services, they can be brought down by the caterer or florist to be placed on the stage of the banquet room. Instead of flowers, some choose to have two big baskets filled with food items for the local food bank. What better time to do a mitzvah than when you are having your own mitzvah. Count your blessings by sharing with others.

Are you going to spend a fortune on centerpieces? Does your 13-year-old care about the flowers? Some choose to have the boy or girl’s favorite cake as a centerpiece. You can be sure that a centerpiece of a strawberry shortcake or a half sheet cake of a baseball diamond with bases loaded is very well appreciated by the teen set. When you use the cake theme, each table has a cake big enough for the people at that table.

You can choose to have music or not — and, most important, you can dance to your own tune.

Here Comes the Bridal Shower


Something old, something new,

Something borrowed, something blue,

And a lucky sixpence in her shoe….

— Anonymous

For years this adage has sent mothers of the bride, maids of honor — even well-meaning machatanim (in-laws) — scurrying about town to locate the perfect antique veil, virginal wedding dress, secondhand handkerchief and baby-blue garter to bestow upon the bride on her breathless walk down the aisle.

But the Jewish bride needs her embroidered challah cover, her art nouveau menorah, and her hand-painted porcelain Passover plate. That’s where the bridal shower comes in. And you were nice enough to host a luncheon. Oy gevalt!

Instead of spending upwards of $30 per person and having the whole family kvetch about “prosaic pasta” and “commonplace chicken,” or spending even more money hiring a caterer to tramp through your house and schmutz up your kitchen, how about making our delicious, do-able menu and toast the bride with a heartfelt “mazel tov!” and a glass of Champagne in your garden?

You’ll not only save your gelt, you’ll kvell about your cleverness. Hosting the perfect party for your favorite bride will not only bring her nachas and a ladleful of luck, she’ll get everything she registered for.

Since Los Angeles cooking teacher and party coordinator Jean Brady has catered over 500 wedding events, we asked the expert. We visited Brady in her gadget-filled kitchen in Rustic Canyon. She prepared some of her favorite recipes and offered us a sip of Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup, a bite of Rosemary Bread With Dried Cherries, a taste of Pot de Crème au Café. In between spoonfuls, she reveals tricks of her trade so we can host a shower that looks like she did it for us. Now, that’s a mitzvah.

Getting Started

Decide on a theme. Since showers are all about bestowing gifts for the bride’s new home, why not take your cue from her taste — whether it be Victorian, country or modern — and design the flowers, the decorations, even the music, accordingly.

Choose your menu, then make a timeline of what to do when, including shopping, preparing, cleaning the house and setting the tables. In Brady’s suggested menu, most items can be prepared in advance.

Make a list of dishes, flatware and glassware for each person, and platters, bowls and serving pieces for each dish. Be prepared to beg, borrow or shop.

Flower Arrangements

Because we love the idea of designing the shower according to the bride’s taste, we called Carlos Camara, head designer at Century City Flower Mart, for some advice. There are three basic styles:

  • Victorian — This is the most popular style. Arrangements are feminine, romantic and look best in baskets. Use pale colors such as light pink or lavender combined with white. Since roses and Victorian are synonymous, his favorite summer varieties are the lavender bluebird, which is gorgeous, gigantic and will last a long time; charming Cecil Bruners, which are pale pink and petit, and the silver rose, which is not only beautiful, it smells wonderful. Combine roses with lavender or white hydrangea, Casablancas (big white lilies) or pale pink, orange or white sweet peas. Victorian arrangements have more flowers than greens but some ivy flowing out of the baskets to compliment the roses looks lovely.
  • Country — This look is more casual. Arrangements look good in baskets, aluminum containers or terra- cotta pots. Colors are upbeat and bright, mainly orange, yellow and purple. Fruits such as lemons, apples and grapes (attached with wires or sticks) are often combined with the flowers. Lots of greens, such as rabbit tails, are used in these designs, also herbs with delightful aromas such as mint, rosemary and lavender. The most popular bouquets are of sunflowers, which are available in different varieties and colors, along with multicolored daisies and lavender statis.
  • Modern — Many brides love this fashion, which is high styled, sophisticated, and brightly colored. The form is geometric as are the ceramic, glass or metal vases. Use tropical flowers such as birds of paradise, ginger, antheriums, leacris (purple skinny branch) tiger lilies or stargazers. Complement them with modern looking, tropical leaves and branches such as tea leaves, gaylax or moss branch.

Jean Brady’s Helpful Hints

Tablecloths and napkins can be matching or contrasting. A pretty way of presenting napkins is shaking it down the middle, then tying it with a ribbon, variegated ivy, and a rose. Or fasten it with a ribbon and a sprig of herbs.

A wonderful party favor is a cruet or wine split of homemade blackberry vinegar tied with raffia. If you attach a name tag to each one, it serves a double purpose.

Serve butter in individual soufflé dishes with an herb sprig on top. Rosemary, basil or Italian parsley are pretty and smell wonderful.

Decorate a separate table, designate it for the gifts.

Have a table of simple appetizers available for guests when they arrive. We packed wide-mouthed vases with cherry tomatoes and black olives and filled dishes with pistachios, almonds and cashews.

Time Savers

  • Soup — Can be made up to three or four days in advance and refrigerated. Make sure chicken broth is very fresh and don’t add cream until the last minute.
  • Salad — Vegetables can be prepped several hours before the luncheon and placed in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel.
  • Avocado — Peel two to three hours in advance but don’t slice. Wrap in plastic until ready to use.
  • Asparagus — Blanch, cut and leave at room temperature for a few hours before serving.
  • Baby lettuce — Just before serving, submerge in ice water for a few minutes until cold and crisp, then either spin dry in salad spinner or blot with paper towel.
  • Mango — Remove skin with peeler, score lengthwise and crosswise, then cut as close to pit as possible to release. Place chunks in covered bowl in refrigerator several hours before serving.
  • Salmon — Grill right before serving and serve warm, or cook the day before, refrigerate, and serve cold.
  • Tarragon — Should be as fresh as possible. Wash well to loosen dirt.
  • Grapes –Wash well to get rid of pesticide residual. Keep in refrigerator until just before assembling salad.
  • Bread — Can be baked up to three weeks in advance, frozen, then defrosted at room temperature.
  • Pot de Crème — Can be made two to three days in advance, and set in coldest part of refrigerator. Let sit outside refrigerator 1/2 hour before serving.

Wedding Shower Recipes

The following recipes by Brady are for 20 people.

Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup

Since our soup is served at room temperature, it can be poured, placed on the tables, waiting for guests to arrive. Serve in individual soup bowls, preferably with handles, with matching or contrasting liners. The pale orange of the soup garnished with purple violas, violets or pansies looks like a painting. When eating flowers always make sure they are unsprayed.

15 roasted, peeled yellow peppers, sliced thin

8 carrots, scrubbed and diced

8 shallots, peeled and diced

4 onions, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 stick unsalted butter for sautéing

11¼2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped

8 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Dash ground chili powder

11¼2 to 2 cups cream

20 edible violets, violas or purple pansies for garnish

Sauté vegetables in butter until carrots are tender. Add stock, salt, pepper and chili powder. Simmer, covered, about 20 minutes. Puree vegetables; add cream to achieve desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings. Just before serving, place a flower in the center of each bowl. Makes 20 servings.

Rosemary Bread With Dried Cherries

Be careful when warming the bread; it dries out easily. To save your sanity serve at room temperature — it tastes fine. These proportions are for one loaf, which will serve 10 people. For 20 people either double the recipe or make two separate batches.

41¼3 cups all purpose unbleached flour and more to shape.

11¼2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1¼4 cup fresh rosemary, chopped

2 teaspoons instant yeast

11¼3 cups warm water

1¼4 cup good quality olive oil

1¼2 cup dried cherries

Mix together 4 cups flour with salt, sugar, rosemary, and yeast. Add olive oil and water to make a sticky dough. Knead by hand or in a mixer with a dough hook for 3-4 minutes — the last 2 minutes add cherries and last 1¼3 cup flour. Cover with plastic wrap; allow to double in size, about 1 to 11¼2 hours. Shape into large round or oval loaves; place on parchment-lined sheet, attractive side up. Preheat oven to 425. Allow dough to double once again, for about 45 minutes. Slash top of loaf with razor sharp knife or razor blade in 3-inch “X.” Place in oven. Bake 45 minutes; cool on rack for at least an hour. Makes one loaf.

Champagne Tarragon Salad

30 cups mixed baby greens

2 bunches fresh tarragon, stemmed and coarsely chopped

20 (4-ounce) grilled salmon filets

8 mangoes or papaya, peeled and diced

5 large, ripe Haas avocados, peeled, sliced

2 cups celery hearts, chopped

2 cups very fresh hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

11¼2 pounds small seedless grapes

60 baby asparagus spears, blanched and sliced into 2-inch pieces

For Salad:

One large platter heaped with salad at each table is gorgeous, or make up individual plates. Serve salad dressing in attractive cruets or sauce boats with a ladle. Don’t dress the salad in advance; your crisp greens will turn irrevocably soggy.

Champagne Tarragon Vinegar

1 pint champagne vinegar

1 cup champagne

3 sprigs of tarragon

6 sprigs Italian parsley

4 whole cloves garlic, peeled

8 whole peppercorns (white, red, and black)

Sterilize wide-mouthed or decorative jar. While jar is still warm, add vinegar and champagne, along with tarragon and parsley sprigs, garlic and peppercorns. Store in cool place for two or three weeks. Drain vinegar. Taste; if herb infusion isn’t strong enough, add new herbs and let sit until flavor pleases you.

Champagne Tarragon Vinaigrette

All ingredients for vinaigrette should be at room temperature.

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup orange juice

2 teaspoons orange zest

1/ cup champagne tarragon vinegar

Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

3 shallots, peeled and finely minced

11/2 cups light olive oil

1 tablespoon hazelnut oil

Mix together all ingredients except oil. Gradually drizzle oils into mixture and whisk together. Vinaigrette tastes best if made 1 day in advance and left at room temperature.

Pot de Crème au Cafe

7 1/2 cups whipping cream

1/4 cup ground espresso beans

3/4 to 1 cup granulated sugar, to taste

18 egg yolks

20 chocolate covered espresso beans

Preheat oven to 300. Heat sugar, cream and espresso beans over low heat until sugar dissolves. Beat into yolks. Strain through fine strainer or cheesecloth. Divide into 20 individual china cups, pots de crème cups or ramekins (custard molds). Set containers into a bain-marie (large pan of boiling water) in bottom third of oven. The hot water should come halfway up outside of cups. Bake 25 to 40 minutes, until just set. To determine doneness insert a sharp, thin bladed knife or toothpick one inch from outside of container. If it comes out clean, remove from water and cool. Chill in refrigerator. Take out 1/2 hour before serving.

Baking this luscious dessert in antique porcelain cups or cups to match theme of luncheon adds to the decor. You can surprise the bride by baking hers in a cup from her china pattern. Remember the cups don’t have to match. Often it’s more interesting to see a variety of patterns on the table.

De-Stress the Simcha


On Monday evening, we will celebrate Purim, the holiday that
commemorates the liberation of the Jews in ancient Persia, and reminds us of
the triumph of Queen Esther and her uncle, Mordecai, over Haman, the wicked
prime minister.

Purim is traditionally a time when families come together
and celebrate the holiday with a menu of dairy foods, veggies, nuts and seeds
of all kinds because, as the story states, Esther did not eat meat while in the
king’s court.

This year I will serve some family favorites that I recently
taught at a cooking class for the University of Judaism. My students were
enthusiastic and they loved the Beet Borscht and Blintzes, the traditional
dishes that I usually prepare for Purim.

The Sweet and Sour Beet Borscht is easy to make. It can be
prepared several days ahead, served hot or cold and garnished with sour cream
or sliced cucumbers. The addition of balsamic vinegar in the recipe instead of
the usual lemon juice heightens the sweet-and-sour flavor.

Blintzes are very versatile, depending on the filling, they
can be served as an appetizer, a main course or for dessert. In class, I
demonstrated how to prepare blintzes with the traditional hoop cheese mixture,
fry and serve them with sour cream and preserves. Using the same blini recipe,
but filled with ricotta cheese and spinach, they are baked and served with a
tomato sauce similar to Italian Crispelle. Both recipes can be made in advance,
filled, folded and refrigerated or frozen until ready to heat and serve.

During the class, the students made hamantaschen, the
traditional Purim pastry that is combined with either poppy seed, prune or a
chocolate-nut filling. But, for a contemporary American version, I often fill
the hamantaschen with peanut butter and jelly, a favorite of my children and
grandchildren.

A Purim custom still observed is called shalach manot (the
giving of food). Just pack your delicious Hamantaschen in colorful gift boxes
and share them with family and friends.

Purim Menu:

Sweet and Sour Beet Borscht

1 pound beets (about 4 medium), tops removed, peeled and
shredded

6 cups water

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or nondairy margarine

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1¼4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1¼4 cup balsamic vinegar

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Sour cream, for garnish

Sliced or diced cucumber, optional

 Place beets in a large nonreactive pot and add water. Bring
to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.

In a small skillet, heat butter over medium heat and sauté
onion until softened, about five minutes. Add brown sugar and cook, stirring
constantly, about three minutes. Add to cooked beets along with balsamic
vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer stirring occasionally, about
20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, ladle the soup into cups or soup bowls. Top each
with a dollop of sour cream and cucumber if desired.

Serves 6.

Cheese Blintzes

Usually cheese blintzes are rolled into an oval shape, but I
like to fold the pancake over the filling like an envelope so the result is a
flat blintz. This makes them much easier to fry, and the sour cream and
preserves can’t roll off the top of the blintzes.

1 cup flour

1¼4 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

13¼4 cups milk

2-3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

1 tablespoon brandy

Cheese Filling (recipe follows)

Butter for frying

 In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour and salt.
Blend together eggs and milk and add to flour mixture a little at a time,
blending after each addition, beating until smooth. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the
melted butter and brandy. Put through a fine strainer to avoid a lumpy dough.
Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Prepare the cheese filling, cover and refrigerate.

In a small skillet or crepe pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the
butter over low heat. When the butter begins to bubble, pour in 1¼8-1¼4 cup of
the batter and rotate the pan quickly to spread the batter as thinly as
possible, pouring off any excess. (The first blintz will be thicker than the
rest.) Cook on one side only, until lightly browned around the edges and turn
it out onto a towel to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter, stacking the
cooled blintzes on a platter with a square of waxed paper in between each one.

Makes about 24.

Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of the cheese filling into the center
of the brown side of each blintz. Fold the blintz around the filling like an
envelope, completely enclosing it. Place the blintzes on a large platter, cover
with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To prepare the blintzes for serving: In a large skillet,
heat 1¼4 cup of butter and brown the blintzes lightly, about 1-2 minutes per
side. (Do not crowd.) Repeat with the remaining blintzes adding more butter as needed.
With a metal spatula, carefully transfer the blintzes to serving plates. Serve
with bowls of sour cream, sugar and preserves.

Cheese Filling

2 pounds hoop, farmer or pot cheese

2 tablespoon sugar

1-2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs

In a large bowl, mix the hoop cheese, sugar, salt and eggs
until blended. Cover with plastic wrap, chill in the refrigerator until ready
to assemble the blintzes.

Makes 4 cups.

Crispelle With Ricotta and Spinach

24 Blini (see recipe)

1 pound ricotta

8 ounces spinach, steamed, squeezed dry and finely chopped

Freshly grated nutmeg

Salt, to taste

Prepare blini cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. If
ricotta is very soft, place in a strainer set over a medium bowl for 30 minutes
to drain. Mix the drained ricotta cheese, spinach, nutmeg and salt in a large
bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Makes about 3 cups

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the
Ricotta-Spinach Filling over the entire surface of each blini. Fold 1¼2 inch of
each side over the filling and roll up tight. Cut each roll into four pieces
and place on lightly buttered baking sheet. Bake until heated through, about
five minutes. 

To serve, heat the tomato sauce and spoon some in the center
of each plate. Arrange four or five rolled crepes, cut side up, on top of the
sauce.

Serves 12. 

Poppy Seed or Chocolate Filled

Hamantaschen

1¼4 pound unsalted butter or non-dairy margarine, softened

1¼2 cup sugar

3 eggs

Grated zest of 1 orange

2 cups flour

11¼2 teaspoons baking powder

1¼4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

3 (8-ounce) cans poppy seed filling

Preheat the oven to 375 F. In the bowl of an electric mixer,
beat butter and sugar until well-blended. Beat in two of the eggs and the
orange zest, blending thoroughly. Add flour, baking powder, salt and poppy
seeds and blend until dough is smooth.

Transfer to floured board and divide dough into three or
four portions for easier handling. Flatten each portion with the palm of your
hand and roll it out 1¼4 inch thick. With a scalloped or plain cookie cutter,
cut into 21¼2-inch rounds. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of
each round. Fold the edges of the dough toward the center to form a triangle,
leaving a bit of the filling visible in the center. Pinch the edges to seal
them.

Place hamantaschen 1¼2 inch apart on a lightly greased
foil-lined baking sheet and brush with the remaining egg, lightly beaten. Bake
for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to racks to cool.

Makes 5 dozen-6 dozen.


2003 Passover Recipe ContestContest

The Jewish Journal is once again sponsoring a Passover
recipe contest. Send in your favorite kosher-for -Passover recipe with a brief
story. The winning recipes will appear with the chef’s photo in an upcoming
Jewish Journal. The winners will also receive a personally autographed copy of
Judy Zeidler’s cookbook “Master Chefs Cook Kosher.”

All entries must be received by April 1 .

E-mail recipies along with yout name and phone number to
marnil@jewishjournal.com; or write to: Passover Recipe Contest c/o Marni Levitt,
The Jewish Journal 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1510, Los Angeles, CA 90010.

No phone calls, please.

A Great Party Happened Here


"Entertaining is a lot like gardening," Linda Burghardt said. "You can’t make mistakes."

In other words, no matter what you do, it’s OK.

Just as each combination of flowers produces a different garden, each approach to party planning results in a unique gathering. Through these suggestions, hosts can reinvent Chanukah parties or weave in new ideas with established traditions:

1. Make a guest list of family and friends who light up your life. Celebrating the holiday with friends is fun for people with small families.

2. Using construction paper, show children how to cut out dreidels or candles and create one-of-a-kind invitations by filling in the time and date.

3. If you want to do something fancier, buy plastic dreidels with removable tops and put a note inside each one, explaining the party details.

4. Make a centerpiece by turning a large cardboard box into a dreidel and letting children decorate it. Fill the dreidel with party favors wrapped in blue and white paper, taping mesh bags of Chanukah gelt or real money on top. Attach long ribbons, so it’s easy for children to pull party favors from the centerpiece.

5. If you enjoy grab bags purchase them, make gifts yourself or ask guests to bring something to exchange. Organize two sets of grab bags — one for children and one for adults. Set a price range to ensure fairness.

6. Plan a manageable menu and prepare as many dishes ahead of time as possible.

7. Experiment by making latkes out of sweet potatoes or vegetables such as carrots, zucchini or turnips.

8. For extra-crunchy results, drain latkes on brown paper bags from grocery stores rather than on paper towels.

9. Make Chanukah gelt by melting chocolate and spooning it into rounds on aluminum foil coated with a no-stick spray. When they’ve cooled, wrap individually in silver or gold foil.

10. Create a lovely ceremony by asking guests to bring menorahs from home. Provide candles in a variety of colors, sizes and shapes, including some from Israel.

11. Place menorahs around the dining room table at the appropriate guest’s place. Say the blessing and light the shamashim (the central candle) together, followed by the other candles. Prepare to be dazzled.

12. Explain each step for guests who’ve grown fuzzy about Jewish customs or who are learning about Judaism for the first time.

13. After dinner, read Isaac Beshevis Singer’s delightful "Zlatch the Goat" from his collection of stories by the same name. Young and old alike will be entertained by this charming tale.

14. Sing songs such as "Rock of Ages." Remember to copy song sheets and distribute to guests, so they can join in.

15. Before the party, take a long bath. Allow 45 minutes to relax. Remember your role as host is to extend warmth and welcome people into your home. Forget perfectionism — it has no place at Chanukah.


From “Jewish Holiday Traditions” by Linda Burghardt (Citadel Press, 2001).

Passover


 

Seder at Spago,et. al.

More and more restaurants put Passover on themenu.

By Naomi Pfefferman, Senior Writer

“I’m a Jewish girl, and my husband’s a Catholic,”says Barbara Lazaroff, who has been married for 15 years to renownedchef Wolfgang Puck.

About 12 years ago, Passover was a lonesome timefor Lazaroff, most of whose Jewish relatives lived out of town. SoSpago regulars nudged her to create a restaurant seder, and she consulted withhubby Wolf (“He said, ‘We can make shrimp.’ I said, ‘I don’t thinkso,'” Lazaroff quips).

The result was the first seder ever held in anupscale Los Angeles eatery, with kosher-style (i.e., not strictlykosher) fare a la Puck’s trendy-interpretive cuisine.

Forget bubbe’s chopped liver and matzofarfel. In recent years, the 250 Spago seder guests have munched onfois gras withkosher red-wine sauce; herbed whitefish gefilte fish; Moroccan lamband, of course, flourless chocolate cake. This year, there’s no setmenu as yet: “Wolf hates to do menus, except a few days beforehand,” Lazaroffsays.

The seder is set for April 11, the second night ofPassover, in the airy, sky-lit dining room at Spago Beverly Hills.The interactive program will be led by Lazaroff, a rabbi and a cantor– the latter two had yet to be selected by press time. The tickets,which will cost around $150 per person, will benefit Mazon: A JewishResponse to Hunger. But don’t just show up, Lazaroff warns. Spago’sseder has so many regulars, it may be tough for newcomers to purchasetickets.

On April 10 and 11 in Santa Monica, GerriGilliland’s nouvelle-American restaurant, Jake & Annie’s, willoffer Passover-style fare amid the fried chicken and meatloaf. The$21.95 price-fixed meal will include entrees such as hot-poachedsalmon and cucumber-dill sauce, minty roasted leg of lamb andapricot-glazed chicken. Chef Jesus Navarro will prepare the recipesfrom Judy Zeidler’s Jewish cookbooks. “Gerri and Judy are friends,”says Jake & Annie’s general manager Gary Allen, “so we try tofollow Judy’s recipes to the T. If her chopped liver calls forschmaltz, we useschmaltz.”

Gilliland’s nouvelle-Irish cafe, Gilliland’s, alsoin Santa Monica, will have some Passover victuals, but the menuwasn’t set as The Journal went to press.

If you crave traditional Passover viands, tryJerry’s Famous Deli, whose eight Los Angeles-area restaurants willoffer an $18.75, four-course meal, with sliced roast brisket, matzokugel and more. Some, but not all, of Jerry’s locations are open 24hours, so check before you set out at 3 a.m. with a yen for roastchicken and macaroons.

For those who require strictly kosher cuisine, ahandful of area restaurants are kashering for Pesach. It’s ameticulous endeavor that requires a blow torch for all that stubbornchametz stuck inthe oven cracks, says Rabbi Nissim Davidi, kashrut administrator forthe Rabbinical Council of California.

Simon’s La Glatt, on Fairfax Avenue, will preparestandard Ashkenazic takeout (stuffed cabbage, tzimmes, kishke) andsit-down meals during the intermediate days of the eight-day holiday.If you want barbecue chicken wings, chicken picata or grilled ahituna, try the Rimini Restaurant at the Beverly Carlton Hotel inBeverly Hills. Rimini is also catering the hotel’s seders on April 10and 11 ($45 per person, plus tax and tip).

Meanwhile, kosher caterer Micheline’s will moveinto the Beverly Grand Hotel to cook for the hotel’s seders on April10 and 11 ($60 plus tax and tip). In the banquet rooms, Micheline’swill become a restaurant for the rest of the holiday, serving upchicken fajitas, grilled rib steaks, and deli sandwiches on homemadePassover rolls. Do the rolls taste like bread? “Sort of,” ownerMicheline Weiss says.

A less-expected seder milieu is the non-kosherrestaurant Cava, at 8384 W. Third St., whose flamboyant chef,Cuban-born Toribio Prado, is known for adventurous, Caribbean andSpanish cuisine. But for the past three years, Prado, also of Cha ChaCha, has been cooking up an anything-but-Ashkenazic sederfeast.

Cuban-born Toribio Prado, above, chef of Cava and Cha ChaCha, says his Jewish grandmother taught him an appreciation forSephardic food, a variety of which will be served at Cava’s sedermeal. At left, grilled lamb, Passover-style.

It was Prado’s Jewish grandmother who taught himan appreciation for Sephardic food, where olive oil subs for theAshkenazic chicken fat, and exotic spices for heavy-on-the-salt. Hisfour-course seder ($55 per person, $30 for children) on April 12 willbe a virtual Sephardic world tour: Moroccan chicken soup with leeks,fava beans and coriander; Indian toasted mango salad with cucumberand fresh mint; Tunisian roast lamb with tarragon and plum-corianderchutney; pan-seared Pacific whitefish with green chili and tomatopuree, almond torte and pomegranate sorbet.

Food mavens Roy and Robin Rose willlead the seder with a historical /archaeological twist; St. Superykosher wines will provide the four cups; and a portion of theproceeds will benefit Vista Del Mar. “Reservations are a must,” saysCava consultant Gerry Furth. “One year, we had 40 people sign up, but80 people showed up!”

For reservations and information, call Spago at(310) 394-3922; Jake & Annie’s, (310) 452-1734; Gilliland’s,(310) 392-3901; Jerry’s Famous Deli, (818) 766-8311 (or phone yourlocal Jerry’s); Simon’s La Glatt, (213) 658-7730; Rimini Restaurant,(310) 552-1056; Micheline’s, (310) 204-5334; The Beverly Grand Hotel,(213) 939-1653; Cava, (213) 658-8898.

Passover Gefilte Fish

By Wolfgang Puck

1 head (about 2 1/2 pounds) green cabbage

2 cups matzo meal

1 quart fish stock

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 medium (5 ounces) onion, minced

2 pounds whitefish fillets, such as pike, carp orwhitefish, cut into chunks

3 eggs, separated

1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

2 tablespoons (6 or 7 sprigs) chopped freshtarragon leaves

2 to 3 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

Cayenne pepper, to taste

1 medium carrot, peeled and cut intojulienne

1 medium leek, white part only, cut intojulienne

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2) Blanch the head of cabbage in boiling saltedwater, about 5 minutes, then place in a basin of cold water. Removethe whole leaves and cut away the tough core. As you peel off theouter leaves, you may have to return the head of cabbage to theboiling water to soften the inner leaves. Dry on a clean towel andreserve.

3) Place thematzo meal in a small bowl. Coverwith 1 cup of stock and let soak until needed.

4) In a small skillet, heat the olive oil. Overmedium heat, sauté the onion until wilted, 4 to 5 minutes. Donot brown. Cool.

5) In a wooden bowl or on a chopping board, chopthe fish fine with a chopper or large knife. Add the matzo meal withthe stock, the cooled onions, 3 egg yolks, the chopped parsley andtarragon, 2 teaspoons of salt, white pepper and cayenne, and continueto chop until well-combined. In a clean medium bowl, whisk the eggwhite until firm but not stiff. Stir a little into the fish mixture,then quickly but gently fold in the remaining whites. To test forflavor, bring a little fish stock to a simmer, add a small ball ofthe fish mixture and cook for about 5 minutes. Taste and correctseasoning.

Heat the remaining fish stock and spoon a littleinto an 11-by-17-inch baking pan. Divide the fish mixture into 12portions, about 4 ounces each, and enclose each portion in one or twocabbage leaves. You will find that when the leaves get smaller, youwill have to use two leaves to wrap the fish. As each package isformed, place in the prepared baking pan, seam-side down. This sizepan holds the 12 packages comfortably. Pour the remaining stock overthe fish and top with the julienned carrots and leeks. Cover the panwith foil and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool in the stock andrefrigerate until needed.

Serves 12

Presentation: Placeone package of fish on each of 12 plates, garnishing with some of thejulienned carrots and leeks. Serve with homemade horseradish, whiteor red.

Homemade Horseradish

To make white horseradish, finely grate peeledfresh horseradish into a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, andrefrigerate until needed.

To make red horseradish, boil 1/2 pound red beetsuntil tender. Peel and then finely grate into a medium bowl. Addabout 1/2 cup grated horseradish, or to taste, and combinethoroughly. Refrigerate, covered, until needed.

Two women who don’t hate Pesach: BernieGruenbaum, left, with her daughter, Julie.

Why My Mom Doesn’t Hate Passover

By Julie Gruenbaum Fax,

Religion Editor

I always thought women hated Pesach. I guess theimpression came from watching my mother at seder: After weeks ofcleaning and days of cooking, she usually sat at the seder table,exhausted and testy — at least until she downed the second or thirdcup of wine.

But my mom insists that she loves Pesach, andespecially the seder.

Sure, she said, you have to get yourself organizedand plow through the cleaning, but once the house is turned over andall that’s left is the seder, it’s the connection with the past, thechildhood memories and bringing the family together that takes theforeground.

And it turns out that, for many women, that’s thesentiment which lingers well beyond the Brillo pads and manglednails.

But after talking to other women my age, I foundout that I’m not alone in my perception of women’s great animositytoward the festival of freedom. Many of us who have never made aseder but have known the pleasures of scrubbing a two-bedroomapartment tend to see more of the housekeeping horror — and theconsequent sexism — of the holiday.

Of course, my generation has moved apron-lengthsfrom my grandmother’s, when, more often than not, men waltzed intothe holiday with no concept of what went into it.

In fact, a few years ago, when I told mygrandparents that my husband had cleaned and kashered the entire kitchenwhile I was at work the Sunday before Pesach, they didn’t believeme.

The seders themselves have changed as well. WithJewish women and girls educated and interested in our heritage,discussion is no longer confined to the men at the head table — infact, the head table is no longer reserved just for men.

At one seder, when I was about 12, after my cousinand I had brought the bowl and pitcher around to wash all the men’shands, I asked her to hold the bowl for me as I washed mine. That wasa dramatic change from the way things were done “back home, in theold days,” but after some bemused smirks, it didn’t take long for allthe women to hold their hands out.

And, for many years, the men have been the mainservers at our seders, allowing their tired wives to rest.

When I think about my preparations for Pesach lastyear — even with the cleaning and the cooking — I can see my mom’spoint about looking past the drudgery. Despite my intellectualindignation at turning into a seder slave, memories of Pesachs pastonly make me smile. I love the cooking and the excuse to call oldfriends and distant family to check what they meant when they wrote”bake till done” on the recipe card. I relish challenging myself tomake my bagels come out as fluffy as Tante Mina’s (I’m convinced thatshe’s withholding an ingredient, because mine never do), and lookforward to pulling out Amy’s chocolate-chip cookie recipe, written onthe “Things To Do Today” memo with a big frog in the corner.

Then there’s the family seder. Everyonecontributes a dish because we never have fewer than 25 people –extended family, their neighbors and friends, and a Russian familythat just arrived. My grandparents’ dirge-like, but indispensable,Vizhnitzer tunes mingle with our more modern — some would saytwisted — traditions, most stemming from someone’s nursery-schoolmodel seder: a resounding round of “Adir Hu, you know it’s true, Mr.Potato Head I love you!” (please don’t ask); L’shana Ha’ba’s verticalclapping (imagine your hands are sandpaper); and the chest-thumping,ooh-aahing version of “Who Knows One?” that wakes up even thesleeping 4-year-olds.

By “Chad Gad Yu” (there’s that weird Vizhnitzeraccent showing up again), my mother and her sisters, who may havebeen about as lively as wet rags at Kadesh, are usually engaged inuncontrollable, adolescent fits of Yiddish-punctuated laughter. Theyinsist that it has nothing to do with the four cups. I didn’t believethem, until I saw it happen on grape juice alone.

But I guess it makes sense. They, like womenworldwide, have spent the last few weeks physically runningthemselves down. And they’ve spent the past few days encountering thepast and the future, carrying on traditions that, more than anything,keep a family together, keep a family Jewish. Add to that a sederwhere their kids get to show off their Jewish educations, where thenewest additions recite the “Ma Nishtanah” and where the souls ofdeparted loved ones squeeze in at the head of the table, watching andparticipating as always.

Who wouldn’t get drunk on that? Who wouldn’tmuster up every bit of reserved energy to celebrate?

It’s enough to squeeze the life back into a wetrag.

Gindi’s Version

By Rob Eshman, Managing Editor

The goal of Passover is to transmit the lessons ofthe Exodus to our children. The challenge of Passover is to transmitthe lessons of the Exodus to our children. The dinner is long. Mosthaggadot uselanguage that confounds a lot of grown-ups. Add the distractions offamily and friends, and you have several good reasons nothing shortof seat belts will keep children at theseder table.

Elie Gindi’s just-published “Family PassoverHaggadah” may be the solution. A few years back, Gindi, a CenturyCity internist, designed his own haggadah for his family’s seder. Hecut and pasted selections from dozens of liturgies, adding his ownchild-friendly translations and the kind of Passover songs his ownthree children, now aged 12, 9 and 6, brought home from school. Theresults astonished him. “There were 25 adults and 16 children, andnot one kid got up from the table.”

Gindi’s friends suggested he publish his homemadehaggadah, and, two years later, he has. Just like its prototype,Gindi’s version retells the Passover story at a reading levelsuitable for children. The story is substantially shortened too — itruns about 40 minutes before dinner, 10 minutes after.

For adults, the design, which Gindi himself puttogether after teaching himself advanced page layout on his Applecomputer, is a small seder feast in itself. Interspersed with thetext are examples of some of the holiday’s finest artwork, culledfrom more than 200 haggadot and museum collections around the world.Gindi spent the better part of a year acquiring the reprint rights toworks such as Toby Fluek’s “Making Haroset” and Reuven Rubin’s “FirstSeder in Jerusalem.”

High art shares space with more child-appealingillustrations. To illustrate the Ten Plagues, Gindi took his ownphotos (his children appear throughout with the subtlety ofHirschfield’s Ninas) and doctored them Newsweek-style. A snapshot ofSanta Monica Bay, the water ruddied by computer, provides a chillingdepiction of the plague of blood. The text of the haggadah combinesthe child-friendly narration with Gindi’s helpful commentary and aninsightful introduction by Rabbi Lee Bycel. There is a sampling ofSephardic traditions, a Holocaust poem, and several “How To” sectionsto help first-timers negotiate the holiday. Gindi’s wife, USCprofessor of medicine Pamela Schaff, edited the manuscript.

Those who prefer a more traditional haggadah havedismissed Gindi’s as truncated and incomplete. He reduces the longHallelbenediction, for instance, to just three lines. But Gindi said thathis work belongs to a tradition of interpretive haggadot. The test,he said, is whether or not it reaches children.

The book, which retails for $7.95, is now widelyavailable at synagogue and Jewish museum gift shops and Border’sBooks and Music. Proceeds from synagogue sales go to benefit theindividual shuls. A portion of the profits benefit the Los AngelesRetarded Citizens Foundation, and Gindi has donated copies toHadassah, the Westside Jewish Community Center and the JewishFederation, which will give them to major contributors at its April14 Salute to Israel dinner (see Page 12).

“It’s a real charge for me to get it out there andsee it be used,” said Gindi. His father, Moses Gindi, died on thefirst night of Passover in 1965, and, since then, the holiday hasheld a profound significance for him. “My dad was very much intoteaching his children,” Gindi said. “This is a legacy for him and atribute to him.”

For more information and to purchase the”Family Passover Haggadah,” call (310) 476-1565.

 

Dining Out…


As a rule, you don’t go to museums to eat. Unless you’re like me — someone who, when push comes to shove, prefers great food to great art. I make no apologies: The last time I visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, I ate a tasteless, watery and expensive fruit salad in the cafe there. That I remember. What exhibit I was there to see I’ve long forgotten. It had something to do with famous dead artists.

Zeidler’s Cafe at the Skirball Cultural Center is memorable — for all the right reasons. Forget that it’s located in a museum lobby. If Zeidler’s Cafe were on Ventura or Wilshire boulevards, you’d have to reserve a table for lunch.

The light, large space shares a stone floor with the outdoor patio, which stretches out past a wall of plate glass. Somewhere beyond the atrium, the city and Valley lie far beneath you. Never mind that the Mulholland Drive exit on the 405 is only a few hundred yards away — this place feels like a getaway.

The menu at Zeidler’s mixes deli with California creative — not surprising, considering that it is owned by Marvin and Judy Zeidler, who also own the Broadway Deli and Citrus. (Zeidler’s is dairy, but not kosher.) You’ll find crisp, generous pizzas with Puck-esque top-quality ingredients (around $7 to $8) such as kalamata olives and smoked Gouda. The sandwiches (around $6) are simple and clean-flavored: tuna, egg, salmon salad; no olive pastes and sun-dried tomato spreads lurking under the bread.

About a half pound of nicely seared tuna comes with the seared ahi salad. Though the fish is ice-cold — I like mine still warm on the outside from the sear — it is perfectly cooked, high-quality tuna, crusted with black and white sesame seeds. The bright composed salad beneath it is lightly dressed with a sesame dressing and laced through with peppery daikon sprouts.

Mushroom pot sticker salad is flavorful, if a little too much like…pot sticker salad. And who needs that?

The barley soup has a swell peppery kick, the meatless cousin to the barley shitake mushroom soup down at the Broadway Deli. Other deli selections, such as latkes ($2.50) and rich, light blintzes tangy with lemon peel ($6.95), make Zeidler’s a good choice for Sunday brunch.

The desserts, made on premises, are large and homey. Cheesecake tastes more of New York than Los Angeles. It’s a good-sized wedge, perfumed with vanilla and creamy at the core.

I like the service at Zeidler’s too. A manager comes by to check the water level in my teapot. When I sent back a cup of coffee because it tasted sour, the teapot and some black tea appeared in seconds, with a smile.

Zeidler’s is, of course, the place to eat when visiting the Skirball. But it may be the perfect midpoint spot for friends coming from the Valley and the city to rendezvous, and a good choice for pre- or post- Getty Center viewing. That little place should be so lucky to house a Zeidler’s of its own.

Zeidler’s Cafe is open weekdays (except Monday), 11 a.m.-5 p.m., and weekends, noon-5 p m. (310) 440-4515.

Haute Latkes

Ashkenazic Jews eat latkes because they’re fried in oil, and well-oiled foods symbolize the Chanukah miracle of the oil lamp that burned in the sanctuary for eight days. Italian Jews make an ethereal fried chicken for the holiday, using lemon peel in the batter. And Sephardic Jews have a battery of fried desserts. Israelis eat jelly doughnuts, sufganyot, baseball-sized blobs of dough stuffed with a red goo that might share some distant lineage with a real fruit.

But I like latkes.

The recipes that follow are from Zeidler’s Cafe at the Skirball Cultural Center. Created by Chef Jim Herringer, they push the envelope of Jewish tradition while incorporating traditional Mexican and French ingredients. These might not be your first choice for a Chanukah latke, but they’ll work well as an hors d’oeuvre any time of year.

Southwestern Latke with Chunky Salsa

4 medium russet potatoes

2 Eggs

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese

8 ounces chunky salsa

1) Halve the potatoes and grate on a coarse panel grater.

2) Beat the eggs in a bowl and fold in the cilantro and potatoes.

3) Heat the oil and form small circles with the potato mixture. Fry to golden brown, remove from the skillet and top with salsa.

4) Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.

Chunky Salsa:

1 pound ripe tomatoes

4 serrano chile peppers

1 clove garlic

salt to taste

1) Preheat broiler and place the tomatoes and chile peppers on the broiler pan. Broil, turning frequently, until the skins are blistered and slightly charred.

2) Allow the tomatoes and chili peppers to cool at room temperature. Remove the skin and seeds.

3) In a food processor, process the garlic and chile peppers on the chop setting. Add tomatoes and salt to taste. Pulse on and off until chopped, not puréed.

4) Place a dollop of salsa atop each latke just prior to service.

Crisp Potato Latke with Goat Cheese

4 russet potatoes, peeled

2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

8 ounces goat cheese

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

1) Halve the potatoes and grate on a coarse panel grater. Do not rinse potatoes. Squeeze moisture from potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.

2) Add one tablespoon of oil to a large skillet. Lay out a thin layer of grated potatoes, forming a circle. Top the potato circle with one ounce of goat cheese, sprinkle generously with chives. Cover the goat cheese with another thin layer of potato, ensuring that the cheese is completely covered. Add remaining oil and carefully turn the latke over and cook to golden brown on both sides. Repeat, making a total of eight latkes.

A Hole in Kosher L.A.


A Hole in Kosher L.A.

By deciding to introduce meat products into itsformerly all-dairy outlets, Noah’s Bagels has provoked a strongresponse from observant Jewish noshers

By Diane Arieff Zaga, Arts Editor

You can tinker with the “classic” Coke recipe, add color to thegray New York Times, but don’t mess with my kosher Sunday-morninghangout. That’s the message observant Jews have been sending toNoah’s Bagels since the Northern California-based company decided tointroduce meat products into its formerly kosher, all-dairy LosAngeles outlets Nov. 1.

First, a bit of bagel background may be in order: Noah’s Bagels,which sells deli salads, knishes, lox, cream cheeses and Jewishbakery items, was originally a private company run by its founder,Noah Alper. In February 1996, Noah’s was bought by Einstein Bros.Bagels Corp., and the joint enterprise went public in August of thatyear. Boston Chicken is now the corporation’s majority shareholder.

Today, Noah’s familiar logo remains, dotting storefronts up anddown the West Coast. Here in Los Angeles, Noah’s attracts briskweekend traffic to its many outlets, several of which are situated inthe same sorts of trendy retail nexuses that house Starbucks Coffee,Tower Records and various juice shops.

The abrupt change in the kosher foodie landscape caused by Noah’smenu changeover has provoked strong community response in areas wherethere is a critical mass of observant Jewish noshers. Two Noah’sstores are in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood. Another is on Beverlyand Detroit, adjacent to Hancock Park. Both areas are home to highconcentrations of Orthodox Jews, who have stayed away from Noah’ssince the decision.

Gary Narin, a resident of Beverlywood and a Modern Orthodox Noah’sdevotee, has been active in trying to resolve this conflict overcorporate bagel kashrut. Along with other members of thePico-Robertson community, he contacted Noah’s main office about theNovember decision, urging the company to maintain kashrut at thoselocations that serve an observant clientele. Noah’s agreed to keepthe stores at Beverwil and Pico, Olympic and Doheny, and Beverly andDetroit as all-dairy restaurants.

So what’s the beef? When deli meats were introduced at thecompany’s other Southland sites, Rabbinical Council of Californiarabbis felt compelled to withdraw Noah’s local certification acrossthe board. Rabbi Abraham Union of the RCC was unavailable for commentat press time, but lay people affiliated with the board have venturedthat part of the reason the RCC no longer wanted to certify thosethree stores was because of the potential for confusion and erroramong customers who would be patronizing a bagel chain that waskosher in some neighborhoods and treif in others.

Another factor blocking certification is the issue of whetherNoah’s would agree to close on Shabbat. Although it’s a publicly heldfirm that’s not obligated by Jewish law to do so, the November menuchanges prompted the RCC to regard each outlet as a separate shop tobe considered individually, according to Dr. Mark Goldenberg, a laymember of the RCC. Noah’s is not willing to close down on Saturdays,so progress has been stalled. For the time being, these three dairyNoah’s are in uncertified kosher limbo, a status that disturbs Narinfor reasons that go beyond the loss of a good onion bialy.

“We were a little frustrated because they were losing theircertification, and it’s not because we couldn’t find a kosher bagel,”Narin said. “That’s not it at all. Noah’s was a great meetingplace…a place where all Jews could eat together.”

Narin said that he’s committed to building bridges between theOrthodox and non-Orthodox communities. And, in its own way, heexplained, Noah’s was part of that positive effort. “In my mind, itwas like a little Jewish community center, where everyone could sitand have a cup of coffee and a bagel. Non-Orthodox Jews who may notgravitate to other kosher places would go there…. In some ways,Noah’s did as much good in the community as some synagogues orFederation projects. It really became known as a gathering place.”

Narin is quick to point out that representatives from Noah’s wereresponsive to his complaints. At its Irvine and Granada Hillslocations, the company decided to maintain kashrut after the Jewishcommunities in those areas lobbied hard for them to do so.Certification didn’t come through the RCC, of course, but byindependent rabbinic supervision, something Noah’s is now shoppingfor in order to get its Pico-Robertson and Hancock Park outletsrecertified.

“The way we found independent supervision for the stores inGranada Hills and Irvine is through people in those communities whocontacted their rabbis, who then contacted us,” said Sydney DrellReiner, Noah’s director of community relations. “We’re still lookingfor supervision for the other three stores, and we’d like to get thatdone as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened yet.Frankly, we’re open to suggestions.”

Why bother with meat at all if it’s going to cause such abyzantine bagel brouhaha? The answer, of course, is dough, and notthe chewy kind. Kosher consumers are a minority of Noah’s diversecustomer base. According to Reiner, “Noah’s made the decision inOctober, based on the requests of a vast number of our customers –about 90 percent — who wanted us to expand our menu to include morechoices for breakfast and lunch. So in Seattle, Portland and LosAngeles, we introduced those products, which are doing quite well bythe way. But we always had the intention of maintaining koshersupervision at other outlets, as we do in Northern California.”

In other parts of the Los Angeles region where Noah’s serves asignificant Jewish clientele — such as Studio City, Sherman Oaks andSanta Monica, to name a few — there has been a low-level lamentabout the menu changeover too. Is it too late for those neighborhoodsto lobby for continued kosher status? Not at all, said Reiner. “We’reopen. We’re real open.”

Customers may call the company at 1-800-931-NOAH.

The Real Noah Speaks Out

By Robert Eshman,

Associate Editor

Go into any Noah’s New York Bagels these days, order a roast beefwith Swiss cheese, and they’ll give it to you, faster than you canspell Leviticus. The treifing of Noah’s, at one time the most visibleand contemporary of kosher food outlets, has upset many observantJews, and has even inspired organized protest (see accompanyingstory). Among those who are most upset: Noah himself.

Speaking with The Journal by phone from Jerusalem, Noah Alperwants to make it perfectly clear that he is no longer affiliated withthe chain that bears his name. “I get a feeling if the public werepolled, most of them would say, ‘He’s still in the back room makingbagels,'” said Alper. “I’d like to let the public know I’m notassociated with the business.”

Alper sold Noah’s to Einstein Bros. Bagels Corp. in 1996 andstayed on to help with the transition. But last February, he resignedfrom the board and went on to fulfill a lifelong dream: studyingJudaism in Israel.

“I’m over here making up for everything I never learned,” saidAlper. Last summer, he moved with his wife, Hope, and two children toa rented home in the German Colony section of Jerusalem. Alper’soldest son attends Brandeis University. The family expects to returnto their Bay Area home in July.

Alper, 50, takes classes at the Pardes Institute for JewishLearning, a progressive, traditional Jewish studies center headed byRabbi Daniel Landes, the former senior rabbi at Congregation B’naiDavid Judea in Los Angeles.

As he leads a more observant life, the stores that bear Alper’sname have become decidedly less observant. Alper said that he canunderstand the thinking behind it — Orthodox customers neveraccounted for more than 5 percent to 10 percent of sales. Even so,the corporate decision was made after he left the board.

Alper said his insistence that his stores keep kosher was nevermotivated by the bottom line. From the store’
s founding in 1989,Alper wanted Noah’s to reflect the joy and richness of Jewish life,and being kosher was part of that. His stores resembled tiled LowerEast Side delis. Their walls were adorned with photos from the Jewishpantheon– the Brooklyn Dodgers, Golda Meir, rebbes and radicals, andeven Alper family photos.

The overall effect certainly created strong brand identity.Einstein’s bought Noah’s 35 stores for $100 million (Alper receivedabout $10 million). The corporation paid the same price for more than300 Bruegger’s Bagels outlets. Noah’s was a marketing phenomenon,like Gap or Starbucks, which owned 20 percent of the chain. WhileEinstein’s corporate M.O. has been to buy up bagel chains and renamethe stores, it left the Noah’s name untouched, even opening numerousnew locations. Einstein’s was paying for a well-tended image –something more valuable than bagel-vending real estate.

Those who know Alper say that the Noah’s image accuratelyreflected the man. Murray Kalis, whose Pacific Palisades advertisingagency Kalis & Savage designed many of Noah’s ads and brochures,said Alper took his store’s commitment to Jewish communal lifeseriously. When visiting Los Angeles, he made sure to attend servicesat Temple Mishkon Tephilo on Main Street in Venice, just down thestreet from the company’s first Santa Monica store, and he donatedprofits and goods from his stores to local Jewish charities.

Now Noah Alper is, by his own admission, out of the loop. “I takemy kids to school and soccer practice,” said Alper, “and I study.”

Of course, even as he deepens his understanding of his heritage,he has had time to sample the bagels of Israel. “They’re not bad,” hesaid, “but I don’t think they’re as good as Noah’s.”