As most shuls opt for coins, Kapparot Still Observed in Woodland Hills


Hebrew Discovery Center is one of the remaining synagogues in Los Angeles County to observe kapparot, the ritual killing of chickens performed during the Days of Awe. On Wednesday and Thursday evening, September 27 and 28, the Center continued the ancient tradition, yet again- to the dismay of protesters who picketed, holding up signs, many of them written in Hebrew and Farsi.

“This is a holdout,” said Rabbi Jonathan Klein, co-founder of Faith Action for Animals. “This ritual has always been a questionable ritual within the Jewish community…there’s no shortcut to expiation of sin.”

Kapparot is not mentioned in the Torah or Talmud. Nobody knows for sure when kapparot started being practiced, but it’s first mentioned in the 9th century by Babylonian scholar Rav Amram Gaon, who said that kapparot is an old tradition. Yet, many rabbinic authorities have since denounced the ritual, including Ramban (Nachmanides) and Rabbi Joseph Karo, who banned the practice in his Jewish Code of Laws, the Shulchan Aruch.

Today some Orthodox circles still observe the custom…of course, not without backlash.

For Rabbi Netanel Louie of Hebrew Discovery Center, the controversy surrounding kapparot ignites his will to observe the ritual. To him, kapparot is a transference of sins. It cleanses the soul like ginger cleanses the palette.

“If they don’t like chickens being killed, they should protest a KFC,” said a 20-year-old who just observed kapparot with her friend at the Center. (Ironically, there’s an El Pollo Loco directly across the street.) This was her first time doing the ritual. Her friend, however, (donning a tichel, head wrap) said she’d been observing the custom her whole life. To her, kapparot means tradition.

The person observing kapparot will swing the fowl overhead three times while reciting a prayer before a shochet, ritual slaughterer, cuts the chicken’s neck with a ritual knife, a shechita. The blood is drained; the deed is done. 

According to Louie, there is a hierarchy of existence. There is man and, then, there is chicken.

Many local synagogues have given up the ritual in lieu of a sin-absolving alternative: coins are wrapped in cloth and swung over the head three times; the coins are then donated to charity. Down the block, Klein made sure to mention, Sephardic synagogue Haichal Moshe, gave up the practice and opted for using coins instead of chickens. “What kind of Jew chooses killing chickens over using coins?” one protester wrote on a sign.

Last year, everyone got a little too excited. There were some vandalisms. I think there’s a case that’s still going. Two people got convicted, it’s unfortunate,” said Lieutenant Warner Castillo, who was at the scene “to keep the peace.” Ten LAPD officers and three supervisors were also on-duty. Castillo said that The Animal Cruelty Task Force inspected the kapparot site earlier that day, “and they deemed it lawful and it is what it is.”

Kapparot takes place in the alley behind the Center. Israeli techno pounds through speakers as people filter in and out, taking turns observing the custom. The Center built a temporary structure to perform the ritual, which looks like a sukkah, a plywood edifice draped in blue tarp. Hours before the ritual took place, the chickens were fenced off in a coop, supplied with food and water.

About 30 protesters showed up Wednesday evening, one of whom was Israeli-born animal rights activist Ady Gil. “When you’re just stubborn and you just want to do it, of course it affects the neighborhood and it affects the people,” he said. Gil owns an animal conservation down the block. “It’s not even done correctly according to Jewish law because if you do it, you have to actually give the dead chicken to tzedakah, which is charity for food.”

Following Jewish tradition, the chickens, after kapparot is performed, are supposed to be donated to the needy. But since the slaughter conditions aren’t FDA approved, after the ritual is done, the city picks them up in sanitation trucks. Louie isn’t sure what happens after that, but he heard they become fish feed; he won’t disclose how they get their chickens, but he reasons that they slaughter chickens that no longer lay eggs- so they would’ve been killed anyway. To those protesters, that’s besides the point.

Chef Mark Reinfeld’s watermelon gazpacho. Photo by Erik Rudolph

Chef wants to make vegan cooking the ‘new kosher’


With the temperature in the mid-80s, it was not the night to kick off Shabbat dinner with chicken soup, or rather, given our family’s eating mishegas, vegan chicken soup (yes, there is such a dish). So where or whom do I turn to for a seasonal alternative?

Answer: Chef Mark Reinfeld, who as the “30-Minute Vegan” has a series of books filled with recipes that I’ve found are sure to come out right and always taste great. (Reinfeld most recently authored “Healing the Vegan Way: Plant-Based Eating for Optimal Health and Wellness.”) When vegetarian and vegan newbie friends ask me to recommend fail-safe cook books, Reinfeld’s are at the top of the list.

So for this sultry Shabbat, I chose Raw Peaches and Cream Soup (don’t get fatootzed about the word “raw”), which turned out to be a hit with a Friday night dinner crowd that included rabbis, an Episcopal priest and their spouses.

I was lucky to meet up with Reinfeld on a very un-summer night in February near Boulder, Colorado, where he lives. There he told me about growing up in a traditional Jewish family in Stony Brook, Long Island, that kept kosher and ate chicken every Friday night.

After Reinfeld spent his junior year at the London School of Economics, which he followed with a backpacking trip across Europe, he found he just couldn’t embark immediately on his plan A, attending law school right after college.

After his acceptance into New York University Law School, Reinfeld deferred his admission and decamped one more time to Europe. In Paris, he worked as an au pair. In the mornings, he helped his charges with their homework. But he spent his afternoons walking the streets of the French capital “holding a baguette and bottle of wine,” as he likes to put it.

From there he traveled to Amsterdam and Berlin. Forrest Gump-ishly, he witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, then managed to hit Prague in time for the Velvet Revolution that brought down the ruling Czech Communist Party. His next stop: Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek in Israel, where he worked with (and then ate) chicken five and sometimes seven days a week.

Reinfeld’s cauliflower and mushroom tacos (Courtesy of Reinfeld)

Reinfeld remembers the kibbutzniks chasing and catching the chickens in vast shed-like coops, then handing them over to the volunteers.

“We’d have to take them out to a truck,” he recalls. “The chickens were screaming and their legs were breaking in your hands. That is precisely when I realized that I couldn’t do this, and I couldn’t eat them. So I gave up chicken cold turkey.”

Reinfeld laughs before describing another I-can’t-eat-animals-anymore epiphany: It happened when he bonded with cows in the field next to the kibbutz.

Back in America, Reinfeld started law school, dropping out after the first semester when he realized this wasn’t the direction he wanted his career to take.

“I didn’t have a plan B,” he notes.

Somehow the spirit of his maternal grandfather, Ben Bimstein, a caterer who Reinfeld describes as a “culinary genius” and a renowned ice carver, guided his next move.

“Until his dying day,” Reinfeld says of Bimstein, “he was still carving ice in his wheelchair with his oxygen tank and something like a chainsaw.”

Reinfeld loaded his possessions into his car, drove west until he hit San Diego and landed a kitchen job at the natural foods grocer Jimbo’s. From there he quickly became a meatless entrepreneur, starting Blossoming Lotus Personal Chef Service in Malibu, California, and ending up, with the help of angel investor Bo Rinaldi, as the co-owner and chef of the award-winning Blossoming Lotus restaurant in Kauai, Hawaii.

With Rinaldi, Reinfeld wrote “Vegan World Fusion Cuisine,” garnering honors including a Gourmand World Cookbook Award for best vegetarian cookbook in the USA.

By this time, Reinfeld also was a practitioner of Vipassana, a type of Buddhist meditation, and actually started his restaurant while observing an 18-month period of silence. (“I could type very fast in those days,” he says, laughing.) That didn’t take him away from Judaism, and in a 2013 article for ReformJudaism.org titled “Vegan is the New Kosher,” he outlined the Jewish basis for a plant-based diet.

Reinfeld couples the Talmudic principle of “tza’ar ba’alei chayim” (Bava Metzia 32), which prohibits cruelty to animals, with Genesis 1:29: “God said, “Behold, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food,” and urges Jews to make the compassionate choice.

“The reality is that factory farm-produced meat, eggs, and dairy (whether kosher or non-kosher) are raised and treated in a way that is a blatant violation of the principle of Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim,” Reinfeld writes.

Mark Reinfeld spent time on a kibbutz. (Courtesy of Reinfeld)

A philosophy major as an undergraduate, Reinfeld says he understands that animals kill and eat animals, and that some people eat animals out of necessity.

“If you saw a lion pouncing on a gazelle, you may wince, but you know it’s part of nature and you’re not going to sit the lion down and say ‘I think you have anger issues, why don’t you try tofu?’” he says.

Inhabitants of remote fishing villages in Alaska or isolated tribes with limited access to adequate protein must fish or hunt.

“Where there’s necessity,” Reinfeld says, “there is a different moral issue, but when we have a choice of how much violence we bring into the world through our food selection, and we know we can meet our body’s nutritional needs, eat tasty food and minimize our environmental impact,” then one can draw a different line.

Back on the mainland, Reinfeld continues his vegan entrepreneurship. Called “the male equivalent to a vegan Rachael Ray” in a Publisher’s Weekly review of “Soup’s On,” a cookbook in his “30-Minute Vegan” series, Reinfeld is dedicated to popularizing vegan eating and living and compassion toward animals. Through his Vegan Fusion company, he offers consulting, chef services, culinary workshops, and chef and cooking teacher training internationally and online.

In July, Reinfeld was inducted into the Vegetarian Hall of Fame.

Time for another late summer Shabbat dinner — and the soup. I promise you, it’s a snap to make and takes minutes. And I also guarantee that you won’t be able to tell the difference between cashew cream, a staple of vegan cooking, and the “real” thing, heavy cream.

My Episcopal priest friend, a regular at our Shabbat table, loved the soup, and weighed in after his last spoonful: “Honest and fulfilling. Not a sweet, cutesy, fruity thing.”

Raw Peaches and Cream Soup
Serves 4

Ingredients:

Sweet Cashew Cream:

3/4 cup chopped raw cashews
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons raw coconut or agave nectar or sweetener of choice, or to taste (I used agave)

Raw Peach Soup:

7 ripe peaches, pitted and chopped (5 cups)
1 1/2 cups fruit juice (try apple)
2 tablespoons raw coconut nectar, agave nectar or pure maple syrup (which I used), or to taste
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
2 teaspoons mirin (Reinfeld says this is optional, but I’d recommend it as well. Mirin is a Japanese sweet rice wine that is easy to find.)
2 tablespoons chiffonaded fresh mint, for garnish

Preparation:

Place the cashews in a small bowl with ample water to cover. Allow them to sit for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse well. (This is why Reinfeld is such a practical vegan chef: Most vegan recipes instruct you to soak cashews overnight.)

Meanwhile, place all of the peach soup ingredients, except the mint, in a strong blender and blend until creamy. Transfer to a bowl.

Place the cashews in the blender with the water and the coconut nectar (or whichever sweetener you’re using) and blend until very creamy. Transfer to a small bowl.

Garnish each bowl of soup with a drizzle of cashew cream and top with fresh mint before serving.

Variations:

* It would be a raw foodist’s call to 911 — yes, this is how Reinfeld writes — but you can grill the peaches until char marks appear, about 5 minutes, lightly basting with melted coconut oil before blending.

* Replace the peaches with nectarines, mangoes, blueberries or papayas. (I tried several batches with blueberries, which also worked well, although less sweet than the peach. You might try to prepare two versions, and delicately place them side by side in each soup bowl, in a yin/yang design.)

* Replace the apple juice with orange, pineapple or mango juice, or a combination of your favorites.

* Create differently flavored Sweet Cashew Creams by adding 1/2 cup of fruit, such as blueberries, strawberries or mango.


Elisa Spungen Bildner is 99 percent vegan [she cheats on ice cream]. She is a member of the board of 70 Faces Media, JTA’s parent company.) 

How I learned to make latkes


 

Chanukah has meant different things to me at different stages of my life. When I was little, it was about nightly presents and making candy dreidels in school, using marshmallows, red vines, Hershey’s Kisses and icing.

As I got older, it was about lighting the chanukiyah with my family and reading the prayers from my father’s prayer book. In college, it was about convening my friends in our dorm to light the Chanukah menorah together, and since then it’s been so meaningful to come home from work, light the chanukiyah in my kitchen and place it in the window of my apartment in view of the street.

This year, though, Chanukah took a different turn. I decided to learn how to cook latkes, the potato pancakes we eat to commemorate how oil, enough for only one day, lasted eight nights following the Maccabee victory.

The best way to learn, I figured, was to visit with Rob Eshman, Journal publisher, editor-in-chief and Foodaism blogger.

Rob is a foodie. He once brought a sugar cane to an editorial meeting and began chopping away at it with a knife so we could all taste fresh sugar. He’s kept goats and chickens in his backyard and grows many of the vegetables, fruits and herbs he cooks with in his garden. He’s genuinely offended when the office orders Domino’s.

Given that I’d never made latkes before, it helped that Rob was prepared. He had all the ingredients ready: the potatoes, an onion, salt, pepper, eggs and oil. There aren’t a lot of ingredients to latkes, Rob explained. The secret to success, he said, is in the technique.

He immediately put me to work peeling potatoes. I cook my own meals most nights, but it turns out there’s plenty left to learn. Like, how to use a potato peeler. Rob’s peels flew off the potato like sparks. Mine took their time. Rob looked over.

“Oh, we’re starting from there,” he said.

After some instruction, I sliced away at the potato skin, then, per his instructions, placed the potato in a bowl of water. Rob explained we keep the potato in water so as to prevent it from turning brown, or oxidizing. That was technique No. 1.

Then came technique No. 2. To make sure the grated potatoes didn’t turn brown, we alternated grating them with an onion. The onion was strong. I cried; Rob did too.

The third technique, Rob said, was crucial. We took handfuls of the potato/onion mixture and squeezed it out into a bowl to remove as much liquid as possible. The more liquid, Rob explained, the soggier the latke — and no one likes a soggy latke.

A white, wet goo settled at the bottom of the drained liquid. This was potato starch, and the basis for technique No. 4. Once the starch settled at the bottom of the bowl, we drained off the liquid, scooped up the starch and mixed it in with the potatoes. That would help bind the latkes and erase the need to add flour or matzo meal, which can make for heavier pancakes.

I cracked a couple of eggs and mixed those in as well, then sprinkled salt and pepper over the batter. Afterward, I poured a generous amount of cooking oil into a pan, spooned the latke batter into the pan and let it fry into latkes.

Latkes frying in oil.

The latkes turned out perfectly. Crisp, light and potato-y. Rob even made a special few using a Middle Eastern strained yogurt called labneh, smoked salmon, and dill fetched from Rob’s garden.

The real test, however, was cooking latkes on my own. A few days later, I went to Ralphs and purchased two potatoes and an onion. I also got a grater and a potato peeler, since I had neither.

At home, I did exactly what I’d learned, following the techniques step by step. Eventually I wound up with about 12 latkes. I ate them with sour cream. They weren’t as good as the ones I’d cooked with Rob, but they were edible. Most importantly, I’d cooked them myself.

Later, my friend Esther came over with applesauce and tried one of my homemade latkes. I explained that the latkes seemed a little dry and didn’t hold together well. Esther asked me if I used eggs. Nope — forgot. Esther made me feel better, pointing out I’d just made vegan, gluten-free latkes.

I plan to cook latkes at my family Chanukah party this year, to put my new skill to use and wow my mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law and nephew with my culinary abilities. I just hope I remember all the ingredients.

Recipe: Blast the heat for a charred vegan salad


Going vegan tastes so good when you turn up the heat on garbanzo beans and create a beautifully charred vegetable salad.

Carbon steel pans and their close cousins, cast iron pans, love heat. Turn a burner on high, place the carbon steel pan on the fire, and you’ve pushed the pedal to the metal. Used by chefs to create crispy skin fish filets and perfectly seared steaks, carbon steel pans can also be used to give vegetables a beautiful, carbonized crust that deepens their flavor.

Hot, fast and easy

Everything is faster with a carbon steel pan. Cooking is quick. And so is cleanup.

Unlike stainless steel pans that must be scrubbed clean after each use, once cured, a carbon steel pan needs only a gentle washing to remove leftover oils. After that, it can be dried on a high flame.

If you have not used a carbon steel pan, think of it as a wok cut down to frying pan size. What carbon steel pans bring to the party is the ability to create rich caramelization quickly. In a matter of minutes, the high heat chars the garbanzo beans and vegetables with a small amount of oil.

Because the temperature of a carbon steel pan can reach as high as 700 F, a blend of oils works best. Eighty percent canola manages the heat with less smoke, and 20% olive oil adds flavor.

Flash cooking adds flavor and seals in the healthy qualities of fiber-rich garbanzo beans, a good source of protein and essential minerals such as manganese and folate or B-9. Also called chickpeas, the legumes provide a starchy contrast to the vegetables.

To make a delicious salad, toss the charred garbanzo beans and vegetables with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar together with finely chopped Italian parsley or fresh leafy greens like arugula, green leaf lettuce, romaine or frisee.

Mise en place, tongs and a good over-stove exhaust fan

What restaurant chefs call mise en place is all-important when cooking with high heat. Because the dish will cook in a matter of minutes, all the ingredients must be prepped ahead of time. Peel, chop and arrange all the ingredients on the cutting board before you fire up the carbon steel pan.

Remember, the pan can get as hot as 700 F, so have a good pair of 12-inch tongs at the ready. Turn on the exhaust fan so any smoke from the pan will be pulled out of the kitchen.

Charred Vegetable Salad With Garbanzo Beans

Use any fresh vegetables you enjoy. Besides broccoli, carrots and onions, Swiss chard, kale, spinach, turnips, Chinese bok choy and celery are also delicious when charred.

All the vegetables must be cut into small pieces so they will cook evenly. Leafy greens can be shredded. Calculate the order in which you add the vegetables based on how long they take to cook. For example, broccoli, carrots and turnips take more time to cook than does spinach.

Because carbon steel pans are relatively nonstick, less oil is required when cooking. The recipe calls for a minimum amount of blended oil. Use more depending on taste.

Reducing balsamic vinegar creates a thicker sauce and adds sweetness, offsetting the acid.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup blended oil, 80% canola oil, 20% extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, washed; skin, root and top removed; thin sliced
  • 1 15-ounce can cooked garbanzo beans, organic if available, drained
  • 2 cups shiitake, portabello or other brown mushrooms, dirt cleaned off, stems trimmed on the end, thin sliced
  • 2 cups broccoli crowns, washed, each floret cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 large carrot, washed, stem and root ends trimmed, peeled, finely diced
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 large bunches Italian parsley, washed, stems removed, leaves finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

 

Directions

1. In a small saucepan over a low flame, reduce the balsamic vinegar to one quarter the original volume. Set aside to cool.

2. Arrange all the prepped vegetables on a cutting board or in bowls for easy use.

3. Place a 10-, 12- or 14-inch carbon steel pan or cast iron pan on a high flame. When the pan begins to smoke, turn on the over-the-stove exhaust fan.

4. Drizzle a teaspoon of blended oil on the hot pan and immediately add the thin-sliced onions. Using tongs, toss the onions in the hot oil, turning frequently to avoid burning. When the onions are lightly browned, add drained garbanzo beans. Mix together. Add another drizzle of blended oil. Using tongs, toss frequently to avoid burning.

5. Add mushrooms. Stir and mix well until lightly browned.

6. Add broccoli crowns. Stir and mix well until lightly browned.

7. Add finely diced carrots. Mix well and drizzle with blended oil. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

8. Taste a broccoli crown and carrot dice. When they are al dente, with a little crispness, remove from the flame.

9. Transfer to a bowl or large plate to cool.

10. Place the finely chopped Italian parsley into a large salad bowl. Add the room-temperature charred garbanzo beans and vegetables. Toss well. Season the salad with extra virgin olive oil, reduced balsamic vinegar, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Adjust seasoning and serve.

#myLAcommute Aquafaba is magical


BRITNEY L.

I run my own vegan catering business. I like to cook curries. I make vegan sausages and cookies with chickpea brine—or aquafaba. It whips up like meringue. It’s so magical. I’ve been vegan for 11 years. I was in the punk rock scene and a lot of my friends were hippies. So I decided to try being a vegan. I lost a lot of weight. My skin cleared up. I felt amazing. I stick to what works!

8th Street to Long Beach Boulevard

#myLAcommute is a project of Zócalo Public Square

Thanksgiving: Vegan and vegetarian dishes


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

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

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

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

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

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

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

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

 

Prepare Salsa. Set aside.

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

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

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

SALSA

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

 

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

Makes about 3 cups.

CARROT-PARSNIP SLAW

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

 

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

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

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

FARMERS MARKET SAUTEED SQUASH

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

 

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

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

NONDAIRY COCONUT GELATO

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

 

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

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

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

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

Makes about 6 cups.

VEGAN PUMPKIN SPICE BUNDT CAKE WITH MAPLE GLAZE

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

 

Prepare Maple Glaze. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Oil and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.

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

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

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

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

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

MAPLE GLAZE

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

 

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

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

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

Kislev: Rainbows, oil and salt


During the month of Kislev, which begins later this week, we celebrate Chanukah. The most obvious food of this holiday and month is oil, the miracle ingredient.  During Chanukah, some women recite the story of Judith, a heroine who used salt as a weapon. “Legend has it that Judith fed the enemy general Holofernes salty foods to make him thirsty for wine. As he lay in a drunken stupor she was able to slay him, thus saving Jerusalem from siege.”

A symbol of Kislev is keshet (rainbow). During Kislev, when the flood waters receded, a rainbow appeared in the sky and God told Noah, “I will keep my covenant with you and your descendants…and never again will a flood destroy all life. . . . I have put my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between Myself and the world. “

The recipe I created for Kislev uses lots of salt and olive oil but it is not another recipe for latkes! Since Kislev is celebrated during a dark, cold time of year, I offer a dish whose brightness will counter the damp weather and provide lots of nourishing ingredients. It is a salty and oily salad made with an array of bright foods, symbolic of the rainbow, with pieces cut into arches.

Indeed, eating a rainbow of foods is not only good for one’s health, but critical for sustainable agriculture. As part of our covenant with God, we are required to protect Creation. We can be inspired byNoah, the first seed saver and protector of biodiversity. Our agricultural practices–what and how we grow–are critical to environmental sustainability. Indeed, monocropping, lack of biodiversity in seeds, and use of chemicals and fertilizers endanger our food supplies and environment. Such practices remove critical nutrients from soil, leave crops vulnerable to disease (think of the Irish potato famine) and undermines the genetic diversity of our food supply.

Kislev: Oil and Salt Rainbow Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 head of lettuce, washed and torn
  • 10 pitted olives, chopped into pieces
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 1 tbsp roasted and salted sunflower seeds
  • 1 persimmon, chopped into quarters
  • 1/2 orange, peeled and chopped into quarters
  • 3 pieces of stale bread
  • 5-6 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: sea salt
  • optional: juice of remaining half of orange

Preparation

1. Wash the lettuce and tear into pieces.

2. Soak in olive oil (about 3-4 tbsp total) and then cut into pieces. Place on tray in toaster oven at 375 degrees. Bake until crispy, approximately 10 minutes. Remove from oven to cool.

3. In a serving bowl, add 2 tbsp olive oil to the bottom. (I just learned this tip to help better coat the lettuce in oil.) Add lettuce and mix well with oil. Add olives, capers, permission, orange, sunflower seeds and bread pieces to lettuce. Mix well.

4. Add freshly ground pepper. Taste to decide if salt should be added. Option to add the juice of the remaining half orange. Mix well and serve.

B’tayavon!

PS: If you are interested in my other Chanukah recipe and articles, please click here and here.

Honey isn’t vegan: Cruelty-free Rosh Hashanah


When Madeline Karpel was growing up in Westwood in the 1950s, her Russian immigrant grandmother spent days preparing the family’s erev Rosh Hashanah dinner: chopped liver, matzah ball soup, brisket and, of course, apples to be dipped in honey. 

“It was always served in the dining room with her best china,” said Karpel, 62, a Mommy and Me teacher at Valley Beth Shalom who lives in Northridge. “I inherited her dining room set, so now when we do the holidays, we eat at the same table that I ate at as a child, with the same china and the same crystal.”

But not the same food.

Ten years ago, Karpel went vegan — eschewing all animal products — after one of her daughters showed her videos of animals on the way to the slaughter. So her Rosh Hashanah table now excludes meat and dairy as well as a traditional staple that might be surprising to some nonvegan Jews: honey, which for centuries has been symbolic of the Jewish wish for a sweet new year.   

The reason, she said, is that the industrial harvesting of honey is not so sweet for the humble insect. For Karpel, it’s a matter of caring for creatures both great and small.

“I had been part of inflicting suffering on other beings in my Jewish celebrations,” said the vegan, who now uses maple syrup to sweeten her High Holy Day apples. “But it’s joyous to celebrate Rosh Hashanah or to break my fast with food that doesn’t involve any pain or suffering.” 

For hard-line vegans, honey — along with beeswax and bee pollen — has been off limits since Donald Watson founded the first Vegan Society in 1944. Some activists call honey production cruel and harmful to the environment.

In most large-scale commercial enterprises, bees are crammed into hives that resemble file cabinets, said Jodi Minion, a wildlife biologist who works with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Honeybees are “manipulated with smoke and prevented from choosing by instinct flowers and plants to pollinate,” Minion wrote in an email. “Beekeepers seek unreasonable control over their hives … by killing queen bees, which not only is cruel but causes immense distress to worker bees.”

All of these stressful conditions make bees subject to “blood-sucking mites, intestinal parasites and disease (e.g. foulbrood disease, which attacks and kills larvae) [and] causes slow, horrible deaths to the bees and can spread to other colonies and native species,” Minion added. “Infected animals are killed, typically via gassing or fumigation, and their hives and bodies are burned.” 

Colony Collapse Disorder is another phenomenon associated with farming bees, in which colonies die off or worker bees abandon the hive, Minion said. This problem facing honeybees — which are also used to pollinate some 100 crops around the nation, from broccoli to alfalfa — has threatened the food supply in recent years, according to Rowan Jacobsen, the author of “Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honeybee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis.” 

Representatives of the California State Beekeepers Association, however, said things are not as bad as Minion would make them seem. Patti Johnson, a board member from Hughson, Calif., said beekeepers’ hives provide adequate space for their residents — otherwise, the bees would swarm or simply not return. And while smoke is used to sedate the bees, it prevents them from stinging, which kills the insects. 

The bottom line, according to the association’s secretary-treasurer, Carlen Jupe of Salida, Calif., is that beekeepers have a vested interest in keeping their charges happy, in order to stay in business.

Even so, local Jewish vegans interviewed by the Journal suggested a variety of agreeable honey substitutes to use on Rosh Hashanah. Tani Demain, a business consultant who lives in Chatsworth, has dipped her apples in agave nectar and other options; Karpel is considering sweetening her desserts this year with a product made from apples, lemon and beet juice, and Heather Shenkman, a cardiologist in Burbank as well as a member of the advisory council of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), skips any kind of sweetener and eats her apples plain. Jeffrey Cohan, JVNA executive director, makes his own date syrup at his Pittsburgh home by pureeing the fruit with water in a blender. 

It was on Rosh Hashanah eight years ago that Cohan and his wife became vegetarians after listening to the Torah reader chant Genesis 1:29, in which God tells Adam and Eve: “I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food.” 

“We looked at each other and said, ‘Guess we’re meant to be vegetarians,’ ” Cohan recalled.

His choice to serve date syrup on Rosh Hashanah also comes from the Bible, specifically Deuteronomy chapter 8, in which God lists the seven sacred foods associated with the land of Israel. One of them is dvash, or dibs, which traditionally has been translated as “honey” but in many modern commentaries is thought to mean date juice, he said.

Although Cohan views avoiding honey as one of the last steps on the road to veganism, “The general principal is that whenever any kind of animal is treated as an economic commodity, the vast majority of the time it turns out very badly for the animal,” he said. “And bees are no exception.”

So, if bees are used for so many crops in the agricultural industry, why can vegans in good conscience eat those plants? 

“The reality is, we can’t completely eliminate animal suffering in our lifestyle,” Cohan said. “So the best you can do is the best you can do.”

That means not forgetting to be an advocate of the little guy. 

“Part of vegan philosophy is that nothing is ‘just’ an animal or a bee; that’s a completely arbitrary distinction,” said Mayim Bialik, an actress who appears on CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” and who is also the author of a vegan cookbook and a founding member of the Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, which fosters animal welfare practices among Jews. “You could make the same argument about a lot of kashrut.

“There’s a Jewish notion and history of caring for animals and minimizing their suffering that’s important to me as a Jewish vegan in particular,” she added.

For Rosh Hashanah, Bialik uses agave to sweeten her carrots, squash soup and water challah with cinnamon and raisins. It makes the new year just as sweet, she said.

“I’ve taught my sons some of the holiday songs I learned as a kid, and the most common one was ‘Apples Dipped in Honey,’ ” Bialik
said.  “So, now we sing it as ‘Apples Dipped in Agave.’ ” 

Vegan Passover recipe: Creamy pesto quinoa


Creamy Pesto Quinoa

*recipe can easily be doubled

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, walnuts, or a combination of both, toasted
  • 3 medium-sized cloves garlic
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa

 

Pulse together the nuts and garlic in food processor until coarsely ground. Add the basil, salt, and pepper and pulse to reduce. Add the olive oil and process until the desired texture is achieved.

Mix gently with the cooked quinoa and serve. This dish can also be served cold. 
 

Vegan Passover recipe: Aunt Charlotte’s carrot tzimmes


Aunt Charlotte’s Carrot Tzimmes

 

For the Carrots:

  • 1 lb. baby carrots or chopped or sliced large carrots
  • 1/4 cup sugar

 

For the Pudding:

  • 1/2 cup matzo cake meal
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 heaping tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup water

 

Put the carrots in a small, oven-safe Dutch oven or casserole dish. Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar over the carrots, cover, and set aside for 3 to 4 hours on the counter or in the fridge overnight.

Heat the covered dish on the stovetop over low heat until the carrots are slightly soft and there is some liquid in the bottom of the dish, about 15 minutes.

Mix the matzo cake meal, pepper, paprika, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the onion, oil, and water and mix well.

Spread the pudding on top of the carrots, cover, and cook on the stovetop over medium-low heat until the pudding sets. Then bake, covered, at 350°F, until the pudding is browned around the edges, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Makes 5 servings

Vegan Passover recipe: Sweet potato kugel


Sweet Potato Kugel

 

Adapted from No Cholesterol Passover Recipes by Debra Wasserman and Charles Stahler and provided by The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG.org)

  • 6 small sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 3 apples, peeled and grated
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup matzo meal
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup fruit juice or water

 

Mix all the ingredients together. Press into a baking dish and bake at 375ºF until crisp on top, about 45 minutes.

Makes 12 servings

Vegan Passover recipe: Eggplant casserole


Eggplant Casserole

 

Adapted from No Cholesterol Passover Recipes by Debra Wasserman and Charles Stahler and provided by The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG.org)

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. oil (or a mixture of oil and water to reduce fat)
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup diced green pepper
  • 11 oz. tomato-mushroom sauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups matzo farfel

 

Sauté the onions in oil until tender.

Add the eggplant, green pepper, tomato-mushroom sauce, salt, and pepper, and cook, covered, for 15 minutes, or until the eggplant is tender. Stir in the tomatoes.

In a 2-quart baking dish, arrange the vegetables and matzo farfel in alternate layers, beginning and ending with the vegetables. Bake at 350ºF, uncovered, for 25 minutes.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Vegan Passover recipe: Baked stuffed zucchini


Baked Stuffed Zucchini

 

Adapted from http://euler.ecs.umass.edu/pass-veg/#Zucchini

  • 2 zucchinis, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 Tbsp. tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. matzo meal

 

Scoop the pulp out of the zucchini halves.

Heat the pulp, onion, tomato sauce, parsley, and garlic in a pan for 5 minutes.

Add the matzo meal to the mixture and mix well.

Restuff the zucchini halves with the mixture and place in a baking dish with a little water on the bottom. Bake at 450ºF for 30 minutes, or until the zucchini shells are soft.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Vegan Passover recipe: Chocolate matzo brittle


My favorite Passover treat is Matzo Brittle—a sweet and festive way to end the meal. Try out this recipe below from VegKitchen:

Chocolate Matzo Brittle

  • 1 cup dairy-free chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp. agave nectar or maple syrup
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 matzos, broken into pieces slightly larger than bite-size
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup lightly toasted nuts (e.g., sliced or slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, pecans, or pistachios)
  • 1/2 cup dark or golden raisins, dried cranberries, or other chopped dried fruit, such as apricots, mangoes, or pineapple

 

Line two large plates with wax paper or parchment.

Combine the chocolate chips, agave nectar, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat until smoothly melted. Remove from the heat.

Add the broken matzo. Stir to coat evenly with the chocolate. Spread in a more or less single layer onto two parchment- or wax paper–lined plates. Sprinkle the nuts and raisins over the top. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Just before serving, break up into large chunks and transfer to a serving platter.

Vegan Passover recipe: Chocolate chip cookies


Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from http://www.theppk.com/2008/11/chocolate-chip-cookies/  

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup walnut or other neutral-tasting oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp. potato starch
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • Scant cup matzo cake meal
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets.

Combine the brown and white sugar, oil, almond milk, and potato starch in a bowl and stir for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture resembles a smooth caramel. Add the vanilla and mix.

Add 3/4 cup of the matzo cake meal, the baking soda, and the salt and mix until well incorporated. Mix in the remaining matzo cake meal, then fold in the chocolate chips.

Roll the dough into small balls and flatten to approximately 2 inches. Bake until the edges are just slightly browned, about 8 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Makes approximately 24 cookies

Vegan Passover recipe: Traditional charoset


Traditional Charoset

  • 1–2 Macintosh apples, peeled and cored
  • 1 cup walnuts, shelled
  • Kosher wine, for moistening
  • Cinnamon, to taste
  • Sugar, to taste

 

Mince the apples and walnuts or pulse in a food processor. Moisten with the kosher wine and season with cinnamon and sugar.

Makes 10 servings

Israelis growing hungry for vegan diet


The music pounded, the liquor flowed, dancers filled the floor and khinkali meat dumplings and kababi skewers — staples of traditional Georgian cuisines — sat on almost every table.

That was back in February, before Nana Shrier, the owner of the hip Tel Aviv bar and restaurant Nanuchka, saw a television news report about factory farming. Then everything changed.

Abhorred by how animals are treated in industrial meat and dairy production, Shrier stripped all the animal products from the menu — from cheese to eggs to chicken and steak — and made the restaurant entirely vegan.

It wasn’t an easy shift. Retaining the restaurant’s Georgian character has forced Shrier to get creative, finding meat substitutes and trying new dishes. She has also noticed that customers order less hard alcohol when they don’t eat meat. But none of that matters to her.

“We understood that there’s no price worth paying to create animal products, to see, to sell, to produce or to buy them,” she said. “The atmosphere is pleasant, but I would have paid any price. I would have lost half my business for this.”

According to the activist group Vegan-Friendly, Shrier is one of approximately 300,000 vegans in Israel. At nearly 4 percent of the country, activists say Israel has the highest per capita vegan population of anywhere in the world. And the trend appears to be accelerating.

A survey conducted in January found that 8 percent of Israelis are vegetarian and nearly 5 percent are vegan. Four years ago, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reported that just 2.6 percent of Israelis were vegetarian or vegan.

Some 7,000 Israelis have accepted the “Challenge 22” to go vegan for 22 days since the initiative was launched in May by the animal rights group Anonymous (no connection to the hacker collective). About 250 Israeli restaurants are now certified “vegan friendly” by the group of the same name, meaning that at least one-quarter of their dishes contain no animal products.

Israel is also frequently included on lists of the world’s most vegan-friendly nations, thanks in part to the fact that national staples like falafel and hummus contain no animal products. And on Monday, Tel Aviv’s second annual Vegan-Fest drew more than 10,000 attendees to a festival of food, crafts and music that organizers claim is the world’s largest.

“The makeup of the community is the biggest change,” said Omri Paz, founder of Vegan-Friendly, which organized the festival. “In the past, maybe they were more spiritual, or people society viewed as a little different, a little strange. A lot of the new vegans are mainstream — vegan lawyers, vegan teachers. Everyone can be vegan.”

The alternative and the mainstream mingled freely at the festival, where people wearing baggy tie-dyed pants and shirts reading “Proud To Be Vegan” mixed with families enjoying picnics. The food stands lining the park offered everything from vegan cakes and ice cream to vegan shwarma, Israel’s trademark spiced lamb dish.

Even Domino’s Pizza had a booth showcasing its vegan pies — first sold in Israel. Ido Fridman, the vice president of marketing for Domino’s Israel, said the company has sold about 300,000 vegan pizzas since launching the pie last year.

Israel’s vegan boom comes at a time of heightened awareness of animal welfare on factory farms.

A Hebrew-subtitled lecture on veganism has garnered nearly a million views on YouTube in a country of just 8 million people. One-fifth of the country tuned in to see a vegan activist win the latest season of the Israeli version of the “Big Brother” reality television show. And a popular investigative news show has broadcast six segments exposing the mistreatment of animals in Israel’s meat and dairy industries.

The heightened consciousness around animal welfare has bolstered vegan activists. Founded just two years ago, Vegan-Friendly has seen attendance at its festival jump 25 percent this year. Another animal rights group founded two years ago, Free 269, recently opened Israel’s first sanctuary for animals from factory farms and has spawned dozens of offshoots in other countries.

“There’s the virality of Facebook and YouTube, so the messages and the pictures and videos are exposed to tons of people,” Paz said. “It helps that people are used to eating falafel and Israeli salad.”

Israeli veganism took root in secular liberal circles, but religious Israelis are joining the movement, too. Many note that the biblical Adam and Eve were vegetarians in the Garden of Eden.

Yehuda Shein, the chairman of Behemla, a religious organization that advocates against animal cruelty, says he is undeterred by the time-honored custom of eating meat on Shabbat and holidays.

“There’s no commandment to eat meat,” Shein said. “People make their own adjustments. They stop eating meat, they do something else. But our goal is to bring the information to the public.”

Veganism is not entirely a new development in Israel. The African Hebrew Israelites have abstained from animal products for decades. But while activists have cheered the recent growth in vegan awareness, veteran vegans fear it may be a passing fad.

Arie Rave, who started the vegan Buddha Burgers restaurant in Tel Aviv eight years ago and is about to open his sixth franchise, said he hopes new adherents take it seriously.

“People don’t become vegan in one day,” said Rave, whose restaurants are filled with posters touting veganism’s moral, health and ecological benefits. “It’s not one day or one conversation. It’s not just a menu. It’s an ideology.”

Alicia Silverstone opens vegan breast milk sharing service


It seems Mayim Bialik isn’t the only vegan Jewish actress/author in Hollywood who happens to also be an outspoken breastfeeding advocate.

While Bialik has provided advice to fellow moms, Alicia Silverstone is now providing them with actual breast milk. According to Us Weekly, Silverstone, mom to Bear Blu, 2, and author of The Kind Diet, has just launched Kind Mama Milk Share, a service for vegan mothers unable to produce enough milk on their own.

In a recent blog post Silverstone wrote of a woman in her community who had trouble nursing due to a breast reduction surgery and didn’t feel comfortable accepting donor milk because “it was almost impossible to figure out what kind of lifestyle choices the donors had made.”

Using someone else’s breast milk—and insisting that person be a “clean eater”– might seem extreme, but Silverstone is no stranger to extreme baby-feeding methods. Last year she uploaded a video of herself practicing premastication, i.e., transferring prechewed food from her mouth to Bear Blu’s.

“I can understand that [pre-chewing] would make some people feel uncomfortable possibly, because it’s new to them,” Silverstone told ET. “But I do want to let you know that this has been going on for thousands of years. [It's] still going on all over the place. And it’s natural.”

We’re just hoping there are no plans for a Kind Mama Prechewed Food Share on the horizon.

Comparing animal rights and the Holocaust


On Oct. 2, Alex Hershaft, a Holocaust survivor and founder of the nonprofit Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM), sat on the ground with some 100 other protesters in front of the Farmer John pig slaughterhouse in Vernon, Calif., blocking the entrance from two bi-level trucks carrying 200 pigs that had arrived to be slaughtered that day. In the next 24 hours, the pigs would be among 6,000 animals that would be stunned by electrical shock, hoisted up by their hind legs and their necks slit in the plant, which is the largest pig slaughterhouse on the West Coast. 

The demonstration was just one of more than 100 such protests held across the United States and in other countries commemorating FARM’s annual World Farm Animals Day.

“You could hear the pigs on the trucks crying,” Hershaft, 78, said quietly in a phone interview from his Bethesda, Md., home several days later. “Despite my advanced age, I made the trip to Vernon and risked arrest, because, as a Holocaust survivor, I am honor-bound to call public attention to this ongoing tragedy.”

As a 5-year-old in the Warsaw Ghetto, Hershaft witnessed brutal beatings and shootings and saw Jews dying of typhus in the streets. After being smuggled out of the ghetto by a family maid, he survived the war by passing as an Aryan. Upon liberation, he learned that his father had died following internment in a German slave labor camp, and that most of his other relatives had also perished.

Eventually, Hershaft earned a doctorate in chemistry at Iowa State University and, while teaching at the Technion in Haifa in the early 1960s, he witnessed a Druze family celebrating the birth of a baby by ritually sacrificing a baby goat. “I saw the irony of killing one child to celebrate the birth of another,” said Hershaft, who in 1961 decided to become vegetarian. “I just couldn’t bear the thought of taking a beautiful, living, breathing being and hitting him over the head, cutting his body into pieces and then shoving them in my face.”

He began to see parallels between the Nazi Holocaust and animal slaughter, including “the crowding, cattle cars, brutality and the routine and efficiency of mass extermination,” he said. “I am not equating the Holocaust with the millions of animals slaughtered every week for U.S. dinner tables, for we differ in many ways,” he added. “Yet, we all share a love of life and our ability to experience many emotions, including affection, joy, sadness and fear.”

Hershaft, who is now vegan, became an animal-rights activist after attending the World Vegetarian Congress in 1975, and in 1981 he founded FARM, which along with groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has became a force in the struggle for improved treatment of farm animals and vegan advocacy. 

Today, Hershaft said, FARM has an annual budget of $250,000, as well as 85,000 subscribers to its newsletters. Hershaft said tens of thousands of volunteers participate in FARM’s grassroots activities, including The Great American Meatout, Gentle Thanksgiving and a new 10 Billion Lives project, which encourages veganism. 

On the phone, Hershaft recalled how Farmer John’s bucolic mural of pigs cavorting in a meadow reminded him of the deceptive sign, “Work Makes You Free,” above the gates of Auschwitz. “I echo the wisdom of famed Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer: ‘For the animals, life is an eternal Treblinka,’ ” he said.

For more information about FARM, visit farmusa.org.

How vegans do Passover


Holidays like Passover are a difficult time for Jewish vegans and animal activists, a time of mixed emotions. As much as we love and find relevance in the meaning of the holiday, it’s difficult to be confronted by a table full of the body parts of animals that we love and fight for daily. Some vegans forgo Passover entirely, and some who celebrate with their families feel pressured to defend their ethical choices, or pressured to eat things that conflict with their values. Some are no longer invited to their family’s tables at all.

Last year, my wife and I decided to start a new Passover tradition for our friends: a “veder,” or vegan seder. All of the traditional dishes were served — matzah brie, brisket, gefilte fish, potato latkes, matzah ball soup, kugel and macaroons — in veganized versions without meat, dairy or eggs. Though not all the dishes are appropriate for Passover, the meaning of the holiday and the traditional foods serve to reconnect us to our Jewish roots.

This year was different. One of our guests, 5-year-old Felix, has been vegan her entire life. She did a great job reading the Four Questions. Yes, not exactly traditional, but the tradition that we are creating is our own.

Not only did we add some interesting new dishes like veganized deviled eggs, cashew-based artisan cheese and a couple of vanilla cakes, my wife and I added two new family members to our tribe: two beagles who were liberated from an animal testing lab in Spain. Frederick and Douglass, named after the former slave and abolitionist leader, were rescued last Thanksgiving by Beagle Freedom Project (beaglefreedomproject.org).  The nonprofit organization works to find homes for former laboratory animals.

Like our ancestors whose story we retell every year about their liberation from Egypt, Frederick and Douglass were liberated from enslavement, too. Hundreds of millions of nonhuman animals suffer in private and university laboratories all over the world as test subjects whose rights and dignity are taken away from them.


Douglass finding the afikomen

Freddie and Douglass’ story is an important story to tell at our veder, because theirs is unique. Most animals in vivisection labs never make it out alive. Most are killed during testing. The ones that survive experiments are killed because they are no longer useful to labs and have no monetary value.

Our veder is really not much different than most others except that as vegans and animal rights activists, we see animals as fellow innocent victims. We decide to include and remember the 10 billion animals who are killed for food each year in the United States, the hundreds of millions in vivisection laboratories, the animals enslaved in zoos, circuses, racetracks and water parks for human entertainment, and the millions killed for fur, leather, wool and silk.

Although being vegan is still outside the mainstream, it is in no way a rejection of the values we grew up with. In fact, the very teachings of Judaism encourage us to question authority, protect those who are most vulnerable, and take action against oppression and injustice — qualities that are common, if not necessary, to vegans and animal activists.

After retelling the Passover story, much food was eaten, and much wine was drunk. As the night was winding down, we noticed Douglass running through the dining room. He found the afikomen before our friend’s daughter! Yet another new tradition at our veder is born.

The mouth is the window to the soul


If you want to start a business, Magal Nagar says, don’t rely on other people.

Nagar learned that lesson the hard way. When she had the idea two years ago to open a vegan cafe, Nagar didn’t know the first thing about starting a business. Neither did her friend and partner, Kinzie Oppenheim. 

“We had no knowledge, just the courage,” Nagar said.

So they hired professionals to teach them, which turned out to be a big waste of money. They ended up having to do everything themselves.

The whole process took a year — finding a space, designing a menu, starting a Web site — but today, Juicy Ladies is an established Woodland Hills eatery, and growing in popularity every day. They were named KCOP 13’s 2010 “Best of L.A.” winner in the organic food category.

But there is more to Juicy Ladies than veggie burgers, gluten-free wraps and almond-milk smoothies. Nagar and Oppenheim’s mission is as much spiritual as it is nutritional.

Nagar, an Israeli born in New York, and Oppenheim, who is in the process of converting to Judaism, met while Nagar was running a private therapy clinic in Woodland Hills. Using a technique called channeling — “getting information about someone through spiritual guidance,” she explained — Nagar said she worked with people to improve their lives. Nagar calls this her gift.

It was channeling, Nagar said, that gave her the idea for Juicy Ladies. A longtime believer in the spiritual power of food to cleanse the body, Nagar found an ideal partner in Oppenheim, a certified nutritionist. Together, they set out to find a way to “connect body, mind and soul,” Nagar said.

Eating organic, they believe, is a way to detoxify the body and make it more receptive to healing.

“When you clean your body,” Nagar said, “you can hear your body more.”

Nagar and Oppenheim see Juicy Ladies as much more than just a lunch stop for vegan eaters. They run detoxification programs, host spiritual retreats and reach out to schools in an effort to educate the community on nutrition and its ties to emotional health.

Given the name, you might think Juicy Ladies caters mostly to women. At first, that was the case, but Nagar said men are “becoming more courageous.” She recently served a truckload of firemen who stopped by for a bite. Now, Nagar and her 15 employees serve a wide range of people, from newcomers interested in trying something different to regulars who say they won’t eat anywhere else.

Nagar feels that she’s touching people in a whole new way.

“I love touching people’s core,” she said. “And nutrition supports your core.” 

Check out Juicy Ladies at juicyladies.com.

Food Rules


Among the major gifts of the Jews to humanity — the idea of one God, the Bible and Ten Commandments, individual rights and human equality — there is also this: finicky eating.

Nowadays, we take for granted the idea that when we sit with others to eat, someone is going to announce what he can or can’t put on his plate. There’s the “I don’t eat red meat” announcement, the more specific “I only eat fish and chicken,” the au courant “I don’t do wheat” and the flip-all-the-cards, pass-the-salad “I’m a vegan.”

Jews started this. The laws of kashrut, the specific set of dietary restrictions set forth in Leviticus, ensured that Jews couldn’t just eat what’s on the menu. While their neighbors gorged uninhibitedly on porky forcemeats, Jews refused. For Jew haters, what their dinner guests didn’t eat became their defining characteristic.

“This disdain for pork and even more so for lard exacerbates the hatred of their neighbors, who consider it a desire to denigrate what is for them the most desirable and precious part of the animal,” writes the anthropologist Claudine Fabre-Vassas in, “The Singular Beast: Jews, Christians and the Pig.” The derogatory word for Jews who pretend to be Christian, Fabre-Vassas points out, was marrano, which literally means “young pig.”

What was once cause for persecution is now a trend. Thank the Jews for pioneering the right of dinner guests to freely and loudly proclaim what foods are anathema to them. Every host has to cook his or her way through a minefield of special diets, and every guest feels duty bound to announce what particular dish is forbidden on moral, political, physiological or nutritional grounds.
Oddly enough, the surest conversation starter at a dinner party is to discuss what people won’t eat.

All this seems to weaken one of food’s sacred powers: to bring people together. Breaking bread breaks so many other barriers as well. It awakens us to our common humanity: Seeing others enjoy the same foods we do has to lead to some degree of empathy.

If the joy of a good meal is the best way to bring friends and strangers together, why do the laws of kashrut make it so difficult? Many years ago, I was at a high-level meeting between local Jewish leaders and officials from the Syrian government. The hotel wasn’t kosher. Syrians ate Chilean sea bass with olives and crusty bread; the rabbis ordered in a prewrapped fruit salad. No bread was broken, no wine glasses raised. The meeting did not end well.

It is all so problematic, these walls we erect at the dinner table. You might think the solution is to do away with them, to ridicule or force people into eating what the majority eats. But here the realm of food starts to sound a lot like the world of politics, where it is neither realistic nor desirable for everyone to think the same. There’s something useful in having the vegan remind us we can make
it through life without hamburger, or the Pollanistas force us to remember that the Chilean sea bass we’re wolfing down may, in fact, be the last, or the kosher-observant Jew remind us that even our appetites must answer to a Higher Authority. It’s a burden any decent chef can gladly bear — I do by making sure at least one substantial dish at every dinner party or Shabbat meal is not just vegan, but really good. People who won’t permit themselves a roast chicken once in a while have suffered enough.

That’s the host’s responsibility. What about the finicky guest? I was a vegetarian for 14 years — no fish, no chicken — so I have some experience here. Rule No. 1: Communicate. A cook wants to please his guests; if I invited you, I want you to leave happy. So don’t wait until the meal is on the table to tell me you’ll just be having the seltzer. 2: Don’t keep saying over and over, “Please don’t make a fuss; it’s no big deal.” If it’s no big deal, eat what’s in front of you. Otherwise, let the cook decide how big a deal it is. 3: If you’re kosher, don’t expect miracles. If a non-Jew is cooking for you — and by non-Jew, I guess I include many Jews — give them clear guidelines and hope for the best.

That last point is bound to upset some people. Am I saying a kosher-observant Jew should occasionally eat something made with the right intention but perhaps the wrong utensil? Is it ever permissible to break the kosher rules for the sake of social harmony? Is it ever OK to be a little less kosher and little more convivial? I’m saying: Keep an open mind. And when in doubt, remember Levi Eshkol, the prime minister who guided Israel through the Six-Day War.

In his new book, “The Prime Ministers,” the former aide Yehuda Avner relates how, just after the war, Eshkol visited President Lyndon Johnson’s Texas ranch, trying, for the sake of his nation’s survival, to procure American fighter jets to counteract the massive rearmament of the Arab nations. It was a hard sell. At the evening meal, Johnson decided to honor his guests by serving birds he had shot that morning. When Lady Bird Johnson saw the Israeli contingent push the main course aside, she was visibly perturbed. She told Avner that her chief of protocol had assured her birds were kosher. An Israeli guest politely explained the intricacies of kosher slaughter.

“But,” said the First Lady, “your prime minister is eating them.”

The Israeli answered that the prime minister must have made an exception to the ancient laws because the First Family’s food was too delicious to resist.

Crisis averted. Israel got the planes, and Avner got a lesson on when to keep kosher, and when to eat crow.

VIDEO: A Sacred Duty — A Jewish response to threats to our environment


From the Internet Archive:

A Major Documentary on Current Environmental Threats and How Jewish Teachings Can Be Applied in Responding to These Threats.

Produced by Emmy-Award-winning producer, director, writer, and cinematographer Lionel Friedberg, A SACRED DUTY will take its place alongside Al Gore’s AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH and Leonardo di Caprio’s THE ELEVENTH HOUR as another powerful expose of the dangers of global warming. However, it goes beyond the latter two films, by showing how religious responses can make a major difference and why a shift toward plant-based diets is an essential part of efforts to reduce global climate change and other environmental threats.

This item is part of the collection: Open Source Movies

Producer: Lionel Friedberg and the JVNA
Audio/Visual: sound, color
Language: English (hebrew Subtitles)
Keywords: Global warming, ecology, enviroment, Judaism, Vegetarianism, Israel, Tora,

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