The ProsenPeople

Breaking Kosher: When Your Kids Make the Rules

Monday, May 15, 2017 | Permalink

April Peveteaux is the author of Gluten Is My Bitch. With the publication of her new cookbook, Bake Sales Are My B*tch: Win the Food Allergy Wars with 60+ Recipes to Keep Kids Safe and Parents Sane, April is guest blogging for the Jewish Book Council all week as part of Visiting Scribe series here on The ProsenPeople.

I am a woman who loves to eat. I consider feasting upon great foods one of my greatest passions and an intimate, yet universal, way to connect with other like-minded people who enjoy stimulating all of their senses. In other words: If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my blended spinach and ricotta dip.

It was no accident that my husband and I fell in love over every ethnic meal we could indulge in while dating in New York City, and some that we were not sure qualified as any ethnicity. Where do those sugar-roasted nuts come from, anyway? His appreciation for my Southern and Cajun cooking and our many arguments over what makes a taco, based on his California experience and my Oklahoma and Texas knowledge, meant we were able to fulfill each other while remaining hungry.

After we brought our two beautiful, and voracious, children into the world it probably won’t surprise you to know that one of my most satisfying responsibilities as a mother and wife became the preparation of special birthday cakes for each member of my household. Pursuant to their personality and their preference, I make a unique birthday dessert for everyone, and insist they indulge in a piece for breakfast on the day they were brought into this earthly existence. Is there a better way to celebrate the day you were born than by smothering your gob with sugar? My husband goes for a honeybun cake made to resemble, well, a honeybun, covered in cinnamon, toasted pecans and a still-warm glaze. My son loves a rainbow cake with thick white buttercream frosting between each layer to accentuate the bright colors of the confection. And my daughter enjoys a cookie-crusted ice cream cake covered in fudge and whipped cream—the same ice cream cake my own mother made for me every year on my birthday.

Feeding my people is serious business, and I am filled with pleasure as they enjoy the culinary delights I share with them on special, and everyday occasions. Which is why raising kids as they attend a Jewish day school and start to get serious about Judaism has become a challenge to me—in the dietary sense.

As a cook who likes to expand her repertoire and broaden her children’s palates, preparing kosher meals on demand was not my (strawberry preferred) jam. I’m an add-on kind of gal who just walked into a restricted space and was not happy about having to ditch my bacon. I also like to make sure no one begins a meal hungry, so appetizers are a big part of my meal planning. When working under a traditional six-hour separation of the meat and dairy, there was no way I was bringing out my favorite roast chicken if I’d presented the epic cheese platter less than two hours prior. Something had to give. And it wasn’t going to be the cheese platter.

While doing some reconnaissance with other kosher parents, I realized that many chose the path of least resistance: going vegetarian or vegan. I am not that mom. I have celiac disease and can’t have gluten, and quite frankly I think that’s enough deprivation for one household. Also, being gluten-free means that bagels for every meal are also not an option. This is in fact, the worst.

Rather than risk offending everyone at my kid’s lunch tables, and also risk being a big old jerk, I decided my family would have to compromise. After all, if my kids were going to be raised Jewish, they were all ready to question everything. Why not lunch?

When packing a lunch I did decide that going vegetarian was the best way to respect the school guidelines and their observant classmates. Removing meat from their midday meal was going to be much easier on all of us. Especially me, since I don’t eat lunch at school and can shove all the leftover brisket into my mouth only minutes after indulging in nachos. But for my children’s sake, we pack a vegetarian lunch 99% of the time, and they can totally work with the lack of meat protein through the magic of bean and cheese burritos.

Dinnertime and the weekends are much more challenging, especially since the adults in the family do not keep kosher. Still, in support of our children’s commitment we make it work. Our daughter (the most stringent observer) has agreed to be “Dutch kosher” when at home or on vacation, meaning she can enjoy some dairy and only wait one hour to dig into the fried chicken. I compromise by experimenting with vegan and vegetarian meals that keep us kosher-style. Luckily the popularity of Paleo-style eating goes well with both kosher style (no dairy to mix with meat, just skip the pork and the shellfish recipes) and my own celiac disease, since the Paleo diet eschews all grains.

We are probably one of the few families who dine either Paleo or vegan depending on the evening, but mixing religions and food requires creativity and dedication to eating really well. I’m certainly willing to try new, delicious options—see recipe for Rice Chex chicken fingers below—to keep everyone in our house well fed and responsible to their beliefs. As long as I can keep deep-frying anything that falls in line with these dietary restrictions, it’s kosher.

Rice Chex Chicken Fingers

Kids love chicken fingers, but finding breadcrumbs that are both gluten-, egg-, and dairy-free is a huge challenge. Rice Chex (and other Chex products) are seven main allergen-free (no gluten, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish or shellfish), so you can use them to crunch up your salads, or coat your fried chicken. Keep it dairy- and nut-free by using rice milk in this recipe.

Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 15 minutes
Makes: 12 servings

2 lbs. chicken tenders
4 cups Rice Chex
1 cup rice milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
3 cups vegetable oil
Sauces for dipping (check allergen info on label)

1. If not already cut into fingers; slice your chicken into 6” strips, approximately 2” wide. Set aside.

2. In a food processor or blender, combine Rice Chex, salt, pepper and paprika. Pulse until texture resembles breadcrumbs. Transfer to a large plate.

3. Pour rice milk into a medium bowl and set up assembly line with chicken tenders, milk and Rice Chex mixture. Place chicken tenders in bowl with rice milk as you heat your oil.

4. Heat vegetable oil on medium-high in large skillet or use a deep fat fryer and heat on medium-high. Once water sprinkles “dance” on the surface the oil is ready. Turn heat down to medium.

5. Dredge (rice) milk soaked chicken tenders in Rice Chex crumbs, coating completely.

6. Transfer to hot oil and cook until browned, 5-7 minutes per side. Allow chicken tenders to drain on paper towel-covered plate.

7. Serve chicken tenders alone, or with desired sauces.

Recipe excerpt used by permission from Bake Sales Are My B*tch: Win the Food Allergy Wars with 60+ Recipes to Keep Kids Safe and Parents Sane.

In Defense of Kosher Food: A Recipe

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 | Permalink

Cindy Silvert is the author of The Hungry Love Cookbook: 30 Steamy Stories, 120 Mouthwatering Recipes. She is guest blogging here all week as part of the Visiting Scribe series on The ProsenPeople.

I am of the opinion that kosher food gets a bum rap. I won’t deny that having a kosher kitchen can be a challenge, especially if you have a small kitchen or members of your household who think you’re a killjoy. Kosher food is hardly inexpensive, and unless you live in Israel or France (and care about these things) the modest variety of cheeses could make one weep—ditto for meat, if you’re a meat eater and don’t happen to live in Argentina. Traveling to places where bacon is a national treasure can limit one’s dining options and make the natives suspicious, and even at home there are way less restaurants, caterers, and foodie shows for the kosher palette.

The Good Book limits not just what one can and cannot eat, but also when, where and how one eats. But does limited necessarily mean bad? In parenting, we know kids need boundaries to become healthy, responsible citizens—so how about us? Might the limitations required by the laws of kashrut not be, in fact, our friends?

Consider kashrut as the prototype for super-trendy mindful eating. Stopping to say a few words of appreciation in reciting a blessing before you stuff another chocolate fudge brownie in your mouth can have a powerful effect on you. Kosher observance is a self-imposed, grown up version of “Hungry children elsewhere would give anything to eat that.” It makes you stop and ponder how this stuff got on your plate and just how lucky you are to be eating in the first place. Even I have come to the realization, on more than one occasion, that a piece of fruit is a better for me than a paw-full of Oreo cookies—yes, even the thin ones. It’s a reminder that the whole gastronomical world ain’t your, well, oyster.

Besides, by restricting you from eating anything, anytime, a kosher diet can have a slimming effect on one’s waistline—Jewish holidays aside. The self-discipline demanded by kashrut instills a sense of humility that predates veganism and every other popular diet by a couple millennia. (The Paleo diet, the one exception, is of a slightly different mindset: see food, pounce on it, rip it to shreds, gobble it up). Self-help gurus suggest that gratitude can cure just about anything, so why not start with dinner?

Below is a recipe for Shiitake Croquettes from the very first saga of love and eats from The Hungry Love Cookbook. This recipe is proof that kosher can be both trendy and delicious. Moreover, as a pareve dish containing neither meat nor dairy, it can be served with any meal. The only problem with these croquettes is that they’re extremely popular and addictive. People are going to pop them into their mouths like there’s no tomorrow, which means you will have to sautée four rainforests worth of mushrooms to satisfy your greedy guests.

Seriously, however many mushrooms you think you need, double or triple that amount. These are great by themselves or dipped in a sweet-and-spicy sauce.

Recipe: Shiitake Croquettes

1 medium onion
1 TBS vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
1 garlic clove
1 lb Shiitake mushrooms
¼ cup sherry
½ cup breadcrumbs or panko
½ tsp garlic powder
3 TBS chia seeds

1. Chop and sautée onions and S&P in oil on medium heat for 10 minutes.
2. Mince the garlic clove and add to the onion.
3. Sautée onion and garlic another 2 minutes and remove from heat.
4. Chop and sauté mushrooms and S&P in oil on medium heat for 10 minutes.
5. Add the sherry and simmer until the liquid is absorbed by the mushrooms.
6. Puree the onion, garlic, and mushrooms in a food processor until smooth.
7. Add half the breadcrumbs or panko and garlic powder to the mushroom mixture and form walnut-size balls.
8. Combine the remaining breadcrumbs, chia seeds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
9. Roll the mushroom balls in the breadcrumb mixture.
10. Spray lightly with oil.
11. Bake at 350° for 20 min or until lightly brown and crispy on the outside

Hot & Sweet Dipping Sauce

Mix the following ingredients:

½ cup light mayonnaise
2 TBS BBQ sauce
1 lime juiced
1 dash Tabasco sauce
1 TBS honey
Salt and pepper

Cindy Silvert is a food columnist, humor writer, and self-taught cook. She is currently touring for the 2016 – 2017 season on her book The Hungry Love Cookbook through the JBC Network.

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Creamsicle Macaroons: A New Passover Standard

Wednesday, March 09, 2016 | Permalink

Simone Miller is the founder of Zenbelly and, together with Jennifer Robins, co-author of The New Yiddish Kitchen: Gluten-Free and Paleo Kosher Recipes for the Holidays and Every Day. Jennifer and Simone are guest blogging here all week as part of the Visiting Scribe series on The ProsenPeople.

In my family, macaroons are just as much of a requirement at the Passover seder as matzo. There may be less ceremony around the humble coconut cookie, but it’s a staple nonetheless.

The classic version—a sweet coconut cookie dipped in dark chocolate—is always a favorite. For a little variety, though, we love making this version: sweet coconut spiked with orange zest and vanilla extract. The result is a perfect macaroon—chewy in the center, crisp on the edges—that tastes strikingly close to a Creamsicle.

When adapting baked goods to be compliant with a grain-free, dairy-free lifestyle, there is often quite a lot of trial and error. Grain-free flours can’t be used 1:1 for wheat flour, so it often takes many, many attempts to get the recipe just right. But macaroons are another story: they’ll practically work exactly as written in out grandmother’s recipe book!

Macaroons are naturally grain-free, since they’re essentially a coconut meringue. The adaptations we made were more along the lines of the sugar, since classic macaroons are very sweet. This fresh update is lightly sweetened with honey, natural orange juice, and unsweetened coconut. The result is a cookie that’s just the perfect amount of sweetness to end your holiday meal. (And to keep them dairy-free, coconut milk is the perfect stand-in for sweetened condensed milk: it only adds more delightful coconut flavor and richness!)

Macaroons that taste like Creamsicles? What could be bad?

Recipe: Creamsicle Macaroons

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25–30 minutes
Makes 18 cookies

2 egg whites
12 ounces (340g) unsweetened shredded coconut
1 (14-ounce or 414 mL) can of full-fat coconut milk
¼ cup (60ml) honey
Zest of one orange (about ½ tablespoon, or 7mL)
1 tablespoon (15mL) orange juice
2 teaspoons (10mL) vanilla extract
A pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (177ºC). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until medium peaks form.

In a large bowl, combine the shredded coconut, coconut milk, honey, orange zest, orange juice, vanilla and salt.

Fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Using a small ice cream scoop with a lever, or two spoons, drop the mixture onto a cookie sheet, about 2 tablespoons (30mL) per cookie.

Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until golden brown on the edges. Allow them to cool before removing from the pan.

After battling with a variety of health problems, Simone Miller discovered she had food allergies, specifically a very serious sensitivity to gluten, prompting her to transform Zenbelly into one of the most respected gluten-free, paleo-style catering companies in the Bay-area.

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Modified Matzo Balls: A Gluten- and Grain-Free Spin on a Jewish Classic

Monday, March 07, 2016 | Permalink

Jennifer Robins is the voice being the popular food blog Predominantly Paleo and, together with Simone Miller, co-author of The New Yiddish Kitchen: Gluten-Free and Paleo Kosher Recipes for the Holidays and Every Day. Jennifer and Simone are guest blogging here all week as part of the Visiting Scribe series on The ProsenPeople.

Floaters or sinkers, we can all agree that a good matzo ball is one of the keys to happiness. Everyone has a favorite recipe, whether it’s their great-grandmother’s recipe or a perfectly concocted hybrid of past and present. So why reinvent the wheel with so many loveable variations?

Well, if you can’t tolerate grain like many of us, then the traditional wheat-based matzo balls just aren’t happening.

Simone Miller and I wrote our cookbook The New Yiddish Kitchen because we were forced to give up grain-based foods, regardless of how much we loved them, or how many of them were part of recipes which had been passed down generations. We wanted to recreate some of these traditional Jewish foods, like matzo balls, to pay homage to both our taste buds and our family’s legacy.

Writing these recipes has been a way to reconnect with our Jewish history, filled with memories of learning to cook in our bubbes’ kitchens. And consequently, we’ve been able to bring back foods like chocolate babka, matzo, and even bagels, all made free of grain, gluten, and dairy. Our hope is that people who have had to sacrifice their favorite traditional Jewish foods will once again be able to reintroduce them to their tables—and, more importantly, enjoy them!

These matzo balls are made from a sweet potato base, perfect for anyone sensitive to nightshades and entirely gluten- and grain-free. Feel free to dress them up with extra dill, salt, pepper, or whatever your favorite matzo ball garnish happens to be. We’ve included three different matzo ball recipes in The New Yiddish Kitchen, so that there is one to suit every diet (and taste). And of course you’ll have to check out the grain-free bagels, but that’s another recipe for another time! Enjoy! L’chaim!

Recipe: Sweet Potato Matzo Balls

Makes 6 Servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

36 oz (1,080 ml) homemade or high quality store-bought chicken broth
Chopped carrots, celery and preferred herbs/seasonings (optional)
2 lbs (900 g) or 2 large Japanese sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
2 eggs
⅓ cup (60 g) potato starch
¼ cup (30 g) tapioca starch
3 tbsp (20 g) coconut oil
3 tbsp (45 ml) olive oil, schmaltz, or avocado oil

Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a stockpot over high heat. If you choose to add veggies and seasonings, place them in the broth at this time.

Next, combine the mashed potatoes, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, eggs, potato starch, tapioca starch, coconut our and olive oil in a mixing bowl. Using your hands, combine all the ingredients until you have a smooth dough.

Take a tablespoon (15 g) or two—depending on your preference—of the mixture and roll it into a ball. Drop it into the boiling broth and repeat until all of your matzo ball mix is used up.

Cover the stockpot and allow to cook on medium/high heat for 20 – 30 minutes, or until you are satisfied with your matzo balls’ texture. Serve hot!

After being diagnosed with several autoimmune conditions and chronic infections, including Lyme disease, Jennifer Robins turned to food for healing, removing grain, dairy and refined sugars. As a wife and mother of three, Jennifer hopes to instill healthy habits in her children now in hopes of creating wellness for a lifetime.

Recipes for Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 | Permalink

Posted by Miri Pomerantz Dauber

With the publication of Kristin Hannah's new book, The Nightingale, earlier this month, JBC Book Clubs worked in cooperation with St.Martin's Press to create a book club kit with a Jewish twist. The kit includes historical information, discussion questions, recommended reads, and, of course, recipes! You can download the full kit here, but a few of the recipes are shared below. 


(adapted from Saveur
Baguettes play a role in the resistance as well, hiding Isabelle’s underground newsletters and delivering blank identity papers to Viann as an unusual filling, Henri’s maman’s special recipe. And, well, it’s France. 

1 ½ cups tap water, heated to 115° F
1 tsp. active dry yeast
3 ¼ cups all–purpose flour
2 tsp. kosher salt
Canola oil, for greasing bowl
½ cup ice cubes

Use a whisk to combine the yeast and water in a bowl, and let sit about 10 minutes, until the yeast is foamy. Add in flour and stir with a fork until a dough forms. Add salt and begin to knead on a lightly floured surface, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl and turn over once to make sure that all sides have a light coating of oil. Cover with with plastic wrap and allow to rise for an hour, until doubled in size.

Roll dough into a rectangle and fold all four sides in toward the middle (first with the long sides, then the short) to create a rounded packet. Seal the seam and return the dough, with the seam facing down, to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap again, and allow to rest until it doubles in size again, approximately one hour.

Place a cast iron skillet on the bottom shelf of the oven and preheat to 475 degrees.

Transfer dough to the floured work surface, and divide it into three equal pieces. Form 12-14 inch ropes out of each piece. Cover a cookie sheet (or any rimless baking pan) with parchment paper and dust it with flour.

Evenly space the ropes of dough across the sheet, and then create dividers between the dough by pulling up the paper in between each loafand use rolled kitchen towels under the paper pleats to help the loaves keep shape as they rise. Cover the pan loosely with plastic and allow the dough to rise again for about 45-60 minutes, until doubled in size.

Uncover loaves, remove the towel dividers, and straighten the paper to space the loaves out. Make four slashes (about ¼ in. deep and 4 in. long) on each loaf with a paring knife. If you are using a baking or pizza stone (recommended), slide parchment paper onto the stone and place in the oven. Add ½ c. of ice cubes to the skillet on the bottom shelf of the oven (to create steam which helps create the soft inside before the crusty outside bakes). Bake for about 30 minutes, until the bread is golden and crispy (it should sound hollow when tapped).

Naturally Fermented Sour Dill Pickles

Viann does a lot of pickling and canning to make her garden harvests last through the winter. One of Viann’s pickled vegetables is cucumbers, so why not serve pickles at your book club? 

For this recipe, we asked writer and pickler Jeffrey Yoskowitz for advice. Learn more about Jeffrey following the recipe. 

1 quart jar
1 lb of small, fresh pickling cucumbers (Kirby or Persian cu-cumbers)
1 T non-iodized kosher salt
1-2 Bay Leaves
3 peeled but whole cloves of garlic
2-3 sprigs of dill
1 dried chili pepper
¼ tsp coriander
¼ tsp mustard seed
¼ tsp black peppercorns
a few cloves
Any other spices and herbs you want to add (optional)

Fill the jar halfway from top with cold water. Add salt, tighten lid and shake to dissolve salt. Add garlic, dill and spices. Pack quart jar with cucumbers. Make sure vegetables are below water level—you can wedge them under the neck of the jar.

Leave the jar out on the counter at room temperature with the lid on, but not too tight. After the first two days, “burp” the jar (open lid to relieve pressure). After 3-4 days (for half-sour pickles), 5 to 7 days (for full-sours) or whenever you like the flavor, transfer the jar to the fridge. Enjoy!

Jeffrey Yoskowitz is a writer, pickler and entrepreneur. He was recently named to Forbes Magazine’s 30 under 30 list in Food and Wine and was a guest chef at the James Beard House kitchen in both 2013 and 2014.

In 2012, Yoskowitz co-founded The Gefilteria (, a venture re-imagining Old World Jewish Foods through unique dining experiences, talks and demos and production of an artisanal gefilte fish sold around the country. He got his start in the food world at Adamah Organic farm in Litchfield County, Connecticut, where he worked as a farm fellow and returned a year later as a pickle apprentice.

Yoskowitz has written about food and culture in publications such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, Tablet, Gastronomica, Meatpaper, The Forward, among others. Through his writing and research he has become an authority on food and culture. In 2016, his forthcoming cookbook The Gefilte Manifesto will be published by Flatiron Books, an imprint of Macmillan.

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My Storied Food

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 | Permalink
This week, Randy Susan Meyers, author of The Comfort of Lies and The Murderer's Daughters, blogs for the JBC about a special (and delicious) offer for book clubs

When I was a girl, it was family lore that my Aunt Irene, when she cooked something awful, yelled, “It’s a loser!” to my Uncle Bobby as he walked in the house.  I’ve been known to come out with more than a few losers (like the time I served my new in-laws pie accidentally made with Borax instead of sugar. (Lesson learned—be careful how you decant) and I’ve made a few dishes that held an opium-like addiction, but it’s the stories behind how recipes evolve that fascinate me.

When I was newly married (nineteen!) my then-husband and I moved to a farm located between Binghamton and Ithaca, New York. His job was being a farm hand. Mine was reading, cooking, and gaining weight as quickly as possible. We were isolated. When the farmer’s son’s wife invited me for breakfast, I was ecstatic. Upon arrival, she offered me a 7&7, a Pop Tart, and a bowl of depression. Thus was shattered my Brooklyn girl idealization about life on a farm.

Christmas week, she invited me to a cookie exchange party. My excitement at having somewhere to go (a bit measured based on our Pop Tart breakfast) was high enough for me to spend my next weekly library visit foraging for the most interesting and exotic cookie recipe I could find.

The cookies I brought (recipe below) were everything I’d hoped. Complicated, sophisticated, delicious...and greeted with faces of horror. What were these lumpy brown things brought in by the Brooklyn Jew, which resembled nothing close to Christmas cookies? I handed out my Plain Jane bags, sans shiny ribbons curling down the sides. My New York style sweets might as well have been wearing little yarmulkes and speaking Yiddish for how much they stood out. All the other offerings were variations on a Christmas sugar cookie theme cut in the shapes of stars and Santa, and decorated (sparkles! red and green sugar! glittering gold balls!) with the skill of Rembrandtesque elves. 

My cookies looked like the homely third cousin your mother forced you to invite to the bar mitzvah. But they were the tastiest. Try them. Really.

Years ago, I began pulling together the recipes my daughters knew best, wanting, like many of you, to pass on my culinary secrets. As I copied from spattered cards, torn newspaper pages, and hand-written recipes, I realized the stories behind the recipes were as important as the food. Did my girls know their favorite brownies came from an ancient “found on the street” cookbook, circa my hippie days? How our Passover brisket had morphed into another family’s “Christmas meat?” Did they know which recipe might have sealed the deal with my soon-to-be-husband?

Pages piled up as I matched stories to recipes. From that was born The Comfort of Food a cookbook to share with book clubs, not for sale, but as a thank you for joining me in my first passion, reading, by offering another love. Food.

Any book club choosing The Comfort of Lies or The Murderer’s Daughters as their book club choice will receive a hard copy and electronic version of The Comfort of Food.  Simply go to the book club page on my website, and fill out the form.

French Lace Cookies
½ cup corn syrup

½ cup butter

⅔ cup brown sugar

1 cup flour, sifted

1 cup finely chopped nuts

Dark chocolate, melted (if desired)

Preheat oven to 325°. Combine corn syrup, butter, and sugar.  Bring to boil.  Combine flour and nuts w/liquid.  Place by teaspoon 4" apart and bake for 8-10 minutes.

To add a wonderful and delicious flourish, dip each cookie in melted dark chocolate when it comes from the oven. If you are talented and want to add a special flourish, roll the cookies while they are still warm, into a cylindrical shape and then when the rolled cookie is cool, dip it in the chocolate. If you are lazy, like I am, don’t worry about rolling; simply dip the flat cookies when they are cool. Lay on waxed paper while the chocolate hardens.

A Meal from The Tin Horse, Minus the Tsuris

Tuesday, November 05, 2013 | Permalink
This week, Janice Steinberg, the author of The Tin Horse blogs for The Postscript on what to cook for a Tin Horse-themed meal.  The Postscript series is a special peek "behind the scenes" of a book. It's a juicy little extra something to add to a book club's discussion and a reader's understanding of how the book came together. 

To "host" Janice at your next book club meeting, request her through JBC Live Chat

Thinking about creating a Tin Horse-themed meal, I realized that all of the eating scenes in the book are emotionally fraught. This is not, I guess, a big surprise in a novel about a Jewish immigrant family. Here's the menu - and where in the book the dishes come from:

The chicken and green beans are eaten at a Shabbat dinner on March 10, 1933. I know the date with certainty because I set my fictional dinner to coincide with the real-life Long Beach earthquake. As dinner is being prepared, cataclysms take place in Elaine Greenstein's family. Then, at 5:54 p.m., the earth ruptures. Fortunately, the epicenter is 20 miles away, no one is badly hurt, and the grateful survivors have "the liveliest Shabbat dinner in Greenstein family history."

Mama would have picked out her chicken live at the kosher poultry shop in Boyle Heights, the vibrant working class Jewish area of L.A. in the 1920s and 30s. You'll be glad to know that's not necessary. Just rub a whole chicken with a mixture of 1 T. olive oil, 1/2 t. cumin, and 1/4 t. cinnamon, pop a thyme branch in the cavity, and roast at 425° for an hour, basting once or twice. This recipe is from my cousin Meg Bortin's website, "The Everyday French Chef." For the green beans, this version includes lemon and almonds. Yum. 

At another tense dinner, the guest of honor is Cousin Mollie, who's come to Los Angeles to organize the dressmakers. Mollie has targeted factories owned by Jewish businessmen, Papa sides with the owners, and everyone gets drawn in - even Mama, though she first tries to defuse the conflict by offering more kugel. I wouldn't dream of suggesting a kugel recipe, since everyone has a favorite. But do make kugel part of your Tin Horse meal.

On to dessert!            

The inspiration for The Tin Horse was a minor character in the Raymond Chandler detective novel The Big Sleep. And Chandler's sleuth, Philip Marlowe, gets a role in my book. He offers to look for Elaine's runaway twin sister, and he wins Mama's approval by asking for a second slice of apple cake. This Nigella Lawson version, using almond flour, isn't what Mama would have made, but it was a hit when I baked it for my mom's 90th birthday, which fell during Passover, and it's so simple and tasty, it's become my go-to cake recipe. Plus, it's gluten-free.

The Tin Horse is very much a California story as well as a Jewish story, so of course I recommend California wines. I chose these lovely wines from Cambria in honor of the new book I'm working on, in which a character lives there.

Bite'avon! Enjoy the meal!

To read more from Janice, see her Visiting Scribe posts here

New Kids' Cookbook Has a Story to Tell

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 | Permalink

Posted by Miri Pomerantz-Dauber

"A fun book for family sharing" is the description on the back cover of Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts (Crocodile Books USA, 2013), and, looking through the book, it really is! The book, which features Jewish folktales paired with a corresponding recipe and beautiful illustrations, is intended for children ages 5-11, but it crosses generations in a way that is unusual—both the stories and the recipes will appeal to adults and kids equally. The project is a collaboration between the mother-daughter team of master storyteller Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple, the cook behind the book's recipes, with illustrations by Sima Elizabeth Shefrin. 

Here's a little taste from the Main Course section of the book, reprinted with permission: 


The Pomegranate Seed

“May it be Your will, O Lord our God, that our good deeds will increase like the seeds of the pomegranate.”


A hungry Jew, whose family was starving, stole a loaf of bread from the market. But as soon as he slipped the loaf into the waistband of his trousers, the stall owner began to shriek, “Thief! Thief!”

The man began to run, but he was no better at running than he was at stealing. Within three or four steps he felt the heavy hands of the sultan’s guards on his shoulder.

They marched him off to prison, where in the near dark of his cell he found a single pomegranate seed on the dirt floor.

“Why is the Lord plaguing me?” he thought. “Here I am about to be executed for stealing a loaf of bread so that my children would not starve, and He sends me a pomegranate seed.”

But, since the rabbis always said, “The Lord does not toy with us,” he gave that seed much thought.

When the guards brought him out to the open courtyard for his execution, the Jew was ready. He turned his face up to the executioner and spoke so loudly, everyone—including the sultan, himself—could hear, “Kill me as you must, but do not throw away my magic pomegranate seed.”

“What nonsense is this?” growled the executioner.

“Not nonsense at all. If you plant it, it will grow instantly into a great pomegranate tree, laden with ripe fruit. But …” the Jew shrugged.

“But what?” The executioner lowered his axe and leaned forward.

“The seed will only grow if you have never stolen anything. So you see, it is useless to me now.”

The executioner trembled. “I have taken things from the pockets of those I have executed, instead of giving it to their heirs. I cannot plant the seed.”

The Jew held up the seed to the guards. “Is there one among you who can plant the seed?”

The guards conferred amongst themselves. Finally, one came forward. “We have each taken golden spoons from the sultan’s table. We cannot plant the seed.”

The thief turned to the sultan’s vizier. “And you, mighty sir?”

The vizier trembled. “I have … um … occasionally pocketed coins from the sultan’s treasury. Ummmm … coins owed to me.” He looked quickly down at the ground.

“Then, magnificent sultan, it is up to you to plant the seed,” the Jew said.

The sultan smiled. “And haven’t I taken entire countries from other sultans? I doubt I could plant that seed.”

“Oh mighty and powerful people, you have taken trinkets, coins, golden spoons, entire countries, and still retain your high status and wealth. And here am I, a poor Jew, who only wanted to feed his starving children. Yet you will live and I will die.”

The sultan laughed. “What a clever man you are. I need someone like you around to remind me how a life can be saved by a simple pomegranate seed.” He made the Jew a royal gardener and moved his family into the palace, where they never went hungry again.

We found four versions of this story: in Peninnah Schram’s The Hungry Clothes and Other Jewish Folktales, as “The Pomegranate Seed”; in Sheldon Oberman’s Solomon and the Ant and Other Jewish Stories, as “The Magic Seed”; in Nathan Ausubel’s A Treasury of Jewish Folklore, as “The Wise Rogue”; and in Barbara Diamond Goldin’s A Child’s Book of Midrash, as “The Clever Thief.”

This story is originally from Morocco, but stories about Jews (and Arabs) who manage by cleverness to get themselves out of impossible situations are quite popular throughout the Middle East.

In some tellings, the thief is Jewish, in others he is not. But the story is a popular one amongst Middle Eastern Jews.

This is Tale Type 929—“Clever Defenses” and K 500—“Escape from Arrest by Trickery.”


The Good, The Bad and the Delicious

Friday, September 03, 2010 | Permalink

Earlier this week Stacey Ballis wrote about Rosh Hashanah cooking and fasting on Yom Kippur for the Visiting Scribe. Her newest book, Good Enough to Eat, is now available.

I’ve long been fascinated with the relationship women have with their own bodies and appetites. While the subject of weight and body image and struggling with sexuality and attractiveness is universal to all women, when I speak to groups of Jewish women, these issues seem heightened somehow. And it is a topic that comes up frequently when I meet with people to discuss my books.

As a novelist, who happens to be a plus-sized Jewish woman, I am often asked to speak with gatherings of Jewish women about my work, which often features Jewish plus-sized women. In fact, all of my previous books have had heroines who are Jewish, and they have ranged in size from 14-24. It is important to me, in a world where the heroines of books are significantly petite gentile girls, to show women like me, women like my friends and family, in my books. My work is not particularly Jewish, although there are holidays that appear when appropriate, and some references to Jewish organizations. Non-Jews who read my work aren’t alienated, the books aren’t mired in Jewish-ness. But for Jewish women, the little references seem to be a touchstone that is often missing from their casual reading experiences.

This is particularly true when I write about the complicated relationship Jewish women have with food. As a people, we struggle with our weight more pervasively, it seems, than many other groups. We are the “Eat something! Oy, you’re getting fat!” ethnicity. Family members will be vocal about their concern for a woman, especially a single woman, who is heavy and encourage them to lose weight. Then, the emotional trauma of a difficult conversation completed, they will suggest a meal to make everyone feel better.

Our traditional foods say it all…no other culture takes a heavy dish of sweet potatoes, carrots, prunes and apricots, swimming in a dessert-like brown-sugar syrup and thinks “You know what would season this perfectly? No, not herbs… No, not green vegetables… I know! SHORT RIBS!”. And that is just a side dish. Traditionally served with brisket. Forget the South Beach diet, this is the Miami Beach diet, and it will kill you….slowly and deliciously. We take pride in the abundance of our tables, but not the resultant abundance of our tushies. We love to be known as great cooks and hostesses, but often fight with the demons of feeling embarrassed about our love of food, and ashamed of our bodies, whatever shape they may be in.

My new book, Good Enough to Eat features a heroine who has faced down her weight problem head-on. In the novel, Melanie Hoffman, a chef who was formerly nearly 290 pounds, has worked diligently with a holistic nutritionist, and through healthy eating and exercise, is now a toned 145 pounds, and has opened a healthy gourmet take-out café. And then her husband leaves her. For a woman twice her size. For Melanie, her consistent struggle is not only with who she was, but who she has become. She has to learn to live and love in her new body, and in her new reality. Her relationship with food needs constant management, her battle with her own demons manifests itself in myriad ways, and surprisingly, her journey of self-discovery requires that she embrace the complexity of what food means to her. The book celebrates that dichotomy by including over 40 pages of recipes, often with dual versions of the same food—one a decadent version, one made healthier.

I want for my readers what I want for myself, a good long healthy life. My own struggles to get to a healthy weight are constant, I’ve lost 40 pounds in the past year, but that is only about a third of the way there, and every pound comes back at least once or twice before it really gets banished. But I also want my readers to love themselves, no matter what their size. To know that they are beautiful, desirable, spectacular creatures who can live a full and wonderful life regardless of what number is on the scale. I want us as a group to agree that while we should eat as healthy as possible, and exercise regularly, that good food is a gift and a celebration and we should stop beating ourselves up for indulging in dessert.

My greatest revelation, and the one lesson I hope people take from Good Enough to Eat and Melanie’s journey, is that there is no such thing as a forbidden food, just rational portion control. There is nothing in the whole world we cannot incorporate into a healthy diet, as long as we are smart about moderation. The higher the fat, calories, and sugar content of any food, the smaller the portion should be. Eat the whole salad, all of the veggies, and half the meat and potatoes. Have two bites of dessert, not two helpings. And most importantly, know that every meal is a new opportunity to make the smarter decisions, regardless of what may have happened the meal before.

I love that I have the opportunity to put characters out into the world that acknowledge the diversity of women, and show the complexity of our experiences. I hope that my readers continue to embrace these women and everything we get to watch them learn and everything they have to teach us.

In honor of Good Enough to Eat, I thought I would give you two of the recipes from the book…one sinful and one saintly. Cook and enjoy!

Photo by Steve Snodgrass

Guilt-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream-Cheese Frosting

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon instant espresso granules
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup fat-free buttermilk

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash of salt
1 (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cupcakes, place the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes).

Combine flour and next 5 ingredients and sift. Stir flour mixture into sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition just until blended.

Place 16 paper muffin cup liners in muffin cups; spoon about 2 1/2 tablespoons batter into each cup. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out with moist crumbs attached (do not overbake). Remove cupcakes from pans; cool on a wire rack.

To prepare frosting, combine powdered sugar and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until combined. Increase speed to medium-high, and beat until smooth. Spread about 1 tablespoon frosting on top of each cupcake.

Decadent Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

8 T. unsalted butter, cubed
2 oz. high quality bittersweet chocolate, (Valrhona, or Callebaut) chopped
½ C Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¾ C all-purpose flour
½ t. baking soda
¾ t. baking powder
2 large eggs
¾ C sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
½ t. salt
½ c sour cream

10 T. unsalted butter, softened
½ vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
1 ¼ C confectioners sugar, sifted
Pinch salt
½ t. vanilla extract
1 T. heavy cream
2 T sour cream

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-sized muffin pan with baking-cup liners.

Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and combined. Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl to combine.

Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined, then sift remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is homogenous and thick.

Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until skewer inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes.

Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes.

In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Using paring knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean into butter and beat mixture at medium-high speed to combine, about 15 seconds. Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds; scrape bowl, add vanilla, sour cream and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice. (To frost: Mound about 2 tablespoons icing on center of each cupcake. Using small icing spatula or butter knife, spread icing to edge of cupcake, leaving slight mound in center.)

Can’t Think of a Recipe for Sukkot?

Thursday, October 01, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Need a new recipe for Sukkot? Check out these new cookbooks:

Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes (Laura Frankel)

In Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes, the encore to Jewish Cooking for All Seasons, Laura Frankel, a respected kosher chef and mother of three teenagers, shares more than 120 easy, delicious recipes for everyday and holiday meals– all conveniently prepared in the slow cooker-a staple of Sabbath cooking which Frankel affectionately calls her “Shabbat miracle machine.” Sukkot recipes include Italian Pumpkin Soup, Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, Braciole, Wild Mushroom Stroganoff, and Poached Pears with Sweet Mascarpone.

The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat (Tal Ronnen)

A former meat-eater who found himself unfulfilled by standard vegan fare, Tal Ronnen set out to create his own diverse menu of hardy, delicious vegetarian dishes that the finest restaurants would be honored to serve…and any food lover would love to eat! As a result, The Conscious Cook is loaded with healthy, delicious, and supremely gratifying meatless recipes that even carnivores will want to sink their teeth into—a treasure trove of fine, healthy dining from the master chef who has reinvented vegan cooking.

Need something quicker? Download APPSolute Media’s Kosher Cookbook for iPhone & iPod Touch. Kosher Cookbook is designed for the on-the-go iPhone and iPod Touch users, offering hundreds of recipes, custom meal plans and the ability to create personalized shopping lists. Kosher Cookbook includes kosher culinary delights by well-respected gourmet and food writer Gloria Kobrin. The Kosher Cookbook application includes over 300 of her most popular recipes, adapted to suit kosher dietary rules. For just $4.99, it’s definitely worth a look! You can download it here.