While we continue to hunker down at home, the competition to secure flour and yeast has become more challenging perhaps than buying hand sanitizer. I go through waves of intense cooking and baking, trying to conjure inspiration to keep my meals interesting, even when everything else in life has become so routine (and other times when I am not inspired and just have smoothies or oatmeal for dinner). I have spent the past year or so trying to recreate many of my grandmother’s recipes and being stuck inside now during COVID19 has encouraged me to make more. She was a voracious cook who commanded her kitchen: you didn’t wander around because she would insist on putting together or finding for you whatever you thought perhaps you might want to eat (in a quantity larger than you needed). And, I never left her home without tins of her mandelbrot. Continue reading
This is a frightening moment. It’s hard to write about recipes and food during this time when I incessantly read the news and my mind is mostly devoid of non-coronavirus thoughts or ideas. I have noticed, though, that when I get especially anxious about what is happening, I am drawn to being in my kitchen. Chopping, cooking, baking all calm my nerves a bit and give me something purposeful to do. My sweet elderly dog patiently sits nearby, his intense eyes gazing at me, wondering if any crumbs might drop by his paws, completely unaware of the global crisis and singularly focused on food scraps.
In this challenging moment, my appreciation and awareness of beautiful, sometimes seemingly mundane things in life has become accentuated.
I have taped to my computer a quote by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Our goal should be to live in radical amazement. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” Continue reading
I recently spent time exploring the Lower South of the US, delving into the emotionally fraught history and legacy of enslavement and civil rights, overlaid with an exploration of Southern Jewish life. It was a provoking, at times emotionally draining, visceral, and absolutely fascinating trip that challenged me every day to examine and reflect upon the impact of our nation’s history of slavery and to explore the extraordinary and unique life of Jews in the South. Continue reading
I don’t have the guts to declare one place with the best hummus. I will decidedly write, though, that I eat a lot of hummus, and taste test it the way some do with wines, (albeit a lot cheaper). And, I will argue that Hummus Yossef, from Pardes Hanna Karkur–and now with some locations in Tel Aviv–has some of the best hummus I have ever eaten. It is made fresh for each customer (check out their Cuisinart blenders whirring by the cash register) At its modest first shop—with an outdoor seating area that protected us from the searing sun with intensely blowing fans and a tarp roof –a bowl of Galilee-style hummus was presented to us. It is creamy, very lemony hummus, and heavy enough to seemingly cut it with a knife. Presented in a deep, nearly overflowing bowl, the hummus is immersed in a thorough amount of fruity olive oil, while flecked with whole chickpeas, drizzled with green delightful spicy schug, pillowy drops of tahini, and sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley. The hummus decidedly strong flavors were enhanced by the perfect balance of spicy, mild and fruity liquid toppings. It made a regular “plain” bowl of hummus seem almost bland or naked in comparison. Continue reading
Tel Aviv, aptly called the global vegan (tivoni) capital of the world, is the hub of a culinary, social and consciousness movement that is sweeping Israel. Within the White City’s concrete jungle of bauhaus buildings, abutting glass and steel skyscrapers, is a city teeming with “vegan friendly” signs proudly affixed to businesses, from restaurants to markets to stores. The culinary and social atmosphere is decidedly one that gravitates towards conscious plant-based eating. The breadth of this fascinating Israeli social movement was evident at the city’s two day vegan fest that attracted a shocking 40,000 people (and yes, overwhelmingly Israelis). More people turned out for it than Eurovision the previous week. From labane to burgers, the throngs of Tel Avivians of all stripes lined up to eat from local restaurants, taste new Israeli vegan food brands and celebrate in an atmosphere that was decidedly positive, welcoming of everyone.
Though we are in the midst of counting the Omer each night, from Passover to Shavuot, I am sharing a recipe and number that has zero relevance to the Omer. It is the number 206, the name of a Tel Aviv restaurant–really an institution–that has sat on a suburban thoroughfare with a car park in front, for decades. It is my spot for the best no-frills Israeli food. The decor is plain and likewise there are zero airs to the food. There’s some magic happening in the kitchen and their unfussy food outshines much of the high end Israeli food now dotting the globe. Before the worldwide roasted cauliflower craze, 206 was serving heaps of it, smothered in tahini sauce on little white saucer plates. Continue reading
I spent a couple of years as a bit of a wandering Jew, and a consistent theme in my travels was the need to find some sense of rootedness through local Jewish communities, from Rabat to Rishikesh. Reflecting upon my travels resonates especially as we near Passover. I was not in “exile,” but “on the road” without a home. And, consistently, in all of these wonderful, beautiful and often challenging places, I felt a need to find Jewish communities, sharing precious moments with these strangers, whether a handful of people in Sicily, a single woman in India or dozens in Naples. Yehuda Amichai wrote, “It was not an adventure; it was my life.”
Here are some of my Passover recipes and commentaries over the past couple of years that I hope help you to prepare and celebrate the holiday.
I had approached a recent 10 day summer holiday in Scotland with a bit of trepidation, expecting endless cold rain and being stuck in pubs eating chips for lack of any other food. Instead, it was unexpectedly filled with mostly sunshine and great vegan food. Except for having to eat a potato chip sandwich and cashews during a 17 mile hike, I found vegan food everywhere–even in a tiny town with only one pub. Another memorable hike was one with endless wild blackberry bushes; those berries not eaten instantly were picked and turned into jam that evening and enjoyed for the remainder of the trip on crackers. And, best of all, Glasgow was crowned with the glorious title of being the vegan capital of the UK.
My Jewish-centric trip to Morocco began and ended in Casablanca, a sprawling coastal mega-city that is choked with traffic and filled with endless buildings of peeling white paint. The city is home to 1,000 Jews and an incredible 20 active synagogues, plus a cemetery and museum of Jewish history. I quickly felt comfortable in the city when I walked into the apartment building lobby of my Airbnb. I noticed a huge mezuzah affixed to an apartment near the entrance. With impeccable timing, the apartment door opened and two women walked out, saw my friend and me pointing at the mezuzah and warmly greeted us. Immediate Moroccan hospitality. Continue reading
I took a whirlwind trip to Morocco just before Pesach that focused on visits to historic Jewish sites and spending time with remaining Jewish communities. The 2,000 year history of Jews in Morocco is evident everywhere–from Jewish areas of towns (mellahs), to cemeteries to synagogues–and I grappled with the simultaneous historical nature of the trip along with immersing myself in dwindling communities. I traveled with a friend who is fluent in French (a bonus since I last spoke French my first year of college and rarely anyone speaks English). It was a chaotic start to our trip with missed flights, lost luggage and a bad hotel. But, we set out to track down these people and places without a proper guide, which was not always an easy feat. Through a contact my friend had in Israel along with some rabbis she met on her flight, our paper trail began to unfold. Most importantly, we planned to spend Shabbat in Fes (Fassis is what people in Fes are called) and a connection to “the butcher” there ensured we were with the community. Continue reading