Archive | July, 2013

A *Giveaway* because . . . Surprise! It’s My Kid’s Hebrew Birthday!

26 Jul
My sweet girl just one HOUR old.

My sweet girl just one HOUR old.

Today is my daughter’s first Hebrew birthday. I want to write something poetic about that fact. I’d like to connect the meaning of her Hebrew birthday with the meaning of her name, Siona, which happens to be the feminine form of Sion, Hebrew for Zion, but I can’t. I can’t do that because I have never celebrated a Hebrew birthday in my life; not even a little bit. In fact, I wouldn’t have even known that today is my daughter’s Hebrew birthday if it weren’t for my very sweet and dear friend, Sharona, who told me that today is the day. I had texted her to see if she wanted to go out on a lady-date next Wednesday but she declined because that’s HER daughter’s first Hebrew birthday, “So”, she texted me, “That means that Friday is Siona’s Hebrew birthday!” (insert cricket chirps here and blank staring at text message here).

To be honest, I didn’t text her back after receiving text. In fact, I let it sit for a day or so before responding because I felt like such a farce for not even knowing my kid’s Hebrew birthday. Hell, I don’t even know my own Hebrew birthday!

Siona's Simchat Bat - her Jewish life is beginning.

Siona’s Simchat Bat – her Jewish life is beginning.

It takes a lot for me to feel self-conscious about something; I consider myself pretty confident in most of the important areas (i.e. competency as a wife, in my job, healthy sense of self) but my confidence levels in my Judaism have always yo-yoed. I mean, I’ve worked in Jewish organizations for the majority of my professional life. I’ve been to Israel more times than I can count. I sent myself to Yeshiva for a year when I was 28. I named my kid Siona, for crying out loud!  But I didn’t learn the full Birkat Hamazon until I was 29. I’m pretty sure it’s been 5771 for like, 5 years now and I often get our forefathers, Joseph and Isaac confused (thank Gd for the musical, ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dream Coat’ because seriously, that’s what I use to remember who is whom when I’m occasionally sitting with a student and walking them through Judaics homework; “Give Mrs. Fisch a moment, honey. I’m trying to recall which one had the fabulous coat.”). All those gaps in my Jewish knowledge coupled with an expectation that, as a Jewish professional who keeps Shabbat and kosher and has a daughter named Siona, sometimes accumulates to me feeling “less than”. “Less than” whom?  I’m not sure (p.s. Gang, are you picking up how many times I used ‘whom’ in this post?! I’m hoping all the English majors in my life will be proud). But when I was standing there on the other end of that text, receiving the information of the fact that my daughter’s Hebrew birthday is upon me from another mom, I felt like an idiot. And let me just state that later that night, when I told my husband that Siona’s Hebrew birthday was 2 days away he responded, “Cool”, and went about his business.  Ahhh, how much simpler life might occasionally be if I were man.

Two weeks old

What? Me worry? (2 weeks old)

Playing in the sand in Montana - 11 1/2 months old.  Where does the time go!?

Playing in the sand in Montanan- 11 1/2 months old. Where does the time go!?

I’m not sure what we’ll do to celebrate our daughter’s day, if anything. I’ve been eyes-deep in Pinterest, doing menu -planning and decoration-planning for her 1st English birthday. But I’ve come up with nothing to celebrate today or to make it something special for her or for us as a family.  But, she’ll be one so she will have the same memories of this birthday as she will have of her English birthday, which is to say she’ll have no memories. Yet, I’m huge into positive family traditions of all kinds so I’d like to do something. I’m very curious as to what you have done to celebrate your or your child’s Hebrew birthday? What are some traditions you’ve incorporated into your family to celebrate this day?  I’d really love to hear from you so if you don’t mind taking the time and jotting down a few ideas/traditions in the comments portion of this post, I’d be very grateful.

I’m not sure if our child will attend Jewish Day School but I do know that whatever we can do in the home to build positive associations/feelings/connection to our children’s Judaism will do more for them than anything else done Jewishly outside of the home. Plus, I mean, I am deeply obsessed with like birthdays so any excuse to celebrate a loved one’s birthday more than once is always a good thing in my book.

A free trip to Israel via the pages of this gorgeous book.

A free trip to Israel via the pages of this gorgeous book.

Orly'z traditional shakshuka -- my idea of Sunday morning brunch heaven.

Orly’z traditional shakshuka — my idea of Sunday morning brunch heaven.

So, because its my daughter’s surprise Hebrew birthday, I’d thought I’d give YOU, my dear readers, a chance at receiving a beautiful gift. I was blessed to have Orly Ziv’s stunning new Israeli cookbook, Cook in Israel: Home Cooking Inspiration, sent to me by the cookbook’s talented photographer, Katherine Martinelli. Orly is a talented nutritionist, cooking instructor, and culinary tour guide in Israel. Cook in Israel, her first cookbook, is filled with 100 kosher, mostly vegetarian recipes accompanied by beautiful color photographs (including many step-by-step illustrations). The cookbook shows that healthy and delicious home cooking doesn’t need to be time-consuming or complicated. Flipping through the pages of this cookbook is like being transported to Jerusalem’s famous shuk (market). I swear, all it needs is a scratch-and-sniff za’atar sticker and you are IN Israel. The book is available for $35 plus shipping OR you could simply click on the Rafflecopter link below for up to 6 ways to up your chances of winning your own copy. The giveaway will run until, Friday, August 9th, at midnight and the winner will be announced on Monday, August 12th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Go to Cook In Israel to find out more about Orly, her culinary tours, cooking classes and how to purchase this book, which you can do here. BUT, if you want to SAVE yourself $35 plus shipping, enter into the giveaway via the link above and remember, some options you can do daily so come back often.  Also, note that this giveaway is open to those living in Israel too!!!

Good luck and . . . Yom Huledet Sameach, Siona!

Happy Anniversary Kosher Connection + A GIVEAWAY: Peas + Shells (and baby bellas!) with Vegan Alfredo Sauce

22 Jul
Cauliflower: My ultimate food frenemy

Cauliflower: My ultimate food frenemy

Happy anniversary Kosher Connection!  It’s been one year since a few kosher cooking blog folks decided to get together and create a connection; a place for kosher food writers/creators could get together to share ideas, recipes, mazal tovs on success and to gain advice.  Some of us are more ‘seasoned’ (please, pun COMPLETELY intended) than others (read: me).  I discovered the Connection late Fall.  At the time, I had just come back to work after 3 months of a very tough and emotional maternity leave.  I was battling undiagnosed (though I’ve diagnosed it) Post Partum Depression, lack of sleep and lots of stress.  I was trying to find my place in this new world of parenthood meets full-time employment and felt I needed something more.  Jewhungry had been on the back burner for roughly a year.  I stopped cooking when I got pregnant and the intense food aversions set in and just never got back into it.  But all those nights spent trying to keep myself awake by the light of my iPhone and the Pinterest app., while attempting to not-so-successfully breast feed, got my creative cooking juices flowing (again, pun COMPLETELY intended).  So I found this Connection, sent a few emails and then the next thing I know, I’m in.

I am so incredibly grateful for this group of people.  As a social worker with a concentration in community organizing, I believe in the power of connectivity.  I always have.  I have found incredibly support and advice from this Connection and though I have never met any of the members in person, some I feel like I’ve known for years (I’m talking to you Yosef, Hindy and Sarah).

In honor of this most auspicious occasion, we are giving away two beautiful prizes from Emile Henry: A Bread Cloche valued at $130 and a 4.2 qt Dutch Oven valued at $170! Use the Rafflecopter below to win- you can enter up to 23 ways! Two winners will be chosen at random. Click on the “A RAFFLECOPTER Giveaway” link below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It's a lot easier to cook when the little one has her bestie over to play.

It’s a lot easier to cook when the little one has her bestie over to play.

For this very special Monday Round-Up, every member of the Kosher Connection who decided to participate in this month’s ‘Round Up”, was randomly assigned the blog of another Connection member. We could pick ANY recipe from that blog to recreate in your own kitchen and most importantly, we needed to make the dish our own.  I was lucky to be assigned More Quiche, Please.  Tali, the adorable creator of More Quiche, Please, was born into a vegetarian family and is still (to my knowledge), a vegetarian so she has a lot of delicious recipes to choose from.  It was a little piece of heaven to go through her recipe index.  It was also really intimidating–there were so many amazing recipes to choose from!  In the end, I decided on pasta shells with peas in a creamy Alfredo sauce.  Now, since I cook for a Paleo and a vegan client, making it ‘my own’ meant making it so that it would roughly fit into their dietary needs, which means no dairy.  For the sake of maintaining the integrity of the dish, I kept the real pasta shells but if I was making it for my sweet little Paleo client, I would have substituted it for quinoa pasta.  The result was the creation of a vegan pasta shells with peas and because I had them on hand and I just love their flavor, I had to add baby bella mushrooms.  The dish is really flavorful but, I have to admit that because I boiled the cauliflower in vegetable broth, it doesn’t look like Alfredo.  It does however, look like a delicious cheddar sauce.  More than anything, it tastes delicious.  So, happy anniversary Kosher Connection and bitayavon!

Pasta + peas

Pasta + peas

My family is, in fact, NOT vegan so we added parmesan to our dish and it was phenomenal.

My family is, in fact, NOT vegan so we added parmesan to our dish and it was phenomenal.

 

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower
Coconut oil
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carton of baby Portobello mushrooms, chopped
2 tbsp of white cooking wine
2.5 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup of frozen peas
1 carton of pasta shells
Sea salt
Pepper
Thyme
Juice of 1/2 of lemon
*Vegan, unsweetened almond milk

Can you smell the yumminess?

Can you smell the yumminess?

 

How:

Place 3 tbsp of coconut oil in a large frying pan.  Add the onions and most of the garlic to the pan and saute over medium heat until onions are translucent and garlic is smelling up your house nicely.  Remove from heat and place in a separate bowl.  In the same frying pan, add the rest of the garlic and saute for one minute.  Add the mushrooms and continue sauteing on medium low heat for an additional 3 -4 minutes. Add the white wine and 2 tsp of thyme.  Saute for an additional 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and place in a separate bowl from the onions and garlic.  Next, place the chopped cauliflower together with the vegetable in a large stock pot and bring to a boil.  Once the broth has come to a rapid boil, turn heat down to medium low and continue to boil until the cauliflower is tender.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the instruction on the packaging in a separate pot, careful not to over cook. With about 1 to 2 minutes left to cook, dump frozen peas into the boiling water with the pasta and stir.  Let cook for an extra minute or two and drain in a colander that will keep the peas in the colander and set aside.  Meanwhile, back to the cauliflower — once cauliflower is tender, add the onions and garlic to the cauliflower pot plus salt and pepper to your taste.  Using an immersion blender, blend the cauliflower, remaining broth (what hasn’t boiled out), onions, and garlic until smooth.  If you feel that you need a bit more liquid, add some almond milk to the mixture.  Make sure you taste along the way, regardless, and add spices to your liking. Combine the cauliflower alfredo with the noodles, add the peas and the mushrooms and stir a bit to combine (we added parmesan cheese to ours and it really kicked up the flavor).  Enjoy!

{Guest Post} Leaning on Others – A Post by Jackie

19 Jul

Hi Again,

Below is the second guest post for this week that I’m away on vacation and this one is from my dear friend, Jackie. Before you read a bit about her story, I wanted to share a bit about who she is to me. Jackie and I met while I was working at the University of Michigan Hillel. We met at a happy hour. We started chatting about who knows what and then she asked if I like to dance and well, the rest is a very sweet history. We spent 8 months going dancing, drinking tons of coffee, laughing until the point of tears and almost piddling our pants, supporting each other through the hell that is dating and, of course, eating. I went to live in Israel within a year of us meeting and yet, our friendship deepened even though we were several time zones away. Her ability to give advice and listen without judgement is so frikkin’ rare and I’m grateful for it. So, please do enjoy her story and recipe and note that this woman has eaten in the finest restaurants in the world so hers is a palate to trust. Shabbat shalom, Whitney

20130719-150251.jpg

My girl, Jackie, giving me blessings at my wedding.

Thank you to my dear friend Whitney for letting me share my story and recipe on this amazing site. It is both her tomato salad recipe and endless advice that have inspired this post.

I’m just about the last of my married friends to get pregnant. During the year I was trying to conceive I struggled with this fact, and was often filled with feelings of jealousy and anger. It seemed the whole world was fertile including all of my lovely girlfriends. It took a lot of personal work to get to a place where I could truly be happy for my friends and right around that point I finally got my double line.

20130719-151024.jpg

Pregnant at last after a year of heartache

Now that I am pregnant (thank you G-d!) I am thrilled to have this wealth of knowledge and support from friends. For every question, concern and query I have a variety of mom-friends to turn to. I never feel alone and am thankful for this team of women behind me. I’ve found the silver lining in being the last to be pregnant and the advice is already priceless.

20130719-150404.jpg
Jackie and I doing what we do best, dancing up a storm (circa 2007).

Just like in cooking, I am taking a little bit of this and a little bit of that from each of my friends. Some moms have been instrumental in building my registry. Other moms have shared with me their breast feeding stories and have helped me to be aware of future issues. Several moms have loaned me maternity clothes and my closet is full of fun outfits to wear. And every single mom friend has been willing to share her journey and hear mine. Thank you ladies for every text, gchat and phone call.

Being pregnant in the summer means trying to find light dishes that are filling and nutritious which is just what this salad is. I remember visiting my girl, Whitney, when she first moved to Miami. She told me she was hungry for a snack and I expected her to pull out a granola bar or maybe a few pretzels. Instead she diced a tomato, red onion, avocado and added feta cheese and olive oil. Delicious. To fill out this salad I add toasted Israeli couscous and some other tasty treats. It’s the perfect summer picnic salad, pregnant or not!

Jackie’s Couscous Salad inspired by Whitney’s snack salad

Ingredients
Israeli cous cous, 2 cups (for a party)
Water, 2 ¼ cups
Pad of Butter
Almond slivers, ⅓ cup
Tomatoes, diced
Seedless cucumber, diced
Avocado, diced
Yellow bell pepper, diced
Feta (pasteurized if you are pregnant)
Parsley, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Lemons
Olive Oil

How
1. Heat pan and add cous cous, shaking pan frequently until cous cous takes on a golden brown color.
2. Add water and salt and bring to a boil. Cover and turn to simmer until all liquid has absorbed. (Tip: You can also use veggie broth, or chicken broth and omit cheese to add additional flavor to your cous cous).
3. While the pearls are cooking, dice all your veggies. Add as much or as little as you want!
4. Toast almonds in a pad of butter. Enjoy the smell of melting butter.
5. When cous cous has cooled mix together with veggies, feta, toasted almonds. Now it’s time to grab a fork. Top with olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt, pepper and chopped parsley. Taste. Decide what you need more of (usually for me it’s lemon and salt). Adjust. Taste. Adjust. Etc.

20130719-151242.jpg

20130719-151315.jpg

{Guest Post} My Jewish Journey – The Joy of Caitlin

18 Jul

20130718-214641.jpg

Hi Lovely Readers,

I am currently enjoying a trip of a lifetime with my family in Blue Sky, Montana so I asked two trusted foodies to fill in for me while I’m gone. The first post is from my talented sister-in-law, Caitlin, author of the parenting blog, The Joy of Caitlin. The second will be from one of my most favorite people in the world, Jackie. Jackie is THE person who introduced me to the concept of food as art, as something more than just to eat but something you can be passionate about. I am so excited to reflect on this Montana experience next week (gang, there was a food festival. It was epic). In the meantime, please enjoy the guest posts and I wish you a wonderful shabbat,

Whitney

I was on a first date with Mo, the cute guy from my public speaking class. I had been working at a natural bakery in our college town and I was telling an anecdote about a customer asking for some challah. I pronounced it the proper way, with the hard “ch” from the back of my throat, and I think that’s when he knew I was the one. The blonde, Irish, hippie girl could stick around. In a funny way I think Mo’s reaction to the correct pronunciation was the very beginning of my Jewish food journey. I realized soon that the cute guy I was interested in wasn’t just casually or culturally Jewish like my other friends, he was “Orthodox,” raised in a fully observant home, he kept Kosher, and didn’t drive on Shabbat. Mo was fully engaged in the secular world, wore regular clothes, baseball caps, and went dancing in clubs. Yet beneath that surface was a deep faith and commitment to values that I had never experienced before.

On our first road trip together, to visit my Grandpa in northern Vermont, Mo pulled over just as we left town. He had packed his siddur (prayer book) in the trunk and wanted to say the Tefilat HaDerech, “Wayfarer’s Blessing” as we embarked on our journey. I felt so special, so cozy in the thought that he had a blessing to say for this occasion. I looked through his bilingual prayer book to discover that there were blessings for literally everything. Every kind of food and drink had it’s own special words of gratitude. There were blessings for natural phenomena, for healing, I was amazed and smitten. I wanted these secret words woven in my life too. I began to learn about Judaism without discussing it with Mo, afraid he would be worried that I was just doing it because of him, unsure of what he would think.

I finally admitted to him that I was surreptitiously studying Judaism and he was both excited and wary. We went to a few Jewish Renewal services in New York together, and while I was enamored with the guitar playing and Bob Marley songs, he was a bit underwhelmed. We began to occasionally spend Shabbat together, and when Passover came I was sure that I needed to attend a seder. He still hadn’t told his family about our relationship, and to arrive in a car in the midst of the two day holiday would have been disruptive and fodder for much disapproval.

I went to a friend’s family’s seder instead, and I felt a deep sense of purpose, with an underlying sadness. I was sure that I belonged there, yet pained not to be with Mo. For some reason I decided that night to eat the chicken soup. I hadn’t had any meat in seven years, I had been raw vegan on and off for the past three. Something about the occasion, about my longing to belong, made me want to join in fully. It was the same cozy feeling I had experienced when I discovered all the blessings. That one bowl of matzoh ball soup brought me more into the world of Judaism through food, and kick started my interest in the possibility of really creating a Jewish life for myself.
A few months later Mo had decided to travel to Israel for a scholarship in a Masters program in Jerusalem. I was graduating with a degree in English literature and a major itch to get as far from New Jersey as possible. He left in July, I booked a ticket to visit him in October, and spent the summer roaming the east coast, visiting friends, preparing for my first trip overseas. When I finally boarded that plane I left my mom in the terminal with many tearful goodbyes, and set off for the unknown.

The first thing I saw in Israel were the orange trees, the first thing I felt was the heat as I walked through the bridge from the plane to the airport. I heard the guttural sounds of Hebrew and felt excited and lost. I found Mo outside of customs and we loaded my two bags with all my earthly belongings into the back of the airport shuttle. I felt nauseous on the winding ride, amazed at the sprawling rocky hills covered in gnarled olive trees and stone fences I imagined to be ancient. When the van dropped us off at Mo’s apartment I was surprised at the dirty dusty streets and the unfamiliar street signs, then felt nothing but gratitude as we descended into his tiny basement apartment where I collapsed on his futon bed and slept dreamlessly.

When I woke hours later it was the afternoon. I was hungry, thirsty, disoriented. I drank some water, threw on my sneakers and we headed out to meet Mo’s friend downtown to get something to eat. I will always remember my first meal in Israel, at a tiny cafe called Timol Shilshom (http://www.tmol-shilshom.co.il/en/home/default.aspx). We ordered bread with pesto, olives and labane, everything was fresh and bursting with flavor. Then came the shakshuka, the quintessential Israeli dish Mo and his friend decided I should try, eggs baked in a spicy tomato sauce, eaten with crusty bread. I had spent my college days eating out in Manhattan, trying all different ethnic cuisines from Thai to Ethiopian, but this was a brand new experience for me. It was homey, bright, filling, surprising, and comforting, all at once. From that moment on I was in love with Israeli food, and my Jewish food journey began in earnest.

Read more of my story soon on The Joy of Caitlin!

Mo’s Famous Real Israeli Humus

Anyone who has joined us at the Shabbat table has savored the delicious, authentic humus that Mo makes every week. He developed this recipe after extensive tasting in Israel, and testing here in the states. It is one of the few dishes when I willingly give over the kitchen, and just get to enjoy. I hope you like it too!

Ingredients:
3 cups cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup Israeli tehina (can be found at Kosher stores or use regular tahini from any supermarket)
1/2 cup cold water
1-2 cloves garlic
2 tbs olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Salt to taste
Cumin if you like!

How?
Place garlic in bowl of food processor, followed by chickpeas (reserve a handful to put on top at the end) and the rest of the ingredients. Process until very smooth, adding a little more olive oil or water if needed, and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve topped with chickpeas, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of paprika. It makes a great dip for pitas or fresh veggies. B’teyavon!

20130718-213913.jpg

20130718-214859.jpg

Kveller-ed

10 Jul
New Mommy-ness

New Mommy-ness

 

I made a summer “bucket list” about 6 weeks ago. I put things on there that are relatively attainable, i.e. making my own pasta, making my own cheese, transfer the blog to self-hosting. You know, real cool and adventurous stuff like that. One of the items on that list was getting a post published on the Jewish parenting blog, Kveller.com. And today, that happened! It’s a super nerdy thing to be excited about, but dang it, I’m gonna be out loud about my excitement. Check out the post by clicking here.

Sourdough: A Love Story.

9 Jul
Zak + Batsheva - The day they announced their engagement.

Zak + Batsheva – The day they announced their engagement.

Several years ago I worked at a Jewish summer camp. I’m gonna be real honest and let you know that this wasn’t an idyllic summer. I was back in Asheville, NC after spending a magical year in Jerusalem falling in love with my Judaism, with Isreal, with food and most importantly, my now husband. But reality was setting in and I needed some cash money in a big way so while I was still in Israel, I started applying to several Jewish camps as a program director as I had spent roughly 8 years, up to that point, in Jewish programming. It was the obvious choice. I was almost hired by a Jewish camp in the Carolina mountains but they had a real issue with my shabbat-observance (don’t even get me started). So, I took another offer.   I actually went to this camp as a teenager for one summer. I remember having an amazing time. But, as an adult, it just wasn’t my bag. When I arrived, I was instantly homesick. I missed my man, my Israel people and my environment back in Jerusalem. Several days of misery went by and then one day I decided to visit the camp’s edible garden. I don’t even really remember the first time I spoke with Zak, but we kind of clicked. I was so desperate for someone more my speed so when I met this Pharmaceutical school drop out cum hippie baker/gardener/cheese maker/wanderer, well, let’s just say he didn’t have a choice. We were gonna be friends. I was on the cusp of my own food revolution at the time (reading up on the realities of true organics, whole foods, etc.) and here was this guy LIVING a food revolution. On shabbat, I read in the garden he tended for the camp. On our nights, off he introduced me to “Freeganism”, which is basically just permanently borrowing people’s leftovers/trash. On one particular night off, we went to a Mexican restaurant and ‘Freegan-ed” the untouched margaritas left behind by some underage counselors who started running the minute they saw us coming.  He also took me dumpster diving in the name of “Freeganism” and I’m pretty sure I still have the cookbook he taught my campers how to make, which introduced them to composting (did you know that poop AND humans are compostable!?). I owe so much to Zak for that summer. I’m still not sure he realizes how much he saved me that summer.

Zak and his Israeli gang of bread makers

First they came for our carbs, and nobody said anything. Then they came for our gluten, and nobody said anything. Now they want our grains and we say, NO!

The team behind "Zak the Baker".  They do smile, a lot, I promise.

The team behind “Zak the Baker”. They do smile, a lot, I promise.

Flash forward 2 and a half years and I find out via Facebook that after much travel, Zak is back in Miami, where my husband and I are now living. He came over for a shabbat meal, we caught up and then just as quick as he entered my life for the second time, he was gone. This time, Zak decided to follow his heart to (get ready for this . . . seriously) Tuscany where he opened his own bakery. I mean, can you picture it? When I try to envision it I’m seeing sunflowers, flour clouds every where and hunky dudes with sweat dripping . . . oh, ok, sorry, I’m getting myself under control. Anyway, long story short, he had a bakery in Tuscany, met a girl, they ran away to a goat cheese farm in France, where she promptly realized that farm life is hard and high-tailed it back to the States. Zak then made his way back home to Miami, where a kind and supportive family friend let him set up his own bakery in his garage. Soon it wasn’t just a bakery Zak was housing in his incredibly supportive friend’s garage but also 5 chickens, 4 ducklings, 4 baby goats and apprentices from around the globe (mainly Israel). When it was clear that the goats were taking over, Zak found shelter with the Earth n’ Us Farm in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami (find out more about this amazing farm here) and began renting out a space for baking bread in Hialeah. He currently sells every Sunday at the Pinecrest Farmer’s Market. He also sells sandwiches and bread at the University of Miami and, most importantly to his ever-growing business, Zak the Baker bread can be enjoyed at celebrity-chef Michelle Bernstein’s namesake restaurant, Michy’s (as well as other grocers in the area, like Laurenzo’s. Check out the blog for a complete list of retailers and restaurants selling Zak’s bread).

So, grab a glass of wine and some crusty bread with some soft cheese and tuck in for a very romantic story of love, life, travel and bread.

Zak in action

Zak in action

Jewhungry: So how did your sourdough revolution begin?

Zak: For 10 years, this is the way my life looked like: I would teach at the camp for 2 months, make enough money and then go back on the road and travel for 10 months. What I would do is I would take everything I learned that year on the road and integrate it into the lesson plans for the camp. I had always done a workshop on bread at the camp. We went through the whole process and the theory of it. It wasn’t ever my dream to be a baker and open my own baker. It’s a hard life—you wake up so early, it’s a hard job.  What happened though was that I came back from traveling and asked myself, “What am I going to do with my life”? I came back to Miami and thought, well, I know how to make bread. I know how to make cheese and work a farm. Miami wasn’t my dream spot to open a bakery, but thank Gd, it turned out to be perfect.

Jewhungry: How did you meet Batsheva

Zak: I met Batsheva while I was apprenticing with a cheese maker in Israel on a farm in the North about 3 or 4 years ago. I was working with this really mythical cheese maker who had 200 goats that he would milk every night. I had taken some time off to travel with my friend, Phil, who was a musician. We went to a coffee shop in Jerusalem. Our waitress just happened to be Batsheva’s sister. We were playing music outside, drinking coffee and didn’t really communicate much with her; just said hi and that was it.  I didn’t know her at all. Then the next day we were going back up North and waiting in the bus station, hanging out, playing music and drinking coffee and there she was again, Ori, but this time she was with her sister, Batsheva. We invited them over to come and hang out with us at our table. Turns out we had forgotten to pay for our coffee the day before so being the nice boys that we are, we paid for it. And of course, as it works in Israel, one thing led to another and they invited us to their family’s house for Sukkot. They live in this very special village in the Gush. The family is beautiful and big and very warm. Phil and I at one point were sitting at this big table under the sukkah and, out comes one beautiful, ethereal sister after that other to sit with us. It was a dream! Phil and I were just sitting there taking it all it. It was a wonderful night and we got along and ate and then Phil and I made our way back up North and life moved on. Then, one day, I received a call from Batsheva’s sister, Chedva, who called me up because she and Batsheva wanted to learn how to bake bread with a dream of one day opening their own bakery in Israel.  However, no bakery in Israel would let them in as apprentices because they are women. The bakeries assumed that as women, Batsheva and Chedva wouldn’t be able to do the work. In addition, they don’t want girls working in the kitchen. So in that moment, when Chedva called, I just thought of course. Come on! And then two weeks later they had a ticket and were on their way. Eventually, I realized, “Wait, let me tell you, this is really hard work. I can’t pay you. We work insane hours. It’s a work exchange, you work and I give you room and board”. And then I told them I have a farm in Miami and you’ll live outdoors in a tent. At that point, the girls were imagining rolling hills and building a tent under a chestnut tree and living amongst the greenery. But in reality, it was my old tent in my yard in Little Haiti. Eventually, after about a week of living in the tent, I kept getting, “Zak, mazeh cold? Mazeh raining? (Zak, what is this cold? What is this rain?” So I gave up my bedroom indoors and I slept out in the tent by the goats for several weeks until a room opened up in the house. Eventually, Chedva wanted to leave but Batsheva wanted to stay and one month turned into 2 and then 3 and then 4 and then all of a sudden, Batsheva and I realize we are in love. We revealed our love for one another on a Friday and by the next day, on Shabbat, we decided that this is it and we want to get married. Now, we are partners. We are in love. We will move forward together as a unit.

Two bakers in love

Two bakers in love

Siona and I flanked by food greatness

Siona and I flanked by food greatness

Jewhungry: Is the gluten-free/grain-free trend affecting your business?

Zak: Those trends and those fashions don’t concern me at all. I’m being very nice about my feelings, please understand. I don’t want to concern myself with marketing and other things that aren’t pure. A lot of these things are being pushed or promoted by marketing/business. Ultimately, I’m not concerned with any of it. At the end of the day, we need bread. We need eggs, we need cheese, we need meat. These are the basics that we need. All these vegan/gluten-free diet phases, they pass and what is always there and what will always be there in the end are the basics. Therefore, I am not concerned with the fashions of the health or the food industry. That’s my polite answer. If you want to eat something gluten-free, go eat a tortilla or a rice crack or a bowl of rice. Trying to make bread gluten-free is like trying to make turkey meat-free. I’ll wait for it to pass and wait for folks to get interested in the next food/health craze and then I’ll be disinterested in that as well. So to sum it up in one word: Disinterested.

Jewhungry: What is your most favorite or first food memory?

Batsheva: For me, it’s my mom’s chicken soup. My mom used to make a big pot of chicken soup every shabbat. There was nothing special about it.  It was pretty plain but it had big onions and all of us used to fight over the onions. She used to make a lot of it and in fact, she had a gemach for chicken soup and so in the village, if someone wasn’t feeling well they would call up and she would bring them soup.

Zak: When we visited my grandmother in Del Ray, we used to always have an everything bagel toasted well with chopped liver, egg salad, kugel, rugelach, cookies, white fish spread, mayonnaise, a platter of smoked salmon with onions, tomatoes and capers. Of course there would be an assortment of pickles. Oy, I can taste it right now. Ashkenaz food; I’m telling you! (Please note that at this point in the interview, Batsheva is making vomit noises because the idea of the aforementioned Del Ray Bubbe/Ashkenazi spread sounds disgusting to her).

Jewhungry: So what are the plans for the bakery?

Zak: We are working on opening the bakery in Wynwood. It’s mainly going to be a wholesale production bakery but with a retail component where folks can see the whole process from start to finish and also purchase delicious food. We want to make the entire bakery kosher so we need help with that. If anybody knows how to get started, how to do it all? A rabbi who can help guide us through the process? All of our products are kosher and we don’t use meat at all. All of our sandwiches will be dairy/vegetarian. It just makes sense for where we want to go but we need help. 

20130709-113320.jpg

Zak’s got an awesome beard AND accessories so clearly, Siona’s a fan.

Jewhungry: Why do you want to go kosher?

Zak: Basically, I was trying to impress Batsheva, so I thought, “if I make the bakery kosher, she’d be really impressed with me” and it worked! Just kidding. The reason is that it feels like the right thing to do. We’re not far away from it. We don’t work on Saturday regardless. All of our ingredients are kosher. And once upon a time, I heard it was a mitzvah to make kosher bread. I want to make something that is delicious and pure and that everyone could feel comfortable eating but also just happens to be kosher. I don’t want people to eat it because it’s organic or eat it because it’s kosher. Miami has room for what we do, you know? Ultimately, it’s the right thing for Batsheva and I to do.

Cookingpalooza: Homemade Fettuccine + Pesto Cream Sauce with Floretines for Dessert

2 Jul
Pasta of Love

Pasta of Love

You ever meet someone who was a legend?  I’m not talking like David Bowie or Oprah (though it’d be cool to meet them as well) but someone who was legendary within your group of people.  My friend, Francine, is one of those people.  We both attended the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, Israel during different years.  She became very close with one of my most favorite people, Annie.  So, when we were living in Ann Arbor, around the corner from aforementioned favorite person, Annie, and decided to move to Miami to further my husband’s Marine Biology career, Annie suggested we contact Francine and her hubby, Adam, who were already living here.  I was a little nervous.  I’d heard so much good stuff about Francine (and some about Adam . . . I guess.  Haha, just kidding buddy.  There was some actual good stuff about you too. For real!) that I was a bit intimidated.  She’s smart, funny, very kind and, a great cook.  I was just dabbling in cooking.  She sounded perfect.  I had a lady-crush on her from afar and I hadn’t even met her yet!  I eventually called them but spoke with Adam instead.  So, she remained a mystery until we moved here.  Then finally, FINALLY, someone invited the other to the other’s house and we got to meet and seriously, all the stuff was true.  She actually was funny, kind, smart but still, I hadn’t eaten the food yet.  THE FOOD!  Eventually, we scored a highly coveted invite to their place for shabbat dinner and that didn’t disappoint either.  All this awesomeness took place within the first 3 months of moving to Miami and 2 and a half years later, Francine and Adam (and now Matan, their 2 year-old), remain our closest friends in town.

Camping in 2011

Camping with Adam and Francine in 2011

Our Kids in One of My Most Favorite Pictures

Our Kids in One of My Most Favorite Pictures;;’

There have been so many meals-shared since plus a few camping trips, farm-outtings, and beach-visits in between but we had NEVER cooked together. So one day, I suggested that we get together for a day of epic cooking proportions.  Why had we not thought of this sooner?  Coming up for a theme of what to cook was a little difficult but I have a “Cooking Bucket List” for the summer and on it was making my own pasta.  Francine was game, thank heavens (I’m telling ya, she’s super nice).  I consulted a beautiful Kosher Italian cookbook my husband and I received as a wedding gift and decided upon a pasta recipe.  The sauce was made up on the fly after a bit of trial and error.  Unfortunately, I didn’t write down the EXACT measurements so I’m going on memory.  It was a hectic but awesome day.  See below.  And even if you don’t end up making your own pasta, I HIGHLY recommend the sauce and the dessert, both of which are pretty versatile.  Bitayavon!

Because I am sharing this post with Francine, you can find the delicious recipe for the dessert, Florentine with Nutella and Powdered Sugar, can be found on her blog, Feta and Arepa.

Pesto in the Process

Pesto in the Process

It Ain't Easy Being Green . . But it Sure is Tasty.

It Ain’t Easy Being Green . . But it Sure is Tasty.

I Wanted to Eat this LIke a Soup. Yum!

I Wanted to Eat this LIke a Soup. Yum!

Cream Sauce Completion

Cream Sauce Completion

Homemade Fettuccine with Pesto Cream Sauce
(Pasta recipe from Edda Servi Machlin’s Classic Italian Jewish Cooking)

What?

For Pasta:
2 1/2 to 3 Cups of Unbleached Flour
4 Egg, Slightly Beaten

For Pesto:

1 1/2 Cups of Fresh Basil, Tightly Packed
3 Cloves of Garlic
1/3 Cup of Parmesan
1/2 Cups of Walnuts
1/4 Cup of Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Pepper

For Cream Sauce:

4 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
4 Tbsp Unbleached Flour
1 Cup Heavy Cream
Pepper
Salt

For Pasta with Hand Operated Machine:

Mound part of the flour on a large board or other working surface and make a well at the corner.  Pour in the eggs.  With the aid of a fork, mix the eggs and flour very gradually until a soft paste is formed.  With your fingers mix in enough additional flour to make a firm, but not too hard, dough.  Knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth.  Place in an unfloured dish; cover with an inverted dish and let rest in the refrigerator for about 1/2 hour.

Take one-quarter of the dough at a time and begin the thinning.  With the rollers set at the first slot (farthest apart), feed the dough between the rollers or to the machine, that means the dough is too soft and more flour must be added.  Fold and feed with the rollers set at the same slot 3 to 4 times, until the sheet comes out in one piece (but not too smooth).  Move on to the second slot and feed the sheet only once.  For fettuccine, you will stop at the next to the last slot.  Keep on moving until the desired thinness is obtained.  Repeat with the remaining pasta, using one-quarter of the original quantity each time.  Use as directed in each individual recipe. (Pasta made with only eggs and flour is very elastic and tends to shrink.  However, the second time through it keeps its shape better).

Once pasta is finished, bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Add the pasta and stir.  Bring to another boil and reduce heat to medium and let cook for roughly 7 minutes.  Drain and place in a bowl.

Sauce “How To”:

Place the basil in the processor together with the garlic, nuts, parmesan and a dash of salt and pepper.  DO NOT ADD THE OLIVE OIL YET.  Process the ingredients while slowly adding in the olive oil during the pulsing process.  Taste.  Add more salt if necessary (Be careful my kosher brethren.  That kosher parmesan can be salty).  Transfer the sauce to another bowl.

Meanwhile, prepare the cream base by melting the butter on medium heat in a large saucepan.  Once melted, add the flour one tablespoon at a time, whisking in between each addition of flour so that it’s smooth.  Turn the heat down to a simmer and add the heavy whipping cream.  Cook over simmer for another 3 – 5 minutes, stirring frequently until the sauce thickens a bit. Turn the heat off and stir in the pesto.  Add the mixed sauce to the bowl of cooked pasta and stir to incorporate.  Top with some shredded parmesan and fresh basil.

Just One More

Just One More

Dive In

Dive In

Add a Little Shaved Parmesan on Top and You Are Set!

Add a Little Shaved Parmesan on Top and You Are Set!

Jewhungry

Recipes and stories from my shvitzin' kitchen

molly yeh

Because sometimes Jews get hungry . . . for EVERYTHING.

LALA LAND

Still trying to figure it out.

Pop Chassid

A blog by Elad Nehorai

The Little Ferraro Kitchen

Because sometimes Jews get hungry . . . for EVERYTHING.

Food with a View

Culinary stories, green recipes and passionate photography from urban nature and beyond

Take a Megabite

Because sometimes Jews get hungry . . . for EVERYTHING.

Manu's Kitchen

Because sometimes Jews get hungry . . . for EVERYTHING.

Foodie With Family

Life at the intersection of food, family, philosophy, frugality and fun!

The Rural Roost

Because sometimes Jews get hungry . . . for EVERYTHING.

Love and Lemons

Because sometimes Jews get hungry . . . for EVERYTHING.

Nutmeg Nanny

A Journey Through a Sweet and Savory Life

Lea & Jay

(Gimlet, Mistletoe, Arwen)

Finger, Fork & Knife

I'm Kate and Finger, Fork and Knife is where I record the recipes that excite, nourish and inspire me. I focus on wholesome, high-nutrition, home-cooked food - recipes that satisfy and delight. Welcome!

The Joy of Caitlin

cooking, loving, life-ing!

iamthemilk

Every day I'm jugglin'.

I want that for dinner

Gluten-free, healthy, creative, and kosher cooking...with a comedic twist!

%d bloggers like this: