From Seattle to Hebron: The Story of an Amazing Life

Telling the life story of Rabbi Dov Cohen, To Rise Above begins in Seattle, WA in the early 1900’s and via train and ship takes readers to pre-state Palestine. As a young boy Dov lived in the idyllic (and rare) circumstances of a wealthy Orthodox Jewish family in Seattle. Fully dedicated to observance of Jewish law, the family was also able to take part fully in local life due to their financial success and broadmindedness.

But all was not well in paradise. Dov’s brother went off to NY to study in yeshiva and came back unmotivated and uninterested in continuing his Torah education. His observance level was not one of a young man excited about being an Orthodox Jew. Dov’s mother realized that the US offered nothing like the Torah education she wished for her sons. She then took the dramatic step of traveling with 13 year old Dov across the world to seek out a place in Palestine that would provide the education she wanted for Dov.

And this is when the journey through the history and Jewish life of pre-state Israel begins. It wasn’t easy to find a yeshiva for Dov. After false starts in Tel Aviv, Dov ends up learning in the Jewish holy city of Hevron (Hebron) at the Slabodka Yeshiva. Dov’s mother returns to the US and they meet again only after 10 years.

The Slabodka Yeshiva, Hevron 1920’s

Slabodka was a flagship of the mussar movement dedicated to living at the highest standards of Jewish ethical behavior. It is fascinating to read about the experiences of a young American Jew living within the Jewish community of Hevron and pre-independence Israel of the 1920’s. Daily life is described showing the intensity of the yeshiva students and their everyday idealism as well as the difficulty of being a teenager so far from his family. The author doesn’t whitewash over various tensions which exist within the yeshiva. Readers will be hardpressed to find other books in English which offer such detailed insight into this flourishing Jewish community.

Images from the Hevron Massacre, 1929

In painful detail, Dov describes the experiences of living through the Hevron massacre of 1929.  The violent rioting by Arabs and murder of over 60 Jews could easily have been stopped by British police on the scene. Dov describes the incredible scenes of suffering as the British authorities do nothing to stop the Arab pogrom. This is a must read for anyone interested in Hevron and the events of 1929.

Dov relocates with his yeshiva (post-riot referred to as the Hevron Yeshiva) to Jerusalem in the wake of the riots. The dislocation and confusion Dov experiences would today be quickly labeled as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The book eventually reaches 1948 and Israeli independence.  Dov serves as the first Rabbi of the Israeli Air Force which is fascinating because although he was part of the Haredi community, he saw his work as a mission to ensure that the new institutions of the nascent Jewish state were set up taking into account Jewish tradition to whatever extent possible.

We follow Dov Cohen through the development of Israel and his life. The end of the book contains a fascinating copy of notes that he kept on a daily basis documenting his efforts at self-improvement proving that he was truly a student of Slabodka who tried to live according to the ideals of mussar until the end of his life.

This book is a must-read for those interested in the history of the Jewish community of Hevron and pre-independence Israel as well as those stirred by mussar.

 

Shalem College in Jerusalem. Good for Students. Good for Books.

Shalem college logoIt is always exciting to read about the Shalem College (in articles such as this one in The Weekly Standard).  I was brought on as the head of media relations at the Shalem Center (the precursor to the college) in the 90’s as it came onto the educational and intellectual scene. The dream was to start a university dedicated to the highest standards of intellectual inquiry while providing a real liberal arts education.  The atmosphere was super dynamic and job descriptions changed or expanded as needed. I was eventually put in charge of setting up the recruitment of students for the new Shalem Fellowship program. Many of the fellows are now top academics and journalists in Israel  today.  Shalem gave me my start in book publicity when I worked with an amazing Tel Aviv book publicist on the Hebrew translation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Civil Disobedience, Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom and other classics published by Shalem. The next mission was setting up distribution for Shalem books in Israel as well as growing the subscriber base to the Shalem journal (Azure in English and Tchelet in Hebrew).  At one point I was told “go to NY and figure out how to distribute our journal so we don’t have to give it out for free”.

Shalem college

The Shalem College. Jerusalem, Israel

The rest is history as I learned all about the book industry in the US and Israel and have never looked back.  The dream of the Shalem College has come to fruition and articles like the one mentioned above are evidence of how successful it already is.  Shalem has done much to bring quality books to Hebrew readers and by setting up a liberal arts, “great books” college, it ensures these books are actually being read.

People Judge a Book by its Cover. So Get it Right.

Whether I’m wearing my hat as a book shepherd or as publicist, I spend a lot of time talking to authors about the covers for their book. The importance of a book cover can’t be overestimated. Covers really are important. You know….the whole “judging a book by its cover”? It is true.

So while at one time I sometimes tried to save authors money by working with great graphics people with no experience in book cover design, I do not do this anymore. Why? Because someone who has designed numerous book covers has usually reached a tipping point where they simply “get it”. They know what will work and they don’t need direction. Sure we give plenty of feedback when needed but that is fundamentally different than practically having to explain everything I know about covers, sending examples of covers and needing to be overly involved in the process. They were great designers (otherwise I wouldn’t have hired them) but they were not familiar with creating book covers. Their fee may have been lower but when taking into account the time needed from our side, it wasn’t usually worth it.

Credit: http://xaran-alamas.deviantart.com/

Credit: http://xaran-alamas.deviantart.com/

When I read “How We Tried to Design Our Own Book Cover” I was excited. This article is by Jake Knapp, a designer who wrote a forthcoming business book called Sprint (which sounds fascinating, by the way). One of Jake’s opening lines is something I am likely to share often: “Last June, with a near-complete draft of our book in hand, we began thinking about the cover design. We’re a team of designers, so how hard could it be? (Spoiler alert: Turns out it is very, very hard.)”  I had to smile as I read this story of book cover design gone wrong (and then right). I felt vindicated.

Jake – thanks for your honesty! I hope that sharing your experience will save authors a lot of time, money and frustration. Now I am waiting for an article about how important a good editor is to a book!

 

Book Giveaway! The Jewish Fact Finder. Win a copy of this amazing resource.

 

 

Fact finder cover

I’m excited to run my first book giveaway.  Actually it isn’t my first. I have probably run hundreds of book giveaways on various websites, blogs and social media platforms, but I have not used my own site. So let’s get started……

Newly revised and updated, the Jewish Fact Finder by Yaffa Ganz is a classic which has been a treasure-house of basic Jewish information for decades. It contains information on everything Jewish that one might need. Feldheim describes the book has having everything “from Torah to Talmud to Temple; from prophets to plagues to prayers; seasons and cities; measurements and mountains; and lots more, designed to be available right at your fingertips”.

It’s an essential quick-reference guide and will be useful for students, young and old, and for their parents and teachers as well. To describe it in 2016 terms, it is like having Google available at all times (including when you can’t access the internet).

Click below and enter to win!  The book will be shipped for the winner to USA addresses only (sorry).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Instead of Banning a Book, Here’s What Naftali Bennett Should Have Done

As you may know by now, the Israeli Education ministry has “disqualified” the book “Gader Haya” (in English  “Borderlife”) by Dorit Rabinyan because it describes a romantic relationship between a Jewish woman and a Palestinian man. I am sure the book’s publicist is ecstatic as every media outlet is talking about the book and reportedly Israeli bookstores are selling (and running out of) copies in record numbers.

The move is being described (for example here, here and here) in the way anyone involved in the decision ought to have been warned about (in advance!) by their PR people: a disastrous, closed minded move which is the antithesis of a democratic society.

While it can be understood educationally why Jewish schools in Israel (and elsewhere) might not want to use a book making intermarriage or assimilation somehow positive or more familiar. It is, after all, a fact that Jewish schools actually try to prevent assimilation. But, not wanting to “promote” assimilation is surely not being served by a decision which has turned out to be the best PR and sales move the author and publisher could have ever hoped for. (I always tell my clients to pray for a book ban. Seriously.)

A book that might have barely been used by educators is now likely a top choice. And the ban makes many (most?) people more sympathetic to the book, the author and the topic. Fiction can always make something difficult seem romantic and worthy. So the Education Ministry is probably not very pleased right now. Yet, there could have been another approach.

Here is what the Education Ministry should have done:  produce the best resources (in print, video, anything & everything) to help educators and students discuss the book and the issues it raises (especially assimilation, intermarriage etc.). Don’t ban a book. It doesn’t work anyway. Engage with the book. Get people talking, angry, happy or frustrated. Provide quality, engaging sources about Jewish continuity, assimilation and other relevant topics. If these resources were available, they might have been used in collaboration with the book and could have helped young Israeli Jews and their teachers really grapple with the issues of assimilation, Jewish identity and more. Instead, they’ve helped the book become an even better seller than it already was. It is likely the ban will be lifted at some point and the book will be adopted by more schools than ever before – and the Education Ministry will have no input into the discussions held. Too bad.

 

 

The Kosher Baking Revolution Brought to You by Paula Shoyer

Paula Shoyer

I discovered Paula Shoyer through her Chocolate Chip Mandelbread. Rosh Hashana was approaching and mandelbread seemed, to me, to be the only dessert option on the horizon. Nothing would be complete without it. I asked around and someone shared Paula’s recipe with me. I recall having a few questions and Gil Marks z”l was kind enough to coach me. (Tragically, Gil passed away recently, but this mandelbread experience was a typical example of his friendly and helpful personality.)

When I met Paula at the first Kosher Bloggers Conference, I introduced myself so I could rave about her recipe to the source. We schmoozed, talked shop and discussed how we might work together one day. Paula is visiting Israel soon and I am excited to be working with her on the publicity for the trip and a special event with the spouse of the US ambassador in Israel, Ms. Julie Shapiro. Paula is on a constant book and food demo tour and has a new book coming out in 2 months (The New Passover MenuSterling Epicure) so I appreciate that she took the time to be part of 8 for 8!

Holiday Kosher Bakery

Paula’s latest book. A new one for Passover 2015 is coming out very soon.

Paula, besides growing up in the US, you have also lived abroad.  What stands out for you about celebrating Chanukah in the US and in other countries? Any special food memories?

Chanukah in the US is about latkes and in other places it is about donuts.  Even in Geneva, Switzerland, we got sufganiyot from the local kosher bakery. I will never forget spending Chanukah in the hospital in the US in 1999 when I was on bed rest waiting for my twins to be born. I lit candles in my room every night and prayed that my babies would be healthy. One was 7 pounds at birth- pretty much our own Chanukah miracle. We have often had combined chanukah/birthday parties for the boys.

How has your Chanukah changed since you became a chef and author?

Before I was a chef, Chanukah was just about latkes, As a chef, the world of possibilities has opened up to me. I make different flavors of latkes and apple sauce, experiment with different flavors of dough  and fillings for donuts and even developed desserts baked with olive oil.

How does your family celebrate Chanukah?

We love to sing so we make sure  we all light candles together every night. We get together with friends and family, if possible. My mother buys great gifts for the kids that they wear right away, like snuggies and bathrobes.

Rehearsal - Home & family

Rehearsal before Paula was featured on Hallmark Home & Family recently.

What are you eating for Chanukah this year?

Every year we try something new. I am working on chocolate flavored funnel cake and cannoli donuts this year.

What are the top questions people ask you about baking for Chanukah? For other holidays?

People are afraid of yeast doughs and afraid of frying so I get a lot of questions. I get emails with questions up to an hour before every major Jewish holiday. They are usually about ingredients or equipment people do not have. But sometimes people change my recipes and write to ask me why the dessert does not taste good.

What is one dish you must eat during Chanukah no matter what? Potato latkes fresh out of the frying pan.

Finally: Latkes or sufganiot?

Latkes – I am surrounded by sugar all day every day and I just crave salty food.

Paula Kosher Fest

What recipe are you sharing with us?

My Almond and Olive Oil Cake. It is perfect fit for Chanukah with the olive oil, yet not the usual dessert. Enjoy!

ALMOND AND OLIVE OIL CAKE

Serves 8 to 12

The use of olive oil in cakes dates back farther than the Chanukah story itself. Olive oil was used in baked offerings at the Temple. This is a super easy teatime cake that reminds me of simple cakes I have eaten in Italy. If you are feeling decadent, serve this with whipped cream.

¾ cup (90g) sliced almonds (with or without skins)

1 cup (200g) sugar

3 large eggs

½ cup (120ml) extra virgin olive oil

1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour

½ cup (60g) ground almonds

1½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon almond extract

½ teaspoon orange zest (from one orange)

spray oil containing flour 

PREHEAT OVEN to 350°F (180°C). Trace an 8-inch (20-cm) round pan on parchment paper and cut it out with scissors. Grease and flour the pan, press in the parchment circle; and grease and flour the top of the parchment and sides of the pan. Sprinkle and spread the sliced almonds on the bottom of the pan to cover it. 

IN A MEDIUM BOWL, beat the sugar, eggs, and olive oil for about one minute at medium speed until creamy. Add the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, salt, almond extract, and orange zest and beat until combined. Pour the mixture over the sliced nuts. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. 

LET THE CAKE COOL in the pan for 10 minutes and then run a knife around the sides. Turn the cake  onto a wire rack and let it cool. Serve the cake almond side up. Store it covered at room temperature for up to four days or freeze for up to three months.

Credit line: Reprinted with permission from Holiday Kosher Baker © 2013 by Paula Shoyer, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Photography byMichael Bennett Kress

Chanukah Inspired by the Land of Israel: Food & Spirituality

7 fruits pic

Chana Bracha Siegelbaum’s new book

Chana Bracha Siegelbaum has just published a new book called The Seven Fruits of the Land of Israel (Menorah-Books). The Torah singles out seven fruits (olives, dates and much more!) which grow in Israel for special mention. These foods thus have a special status in Jewish law and tradition. and Chana Bracha has created a guide which focuses on these specific species in a big way. Yes, it is a a cookbook, but it also is filled with nutritional and spiritual information about all the fruits and recipes. Rebbetzin Siegelbaum has gathered into one book what seems to be anything that can be learned about each of these fruits. The book also includes art and photographs which make the book look and feel more like a treasury of information rather than “only” a cookbook.  Rebbetzin Siegelbaum is a super busy educator, director of a well known women’s seminary (B’erot Bat Ayin) and currently planning a speaking tour to the USA as well as preparing for family visits from Denmark so I appreciate that she made time to participate in 8 for 8 in honor of Chanukah 2014 as we meet a different cookbook author each day of the holiday.

7 species pics 2

Galleys of the book before printing

What stands out for you about celebrating Chanukah as you grew up? Any special food memories?

I grew up in Denmark in a very assimilated home, but I do remember the Chanukah candles that we lit that stands out in my mind. We definitely didn’t have sufganiot, but we did have something like wafers that we made on a special wafer pan, they were like pancakes but they weren’t just for Chanukah. Perhaps we did have latkes with apple sauce and of course I especially liked the applesauce.

How has your Chanukah changed since you moved to Israel?

Chanukah has become much more meaningful since moving to Israel and becoming Torah observant. The belief in miracles and in how Hashem runs the world is a central part of my life now. However, the light of Chanukah in exile, in the dark Denmark was special because it was a light within a darker darkness, the darkness of assimilation. It was the light the kept the Jewish flame alive within all the darkness of the values of the Western world which are often so foreign or opposed to Jewish values.

IMG_3467

The author with her parents

IMG_3466

Author with her husband

What do you do during Chanukah to create a memorable holiday atmosphere for your family? 

I bought my husband a very special Chanukiah (menorah), which we light at the entrance of our home with real olive oil.

The olive tree, which is the first tree recorded after the destruction of the flood, is the fruit of redemption. Its foliage is evergreen and its oil lights eternally, even during exile through the holy menorah of Chanukah. The bitterness of the olive alludes to a higher realm beyond what can be revealed as sweet in this world. When Hashem created Original Light, He saw that it was too good to be revealed for the people of this world. Therefore, He hid it away for the righteous in the World to Come. We can get a glimpse of this hidden light (Ohr Haganuz) every year on Chanukah, when we light the Chanukiah, the Chanukah lamp. After the destruction of both Temples, only the Chanukah lights, representing the flames of olive oil burning in the holy Menorah, accompany us throughout our spiritual darkness and light the way to redemption.

Are you eating different foods for Chanukah now than you did in the past? What are they?

I make latkes for my family but I minimize eating them myself as fried food is not so healthy. I also make a healthier version of the latkes by baking them rather than frying. I like to include other vegetables in the latkes such as zucchini, and carrots. We also eat milk products on Chanukah to commemorate Yehudit, the heroine of the Chanukah Story who fed Holofernes the general of the king of Assyrian milk before killing him and thus causing the  victory for the Jews.

What are the top food questions people ask you about for Chanukah? For other holidays?

People ask me how to stay healthy during Chanukah and I tell them about sugarless whole-wheat sufganiot with cream of dates, and baked sweet-potato latkes. In my book I shared my recipes for such desserts.  The recipes are not typical Jewish foods recipes or holiday recipes. Rather, my style of cooking is more natural and nutritious. The desserts are sugarless and I include many salads and try to avoid fried food.

 Latkes or sufganiot?

None of the above, thank you!

chanukah2What is one dish you must eat during Chanukah no matter what?

Quinoa with olive oil and za’atar or natural sea salt! That’s one of my favorite foods during the week and on Chanukah I may splurge more on the olive oil.

Which recipe would you like to share with us for Chanukah?

I’d like to share a simple dip which is based on olive oil and is something which can be used very often. After the recipe, I’ll share an excerpt from The Seven Fruits of the Land of Israel which speaks about olive oil, the Temple and Chanukah.

OLIVE OIL WITH ZA’ATAR (HYSSOP MIXTURE)

An easy dip to complement your bread and salads

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup za’atar mixture

Mix the olive oil and za’atar mixture well with a spoon and pour into

a nice glass jar, which you can keep on your dinner table, ready to

sprinkle over your whole wheat bread, grains and vegetables.

Instead of serving butter, fill a small condiment dish with extra virgin

olive oil and za’atar for use on grains, bread and potatoes, or drizzle

it over sauteed vegetables before serving.

Some thoughts on Chanukah: The Olive Oil in the Temple (excerpted from Seven Fruits of the Land of Israel)

It is interesting to note that the biblical lamp oil – the olive oil used for the Menorah in the Temple – had to be of the highest quality, even superior to today’s extra virgin olive oil. The Torah instructs the children of Israel “to bring clear olive oil beaten for light, to set up the lamp continually.” Rashi explains the word כּתִָית /katit – ‘beaten’ (used today to refer to virgin olive oil) as follows: “He pounds the olives in a mortar, but must not grind them in a mill, so that there may be no sediment.” He further explains the continued processing of olive oil: “After he has thus extracted the first drop of oil, he may bring the olives into the mill and grind them. The second oil [obtained by grinding] is unfit for use in the candelabrum but is permissible for meal offerings…” For this reason, even today, when lighting the Chanukiah, it is recommended to use the very best olive oil. Using the highest quality olive oil for the lights of Chanukah is a segulah (spiritual remedy) for begetting righteous children, as it states, “…your children [shall be] like olive plants round about your table.”Rabbanit Yamima Mizrachi further explains that although it is permissible to use any kind of oil for the Chanukah candelabra, the Chanukiah that we have today is in commemoration of the Menorah in the Temple, which used only the purest olive oil. Therefore, if we want all the spiritual remedies of the Menorah in the Temple – righteous children, good memory, wisdom, good vision, spiritual and physical health, it is important to use the very best quality olive oil for the Chanukah lights.

 

Celebrating Chanukah with Levana: Foodie Innovator of NYC

Levana restaurant   credit  AJ Wilhelm, Carmen Lopez

Levana restaurant , NYC credit AJ Wilhelm, Carmen Lopez

A recent article claimed that Jews who keep kosher have all become “foodies”. If there is one person to credit for kicking off this phenomenon, it is probably Levana. She brought upscale kosher dining to NY when the stereotype and expectation of kosher food was that it was deli food. And while there is nothing wrong with great deli, Levana showed everyone that there is much more to kosher food than ethnic food. Here restaurant (called, surprise, Levana) was a game changer for NY kosher restaurants. Today there are many fine kosher restaurants in NY, Levana set the standard. Open for decades, serving food people loved and looked forward to, Levana introduced many to new foods, warm hospitality and higher standards.

Levana & bookSince then, Levana has been very prolific and published a number of critically acclaimed cookbooks as well as speaking, doing food demos and educating widely about how delicious recipes can also be healthy and relatively simple to prepare. She is a woman with a mission and quite busy, so I am super pleased that Levana is taking part in the 8 for 8 celebration of Chanukah here on my blog!

Levana, do you have memories of celebrating Chanukah in Morocco? What are some highlights? Any special food related memories?

To be frank, growing up in Morocco, Chanukah was absolutely no big deal in terms of social gatherings. We made a much greater deal of Tu BiShvat and Purim, they were huge bashes. On Chanukkah, in each house, everyone made their favorite fried treat, just one night. My mom made the Arabic donuts, Sfenj. But that was about it, beside Chanukah lighting every night, of course.

What do you do to create a special holiday atmosphere for your family during Chanukah?

Seriously: Lots of Latkas! Homemade a must!

 How has your Chanukah celebration changed over the years?

I have happily adopted my husband’s minhagim (customs), which include making a much greater deal of celebrating Chanukah than I ever did in the past. Lots of Latkas (not just potato Latkas), donuts, kids presents, menorah lighting at home and in public places. My son Yakov and his wife Elisheva are Chabad Shluchim in Washington Heights, which means menorah lighting in one of the Washington Heights Parks, a kids Chanukah party etc. It’s always a wonderful time to put family and friends together, and do silly stuff. We need all the fun we can get!
What was it like to be a restaurant owner during Chanukah?

It meant getting ready for more family reservations. It also meant always including Latkas on the menu to go with dinner, and even whole Chanukah parties with fun menus including Latkas and fritters, both savory and sweet.

Latkes or sufganiot?

I’m going with Latkas!

What are the things you must eat or do during Chanukah, no matter what?

I must get all my kids and grandkids together one of the Chanukkah nights, make lots of Latkas, and a homemade apple sauce, and watch it get all devoured. Give out gifts to everyone big and small. Loving Bubbie, loving Zaidie, what do you expect?

Will you please share a few Chanukah recipes with us?

Happy to share! I am going to share my latka recipe plus my thoughts of “fear of frying therapy” (which you can also find on  my blog).

 

Levana Latkas4Latkas from Levana:

Ingredients: Makes 24 latkas.

vegetable oil for frying

1 cup flour, any flour, including gluten-free

4 eggs

1 medium onion, grated in a food processor

salt and pepper to taste

pinch nutmeg

8 large Idaho or russet potatoes, peeled

Instructions:

Heat 1/3 inch oil in a heavy frying pan until very hot. While the oil is heating, place the flour, eggs, onion, salt and pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl, and mix thoroughly. Quickly grate the potatoes in a food processor, and immediately stir them into the batter, making sure not to squeeze so as not to extract unwanted extra moisture. Work very quickly so they do not have time to get discolored. Form small patties, and lower them into the hot oil, or drop the batter by heaping tablespoons. Fry until golden, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve with applesauce (try my homemade applesauce: nothing to it, and it’s wonderful!), or plain yogurt.

Variations:

Vegetable latkes: Replace the potatoes with a mixture of zucchini, carrots and parsnips. Add seasonings of your choice such as oregano, minced fresh garlic and basil.

Sweet potato latkes: Substitute sweet potatoes for the regular potatoes, and add brown sugar, cinnamon, curry and ginger to taste. Try serving them with my Hot Pepper Jelly!

Potato Kugel: That’s right: What else is it but a giant latka? Add 1/3 cup of vegetable oil to the potato latka batter. Pour the batter into a greased loaf or square pan, and bake uncovered in a preheated 375*F oven for one hour or until the top is golden brown.

 

Levana’s Frying Tips

I rarely fry anything, but there is no Chanukkah without Frying! In my catering career and for my friends and family at home, I have made thousands upon thousands of them and always watch them disappear at a flatteringly alarming rate. There is no doubt about it: latkas are a heavenly treat, and once we enter a house where the glorious fragrance of latkas frying wafts through the kitchen, even a very spartan dieter (whom I have yet to meet) will sheepishly watch his or her noble resolution not to “get near it” turn to dust.

You may have guessed it: I have nothing nice to say about frying. Getting burned long ago while fishing out a schnitzel from the frying pan, which eluded me and defiantly jumped back into the pan splattering my hand, turning it into a human dumpling for days and leaving its ugly scar for many months, didn’t help endear this method of cooking to me. But my love for latkas has not suffered at all, thank you.

Frying (stir-frying does not fall into this category, as it requires very little oil and minimal cooking) is the nemesis of every health-conscious cook, this one included. However, fried foods are irresistibly delicious. I am happy to provide a few frying tips and guidelines for making occasional treats efficiently and safely: consider the following frying tips a mini crash course on conquering the fear of frying! These frying tips apply not only to latkas (any latkas, savory and sweet) but anything you might be frying (shnitzels, fish fillets, etc…)
– Keep it dry. Too much moisture will steam food instead of frying it, yielding soggy results. Be sure to dry whatever you are frying thoroughly with paper towels.
– Keep it thick. With a firm (not runny) batter, you will be able to form thicker patties, which will absorb much less oil than thinner ones. The ouside will be crisp and the center will be tender yet cooked through.
– Keep it hot. Less-than-hot oil will seep into your food, making it inedibly greasy. If you are adding oil to your pan while frying, chances are your oil was not hot enough to begin with. When your oil is good and hot, you will need to add very little if any to finish frying an entire batch of food. How hot is hot enough? Drop a smidgen of batter into the oil. If it sizzles and rises to the surface, the oil is hot and ready for frying.
– Keep it steady. Do not crowd the pan. First of all, you will make handling the food more difficult. Also, crowding will bring down the temperature of the oil. Adding what you are frying at steady intervals ensures that the oil has time to return to the desired temperature.
– Keep it lean. I have my mother to thank for this advice. Rather than using spatulas or slotted spoons, work with two forks when frying. Lift each fried item with a fork on each side, and hold it vertically for a second or two over the frying pan: You will be surprised by how much oil drips off it. Immediately place the items on a plate lined with several layers of paper towels, which will absorb any remaining unwanted grease.
– Keep it white. This applies only to potato dishes. Peeled potatoes will oxidate when exposed to air and turn an unappealing gray color. So when making latkes (or a potato kugel), get everything ready and peel and grate the potatoes last, adding them immediately to the otherwise finished batter.
– Keep it fresh and hot. A word about freezing and reheating. If you are entertaining a large group, it won’t be enormous fun spending the afternoon frying while everyone is having a good time. If you must fry in advance, follow all the above guidelines, but fry each item until it is ninety percent cooked through, no more. Store it in a shallow pan in one layer. You can also place the latkas in the pan vertically, like a deck of cards; you will be able to fit quite a few in a pan in this position (again, one layer). Cover tightly. Refrigerate or freeze, depending on how long in advance you are preparing the dish. Reheat uncovered, at about 350*F, for fifteen to twenty minutes if it was frozen, until golden and crisp.

 

 

Orly Ziv – Israeli Culinary Tourism Pioneer & Author: Chanukah (Day 3 of 8 for 8!)

Orly ziv pic

We are celebrating day 3 of our effort to meet a cookbook author for each day of Chanukah with Orly Ziv of Israel. Orly offers a wonderful insight into Israel through her culinary tours and through her writing. And I really appreciate that she has agreed to join the 8 for 8 project: Eight cookbook authors for the 8 days of Chanukah! Orly  is a pioneer in Israeli culinary tourism, which is all the rage these days. She is a trained dietitian who has been using her passion for the produce and dishes of Israel and the Mediterranean to introduce tourists to Israel. Via shopping trips to the local markets and cooking classes in her kitchen, Orly has helped many to fall in love with Israel and her food. After many of her visitors had said repeatedly “you ought to write a book”, she did and Cook in Israel was born.

Orly Shuk

The Machane Yehuda shuk in Jerusalem

Orly shuk hacarmel

Shuk Hacarmel in Tel Aviv

What stands out for you about celebrating Chanukah as you grew up? What about when raising a family? Any special food memories?

Lighting the candles everyday was and still is our tradition every year. I have warm memories from the Levivot (latkes) my mother used to make which I also make for my children. Recipes for my different types of Levivot are included in my cookbook. The traditional ones I make with potatoes but I also like to diversify by using grated carrots as an option to enrich the nutritional value .

How has your Chanukah changed since you became a chef and author?

Practically speaking, not really. Although every year I try new recipes but at the end of the day my family ask for my originals 🙂

What do you do during Chanukah to create a memorable holiday atmosphere for your family? 

We make time to get together every evening to light the candles and of course, to eat.

Are you eating different foods for Chanukah now than you did in the past? What are they?

I like to make the zucchini latkes recipe from my cookbook and serve them with yogurt.

What are the top questions people ask you about cooking for Chanukah? For other holidays?

My guests are often not Jewish and we talk about the significance of eating fried food as a symbol of the oil tin miracle of Chanukah. I am careful to explain that the Jewish holidays always involve special foods to symbolize the specific holiday. Non-Jewish people find it very interesting and different from their own culture.

What is one dish you must eat during Chanukah no matter what?

Levivot! (latkes)

Finally: On the  Latkes or sufganiot debate, your vote?

Latkes

What recipes can you share with us for this Chanukah?

I want to share some of my favorites. Of course, Levivot (latkes). As people outside of Israel are increasingly aware, donuts (soufganiyot) are also a big part of Chanukah in Israel, so I am going to share a recipe for those as well. And something less traditional, Zucchini Pancakes. Enjoy and Chag Urim Sameach (Happy Festival of Lights)!

Chanukah-Levivot-13-Large-257x300Hanukkah Levivot

Often called latkes, these Eastern European Jewish potato pancakes are delicious no matter the name. Fried foods are served on Hanukkah since the oil represents the miracle of one night’s worth of oil lasting for eight days during the rededication of the Second Temple.

4-5 potatoes, peeled

2 Tbs. flour or potato flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp. salt (less if you want to eat them with sugar)

Ground pepper (omit if you want to eat them with sugar)

Oil, for frying

  1.                   Grate the potatoes using the coarse side of a box grater. Put in a colander and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  2.                    Put the shredded potato in a bowl and mix with the flour, eggs, salt and pepper.
  3.                     Heat the oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan (it should fully coat the bottom of the pan).
  4.                   Add batter by the tablespoonful and fry on both sides until evenly browned and crispy. Transfer to a wire rack while you finish cooking  the remaining pancakes.
  5.                    Serve immediately with sour cream or sugar.

Variation:

Add 1 grated onion, 2 grated carrots, or 1 grated sweet potato to the mixture before frying.

TIP: Keeping the hot pancakes on a wire rack instead of paper towels keeps them nice and crispy.

Serves 6

Soufganiyot

Probably the most famous Israeli Hanukkah food, soufganiyot are fried donuts. While they are commonly filled with jelly or other fillings, this recipe makes easy drop donuts. The cheese in the dough gives them a particularly wonderful texture.

Sufganyot-32 (Large)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1¼ cup self-rising flour

250 g (1 cup) soft white cheese (like ricotta)

2 eggs

2 Tbs. canola oil

¼ cup sugar

Zest of ½ lemon (optional)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Oil, for frying

Powdered sugar

Strawberry jam (optional)

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cheese, eggs, canola oil, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Leave to rest for about 30 minutes.
  1. Pour oil into a small, deep pot so it comes up about 7 cm.
  1. Using a spoon, make small balls with the dough. Working in batches, drop them into the hot oil and fry until golden. Transfer to a wire rack or a paper-towel lined plate.
  1. Top with powdered sugar and serve with strawberry jam, if you like.

Serves 6

 

Zucchini Pancakes

These zucchini pancakes are another variation on Hanukkah latkes. They taste wonderfully fresh, especially if you serve them with minted yogurt.

Zucchini-Pancakes-45 (Large)

6 zucchini

2 eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup flour

Salt & pepper

½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

½ cup finely chopped fresh mint

Canola oil, for frying

 

 

 

  1. Grate the zucchini using the coarse side of a box grater. Put in a colander and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  1. Put the eggs, flour, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix to combine.
  1. Mix in the zucchini, parsley and mint.
  1. Heat the canola oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan (it should fully coat the bottom of the pan).
  1. Form the zucchini mixture into patties and carefully put in the hot oil. Fry on both sides until evenly browned and crispy.
  1. Serve with sour cream or yogurt mixed with chopped fresh mint.

TIP: Put a piece of carrot in the pan while frying to prevent the oil from burning.

Serves 4 to 6

 

8 for 8 with Aviva Kanoff – The Indiana Jones of Cooking

It’s the second day of 8 for 8 where we are meeting one cookbook author each day of Chanukah. We are talking with Aviva Kanoff  who just published her second cookbook Gluten Free Around the World. Aviva has been described as the “Indiana Jones” of cooking and there are a few reasons behind this nickname. The first is that Aviva regularly travels all over the globe. I have worked with Aviva for a few years now and she often responds to my emails with a brief “I will be in Vietnam soon” or a request to reschedule an interview since she is planning some time in Spain. Aviva is also fearlessly creative with food and art. Her cookbooks are gluten free and kosher but they are far from the usual fare one might initially expect to see in such books. So while Aviva has formal training as a chef and was a personal chef, she hasn’t placed herself into one food style. Whether it is Indian, Jamaican or French food, Aviva is passionate about sharing her food discoveries with the rest of us. In addition, Aviva is an inspired photographer and her books serve up gorgeous photos from the lands where her recipes originate. Her first cookbook The No Potato Passover was a hit because of the recipes but her photography was mentioned by most critics as well.

Aviva SF launch boat Aviva SF launch book cover Aviva SF launch signing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aviva just launched Gluten Free Around the World in San Francisco on a ship built in the 1860’s and I’m excited that she is participating in 8 for 8.

Kanoff menorah

The Kanoff Menorah

Aviva, what stands out for you about celebrating Chanukah as you grew up? Any special food memories? 

My parents are both very musical and creative.  My childhood memories of Chanukah are not as much food related as they are crafty and musically influenced. One of my fathers great joys in life is plumbing. One Chanukah he built a beautiful large Menorah out of copper pipes that we still light every year. My father also composed his own tune for Maoz Tzur that my family sings and dances to after candle lighting.

You are a world traveler – where are some of the places you have celebrated Chanukah? Can you share any wild or unexpected Chanukah experiences abroad?

Not to sound too cheesy, but my favorite place to be for Chanukah is at home with my family. I haven’t yet been anywhere too exotic for Chanukah because if I am traveling then, it would be home to Miami. I do have some exciting stories about shabbat experiences around the world, though :). (You can check out Aviva’s blog for more on her travels, SS).

What do you do during Chanukah to create a memorable holiday atmosphere for yourself, friends or family? 

I enjoy the cozy lighting that the menorah brings and singing around the candles. The smell of latkes cooking doesn’t hurt either, to add to the whole homey vibe.

The Kanoff Family Celebrates

The Kanoff Family Celebrates

How has your Chanukah changed since you became a chef and author?

Because of my love of experimenting with food, my latkes have become a lot more creative over the years. I love to have the traditional potato latkes at least once during Chanukah, but for me, variety is the spice of life.

Are you eating different foods for Chanukah now than you did in the past? What are they?

Definitely! Traveling has really broadened  my horizons, especially as far as food is concerned. Just like meatballs or dumplings, every country has its own version of latkes.  Last year, I made spinach quinoa  latkes with cheddar cheese for a friends Chanukah party which were a big hit!

What is one dish you must eat during Chanukah no matter what?

I always need to have a classic potato latke at least once.

Latkes or sufganiot?

latkes!

What recipes are you bringing us for Chanukah?

Every culture has its beloved fried foods. Since Chanukah foods are so connected to the oil of the Chanukah miracle, I want to share some dishes from around the world which use oil. They may be unfamiliar to many, but well worth trying for a holiday menu!

 

ChurrosChurros (from Gluten Free Around the World)

Yield: 10 churros

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • ⅟₃ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup gluten free all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • canola oil for frying
  • confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine granulated sugar and cinnamon. Set aside for topping.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter, brown sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon.  Cook and stir until the mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Line a baking sheet with greased parchment paper. After the dough has cooled for 10 minutes, add egg and vanilla to the saucepan, and beat ingredients well with a wooden spoon to blend them completely.  Transfer the mixture to a decorating bag fitted with a large star tip.  Pipe 4-inch lengths onto the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Heat 3-inches oil in a deep saucepan over medium-high heat. Fry a few strips at a time in hot oil (at least 375°), turning once, until golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes.  Drain on paper towels.  Roll warm churros in the cinnamon-sugar mixture to coat.  Serve warm

 

Nutty Corn Pancakes (from Gluten Free Around the World

Yield: 4 fritters

Ingredients:

  • 2 large ears of corn
  • 1 cup roasted, shelled peanuts
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 2 tsp. peeled, grated fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup rice flour
  • ½ cup peanut oil

Directions:

  1. Remove kernels from corncobs with a sharp knife, then place kernels in a food processor along with peanuts, scallions, ginger, garlic, and cumin and process until finely chopped and slightly mushy; transfer to a bowl.
  2. Add egg and rice flour; mix well.

3.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Spoon tablespoons of the mixture into the skillet and flatten with the back of the spoon.  Cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels and repeat with remaining mixture.  Serve hot.

 

small_spinachquinoafritters_LowResSpinach & Quinoa Fritters  (from Gluten Free Around the World 

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil,
    plus more for frying
  • 2 cups diced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 cups chopped spinach
  • salt, freshly ground black pepper, and garlic powder to taste
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¼ cup gluten free panko
    or bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp. shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Directions:

  1. Prepare quinoa according to the directions on the package.
  2. In a large frying pan, sauté onion in 2 tbsp. oil over medium-high heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add mushrooms and spinach and sauté for 3 minutes or until fully cooked.
  4. Remove pan from heat. Add quinoa to spinach, mushrooms, and onion mixture and mix ingredients.
  5. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  6. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and combine with eggs, panko or bread crumbs, and cheese, if using.
  7. Heat oil in a frying pan. Once oil is sizzling, cooking four pieces at a time, spoon 1 tbsp. of mixture into the frying pan.  Cook until golden, about 3 minutes on each side.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

Cheese ballsBocaditos de Papa (Potato-Cheese Fritters) (from Gluten Free Around the World)

Yield: 12 fritters

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack or cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • canola oil for deep frying
  • salsa (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a large saucepan, place potatoes in enough salted water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender, then drain.
  2. In a large bowl, mash potatoes with a potato masher until smooth. Fold in cheeses, eggs, cilantro, salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper.  Shape mixture into twelve, 3-inch diameter patties.  If desired, cover and chill for up to 24 hours before cooking.
  3. In a large skillet, heat 1-inch of oil to 375˚. Add potato patties, three or four at a time and fry, about 2 minutes or until golden brown, turning once halfway through cooking time.  Drain on paper towels. Serve hot and top with salsa if desired.