Food And Recipes From Temple Israel: A "Green" Congregation
Food for the Body and Soul: A Culinary Tribute to the North Quabbin Jewish Community
Our new Temple Israel cookbook, edited by Chef Myron Becker and Rabbi Robert Sternberg, contains recipes by members of our congregation as well as by Chef Myron and Rabbi Bob. In addition, there is an article about the history of Temple Israel and the North Quabbin Jewish community. Some of the recipes are over 100 years old and were passed down from generation to generation by European Jewish immigrants. Others are kosher adaptations of contemporary recipes. In addition to Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jewish cuisine, the book features modern Israeli, Italian, Mexican, Creole, and Puerto Rican recipes. The bok is illustrated with drawings by Peggy Davis. The cost of the cookbook will be $24.00, which includes the cost of shipping and handling. It may be purchased through our PayPal account on this website. To order our cookbook, please click here. .
This section of our Temple Israel website features a regular food and recipe column edited by Chef Myron Becker and Rabbi Robert Sternberg. Below this there is an article about gefilte fish.
Chef Myron is famous for his many sauces that are used by restaurants throughout New England and other parts of the United States. He has won many culinary awards and is known throughout the region as well as across the United States. Rabbi Sternberg is the author of two Jewish cookbooks--Yiddish Cuisine: A Gourmet's Approach to Jewish Cooking and The Sephardic Kitchen.
Temple Israel a committed "green" congregation. We are passionate about our environment as well as passionate about our food. Many of us love to cook. Some of us grow our own vegetables and herbs. Some of us have developed the skills to forage for wild foods such as mushrooms and edible plants in the beautiful forests and fields that surround the Athol-Orange area. Many members of the Temple Israel family are also excellent cooks as well as farmers who grow their own produce, who raise livestock, and who manufacture their own homemade cheeses and other products.
You are all encouraged to join us in this creative endeavor. Please send in recipes and food stories to our website. They will all be featured in future columns.
Jewish cooking is best understood as the preparation of kosher versions of regional dishes. In every part of the world where Jews live, they have made use of local ingredients and employed the cooking methods and techniques popular within the region they live in to the laws of kashrut.
Kashrut, with its special requirements of acceptable and forbidden foods and food combinations has also resulted in Jewish cooks taking the lead in introducing various foods and dishes to others. One example is olive oil. Jewish cooks in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea were the first to use olive oil in cooking, substituting it for the more commonly-used cooking fat that was rendered from fat-tailed sheep and forbidden to Jews due to the laws of kashrut. In parts of Europe where lard was used in cooking, Jewish cooks created a parallel animal fat for cooking meat dishes-- schmaltz, the Yiddish name for rendered goose or chicken fat.
The type of Jewish cooking best known in the United States is the Jewish deli. Jewish delis are now world famous. But the original deli meats-- Jewish charcouterie-- were kosher versions of sausages and other types of preserved meats such as corned beef, smoked tongue, and pastrami that were made from kosher livestock like beef, veal, lamb, and goose. These deli meats were a kosher Jewish alternative to similar types of charcouterie created from cuts of pork.
Jews also were the first to create many different types of slow-cooking stews featuring meat combined with vegetables and varied seasonings. The most familiar name for this type of dish is cholent, a Yiddish word. However, the original cholent, mentioned in the Talmud, was called khamin, meaning "hot dish". It was a dish that was put to cook before Shabbat and eaten hot for the mid-day Shabbat meal. The Talmud mentions khamin and the same name was applied by cooks from Middle Eastern and North African countries to this type of dish. Other names such as adafina, s'kheena, dafina, and ferik are alternative names for khamin. Many culinary historians attribute the French dish cassoulet, the Spanish dish codrida Madrilena, and the Polish dish bigos to Jewish khamin, the slow-cooking Sabbath stews prepared by Jews who lived in these parts of the world.
Food is an essential part of the joy of living. We encourage all of you to explore for yourselves the exciting and enriching process of cooking, experimenting with new foods, creating and sharing some of your own dishes at our vegetarian potlucks, and raising your own produce.
Getting Creative With A Passover Staple: Gefilte Fish
By Deena Prichep
March 28, 2010 12:28 AM
Monday night marks the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Across the world, Jews will sit down to meals of ceremonial food. There's matzo, symbolizing the exodus from Egypt, and wine to celebrate freedom. Then there's gefilte fish.
These poached fish patties have been called the national dish of the Ashkenazi, the Jews of Eastern Europe. But as tastes change and Jews travel far from Europe — to places like the West Coast of the United States — they have found ways to keep the tradition alive.
That doesn't have to mean gefilte fish in a jar. Robert Sternberg, a cookbook author, culinary historian and rabbi, finds the stuff inedible.
"Wouldn't touch it," he says. "Once you've had the real thing, you can tell the difference."
Sternberg's grandmother came from a small town in Lithuania and used to make her traditional gefilte fish from carp, whitefish and pike — all fresh. Really fresh.
"When she would make gefilte fish, and that was nearly every other week," Sternberg says, "I knew it was going to be a gefilte fish week, because on Thursday live fish would be swimming in the bathtub."
Even if Jews on the West Coast wanted to fill their bathtubs with fresh fish, it's hard to find many lakes with pike and whitefish. So they look toward the Pacific Ocean instead.
Tinkering With Tradition
Like many West Coasters, Jenn Louis, who runs Lincoln Restaurant in north Portland, Ore., makes her gefilte fish out of salmon and halibut, which usually start their spring runs right around Passover.
"The salmon has a little more fat content to it, a little bit more structure and a little bit more of a bold flavor. And the halibut is a really, really lean fish. It's very, very delicate," Louis says. "But together, I think, they just complement each other very well."
Louis' recipe initially came from a family of fourth-generation Oregon Jews. But she has added her own touches.
"I like a little more updated version, with some lemon zest, which kind of gives a brighter flavor, [and] some fennel frond. And then I use a court bouillon, which is an acidic poaching liquid, with white wine, fennel seed, peppercorn ..."
Louis doesn't have qualms about tinkering with many people's traditional idea of gefilte fish. Jewish cuisine reflects a range of flavors, she says, even within her own household.
"My husband is Sephardic — his family is from Greece by way of Spain — and my family is Ashkenazi, mostly Russia and Poland. And so we grew up with really different food," she says. "He didn't grow up with bagels, lox and cream cheese, and I did. He grew up with a representation of more of a Mediterranean diet."
So while Louis' West Coast gefilte fish may sound strange, to culinary historians like Sternberg, it is very much a part of Jewish tradition.
"Jewish cooking will always look first at local ingredients, at seasonal ingredients," he says. "You know, using what's regionally available, and working with it in the traditional ways, which is really a cornerstone of all cuisine."