Archive for February, 2012


A sneak Preview of Great Wines

Last night, I was privileged to attend a sneak preview of a few choice new and unusual wines to be premiered to the American public today at the Kosher Food and Wine Experience 2012. Fourteen wines were tasted by a select audience of wine lovers, wine writers, and connoisseur wine traders.

The backdrop of Manhattan’s City Winery a functioning winery, with real wine-making equipment, served as the perfect background with tables set with an array of glasses shaped specially to bring out the best of every vintage. Abigael’s provided finger foods consisting of tuna, salmon and salad (some nestled in petits fours salés cups) to neutralize the lingering tastes of wine before each new selection.

Royal Wine Corporation‘s Vice President, Jay Buchsbaum, introduced four winemakers from five wineries in Israel, Spain, New Zealand and the US. White wines were served first, then reds. Each wine maker described the selections as they were poured.

Phillip Jones from New Zealand’s Goose Bay and Oregon’s Pacifica introduced four wines (two from each winery)…

Dr. Moises Cohen, owner and wine maker of Spain’s renowned Elvi Wines introduced three selections…

Gilad Flam, from Israel’s Flam Winery, introduced four wines…

Tamir Arzy, from Israel’s Tulip Winery introduced three wines…

The wine list and the order in which we enjoyed them were:

  • Goose Bay Sauvignion Blanc
  • Elvi In Vita
  • Flam Blanco
  • Tulip White Tulip
  • Flam Rose
  • Goose Bay Pinot Noir
  • Pacifica Pinot Noir
  • Elvi Rioja Herenza
  • Elvi Priorat EL 26
  • Tulip Just Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Tulip Just Merlot
  • Flam Classico
  • Pacifica Meritage
  • Flam Syrah Reserve
All were truly outstanding selections and it was hard to chose favorites. The whites were all delightful and aromatic, the reds interesting and complex. Yet, my palate did seem to favor some…
The second wine we tasted Elvi‘s In Vita was my preferred one among the whites. Made from Spain’s indigenous Pansa Blanca (sometimes known as Xarel-lo) and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, I found this a uniquely elegant wine with rich citrus and tropical notes. It has been rated at 92 by Spain’s Guía Peñin. In Vita sports the body of the Pansa Blanca and the typical aromas of the Sauvignon Blanc. A delightful blend!
Tulip‘s Just Merlot – Dark garnet in color with notes of sweet cedar wood and soft tannins with notes of wild berries and cassis. I found this wine to be not just a Merlot, but the consummate Israeli Merlot.

Elvi‘s Rioja Herenza proved rather interesting, made from 100% Tempranillo grapes with ripe fruit, creamy oak, spices and cocoa. Tasty, with ripe tannins. Elvi also produces a Priorat EL 26, a most unusual wine not to be paired but rather enjoyed just by itself. Full bodied, with strong minerals, wood, pepper, tobacco and showing hints of purple plum and berries. This is a young winery, but its wines have already been rated among Spain’s best.

Pacifica‘s Meritage, proved more than worthy of the Meritage apellation. Meritage is a name given to Bordeaux style wines grown outside of the Bordeaux area, as that name is a legally protected designation of origin. With strong tones of cherry, blackberry, dark chocolate and coffee bean, rich and complex it leads to a silky finish.

A much as I would like to comment on all the fourteen wines we tasted, the fact is that this would then be quite a long post, I’ll just finish by mentioning Flam‘s Syrah Reserve, with it’s deep royal purple, full bodied and heavy concentration of blackberries, black cherries, red plums and wild berries with notes of spring flowers. It is well structured, deep and with a long finish.

I would not have been there, had my good friend Aron Ritter from the Kosher Wine Society (see here, here and here) not alerted me to this superb event on Friday afternoon, shortly before Shabbos. I’m glad he did, I tasted superb wines, met old friends, made new ones and learned quite a bit!



Flourless Milk Chocolate Cake with Grapefruit and Hazelnuts

François Payard is a third generation pâtissier (French pastry chef), born in Nice (France), he lives and works in New York since 1990. His pattisseries are in such varied locales as New York, Las Vegas, Brasil, Japan and Korea, he’s authored three books – all on chocolate desserts and more. In 1995 he earned a James Beard Association “Pastry Chef of the Year” award, honoring him for his unique pastry designs and high attention to flavor.

In his Chocolate Epiphany – Exceptional Cookies, Cakes and Confections for Everyone, published in 2008, he has many delightful recipes that can be made kosher with hardly a change. It is hard to go through the book without salivating as one looks at the superb photography by Rogerio Volcan, or as one reads the recipes and envisions the results.

Here is one, which I can’t wait to try:

Flourless Milk Chocolate Cake with Grapefruit and Hazelnuts

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Candied Grapefruit

  • 1 grapefruit, scrubbed thoroughly
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Make the Candied Grapefruit Peel
  1. Cut the grapefruit into quarters. Remove the pulp and as much of the white pith as possible. Place the peels in a medium saucepan , fill it with water and bring to a boil. Drain the water, then fill the pot with fresh water and bring to a boil again . Repeat this this process a third time. Drain the water completely.
  2. Combine the peels, granulated sugar, and corn syrup with 1/2 cup water in the saucepan, and place over low heat. Simmer for about 1 hour, until the peels become slightly translucent.  Remove from the heat, and let them seat in the syrup until cool. You can keep the the peels in the syrup, covered and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Darin and and finely chop 1/2 cup of the peel to add to the cake batter.

Milk Chocolate Cake

  • Vegetable cooking spray, for the pan
  • 4 1/2 oz milk chocolate chopped
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup hazelnut flour or finely ground blanched hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
Make the Cake
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 F. Spray the sides and bottom of a round 9-inch cake pan with vegetable cooking spray. Cut a 9-inch round piece of parchment paper and place it at the bottom of the pan.
  2. Fill a medium pot one-third full with water and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Place the chocolate and butter in a bowl that will fit snuggly on top of the pot but not touch the water. Reduce the heat to low and place in the bowl over the pot. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat.
  3. Place the eggs, egg yolks, and brown sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the mixture turns a pale yellow and increases in volume. With a silicone spatula, fold in the chocolate until it is well incorporated . Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for about 40 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the sides slightly pull back from the edges of the pan.
  4. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Run a knife along the sides of the cake to release it from pan, unmold the cake, and let it cool to room temperature on a wire rack. You can make the cake 1 or 2 days ahead. Keep it tightly wrapped in a cool, dry environment.

Milk Chocolate Sauce

  • 1 lb milk chocolate chopped
  • 2 cups whole milk

Make the Milk Chocolate Sauce

  1. Put the chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl. Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour the milk over the chocolate and let the heat melt the chocolate. Stir gently, then strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl. Let it cool until it is lukewarm or at room temperature. You can make the sauce up to 3 days ahead. Keep it covered  and refrigerated , and let it come back to room temperature before serving.

Serve the Cake – Cut the cake into slices and serve with the chocolate sauce.

Enjoy, gentle reader, enjoy!



Tu Bishvat – New Year of the Trees – at the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation

Today, the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat, we celebrate a resplendent prelude to spring, the holiday of Tu Bishvat (Rosh Hashana le’Ilanot – New Year for the Trees). This Yom Tov is one of the four New Years mentioned in the Mishna. Since the ShkediaAlmond tree – is the first tree to blossom during the season and the last one to wither, it has come to symbolize Tu Bishvat.

An almond tree, shkedia, on a hill overlooking Jerusalem...

Its flowers symbolize the cups crowning the seven branched Temple candelabra.

On Rosh Hashana we use fruits or vegetables as symbols for various brachot and good wishes. On Tu Bishvat, Sephardim use fruits whose names hint at their symbolization. For example,the almond tree appears in Yermiyahu – Jeremiah 1:11-12: The word of Hashem was addressed to me, saying: “What do you see Yermiyahu?” And I said: “The branch of a watchful [shaked-almond] tree I see.” And Hashem said: “You’ve seen well, for I am watchful [shoked – watchful] over my word that it be accomplished.

Last evening, I attended a Tu Bishvat Seder at the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation (325 East 75th Street; Manhattan, NY) and this minhag (new to me and to many as well as to many a litvish or chassidish yid) was deeply meaningful and enlightened my appreciation of our richest traditions. As an Ashkenazi I had never heard of a Tu Bishvat Seder such as Rabbi Raphael Benchimol conducted this past evening. He relayed that on Tu Bishvat we get to repair the sin committed by Adam and Eve when they ate of the fruit of the Etz Hada’at in direct violation of Hakadosh Baruch Hu‘s explicit command against it. Just as mankind’s very first sin came through a fruit, here – as we rejoice in the Almighty’s handiwork – we have the chance to rectify, purify and be metaken our souls through fruits and their blessings.

Rabbi Benchimol explaining each item, its blessing and meaning

We started the Seder, by sipping an Israeli Ben Ami Chardonnay 2011. This was a light wine dominated by aromas of pineapple and guava, light and balanced on the palate with a rich, clean finish.

A partial view of the crowd

On each table there was a lovely array of fruits signifying various human and divine attributes as expounded by Rabbi Benchimol…

Close to thirty different types

The custom of this Seder had its beginning in the 16th century, at the table of the AR”I Hakadosh in Tzfat, the center of mystical studies since the days of the academy of Shem va’Ever – which goes back to the days before Avraham Avinu went out from Ur Kasdim to follow the Bore Holam‘s command to leave his land, his birthplace and his father’s dwelling.

This seder‘s ritual is spiritually enriched with hidden and obvious Kabbalistic meanings making for a most engaging memorable evening.




Sixteen year old Franz Sacher first developed his famous torte on a day when Austria’s Chancellor Prince Klemens Lothar Wenzel von Metternich‘s pastry Chef was out sick, and the Prince – who was entertaining some foreign diplomats that evening – needed urgent help. Since 1832, Sachertorte has been famous enough to attract many a tourist from around the world to the two Vienna establishments that serve it. The Demel Bakery, where young Franz worked at the time, claimed they had the original recipe while the Sacher Hotel – owned by the Sacher family – claimed theirs was the real one. After 7 years, of fierce legal battles, the courts decided that both could be sold under the name Sachertorte. The main difference between the two consists in Demel‘s being simply coated with apricot jam and chocolate icing, while Sacher‘s also has a layer of apricot jam spread through the center.

As the kids were growing up, this cake became a tradition in our home, a special treat to celebrate that special occasion, a celebration of that special landmark in each one’s journey through life:


Photo from: Holidays in Austria - Arrive and revive


  • 5 oz unsalted margarine (or butter for a tastier, dairy, version)
  • 5 oz plain chocolate melted
  • 5 oz castor sugar (hard to find and rather expensive you can make your own by grinding regular granulated sugar in a blender or food processor, castor or caster sugar is much finer than confectioner’s sugar and dissolves immediately)
  • 6 eggs separated
  • 4 oz plain flour, sifted
  • Apricot jam


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Apply margarine lightly to a deep, 9 inch cake tin and line the bottom with margarined greaseproof paper.
  2. Cream the margarine and beat in the the cooled melted chocolate 1 tablespoon at a time. Add the sugar and egg yolks alternatively, beating well after each addition. Mix in the flour.
  3. Whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry and fold into the chocolate mixture
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for an hour, or until the cake is well risen and has shrunk slighly from the sides of the tin.
  5. Remove cake from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
  6. When the cake is quite cool, either spread the top and sides with warmed – strained –  apricot jam, or cut the cake in half horizontally, spread the jam between the two layers (which I prefer) and put together the two halves before spreading the top and sides with more jam.

Chocolate Icing

  • 7 oz plain chocolate
  • 8 oz castor sugar
  • 5 oz water
  • margarine


  1. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler. In another pan, dissolve the the sugar in water over low heat. When the sugar has dissolved increase the heat and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Beat the chocolate until smooth; gradually beat in enough hot sugar syrup to make the icing the consistency of thick cream, Finally beat in a small piece of margarine.
  3. Pour the hot icing over the top of the cake and let it run down the sides. Quickly smooth the icing round the sides of the cake with a spatula. The less the icing is touched, the shinier it will be. Set aside until the glaze is quite hard and dry.

Serve with one or two billows of Crème Chantilly (sweetened whipped cream).

Enjoy, gentle reader, enjoy!



An Author and Her Cookbooks – Part 1 – The Kosher Carnivore

June Hersh is one remarkable woman. She’s got this articulate impresario presence that combines wisdom and know-how in a Jewish Oprah/ Martha Stewart kind of way. Pick a subject matter and June will research, write and perfect a delightful, informative product that is instantly marketable. Here I am, a Holocaust survivor’s daughter internally struggling for years to articulate some memorial to my parents’ heritage and experiences while, American rooted, June comes up with a sensitive sideward entrée onto the experience through recipes and stories of Holocaust survivors. Her first book (Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival) is compassionate to their plight, a paean to their survival and achievement in a new land.

I gave a copy to my mother and she began sharing some of her own kitchen experiences with her mother; the last of which was her locking the pantry the day they were taken away, her mother saying “Little one, you won’t need to lock the pantry anymore.” My family’s memoirs, though ever present, are still too raw to pen.

In June’s new cookbook The Kosher Carnivore, she again does thorough research and walks us through the kosher meat process; from the biblical origins of what makes an animal kosher or not, through the koshering and cuts of meat. The recipes present us with core popular, culturally mixed, dishes that bring out the best in the various cuts of meats described in her cookbook.

Ben Fink‘s photography is well done in warm tones that subtly speak of treasured old dishes and new favorites (I wish there was more of it!). The layout is very functional, easy to follow with “Behind the Counter” and “Side Note” tips, the cross-section of variety all make it a cookbook I will refer to again and again! I highly recommend it not just for audiences familiar with kosher but also for those who are just discovering the world of Jewish culinary traditions.

Choosing a favorite dish from the book, was no easy task, there were quite a few I had tried and so many more I can’t wait to try; but I thought this one – which I’ll be trying this evening on Shabbat – was an interesting update to a cut of meat of meat I’ve always loved.

Coffee-Crusted Hanger Steak

Why not save time and have your coffee with your dinner rather than after? Freshly ground espresso beans and lots of companion spices combine to give a little jolt to the seared crust of this full-flavored steak.

Serves 2
Start to Finish: Under 30 minutes

  • 2 tablespoons espresso or strong coffee beans, freshly ground
  • 1  teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground ancho chilli pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (pimentón)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (1 to 1 1/2 pound) hanger steak, halved
  • Canola Oil

Detail from Ben Fink’s photo in The Kosher Carnivore

Preheat the grill or a stovetop grill pan. Grind the coffee and then the spices in a spice or coffee grinder and pour the ground mixture out onto a large plate. Let the steaks come to room temperature, then coat them in oil and roll each steak in the ground-coffee-and-spice-mixture. Grill about 15 minutes for rare to medium-rare, turning the steaks to brown on all sides. Let rest for 10 minutes, loosely covered in foil, then cut into large slices on the diagonal.

Did you know that the humble jar of paprika, which many people think is reserved for sprinkling on deviled eggs, not only provides a great splash of color, but also a terrific flavor boost? Your pantry probably holds a jar of sweet supermarket paprika, but let me tempt you to invest in the Hungarian variety, which will wake up most dishes with its earthy and slightly peppery flavor. Paprika was first processed in Hungary and is derived from red peppers, and can have a bit of a bite. For a spicier kick, try using hot paprika, and if you want that mellow smoky taste then reach for Spanish paprika, also known as pimentón.




Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Soup

This hearty soup was so good, I had three bowls of it last evening (and still have leftovers in the fridge). It was just the perfect dish for capping a winter evening, even if the weather was unusually warm for this time of year.

Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Soup

Yield: 6 servings


  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 lb 9 oz ripe tomatoes, skinned, cored and halved
  • 3 large yellow bell peppers. seeded and halved
  • 3 zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 4 garlic cloves, halved
  • 2 onion cloves, cut into eights
  • pinch of thyme
  • 4 cups chicken vegetable, or beef stock
  • 1/2 cup MimicCreme
  • salt and pepper
  • shredded basil leaves for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Brush a large shallow baking dish with olive oil. Laying them cut-sized down, arrange the tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini and eggplant in one layer (use two dishes if necessary). Tuck the garlic cloves and onion pieces into the gaps and drizzle the vegetables with the remaining olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper and sprinkle with thyme.
  3. Place in preheated oven and bake uncovered, for 30-35 minutes, or until soft and browned around the edges. Let cool, then scrape out the eggplant flesh and remove the skin from the bell peppers.
  4. Working in batches, put the eggplant and bell pepper flesh, together with the tomatoes, zucchini, garlic and onion place into a bowl and chop together using a knife.
  5. Combine the stock and chopped vegetable mixture in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 20-30 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender and the flavors have completely blended.
  6. Stir in the MimicCreme and simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until hot. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Ladle the soup into warm bowls, garnish with basil and serve.

Enjoy, gentle reader, enjoy!



Bitayavon – A Talk with Shifra Klein

Shifra Klein will be our guest, this evening, at 8:00pm (Eastern Time) on Shifra is Editor-in-Chief of Bitayavon, a magazine for the Jewish homemaker. The publication first appeared a year ago and has since grown, in its coverage, in its format, in its photography, getting better with every issue.

Tonight, we will discuss the magazine and its underlying philosophy, what makes its staff tick (starting with the Editor-in-Chief, of course)  and where they expect to go next.

Meanwhile, in case you missed it, why not listen to our archived interview with June Hersh, from last week? June is the author of Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival and Kosher Carnivore. She speaks from the heart about food and its deeper meaning, the deeper significance to us – as Jews – as a record of our history, as part of a chain that links us to an almost forgotten moment of time that ended all too tragically. The Holocaust survivors she interviewed have, against all odds, succeeded in rebuilding their shattered lives, proving that while our enemies can cause us terrible damage, they will never conquer us, they will never destroy us. In her second book, Kosher Carnivore, she brings us delicious recipes sure to whet the palate of everyone but the most determined, hardened, vegetarian.

Please listen in to our show this evening on, this evening at 8:00pm (Eastern Time), we’ll be waitin’ for ya!


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