Kosher Blog Finding the finer side of everyday kosher living Mon, 16 May 2011 22:47:26 +0000 en hourly 1 Tasting Roasted Peppers Mon, 16 May 2011 22:47:26 +0000 Jonathan Abbett Nothing beats a freshly roasted bell pepper, but the convenience of a jarred product can’t be underestimated. I tend to bounce between several different kosher products, never really remembering how any particular variety fared from use to use.

Today, I purchased four jars of roasted peppers – varieties common to the Boston area – for a proper evaluation: Mancini, Mt. Olive, Galil, and Roland. (First two purchased at Star Market, last two purchased at the Butcherie.)

Roasted pepper comparison

Roasted pepper specimens


  • 10 oz. drained weight
  • $3.19 ($0.32/oz.)
  • Contains roasted red peppers, water, salt, citric acid
  • Product of USA
  • Certified by the Orthodox Union

Probably the most commonly available roasted pepper in these parts. Clean, mild flavor. Meaty but tender. Mostly halves and smaller pieces.

Mt. Olive

  • 7.6 oz. drained weight
  • $2.69 ($0.35/oz.)
  • Contains roasted red peppers, water, salt, sugar, citric acid
  • Product of Spain
  • Certified by the Orthodox Union

Another national brand that’s been showing up more in the last two years. Slightly sweeter (thanks to the added sugar), with a bit of smokiness. Slightly softer than Mancini peppers, but far from mushy. Two nice whole peppers in a single jar.


  • 11.65 oz. drained weight
  • $3.99 ($0.34/oz.)
  • Contains roasted red peppers, water, vinegar, sugar, salt
  • Product of Turkey
  • Certified by the Orthodox Union

Several whole elongated peppers. Thinner flesh than Mancini or Mt. Olive peppers, yet firmer. Nice smokiness compensates for unnecessary sweetness.


  • 13.35 oz. drained weight
  • $2.99 ($0.22/oz.)
  • Contains roasted yellow peppers, water, vinegar, sugar, salt, sunflower oil
  • Product of Turkey
  • Certified by Star-K

The only non-red peppers in today’s lineup. Very thin flesh, unpleasant flavor.

I’d easily recommend the first three varieties for distinct uses. For serving in large pieces, as I would on an antipasto platter, the long Galil peppers work best, and provide enough flavor to be enjoyed on their own, though the thicker Mt. Olive peppers provide a more satisfying bite. The clean-flavored Mancini peppers, with the shortest ingredient list, are good for diced or pureed preparations where smokiness is undesired, unnecessary, or provided by another ingredient.

Have another brand you enjoy? Post your own reviews in the comments. If possible, included drained weight, price, and where you purchased it.

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The origins of sweet kosher wine in America Sun, 17 Apr 2011 14:41:23 +0000 Jonathan Abbett Yoni Appelbaum’s piece in the Atlantic is a must-read: The 11th Plague? Why People Drink Sweet Wine on Passover.

Finally, a worthy article about sweet kosher wine.

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Spotted: Star-K on Whole Foods Cheddar Sun, 03 Apr 2011 14:52:59 +0000 Jonathan Abbett 20110403-105109.jpg

KBlog reader Emily sent in this shot – will have to check if Boston-area WFMs have this kosher item.

Update: Found the Star-K’s letter of certification.

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Yossie’s Pesach Wine Buying Guide Fri, 01 Apr 2011 16:34:17 +0000 Jonathan Abbett A comprehensive set of recommendations from Yossie Horwitz, conveniently broken down into “Under $15.99,” “$16-29.99,” and “Moshiach” categories. Follow him on Twitter @yossieuncorked.

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Kitchens of India frozen kosher meals Wed, 30 Mar 2011 16:36:45 +0000 Jonathan Abbett Kitchens of India frozen kosher products

Saw these at the Star Market in Central Square, Cambridge. Available in a variety of configurations, some with naan, rice, or both. Decent price for a whole meal (about $5) and the samosas are a nice addition to the available kosher Indian appetizer options.

Kitchens of India meal, heated

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Baking soft matsah Wed, 09 Mar 2011 23:57:01 +0000 Ari Behar I first heard of soft matsah when I was in high school, when my Talmud teacher, Rabbi Alan Brill, mentioned to us that the Syrian Jews have a tradition to eat matsah that is soft, rather than the crackery-type that most of us are used to. He mentioned that it is perfectly kosher, but it is hard to find, except in Israel. I was intrigued.

A few years later, my brother met a rabbi who imported soft matsah from Israel, and as soon as I heard that, I wanted some. We ordered it, and it was quite different. It came frozen in plastic bags with instructions to heat before eating. Once defrosted, it was bendable (to a point, beyond which it would break) and chewy, but relatively tasteless. When warm, it tasted much better. However, it was quite expensive.

A couple of years later, I discovered, where you can order regular and whole wheat varieties of soft matsah over the Internet (made in Brooklyn). It worked out to be slightly cheaper, so I ordered some. The matsot were pretty similar, but the whole wheat ones were even more tasteless than the regular ones. However, they were slightly cheaper than the ones from Israel. You can look at pictures of their soft matsah.

I was curious about how they are made, and also whether Ashkenazim could eat them. I thought that perhaps they used moister dough or a lower temperature oven. However, according to, the main difference is that they are rolled out thicker. The site also mentions that “[p]eople from Ashkenazic lineage have a minhag (tradition) to eat Matza that is as thin as possible, and therefore should consult their Rabbi to determine if they are allowed to [eat] our thicker Matza.” When I looked into it in college for a cultural event that we wanted to run, the local Hillel Rabbinic adviser was not able to determine to his satisfaction whether the matsot were acceptable for Ashkenazim. However, apparently, Rabbi Schachter at YU allows Ashkenazim to eat these.

About 8 or 9 years ago, I decided I would try to make my own soft matsah. So, I mixed together a low-water batch of dough (using only unbleached white whole wheat flour and water), rolled it out about 1/3 of an inch thick, and baked it at the highest setting my oven could produce (according to the thermometer in my oven, it reached about 650F). As I recall, I think I used about 3.5 cups of flour per cup of water (which, converting to mass-based baker’s percentages, is about 48% water). I was careful to constantly work the dough once it was mixed, and from the time I mixed it until it went into the oven was (significantly) less than 18 minutes. However, I did not use guarded Passover flour (nor did I use kosher for Passover equipment), so it wasn’t actually kosher for Passover. I managed to produce an edible softish flatbread after baking for several minutes, but it was quite grainy.

Fast forward to this past week, when I decided to try again. Since our custom is to not eat matsah for the month before Pesach (starting on Purim, although some people don’t start abstaining until the 1st of Nissan), I had to act fast. Fortunately, matsah is quick and easy to bake. My current oven no longer goes up to 650F, so I decided I would try to bake it on my pizza stone (which, when pre-heated on the floor of my oven set to 525F, gets up to about 625F, as measured by my IR thermometer).

I realized I wasn’t exactly sure how to tell exactly when the matsah was fully-baked according to halakha, so I looked it up in the Shulhan Arukh (OC 461:3). I discovered that when you break it open, it is considered fully-cooked if you no longer see threads of dough stretching between. I also discovered that you should use water drawn the previous day (presumably because freshly-drawn water is more bubbly) that is cold. So, I used water from the Brita pitcher in my fridge. I couldn’t find any information about the proper flour:water ratio, so I decided to try a 55% water recipe (since regular bread is typically 60-65%).

For the first batch, I mixed 55g of cold water into 100g of unbleached all-purpose flour. It was so dry and crumbly that I could barely get it to hold together. I needed to work it with my hands for a good 5 minutes before it held together without crumbs. I then rolled it out into a sheet (about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick), which was quite easy to do, given the dryness of the dough, put it on my pizza peel , and transferred it to my pizza stone. I baked it for 4 minutes. I then noticed that it had puffed up like a pita bread, and I was worried that the top wasn’t getting enough heat, so I flipped it over and baked another 2 minutes. When I tore it open, there were no threads, however, I later noticed, upon cooling, that the inside still appeared a bit doughy (although the puffiness had collapsed). It tasted great when hot, but as it cooled it lost a lot of flavor. It was, however, pretty soft inside, although the outside was a bit crunchy and crumbly. See pictures below:


First batch, outside



First batch, inside


For batch two, I decided to make a wetter dough, since the first one was so hard to get to come together. I also decided to poke holes in the dough to prevent puffing and to pour the flour into the water instead of vice-versa. So, I mixed 100g of unbleached all-purpose flour into 63g of cold water. This dough came together much more easily, and it was actually a bit too sticky. It was harder to roll out due to the stickiness. After rolling it out, I pricked it with a fork several times and then baked it on the pizza stone for 4 minutes. I then flipped it and baked another 2 minutes. I removed it from the oven and tore it open. I didn’t see any threads, but I realized that it was still kind of doughy inside, so after a minute or so, I returned it (on side 2) to the pizza stone for another minute and a half. At that point, I removed it. It came out much better than the first batch, but it was still a bit doughy inside upon later examination. Pictures below:

Second batch, top

Second batch, top


Second batch, bottom

Second batch, bottom


Second batch, inside

Second batch, inside


For the final batch, I decided to reduce the water slightly and bake for a total of 7 minutes (which is also how long I bake pizza for on my pizza stone). So, I mixed 100g of unbleached all-purpose flour into 60g of cold water. This dough came together relatively easily, and it was just right. It rolled out just fine. This is what it looked like, rolled out:

Third batch, rolled

Third batch, rolled


After rolling it out, I pricked it with a fork several times on both sides and then baked it on the pizza stone for 4 minutes. I then flipped it and baked another 3 minutes. I removed it from the oven and tore it open. I didn’t see any threads, and it did not appear at all doughy inside. It came out much better than the first two batches. Success! Pictures below:

Third batch, top

Third batch, top


Third batch, bottom and inside

Third batch, bottom and inside


The next step is to find Passover flour and make my own for Pesach in a KFP kitchen. I doubt that will ever happen. My understanding is that KFP flour is not available on the open market — I would have to grind the grain myself and make sure it stayed dry until mixing (annoying, but doable). Even then, however, it would not be real Shemurah matsah, although it would be kosher for Pesach. However, the custom is to use Shemurah matsah (which has been watched since it was harvested, or more precisely, since it was cut) for the Seder. That is pretty much impracticable, since it would involve an inordinate amount of work (reaping, harvesting, winnowing, grinding… and I may be leaving out one or two intermediate steps).

By the way, I should mention that it seems likely that all matsah eaten throughout the world was of this soft variety until about the 18th century, when various Ashkenazic authorities decided that it was a good idea to make very thin and crunchy matsah, just be 100% certain that it was completely baked through. That was an unfortunate development, however, in its favor, crisp matsah stays fresh a lot longer than soft matsah (which can go stale in a few hours outside of the freezer).

One last point: according to the Shulhan Arukh, matsah can be up to a tefach thick (about 3 or 4 inches). I wonder how that would come out…

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Home-made Sauerkraut Wed, 19 Jan 2011 19:31:09 +0000 Steven Weinberger My summertime is filled with bright and colorful food preservation projects. Colorful jams, crisp pickles & various relishes. Fall is the time for other projects, such as curing olives. During the winter, besides for eating my stored bounty, I focus on a different set of fruits and vegetables. Green cabbage is a hearty, cold-weather crop and sauerkraut and kimchi are in season. With very little work, the humble cabbage can be transformed into a tasty, highly nutritious pickle. Lacto-fermented sauerkraut contains large amounts of vitamin C, is a probiotic, and contains cancer fighting compounds. Sauerkraut’s antiscorbutic properties were known as early as the 17th century – sailors would add sauerkraut to their diets to prevent scurvy. (Supposedly, when English sailors eventually switched to limes they earned the nickname limeys, while Germans remained krauts.) Making sauerkraut is a rewarding hobby. To make a 5 pound batch, you’ll need the following:

  • 5 pounds of thinly shredded green cabbage. Two large heads of cabbage should suffice. Remove the cores before shredding. A food processor will be a big help in getting evenly shredded cabbage.
  • Pickling salt. Pickling salt is a finely ground, additive free salt that dissolves easily in room temperature water. If you don’t have any, take a flaky kosher salt and process it for a few spins in the food processor. It will be just as good.
  • A food-safe pail, jar or crock large enough to hold the cabbage. No metallic containers – the acids produced during fermentation can react with the metal.
  • A weight to hold down the cabbage. The only protection that the cabbage has from spoiling is being submerged in brine. A weight is used to keep the cabbage under the surface of the water and to compress it so the gas byproducts of fermentation are squeezed out. This can be a dinner plate the right size to fit in your jar, but I like to use a heavy-duty plastic turkey-roasting bag, filled with brine. The bag is filled with brine (1½ tablespoons per quart of water) so that if it ruptures, the batch of sauerkraut won’t be diluted.

Make sure that your fermentation container and any utensils you use are very clean. Sterilizing them in a dishwasher is ideal.

Toss the shredded cabbage with 3 heaping tablespoons of pickling salt. Make sure the salt is evenly dispersed and pack the cabbage into your jar. Press down on top of the cabbage, and place your weight on top. Place a loose fitting lid on the jar so that dust won’t get in it but fermentation gasses can escape.

The shredded, salted cabbage will start exuding water and within 24 hours all the cabbage should be submerged. If it isn’t, make enough brine (1½ tablespoons per quart of water) to cover the cabbage by an inch.

You can taste the sauerkraut throughout the process to check its doneness, but be sure that you push it back under the brine. It should take about 1 week at 70° to 75° F for your sauerkraut to be ready. If it is still producing bubbles, it will probably need another day or two. Any sliminess or mold on the cabbage is a sign of spoilage – throw the batch out. A white film on top of the water indicates the presence of yeasts. You can skim the film off, rinse off the weights on the cabbage, and continue the process. When the sauerkraut is ready, store it, tightly covered in the refrigerator.

If you’re looking for something to do your new batch of sauerkraut, I suggest Choucroute garnie (French for dressed sauerkraut), which is a dish of sauerkraut and meats braised in wine. The original recipe contains a variety of pork products (smoked, cured and fresh). My version contains beef-bacon, flanken and kielbasa. This is a hearty, cold-weather dish, perfect for Shabbos nights during the winter.

Choucroute garnie au boeuf
1 large, white onion, diced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ pound beef-bacon (Beef-Frye), diced
1 Granny Smith Apple, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
8 cloves of garlic, peeled
2½ pounds of sauerkraut, squeezed dry
3 pounds flanken, or boneless short-ribs
2 bay leaves
1½ teaspoons black peppercorns
8 juniper berries, lightly crushed, optional but recommended
1 bottle Riesling wine
1 pound kielbasa or knockwurst sausage
1½ pounds small red new potatoes, well scrubbed

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

2. In a oven-safe dutch-oven or casserole, heat the oil over a medium flame. Sauté the beef-bacon until it begins to render, but don’t let it get brown. Add the diced onion and sauté just until translucent. Take the pot off the heat.

3. Add the drained sauerkraut, apple wedges and garlic cloves to the pot. Stir to combine. Bury the flanken in the sauerkraut mixture.

4. Take a piece of cheesecloth and tie a pouch, containing the bay leaves, peppercorns and juniper berries. Bury the pouch in the sauerkraut.

5. Pour the Riesling wine over the mixture, until it just covers the cabbage. Cover the pot and place it into the preheated oven for 2 hours.

6. Open the sausage and remove any plastic wrapper. Take the pot out of the oven and replenish the wine so that the cabbage is just covered again. Lay the sausage on top of the cabbage, and spread the potatoes over that. Return the pot to the oven for another hour.

7. Serve the choucroute on a large tray, to showcase the meats. Slice the sausages for a nicer presentation. Serve with a variety of mustards – whole-grain or Dijon mustard are best.

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Chanukah Night – Fry Baby, Fry Thu, 02 Dec 2010 21:44:33 +0000 Steven Weinberger Let’s make it short and sweet. Lit candles and consumed fried foods.

Fried Fish Filets

Pre-requisite Latkes (grated & shredded)

We need to work on our funnel-cake skills.

Tired of debating your friends on the relative merits of Latkes vs, Hamantashen? Debate no more, and feast your eyes on my new creation: The Deep-Fried-Hamantaschen-on-a-Stick. (if you’re a fan of Jeff Dunham, yours can be “on a steeek”):

Preparing the Hamantaschen:

The Glorious Results:

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Fakin’ Bacon Wed, 24 Nov 2010 20:09:00 +0000 Steven Weinberger Of all foods forbidden to a Kosher consumer, bacon holds the most allure. Why is that? Non-kosher eaters often hail it as the most tasty of all meat products. “Everything is better with bacon”, is a common refrain in modern food-writing. For those who ate bacon in their pre-kosher days, the craving makes sense, but what of those who have never eaten real bacon? There are a number of Kosher bacon-analogues (Bac-os, Beef Fry, Bacon Salt), but they must pale in comparison.

I have never been non-kosher, but I was exposed to the scent of cooking bacon when I took a class at the French Culinary Institute. The smell alone was enough to make me crazy for bacon. No stranger to complicated food projects, I decided that the time had come to try my hand at making beef bacon.

The beef cut used for making bacon is the plate or belly. It’s a very fatty cut, sometimes used for corned-beef or pastrami. To procure my beef-plate, I contacted Abeles & Heymann, a NJ based producer of deli products including Beef Fry, a popular bacon replacement. They were happy to sell me beef-plate for $5/lb. Once I got the beef home, the first step was to cure it. I decided on a maple cure recipe, found in Michael Ruhlman’s seminal work on the topic, Charcuterie. It consisted of maple syrup, brown sugar, kosher salt and curing salt. The meat spent 1 week in the cure before it was time to smoke it. I used apple-wood to smoke it for about 3 hours. After cooling down fully, it was time to slice. This was the finished product:

Beef Bacon

The first dish I prepared with my bacon had to be a simple bacon and eggs. It was super-delicious.

Bacon & Eggs

Next, I tried to go with the fad and make candied bacon. It wasn’t as sucessful as I had hoped, but there is hope for the future. I used a slab of unsliced bacon in that weekend’s chulent, and the flavor took my chulent to a whole new level. The smokiness made my usual chulent into a Texas-style-bbq flavored chulent. The uses for this stuff truly are endless. Recent discussions on Chowhound lead me to believe that breast of veal is another good cut for making bacon. When I run out of this batch, perhaps that will be my next project.

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Pardes · Brooklyn, NY Tue, 02 Nov 2010 15:44:49 +0000 Steven Weinberger As a long-time resident of Brooklyn, I’ve had the opportunity to see Kosher restaurants come and go. Some, like Kosher Delight or Jerusalem II Pizza have been around for decades. Kosher branches of Subway were a flash in the pan. There are the high-end places, like T Fusion Steakhouse and family-friendly eateries, like Carlos & Gabby’s. We have sushi-joints, Israeli grill-joints and a growing crop of schnitzel-joints. Across all those choices, there is much good food and a certain amount of commonality. What’s missing from the wide array of Kosher eateries in Brooklyn is excitement. That’s where Pardes comes in.

Pardes is the brainchild of Chef Moshe E. Wendel and his wife, Shana. Shana runs the front of the house and Chanita Bar-Chaim, a recent graduate of Brooklyn’s Center for Kosher Culinary Arts serves as sous-chef. Moshe distinguished himself with his time cooking at Mosaica, in Vauxhall, NJ, where the French/Morrocan cuisine garnered the attention of the Jewish and non-Jewish press. The executive staff of Kosherblog ate at Mosaica after Kosherfest 2009, and we were most impressed. Wendel was associated with Basil Pizza & Wine Bar’s opening, and the menu there shows some of his touches. Pardes is his first solo venture.

With a group of 4 diners, we were able to sample much of the menu – and Moshe sent us a few extra appetizers to make up for the time we waited to get seated:

Tuna Tartare, Smoked Paprika, Saffron, Lemon Confit, Croutons.

Home Made Bouqerones, Red Pepper, Caper Berries, Arugula, Lemon Dressing.

Spicy-Smokey Chicken “Wings”, Red Pepper-Saffron Vinaigrette (in pipette), Tomato Salad with Herbs, Preserved Lemon, Green Olive & Jalapeno.

Aroncini di Riso, Stuffed with Spicy Duck Ragout, Spicy Tomato-Fennel Coulis.

Beef Tartare, Oil Cured Black Olives, Lemon, Parsley Puree, Black Olive Oil, Garlic Toast.

Salt Cod “Crab Cake”, Herb Mayo, Avocado-Basil Salad.

Pizza of Braised Beef Cheeks, 24 hr Roasted Tomato, and Fresh Basil.

Steak Frites.

Pardes Burger, 12oz Ground Chuck, Avocado, Tomato, House Made Pickles, Beef Fry Truffle Mayo, Fries.

House Made Ketchup. Heinz is available upon request.

Duck Breast, Vanilla Barley, Charred Corn, Carob, Tarragon.

House Cured Smoked Brisket, Country Bread, Herbs D’ Provence Mustard, Dandelion, Pickled Red Onion, Fries.

Without exception, every dish was unbelievably delicious. The tartares were fresh and flavorful. The salad with boquerones won over my wife, who normally wouldn’t touch small fish. The “wings” were boned-out legs, skewered on a plastic-pipette containing a spicy red pepper-saffron vinaigrette which you squeezed into your mouth as you ate the chicken. This burst of flavor married well with the spices that the chicken was grilled in and was fun as well. I’ve never had beef-cheeks before, but Pardes’ “pizza” was a revelation. Tender meat with savory roasted tomatoes. The brisket sandwich was big enough to feed 3 of us. Every dish was full of vibrant flavors – something that is often lacking in Kosher eateries. Some of the flavor combinations were completely new to me, but nothing seemed out of place.

Pardes is off the beaten path, in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, but I encourage you to come out and try it. You won’t be disappointed. The dining room seats 35, so reservations are strongly recommended. Street parking. Walking distance from many subway lines.

497 Atlantic Avenue Brooklyn, NY, 11217

Mon – Thu: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Sun : 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Pardes Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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