Category Archives: Guest Blog Post

Kosher Food and Wine Experience 2014

Guest Blogger: Tomer Gutwaks

I’m a foodie. I always have been. Or so I thought.

The way I saw it, a foodie is a food lover. But at The Kosher Food and Wine Experience, an event I attended for the first time, I realized that food is as complex as it is complicated. And, to truly understand its allure, one must approach the topic with a fervent disposition and an open mind.

Donning a press pass I received from the elegant and artfully gifted Chef Alison Gutwaks, and armed with the know-how I adopted from her dazzling pseudo sommelier husband, Matan, I was able to experience the KFWE in a way that only very few actually do—sampling expensive wine, spirits, meats, and condiments at a pace that allowed me to understand an analyze exactly what I was experiencing. With over 200 wines on display and cuisine prepared by over 30 of the most renowned restaurants and caterers in the food world, it was the crème de la crème of edible ecstasies.

I was fortunate enough to spend a creatively educational two hours on Pier 60 in New York City, learning, tasting, and living, the vast variety of tastes, sounds, and aromas that fill the air at event so august and elaborate as the KFWE. Though I felt like I was staring into a Gastronomic Abyss, I salvaged my inexperience, and took home from the event a lot more than a full stomach. I even managed, with respect to my own culinary shortcomings, to compile what I deem to be an eccentric but informative list of the best samples I was lucky to come across. I was as excited to out together the list as I was to eat the culinary explosions of flavor. In other words, if you still haven’t caught my drift, I have put together the NAÏVE Food Lover’s Guide to the Top 10 best Food and Drink Encounters at the KFWE.

Keep in mind, that this list is meant to act as an a approach for the most untrained food eye and tongue, and all recommendations, though delicious in their own rights, should be experienced with the knowledge that their recommendations are given from a cuisine simpleton such as myself.


The LIST:

1.       Grand Mayan Tequila ( Extra Anejo)
Price:  $75-$100
Distilled twice, and made from Pure Blue Agave, this tequila was a miraculous find of mine. It has a soft and smooth profile, tastes delicious and finishes confidently. It is a blended from tequila from three different barrels, distilled twice, and comes in one of the most chic bottles you’ll ever see. A 375ml as well as a 750 ml are available.

2.       Prime Hospitality Group- Spicy Salami and Kosher Prosciutto
Price: Not Available
Coming from the juggernaut of upscale Kosher food Gurus, the Prime name lived up to its austere expectations. Balancing incredibly inviting textures, with smoky and well balanced flavors, it’s hard to believe something so audacious can be kosher. With a mix of aged meats eloquently displayed, they look as good as they taste. A must try. 

3.       Flam Superiore Syrah, 2011 Reserve
Price: $42+
Though turning Bar Mitzvahed only a few years ago, this Winery is quickly becoming as well respected as it deserves to be. With a few selections, including a Cabernet a Merlot and even a Blanc, I opted for the under appreciated of the bunch, the Syrah. Boding a rich taste you don’t have to lie about experiencing, the finish is so fruity that you can actually guess the berries involved. I loved it, and look forward to experiencing it at my next meal. And, if you are drinking with me, bring an extra bottle.

4.       Montefiore Colombard Chardonnay
Price: $15
Montefiore Winery is the exotic sweetheart of Mr. Arnon Geva, whose Vino resume is as elaborate and luxuriant as the wines his winery produces. Hailing from Israel, his wines are based on Moses Montefiore’s actual persona, and this clearly shines through. Optimizing fragrance, as well as taste and body, this wine is perfect for any white wine lover. Boasting more Colombard than actual Chardonnay, the wine’s ingredient are best developed in a climate like Israel’s. Wonderful.

5.       The Wandering Que, 18HR Smoked BBQ Beef Brisket
Price: Not Available

Representing the Kosher BBQ line of Gemstone Catering, the Wandering Que, is all that and then some. I enjoy smoked meat as much as the next guy, but an 18 hour slow smoked beef brisket? I was in heaven. The consistency is so tender that chewing for more than 10-15 seconds is futile. The taste is so rich, that it is quite possibly some of the best darn BBQ I’ve ever tasted. I may have gone back for more than just seconds. The Barbecue Sauce compliments the meat and its texture famously.

6.       Schmerling’s Chocolate Mint Liqueur (Available after Pesach 2014)

Price: $16
Schmerling’s, far from neophytes in the chocolate game, have added a new flavor to their already stellar repertoire of chocolate Liqueurs. Infusing their own chocolates into their Liqueurs, this Chocolate Mint affair, could not have been a better idea, highlighting the perfect touch of mint into an already perfectly composed chocolate taste. And, it’s Parve, as in not Dairy. No, I’m serious though. This is the perfect dessert compliment. Or, you know what, chuck the dessert and enjoy it solo.
7.       Morad Danue Passion Fruit Wine
Price: $18
Fermented and aged for over a year’s time in vats of Stainless Steel, these guys know exactly what they are talking about, even If I don’t. Purchased from a humble winemaker in Yokniam, Israel, the current owners opted to keep the winemakers name, Morad. Introducing robust flavors, it’s hard to believe what you are actually drinking. Though very rich in taste, the wine is so delicious that it has to be experienced. An additional and charming perk is the diversity of the product, as it can be easily infused into desserts, baked goods or anything else. Try their Amaretto flavor as well.
8.       Pomegranate Chopped Liver
Price: Not Available
Wow. This is a must. If you are as Haimish as I am, you will love this. Spread thinly on Tim-Tam crackers, the taste was as wonderful as the display was. Rich in flavor, but not overbearing in the slightest, this is the perfect type of spread, and you can eat it straight, on a bagel or however you see fit. Not the flashiest of dishes, it was a shame that people didn’t try more of this.

9.       Psagot Prat Red Desert Wine
Price: $28 (500ml) 
I do like the occasional sweet wine and Psagot did not disappoint. Implanting a variety of sweet flavors including velvety grapes, and even some chocolate, the smoothness of its body is as intense as its color. Easily enjoyed after dinner, this wine’s reputation speaks for itself winning an award in 2006. Intense though it is, in small doses, this wine comes close to flawless. 

10.   Alexander the Great Gaston Reserve 2010 
Price: $37
Dark in color, and wide ranging in taste, this wine was delicious and matter of fact. Holding no surprises, but clearly a product of experienced winemakers, this wine is superb. Drinking it is addictive, and its hard not to ostracize other wineries while experiencing it. Great with dinner.

So that’s it for me. 

Cheers and good eats y’all!

Cooking Around The World

Guest Blog Post: Bracha Arnold

Hi! I’m Bracha, a friend of Alison’s from way back. We met in seminary in Israel, and while everyone knew that Alison loved to cook, I had no idea that I loved the culinary arts as well. A few years later, I now work for a kosher travel company called Kosher Culinary Adventures. Aside from bringing guests all over Europe (we have trips in Tuscany, Provence, North Italy and Andalusia so far!) we also prepare three meals daily for them, making sure they get to experience the local cuisine, while being strictly kosher.
~a magical village in Provence, South of France~

This recipe is one of my favorite show-stopper desserts, with its nutty, pistachio-flavored crust, smooth chocolate ganache and fruit topping. Aside from being gorgeous, (relatively) simple and delicious, it is also parve. It can be made dairy if you want by swapping the coconut oil and cream for butter and regular cream, but is fantastic as a parve dish. I top it with sliced strawberries, but if they’re not in season or you prefer other fruit, try raspberries or pomegranate seeds for a festive Rosh Hashana and sukkot flair.
For this dessert, I had my local nut merchant at the shuk (market) in Jerusalem grind up some pistachios into a fine powder. You can often purchase ground pistachios at your local grocery store; if it is too hard to find, simply pulverize them yourself in a food processor or coffee grinder. If you have it handy, a dash of toasted almond oil adds a wonderful extra flavor to the crust.

 
Strawberry, Chocolate and Pistachio Pie
Crust:
1 1/4 C. All-Purpose Flour
1/4 C. Pistachio Powder, finely ground
Pinch of Kosher Salt
1/4 C. plus 1 TBS. Powdered Sugar
1/2 C. Coconut Oil, or Canola Oil, or Butter
1 Large Egg Yolk
3/4 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Nonstick Vegetable Oil Spray
Filling:
6 Oz. Bittersweet Chocolate (do not exceed 70% cacao), chopped
3/4 C. Coconut Cream or Heavy Cream
⅓ C. White Sugar
1 small basket Strawberries, Raspberries, Pomegranate, or fruit of your choosing
Pistachio Powder
Whisk flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a small bowl. Pulse powdered sugar and butter in a food processor until smooth. Add yolk and vanilla; pulse to mix well. Add dry ingredients and pulse just to blend. Gather dough into a ball, flatten into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.
Spray a standard (8-9”) pie or tart pan with nonstick spray. Roll out dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper to 1/8′ thickness. Peel off top sheet of paper. Transfer dough into pie pan, pressing gently onto bottom and up sides of the pan. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325°. Bake pie until slightly puffed and firm to touch, 12–15 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Pour cream over chocolate; stir until melted and smooth. Let ganache cool to room temperature. Cover and chill until set, about 20 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 12 hours ahead. Keep chilled.
To assemble pie: Pour chocolate ganache into baked pie shell. Let chill until the chocolate has hardened slightly. Garnish with strawberries (or fruit of your choosing) in a circular pattern (see pictures) and sprinkle pistachio powder in the middle. Serve immediately. (If you choose not to serve the pie right away, wait to garnish it–it will look much better if the garnish is fresh.)
For more recipes, blog posts, or to find out more about our company, check out www.avicamgitlin.com

Chinese Noodles Two Ways!

Guest Blog Post by Rena Tuchinsky

Hi I’m Rena! I recently started blogging over at my blog “No Way That’s Healthy!” I’ve known Alison for about 7 years now. When I got married Alison made me this huge cookbook with tons of great recipes. C’mon, how awesome is she! I’ve used so many of her recipes and some have even become staples in our home.

One of those recipes is Teriyaki Chicken salad. It is such a hit and I love to use it as a starter to a meal or even on its own for dinner. It goes really well with my sesame or peanut butter noodles. Some recipes call for a ton of unnecessary sugar and if you read my blog you know that I like to find alternatives. So I’ve adjusted these recipes to make them healthy without sacrificing any of the great taste. And of course, they’re super simple. Just the way I like it!



Sesame Noodles
1 Bag of whole wheat spaghetti or fettuccine noodles.
1/2 C. Low odium oy sauce
1/4 C. Sesame oil
1/8 C. Honey, can use up to 1/4 cup if you like it sweeter.
2 Scallions, sliced thinly using the white and dark part.
sesame seeds, to sprinkle

Boil pasta till cooked. Mix together the soy sauce, oil, and honey. Stir into the hot pasta. Mix in the scallions and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
This can be served warm, cold, or room temperature.  


Peanut Butter Noodles
1 bag of whole wheat spaghetti or fettuccine noodles.
1/2 C. All natural peanut butter
3 TBS. Teriyaki sauce
3 TBS. Soy sauce
1 TBS. Minced garlic
3/4 tsp. Powdered ginger or fresh minced ginger if you have
1/2 C. Water or more
1/8 -1/4 C. Honey (optional if you’d like it sweeter)
optional: for some heat add a splash of siracha sauce.
Handful of chopped peanuts
Sprinkle of sesame seeds
Boil pasta till cooked. Whisk together sauce ingredients except for the honey. Add water to thin out. Taste. Add honey if you’d like it sweeter. Pour over warm pasta. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and sesame seeds. Can be served warm, cold, or room temperature.
Note: The natural peanut butter and teriyaki sauce I used had a sweet taste therefore I did not need honey, but I have used brands before that were not sweet and I’ve added honey to balance out the flavor.

Enjoy!

Thanks Ali for having me as a guest! 

Feel free to check out more of my healthy recipes and tips on my blog nowaythatshealthy.blogspot.com

Mo-Rockin In Your Kitchen

Guest Blog Post by Elisheva Avital
I am a fairly skilled home cook, but baking has never been my thing.  I tend to do much better when I can wing a recipe.  This year, for the first time, I made a small Mimouna after Pesach.  This is an old Moroccan tradition to throw a typically loud, fun, open-house party on the night Pesach ends.  The main food served at this party is called Moufletta, which is a cross between a crepe and a flat-bread.  My poor, deprived husband has been telling me about this for years, and he hasn’t had this taste of home since he emigrated to America at 16.  The stories always made it seem like a burden to do this right after cleaning up from Pesach, but we had so much fun doing it!  
This is the Avital family method: (we halved this recipe.)
 Moufletta
6.5-7 C. Flour

3 C. Warm Water

1/4 C. Oil

pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients.  Let dough sit for 20 minutes.  Preheat a skillet on a medium-high flame. 

On an oiled countertop, divide the dough into small balls, then open and flatten each leaf by hand until it is very thin.  

Cook one leaf on the skillet until it is golden on each side, and then place one raw leaf on top of the cooked one, and flip the stack.  It  can be tricky to pick up the thin leaves without them tearing- this can take some practice.  Repeat adding raw leaves and flipping the stack until you have about 10 leaves, and repeat until all the dough is cooked.  You will end with something that looks like a stack of large pancakes.  Serve warm, spread butter and honey/confectioners sugar, and roll up like a crepe.

It was such a pleasure to be able to give my husband a little taste of his childhood. After seeing how easy it was to make Moufletta, I was inspired to try making my own pita!

I concocted my own recipe based on combining a few others: 
Pita
1 Package (about 2 Tbs) Yeast

1 C. Warm Water (add a little extra if using whole wheat)

 2.5-3 C. Flour (I did 1 C. whole wheat, 1.5 C. white)

2 tsp. salt

2 TBS. Oil

1 tsp. honey

Mix yeast and water and let sit for 5 minutes or until it is totally dissolved.  Add in the rest of the ingredients and combine well, then knead for about 7 minutes.  Place in an oiled bowl, and cover with saran wrap or towel and let rise in a 100 degree oven for 1-2 hours, until the dough doubles in size. 

 Once it has risen, place the dough on a floured surface and cut into 8-12 pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball- the  more perfect the ball, the rounder your pita will be.  Flatten them by hand into a disc, and let rest in darkness (under a towel) for 10-20 minutes.  Preaheat an oven to 475, or a skillet on a high flame.  I used a skillet, because we like our pita to be a little blackened.  For more even color, do it in an oven on a preheated baking stone or preheated sheet. 

With a rolling pin, roll each pita to your desired thickness.  The more thick and bready you like your pita, the thicker it should be.  I rolled mine pretty thin.  Since I am a novice baker, I didn’t even have a rolling pin, and a wine bottle did the trick.

If doing in an oven, bake on 475 for about 3 minutes or until the pita puffs up.

If using a skillet:

Test the pan to see if a droplet of water will sizzle away immediately.  If so, it’s ready.  Place a pita in the pan, wait about 20 seconds until small bubbles begin to form, and then flip.  When large bubbles begin to form (usually about 1 minute), flip again, and the pita should begin to puff up like a pillow.  If your pita is not puffing, there are two possible solutions: Your pan may not be hot enough, so raise the flame.  If your pita is not moist enough, this can be fixed by spritzing some water on the dough before you put it in the skillet.  It’s a neat little trick so that you don’t need to re-knead all your dough with more water.  If you still can’t get them to puff, they can be passed off as flatbread (-:.



Voila!  Making home made pita was so simple and delicious that I think I will start to do it regularly, and you can too!

Whiskey Tasting for The New Year

Guest Blog Post by Matan Gutwaks

I’m going to start my post about a whisky tasting by talking about food.
The event I attended was catered by Gemstone Caterers- an exquisite  posse  lead by NYC’s very own Kosher Culinary Cowboy, Chef Ari White.
Chef White never disappoints.  Evoking his inner Texan, his first station provided a choice of either  a slow cooked pulled brisket or pulled chicken sandwich in an intensely flavorful and smoky BBQ sauce.  Remember that, because it’s going to come into play later.
He followed the sandwiches with an array of sushi and herrings (which is a way straight to my heart) as well as salmon done three ways- classic smoked lox, gravlaks (which is an herb cured lox), and (my personal favorite) pastrami cured lox.

White never disappoints, and the food alone would have made a lovely night out.  The real purpose, though, was an educational and, if I may, an intoxicating tasting.
A note:
I consider myself a man of expensive tastes.  I enjoy a few of the more expensive hobbies: luxurious food, great wine, and quality cigars are notable here.  Generally speaking, though, my familiarity with alcohol stopped at wine.  I knew that I preferred bourbon (and who doesn’t like tequila), but in the broader world of whisky (or whisky, depending on the location) I’m still an amateur.
So when I embarked on the First Annual Scotch and Whisky Tasting put on by Single Cask Nation, I was shown a whole new sphere of pretentiousness with which I could wet my palate.
There were more whiskies than you probably care to hear about (all of which were great), so I’ll just mention the ones I thought most noteworthy.
Glenrothes Select Reserve, is a blend that represents the flavors The Glenrothes are known for.  It’s full and slightly spicy with hints of vanilla; it made me think it was a liquid cloud.  If that helps at all.  The rep that Glenrothes had there explained that this is their “house style”- they intend, through blending different casks of different years, to yield a flavor that encompasses what their distillery is known for.
Koval, a company based out of Chicago, impressed me with its Lion’s Pride- organic whisky in five varieties that are all distilled from different grains (wheat, spelt, oat, millet, and rye, respectively).  Each tastier than the last, all delicious.

I took a liking to Angel’s Envy – a Kentucky Straight Bourbon – which, though unique, reminded me of Woodford Reserve.  It turns out Angel’s Envy was started by Woodford’s former master distiller after he retired.

 Finally, the guys that organized the event – Joshua, Jason, and Seth from Single Cask Nation, the Jewish Whisky company – rolled out their products.
We started with the Arran 12, which was quite nice – pungent with a nice spiciness.  We moved on to the Benriach 17- a single malt scotch whisky, matured in a single cask that previously head bourbon, whose pronounced smokiness reminded me of a BLT from my rebellious days.  Smoky, sweet, crisp, and refreshing.  I thought this was a really fantastic way to introduce peatiness to a beginner.  It does not overwhelm you with it, but it definitely gives you enough to know you want more.


Just so you know, they have more.
For those that can handle a ton of smoke there’s the Kilchoman 4.  They’d love this intensely peaty dram.  It’s floral and strong; it tasted like the liquefied smoke of a barbequed flower.  An amazing way to cap off the palate for the evening.
This, by the way, is a great callback to the menu from earlier in the evening, and one of the reasons why White did such an amazing job pairing dishes to the tasting.  His smoked and cured meats were just strong enough to prepare you for the intensity of what was coming.
I walked out, a bit more tipsy than I would like to admit, genuinely excited to experiment and enjoy all the bourbons, scotches, ryes and whiskies we tried (and of course, many more that we hadn’t) , but more than anything thankful to the guys that set this event up.  Because after all, what good is a combination cigar/flask if I don’t have something great to put in it?


Special thanks to John Flemming for editing this post.

Kosher By Design Cooking Coach Review

Guest Blogger: Talia Rona

Some people get excited about meeting politicians. There are those whose hearts flutter when they spot a celebrity. There are even guys who stalk highly esteemed rabbis (my friend’s brother. I’m not lying.) And then there is me—I get excited to meet someone who cooks Kosher food. Can I be any more of a typical Jewish girl?! 

So, when my good friend Alison Barnett, a.k.a. Chef Ali of AliBabka.com, invited me to attend a press-only event for the release of Susie Fishbein’s new cookbook, Kosher by Design: Cooking Coach, I was ecstatic! My first cookbook ever was actually Susie’s second, Kosher by Design Entertains, and I read it word for word and cover to cover probably around 37 times. Since then, I have bought 5 other Kosher by Design cookbooks and basically memorized them. I even modeled an application for a fellowship I applied to after my first cookbook and called it “Fellow by Design Impresses.”

The press event was held in Pomegranate, which is an experience in and of itself. (For those of you who are unaware, it’s kind of like an all Kosher Whole Foods located in Brooklyn on the corner of Avenue L and Coney Island Avenue.) It felt pretty cool to be part of this exclusive event where there were chairs set up for only around 40-50 people.  There were reporters from all the big Jewish newspapers and magazines and it was fun to network with and put faces to the names I always read on these publications.
Susie did a demonstration where she made one recipe and then used the leftovers to make 2 very different dishes, which I thought was genius. And of course, we each got to taste all 3 of the dishes in our own servings. Susie did not disappoint—it was delicious! After the demo, anyone who wished to could line up and take a picture with Susie and get her autograph.

As awesome as it was to meet her, my favorite part of the evening was receiving a gift bag with Susie’s latest cookbook, Kosher by Design: Cooking Coach so I could put the skills I just learned into practice. This cookbook is super helpful because not only is it chock full of recipes, but it also includes tips and techniques on how to improve your cooking skills. I already tried out a bunch of them, but my favorite is the Mushroom Arabiatta Over Spaghetti Squash. Spaghetti squash is so easy to make (you literally just put it in the oven and that’s IT); it’s really healthy and low calorie, and it’s also huge so you are guaranteed leftovers that last for a while.

Thank you, Chef Ali, for letting me be your +1 for the evening!
Mushroom Arabiatta Over Spaghetti Squash
1 whole medium spaghetti squash, about 3 pounds
extra-virgin olive oil
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons canola oil
½ small green pepper, seeded, cut in half horizontally and then into very thin strips
½ medium Spanish onion, peeled, thinly sliced
12 ounces button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
12 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2. Place the whole spaghetti squash onto a cookie sheet or directly on the grate of the oven.  Bake for about 1 hour, until slightly darker in color and a little soft when you squeeze the sides. The time may vary based on the size and weight of the squash; it may need an extra few minutes, but don’t overcook the squash or it will come out mushy.  Remove from oven and allow to cool until it is easy enough to handle.  Once the squash is cool, cut it in half lengthwise.  Scoop out and discard the seeds.  Use a fork to scrape the flesh into spaghetti-like strands and place them into a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Meanwhile, heat the canola oil in a large (12- 14-inch) skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking.  Add the green pepper and onion.  Sauté for 1 minute.  Add the mushrooms, sauté for 4-5 minutes until liquid is released from the mushrooms and starts to cook off.  The mushrooms should start to caramelize.  Sprinkle in the red pepper flakes and ¾ teaspoon salt.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Add in the tomato sauce.  Stir well.  Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes.  Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

4. Transfer the squash strands to a serving dish; top with the mushrooms.  Serve hot.

Rachel Kravetz Presents…Gazpacho!

Guest blog post by Rachel Kravetz

Hey AliBabka fans! As one of Alison’s oldest friends, I’ve seen her through the highs and the lows of her cooking adventures (my favorite has to be our homemade s’mores ice cream, complete with burnt marshmallows and a melted hershey bar). She has grown immensely as a chef, and she’s always my go-to-girl for a good food idea.

As my last hurrah of the summer, I wanted to make a cold soup. Soup is by far my favorite food, but it can be too hot and time consuming during the summer. I am also not a very exact chef, so I wanted something easy to adapt and difficult to mess up. I was drawn to it because of its use of cilantro. Being married to a half-Mexican, cilantro has become a staple herb in our household. It adds a brightness and punch of  flavor to anything from hamburgers to watermelon.
The best thing about this recipe is that there is ZERO cook time! I present to you:

Gazpacho Soup!
 
 
Gazpacho

3 medium size tomatoes
1 cucumber
½ red pepper
½ yellow pepper
½ orange pepper
½ white onion
handfull of fresh cilantro
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

Chop up all the fresh ingredients. Add tomato paste and water. More or less water can be added depending on the thickness you like. Throw it all into a blender (I prefer my ‘zhuzher’, otherwise known as an immersion blender) Blend ingredients until smooth, then add salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the refrigerator for ~4 hours. Serve with some sprigs of cilantro for garnish, and Buen apetito!