Category Archives: Kosherfest

Kosherfest2015

Kosherfest is one of my favorite events to attend each year! This year I was not able to go because I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of my babybabka! On behalf of AliBabka, I sent my two trusty babkas, Enon Avital and Shalom Silbermintz, to scout out and search for the best and most interesting products Kosherfest had to offer.


Here are their top picks:



Frozen fruit treats that taste like real food, because, you guessed it: they’re made of fruit and nothing else. The texture of these fruit pops was perfectly smooth, and we went back for seconds.

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Bootlegger Gin from Prohibition Distillery
Newly certified kosher, this gin has a very clean finish, and a flavor profile with all the right notes. Their vodka is nice too, and the jury is still out on the small-batch bourbon.
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As good as ever, and now all natural (the spicy jerky was Enon’s favorite), with their line of beef sticks slated for the all-natural makeover sometime in 2016 (Pepper beef stick was shalom’s meat of choice).


A new service for ordering kosher food anywhere. They take the hassle of hunting down food while traveling, and are basically a global GrubHub/Seamless for ready-made kosher food delivery.


Another newly-kosher product, great for topping ice creams and cakes, or just eating alone, like we did.
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From the French line of truly magnificent chalav yisrael cheeses, this one is a must try.
Hevron Heights Isaac’s Ram Cabernet Sauvignon
We’re big fans of cabs because of their wide appeal, and at the price point of this bottle, we expect it to become a regular on our shabbat tables.
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Enon Avital is also a food lettering artist, and was posting #LiveFromKosherFest:
 

Puff It Up, Puff It In, Let Us Begin…

You can put anything in puff pastry and it will taste amazing!  I dare you, name one thing that wouldn’t taste good in a puffed up piece of buttery dough?! I had a time in my life where puff pastry was the enemy.  I had a huge aversion to puff pastry after making it from scratch in culinary school.  Puff pastry is made with so much butter (or if it’s parve, margarine) you can’t even imagine!  It puffs up because the butter that is folded into each thin layer of pastry dough creates air pockets.
 
Nonetheless, I don’t want to deter you from using puff pastry, but like anything, eat in moderation.
 
This recipe is from my demo at Kosherfest.  Bourekas in Israel are like donuts in America, you can find them everywhere! This recipe screams Mediterranean with the combination of feta, roasted eggplant and tehina all wrapped up in puff pastry! If you want to go parve, I use sweet potato’s instead of feta as a variation to this recipe.    
 

Eggplant and Feta Bourekas with Parsley Tehina Sauce

2 Sheets Puff Pastry Dough

2 Eggplant, roasted, peeled and cut in small pieces
2/3 C. Bulgarian Feta Cheese, crumbled
1 Egg, Beaten
Salt and Pepper
Egg wash (yolk + 1 tsp. water)
Sesame Seeds
Zaatar

Roast eggplant (pierced with knife) at 450 for 30 minutes.  Remove the pulp discarding the seeds and squeezing out the liquid. Preheat oven to 350. Mix together the eggplant pulp, feta and egg till combined.  Flour a surface and roll out one sheet of puff pastry dough (roll out thin, but not transparent). Cut the dough in circles with a cookie cutter or drinking glass. Put about a teaspoon of filling in each and  close in half circles by pinching slightly the dough, wet the edges if necessary.  Place on parchment paper and brush with egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and zaatar.  Bake until golden 20 -30 minutes.

Parsley Tehina Sauce:

1/2 C. Sesame Paste

1 C. Water
2 lemons, juiced
4 Garlic Cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 C. Parsley
Salt, to taste

Place sesame paste, water, lemon juice, garlic cloves, parsley and cumin in a food processor. Pulse to combine, then process until the mixture has the consistency of thick cream. Transfer to a bowl and add salt to taste.

One “Hal-a-vah” Cupcake!

As a presenter at Kosherfest for the Israel pavilion this year, I had to come up with my spin on an Israeli brunch.  I decided to focus on dessert first.  What would I create that no one else has ever done before?  As I was pondering the many delicacies I could put into action, I kept having this image of halvah (a sweet sesame confection) in my head.  That sweet, melt in your mouth, yet dry dessert I tasted in the Jerusalem market place (shuk) so many times!  I couldn’t make halvah though…that would be way to intricate for my demonstration of 5 different dishes in my meager 45 minute time slot.  
 
Had I ever eaten halvah in any other way than in its pure form?  Yes! Yes I had!
In Israel, around Hannukah, the streets are FILLED with the smell and aroma of sufganiyot (donuts).  They are traditionally made with jelly inside, but there is one special shop in the middle of the city that has the most unusual flavors and fillings one could ever imagine.  I happened upon it one day in the early morning (we’re talking 5 am) on the way to the Western Wall.  The sun was just starting to rise and I smelled something so amazing coming from one of the bakeries.  I peaked my head in and looked at the crazy assortment of unique flavored donuts, one of theme being halvah.  I picked the donut up, paid for it and after one bite I. Was. In. Heaven.  It was silky and sweet and totally worth waking up that early.   
 
That was my inspiration for this Israeli dessert!  Cupcakes are in no way, shape or form an Israeli dessert, but after all, this was MY take on an Israeli Brunch.  The addition of figs in the vanilla cupcake compliment the halvah nicely and adds a bite of texture.  I also added a bit more halvah to the top and a drizzle of silan (date honey), which happens to be the “honey” when referencing Israel as the “land of milk and honey”.  The halvah frosting is a bit heavy as a filling for the donut, but was great on top of the donut 🙂   

 
 

Dried Fig Cupcakes with Halvah Cream Cheese Frosting
(can be made parve or dairy)

Makes 24 mini cupcakes


Cupcakes:

½ C. Unsalted Butter or Earth Balance,  room temperature
2/3 C. Sugar
3 Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 ½ C. Flour
1 ½ tsp. Baking Powder
¼ tsp. Salt
¼ C. Milk or Almond Milk
½ C. Dried Figs, roughly chopped

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Cream your butter and sugar until light and fluffy,  using electric beaters.   Add the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture to incorporate each egg before adding the next.  Beat in the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients and the milk to the egg/butter mixture alternating in three additions (add in some flour, then some milk, then some flour, then some milk, then the rest of the flour) until combined. Fold in your figs and pour into the muffin cups.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cupcake comes out clean.

Halvah Cream Cheese Frosting:

1/2 C. Butter or Earth Balance, room temperature
1/2 C. Cream Cheese or Tofutti Cream Cheese
1 C. Halvah
2-3 C. Powdered Sugar

Pinch of Salt

1 Tbs. Milk or Almond Milk
1 Tbs. Vanilla Extract

Whip the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth.  Mix in the halvah.  Add the powdered sugar and continue to mix until just combined.   Add more  or less depending on desired consistency of icing. Add the salt and  continue to beat until the mixture is smooth.

Mix in the cream and vanilla on medium speed until just incorporated, and then increase to high speed until the icing is soft and fluffy.
Garnish with pistachios, candied pecans, candied walnuts, silan, figs or halva pieces

Sufganiyot (Basic Donut Recipe)
Makes about 20 donuts

1 Packet (1/4 Oz.) Yeast
1 Tbs. Sugar
1/4 C. Warm Water

3/4 C. Almond Milk or Milk
4 C. Flour
1 tsp. Salt
1 Egg
2 Egg Yolks
1/4 C. Sugar
1/3 C. Earth Balance or Butter, melted
Oil

Combine the yeast, sugar and water.  Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

In a separate bowl add the flour, salt, almond milk yeast mixture, egg, egg yolks, sugar and earth balance.  Stir with a wooden spoon until combined.  Transfer to a clean and floured surface.  Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.  You may add more flour if too sticky.  Let the dough rest in an oiled bowl for 1 hour, covered.  Punch dough down and divide in half.

Lightly flour the clean counter and roll the dough about ½ inch thick.  Cut with a drinking glass or cookie cutter and place on parchment paper.  Let rise for 45 minutes. 

Add 3 inches of oil to deep fryer and heat oil to 350 – 365 degrees F. over medium heat.

Cooking in small batches, carefully add donuts to hot oil. Fry 1 minute per side until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer donuts to wire rack or paper towel to cool.  Fill or ice the top with desired filling.

Enjoying the original halvah sufganiyot!

It’s Shakshuka Time!

Besides for the name sounding like some sort of funky dance move, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Israeli food is always shakshuka!  The chunky tomato base (yet sometimes smooth) is the perfect accompaniment to the poached egg nestled inside.  Just like chicken soup, each shakshuka is an ancestral dish.  Every Israeli family has their own recipe passed down from generation to generation. 

On a side note, there is actually a place in Israel called Dr. Shakshuka.  All they serve there is, you guessed it, shakshuka (and bread of course, to wipe up the extra tomato goodness on the bottom of the pan).

Since I am not Israeli, I relied on my Israeli in-laws and husband to guide me in the right direction!  I had to have yellow pepper and fresh tomatoes!  I added the cumin to give it more of a Middle Eastern flair and the tomato paste was to showcase the deep rich tomato flavor.  I hope you like my newfound “ancestral” recipe! 

 

Shakshuka
Serves 4-6

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Onion, sliced thinly
½ Red Bell Pepper, deseeded and sliced thinly
½ Yellow Bell Pepper, deseeded and sliced thinly
3 Garlic Cloves, sliced thinly
1 tsp. Ground Cumin
1 tsp. Paprika
4 Fresh Large Tomatoes, medium dice
1 4 Oz. Can Tomato Paste
Salt and Pepper to taste
1-½ C. Crumbled Feta
6 Eggs
Optional: Feta, Cilantro, Parsley, Jalapenos, Hot Sauce, Pita Bread, Hummus  

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and bell peppers, and cook until very soft, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so until fragrant (don’t burn).  Stir in the spices and cook another minute.  Pour in the tomatoes and tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper, and let simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened.

Gently crack in the eggs evenly around the pan over the sauce. Top them with a little more salt and pepper, cover with foil and simmer until the eggs are just set, about 10 minutes. Serve with any of the optional add-in’s.
 
 

The Kosher Food and Wine Experience!

The Kosher Food and Wine Experience is the second best day of the year (Kosherfest is the other best day).  Sold out, the KFWE had over 1,000 attendees!  I was one of the lucky ones that had a press pass.  Thanks to Alibabka, I was able to get into the show an hour early to taste everything and talk to the chefs and owners of the restaurants and wineries before the stampede of the paying attendees arrived.  Being press, with only an hour to taste 200 wines and over 20 restaurants, as well as speak to chefs and Vintner’s, pre planning was required.  I first hit up all the restaurants in order to fill my stomach before the alcohol (we all know what alcohol does to an empty stomach…no need for further discussion).  As always, there were the ones that stuck out and the ones that didn’t bring their game.  The wines had the same pattern as the food, but tasting 200 dollar bottles of wine next to 30 dollar bottles was an eye opening and palette rebirth in itself.  The Kosher Food and Wine Experience is not only a taste tester’s heaven, but a great place to make connections and meet other foodies.  
5 hours after we arrived, I left content, very happy, tipsy and satisfied.  Thanks KFWE for my third wonderful experience at your show. I look forward to next year!

Best Wines  (in no particular order)
I tend to like reds if you can’t tell.

1)  Yatir (Israel) – Forest 2007

Approx Retail Value: $85.00
2)  Binyaminia (Israel) – The Cave 2006 (I happen to own a bottle) 
Approx Retail Value: $65.00
3)  Chateau Leoville Poyferre (France) – St. Julien 2003
Approx Retail Value: $190.00

4)  1848 Winery (Israel) – Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Special Reserve
Approx Retail Value: $40.00

5)  Shiloh (Israel) – Mosaic 2006
Approx Retail Value: $67.00
6)  Alexander (Israel) – Alexander The Great Amarolo 2007
Approx Retail Value: $100.00
7)  Barkan (Israel) – Superieur Pinotage 2007
Approx Retail Value: $65.00
8)  Domaine du Castel (Israel) – Petit Castel 2009/2010
Approx Retail Value: $42.00
9)  Pacifica (Washington/Oregon) – Pinot Noir 2010
Approx Retail Value: $30.00
10)  Drappier (France) – Carte d’or Champagne
Approx Retail Value: $44.00

11)  Herzog (California) – Single Vineyard Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Approx Retail Value: $40.00

12)  SerrallesUSA made incredibly tasty mixed drinks.  I am in the process of finding those recipes.  I would love to make that passion fruit cocktail!

Best Food (in no particular order) 
The food at the show was modern classic. Meaning classic dishes with a modern twist.  They had everything from push up cake pops to syringes with sauce (you would squirt the syringe in your mouth and then pop the food in).  The chefs made bite size tastings of their best showcased dish. 

1)  AviGlatt (Lower Manhattan/Brooklyn) – Captcha Fish Salad
A lime and coconut white fish ceviche.  Light, refreshing and tasty!

2)  ETC. Steakhouse (Teaneck, NJ) – Barbecue Oxtail
Braised oxtail with house made bbq sauce and crushed red mashed potatoes.

3)  Gemstone Catering (Tri-State) – Herzog Oak Barrel and Mesquite Smoked Turkey
Jack Daniels infused whole grain mustard and cranberry chutney, sweet yam mash and cowboy gribenez.  It’s
like the best thanksgiving you have ever had (in a bite size portion)!

4)  Got Cholent? Inc. (Tri-State) – French “Chaud-lent” Cassolet with Duck Confit
I’m usually not a big fan of cholent, but duck confit in cholent…I think YES! They had a kiddush club array of cold herring and a caviar bar there as well…It’s heimish turned classy.

5)  Guilty Pleasures (Tri-State) – Bana-Bana Chocolate
Sounds a bit peculiar, but it is actually fabulous!  The emphasis was more on the chocolate and did not have an overwhelming banana flavor.

6)  My Most Favorite (Upper West Side, Manhattan) – Raspberry Linzer Cookies
Light, sweet and delicious!  I am currently trying to perfect this cookie…if only I had this recipe!

7)  Pardes (Downtown Brooklyn) – Smoked “Grow and Behold” Ribeye Tartar, Soy, Enoki and Rice Krispies
I have never tried beef tartar before, and this was a great experience.  Wonderful, flavorful and tasty combination.  This one was definitely a party in my mouth.

8)  Pardes (Downtown Brooklyn) – Meyer Lemon Meringue Tart
First of all, lemon meringue pies are one of my top three favorite desserts.  From the flaky crust to the tangy lemon curd, this was a delightful bite size treat that I look forward to having again at the restaurant.

9)  Pomegranate (Flatbush, NY) – Signature Dip Bar
It was a buffet of dips!  My favorites included:  The Purple Eggplant Dip (the color was a gorgeous purple), Kalamata Olive Tapenade, Dill Dip, and Jalapeno Pepper Dip.

10)  Sushein (Lower Manhattan) – Sushi, Crispy Kani Salad and Fresh Tuna Cake, Crispy Meat Wontons
The fish was of great quality and the sushi and wontons were fantastic!

11) Tevere (East Midtown, NYC) – Carciofi all Giudia
Artichokes, Roman Style.  One of my favorites of the evening!  I went back for seconds, but alas and understandably, they were finished.

Me and my friends, editors and foodies at KFWE

KosherFest!

One of the highlights of my year is Kosherfest.  Picture a plethora  of foodies gathered together to sample and discover some of the finest kosher (FREE) food.  What could be better?  As a 4th year veteran, I have learned the proper Kosherfest “technique”  I begin my day by drinking a half cup of coffee and a banana in order to satiate my appetitate and give me stamina for this event.  After 5 hours, two bags of samples (including a whole frozen fish), and a a stack of business cards, I could go home happy.  It was a successful year.  The show had more meat than last year, and gluten free products seemed to be the theme.

Below are my top 10 favorite booths (in no particular order).

Kosherfest Top 10


1) Jack’s Gourmet Sausage – Besides being the winner of  the new product competition, the Jamaican Style Jerk Chicken sausages, were one of the many highlights of this company.  Their display had different sausages, ranging from mild to spicy.  The flavor combinations of each were excellent.  This booth makes you question, what is a hot dog?

2) Don Rafael Olive Oil – One of the purest olive oils I’ve ever tasted.  This new company, coming all the way from Chile, is starting to branch out in places around the world.  Their olive oils are one of a kind.  They use a process which takes the natural oils from an ingredient and mixes in with the olive oil.   I have never tasted a purer flavor of orange, oregano, or ginger in olive oil.  Great discovery!

3) West Side Kosher Foods – The Kosher Australian Lamb is now making an appearance to United States.  This lamb is naturally raised, free range , pasture and organic fed.  I tried some lamb meatballs that were great!  I got the recipe and plan on making these soon!

4) Coconut Republic – Tastes like sugar! Low glycemic and in calories, this product is my new favorite find for sugar free diets.  It behaves much like sugar when making caramel and the sweetness is comparable to sugar.  They gave me a lot of free samples, which i plan on experimenting with!

5) 5th Avenue Chocolatiers – Yum.. just yum! Great chocolate!  The best chocolate I sampled at the show!

6) Dorot Pesto – I’m usually not a fan of frozen pre packaged herbs, but this pesto rocked it!  It comes in single servings, so it can be added to a pasta dish and voila!  Great flavor and super convenient!

7) Recanati – Great wine!  Can’t go wrong.  By noon, the Special Reserve Cab/Merlot already ran out!

8) Tishbi Jam – I remember trying this last year and then finding it in William Sonoma.  I bought two jars because I was so excited about the combination of jam and wine.  The Passion fruit Champagne Jam won best new jam and overall product.  Keep doing what you’re doing Tishbi!

9) Mimicreme – They are by far, one of my favorite discoveries.  Say goodbye parve metallic tasting Riches Whip and say hello to  Mimicreme.  Made purely of nut milk, this product whips up like whipped cream and can be used as a creamer for coffee and milk for cereal.
Special note:  Different package for whipping than the one for creamer substitute.

10) Carmona New York and Co – Cool collection of dishes!  They have modern shapes and have even made appearances on TV and in movies. My favorite was the “Window Collection.”

*Check out “Ya That Happened” for a classic Kosherfest pickup line.

  
                                                   Me and Chef Matan Gutwaks of Care One.
It’s happy hour somewhere….sipping a cocktail

  Me and my assistant, Rebecca Barnett, made our first appearances as Alibabka at Kosherfest.

Photo Credits: Lauren Elefant

Italian Men Are Like Jewish Mothers

The title pretty much says it all.  Fact: I just recieved the shidduch talk from my chef.  I assumed it wasn’t so strange to have an Orthodox Jew in a non kosher class at a culinary school, but apparently it’s not as common as I thought.  The chef had a very keen interest in my personal life yesterday.  I was explaining that botKosherfest and Kosher Food and Wine Experience are heaven on earth to me.  3 days of pure bliss, going through aisles and aisles of kosher food, new products and alcohol…it’s kinda awesome. He then went on to say that “you must enjoy it because…you know…”
Yes, I knew exactly what he meant.
So instead of stating the obvious, I just went for a broader word “networking.”  He smiled, winked and said “you could really work your way around there and meet some nice Jewish foodie guys, if ya know what I mean.”
I felt my face turn redder then the tomato puree we had made earlier. I was just waiting for him to mention that “one other Jewish guy, in the culinary program, during the morning classes, who comes in the days I don’t” to be the perfect match for me.  I saw it coming, so I quickly cut him off and asked him about the sachets’ we were preparing.  School is one of my only little distractions away from “the scene.”  But, on the plus side, culinary school is definitely a bonus and will rank me up there in being one heck of an Aishes Chayil. 😉
 

Bouquet Garnei and Sachet D’epice

That’s right I make my chicken matzah ball soup with a sachet’! Booyakasha!