A Happy Holiday

Making the holiday  cooking experience even more fun, Ilene Spector and her grandson made this memorable — and tasty — edible sukkah. (David Stuck)

Making the holiday cooking experience even more fun, Ilene Spector and her grandson made this memorable — and tasty — edible sukkah. (David Stuck)

Sukkot celebrates the joy of the late summer harvest and is often thought of as the Jewish Thanksgiving. However, at this holiday, where we eat is as meaningful as what we eat.

Through the sukkahs we simulate the experience of the Exodus from Egypt. Traveling to the Promised Land for 40 years through the desert, the fleeing children of Israel created temporary housing or huts. By living in these temporary sukkahs, we get a sense of our dependence on nature — and our inter-dependence of family, friends and neighbors.

One of the rituals performed each day in the sukkah is holding four species of vegetation in one’s hands and lifting them in six directions: east, west, north, south, up and down. This reflects our belief that God is everywhere, and there is no place that God is not present.

Eating in the sukkah is the essence of the holiday. Even the composition of food holds metaphors. For example, “stuffed” recipes (such as cabbage, eggplants and tomatoes) remind us of being surrounded in a cozy dwelling. Decorate your table with pomegranates and bottles of wine. I even made a small edible sukkah with my grandson. A cornucopia should overflow with fruits, vegetables, nut and candies. Your sukkah should always be ready for guests.

Get out your Crock-Pot(s) for hearty soups and cholent. Some people decorate sukkahs quite elaborately. Yes, I have seen chandeliers. But there are other more simple options, such as using children’s drawings and photos of Israel. This is a happy holiday ending with Simchat Torah, marking the end of the Torah reading and the beginning — the circle of life. Here are some recipes to add delicious tastes and smells to your sukkah.

 

Rolled Stuffed Eggplant

Scalloped Tomatoes

Light Sweet Potatoes With Apples

 

Tips & Tricks
• Spruce up wilted vegetables with a “splash” of plain vinegar.
• Royal icing: 1 egg white and 1 to 2 cups sifted 10X sugar. Beat on high to a “glue” consistency.
• Use a lot of fresh aromatic herbs, such as fresh rosemary and basil, to scent your sukkah table.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

Hersh’s and Charmery Make Ice Cream Magic

he sundae contained a sweet tomato blondie, ricotta ice cream, basil chocolate sauce and nut brittle.

The sundae contained a sweet tomato blondie, ricotta ice cream, basil chocolate sauce and nut brittle.

Hampden handcrafted ice cream shop The Charmery is no stranger to unusual ice cream flavors. Old Bay Caramel, Cheesecake with Graham Cracker Swirl, Chinese Food and a Movie (which features buttered popcorn and chocolate covered fortune cookies) and Mango Lassi have graced the menu, which is constantly changing.

“My friends and employees are used to us doing crazy things,” said co-owner and “master creamer” David Alima, who owns The Charmery with his wife, Laura.

With that mentality came yet another unlikely mash-up of flavors. Alima joined forces with Josh Hershkovitz, chef and co-owner of Hersh’s in South Baltimore, to make a take on a Caprese salad.

The sundae was available for one night only, on Tuesday, Sept. 9. It was the second sundae in The Charmery’s guest chef series, the first of which featured a Heath Bar Bread Pudding sundae with Chad Gauss from The Food Market.

To arrive at the final product, Hershkovitz and Alima did a lot of brainstorming. It started with Hersh’s house-made ricotta cheese.

“We thought it would go well with a lot of different things, and so we decided to do a blondie,” said Hershkovitz, whose restaurant features pizza and Italian food. “But instead of doing it traditionally, we pulled back a little bit on the brown butter and added some of the tomato paste that we make at the restaurant inside.”

The ricotta comes in with the ice cream.

“We took about three-and-a-half pounds of the cheese and put it in our ice cream, and we did a little bourbon and a little Tahitian vanilla,” Alima said. “Then we took our chocolate sauce and infused some fresh basil in it.” It’s all topped off with a nut brittle.

Of course, when trying to make a salad-inspired sundae, at least one of the creators had some trepidation.

“When people approach me with their idea I’m always like, ‘Phew, you know we’re an ice cream shop here?

Josh Hershkovitz (left), co-owner  and chef at Hersh’s, and David Alima, co-owner of The Charmery, make a Caprese salad-inspired sundae.

Josh Hershkovitz (left), co-owner and chef at Hersh’s, and David Alima, co-owner of The Charmery, make a Caprese salad-inspired sundae.

I don’t know how that’s going to work,’” Alima said. “And slowly it kind of builds and builds and builds into this kind of thing that’s delicious and something I could never have thought of on my own.”

Customers who tried the sundae called it “interesting” and like something they’ve never had before, and were happy with their dessert purchases.

“I was expecting more of an oddball thing, but it’s delicious,” said Patrick Boyle.

“It’s crazy how well it all goes together,” said Soraya Bailey.

The night not only offered a one-time sundae, but a dollar from each sundae sold was donated to Seeds of Peace, the charity of Hershkovitz’s choice. The contents of the night’s tip jar were also donated to the charity.

Seeds of Peace engages young leaders from regions of conflict with various programming in hopes of achieving lasting peace.

“A few of the camps have Israeli and Palestinian kids staying in bunks together,” Hershkovitz said. “They play sports and what not, but they sit down and really start talking about things and try to get past some of the stereotypes they have of each other and really start dealing with ‘how do we make this a more livable world?’ … It seems so hopeful.”

Another recent charitable effort landed Hersh’s in the national spotlight. After Ray Rice was cut from the  Ravens on Monday, Sept. 8, amid a domestic violence scandal, Hersh’s offered a free pizza and a $2.70 donation to House of Ruth for every Ray Rice jersey brought to the restaurant that week. Customers brought in about 50 jerseys on Monday, Hershkovitz said, and its Facebook page grew from 1,400 likes to nearly 2,600 as of press time. Hershkovitz, who was wearing purple Nikes at The Charmery event, was also trying to get the Ravens to donate directly to House of Ruth for Hersh’s collected jerseys once the team announced it was instituting its own buy-back program.

On Thursday, Hersh’s announced via its Facebook page, where the trade-in was first announced, that it would not be talking to the media about the jerseys anymore because of threats to the restaurant and expressed regret that “all of the media attention turned this story into a circus.”

“We are Ravens fans and season ticket holders at Hersh’s, and we found the news on Monday terribly troubling,” the Facebook statement said. “While we appreciate reasonable statements of all kinds, whether in agreement with our actions or not, we are highly troubled by the profanity and threats of physical violence we have received via Facebook and via telephone calls to the restaurant.”

As for The Charmery, Alima is scouting other guest chefs, thinking about bringing some tea flavors into his shop and debating bringing back last year’s Apples and Honey ice cream for Rosh Hashanah.

“We’re always trying to do some new, different things,” he said.

mshapiro@jewishtimes.com

The ‘Wow’ Factor

Honey-glazed Carrots (©iStockphoto.com/Sarsmis)

Honey-glazed Carrots (©iStockphoto.com/Sarsmis)

The high holidays are a time when I channel my inner Tevye. He starts singing softly in the back of my mind in late August, but as September nears, his plea is loud and clear: “Tradition! Tradition!”

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur food customs have evolved over the years, but it is safe to say that most menus will include chicken soup, gefilte fish, brisket, honey and apples and conclude after Yom Kippur with a festive dairy meal. My mission in cooking is to find the new and unique, so my inner Tevye and I struggle at this time of year. Usually I manage to find a way to tweak tradition enough to satisfy us both. Here are my 2014 ideas for you to use as is — or adapt to your own traditions.

All these foods symbolize our hopes and prayers for the coming year. For example, the Aramaic word for dates is tamri. We eat dates not only because they are sweet for a sweet year, but also because tamri sounds like sheyitamu, the word for “removing enemies from our midst.” With the current situation in Israel, once again a tradition is contemporary. There is a special prayer that is said after eating dates: “May it be your will, Lord our G-d and G-d of our fathers, that there come an end to our enemies, haters and those who wish evil on us.” I will serve each person a date and say this prayer all together as a group.

On a lighter note, here are great ways to serve honey and sweets. I take little shot glasses and put about one inch of honey into each. Then I place small skewered squares of challah and apple pieces sticking up in each glass. Or I make honey cups for each guest out of scooped-out small apples that have been rubbed with lemon juice to keep from turning dark. Pass the sliced apples for dipping.

Presentation can make all the difference. Here’s a real “wow” factor I’m using and can be done way before the holidays: I took two of the biggest, widest fresh carrots I could find. I peeled and cut them into large pieces and simmered them in water that had been seasoned with a little chicken bouillon until just soft. I then thickly sliced them on a diagonal with a sharp knife. I used my smallest Jewish star cookie cutter to make stars. I froze all the stars to use in my chicken soup and on top of my gefilte fish. I coarsely mashed leftover pieces to add to my chicken soup or matzo balls (no waste!).

 

FOR ROSH HASHANA:
Noreen Gilletz’s Coke Brisket
Honey-Glazed Carrots

FOR YOM KIPPUR
(BEFORE & AFTER)
Bernice Schloss’ Easy Chicken
Stacked Tomatoes & Cheese
Light Ricotta Cheese Cheesecake

 

Tips & Tricks
• Chill wine quickly: Wrap the bottle in a wet kitchen towel before placing in the freezer. In 30 minutes you will achieve the perfect 50-degree drinking temperature. Release the frozen towel by placing briefly under warm water.

• Caramelize sliced, cored apples or pears, unpeeled, to garnish the top of your honey or apple cake.

• Reduce port wine to a syrup and glaze your favorite honey cake.

• Never refrigerate honey.

• Make your own house spread for Yom Kippur; mix lox pieces/bits with whipped cream cheese and add chopped fresh chives: cheaper, colorful and delicious!

A Healthy Dose?

082914_cover1As children return to school this week, some parents, physicians and scientists are engaged in an increasingly fierce debate over the safety and necessity of childhood vaccinations for diseases such as polio, hepatitis B, pertussis, diphtheria and chicken pox.

Emotions run high on both sides, with parents who choose not to vaccinate claiming that they face ostracism by their neighbors and worrying that, if found out, their children will be banned from schools, car pools and play groups. Those who do vaccinate their children claim that those who don’t are putting young babies and the immuno-compromised at risk and subjecting first-world societies to potential epidemics of diseases once thought eradicated. A small but growing number of today’s parents, most of whom are too young to remember when the vaccines for these diseases did not exist, are convinced that the diseases no longer pose serious risks to the public health.

Instead, these parents believe that it is the vaccines, rather than the diseases they inoculate against, that pose dangers to their children.

“I think we have lost the fear of these diseases,” said Baltimore pediatrician Rona Stein. “It’s wonderful that we’ve forgotten them, because they are now so rare [in the U.S.]; but the downside of that is that we don’t remember how serious they are.

“If you go to an underdeveloped country you will see them and realize they are not just minor illnesses,” she continued. “Anyone who’s been through a polio epidemic would gladly stand in line for the vaccine to get their children protected.”

R.B., a 32-year-old mother of four who, like others interviewed for this article, would not allow her name to be published for fear of being exposed as a non-vaccinator, is not convinced by the overwhelming scientific and governmental consensus that says vaccinating children is necessary for public health.

She maintains that most people who contract polio today have no symptoms at all, while M.D., a local 29-year-old non-practicing nurse and mother of three, says that epidemics of yesteryear — the American Academy of Pediatrics points out that polio killed 6,000 people in 1916 and left another 27,000 paralyzed — had more to do with lack of hygiene.

“The world today is completely different than it was during the polio epidemic,” said M.D. “It was dirty. An average healthy person couldn’t get a disease like polio today. Polio in a healthy person today is usually asymptomatic or it has minor symptoms and comes and goes. Then the person develops immunity forever.”

Views such as that have many doctors and health policymakers concerned about the risk of diseases reappearing. Although there have been parents who chose not to vaccinate their children as far back as the late 18th century when the smallpox vaccine was developed, in the past 15 years, the number of parents in the U.S. refusing, delaying or selectively vaccinating their children has increased.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, parental refusal or deferral of childhood vaccinations has led to an increase in diseases such as measles, which was “officially eliminated” in the U.S. in 2000. The federal agency reports that between Jan. 1 and Aug. 8 of this year, 18 outbreaks and 593 confirmed measles cases occurred in the United States.

Pertussis, a bacterial disease that causes violent fits of coughing and is known as whooping cough, has experienced a record increase this year, according to the CDC, with 9,964 cases being reported between Jan. 1 and June 16. That represents a 24 percent increase over the same period the year before.

Mumps and chicken pox as well have made comebacks in recent years, and for the most part, the CDC attributes the increase in all of these formerly “eliminated” diseases to low vaccination coverage in certain communities.

“When a critical portion of a community is immunized against a contagious disease, most members of the community are protected against that disease because there is little opportunity for an outbreak,” Vaccines.gov, a website maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, explains. “Even those who are not eligible for certain vaccines — such as infants, pregnant women or immuno-compromised individuals — get some protection because the spread of contagious disease is contained. This is known as community or [herd] immunity.”

Conversely, when relatively high numbers of people in a community are not vaccinated, that protection is diminished. That may explain, say scientists, why close-knit communities such as the Amish and others who refuse vaccination because of their religious beliefs have been among the hardest hit by these outbreaks. In recent years, there have been several outbreaks in Haredi Jewish communities as well, most notably in the spring of 2013 when at least 58 people in Orthodox Jewish enclaves in the Borough Park and Williamsburg sections of Brooklyn, N.Y., developed measles. This was reportedly the largest outbreak in the United States since the endemic spread of measles was eliminated.

Dissenting views
Despite these outbreaks, authorities maintain that most religious Jews are vaccinated and believe in the safety of vaccinations.

“Judaism traditionally expects certain actions of its believers to maintain health,” wrote John D. Grabenstein in a 2013 article in the journal Vaccine. “Pikuach nefesh, acting to save one’s ownor another’s life, is a primary value, a positive commandment. Judaic principles emphasize the community benefits of disease prevention in a manner superior to individual preference, based on scriptures such as Leviticus 19:16.”

Generally speaking, Jews who have chosen not to vaccinate have done so for medical, not religious, reasons.

An increase in concerns about the safety of vaccinations was seen after the publication of a 1998 study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield of England in the medical journal “Lancet” that asserted a correlation between the vaccine given to prevent measles, mumps and rubella and digestive inflammation and autism. Initially, some believed that thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative contained in some vaccines, could be a culprit. In response, the U.S. Public Health Service, the American Academy of Pediatrics and vaccine manufacturers decided that all but trace amounts of thimerosal should be eliminated from vaccines. Yet, a 2010 CDC study published in the journal “Pediatrics” concluded that “exposure to ethyl mercury from thimerosal-containing immunizations during pregnancy … or as a young child” was not associated with any autism-spectrum disorders.

The same year, Wakefield’s study was discredited and his article was retracted by “Lancet” after journalist Brian Deere uncovered evidence of Wakefield’s medical misconduct, including the use of fraudulent data, unethical treatment of children and undisclosed conflicts of interest. In the aftermath of Deere’s reporting, Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine in the United Kingdom and was dismissed from his position as a gastroenterologist and researcher at the Royal Free Hospital.

Many subsequent studies reported that no relationship existed between MMR and autism.

“Over a million children have been studied and no link between vaccines and autism has been found,” said Stein, the Baltimore pediatrician. “The safety of vaccines has been proven over and over again.”

Still, the belief that vaccinations may cause autism, sudden infant death syndrome, diabetes, asthma, allergies and other developmental disabilities rages on. R.B., who lives in Pikesville and is pregnant with her fifth child, says she vaccinated her first two children, now 6 and 7, but that doing so betrayed her intuition.

“At 2 months old, my baby received four shots at one time. He began to get high fevers. I brought him to the doctor, and they said this was normal,” she recalled.

“I said, ‘My baby was normal. You gave him his first fever!’ In between when my second and third children were born, I started paying more attention. More and more vaccinations were coming out every year.”

When she was pregnant with her third child, she had had enough.

“This is crazy!” R.B. remembered saying. “I can’t believe all of this is healthy. I will read about each one and decide which ones are necessary and which ones are not necessary.”

M.D. shares a similar story.

“I just assumed vaccinating was something you did, because vaccines saved humanity,” she said with a chuckle. “But then when my oldest was born she had a traumatic birth; she was small and bruised and weak, and we didn’t want to get the hepatitis B vaccine right away.”

Her pediatrician offered to inoculate her daughter at the first visit, but by the one month checkup, M.D. was still apprehensive. After pressure from her baby’s doctor, M.D. relented to having her daughter vaccinated at 6 weeks old.

“She kept having weird symptoms: bloody diapers and hysterical crying,” M.D. said. “I cut out all the stuff from her diet [that might have been causing the symptoms], and she was basically living off rice cakes and tuna, but nothing helped. At about 10 months, we went to our regular doctor’s visit and were told she was due for all these shots. I told him, ‘She has not been herself lately, and we are about to travel [to Israel]. Can we wait until we get back?”

Ultimately, M.D. and her husband decided not to continue vaccinating.

In retrospect, the mother has no regrets. She is unfazed by the possibility that her children might contract any of the diseases vaccines are meant to prevent, and she does not believe they are endangering others. She further believes the diseases that vaccines protect against are not that serious and, like R.B., accuses doctors and pharmaceutical companies of being in league together to make more money through vaccine deliveries.

“We would make a lot more money if we didn’t vaccinate,” remarked Stein. Both M.D and R.B. believe the concept of herd immunity is a myth.

082914_cover2If those who vaccinate their children “really believe vaccinations protect, why are they afraid we are putting them at risk?” wondered M.D. “Vaccine immunity wears off in a maximum of 10 years. That’s why people need boosters. My unvaccinated child is as unprotected as people whose vaccinations have worn out.

“In my world view, a child recently vaccinated is shedding a live virus whereas my unvaccinated kids aren’t,” she added. “People need to make their decisions based on fact and research. Most people don’t.”

Dr. Neal Halsey, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins University, agrees that people should base their decisions on facts and research as well. But he differs significantly on the research and facts on which he relies.

“Vaccines don’t cause autism,” he said. “This has been firmly proven by excellent science. There should be no doubt any longer.”

His response to those who say vaccines aren’t effective: “Vaccines work extremely well, but they are not perfect,” he said. “Measles vaccines are about 95 percent effective, and pertussis is somewhat lower. Herd protection works, but it is dependent on the cooperation of the whole community. These diseases are transferred person to person. Only 1 percent of kids have a real medical reason not to be vaccinated.”

Begging for S’more

My grandchildren reminded me that Aug. 10 is National S’mores Day. I couldn’t disappoint them, so we decided to have an August S’mores weekend.

I prepared by looking up the history of this uniquely American treat. After all, it could be a “Jeopardy” question someday. The name for s’mores originated when people asked for “some more” of any sweet dessert. History says this particular triple delight of graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows was invented by the Girl Scouts in the early 1900s. It was a perfect treat for roasting over campfires. Since the marshmallows get gooey and eating gets messy, s’mores are especially suited to outdoor dining.

The first written recipe appeared in the 1927 Girl Scouts cookbook. Like many origin stories, there is debate over the “truthiness” of the story. But no one can quibble over the level of yumminess: On a scale of 1 to 10, s’mores are an 11 for any age.

Think of having a “s’mores bar.” Use different flavors of chocolate, slip in some thin banana and strawberry slices. Or add bananas and peanut butter. And for a savory treat, add savory crackers, thinly sliced grape tomatoes, fresh basil and small mozarella balls.

Since our culture now craves instant gratification any place at any time, there are now ways to makes’mores without a campfire. You can use a toaster oven, stove top or microwave. The magic ingredient is those gooey well-toasted marshmallows. S’mores have morphed their way onto elegant restaurant menus with simple ingredients that transform into creative desserts, drinks and delicious memories.

S’MORES ICE CREAM CAKE
S’MORES CUPCAKES
S’MORE’S SHAKE

Tips & Tricks
• Look for square marshmallows made just for s’mores.
• Store marshmallows in the freezer, cut with scissors dipped in hot water. If they become hard, place in a plastic baggie with a large slice of fresh bread for a few days.
• Don’t be afraid to try assorted chocolate squares, even those filled with caramel.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

And, the Price is Right

Meat lovers rejoice, because there’s a new kosher game in town that rivals in both price and quality the wood-paneled, white-tableclothed varieties that have for years plied their trade in offering decidedly treif hunks of juicy steak.

The brainchild of Accents Grill and Cocoaccinos owners Lara and Larry Franks, Serengeti aims to do for Baltimore kosher cuisine what such establishments as Ruth’s Chris and Capital Grille have done for everybody else; its mission is to be no less than the final authority when it comes to competitively priced, high-quality dining that, while offering gourmet flavors, focuses on, as Lara Franks said in her South African lilt, “giving diners a healthy portion of protein at a good value.”

With a décor heavy on earth tones and angular designs and metal antelope heads hung on the walls, Serengeti evokes the spirit of an African hunting lodge or a rustic cabin. On a recent Wednesday evening, the place was packed, and a hurried Franks, who serves as hostess, revealed that the indoor location — the OU-supervised restaurant sits behind Accents in the Atrium mall at the Greenspring Shopping Center off of Smith Avenue — has had steady dinner and lunch crowds ever since a soft opening in late June. Reservations, she said, are highly recommended.

That the restaurant gets by essentially on word of mouth — Serengeti is just now beginning an advertising campaign — is a testament to the niche its owners identified several years ago, said Phil Rosenfeld, who manages the front of the house. “The idea is a classy steakhouse, something that was missing from the Baltimore kosher scene.”

Appetizers run from $7.50 for the soup of the day — it happened to be beef brisket split pea this particular night — to $17 for what Rosenfeld said is the restaurant’s most popular dish, a plate of sweet and spicy bourbon-braised short ribs served over creamy grits and topped with crispy onions. The meat, offering a substantial dose of smokiness with a hint of spice against a background of peppercorn, falls off the bone, while a tuna ceviche tower ($12) presents alternating layers of diced raw fish on “crackers” of tortilla chips and dollops of avocado cream.

For the main course, the Franks, along with Chef Daniel Neuman — a returnee to Baltimore after stints in New York kosher catering outfits — are taking an all-encompassing approach. Their menu leans heavy on steaks to be sure — grilled rib eyes can be ordered on the bone or boneless in both 12-ounce and 16-ounce cuts, spice rubbed or accompanied by one of three house sauces — but diners can also choose from braised lamb shank with red wine reduction ($27), a fish dish, two chicken entrées ($18), a vegan lentil shepherd’s pie ($18) or four entrée-sized salads ($15-$25). The chili-rubbed seared steak tournedos with peppercorn sauce ($42 for 16 ounces/$32 for 12 ounces) comes as thick as any chophouse filet and just as tender, while the grilled honey chipotle marinated rib eye steak ($32 for 16 ounces/$25 for 12 ounces) evokes images of Texas ranch hands enjoying a meal of well-deserved barbecued sustenance after a hard day’s work.

Eight different sides can be ordered al a carte and sandwiches include lamb burgers, hamburgers, grilled chicken and veggie varieties. Desserts run between $6 and $9.

A prix fixe option, at $50 per person, includes an appetizer, salad or soup, entrée with a side and desert.

For his part, Neuman relishes the chance to interact with his diners one on one, although he admitted that the cooking arrangement has taken some getting used to as both Accents and Serengeti share the kitchen.

“I’ve got two lines here going on simultaneously!” he shouted as assistants and wait staff scurried to and fro. When he was reminded that hotels and cruise ships frequently have multiple restaurants using central cooking facilities, he laughed: “Cruise ships! They have bigger kitchens!”

Franks, who got her start in the restaurant industry by running corporate lunch counters and catering kitchens in Southern California, said her foray into kosher dining and move to Baltimore a decade ago has been interesting. She and her husband preside over an ever-expanding empire of restaurants and, judging from the mix of people, Jewish and non-Jewish, patronizing their newest establishment, they seem to be answering a need. Less than a month since opening, some patrons have already become regulars and order without the help of the menu.

“When we designed this, we made sure that we were comparable and competitive to the non-kosher steakhouses in the area,” said Franks. “We know what the standard is on the open market and we’re going to deliver that same quality.”

Serengeti is located at 2839m Smith Ave. in Baltimore. For reservations, call 410-413-6080.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Come And Get It!

My favorite signs of summer — the “Farmers’ Market Is Now Open” placards — are popping up all over town. The season for Maryland produce is short, so don’t let any grass grow under your feet: Take advantage as soon as you can.

There is no better way to test new family recipes than this time of year, when you have farm-fresh, non-processed foods to create new dishes. You can find the freshest produce any day of the week from a simple roadside cart to a large marketplace, where you can spend hours “grazing.” Plan ahead by using the Maryland Farmers’ Market Guide (marylandsbest.com) for dates, times and locations. Some markets include carts with hot, prepared foods, so you can have lunch while you shop. And some markets have craft booths with homemade jewelry, clothes and more. A shopper’s delight.

My personal bests: I never pass up farm-fresh eggs or heirloom tomatoes, as they are so exceptional. I always look for what I call “crazy corn” — corn with mixed white and yellow crisp kernels. My family is crazy about this sweet corn.

I always try to experiment with one new item, such as squash blossoms. Don’t be timid about adding a new ethnic ingredient to your kosher recipe. And don’t be afraid to ask the farmers and other shoppers what recipes they are planning with their purchases. A farmers’ market can be a “living cookbook” full of great ideas.

POMEGRANATE SALAD
ILENE’S SOUTHERN TOMATO PIE
BAKED STUFFED SQUASH BLOSSOMS
FRESH STRAWBERRY PIE

Farmer’s Market Tips & Tricks
• Go early. The best selections sell out fast. But the best bargains are at
closing time.
• Reuse, reduce, recycle — bring canvas bags or a wheeled cart, wagon or even a stroller for purchases.
• Bring small change: Dollar bills and coins make shopping easier and faster.

Make It Memorable

Poor Dad! For Mother’s Day almost 114 million greeting cards are purchased annually; for Dad’s big day, 90 million. And while many restaurants are bombarded for reservations on Mother’s Day, the same ones often are less than full on Dad’s special day. The most hallowed tradition on Father’s Day is for everyone to gather around the grill while Dad cooks!

Getting fathers to recall their past can be a gift for them and for the rest of the family. There are many commercial “memory” books that encourage Dad or Zayde to write down his blasts from his past. You can buy one such as “Dad, Tell Me a Story: How to Revive the Tradition of Storytelling with Your Children” (a great gift for dads with children of all ages). Or you can make your own. Get paper and a loose-leaf binder. Have kids and grandkids write a question at the top of a page such as, “What was your favorite game when you were 10?” “Who was your favorite teacher?” And since Dad still remains king of the grill, here are some side dishes that will please him and all guests. Make Father’s Day a celebration he deserves.

ILENE’S CORN CHIP SALAD
STRAWBERRY MOZZARELLA WITH BALSAMIC GLAZE
EARLY SUMMER GREEN BEANS

Tips & Tricks

  • Crumple up and soap a piece of aluminum foil (even slightly used, but clean) into a ball to clean the grill or tough surfaces on pots/casseroles. (better than steel wool).
  • If you’re short on refrigerator space, fill your bathtub, laundry sink or top-load washing machine with ice and chill bottles until you need them.
  • Knot the corners of a cloth when eating outdoors to prevent flapping. Slip a tiny bouquet of herbs or dried flowers in each knot for decoration.

Manischewitz All-Star Cookoff

050914_food1To choose the very best of the best, the Manischewitz All-Star Cookoff began with the finalists from its past seven contests. From these, four were chosen. They submitted recipes for some of the most delicious creations I have ever tasted — and I have tasted a lot of food from contest recipes!

The final Manischwewitz all-star for 2014 was Jamie Brown-Miller from Napa, Calif., for her palate-pleasing, contemporary fusion of traditional Southern chicken and waffles.

The winning recipe makes innovative use of Manischewitz products: Potato pancake mix is the base for the waffles, and matzo ball mix coats the chicken. Smart and delicious.

Jamie Brown-Miller demonstrates her award-winning recipe. (photos provided)

Jamie Brown-Miller demonstrates her award-winning recipe.
(photos provided)

Another finalist, Dr. Joe Carver, won raves for Bubbie’s Noodle Studel. Carver’s dish was creamy and delicious with a few unusual ingredient combinations. The luscious kugel-type dish was definitely not your bubbie’s kugel, but it was a great dairy entrée that even your bubbie would love.

Back home I had to put my own creativity into play for Pesach. Although hard-boiled eggs are always a Seder standard, many people (especially my health-conscious kids) now leave the yolks and only eat the whites. What to do with all those yummy hard-boiled yolks?

I began to wonder what would happen if I put them in the freezer. I scanned the Web, and sure enough, I found recipes using freshly defrosted hard-boiled yolks. I found a cookie recipe that was so easy I couldn’t believe it. They were rich and included butter, but those cookies were as good as any shortbread cookies I’ve ever made. I call them the ultimate recycled shortbread cookies.

Manischewitz will now hold its contest every year. Pull up your old family heirloom recipes and give them a new twist. To enter, visit manischewitz.com.

$25,000 Winner: Waffled Latkes With Matzo Fried Chicken

Better-Than-Shortbread Easy Cookies
Bubbie’s Noodle Strudel

Tips & Tricks

  • Usually recipes calling for egg noodles can use wide, medium and curled or straight, depending on your choice.
  • Extra-firm tofu must be labeled as such when a recipe calls for it.
  • You can freeze egg yolks for later use. Cool first, and wrap them tightly in plastic zip-lock bag

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

Pesach With Flair

Passover is truly my favorite holiday.

Every year I like to add a unique dish to my table, making tradition relevant to the young people at the Seder. Two of my granddaughters, Jahna and Hannah, take French at school — and both enjoy eating crepes. So I decided to find the very best crepe recipe to include for Passover.

It turned into quite a challenge. (You could even say it made me meshuges.) My kitchen turned into a Passover crepe test kitchen, as I experimented with dozens of recipes to get the perfect Pesach crepe. Below is my final recipe.

For savory courses, I plan to stuff the crepes with leftover brisket, cholent or chicken. For those crepes, I changed the salt ingredient to onion salt for a more savory flavor. They can be dressed with gravy for a great leftover meal. For dessert, I will make some stuffed and frozen in advance with ice cream to serve with a drizzled warm chocolate sauce surrounded by little chocolate frogs. Frog molds can be found at koshercook.com.

My newest favorite cookbook is “A Taste of Pesach,” a project of Yeshiva Me’on Hatorah in New York. Every recipe has a lovely color photo, and many are very creative, such as balsamic French roast and Hungarian brownies.

There are many new apps to help out with Passover planning this year. The Manischewitz Recipe & Holiday Guide is my favorite. It can be downloaded free to any Apple or Android device by searching for Manischewitz in the app stores. To everyone, have an “appy” Pesach!

Ilene’s Passover Crepes

Balsamic French Roast

Broccolini With Lemon Mustard Dressing

Hungarian Brownies

Tips & Tricks
• Don’t forget to use leftover, drained charoses to marble through mondel bread dough.
• You can use fresh asparagus or broccoli instead of broccolini, but broccolini will look and taste unique.
• Use the freshest farm-raised eggs for Passover. The yolks are vibrant, and the whites are richer — so good for beating up whites. It’s worth the trip to Faithful Friends Egg Farm (410-374-3432): $4 a dozen, with assorted colors from special chickens and an extra one for your Seder plate!

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.