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Homegrown Hospitality: Impressing Guests with Memorable CSA-Inspired Dishes

June 26, 2024

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Homegrown Hospitality: Impressing Guests with Memorable CSA-Inspired Dishes

As the growing season reaches its peak, my mind immediately turns to the bounty of fresh, local produce from our community-supported agriculture (CSA) service. The vibrant colors, intoxicating aromas, and unexpected flavor combinations inspire me to get creative in the kitchen, dreaming up dishes that will wow my guests.

You see, I’ve been a loyal CSA subscriber for years now, and I’ve come to cherish the excitement of opening that weekly box, unveiling the seasonal surprises within. From the first tender asparagus spears in spring to the last juicy heirloom tomatoes in fall, each box is a revelation, challenging me to think outside the box (pun intended) and put together memorable meals.

Recently, I was reminiscing with my friend Moshe about the time he invited me over to prepare his grandmother’s recipe for savory leek-infused meatballs. As he described the dish, my mouth started watering – the earthy aroma of the simmering meatballs, the bright pop of flavor from the leeks. I was hooked even before tasting a single bite. But I had no idea why this would be considered a Passover specialty.

As it turns out, my Passover cooking class via Zoom on April 6, 2022 put me in the very best company. I was honored to present alongside two of my favorite Jewish cooking icons, Joan Nathan and Leah Koenig. I was truly gobsmacked to be in such talented company.

The Shaw family’s tradition of baking classic hamantaschen (triangular Purim cookies) in their home kitchen has evolved into a much-anticipated bake-a-thon in the kosher kitchen at Tufts University’s Jewish Culture House. They call it “Not Your Bubbe’s Hamantaschen” for a good reason.

Borscht, a simple beet soup with roots in Eastern Europe, never held much appeal for me. So when Rabbi Evan Krame, spiritual leader of The Jewish Studio, suggested that I teach a Zoom cooking session about borscht, I politely suggested other seasonal options. But NO, he wanted BORSCHT as the subject of this session.

The first words of wisdom Ronnie offered as I arrived in her sunny Connecticut kitchen for a pie baking tutorial were, “Don’t pummel the dough.” I’ve heard that sage advice before, but I was still surprised at how lightly she handled the soft mounds of future pie crust.

When Karen Cinnamon sent me an invitation to chat on her podcast “Your Jewish Life, Your Way,” I was intrigued and honored. She was primed to talk about eco-friendly and seasonally inspired holiday celebrations as we count down to Rosh HaShanah on Labor Day.

There are lots of reasons to serve brisket on a holiday. It’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, it’s the ultimate do-ahead entree (so much better if you do), and best of all, it’s an almost effortless recipe. Whatcha think about brisket tacos with quick pickled onions and all the fixins?

There’s a new gelato place in my hometown, and folks are scooping it up. I’m thrilled to see Cold Fusion Gelato on Main St. where their all-natural and kosher flavors are bringing residents out to grab a cone and stroll as they indulge in refreshing gelato and sorbet.

As I sat with Eric Emmert, co-owner of Cold Fusion Gelato, I was struck by his passion for creating small-batch, locally-sourced treats that bring joy to his community. His enthusiasm is contagious.

When food blogger, social worker, and activist Whitney Fisch springs into action, she takes a stand and amplifies it via her 18,000-plus followers on social media. In response to the outrageous increase in attacks on the Jewish community worldwide, I join her movement to “Bake a Stand” by auctioning off my classic Hanukkah treats.

If not now, when? This can be the year you make your own gefilte fish! Join co-owners of The Gefilteria, cookbook authors Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern, in this hands-on virtual gefilte fish workshop via Zoom on Sunday, April 10, 2022. You’ll receive all ingredients and recipes in advance so you can prep alongside them. Vegan options and horseradish demo tips are included. Just don’t forget to BYOG (bring your own goggles) – not kidding!

Join Liz Alpern and Jeffrey Yoskowitz of The Gefilteria as they present “Inside The Pickle Barrel,” a virtual course. This two-hour class will give context to the history of Jewish food on the Lower East Side of NYC while live demos will have you baking bialys, knishes, and brining cukes in no time. Class meets on November 8 or December 12, 2021. Fee is $25, including recipes distributed in advance.

Join Chef Michael Solomonov (5-time James Beard Foundation Award-Winning Chef) and Chef Adeena Sussman (New York Times Best-Selling cookbook author) for a 1-hour live interactive virtual cooking class that will transform your holiday table. Celebrate the new year, Israeli style! Click here to register.

What does farm-to-table eating really mean? What about supporting local growers and small-scale farmers? Why does any of this matter? Please join me, Liz Rueven, in conversation about conscious eating and the impact of choices we make on Tuesday, February 23, 2021, at 12:30 PM EST. I’ll be speaking with authors Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner as we discuss their recently released book, “The Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook: 125 Homegrown Recipes from the New England Hills.”

On Wednesday, December 9th, join MOFAD and Chef Fany Gerson, author of “My Sweet Mexico” and founder of La Newyorkina and Fan-Fan Doughnuts, for a sweet Chanukah celebration. Raised in Mexico City by Ashkenazi Jews, Fany will share the culinary connections between her Mexican and Eastern European heritage and teach us how to make strawberry jelly doughnuts.

Ben Katchor, historian, cartoonist, and author of “THE DAIRY RESTAURANT,” will present history, plenty of stories, and illustrations about the vibrant role of dairy restaurants in NYC in the early 20th century. Join him for a Zoom presentation with the Culinary Historians of NY on Monday, November 16, 2020.

The Great Big Jewish Food Fest spans 10 days (5/19/20-5/28/20) of virtual cooking workshops, conversations, tours, hang-outs, Shabbat dinners, and lots more. Why now? The Great Big Jewish Food Fest was created out of a moment of opportunity as people are at home and in their kitchens, when food professionals are seeking new opportunities to share their expertise, and when we can hold a top-tier international festival with relative ease (no travel, no conference facilities, and ironically, no catering to coordinate). The food fest is FREE and open to all – bring your own nosh. Contributions to small businesses and others struggling with food insecurity are encouraged and appreciated.

Join renowned food scholar and cookbook author Darra Goldstein in conversation with award-winning novelist Boris Fishman (“Savage Feast”) as they discuss Goldstein’s recently released cookbook “BEYOND THE NORTH WIND: RUSSIA IN RECIPES AND LORE” on April 1, 2020, at 92Y in NYC. A book signing will follow the conversation.

Join renowned food scholar and cookbook writer Darra Goldstein in conversation with award-winning novelist Boris Fishman, author of the recent memoir-in-recipes “Savage Feast,” as they discuss Goldstein’s new cookbook “Beyond the North Wind: Russia in Recipes and Lore” on Thursday, March 12, 2020, at the Marlene Meyerson JCC in NYC.

View “SUSTAINABLE NATION,” a new award-winning film that profiles three Israelis who are tackling the daunting problem of water scarcity and bringing sustainable solutions to countries across the globe. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with executive producers Mitch Julis and Raphael Shore on January 7, 2020, at the Asia Society in New York.

Join Chef Jay Weinstein in a kosher, hands-on cooking class to celebrate the Chinese New Year at the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan. Dishes may include hand-crimped dumplings, whole fish steamed with ginger, chicken stir-fry using the velveting method, and the centerpiece of the feast will be a cook-at-the-table hot pot of simmering broth with ingredients added in stages and served with a variety of dipping sauces. For a celebratory dessert, you’ll learn a fascinating technique for cutting and serving fresh oranges – a Chinese symbol of prosperity in the new year. The class is on Wednesday, January 22, 2020, from 7-9:30 PM.

Get ready to talk fat during this Chanukah conversation and tasting at MOFAD (Museum of Food and Drink) in Brooklyn, NY. You’ll learn about culinary traditions, taste different types of shmaltz and the first of the season’s olive oil. Latkes? Probably. But expect the unexpected, too. The event is on December 11, 2019, at 7 PM. Join Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern (Gefilteria partners and authors of “The Gefilte Manifesto”), Amelia Saltsman (L.A.-based cookbook author of “The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen”), and Devra Ferst (journalist).

Food Journalist Gabriella Gershenson will be dishing about all things Jewish food with cookbook authors Adeena Sussman (“Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen”) and Leah Koenig (“The Jewish Cookbook”) at Symphony Space NYC in the FoodTalk series on Tuesday, November 12, 2019. The authors’ books will be available for sale and signing.

Join Phil Rosenthal, star explorer and nosher in the comedic travel and food series “Somebody Feed Phil,” in conversation with Tablet’s Marjorie Ingall. They’ll be shmoozing about his foodie forays across the globe, his German-Jewish family, and the two most important ingredients he attributes to his success at the Center for Jewish History NYC on Monday, November 4, 2019.

Listen up, Jewish food enthusiasts, lovers of family businesses, and NYC history buffs! Check out the exhibit “Russ and Daughters: An Appetizing Story” exploring four generations of the Russ family and their remarkable 112-year-old family business, Russ & Daughters, on view at the American Jewish Historical Society in NYC from September 13, 2019, through January 31, 2020.

There’s still time to join us at the Hazon Food Conference at Isabella Friedman Jewish Retreat Center in CT from August 14-18, 2019. Develop a deeper relationship with your food, where it comes from, and how it is sourced. Learn from chefs, activists, farmers, artists, community leaders. Participate in sessions on social justice, culinary traditions, food security, sustainable agriculture, and more. Feast on farm-to-table, kosher, and organic cuisine. Celebrate Shabbat in a joyful and pluralistic environment with options for all practices. And there’s a kids’ conference ages 5-12 on the same campus and same time, too! Use code MATZAH100 before April 14th to get $100 off each adult registration or code FIRSTFRUITS75 before Shavuot, June 2nd, to get $75 off each adult registration.

Join Chef Jenny Matthau for a hands-on cooking class and learn to create an array of vegetarian Mexican dishes that will serve you well all summer. The menu may include pickled carrots with garlic and chile, jicama orange salad with rosemary vinaigrette, black bean enchiladas with chile tomato sauce, guacamole, pumpkin seed tomatillo sauce, and coconut-pineapple flan. The class is on June 24, 2019, at the Marlene Meyerson JCC in NYC.

Party in Brooklyn with Russ and Daughters on June 25 to celebrate the peak of herring season at their fabulous new location at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. There will be delectable herring preparations and a creative lineup of specially selected spirits, cocktails, and beer – all designed to pair perfectly with herring dishes. This is an annual tradition and a genuine Lower East Side experience, all happening in Russ and Daughters’ newest location in Brooklyn.

JDC Food Circle presents a Pickling Demo and Tasting with Jeffrey Yoskowitz. Learn about JDC’s lifesaving work in Eastern Europe and enjoy sampling Ashkenazi sweet and savory delights and pickle brine-based cocktails and martinis from “The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods” on Thursday, May 30, 2019, at the JDC kitchen in NYC.

The Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County, CT, presents their THIRD ANNUAL SOUTHERN CT JEWISH FOOD FESTIVAL, highlighting global traditions at our common table. Join me and Leah Koenig in conversation as we dish about what makes food Jewish anyway. Participate and nosh at food demos and tastings, learn to make your own pickles, show off your voice in an Israeli sing-along, taste Israeli wines, and enjoy an Ethiopian buna coffee ceremony. The event is on Sunday, May 19, 2019, at Temple Israel in Westport, CT, from 2-6 PM.

While Passover is all about matzah, it can be hard to find simple, easy ideas for holiday menus. Join Chef Jennifer Abadi, author of the new Sephardic Passover cookbook “Too Good to Passover,” in this hands-on class that will spark your imagination while helping you add new dishes to your Passover repertoire. You’ll learn fresh ways to incorporate matzah into dishes that may include Crispy Matzah Leek Fritters with Dill and Parsley, Matzah Pasta Soup with Onions, Garlic and Turmeric, Matzah Meal Feta Pie with Spinach and Spring Herbs, and Chocolate Dipped Dried Apricots. The class is on Monday, April 15, 2019, at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan.

Are you crazy about tahini, halvah, and all of the variations and new creations popping up? Not a tahini-phile yet? You will be after this event. Join Gabriella Gershenson in conversation with sesame mavens Rachel Simons of SeedMill NYC, culinary journalist and researcher Ronit Vered, and Richard Radutzsky, owner of Joyva, as they explore the wide world of tahini, halvah, and all of the sweet and savory bites in-between. The event is at Temple Emanu-el Streicker Center NYC on March 26, 2019.

Jamaican co-authors and sisters Michelle and Suzanne Rousseau join Cherry Bombe’s Kerry Diamond in conversation to discuss “Provisions: The Roots of Caribbean Cooking – 150 Vegetarian Recipes.” Together, they’ll explore the fascinating history of the region and the women, in particular, who have been responsible for farming, preparing, and selling their native cuisines for centuries. Vegetarian nibbles and noshes will be served on Wednesday, February 20, 2019, at 7:00 PM at 92Y NYC.

Join Jackie Topol, MS, RD, Nutritionist, in preparing nourishing dishes that will set you on the right path to achieving your 2019 health goals. The hands-on class is on Sunday, January 13, 2019, at the Marlene Meyerson JCC NYC. The menu may include curried carrot soup, skinny kale Caesar salad, cauliflower fried rice, chickpea pasta with creamy pumpkin sage sauce, and banana chocolate chip superfood cookies.

Elevate your Chanukah celebrations after learning to prepare 8 recipes from around the world in this hands-on cooking class taught by Chef Jennifer Abadi at JCC Manhattan on Thursday, November 29, from 7-9:30 PM. The menu may include Russian Apple Latkes, Hungarian Palacsinta Crepes, Syrian Rosewater Pudding, Indian Sweet Potato Curry Pancakes, and Israeli Sufganiyot (donuts).

Chefs Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern, co-founders of The Gefilteria and

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