Archive for the 'Herbs' Category

Delicious, Flavorful, Versatile Yogurt

This entry is cross-posted at

Some time ago I wrote a post about store-bought, flavored yogurt and the absurd amounts of sugar contained therein,  called Everything You Wanted to Know About Yogurt but Were Afraid To Ask.  But the truth is there’s a lot more to know about yogurt, and don’t worry — it’s all good.

The first step to restoring yogurt to its healthful place in smart eating is to buy it plain.  You can try your hand at making your own yogurt, but you’ll still need some plain yogurt to get started.  “Plain,” by the way, is what I would have called yogurt if I wanted consumers to be more interested in other, fancier options, especially if I could increase profits by doing so.  But that’s not what I want for you, so  I would call it “pure” yogurt.  So the first step is to buy plain, whole-milk yogurt.  Now, if you aren’t ready to switch from low-fat to whole fat, we can compromise for now.  Just please make sure it’s plain yogurt, with live, active cultures (check the label).

Biblical Botany: A Torah Flora Tour

In his blog Torah Flora, Dr. Jon Greenberg shares his unique insights and vast knowledge on Judaism and plants (or as he more articulately puts it, “biblical ethnobotany”). Some of us had the chance to witness that knowledge first hand today at the New York Botanical Garden, where Dr. Greenberg gave an enthusiastic group a “Torah Flora Tour.”

The goal of the tour (and blog), according to Dr. Greenberg, is to “use knowledge of plants and nature to better understand Torah and Halacha.” He cites a long-lost relationship during the biblical era between Judaism and nature, and a wish to reconstruct it.

Dill Pesto

This entry has been cross-posted at

Right now, the dill is taking over my herb garden in its lovely, flavorful and feathery bloom. My attempts to use it don’t usually make a dent in the amount growing, even as I leave plenty to seed next year’s crop, or to share with the next interested gardener. Mostly, I have been cutting it into salads. I could also add it to butter, or make pickles, or hang some upside down to dry. The dill is everywhere, self seeding from beautiful, zebra-colored seeds given to me a few years ago by a patient who also grows startlingly lovely lavender roses.

Go for the Gusto

This entry is cross-posted on

Two months ago, the Cleveland Plain Dealer published its own commentary on the obesity epidemic with a series whose cover page spelled out, in large type, the words, Eat, drink, and be sorry. Excuse me? Eat, drink, and be SORRY? The actual quote,from Ecclesiastes,reads, Eat, drink, and be merry, so that joy will accompany him in his work all the days of his life And herein lies the problem.

Last-Minute Locavore – Chicago Style

So you promised your boss you would go to work 1/2 day Monday, but you haven’t finished your shopping for the big night.  It’s Chicago.  It’s winter.  OK technically it’s Spring, but we’re all still wearing parkas and fantasizing about the sun returning.  And most importantly, the farmers’ market season in Chicago doesn’t really being until April.

Or does it?

A little-known gem is thriving right under your L stop in downtown Chicago!  Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand, located at 66 E. Randolph Street, is practically under the Randolph/Wabash stop, across from the Millenium Metra Train station, and open 6 days a week ALL YEAR.

Yes, Elisheba, There IS A Farmers’ Market (In Chicago)…

B'nai Abraham Zion of Oak Park Helping Market shoppers for Passover

…during the winter

…on a day other than Saturday

Those of us organic, sustainable foodies in Chicago are keenly aware of the famous Green City Market which stays open year-round by moving into the Nature Museum November-April.  But for us who observe Shabbat, the Saturday-only schedule they keep in the in winter months is sad news indeed.

So I finally kvetched – kvweeted? – to all the Chicago farmers market Tweeps I follow about how Jews are blocked from farmers market goodness in the winter.

Post-Hannukah Chicory Fix

Chicory (cultivated)

After eight days of Hannukah holiday feasting, I felt like something was needed to cut all that oil in the system.  The edible wild greens that are now in season seemed  just the ticket.

Edible wild plants have been an essential part of the local diet here in the Galilee going back to the stone age hunters and gatherers.  I have learned from neighbors in the nearby Bedouin villages which plants are good to eat, where to find them, and how to prepare them.  One of the staples, which is considered a seasonal delicacy, is wild chicory – known in Arabic as elet, and in Hebrew as olesh.  It can be found around the edges of fields – a low-growing starburst of scalloped leaves.  And it is considered to be extremely healthy – good for “cleaning the blood”, as my Bedouin friends have explained.

Going out and gathering is not as commonly practiced in the traditional Arab cultures of the Galilee as it once was – yet the taste for elet remains.  Now enterprising farmers have started to cultivate elet and other edible wild plants, and sell them in the local Arab green grocers.

Disastrously Delicious: Food Writers Get Together and Shake Things Up


A group of Jewish food lovers, a spread of delectable dishes, and milkshakes made of laughter. If it were possible for one afternoon to be too good, this is where it would start.

A group of Jew & the Carrot writers, editors, and friends faced the risk—overflowing goodness and all—this past Sunday. Of course, it all started with the food. I arrived at host Avigail’s Clinton Hill, Brooklyn apartment to find hand-layered ratatouille swirling from the center of a clay baking dish, crusty homemade beer bread, a cake topped with the purple velvet of baked plums, aromatic rosemary bread, peach-basil salad, and made-from-scratch yogurt. That alone nearly tipped the scales to the side of the too good. Did I mention that we washed this down with homemade sparkling ginger-grapefruit juice? Spiked with gin?

Kosher, Organic and Fair Trade Vanilla

Mike Stein with JJ Keki, president of PK cooperative

What if you knew that the organic vanilla that you were using in your recipe was not only kosher, but was grown by farmers who would not, under any circumstances, work in their gardens, harvest their trees or deliver their crop from 18 minutes before sundown on Friday until tzeit hakochavim (the appearance of three stars in the sky) on Saturday—with the same applying to all Jewish Festivals.

What if you knew that these farmers live in the deepest regions of  sub-Saharan East Africa in the area Mbale, Uganda, and that their farming cooperative consisted of Jewish, Muslim and Christian members called Peace Kawomera?

What if you knew that these farmers were being paid two and a half times the fair trade price for their beans, because a volunteer organization run by a hazzan (cantor) in Los Angeles removes the middle-man and makes every attempt to allow the farmer to receive the most that he/she can?

What if you knew that this organization, Uniting Jewish Communities and Products, UJCP, is attempting to do this for as many communities as possible throughout the world, helping them become self sufficient, providing clothes, housing, health care and education.

Bring The Flavors of California Native Seasonings and Condiments to Your Table


Locavores in Los Angeles should take note of a class, California Native Seasonings and Condiments offered by the Theodore Payne Foundation from 2 to 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 29.

Taught by Connie Vadheim, an adjunct professor of biology at California State University at Dominguez Hills, the class will be a discussion of native plants that can be used to flavor and enhance your food.  Recipes will be provided.

The class costs $20 for foundation members and $30 for nonmembers.  It will be held at the Payne Foundation, 10459 Tuxford St., Sun Valley, CA 91352. For information, call (818) 768-1802.

Unboxed: Garlic

lamb party kitchen and garlic 070

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Plastic tables at the farmer’s market are straining under their bounty, colors are popping from veggies of every stripe and new garlic is out of the ground, drying on racks and tarps and hanging in braids in barns around the country, the smell of fresh heads mixing with the with last year’s pungent hay.

Confessions of a CSA Newbie: Week 2


This week I went to pick up our Tuv Ha’aretz CSA box from the Tikvat Israel synagogue for the first time. The above picture is of my mother eagerly placing each food item into a recyclable bag.

In addition to the weekly newsletter, there is now a Google group for the members of the (Hazon-sponsored) CSA where everyone shares recipes and tips for prepping the different vegetables. It’s really turning into a culinary community!

Last week’s box contained kale, boc choi, rhubarb, romaine lettuce, spinach, scallions and fresh oregano. Once again, the vegetables were so fresh they were all used up in the course of two meals:

A Desert Pesach and Seeds of Sustainability


Everything comes together at this time of year. We meaningfully commemorate the Exodus, dutifully begin to count the Omer and then the darkness of Yom HaShaoh slaps us in the face. And after that, this year, the next day is Earth Day. Given the state of the economy and the recent warning by the EPA that carbon dioxide emissions endanger human health, my family and I were tired of abstraction. I wanted to look these holidays in the eye, here and now. This is the story of how a Pesach in the desert inspired us to plant an indoor organic vegetable garden in our NYC apartment.

True Confession



The other evening, I committed a crime: I watered my asparagus patch. Emboldened by my misdeed, the next morning I watered my lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and even some inedible potted plants.

No one’s coming to arrest me, or even to slap a fine on me. In truth, it’s not exactly clear if the new Israeli law prohibiting watering applies to all gardens, to public gardens or just to lawns. It’s also not clear who will be enforcing it: The “green patrol” is famously understaffed. You can be sure that bigger criminals than me will be watering lawns in the middle of the day this summer, and one or two of them may even get a slap on the wrist.