Beth, Haven's Kitchen general manager, will be teaming up with our executive chef, David Mawhinney, to teach you how to craft a menu inspired by postmodern Jewish culture. The menu will include barbecue brisket, a riff on harosetch and a bitter herb salad. You'll learn about the composition of a seder plate and the symbolism behind the foods traditionally consumed on Passover.
Where did you learn to cook and what inspires you to get in the kitchen?
I think our mothers all influence us in so many ways—some more explicit than others. I think there is no question that my mothers cooking set a baseline standard for my cooking, but my years in the restaurant industry offered exposure and opportunity, and increased my comfort level tremendously. In other words, my mom taught me that onions are used in just about everything, but the restaurant industry advanced my knife skills and willingness to use onions creatively and unexpectedly.
What can non-Jewish students take away from cooking and participating in a Seder dinner?
Traditional Jewish cooking is just like any other ethnic cuisine—you learn about the culture, history and legacy through food and ritual. The Seder is an ancient tradition, and every small detail— and there are many—has a rich story. Part of questioning that story and its meanings speaks to the core of Jewishness, and is one of the most important elements of the culture I try to impart in my children. And it's fun to take traditional food and add your own riff!
What are your favorite ingredients? Do you have any pantry staples?
I think matzo meal is the most tried and true pantry staple, but that is just the modern replacement for flour. I prefer cooking things that are inherently kosher for Passover—vegetables, meats, meringues, eggs. It's a great lesson in discipline, actually. You cannot fall back on standard thickening agents and binders in your sauces and desserts. Any time you work within staunch limitations, it really tests your ability as a cook. Essentially, then, my Passover pantry staples are the same as my non-Passover pantry staples—salt, mustard, olive oil, herbs. With those items, anything can be delicious.
What are your favorite kitchen tools and resources?
I live by my food processor and blender. That way, you can take the aforementioned pantry staples, add them to anything, really, and make an amazing pesto, pate, or soup.
The story of the Red Hook Winery Supper Club at Haven’s Kitchen is, at its core, the story of New York City. The story of Red Hook Winery is exactly why we are thrilled to work together. This small winemaker celebrates the underappreciated, often overlooked viticultural potential of New York State. Within the state, grape growers and wine makers can find a diversity of climate, land and soil that has too rarely been tapped to produce high quality, provocative wines.
Christopher Nicolson is the resident winemaker for Red Hook Winery. Along with Robert Foley and Abe Schoener, he works to explore the possibilities of winemaking in New York state by using scrappy resourcefulness, passion, pluck and a little bravado. With these qualities and their respect for the richness and array of the land, he, Robert and Abe have developed wines of unexpected intrigue, skill and depth and diversity of flavor. Not only is Christopher a cultivator and scholar of the vine and the cellar, he is also a third-generation Alaskan fisherman and runs a sustainable fishing business during the off-wine season. He took some time out of his schedule to give us some insight into what makes winemaking distinct in New York.
What are some of the best parts about making wine from New York grapes?
New York is different than anywhere else, because it's New York! The quality of our local geology, climate, and meteorology make New York utterly unique. In addition to it's singularity, NYS is a region in its infancy in terms of winemaking; to us, the opportunity to be a part of the development of the future of a region that is open to and reflexive to fresh thinking is exciting.
How does a wine change after it's been bottled from a barrel or tank? Do you ever get surprised?
Some wines, especially wines that you intend to drink young or “fresh,” tend to be consistent from barrel or tank to bottle. Wines that you intend to age for a longer period of time change slowly and steadily over time. Because wine is often mysterious, however, these guidelines occasionally upend themselves. And yes, we definitely do get surprised sometimes! A good example of a surprise for Red Hook is a red wine of Abe Schoener's that we called “Rebirth from The Sea.” This wine, from the 2009 vintage, had a very ugly fermentation. During the first 1.75 years it was aging in barrel, the wine was rude, ungainly, imbalanced and incredibly awkward. Over the course of the last 0.75 years in barrel (it was in barrel for a total of 2.5 years), the wine blossomed into a handsome, keen-eyed and well-integrated wine. The finished wine was a true surprise.
Are there any farmers that you work with that make the act of producing wine in New York special?
Yes! In fact, each farmer, even if we don't agree with every choice that each farmer makes on his or her property, make each individual vineyard that he or she farms very special. I'm not saying this to be diplomatic, either. The individuality of each vineyard site, both for bad and for good, is inextricably tied to the viticultural choices implemented or not implemented by the farmer. A seemingly unfavorable site can yield excellent fruit if it's farmed intelligently. At the same time, a seemingly excellent site can yield horrendous fruit if poorly farmed. Having given all of this preamble, it's been a special privilege to work with Joseph and Alexandra Macari's property in Mattituck on the North Fork. Russ McCall, Sam McCullough, as well as Christine Ferrari Tobin and her husband Mark Tobin. Ron Goerler of Jamesport Vineyards. Each one of these folks and more that I haven't mentioned here are the people who raise up the fruit that we get the privilege of making wine from.
How much of the work in the final product is achieved in the vineyard, fermenting, aging, blending and bottling?
It's impossible to make excellent wine from poorly farmed fruit. It is possible to make very good wine in a difficult vintage, by careful farming and winemaking. It is easy (unfortunately) to make bad wine from any kind of fruit, in a good or a bad vintage. Ninety-five percent of the beauty of the final wine is achieved in the vineyard. After harvesting the fruit, 100 percent of the future of the fruit is determined by the fastidiousness of the winemaking (fermentation management and aging management). A master blender like Robert Foley is a sight to behold and a wonder to taste. Bottling is the most stressful time in the life of the wine, and in the winemaker's year.
When you collaborate on wine dinners, what are some things you try to bear in mind?
I think many of the very same things that a host focuses on when he or she has someone into his or her home for a meal. How does my food compliment my wine? Does the order of the wines and courses make sense, in terms of aroma, intensity, playfulness, pleasure, and seriousness? Do I like the foods and wines I'm intending to serve?
What is the best way to learn about wine? How did you learn about wine?
The best way to learn about wine is to read a lot of books on wine, listen to radio programs about wine, and watch other people drink it, preferably on the television or in a cinema. Ha! The best ways, of course, to learn about wine are to smell and to drink wines with food and to pay attention to what you're smelling and drinking and holding.
Did you know that meat has more of an environmental impact than any other food we eat? Livestock requires more food, water, land and energy to both raise and transport than any plants. On top of taxing natural resources for production, livestock farming emits harmful greenhouse gasses such as ammonia, methane and sulfur dioxide, and pollutes our water.
The term vegetarian is often associated with animal rights, and the inherent health benefits that can result in reducing or omitting meat from our diet. These are important issues when deciding how we choose to eat, but delving into the environmental impact of the meat industry may sway our meat cravings even further. It’s important to understand the full impact that our food decisions have on the world we live in, and it’s surprising how vast the effects of meat production are becoming.
Here are just a few facts to open your mind to the global impact of the meat industry. Using this National Geographic interactive, we learn it requires 1,799 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef. To contrast, it takes only 216 gallons of water to produce one pound of soybeans. Pretty egregious, huh? We commonly attribute automobiles and large industry to disintegrating our air quality, increased pollution and climate change. However, the public is beginning to recognize the impact of the food industry, namely meat production, and its increasing contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the meat industry produces more toxic emissions, which include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, than either transportation or manufacturing industries according to a recent article in Scientific American.
The more we know about our food system, the healthier our decisions can become for ourselves, our loved ones, and the future of our planet. This post is not meant to scare you from eating meat, but it is aimed to give us a little more knowledge to make our own decisions. Protein is a vital part of our daily diet, however it does not need to take the form of meat, and it can healthfully and easily be replaced by nutrient dense sources of plant proteins.
This is the first of many posts that will highlight protein packed vegetarian options. We don’t need to lose flavor, texture, or nutrition by cutting meat out of our diet. Let’s start this series off with lentils. Lentils are not only less taxing on the environment, but they are also less taxing on your pocketbook. They are a good source of protein and fiber, low in fat, and high in folate, iron, phosphorous, and magnesium. Lentils come in a spectrum of colors with varying cooking times and nutritional benefits. Here is a quick lentil 101 to help you in selecting the proper lentils for your cooking needs.
Brown lentils tend to be the least expensive, they cook fairly quickly, in about 20 to 30 minutes, and hold their shape pretty well. They have a earthy, nutty flavor and are delicious in soups.
Green lentils, also know as French lentils, take about 45 minutes to cook, are nutty and hold their shape well, making them ideal to toss into a hearty salad.
Red lentils can range from golden to orange to red and take about 30 minutes to cook. They have a nutty, mildly sweet taste and are the prefered lentil for indian dals, curries and soups. They can also be pureed and used as thickeners in many soups as well as baby food.
RED LENTIL CURRY
serves 6 to 8
2 cups red lentils, rinsed and picked over for stones
7–8 cups water
1can coconut milk, 15 oz
1 tbsp ginger, grated
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, diced
1 jalapeño, halved
4 medium carrots, diced
1 large potato, diced
2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp curry powder
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
Clean and cut your vegetables and set aside. In a dry skillet, toast cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant and grind in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. If you are using pre-ground spices skip this step.
Heat a large pan, add about a teaspoon of olive oil, shallots and a pinch of salt and saute until tender. Add ginger, garlic, and jalapeno and saute for another minute. Stir in spices, lentils, carrots, potatoes and coconut milk and cover with water. Cook until lentils and vegetables are tender, adding more water if needed.
Serve with chapati or rice.
2 cups durum wheat flour (all-purpose will also work)
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp clarified butter
1 cup water
Mix and knead dough until smooth. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and allow it to rest for an hour. Divide the dough into 10 pieces and roll into 5” rounds. Brush with butter and cook in a cast iron or nonstick pan over medium to high heat until golden and cooked through. Serve warm with curry.
On Mondays, Haven's Kitchen observes Meatless Mondays. Join us in our café for our vegetarian menu or one of our Monday cooking classes as we celebrate eating without meat.
Post & photographs by Shell Hamilton.
Haven's Kitchen's General Manager Beth Lieberman recently purchased a home in Sunnyside, Queens, after years of living in the Lower East Side. She shares with us her five favorite neighborhood haunts.
I live in Sunnyside Gardens, which is a planned community from the 1920’s. It’s a slice of a particular kind of British suburban paradise smack in industrial Queens, just a short jaunt across the 59th Street Bridge, and full of mature trees, neighborliness, brick and mews. Folks are shocked when they come to visit for the first time, and inevitably exclaim, “I can’t believe I’m in New York!” The food offerings, especially, are rich and diverse and, in many ways, embody the best of what living in New York City has to offer.
Souk el Shater
Whenever I’m here, I want to poke my head around the corner to see if a grandma is making all this magic happen. However, I have yet to see a female—of any age—grace the other side of the counter in this sliver of a shop. Hasty congeniality is the service style, which suits me just fine because I cannot wait to run home to tear up their freshly fried, flat za-artar bread into their chunky, smoky baba ghanouj. They have a well-edited steam table with a rotating cast of homey favorites and just-fine staples like spinach and meat pies, shawarma and falafel.
It functions as a bodega in the true sense of the word—they are reliable, friendly and look out for you. But it goes well beyond the bodega in what they stock. Monday nights are the nights to go. It is packed with matrons speaking their native tongue, stocking up for the week. The butcher is on site, and he cuts and grinds meat to order—no request is too daunting or insignificant. They make a mean house ajika sauce and these addictive raw, kibbeh-esque, vegetarian bites. Turkish pistachios, dried apricots, olives and native skin-care. But it is the made-to-order stuff that keeps me coming back.
They have an old-fashioned roaster in the window, as well as a friendly cat to help keep things in good order. They have been roasting their own beans since 1966. Bypass the house-light and dark blend—they let you mix your own favorites. I’m a simpleton—dark Colombian is my go-to.
It’s perhaps not local, and maybe it won’t inspire you to brag to your friends about your rarefied knowledge of under-the-radar hotspots, but the food offerings here are abundant and there are many hidden treasures. This is a great indication of a how a local grocery chain can offer healthful, interesting options, beyond that of the processed, high sugar variety, and meet the needs of an incredibly diverse customer base.
Oh, to have your local pizza joint make some of the best Grandma slices you have ever had—with fresh mozzarella, a simple, bright sauce, basil, and a perfect, focaccia-like crust with a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds! I knew I found home when I found this joint. I regularly fall back on their slices and pies when I’m in a dinner pinch. They even steer you away from making rookie mistakes, such as foolishly adding mushrooms (they use Portobello) to a pie that will soak up their moisture, thereby losing its target oily crisp.
Photo of Baruir's Coffee by WithoutFins