Nibbles

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Aaron is talking about “borscht for beginners,” and to counteract the bad taste in my mouth from just thinking about borscht, here are a couple of my favorite things to eat around town: the French dip at the Halftime Sports Bar – absolutely the best French dip in town (and the clam chowder ain’t bad – and howdy to Paula and Jackie!); and the sopapilla desert at Melaque Mexican restaurant. Mmmm-mmmm-good! What are some of your favorite treats around town?

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4 Comments

  1. Awwwww, David!!!

    Just when I’m becoming addicted to your column, you now tell me that Melaque serves up a sopapilla “barren or desolate area, especially: A dry, often sandy region of little rainfall, extreme temperatures, and sparse vegetation.”

    LOL, that must have been Jerry’s Leather and “Kives”-inspired!

  2. As I said, hot beet soup just ain’t borscht. Now, there is nothing wrong with either Winter or Summer Borscht. Methinks that you need to try it again. I’ll post a recipe this weekend.

    And while you are at it, have some lutefisk this week.

  3. David, here’s the what’s what on gefilte fish:

    Gefilte fish is at once the zenith and nadir of Ashkenazic cookery: Is there any other dish that so typifies its extraordinary resourcefulness in the Old World and its long decline in the New?

    Gefilte fish is a forcemeat — chopped and seasoned meat or fish usually used for stuffing — made from ground-up freshwater fish mixed with matzo meal, eggs, chopped onion and spices. The forcemeat is rolled into balls, poached in a fish stock and served cold.

    Gefilte is the Yiddish word meaning “stuffed” (no, David, there is no fish called a gefilte), because in its earliest incarnation the forcemeat was not rolled into balls, but rather stuffed back into the skin of the fish; the fish was then sewn up again and baked.

    The dish, now a Shabbat (Sabbath) and Passover staple, dates back to Germany in the Middle Ages — the earliest recipe for stuffed pike appears in a non-Jewish German manuscript circa 1350, and by the early 15th century a German rabbinic authority was discussing the kashrut implications of adding vinegar to fish hash on the Sabbath.

    Though pike was the original gefilte fish, by the end of the Middle Ages carp was mostly used instead.

    Native to China, carp had been introduced to Eastern Europe during the 17th century, in part by Jewish traders working the silk routes. Jews, who were excluded from most of the traditional European guilds, quickly seized on this new opportunity and began to breed carp in specially managed ponds in Poland. Among Jews, carp was often served cold on the Sabbath, not just in gefilte fish but in other preparations as well, including jellied carp — carp long-poached in water (sometimes with white wine) and then served cold in its own jelly.

    In his memoir of his travels among Polish Jews in the 1920s, the French food writer Edouard de Pomiane observed of jellied carp, “This is the classic carp dish as it appears on all the Sabbath luncheon tables. If one had to sum up all of Jewish cooking in a single dish, this is the one that would epitomize it.”

    Jellied carp was so popular, in fact, that it eventually became known as carpe à la juive, “carp in the Jewish style,” and as such was offered in four variations in the encyclopedia of French haute cuisine, Larousse Gastronomique.

  4. To conclude my what’s what on gefilte fish:

    In many American families, stories are told about how every year bubbe (grandma) used to keep a huge carp swimming around in the upstairs bathtub until the house was cleaned for Pesach (Passover) and the gefilte fish preparation could be begun. (Barbara Cohen’s charming children’s book “The Carp in the Bathtub” offers one rendition of the story.) The stories, though, are amusing because of their very archaism; for today, of course, the fish is most often found not in the bathtub, or even anywhere near the kitchen, but rather in jars in the appetizing cases of the local supermarket.

    This is a shame, really, because jarred gefilte fish tends to be rubbery and gelatinous, the sort of thing that could put one off the stuff for life. Homemade gefilte fish, on the other hand, can be a treat, delicate in taste and feathery light. To make it so, the balls should be poached in a good fish stock, thriftily made with the heads, skin and bones of the fish one is using. Refrigerate overnight (like brisket, gefilte fish is best made the day before) and serve chilled, lightly coated in the jellied broth, with good horseradish on the side.

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