If your exposure to Jewish cooking has been limited to bagels and corned beef sandwiches, then Temple Adath Israel’s Jewish Food Festival on Aug. 28 will be a real mouth-watering eye-opener.
The temple at 124 North Ashland Avenue decided to have a food festival as a way to introduce themselves to the community, said Pat Shraberg, one of the festival co-chairs.
“We thought it would be a really cool way for people to get to know us,” she said. Lexington’s Christ the King Catholic church has a big Oktoberfest every fall and the Holy Mother Queen of All “Panagia Pantovasilissa” Greek Orthodox church has a huge bake sale every December ... why not a food festival featuring traditional Jewish food? After all, everybody loves to eat.”
The festival will feature savory dishes that may be familiar to many, including matzo ball soup, falafel, pastrami on rye, chopped liver, borscht, lox cream cheese, Israeli salad, potato latkes, kugel and knishes. There also will be sweets such as challah bread, chocolate babka, rugelach with cinnamon and nut filling, and three-pointed hamantaschen cookies.
As with most cultures, food is a unifier. Recipes are handed down from generations and each has special significance.
Every food has a meaning, said Rabbi David Wirtschafter.
“Cooking and food are a big part of all cultures,” he said. “For the Jewish people, there are a number of ways it plays a cultural role.”
Take the hamantaschen cookies, which are served typically for the holiday of Purim.
They are triangular because they are inspired by the hat (or the ears, depending on which legend one goes by) of Haman, the villain of the book of Esther who tried and failed to destroy all the Jews in Persia.
“We have the cookies to remind us that instead of devouring us, we devour him,” Wirtschafter said.
But the most important food/religion links are for the items served for Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath that begins on Friday evening with a traditional meal. A key feature are the two loaves of braided challah, or egg bread, “a reminder of God sustaining us in the wilderness,” the rabbi said.
Besides the food, there will be tours of the historic sanctuary, with an open Torah scroll on display, as well as the temple’s Holocaust museum, the first such permanent exhibit in Kentucky.
Volunteers at the temple have been working for a couple of months to prepare baked goods and other dishes, and even grew some of the vegetables.
“We raised the beets for the borscht,” Schraberg said. “A lot of what we’re using came out of the temple garden. Onion, garlic, beets ... and we’re using all local foods from the area.”
The temple will bring back a favorite from its TAI on Rye pop-up deli days: H2Oy water, bottled especially for the temple by Highbridge Springs in Wilmore.
And like the TAI on Rye, organizers hope the event will become a fundraiser for the temple. Admission will be $18 for adults, who will get to choose their samples. Tickets are available at the door.
If you go
Lexington Jewish Food Festival
When: 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Aug. 28
Where: Temple Adath Israel, 124 North Ashland Avenue.
Tickets: $18 per person; children 12 and under can share a ticket with a paying adult. Tickets are available at the door.
This recipe is from Linda Gerall, a former member of Temple Adath Israel who now lives in Florida. Rose was her parents’ neighbor when they retired to Florida. The dough must be made a day ahead.
Dough (make a day in advance):
2 cups flour
½ pound cold butter or margarine, cut into chunks
1 egg yolk
½ pint sour cream
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Mix all dough ingredients with a pastry blender or food processor, just until dough holds together. Pea-size pieces of butter might remain. Divide dough equally into 4 pieces; wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
To make rugelach, preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a heavily floured surface, roll cold dough (keep each piece refrigerated until ready to use) into a circle about the size of a medium to large pizza. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and nuts. Cut into 16-20 wedges as you would a pizza (a pizza cutter works great for this). Roll each piece from the wide edge to the point, forming a crescent.
Bake on parchment-lined pan about 20-25 minutes. Let cool.
To freeze, layer between pieces of wax paper in a plastic tub. Keeps up to 2 months.
Makes 64-80 pieces.
This no-knead recipe is from Temple Adath Israel member Tami Brennan, the temple’s challah purveyor. She operates Hokhmah Farm, which sells her homemade breads at Bluegrass Farmers Market. This recipe makes two medium or one large loaf.
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup honey
3½ cups flour
Egg wash (1 egg mixed with a little water)
Combine yeast, sugar and water in a large bowl. Let it sit about 5 minutes to get frothy. Add salt, oil, honey and 2 eggs; blend well. Add flour, one cup at a time. Dough should be firm.
Cover dough in bowl and let sit at least 6 hours; as dough rises, punch down as needed. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a well-floured surface, divide dough in half if making 2 loaves, then divide each half into 3 pieces. Roll the small pieces into ropes about a foot long.
Pinch 3 pieces together at one end, then braid them together; repeat to form second loaf. Place braided loaves on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush each with egg wash. Bake about 30 minutes, until golden brown and a knife inserted comes out clean.