“Miracles do happen," says Rabbi Levi Rivkin, joyously leading the way down aisle six at the Winn-Dixie in Hyde Park, pointing out dozens of bright blue circles indicating kosher cereals, crackers, soups and such.
An abundance of kosher inventory makes preparing celebration meals for the upcoming Jewish High Holy Days remarkably easier for the bay area's kosher-observant families.
Rosh Hashana, which begins at sundown Wednesday, marks the start of a new year on the Jewish calendar, and it's traditionally accompanied by dinner of brisket; a hot, sweet carrot dish called tzimmes; potato or noodle kugel; and challah. And always, apples dipped in honey, and a honey cake to ensure a sweet year.
Yom Kippur, a day of fasting and introspection that begins the evening of Sept. 29, usually ends with a breakfast buffet of egg casseroles and quiche, lox and bagels, salads, couscous with dried fruit and a tray of sweets.
Rivkin, 36, continues on to freezers full of blintzes, knishes and kibbeh, to refrigerator cases loaded with kosher steaks, chicken and fish. Challah, bagels and babka line bakery shelves; rows of kosher wines come from Italy, Spain, Israel and the United States.
The vast variety thrills Rivkin, a man on a mission when it came to persuading this store at 2100 W Swann Ave. to stock the largest kosher selection of any local Winn-Dixie, following a major remodeling in spring 2016.
Every Winn-Dixie carries at least 1,000 kosher products under its own labels — SE Grocers, Southern Home and Winn-Dixie. District manager Keith Newberry says Rivkin lobbied to multiply that number.
The resulting amount of products is notable in the bay area. Publix and Trader Joe's carry a steady supply of kosher items. Jo-El's Kosher Deli & Marketplace in St. Petersburg has sold fresh-cut kosher meat and poultry and classic Jewish side dishes for 35 years. Breakfast and lunch are served six days a week, making it the only completely kosher restaurant in the Tampa Bay area.
To help persuade store manager Sal Cahill, Rivkin brought his own weekly shopping receipts, "about $1,000 a month," to the Hyde Park Winn-Dixie. The father of five children under age 10 runs the Chabad outreach program at the University of Tampa. His father, Rabbi Lazer Rivkin, leads the orthodox synagogue Bais (Temple) David Chabad in Hyde Park and directs Chabad of Central Florida.
The family and many of their friends previously traveled to Maitland near Orlando to buy kosher groceries, at a Winn-Dixie by the Orlando Jewish Day School, which Rivkin's children attend.
"It happened to have a very nice kosher selection," says Rivkin, who shopped as part of the daily commute taking his kids to school.
He shared with Cahill a survey, which showed that half of Tampa's Jewish population lives in southern Hillsborough County. He noted that five synagogues are situated within 3 miles of Hyde Park, plus the new Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center.
Cahill followed up with his own research on the kosher food industry, estimated at more than $10 billion annually. Health- and safety-conscious shoppers feed the demand for more than 195,000 certified packaged foods and beverages sold in the United States. Even Jewish cooks who don't keep a kosher kitchen appreciate being able to readily find the makings of favorite meals.
It takes far more than a rabbi's blessing for food to be certified kosher, the Hebrew word translated variously as "pure," "fit" or "suitable." Strict dietary laws specify how animals are to be fed, killed, prepared, processed, served and eaten. Production is complicated and costly, making the traditional foods expensive and challenging to find.
And the products are popular beyond the small portion of Jewish people that keeps kosher. Vegans, vegetarians and the lactose-intolerant can check symbols indicating if milk or meat has been used in the production of kosher foods; Muslims, Hindus and Seventh-day Adventists seek kosher items that fit their own dietary restrictions.
Cahill says he hears from potential customers often.
"People call every day from Dunedin, Lakeland, Wesley Chapel," he says. "Is the milk in yet?, they want to know. They have big families and it goes fast. They know we get deliveries on Tuesdays."
As if on cue, Sarasota residents Orit Cohen and Shosh Nadel, both Israel natives, arrive to shop for the High Holy Day meals.
"We used to drive to Miami for these things," says Cohen, filling her cart with kosher meat. "I wish we had this in Sarasota."
Hyde Park resident Sam Dobkin has another reason for selecting Israeli-manufactured foods.
"I can directly impact Israel's economy," he says.
Several times a week, the Rivkins bring Jewish acquaintances to the store cafe for lunch. They make their own sandwiches from a package of sliced pastrami and a bag of pita bread.
"The smoothie machine is kosher, the mini doughnuts are kosher, there's free Wi-Fi," Rivkin says. "We are very thankful."
Contact Amy Scherzer at [email protected]
Braised Brisket With Pomegranate Juice, Chestnuts and Turnips
1 brisket, about 4 to 5 pounds, with a thin layer of fat
2 ½ tablespoons coarse salt, plus more as needed
3 tablespoons finely ground coffee
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, if needed
2 onions, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 bulb garlic, peeled and halved
1 pound (3 to 4 medium) turnips, peeled and quartered
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 fresh licorice root, available in Middle Eastern markets, or 1 licorice tea bag, available at health food stores and some supermarkets
4 cups pomegranate juice
1 cup peeled chestnuts roasted, frozen or vacuum-packed
½ cup chopped dill
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Place the brisket in a shallow roasting pan fat side up; add 2 ½ tablespoons salt, the coffee and cardamom and rub all over the brisket. Cover lightly with foil and refrigerate for 2 days.
Heat a broiler. Place the pan with the brisket under it until the meat is evenly browned and much of the fat rendered, about 15 minutes. Remove, then transfer brisket to a platter and turn oven to 300 degrees.
Pour the fat into a Dutch oven or other heavy covered pan large enough to hold the brisket. There should be about ¼ cup fat; if needed, add vegetable oil. Place the pan over medium-high heat and add onions, carrots, garlic and a pinch of salt. Saute until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add turnips, cumin, black pepper and turmeric. Cover and cook, stirring once or twice, for 5 minutes.
Add licorice or licorice tea bag and pomegranate juice. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add brisket, bring to a simmer and baste with the juice.
Cover the pan tightly and place on the middle rack in the oven. Cook until very tender, about 4 hours, basting every 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and discard licorice or tea bag and garlic halves. If desired, at this point, cool the brisket and vegetables, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Just before serving, skim the fat and place the pan over medium-low heat. Add chestnuts and reheat just until steaming. Stir in dill and parsley. Transfer brisket to a cutting board and slice against the grain. Serve with vegetables and sauce.
Source: New York Times
Sweet Lokshen Kugel
8 ounces wide egg noodles
6 whole eggs
¼ cup butter or coconut oil, melted
½ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla grated zest and juice of 1 orange
3 ounces dried apricots, diced or flesh of 1 fresh peach, chopped
¼ cup dark raisins
Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9- by 13-inch rectangular glass baking dish. Fill a large kettle with cold water and bring to a boil. Place dried fruits, if using, in a small bowl and remove a ladleful of the boiling water and pour it over the fruits to soften them. Salt the water in the kettle and add noodles, boiling them 8 minutes or until tender; drain and set aside.
In a bowl, combine eggs, butter or oil, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, zest and juice and whisk until blended. Pour over noodles and fold in with a silicone spatula or large spoon until combined. Drain fruits, allow to cool slightly, and stir into noodle mixture. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 40 minutes to 1 hour. Serve warm as a side dish, cutting into squares or wedges. (If reheating, cut first, then re-heat for ease in serving.)
Serves 6 to 8.
Apple Kuchen With Honey and Ginger
For the cake:
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), plus butter for greasing pan
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus flour for dusting pan
½ cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling apples
¼ cup raw honey
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 ounces candied ginger, diced
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 medium apples, peeled and quartered
For the glaze:
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Make the cake: Heat oven to 325 degrees and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan, preferably a springform pan.
With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar, then add honey and whip for 1 minute, until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, until well incorporated, then whip for 2 minutes. Stir in grated ginger, candied ginger and lemon zest.
Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder and add to bowl, mixing briefly to make a stiff batter. Pour batter into prepared pan.
With a paring knife, cut slits in each of the apple quarters on the rounded, outer part of the wedge, slicing partway through at ⅛-inch intervals. Arrange apple quarters slit-side-up over the batter. Sprinkle surface with 1 tablespoon sugar.
Place cake pan on a baking sheet and put on middle rack of oven. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until an inserted skewer emerges dry. If cake is browning too rapidly, tent with foil until done. Cool on a rack, then carefully unmold.
Make the glaze: Put sugar, honey and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved and mixture bubbles, about 2 minutes. Paint surface of cake and apples with warm glaze. Cake will keep for several days, tightly wrapped, at room temperature.
Source: New York Times
• Only the meat of animals that chew their cud and have split hooves may be eaten. This includes cattle and sheep, but not pigs.
• Meat must come from animals that aren't sick and don't have broken bones. Kosher meat must also be hormone-free.
• Animals must be killed in a painless, humane way by a religiously trained butcher. No milk, eggs, fat or organs can be eaten from a forbidden animal.
• Only fish that have fins and scales may be eaten, thus no shellfish.
• All fruits and vegetables are kosher, but they must be inspected for winged insects, which are not kosher.
• Kosher certified products are labeled with a hekhsher symbol indicating that proper sanitary and ethical standards have been met.
• Separate sets of dishes, utensils, pots and pans, sponges and kitchen towels must be used, one for meat and one for dairy foods.
• A glatt (which means "smooth") kosher rating requires that animals' lungs have no adhesions.
Editor's note: Due to Hurricane Irma, many grocery stores are low on supply. This may be the case with the stores featured in this story; check with individual stores to find out if they are restocking soon.