Hanukkah When You’re “ISH”

I’m “ish” … that would be Jew-ish.

That’s a phrase I heard coined by a wedding colleague in Philadelphia regarding couples who were Jewish by birth and because of older relatives but not practicing.

Really But Not Really

Technically, I’m less than “ish,” my father was Jewish, and my mother was not and with the Judaism following the mother’s lineage; technically I’m not Jewish.

My father’s parents weren’t practicing, and neither was my father. I grew up in a community that wasn’t very Jewish (at the time). Now the community has three large, active synagogues.

Most of what I know about Judaism is from friends we made while my mother was bowling in a league from the local synagogue’s women’s club.

Jewish Girls Are Always Right

{that means the right side of the aisle, as opposed to Christian weddings}

I continually learned more about Judaism while planning Jewish weddings. Every time you think you have got it down you learn another tradition.

Shout out to all the Jewish families I worked with in Philly!!!

So with all that said, we never celebrated Hanukkah. A mesh bag with gold foil chocolate coins, a hard plastic dreidel and that’s about it.

White Fish, Brisket and Chopped Liver

Jewish deli’s in suburban Philadelphia, and occasional trips to Forrest Hills, New York to visit my G*dparents fueled my passion for “Jewish food.”

In my twenties I worked with an older Eastern European woman named Sally who never shared her recipes; so, I learned how to make a mean kugel by watching her.

Hanukkah Lite

I rarely do anything to celebrate Hanukkah but decided to make something “ish” and keep it on the light side.

So I decided to make some salmon cakes with fresh salmon, lemon zest, shallots, and green onions.

lightening up salmon cakes - hanukkah - food blogger

I like to puree most of the salmon in the food processor, add some egg, garlic, ground black pepper, and brot. {it’s a hard cracker-like bread that is multigrain and a great binder.} But I like leaving some salmon small diced for texture too.

salmon cakes - cooking lite - Hanukkah

I know that Hanukkah is about oil, so I bind them with as little as possible to keep them light, dust them with multigrain breadcrumbs and then oven-fry them with a bit of olive oil.

authentically Mark - Mark Kingsdorf - food blogger - Hanukkah - salmon cakes

I’m making some butternut squash hash with onion and olive oil and serving with some fresh heirloom tomatoes.

For me, it’s more about the memories and the people who came before me and less about the authenticity of the recipe.

Happy Hanukkah!

I Love You More Than Pizza

This is probably the highest compliment I could pay anyone, and Chuck hears it on a regular basis.

I am a self-avowed pizza junkie, it is probably my biggest addiction. It’s actually a combination of two cravings – bread and cheese. I think pizza is a convenient vehicle to bring these two delicious foods together.

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I recently started watching Ugly Delicious on Netflix. It features David Chang of Momofuku, and the first episode is about pizza. They traveled to Naples, ate a crazy pizza in Japan with all authentically Japanese local ingredients, met with Wolfgang Puck at Spago and delivered Domino’s pizza.

They also did a deep dive into iconic New York and Connecticut pizza. Growing up in suburban Philadelphia, halfway between NYC and PHL New York pizza is my life.

I am admittedly a thin crust, big honking slice, pizza purist. I am a tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese guy. If anything pepperoni and maybe (maybe) sausage and mushroom or meatball. But, they have to be homemade, light, fluffy, delicious meatballs (and sliced).

Being entirely Authentically Mark, I’m going to piss off some people here. I LOVE amazing, freshly made Philadelphia Tomato Pie, but it is not pizza. I’m not a fan of Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, it has great flavors, and I love the long strings of cheese; but the texture is odd to me.

{I almost said it’s not pizza but that would be too extreme and I’d get lots of hate mail}

I’m also not really a fan of some of the odd things people put on a pizza. Pineapple, ham, and jalapenos just don’t belong on pizza.

The other thing is that I kind of like some of the random flatbreads; but, like tomato pie, they are not really pizza. The California Pizza Kitchen’s Thai Chicken; has grilled chicken breast with peanut sauce and Mozzarella, hearth-baked then topped with crisp bean sprouts, julienned carrots, slivered scallions and fresh cilantro. It’s delicious, but it’s not pizza to me.

Here’s the rationale from my culinary career and it is still a pet peeve in my life. Caesar Salad is a classic preparation; it was created in 1924 by Caesar Cardini, an Italian restaurateur in Tijuana, Mexico.  And, it has a particular list of ingredients and a specific, unique, tableside preparation.

If it I not made tableside it is now a ‘mock’ Caesar, a bottled dressing is ‘mock’ Caesar dressing, and God forbid that you add things like tomatoes, grilled chicken or anything else; it is no longer a Caesar Salad… call it something else.

Pizza is the same way. It is about the perfect thin crust, slightly blistered on the edges, crisp on the bottom, tomato sauce (not too sweet), mozzarella cheese, a touch of good olive oil, a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano and then fresh basil or maybe a few other previously discussed Italian ingredients.

What is something you WILL NOT eat on pizza? And who makes your favorite pizza?

Missing In China

blog - blogger- food blogger- travel blogger - wedding ghost

LOL, yes, sometimes life gets in the way. Who would have known that my new, full-time job as a blogger for the wedding, events and hospitality industry would have taken off so fast?

Wedding Ghost originally started off with me blogging for wedding professionals. Mostly wedding planners, decorators and photographers. Since its start, I’ve started working with a number of venues, cake decorators, and caterers.

I’ve always been super passionate about food. It was my first love and with a formal education in Culinary Arts from the Culinary Institute of America, and working in the industry for close to 25 years; blogging for restaurant groups, caterers, craft food companies and bakers was second nature.

Check out some of my food reviews on Yelp!

On top of keeping really busy, we just got back from an awesome trip to China. Gate 1 Travel was amazing again! We started in Beijing, flew to Xi’an, took a bullet train to Chengdu, took a trip to Chongqing and embarked on a three-day riverboat cruise on the Yangtze River ending in Yichang and then wrapped up with a few days in Shanghai!

We saw some AMAZING sites including two of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World – The Great Wall of China and The Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an, and we spent a lot of time with Pandas!

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Not to mention some crazy food!

WHEW!

Honestly, we had a blast!!!

To see more of our trip to China and read some of my blogging check out In Search of Neverland!