New Podcast: Chef Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray

New Jewish TableThe marriage of Chef Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff initiated Todd into the world of Jewish cooking. In 1999, Todd combined his love for farm-to-table ingredients with his passion for Jewish cuisine by opening the acclaimed Equinox Restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Watch as Todd & Ellen walk us through one of their favorite recipes. Then, sample the finished product!

The New Jewish Table by Chef Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray explores the melding of two different cooking cultures, seasonal American and Eastern-European Jewish. Todd and Ellen talk about the food they grew up with, their life together, and how rewarding the sharing of traditions— and meals—can be.

Todd Gray is a five-time James Beard Award nominee. He graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute of America and has cooked with some of the nation’s top chefs. Both he and Ellen co-own and operate Equinox Restaurant, Muse at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Hamill Gray Catering. Todd is also the culinary director for Salamander Hotels and Resorts and the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

Ellen Kassoff Gray is an award-winning General Manager for all their operations. She is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier and has received the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs Golden Fork Award for Front-of-the-House Excellence.

Praise for The New Jewish Table:
“Fresh and appealing, this book reflects a unique blend of traditions. Great for families interested in contemporary Jewish cuisine. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal

Click to listen (podcast will begin automatically). To download as an MP3, right click and select “Save Link As.”

Kassoff Gray Podcast

Rosh Hashanah Foods Besides Apples and Honey

by Jean Graubart
Director of the Leo and Anna Smilow Center for Jewish Living and Learning

Rosh Hashana, part of the Days of Awe, is a spiritual holiday, calling us to the task of inner reflection, soul searching, and forgiveness. It is also a time to find hope and sweetness in the New Year, and what better way to do that than through food? The most well-known symbol is honey, served on a round challah to represent the cycle of the year.

But there are more traditional treats from many different Sephardic cultures. Some of these Jews serve chewy dates for more sweetness; Moroccan Jews dip the dates into a tasty mixture of ground sesame seeds, aniseeds and powdered sugar. There is even a prayer to be recited over dates: “As we eat this date, may we date the New Year that is beginning as one of happiness and blessings and peace.”

Veggies have a place too. Many Sephardic Jews cook pumpkins or gourds to express the hope that as this vegetable is protected by a thick covering, so may we be protected and kept strong. Leeks are eaten for luck and spinach or Swiss chard or the leafy part of the beet root are eaten to “beat” off enemies and keep us from those who might do us harm. The greens are said to build strength. Israeli Jews often eat at least seven kinds of fruits and vegetables to symbolize the hope for a plentiful year. One favorite dish is carrot salad, with the carrots cut in rounds to represent coins and the hope of a prosperous year. Orange lentils are prepared for the same reason.

Shana Tova says the FishRosh Hashanah literally means “head of the year,” and in many Israeli and Sephardic homes, a fish head is given to a special guest or the head of the household to eat. Besides being a test for the stomach, the food represents the hope that the family will move forward and come out ahead in the coming year.

The pomegranate has become a fixture on the Rosh Hashana table. It is said that every pomegranate contains exactly 613 seeds, the exact number of the mitzvot, Biblical commandments, that Jews are obligated to fulfill. The prayer for this fruit asks that the coming year will be filled with as many good deeds as the pomegranate has seeds. Also, the top of the fruit is said to look like the crown of the Torah, and it is believed that the pomegranate is a symbol of fertility.

Of course there is the classic. Apples are dipped in honey because the fruit’s roundness symbolizes a hope that the New Year will be joyous from start to finish, full circle.

We at the Washington DCJCC, wish you a “Shana Tova”, a year of sweetness and good

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