Sunday, January 23, 2011


Hanukkah is over, but there is a Jewish tradition of eating cheese on Hanukkah, which has brought us some great things to eat all year long. Since the eighth grade Confirmation class is doing a unit on Jews and Food, I taught them about the tradition of eating cheese on Hanukkah, and we made Rugelach, a half-moon cream-cheese cookie.

The eating of dairy foods, especially cheese, on Hanukkah is a minor custom that has its roots in the story of Judith. In the book of Judith we are told that Holofernes, an Assyrian general, had surrounded a small Jewish village as part of his campaign to conquer Judea. When the water supply of the village was cut off, Judith went to the Assyrian camp and pretended to surrender. She met Holofernes, who fell in love with her. She went back to his tent with him, where she fed him cheese and wine. When he fell into a drunken sleep, Judith beheaded him and escaped from the camp, taking the severed head with her. When Judith got back to the village and told the Jews what she had done, they launched a successful attack on the Assyrians, saving the village.

In the Middle Ages it was traditional to eat cheesecakes at Hanukkah in commemoration of the cheese Judith gave to General Holofernes. Today, many people serve rugelach at Hanukkah in memory of Judith.

Crescent pastries were first eaten in Austria-Hungary in the 1600s and 1700s. Jews in Austria-Hungary made crescent pastries called Rugelach, which is a Yiddish word meaning "little twists."

Here is a recipe for Rugelach which you will enjoy at Hanukkah and all year.


Rugelach (Dairy)


6 ounces block cream cheese
1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, cold
2 cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sour cream

Cut cream cheese into tablespoon-size pieces and let it soften at room temperature.

Cut butter into small pieces of about ½ tablespoon and refrigerate until ready to use.

Combine flour, salt and butter in food processor and process with brief pulses until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add cream cheese and sour cream, distributing evenly over mixture.

Process with brief pulses until dough just holds together. If dough is too dry add 1-2 tsps water. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, press it together into a ball, and flatten into a disk. Refrigerate at least 4 hours.


1. ½ cup raisins, 1 tsp cinnamon, ½ cup sugar, 1 cup jam (leave out the raisins if you don’t like them, or substitute chopped nuts)

2. ½ cup mini chocolate chips, ½ cup cocoa powder (I use Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa), ¼ cup melted butter.


Preheat oven to 350.

Prepare an egg wash by mixing one egg and a tablespoon of water, set aside.

Spray 2 baking sheets with cooking spray.

Divide dough into 4 pieces. Roll one piece of dough into a circle, about 9 inches.

For the first filling, brush with jam, leaving a 2 inch border around the edges. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture.

For the second filling, brush with melted butter, leaving a 2 inch border around the edges. Sprinkle with cocoa powder and chocolate chips. Push chocolate chips gently into the dough.

The next step is to cut the circle into 8 wedges. Then roll each wedge up from the wide end to the point, pinching the point to seal.

Place on baking sheets with points of the triangles facing down, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Curve each into a crescent.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

Refrigerate 20 minutes before baking.

Remove from the refrigerator and spread egg wash on each cookie and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake about 25 minutes or until light golden. Let stand 1 minute, then put on racks to cool.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Kiddushim Every Week!

Adat Ari El President Sandy Samuels has many goals for our synagogue. The underlying theme of some of these goals: how does Adat Ari El provide or aid in the congregants connection to God and a connection to each other?

Over the past several months, Sandy has been working closely with Sisterhood President, Karen Gale and Sisterhood's Service Vice President, Marla Feinberg to provide kiddushim every Shabbat that there is not a Mitzvah kiddush hosted. Therefore, every Shabbat congregants will pray together and then connect as they share a Shabbat meal.

Sisterhood's kiddushim menu includes challah, green salad, dessert and of course, tuna salad! Sandy invited all the past synagogue presidents and Executive Committe to kick-off the first of these Shabbat kiddushes with a Tuna Salad Making Night. Sandy superbly supervised the tuna salad preparation. He even showed off some knife skills in the proper technique to created the perfect size chopped celery. The tuna salad team flaked the tuna, chopped the celery, grated the hard-boiled eggs, seasoned and bound it all together with the mayonnaise. Sandy then did the dishes!

Come pray and then watch Sandy and team's tuna salad disappear this Shabbat.

Sandy showing celery chopping techniques

The team in action

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Welcome Kensington Caterers!

Last night, we were treated to a wonderful evening. We joined together at the annual Women's League Torah Fund Dinner to support Torah Fund and honor Arlene Bloom and Ruth Devine with the Chayai Olam and Kol Ishah Awards, respectfully. The prelude to the programming was an incredible inaugural dinner catered by Kensington Caterers. Kensington impressed those in attendance with beautiful presented and flavorful food.

Kensington Caterers Kosher division recently partnered with Adat Ari El to provide "exceptional kosher cuisine" using the highest quality of ingredients. They delivered what they promised. Beyond their kosher division, Kensington also manages on-site food service at the Rose Garden Cafe inside the California Science Center, as well as the Bullocks Tea Room in the Southwestern Law School.

Richard Mooney, co-owner, graciously agreed to give us the recipe to their Apple Cider and Orange dressing that accompanied the artfully presented salad (pictured below). The salad consisted of romaine hearts, placed within dark pumpernickel bread with grilled Granny Smith apples, pumpernickel croutons, candied almonds and Apple Cider and Orange dressing.

Welcome to the Adat Ari El community and we look forward to many meals to come!

To book Kensington Caterers for your next event or party, or view a sample list of kosher menu items, please visit Kensington's website:

Apple Cider and Orange Dressing (Pareve)

1/3 cup Cider Vinegar (unfiltered)
½ cup Fresh Orange Juice
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 tablespoon Finely Minced Shallot
1 tablespoon Honey
½ teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon Pepper
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ of a Granny Smith Green Apple, finely minced
Fresh chives

In a bowl, combine all ingredients, except olive oil and fresh apple.

Add the olive oil slowly while beating to create an emulsion.

Adjust seasoning as desired, adding more salt and/or pepper.

Add minced fresh apple to dressing.

Fresh chives can be added if desired.