Who are we?
Born in 1978 in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, Rebecca is an arts professional and is the Founding Director of ‘The Neighborhood: An Urban Center for Jewish Life’, a Jewish start-up in Brooklyn working to build a new model of Jewish community center. At the age of 15 Rebecca decided to become a vegetarian to the displeasure of her parents. “It took years to convince them that everything was fine,” says Rebecca with a smile. “My grandmother believed that not serving the chicken in my chicken soup counted as ‘vegetarian’ and then I would eat it.”
Born in 1980 in Stamford, Connecticut, USA, David is a former chef and cooking teacher turned Public Health Nutritionist and college professor in NYC. “I’m passionate about food,” says David of his culinary research in recent years. “I am fascinated by food preservation – from meat through dairy products to fruits and vegetables – and I am studying the different preservation methods from all around the world, and from all periods. It’s healthy as well as environmentally sustainable , ” he concludes.
Born in 2015 in New York, Wolf is a 1st grade student at PS32 elementary school in Brooklyn. His parents proudly tell that Wolf’s favorite food is smoked fish. “Occasionally we go together to a smoked fish factory here in Brooklyn, we buy a ton of smoked fish and see other people who come there from all over,” says David. “Wolf also loves pickles.” But like any New York kid, Wolf will also never give up on pizza and sushi.
Where was the photo taken?
The Statue of Liberty is visible from Rebecca, David and Wolf’s apartment window, located in Brooklyn’s industrial waterfront neighborhood. They make good use of every corner in their small kitchen “as do most New Yorkers,” Rebecca explains. “David spends all his time here and prepares everything himself.” Dozens of preserves and pickle jars are crammed on the shelves: peppers, plums, miso and shoyu. “The fridge is full, too,” Rebecca adds. “In the summer we’re out of town, in upstate New York, and we take all the empty jars with us and refill them.”
Our family kitchen
“Both my parents immigrated as small children to the United States from Europe after World War II, making me a 1st generation American,” says Rebecca. “I grew up in a home with lots of Yiddish, and my grandmother cooked everything herself. ”
Rebecca and David’s journey back to their culinary roots is different. “I feel that today we focus more on the ingredients – and less on the family history,” says David. “I think this is the story of Jewish cuisine today: adapting traditional dishes to the 21st century with a commitment to healthy eating.” Even the family’s Seder meal is uniquely vegetarian. “David makes the fluffiest matzah balls – compared to the dense ones I never liked as much” says Rebecca, “and they are served in vegetable soup.” During Hanukkah, they usually make latkes and Mexican churros. “We spent a lot of time in Mexico, and we love churros, and they are fried,” they say.
Their commitment to a healthy diet is also reflected in their effort to live more sustainably. “We turn the trash we produce into compost just as my grandmother recycled, in her own way” says Rebecca. “She did not throw away the chicken bones but rather used them to make stock, for example. That too is environmentally friendly. ”
The house recipe: G’mish Mosh Pickles
These pickles can be found in the Siegel-Guber family refrigerator on a regular basis. “My grandmother used to describe any mixture of things as ‘gemish’, says Rebecca, “thus, we decided to call this mixture of pickled vegetable scraps by that name, combined with the word mishmosh, which means a similar thing.
In our home we take two things very seriously: reducing the waste we generate as part of our environmental stewardship, and dressing up our food with powerfully flavorful condiments. This recipe sits at the intersection of these central ideas.
There must be some vegetable parts you typically discard, but always think to yourself, “what a waste! I should be able to use this.” This is where you start your selection. Our G’mish Mosh is usually heavy on the stems from leafy greens (swiss chard, collards, kale, broccoli), celery hearts, and cauliflower core. You can also supplement and add flavor with vegetables that are not necessarily waste such as beets, carrots, cabbage, hot peppers etc.
The key to this delicious condiment is cutting everything super small to eliminate any tough fibrous bits that aren’t pleasant to chew on. If you have expert knife skills and some time to kill, put on a podcast and dice everything as fine as you possibly can. If that’s not your style, roughly chop everything and then pulse in a food processor to a relish-like consistency.
1 litter jar
500 grams (1.1 lb) assorted vegetables, finely diced or blitzed in the food processor into a coarse mash
15 grams (0.5 ounces) non-iodized salt
1 liter (1 qt) glass sterilized mason jar
Fermentation lid & weight (optional)
- In a large bowl, mix the finely diced vegetables and salt to combine. Pack the mixture into the sterilized glass jar and push it down to force out any air bubbles. The salt will draw out liquid from the vegetables to create a brine. If you have a glass fermentation weight that fits your jar, use it to weigh down the mixture and ensure the brine covers it completely. Alternatively, use a clean food grade plastic bag filled with water or salt, and make sure no air bubbles are trapped between the bag and vegetables.
- Cover and seal the jar in a manner that allows gas to escape. You can use a specially designed fermentation lid or fasten a piece of clean cheesecloth or kitchen towel over the top of the jar, fastened with a rubber band.
Alternatively, loosely screw a regular lid, or loosen it 1-2 times daily to let gas escape (affectionately known as “burping” the jar). Keep the jar out of direct sunlight at room temperature. Cold temperatures will slow the fermentation process while warmer temperatures will speed it up. Fermentation is usually very active and bubbly in the first few days. After that it mellows out, but this is where much of the magic happens and, as with many things in life, patience will be rewarded.
The G’mish Mosh is ready when it tastes good. We usually let it sit at room temperature 1-3 weeks. We also tend to “forget” about it in the refrigerator for another couple of weeks; even though the fermentation is slowed to a crawl due to the refrigerator’s low temperature, the flavor still develops some complexity. You can lift your lid and weight at any time during the fermentation process and sneak a taste with a clean utensil – no double dipping!
Some safety notes:
- Mold is inevitable in fermentation. If it’s white, then it’s harmless. Scoop it off the top along with a thin layer of the vegetables it was touching (which may be mushy). The rest will be fine. If the mold is black or red – throw it all away and start over. This has never happened to us, but still worth mentioning.
- Fermentation does create some funky smells. Do not be alarmed! You’ll learn to love those. But, use common sense: if it smells outrageously foul, don’t feel bad about parting ways with it.
Edited by Ofer Vardi, Photography by Michael Harlan Turkell