He is the man behind America’s most popular foodie magazine and the person who sets food trends for the entire nation, but when it comes to Jewish High Holy Days, Adam Rapoport goes back to his mother’s comforting Jewish home cooking.
And even though you'll see sophisticated and at times complicated recipes in Bon Appetit – the food magazine Rapoport is editor-in-chief of – he believes that home cooking should be “simple flavorful food. It doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy, just warm, soulful, delicious and comforting.” And it sounds like that’s the food he grew up with at home.
Rapoport’s mom, Maxine, was born Polish Catholic and later converted to Judaism. Naturally, some of the Polish dishes she grew up with and later cooked for her own family were the same staples of Jewish Ashkenazi cuisine, like potato latkes. “They were just not familiar with Hanukkah,” he adds.
Rapoport adapted his mother’s latkes recipe and won a latkes cook-off organized by the James Beard Foundation in the late 90s.
Another Jewish staple from Rapoport’s mother’s repertoire is her brisket, a recipe she got from her friend Doris Feinsilber. It’s sweet and spicy and uses vinegar and ketchup. The recipe is loved not only in the Rapoport family, but also with their friends. “If you find a good recipe you hold on to it, and share it with your friends.”
But Rapoport’s all-time favorite is his mother’s chopped liver. As a “very good home cook with a strong point of view about seasoning,” her secret ingredients are dry mustard, horseradish, paprika, and of course, a lot of caramelized onions.
Rapoport grew up in Washington, D.C. in the '70s and '80s with two older siblings. He remembers Rosh Hashanah dinners that included his mom’s excellent matzo ball soup, brisket with mashed potatoes, and gefilte fish, which he refused to eat since he “doesn’t like fishy things.”
Among his other culinary memories is the six months he spent in Kibbutz Meggido in northern Israel after college. He remembers the days before Hanukkah, when the air was filled with anticipation and the smell of frying sufganiyot (Unfortunately for Rapoport, he came down with food poisoning and couldn't eat a single one. “To this day,” he says, “it still pains me to think about it.”)
And what will be the next culinary trend for year 5773? “It's all about small, "indie" restaurants,” Rapoport said. “Young chefs who worked at fancy restaurants are opening fun, unpretentious places in less-traveled neighborhoods, offering high-end food at relatively affordable prices without the fuss.”
And at home? It will be “all about quality of ingredients—buy the best produce and proteins you can afford, and do very little to them. Just treat them with respect.”
A good idea, although I’m not sure classic Ashkenazi food falls into that category.
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