Brooklyn kosher meals blogger Chanie Apfelbaum goes Italian – The Ahead
Image via screenshot via Instagram
Chanie Apfelbaum poses with homemade pasta in Tuscany in an Instagram post from July 22, 2021.
When Chanie Apfelbaum, founder of kosher food blog Busy in Brooklyn, returned from a trip to Italy this summer, she brought a new mantra with her: “Scale it back,” she said. “Make it quieter.”
Applebaum, an observant Jew who lives in Brooklyn, has five children, a Millennial Kosher cookbook, another kosher cookbook on the way, and an active blog and Instagram site.
She planned the trip because her children were gone and she wanted to fulfill a lifelong dream: to visit Venice, Florence, Tuscany and Rome in six days – physically demanding but mentally rejuvenating.
The trip, she said, was a revelation for a woman who grew up eating balls, stuffed cabbage, and matzah ball soup, and whose food fame began with “drunken Hasselback salami,” a dish that went viral 11 years ago. In it, Apfelbaum cuts a piece of salami into thin slices, mixes a sauce of apricot jam, brown sugar, brandy, brown mustard and ketchup and spreads it on the cut meat. Then she bakes it until it’s brown and crispy. Sounds delicious, but it’s hardly an example of minimalism.
Will she ever make it to Italy again?
Never say Never. But there is no question that her tour of Italy opened her eyes to a new relationship with what and how she eats. She was impressed with how respectfully Italians look at and treat their food. Nobody throws it in a supermarket cart. Step into a grocery store and you will see beautifully displayed local products that are lovingly cared for by the shop owner. The customer knows that he is not allowed to touch it. That is the job of the grocer. Tell him (or her) what you want and he will choose it and package it for you, as carefully as a jewel.
You can also feel the respect for the food during preparation, said Apfelbaum. At Cantina Giuliano in Tuscany, a kosher winery and farm-to-table restaurant, apple tree was served half a peach, picked fresh from the tree, then roasted, topped with sprinkles and served with almond cream – a study in simplicity.
Wherever she ate, she noticed the reduced preparation of the food. The cooks used only a few spices. French fries are served solo without ketchup. There was no dipping sauce for the fried artichokes. Seasoning was often nothing more than salt and pepper. Even the salads come without dressing.
“They brought the salad to the table with a bottle of extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and a lemon,” she said. “Everything goes back to making the ingredients shine.”
Even in between you won’t find much there.
Image from screenshot from Instagram …
Apple tree with pastries and shaken espresso for breakfast on the streets of Rome on July 7th, 2021.
“It’s not a snack culture,” she said. There are few, if any, snacks sold in grocery stores. Nobody goes down the street eating pastries. When she was in Florence and asked the chef at Ruth’s kosher vegetarian restaurant about take away pizza, he said, “To go? Do you want a knife and fork? Do you want to eat this on the street? “
Everything goes back, said Apfelbaum, “to respect for food. Sit at a table with a knife and fork. Honor the food. “
Apfelbaum is an avid fan of Frank Prisinzano, an Italian-American chef who shared his trip through Italy on his Instagram page this year. Apfelbaum is inspired by his passion for good food. It should be carefully seasoned and prepared using the right technique.
For Rosh Hashanah, Apfelbaum will prepare a fish dish this year, which she calls “Branzino a la Frank”. It’s a whole fish (Frank loves to eat the whole fish) served with the head, but since it’s New Year there will be no tail as Jewish lore says that in the new year you want to be like the head and not the tail.
This dish is all about the ingredients: fresh fish on a bed of thinly sliced potatoes, roasted tomatoes, capers with parsley, olive oil and lemon. It is in a bowl a distillation of what she has seen, learned and eaten on her journey.
She will also serve her traditional selection of different types of apples and honey. It is a highlight of your Rosh Hashanah meal and a course in itself, consisting of two unadulterated and delicious ingredients.