In The Joy of Kosher Kitchen With Rabbi Lawrence

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It has been a while since we have heard from him, but some of you might remember our Joy of Kosher Rabbi, Rabbi Lawrence Hajioff.  He has answered quite a few of our burning food and holiday Jewish questions and you can see them all in our Ask The Rabbi blog.  Rabbi Lawrence loves to answer question and has had plenty of practice over the past 13 years working as a Rabbi and as the director of the Jewish Enrichment Center in NYC.  In his first book, Rabbi Lawrence puts it all out there for us and he goes well beyond food, Jew Got Questions?

Jamie and Rabbi Lawrence go way back and in fact, his wife Anita is the source for one of the recipes in the Joy of Kosher Cookbook.  In honor of the Rabbi's new book, we are sharing Anita's Lachmagine recipe as written in the cookbook.  I have heard Anita's name mentioned in many conversations with Jamie and I know she has inspired her cooking in many ways.  Specifically for this recipe Jamie appreciates the shortcuts Anita allows, like using prune butter and tomato paste instead of temerhindi and prepared pizza rounds instead of making your own.

When we invited the Rabbi into our kitchen, Anita said, "Rabbi in the kitchen - Not!!"  The Rabbi admits to not being much of a cook, the joke in their house goes "what does daddy make for dinner? Reservations!"  It seems to me his wife makes up for his lack of kitchen know how, but she has learned a thing or two in the kitchen from her Persian mother in law.  Rabbi Lawrence says, "on an average Shabbat in my home we have a choresh bodem jon (meat and eggplant stew - delicious) and a potato kugel (which I never saw till my 20s) on the table together! Plus plenty of rice, especially on Pesach, when we sephardim do eat rice, and now my wife is permitted to eat as well!"

Since we usually share recipes in our kitchen, Anita has graciously provided a recipe she learned from her mother in law.  A recipe with a Persian flavor, made like a turkey stew, the Rabbi prefers this dish reheated the next day, so make extra. Get the full recipe for Robele here.

Even though the Rabbi has answered more than 300 pages worth of questions, I have to ask a few more.

What is your earliest food memory?

I have many food memories from my childhood, the ones that stand out are Holiday related. On Rosh Hashana my mother would make large platters of head meats. We had tongue (which I'm sure is delicious but I still can't bring myself to eat) and an actual lamb's head on the table. And rice! So much rice! White rice, green rice (made with dill) yellow rice (made with saffron) and then for dessert...rice pudding!

How did you decide which questions to put in this book?

I truly get asked many questions. For the most part I am dealing with unaffiliated Jewish men and women in their college years then 20s and 30s, I get asked every type of question. When I wrote the book I decided to pick the topics I get asked about the most. I would say I spend most of my time answering questions on dating, marriage and shalom bayit. People are interested in spirituality and Kabbalah, so I had to include a chapter on that, dealing with red strings, evil eyes, reincarnation and what Kabbalah is really all about.

Leading trips to Israel and Poland a few times a year and working for the Alumni community of Birthright Israel in NY I am posed many questions about Israel and the Jewish connection to it. And the Poland trip led to every asking about "why bad things happen to good people" which as you can imagine is the hardest question to deal with. That is probably the longest answer I had to answer in the book. Second to that question is why Jewish men and women should marry Jewish. With intermarriage rates at over 50% here in America I have to deal with inter-dating couples all the time. That question was very challenging yet important to answer.

Rabbi Lawrence's book was inspired by unaffiliated Jews, but everyone will enjoy reading this book. You will likely learn something you didn't know before and have better answers for questions people might ask you. Right now you can win a copy of Jew Got Question signed by Rabbi Lawrence!! All you have to do is post a comment or question (maybe yours can be featured in the next book) in the comments below and enter with Rafflecopter.

Get a glimpse of the Rabbi and even Anita in some of our cooking videos.

California Avocado Salad
Challah Kugel
How to Make A Watermelon Baby Carriage
How to Cut and Plate a Melon