Jewish Museum of Florida’s recipe contest celebrates foods of the High Holy Days

Make it at home: Gefilte fish can be made at home with snapper, matzoh meal and a few other ingredients.
Make it at home: Gefilte fish can be made at home with snapper, matzoh meal and a few other ingredients. MCT

With the Jewish high holidays upon us, it’s time to ask: Is homemade gefilte fish better than store-bought? Who is making the most interesting pickles in town? And whose recipe for rugelach rises to the top of the pack?

The answers will be revealed Sunday, when the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU in Miami Beach hands out awards for its first From My Family’s Kitchen recipe contest.

There’s still time to enter: Home and professional cooks can submit gefilte, pickle or rugelach recipes by Friday in order to be eligible for Sunday’s cooking contest. Visit for signup information.

Chef Allen Susser will serve as one of the event’s celebrity judges. He should have a particularly pertinent input on the pickle category: His line of Urban Pickles, due in South Florida grocery stores in the coming months, includes in-your-face flavors like Cuban Mojo, Hot & Sassy (see recipe) and Kickin’ Asian.

“As a chef I get where spices and herbs come together,” Susser said. “I favor full-bodied, strong flavors, robust flavors.”

Susser, who kept kosher while growing up in Brooklyn, is one of the influential chefs featured in the Jewish Museum’s current exhibit, “Growers, Grocers & Gefilte Fish: A Gastronomic Look at Florida Jews & Food,” which runs until Oct. 5.

Miami Herald food columnist Linda Gassenheimer will join Susser at the judges’ table. Having lived and worked in Europe, Gassenheimer should be able to bring an international perspective on the submissions.

“In London I found that most people like their gefilte fish deep-fried,” she said. “In Paris, the gefilte fish was served much like a pate — sliced from a formed log.”

She noted that today, most people don’t have the inclination to make this Jewish classic at home.

“So many have only tasted the fish balls that come out of a jar and then smother them in horseradish,” Gassenheimer said.

She also has strong opinions about rugelach, saying the dough must include a combination of cream cheese and butter and that the filling “should add flavor without overpowering the dough.”

Fellow judge Daniel Serfer, chef-owner of Miami restaurants Blue Collar and the recently opened Mignonette, favors red-fruit rugelach (see recipe) filled with strawberry or raspberry.

“I don’t come from a very religious family, so we really only did the high holidays for the food,” Serfer said. “It was only through these occasions and the food associated with them that I really felt Jewish.”

Besides finding out the contest winners, guests who attend the awards ceremony at 3 p.m. Sunday also will hear the stories behind the recipes and taste samples from local restaurants.

Miami filmmaker Billy Corben will serve as emcee of Sunday’s awards ceremony, while chef Josh Marcus of Josh’s Deli in Surfside, NBC 6 anchor Adam Kuperstein and Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman round out the judging panel.

Winners will be selected based on flavor, appearance and originality. Prizes include museum memberships, restaurant gift certificates — and kvelling rights.

The museum will lead one of its Jewish Food Walking Tours on Sunday before the awards ceremony. That series (see box) has proved so popular that it will continue into next year.

“Food is important to every culture,” said Jo Ann Arnowitz, the museum’s executive director. “It crosses all barriers. It helps people relate on every level.”

Evan Berkowitz is a Miami-based freelance writer.

If you go

What: From My Family’s Kitchen Recipe Contest

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, 301 Washington Ave., Miami Beach

More info: 786-972-3175,

Jewish Food Walking Tours

Learn about past and present Jewish-owned restaurants and other businesses during the Jewish Museum’s popular Food Walking Tours series.

The two-mile tours depart at 11 a.m. and last about two to three hours, with stops and tastings at My Ceviche, Aroma Espresso Bar, Pita Loca and more. The cost is $46 for the general public, $36 for museum members.

The next tour is Sunday, followed by another on Oct. 16.

Gefilte Fish

2 pounds whole snapper, deboned and cut into chunks

1/2 medium onion, minced

1 medium carrot, roughly chopped

3 eggs, separated

1/2 cup chopped parsley

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons baking powder

Cayenne pepper, to taste

1/2 cup matzoh meal

1 gallon water

2 medium carrots, whole


Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor, chop the fish fine, reserving its bones and head. Add the onions, rough chopped carrots, 3 egg yolks, parsley, salt, pepper, sugar, baking powder and cayenne, and continue to chop until well minced. In a clean, medium bowl, whisk the egg whites until firm but not stiff. Fold fish mixture into egg whites, then slowly stir in matzoh meal. Let rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the fish bones and head in a pot with a gallon of water and the two whole carrots. Bring to a gentle simmer. Form as many mini-football-shaped balls as you can (about 6-10, depending on size). Place in simmering stock and cook for 15 minutes. Remove fish from the broth and place in a casserole pan. Remove carrots from stock; let cool, then cut into discs to serve as garnish. Continue to cook fish stock down until reduced by half, then pour over gefilte fish in casserole pan. Cover and chill overnight.

Source: Josh Marcus of Josh’s Deli.

Hot & Sassy Pickles

12 medium Kirby cucumbers

4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

5 cups filtered water

3 tablespoons white vinegar

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons pickling spice

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds

3 sprigs fresh dill, torn

With a sharp knife, slice the cucumbers into 1/3-inch slices and distribute among 3 clean, pint-size Mason jars. Distribute garlic slices among the jars. In a stainless steel bowl, whisk together the water, vinegar, salt, pickling spice, pepper flakes, fennel and dill. Pour brine over cucumbers in the jars, leaving about 1/4-inch space between the surface of the liquid and the rims. Lightly tap the jars on the counter to make any bubbles surface. Seal the jars and gentle shake the mixture.

Place jars in a warm part of the kitchen away with indirect sunlight for 24 hours. Shake gently, then move to a cooler, darker part of the kitchen for another 24 hours. After the second day, move jars to a refrigerator and allow to ferment another 24 hours before eating. Pickles will keep, refrigerated, at least 4 to 6 weeks.

Source: Allen Susser of Chef Allen’s Urban Pickles.

Red Rugelach

1/2 pound cream cheese

1/2 pound unsalted butter

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon bourbon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour (King Arthur preferred)

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry preserves, pureed

1 large egg

3 tablespoons buttermilk

Cream the cheese and butter in a mixer with a paddle attachment, then add the granulated sugar, salt and vanilla. Drop down the speed to low and slowly add the flour until a dough is formed. Divide the dough into 4 pieces, cover with plastic wrap and chill in a refrigerator for an hour.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together brown sugar and raisins; set aside. Roll out dough into 9-inch circles. Spread an even layer of red preserves all over the dough circles, then sprinkle with brown sugar-raisin mix. Carefully roll up the discs like tight cigars, and cut each one into 6 equal pieces. Place each piece seam side down onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Beat together the egg and buttermilk, then brush mixture on each piece of rugelach. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Let cool before eating. Makes about 24 pieces.

Source: Daniel Serfer of Blue Collar and Mignonette.