In Praise of Dairy Restaurants
A visit to B&H Restaurant on Second Avenue brings back memories of milchig establishments of yore
B&H Restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village was once part of a neighborhood that vibrated with Jewishness. Yiddish theaters peppered the area. Ratner’s was down the street, and the 2nd Avenue Deli was just across the way. Opened in 1942, the dairy-only B&H has outlasted most of these joints—sure, the 2nd Avenue Deli remains but in a new location and not even on 2nd Avenue—with its blintz and pierogi offerings gobbled up by hungry customers in a classic, narrow diner space brightened by lime green walls.
Little has changed on B&H’s menu. So says Eve Jochnowitz, a lifelong Greenwich Village resident, Yiddish scholar, and Jewish culinary ethnographer, who has just finished translating and editing a 1930 Yiddish cookbook by Vilna restaurateur Fania Lewando. In anticipation of Shavuot, for which many of us indulge in cheesecake and other dairy delights, Jochnowitz joined Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry for a visit to B&H to talk about the history of dairy restaurants, their forgotten cousin the “appetizing store,” and the unexpected pleasure of a soup made with pickles. Jochnowitz also offers her favorite vegan alternative to the cheesecake. [Running time: 15:00.]
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Vox Tablet is Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast, hosted by Sara Ivry and produced by Julie Subrin. You can listen to individual episodes here or subscribe on iTunes.
From Fania Lewando’s Vegetarian Cookbook, translated from the Yiddish and edited by Eve Jochnowitz.
Eve Jochnowitz’s note: This recipe is labor-intensive, but the result is one of the most delicious and satisfying recipes in this collection. As far as I can tell, this is a completely original invention of Lewando’s. The rich and deeply flavored sauce is also used for the Rice Dumplings Stuffed with Mushrooms, one of the great masterpieces of this collection.
2 cups rice
4 cups boiling salted water
2 hardboiled eggs
½ cup breadcrumbs
3/4 cup butter
2 ounces dried mushrooms
2 onions fried in butter
A handful each of dill and parsley
3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper, or more to taste
2 ounces dried mushrooms
1 parsley root
5 cups water (one of them cold)
2 grated onions
¼ cup melted butter
1 tablespoon flour
salt to taste
½ cup sour cream
1. Cook the rice in boiling water until soft.
2. Beat in the eggs and add the breadcrumbs, ½ a cup of butter, salt and pepper to form a dough.
3. Separately cook the dried mushrooms.
4. Add the hard boiled eggs, fried onions, dill and parsley to the dried mushrooms and grind it all up in
a food mill or food processor, adding salt and pepper to taste.
5. Roll the rice dough into balls, filling them with the mushroom mixture.
6. Roll the mushroom-filled balls in the breadcrumbs and fry in butter.
7. Place in a baking dish, drizzle with a quarter cup melted butter, and bake in the oven for ½ an hour.
8. For the sauce, cook the dried mushrooms, parsley root and celeriac in a quart of water until half the water is gone.
9. Remove the cooked vegetables and mushrooms.
10. Fry the grated onions in the butter until golden and add flour, cooking until brown.
11. Add a cup of cold water, whisking constantly to avoid lumps.
12. Cut up the mushrooms and parsley, mix with the fried onions, add salt to taste and sour cream, and pour in the remaining mushroom stock.
13. Bring to simmer, stirring constantly.
Yield: 6 servings
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