Tablet Magazine

The Future of Lox

As supplies of salmon become less sustainable and prices less affordable, what are we supposed to put on our bagels?

Sunday mornings were made for bagels topped with paper-thin, subtly smoky lox and a schmear. But in recent years, the price tag on your bagel order may have given you pause. As prices for lox continue to rise, and wild salmon becomes scarcer, it’s hard not to wonder: What is the future of lox? Lox encompasses a range of products: Nova, double-smoked Nova, salty belly lox, hot smoked salmon, and kippered salmon. In purely technical terms, lox is defined as salmon that is cured in salt. The word lox is a derivative of the Yiddish word for salmon, laks, and early versions were also called “belly lox” and actually came from the fattier part of the fish. Over time, Nova lox has become synonymous with Jewish-style lox; this is the kind of lox you’d imagine our elder Jewish family members ordering at the appetizing shop and kvelling about. Nova lox (or Gaspe Nova lox) was once made with salmon from Nova Scotia, but now the term refers to a style, not a region, and Nova can be made with anything from farmed Atlantic salmon to wild-caught Pacific salmon. Lox made from wild-caught salmon like sockeye is drier, stickier, and leaner than lox made from fattier, farm-raised salmon. Most of the salmon used for commercial lox comes from Chile, Scandinavia, and Alaska, and increasingly, it’s farm raised. You can find a package of lox at almost any grocery store in the country, but what’s widely available is often lacking in flavor and richness. Whether it’s made from wild or farmed salmon, top-tier Nova requires more time and care than the style ubiquitously employed in commercial lox-making. To address the 21st-century realities of lox, I spoke to a new era of deli, bagel shop, and appetizing store owners across the country. They are facing shifting supply issues, restrictive and outdated health department regulations, and threateningly thin margins. In the face of those limitations, their dedication and passion for fish preservation is palpable, and they employ an identical process for crafting great lox: a salt and sugar cure, cold-smoking the fish, and expertly hand-slicing their product, which is imperative to achieve a silky texture. Elyssa Heller, founder and owner of Edith’s, a popular Jewish sandwich shop in Brooklyn, forthrightly explained: “We don’t make our money smoking our own fish—it’s more of a soulful thing that fuels our mission to serve food your great-great-grandma would serve.” To understand the future of lox, we need to examine how we got here: the history and emergence of lox as a Jewish specialty food, its rise in popularity, and the current challenges producers are facing. ...

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This Bizcochuelo de chocolate y café (Chocolate sponge coffee cake) is simple in ingredients but rich in flavor. The sweet dish goes well as a Shabbat dessert or can be made for chocolate lovers this Valentine’s Day.

Explore all our recipes here.

100 Foods and Beyond

Check out Tablet’s book The 100 Most Jewish Foods: A Highly Debatable List, and learn the stories behind iconic Jewish dishes. Argue with your friends about what we left out. And if you get hungry, we’ve included 60 recipes, too. And then there’s more...

Play the Jewish Foods Memory Game with your kids. Match up doubles of chicken soup, or borscht, or kreplach, and work up their appetite in the process.

Or try the 500-piece 100 Foods circular puzzle, and set the perfect table filled with your favorite Jewish foods.

Or check out this sticker book, featuring the tastiest items from 100 Most Jewish Foods. Put your favorite stickers on your laptop, your notebook, or your refrigerator.

You can buy all the merchandise, plus The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia, edited by the hosts of Tablet’s Unorthodox podcast, by clicking here.

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Joan Knows Best

Everyone says their mom is the best cook, but when your mom is Joan Nathan, cooking looks a little bit different. Join Joan Nathan and her son, David Henry Gerson, for a video series covering Joan’s favorite Shabbat dinner recipes with a seasonal twist.

Joan Nathan is Tablet Magazine’s food columnist and the author of 10 cookbooks including King Solomon’s Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.

Perfect Pita

Joan Knows Best: The best way to make the ancient bread in your modern kitchen—thanks to a tip from chef Michael Solomonov

Shake Up Brunch With Shakshuka

Joan Knows Best: The best way to make this popular tomato-and-egg dish—with some help from Israeli chef Erez Komarovsky

The Pleasure of Pletzel

Joan Knows Best: The best way to make this Eastern European flatbread—with some advice from food writer and radio host Arthur Schwartz

A Plant-Based Quandary

Muslims, Jews, and Catholics wrestle with the religious implications of fake meat

PLNT Burger is a restaurant that offers plant-based alternatives to all-American favorites like burgers and shakes—all 100% kosher and halal. The first restaurant opened in Silver Spring, Maryland, 2019, and has expanded to 14 locations spanning from northern Virginia to Boston. The overarching philosophy, said co-founder Seth Goldman, is an effort to make food accessible to the widest possible cross section of people, regardless of their dietary choices—whether religious, medical, or ethical in nature. Despite some quibbles and caveats, for people of many faiths, plant-based meat and dairy substitutes complement their practices around food and diet by driving intentionality, to change the world by making what his wife and co-founder, Julie Farkas, calls “little changes, every day.” Veganism and vegetarianism are increasingly accepted by the American mainstream, whether it’s out of concern for the environment and animals, or for their own health, and people of various faith traditions with dietary restrictions are embracing the trend. While plant-based meat substitutes mean Jews, Muslims, and even some Christians might now enjoy a guilt-free cheeseburger or slice of (mushroom) bacon, there are those who see such alternatives as potentially problematic workarounds. Other religions have their sanctioned alternatives to off-limit substances—coffee substitutes for Latter-day Saints, capybara instead of fish on Fridays for Catholics in Latin America—but plant-based meat can present something of a different challenge for many religious traditions: What if it’s too close to the real thing? When Goldman and Farkas sat down with me at one of their New York City restaurants over a chocolate oat milkshake, they told me about the “very Jewish ethos” behind their vegan restaurant, where ethically sourced menu options bring vegans, eco-warriors, and rabbis together. And PLNT Burger definitely feels inclusive. Goldman and Farkas are greeted warmly by the staff when they arrive at the restaurant, but it’s almost possible to miss because the staff greets everyone warmly. Cheerful young men behind the counter coach me through the byzantine customization options as I place my order on the touch-screen menu (the ability to individualize is part of the founders’ philosophy of being all things to all people). I’m there at the tail end of the lunch rush, but their energy and enthusiasm don’t seem to have flagged. “We get people from all over,” I hear a server remark over the multilingual conversational din. “Yeah, no meat!” he responds to another customer inquiry. “Tastes just like the real thing!” ...

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A lot of Jewish food’s appeal, I have found, has more to do with fond memories of growing up than the food itself. Your early sensations are the ones that stay with you. You similarly always remember your first kiss. Technically speaking it probably wasn’t your best kiss, but it is the one that gave you the taste.

How do you hummus?

With the original recipe dating all the back to the 13th century, hummus has become quite possibly the most popular middle eastern dish of our time.

It’s been called a peacemaker, and has been the subject of lots of controversy. Whether it’s your entire meal, or a dip for your vegetables, there are so many opinions, and stories to share about our delectible dish.

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The Tab is our curated weekly digest for members that collects recent articles, recipes, an insert from The Scroll, and more. Become a member and enjoy!

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