Kosher “Butter” Chicken

I recently attended a Metro Minyan shabbat dinner, at which an Indian buffet dinner was served.  As I was waiting in line, the person behind me commented, “This food looks fantastic, but it’s too bad they can’t serve butter chicken.  That’s my favorite.”  Challenge accepted.

Replacing butter as the key ingredient of a dish like this was, in fact, a bit of a challenge.  I wanted to preserve the richness and the creaminess and not just end up with an oily mess.  I settled on coconut oil as a butter substitute for its luxurious flavor.  Since butter contains natural emulsifiers, I added a bit of cornstarch.  Instead of marinating the chicken in yogurt, I used lemon juice to make it tender.  Finally, I used coconut creamer instead of heavy cream to round out the dish.  It’s not quite the same as the original, but it’s pretty close!

Total time: 50 min.

Yield: 2 servings

Level: Easy


© Courtney Weiner.  All Rights Reserved.


  • 3 medium skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ginger, mashed
  • 1 tsp garlic, mashed
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into 2 pieces
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 3 cardamom pods, partially crushed
  • 1 ½ cups tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 4 tsps dry fenugreek leaves, finely crushed*
  • 2 tsps coconut creamer
  • Salt to taste


Cut chicken into 2” pieces.  Mix ginger, garlic, and lemon juice and pour over chicken, making sure all pieces have some of the marinade.  Set aside for ½ an hour.

When the chicken is ready, heat the coconut oil in a 3-quart pot over medium heat.  When it begins to warm, add the cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom.  Saute for about 1 minute.

Add the chicken pieces, along with the marinade, to the pot and cook for 5 minutes, stirring every minute.

Pre-mix the cornstarch with the water.  Add that and the tomato puree to the pot.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring once.

Stir in the creamer, fenugreek, and salt.  Cook covered for another 5 minutes.  This dish works well served over basmati rice.


*Fenugreek is the most important ingredient of this dish.  If you can’t find it in a regular supermarket or Whole Foods, try an Indian specialty store or online.


Have fun and save a life… with the JDC

Have you ever been self-conscious about your Jewish nose? Or terrified that an El Al security guard might suspect that you’re a terrorist? Did your favorite Jewish holiday experience happen at a Christmas party?

Join JDC tonight for Speakeasy DC’s “My So Called Jewish Life” comedic performances about all things Jewish, not-so-Jewish, and wanna-be Jewish. Free drinks and appetizers included.
Click here to register for “Laughter is the Best Medicine.”

Last year I traveled on a service trip for Jewish young professionals to Ethiopia with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). While in Ethiopia, I
was privileged to contribute to JDC’s projects of construction of a rural school and medical treatment for children. I also learned about other JDC projects, including including scholarships for university and nursing degrees, water well construction to provide rural villages with potable water, and life-saving heart and spinal surgeries. This was truly a life-changing and unforgettable opportunity (to read more about it, see GTJ’s past blogpost).

Ethiopia has an epidemic of tuberculosis of the spine and the cases in Ethiopia are so severe that many die of a completely treatable disease. With the leadership of JDC’s medical director in Ethiopia, Dr. Rick Hodes, JDC has made it a mission to help children suffering from this disease by providing life saving spine surgery.

This event will raise money to provide a life saving surgery for Daguma, a 14-year old boy with severe spinal scoliosis. Help save a life!

Breaking Down the Purim Festivities

Purim is here! Let’s go crazy! (Or not.) It does stink that Purim falls in the middle of the week this year. For those of you who partake in Simchat Torah, Purim, or any other joyous holiday and don’t take off time from work or school that week, or you can keep going all the time, you’re amazing. Keep that socializing energy alive. For the rest of us, say you still want to get out and do something festive, but not go crazy.

We’ll break down this year’s Purim events (for a full list, click here) for you by craziness factor. Feel free to pick and choose, mix them up, decide to start off tame and end up walking into work with your Purim costume still half-on/calling out sick by the end of the holiday. Either way, here you go:

Able to attend work/class the next day but entertaining:

Moderately getting your hamantaschen on:

Prepare for a grogger-induced headache:

Stephen Richer-worthy/all-night fun:

Also, I found it adorable that Birthright Israel NEXT has a Pinterest page for Purim. Check it out when you can.


What Would You Do? – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (week 30)

Let’s say you meet someone online, on JDate for example, and things are going well.  So well, in fact, that you decide to become exclusive.  So well that you decide to move in together.  So well that you decide to get married.  When the Express or New York Times covers your wedding announcement, and they ask where you met, do you bite the bullet and be honest?  Announcing to the world, “We met on JDate,” is an exciting yet scary thing.

About six years ago, before JDate became mainstream and there were still stigmas abounding, I was invited to a wedding.  I knew the couple had met on JDate.  We all knew the couple had met on JDate.  The bride wasn’t shy about it, but the groom was.  When I was at the ceremony, and the rabbi said, “They met on a blind date,” we all snickered in our seats.  A blind date?  Ha!  They met online, and that’s all there was to it.  (I’ll never know if they lied to the rabbi or simply asked him to use “blind date.”)

Fast forward to about three years ago, when online dating seemed to pick up steam.  A couple I knew had their pending nuptials listed in the B.I.O. section of the Express.  (Reading those on Mondays tends to be the most exciting part of my day.)  Again, I knew they had met on JDate.  “Where did you meet?” asked the Express.  The response?  “Café Citron.”  Yes, that’s where they physically met, if you want to be literal, but c’mon – we all know what the question was asking.

In this day and age, things are changing.  Now, at least once a month, and oftentimes more frequently, one of the couples in the Express lists one of the online dating sites as the place they met.  In fact, just a few weeks ago, two out of three couples that were featured met online.  And I’m proud to say that I met my boyfriend online (which isn’t bad for business, of course).  But, in my opinion, it doesn’t matter where you meet your significant other, as long as he or she makes you happy.

I wonder if the couples I mentioned before would have been more honest today.  This leaves us the question: What would you do?

(Feel free to leave your comments below.)

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she offers services from online dating profile-writing to e-mailing potential matches to planning dates. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter for updates and tips.


Connecting Purim to Shavuot, Yom Kippur, and Moshiach

Next week, Jews all around the world will be celebrating the festive holiday of Purim. On the surface, Purim appears to be a day of fun providing children with an excuse to dress in costumes and adults with an excuse to imbibe. However, in keeping with the theme of the Purim, there are many deep ideas beneath the mask of the joyous festivities.

Purim shares a connection to the holidays of Shavuot and Yom Kippur. It also is the holiday most associated with the era of Moshiach, the final redemption in which the world actualizes its potential for holiness and peace and unity reign. Let’s examine each connection individually.

Shavuot: This holiday celebrates the most momentous occasion in Jewish history and the event that made the Jewish people a nation – the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. However, the Talmud informs us that nearly one thousand years were to pass before our covenant with G?d was sealed.[1] The Torah teaches that prior to the revelation at Mount Sinai the Jewish people stood underneath the mountain (Shemot 19:17).

Why does the Torah say we stood underneath the mountain? The Talmud explains that G-d had to coerce the Jewish people to accept the Torah by literally holding the mountain over their heads and telling them that if they accept the Torah all will be well, but if they do not, the mountain will be dropped on them and they will all perish.

According to Jewish law, a contract is invalid if one of the parties agreed to it under duress. However, Megillat Esther (the book of Esther) tells us that “the Jews fulfilled and accepted upon themselves…to observe these days of Purim” (Esther 9:27). The Talmud in Shabbat 88a reads the verse as follows: they ‘fulfilled and accepted’- they fulfilled (on Purim) that which they had already accepted back then (at Sinai).[2] The events of the Purim story demonstrated that the Jewish people had willingly accepted upon themselves the Torah law without Divine coercion and thus proved the validity of the covenant.

Yom Kippur: A mystical play on the words, Yom Kippur can be read as saying: ‘A day like Purim.’ This implies that in some way Purim is in fact greater in holiness than Yom Kippur. What does this mean? We observe Yom Kippur through fasting, praying, and repenting. This sort of repentance, or teshuva is likened by our Sages to doing teshuva out of fear. Purim is celebrated in totally different manner – through feasting, drinking, and merrymaking.[3] This is representative of doing teshuva out of love. While the first mode of teshuva i.e. repenting out of fear and awe of G-d rectifies all our past misdeeds, the second approach to teshuva, repenting out of love for G-d is actually a higher form of repentance that has the power to not only cleanse us of our sins, but to transform them into mitzvot![4]

Moshiach: As stated above, Purim is celebrated by feasting, drinking, and merriment in contrast to the fasting and refraining from physical pleasures that constitute the observance of Yom Kippur. In this way Purim celebrates human involvement in the physical world. The highest actualization of G-d’s will is to be involved in the physical world and to spiritually elevate it.

There may be times when we have to withdraw from physicality in order to reorient ourselves toward more spiritual goals, but when we reveal G-dliness within physicality we fulfill G-d’s ultimate purpose in creating a physical universe. Purim is connected to the idea of Moshiach because, in the times of Moshiach, G-d and holiness will be openly revealed in our physical world. What was hidden for so long will again be revealed. Chasidic philosophy teaches that our job as Jews is to reveal the sparks of holiness within Creation in order that the inherent unity of G-d and His universe be revealed and G-dliness permeate every level of our existence. On Purim we enjoy physical things, but rather than get caught up in the façade that the universe operates independently of G-d, we remain cognizant that everything is in fact constantly being animated, recreated, and overseen by G-d.

Keeping these insights in mind should enable us to get more meaning out of Purim and to celebrate the day more joyfully. The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that the word, yismach (they will rejoice) shares the same Hebrew root as the word, Moshiach. On this he teaches that we will only be redeemed through serving G-d with joy. Have a freilechen (joyous) Purim and may the veil of Divine concealment of G-dliness be lifted now!

[1] “The Thousand Year Difference”

[2] Ibid.

[3] Living With Moshiach. “Purim” Rabbi J. Immanuel Shochet

[4] “The Holiest Day” Rabbi Lazer Brody,


GTJ president a hit at Adas Latke-Hamantash Debate

Yesterday, some of DC’s young Jewish professionals — including GTJ Director of Technology Mike Weinberg and last year’s Jewish Guy of the Year contender Steve Davis — met up at Adas Israel to listen to the 2012 Latke-Hamantash debate.

This debate, now in its 21st year in DC, actually dates back to 1946, when Jewish professors at the University of Chicago met for a mock academic debate about Jewish ethnic food.

Last night, four speakers from various professional corners of the DC Jewish (although not necessarily young) community came to discuss the relative merits of latkes and Hamantaschen. The event was sponsored by DC’s Jewish Study Center and MCed by local documentary filmmaker, Aviva Kempner.

Carmel Chiswick of George Washington University, speaking as both an economic historian and a Jewish mother, asked general questions about the historical development of both the latke and the hamantash.

Joel Cohen, a math professor from the University of Maryland, as well as the president of Tifereth Israel, was more pro-hamantash. He explained how the Purim dessert’s “orbifold” shape (i.e. three points, three sides) made it structurally superior to the latke.

Joshua Ford, Associate Executive Director of the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center, tried, like Chiswick, to avoid taking sides. Instead, he suggested “moving beyond the Latke-Hamantash conflict” and pointed out that latkes and hamantashen are so different that arguing about them was like “comparing the Boston Red Sox and the Grateful Dead.”

Finally, our very own Stephen Richer, president and co-founder of Gather the Jews, brought the house down with a hilarious presentation using GTJ’s business model to evaluate the two foods. Using the parameters of quantity, diversity, and streamlined organizational structure, he argued that hamantashen were superior in all respects.

Following the debate, the good folks at Adas provided copious amounts of both latkes and hamantaschen, allowing event participants to conduct their own research and draw their own conclusions about the two Jewish foods. All in all, a fun and tasty evening.

Stay tuned for video of this event!









And the winner of the second Jewish a cappella contest is…

The repeat champions, Tizmoret, of Queens College


For the second year in a row, the group “Tizmoret” of Queens College won the Annual Kol HaOlam National Jewish A Cappella Contest at Adas Israel.

“Kol Sasson” of University of Maryland also matched its previous year’s performance by placing second.  “Jewop” of University of Wisconsin grabbed third.  Ten Jewish a cappella groups in total competed.

The rankings were, in my humble opinion, spot on.  My two apartment-mates and I all agreed that Tizmoret was clearly the best group this year.  I also gave second place to Kol Sasson.

Wisconsin Party Rocking

But while Tizmoret and Kol Sasson wowed me for the second year in a row, I’m not sure the groups — in total — lived up to last year’s performances (see all of last year’s performances here).  Kol Sasson’s (UMaryland) first song from last year is still my all-time favorite from Kol HaOlam, and I think the best pop-song parody still belongs to Brandeis for last year’s “Today I am a Man” (Although I did greatly appreciate Wisconsin’s Jewish rendition of LMFAO’s “Party Rock” and Mezumenet’s Jewish parody of NSync’s “Bye, Bye, Bye”).

Elie Greenberg, head of Adas YP, rocking the Kol HaOlam t-shirt



The audience and costumes, however, met and surpassed last year’s performance.  Approximately 1,200 poured into Adas Israel’s main auditorium on Saturday night.  Elie Greenberg and the rest of the staff managed the crowd with seeming ease.  And I must also give a shoutout to volunteer ushers Steve Davis and Yang Ku for the part they played.  As for the costumes, groups seem to have gotten the memo from last year that black shirts with matching blue or red ties and/or suspenders can look pretty awesome, especially during coordinated movement sequences.

The Adas staff also made sure we were duly entertained while waiting for the judge’s results.  Jewish musician “Orthobox” treated me to the best beatboxing I’ve seen in my life (and I’ve live in New Orleans, Chicago … and Utah! … so I’ve seen some good beatboxing!)  And we were also treated to a beatbox performance from one member of University of Rochester’s much-celebrated “Yellowjackets” a cappella group.


I’m afraid I didn’t tape all of the performances as I did last year.  My iPhone had very little battery left, and because GTJ co-sponsored the event, we had such close seats that I wouldn’t have been able to capture the full stage as last year.  I have, however, tracked down some videos that others have posted, and I will continue to look for more.  Additionally, Adas Israel is going to release a more professional tape from the evening, and I will see about getting it up  here.  Please let me know if you know of other videos.  (

All in all, a really excellent night.  Definitely made me put karaoke on my calendar.  Who’s in?!

  • Tizmoret, Queens College (song)
  • Tizmoret, Queens College (song 2)
  • Hooshir, Indiana University (song)
  • Kol Sasson, Maryland (first song)
  • Kol Sasson, Maryland (song)
  • Staam, Washington University in St. Louis (song)

All the groups together at the end.















Ask Idan Raichel a Question…

As we wrote last week, Israeli music sensation Idan Raichel will be playing at Sixth & I next Wednesday. In possibly even more exciting news, GTJ Staff Writer Daniela Enriquez has managed to secure an interview with him!

Have a question you’ve always wished you could ask him about his music? Well now you can. Let us know (email noa at by March 5 and Daniela will pass it along.







A Conversation with the Next Generation

Ricki Meyer is a ConnectGens fellow.


It is striking how often similar conversations arise among Jews.  Perhaps this is due to the fact that Jews talk – a lot – and can’t remember what they’ve said to whom.  Or maybe as a Jewish young professional, my generation and I are starting to realize our responsibility in defining the future of Judaism.  How do we find meaningful involvement in our community? How do we grapple with the ever-present social and political issues while maintaining our love for and commitment to sustaining the Jewish state of Israel?  These questions pose a fundamental shift from those asked by our grandparents’ and parents’ generations, a shift from how do we form a Jewish state to how do we keep it flourishing as a democratic society within the confines of the Jewish religion (this could take a blog post of its own).

Politics aside, I want to delve into this concept of identity and how it continues to reappear in my own life.  If you scroll back up to my third sentence, you’ll see that I defined myself as a Jewish young professional.  The order of these three words is intentional.  In the second NeXus seminar, we explored with Dr. Erica Brown how we each define our identity.  As the Jewish people – based on a relatively homogeneous sample of 40 young professionals in DC, so not your ideal test group – we tend to attribute our identities to two things: parents and religion.  What is it about these two significant factors – albeit one more obvious than the other – that influence our upbringing and the ways we continue to self-identify once we enter the ‘real world’?

For me, all directions point to the notion of tikkun olam.  My parents have led by example, ultimately inspiring me to find my own path of repairing the world at each stage of my life thus far.  My sister and I have chosen professional paths that on the surface level seem quite different, though we ultimately each identified a population for which we want to dedicate our lives and efforts to impact in a positive way.  See, it really does come back to tikkun olam as it passes along the generations.

As a fellow in the ConnectGens Fellowship Program powered by PresenTense, I am privileged to meet with like-minded individuals who are driven to create change.  Each fellow has been accepted to the program in order to develop a venture into a reality, utilizing assets of the community – and most of all each other – to work through the challenges involved with social entrepreneurship.  The ventures range from activities to spur thought-provoking conversations in DC to providing an innovative lens through which the world can view the story of Israel today, capturing stories of anyone who is willing to share (keep reading for a personal plug below…). Though we don’t have all the answers, we are taking the opportunity to collaborate with one another and more importantly to challenge each other to think in different ways and ask difficult questions.

Though fellows and ventures vary across age, geographic location, and target audience, they all stem from the same foundation of closing a gap that exists in the broad Jewish community, in turn repairing the world in our own way.  Would it be fair to say that the desire to create positive change is part of our identities, of who we are as social entrepreneur fellows and as Jews, and from where we come? I am confident to say yes, as some of this year’s fellows have their own children and are rightfully setting the example of creating the change they long to see in the communities around them.

So yes, Jews talk – but we also listen. We listen to the needs of our community and the actions of those who came before us, and make the conscious decision to act in a way that will help others.  It is my hope that this is the example my generation continues to follow, and that we continue to talk – as we are already leading the path for others.

As promised, a few words about my venture. I am working with two friends – both participants of the 2011 Alumni Leadership Mission – to create the infrastructure to have agencies and organizations send packages to Lone Soldiers who serve in the Israeli army.  About 2,800 Lone Soldiers leave their homes and families all over the world to serve in the Israeli army each year.  Some of them have relatives on the ground in Israel, but most do not.  Our venture also includes a community building aspect to foster relationships between local Jewish communities and the Lone Soldiers in Israel. Please contact or @lonesoldierproj if you are interested in learning more about the project!





Take Your Time… and Proofread! GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (week 29)

When you’re putting yourself out there in the vast online dating pool, it’s important to take the time to read and re-read your profile to make sure that “your” not messing up easy words and hurting your chance to find the perfect match.  Robert Thaler and Cass Sunstein, the authors of the book “Nudge” (which has nothing to do with my business), point out that it’s often the important decisions – the 401(k) and the health care plan – that get the shaft, while we spend more time and energy doing the much smaller tasks.  As they observe, “… 58 percent [of those in a survey] spent less than one hour determining both their contribution rate and investment decisions [for their 401(k)].  Most people spend more time than that picking a new tennis racket or television set.”  They also note that once the investment decision is made, the choices are rarely, if ever, looked at again.

The same is true for online dating.  Most people think that writing an online dating profile is a one-time affair, and they rarely change it based on its success (or lack thereof).  They also try to write it as quickly as humanly possible.  But this is one thing that you really should spend your time on.  You’re putting yourself out there for the world to see, so you might as well put your best foot forward.  When was the last time you even read what you wrote in your profile that fateful day when you signed up for JDate?  If you can’t remember, or if you have to look back at your profile when someone sends an e-mail referencing something in it, it’s been too long.

When you’re finally done writing your profile – having spent the appropriate amount of time on it, of course – I can’t stress enough the importance of getting yourself an “unpaid intern” (a.k.a. a friend, brother, mother, etc.) to read through it just in case you missed anything.  Oftentimes, the language of online dating gets mangled.  It’s like we have a new vocabulary, one that wouldn’t make our high school English teachers proud.  I don’t know about you, but I probably wouldn’t go out with a reformed “cereal dater” (I prefer oatmeal), someone who rides the “stationery” bike (to write notes?), or someone who wants an “intellagent” partner (hmm…).

A final word: As I said earlier, no one is perfect.  Maybe your new beau or babe will be a terrible speller but great at storytelling, identifying different kinds of butterflies based on their wingspan, or doing calculus.  Everyone is smart in a different way, so it’s important to decide if some initial “flaw” is really a deal-breaker for you.  Either way, give your profile the final once-over just in case, because no one wants to go out with someone who is “humerus” – arms just aren’t that funny.

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she offers services from online dating profile-writing to e-mailing potential matches to planning dates. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

This article was also posted in JMag, the online magazine for


GTJ’s favorite time to Gather the Jews


Why Giving Truly is Receiving

An old Christian proverb proclaims that it is “better to give than to receive.” By contrast, in Judaism, we believe that to give is to receive! This week’s Torah portion, Parshat Terumah, inspires us with this timeless and important message.

Parshat Terumah begins with G-d instructing Moshe (Moses) to tell the Israelites to contribute something to the construction of the Tabernacle where the tablets of the Ten Commandments will be kept and G-d’s presence will dwell. G-d’s word-choice in saying: “Speak to the Children of Israel and let them take Me a donation” is curious. Our rabbis ask why the verse says to take for me a donation. Why not simply instruct the Jewish people to give a donation? Sforno comments that this command was directed to the tribal leaders, who were expected to take or collect voluntary donations rather than levy a tax on the populace.[1]

However, there is another interpretation that demonstrates how this verse is meant to illustrate the Torah’s view of giving. The Midrash (Midrash Rabbah Leviticus 34) teaches that: “More than the benefactor benefits the pauper, the pauper benefits the benefactor.”[2] Expanding on this idea, MeAm Lo’ez explains that “when one gives a poor person a gift, he is not really giving, but taking. What the donor gives the beggar is limited and temporary, and it eventually vanishes. The reward for giving the charity, however, is infinite and unlimited. It is something spiritual that endures forever in the world-to-come.”[3]

This concept fundamentally shapes how we view charitable giving. In Judaism giving charity or tzedaka is a mitzvah (Torah commandment). G-d created a world in which there are enough resources for everyone, but their distribution is in the hands of humanity. The Talmud (Baba Basra 10a) relates that the wicked Turnus Rufus once asked Rabbi Akiva, “If your God loves the poor so much, why then doesn’t He provide for them?” Rabbi Akiva responded that G-d could easily provide personally for the poor, but He chose to give us the merit of giving tzedaka (charity) to save us from Gehinnom (netherworld).[4] With this understanding we can see why charity is in fact, an inaccurate translation of the word, tzedaka.

Tzedaka actually means justice. Charity denotes giving when one is feeling inspired, generous, or ‘in the mood’ to give. Tzedeka, on the other hand, is an opportunity and an obligation to assist G-d in repairing a world fractured by economic disparity and strife. While a poor person and a worthy cause or institution certainly benefits from the generosity of the giver, the giver is actually gaining infinitely more by connecting with G-d through performing the mitzvah of tzedaka and thereby making the world a more G-dly place.

That’s not all. A recent study discussed in the journal, Science has shown that people are actually happier when spending money on gifts for others and/or making charitable contributions than they are when they are spending money on themselves! Unfortunately, many spend a disproportionately small amount of their income on things that benefit others.[5] By using the word take rather than give, the Torah is teaching us that giving is the gift that keeps on giving. The merit we earn for helping others will continue to accumulate interest for eternity so go on and be selfish…Give more!

[1] The Stone Edition Chumash, Artscroll, 445

[2] “Do You Get Charity?” Naftali Silberberg,

[3] The Torah Anthology. Me’Am Lo’ez “The Tabernacle” Exodus VI vol. 9, page 9

[4] “Supporting the Supporter”

[5] “Do You Get Charity” Naftali Silberberg,


2012 Purim Events

Hamentashen > Latkes

We think we’ve got all of ‘em, but if you know of something that’s not on here, let Stephen know (

The Fast of Esther is observed on Wednesday, 3/7.  The fast begins at 5:19 a.m. and ends at 6:47 p.m.

Have an amazing Purim and make sure to wear costumes!






Kosher Onion Soup

Classic onion soup is made with beef broth and topped with melted cheese.  That combo is obviously a no-go for kosher eaters.  Since the cheese is the best part, I decided to sacrifice the beef broth.  Between the options of vegetable stock and vegetarian beef-flavored stock (several brands make boullion), the latter has more oomph, so I went with that option.  The recipe below is based on one by Giada diLaurentis, with a few changes.

Total time: 40 min.

Yield: 4 servings

Level: Easy


© Courtney Weiner.  All Rights Reserved.


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large Vidalia onions, halved and sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons cooking sherry or dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 cups vegetarian beef-flavored broth
  • 4 slices baguette, toasted
  • 4 ounces (or more) grated gruyere cheese


In a medium, heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the sherry or wine, and cook briefly, loosening any bits that have stuck to the pot.  Add the thyme and broth. Simmer, uncovered, until the onions are soft, about 15 minutes.

Divide the soup between the 4 ovenproof ramekins. Place one slice of bread on top of each ramekin. Top each with cheese. Place under the broiler, until the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 4 minutes. Serve immediately.


Israeli Sensation Idan Raichel coming to Sixth & I!

Middle Eastern music, African sounds and Hebrew words! These are just some of the ingredients that make Idan Raichel’s music unique and fascinating and which, on March 7th, will transform the Historic Synagogue at Sixth & I into a temple of music. The 34-year-old Israeli artist is famous across the globe thanks to his international group, The Idan Raichel Project, which first became known on the Israeli musical scene in 2002 and, within the space of very few years, turned into an international sensation.

About 60 musicians total, from different parts of the world, contribute to producing music that, although it can be defined as international, always has a Middle Eastern “flavor” in every song. Different songs and rhythms are woven together on stage and, while most of the songs are in Hebrew, your ears should be prepared for Arabic, Spanish, English, Yemenite, Hindi and even Amharic (Ethiopian.)

Raichel’s songs touch on the main problems of modern society. To quote The Jewish Journal, the singer “has both a gift for creating beautiful music and the courage to spread a message. He preaches universalism, the power of shunning labels and celebrating humanity.”  He sings about world peace and friendship, human relationships and their problems and — of course – love, love, love! The topics is his songs range from the difficulties of expressing feelings (“Chalomot shel ‘acherim” or “Milim yafot me ‘elle”) to common couples’ misunderstandings (“Medaberrim be sheket” or “Im telech”). However, for each problem there is a solution because, as Idan himself sings in one of his most famous songs, “Hakol over” – everything shall pass.

His musical education, humanitarian activism, work as a producer, and love for Israel all contribute to creating his beautiful pieces. The first four albums starting with his eponymous album “The Idan Raichel Project,” offered in both a Hebrew and an English version and have all received international acclaim. Recently, the group produced a new album called “Traveling Home.” This three-CD album is the group’s first live recording and contains both old hits and new tracks.

For tickets, click here.  And stay tuned for further GTJ coverage of this amazing event!

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