Food boards are all the rage right now and I’ve been drooling all over them! You can find cheese boards that spread out for miles, charcuterie boards at restaurants and smoked fish boards at cafes.
I recently set up a charcuterie board for my husband’s birthday, and cheese boards are a regular appetizer at my Chanukah and Shavuot meals, so this year, I decided to do something a little different.
Thanks to the Jewish food trend, old world favorites are making a comeback, along with herring, smoked fish and of course, bagels. I was inspired by some of the foodie posts I’ve seen, noshing at the newly opened Russ & Daughters at The Jewish Museum, as well as Lox at The Museum of Jewish Heritage. Who knew smoked fish would ever be in fashion?!
I’ve also been reading The Gefilte Manifesto by Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alern of The Gefilteria, who’s well-researched book highlights the history and process of so many old world Jewish foods. Their book is a mix of both classic recipes and modern interpretations, many of which I had never even heard of (Kvass, anyone?). The book is a real eye opener into Jewish food history and I highly recommend it!
Speaking of the trend towards Jewish food, I have to mention that, while it’s amazing to see all these books and restaurants popularizing Jewish foods, it’s painful to see that the “kosher” concept is all but ignored. Over the past several months, I was invited to two separate events which featured the history of Kosher food – one of which was a book talk and tasting discussing the journey of kosher food through the modern food system, and yet, ironically, the food served was not actually kosher. Another such event payed homage to Jewish culture and cuisine and yet was not either kosher. I get it, believe me, not everyone who is Jewish keeps kosher. But if an organization or a museum is putting together an event that is specifically about the history of KOSHER food, how can they serve food that is NONkosher??
This is something that bothers me to my core. And not because if I go to these events, I won’t have what to eat. It’s because the very act of serving nonkosher food dismisses one of the basic principles of Jewish food. As Michael Solomov, the Israeli chef, writes in his cookbook, Zahav, “Plenty of Israelis eat treyf these days….But at Zahav, and in this book, we choose to honor the spirit of a few fundamental rules of kosher cooking…..The reason is simple: Kosher rules help define the boundaries of Israeli cuisine.”
Now I’m not judging anyone who doesn’t keep kosher. To each his own. But as we celebrate Chanukah, I’m reminded of the Hellenists, who stripped themselves of their Jewishness to become like their cultured Greek neighbors and friends. Jewish food is more than just a cultural thing. Kosher is part of it’s history and tradition. Dismissing the kosher aspect is both disrespectful and historically inaccurate. The very reason that many traditional Jewish foods exist today, is due to the need that our ancestors had to follow the kosher guidelines. I would love to see that acknowledged in the world of Jewish cuisine.
So, now that I finally got that off my chest, lets get back to the food, shall we? Nothing makes me think of old world Jewish food more than smoked fish. (Herring too, but I won’t go near that stuff!). In honor of Chanukah, I decided to share my take on an endless fish spread with some gourmet toppings. I hope it inspires you to put out a board of your own.
How to Build a Fish Board
assorted smoked fish
fish pate and/or caviar
sourdough, bagels and/or crackers
green and black olives
pickles or cornichons
savory chutney or jam
pickled onions (recipe follows)
dijon and whole grain mustard
good quality olive oil
Start by picking a focal point. I used the largest piece of smoked salmon. Place it on a cutting board. Add an assortment of ingredients around the salmon, spreading out in sections. You can repeat the same items more than once on another side of the board. Use an assortment of small bowls and jars to place your condiments and smaller toppings.
Quick Pickled Onions
1 small red onion, sliced into thin half rings
1 cup rice vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
Bring the vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a boil. Remove from the heat. Add onions and set aside to cool.
Products featured in this board:
Portlock smoked pink salmon (the large fish on the board in the center)
Ruby Bay smoked salmon in sriracha, lemon pepper and pastrami
Ruby Bay hot smoked keta salmon
Blue Hill Bay herb smoked salmon
Ruby Bay teriyaki salmon jerky
Milas oloves in chili oregano, basil garlic, chili garlic and lemon rosemary
Lucini Itali lemon flavored olive oil
Brooklyn Brine Pickles in spicy maple bourbon
Kozlowski Farms jalapeno jam
Eden stone ground brown mustard
Altius black sea salt
Baked in Brooklyn honey mustard breadsticks
Absolutely gluten free crackers
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