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This American Bite
Since starting This American Bite, Yosef has evolved into a Kansas City based kosher food blogger. On his blog is where he welcomes us into his kitchen, where he highlights flavor when cooking from scratch, seasoning a plate, and breaking bread. Yosef believes that though it is not always easy to express gratitude in person, a home cooked meal says it all.
I am so happy to have Yosef Silver of This American Bite joining me on the show today.
(*All photos below are Yosef’s.)
On Being Kosher:
My wife and I are Jewish, and we keep a kosher home. I didn’t really start off to be a kosher blogger in that niche, but inherently my recipes are kosher, and that means that we don’t mix dairy products with meat products. It means our meat is all certified kosher and I’m personally gluten-free and dairy-free completely. So there’s just a lot of synergy with kosher cooking when you’re already doing a dairy-free diet.
I’ve been eating kosher most of my life. I think about since four or five years old, we’ve been keeping kosher in my family.
One of the big no-no’s is mixing the dairy and the meat product. So there’s no biscuits and gravy if there’s butter involved. So I’ll cook with a lot of dairy alternatives. Kosher slaughter has a lot of rules around how the animals are treated while they’re alive and while they’re being slaughtered, as well as there being restrictions on which meat products we eat, and which fish we eat. There’s also humane treatment of the animals as well. So pork is out of the question, and a lot of shellfish is out of the question, lobster, things like that we don’t eat at all. But, I think there’s a lot of traditional brisket and roast chicken on Friday night for the Sabbath. So we don’t go hungry, I’ll tell you that.
I tend not to get overwhelmed with kosher. Produce, fruit, vegetables, beans, legumes, rice, that’s generally kosher. Fish and meat, primarily meat and chicken, there’s a certification. But in the United States it’s very easy. Most Trader Joe’s you’ll go into will carry kosher chicken, maybe kosher meat, depending on what region you’re in. And if you’ve ever been in a store and seen a little symbol, which is a “U” with a circle around it, that’s the kosher symbol.
On the Food Culture in Kansas City:
Kansas City has an awesome food culture. There’s a lady called Jill Silva who writes for the Kansas City Star. And their food blog actually just won a national award for their coverage of the local food scene.
Our kosher barbecue festival brings people in every year from as far as New York, LA. We have the entire country covered. I have a very good friend from Northern California who isn’t Jewish, doesn’t keep kosher, and he flew in to be on my team. Friends of mine from Israel flew in and are on a team with us, and it’s such a culinary adventure. We’re very lucky that Simon Majumdar from the Food Network comes out every year to our barbecue festival, and he either emcees it or judges it. And if you read his book — I think it’s called Fed, White and Blue — he actually talked about a Friday night dinner that he had in our home, and then the weekend of the barbecue festival.
On Competing in the Barbecue Festival:
My goal at the barbecue festival really isn’t to win. We’re there to have a great time, and my teammates and I have really embodied that. You’re competing in an official Barbecue Society sanctioned competition, and they’re looking for something specific. They’re looking for the smoke rings. They’re looking for the flavor, the texture. And then you kind of got this rogue team brining turkeys. So our competition has a brisket round, a ribs round. I think it’s brisket, ribs, chicken, turkey; obviously no pork because it’s a kosher barbecue festival. To follow the laws of kosher, everyone’s meat is provided for them, which is very atypical.
Everyone has the same supplies. Everyone has the same ingredients list that you can request from. Everyone has the same smokers, same gloves. We have non-Jewish teams, non-kosher teams that participate, and it really does level up that playing field a lot. And the first year I competed, my buddy Chris and I made a terrible brisket. We fell asleep as the water pan ran out. It was disastrous. It wasn’t even good for jerky. And you know, we got better year on year.
Some of what I’ve learned from barbecue, I now apply in the home kitchen; the low and slow technique, using a dry rub, covering your meat. You can do that in an oven winter or summer.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
I love Chopped. I love the movie Chef and Burnt, and I really miss Iron Chef America.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
I’m a big fan of Food52, Amy Kritzer of What Jew Wanna Eat, I think she’s been on your show; Liz Rueven of Kosher Like Me. And two others that I really admire are Chanie Apfelbaum of Busy in Brooklyn, and Melinda Strauss of Kitchen Tested. And all those people I consider are friends of mine. They’re awesome people. Whitney Fisch of Jewhungry. Jewhungry the blog is an awesome blog, and her writing style is so cool, so much fun, and Jonathan Margolin of Toque & Scalpel. His photography is outstanding. I’m jealous of his photography skills.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat that make you happy?
I know I have specific people on Instagram that I love, but I love exploring the hashtags on Instagram, and discovering other people cooking like me, who, you know…after I hashtag my own photo, I’ll go look at who else is using that hashtag.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
My wife bought me this beautiful wine rack made out of an old wine barrel. And it’s just this beautiful arch cut out of a wine barrel. It’s the centrepiece of our table all the time. I love it.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
I mentioned Culinary Artistry before.
(Ottolenghi) I love his work. I also love that he’s an Israeli author, but he’s not exclusively kosher. I have hundreds of cookbooks.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
The soundtrack to Chef, and not to sound cliche but that movie and that soundtrack it’s on my Spotify, and it’s on Netflix all the time. It’s a great vibe, great upbeat, awesome music.
On Keeping Posted with Yosef:
I’m pretty active on Instagram. My Instagram name is Yosef Silver, and Facebook on ThisAmericanBite and Twitter as ysilver, I have not dived into Snapchat yet. I’m a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my postings.
I would love to connect with everybody on Instagram, and I would love to answer questions and just connect. If you have recipes, ideas you’re not sure about, Instagram me, Facebook me, Tweet me, email me. And if you visit my website you can get emails for my new recipes as well.