Everyone has a favorite kosher food. Mine is pizza. Of course, famous Jewish people eat kosher noshes, too, and we wondered how their preferences differed from ours.
So we asked some notable Jewish politicians, chefs and our favorite Jewish celebrities to share what they think is the ideal kosher treat:
Ed Asner, star of the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Lou Grant": "My favorite kosher food was the latkes my mother, who was not a good cook, made for Pesach (Passover)," he says. "Granted, she made them at other times, but at Pesach the supply was unlimited." He describes them as larger than a coaster, very greasy, thin and fairly browned on both sides.
"Once you started eating them you couldn't stop. In those days before calories and cholesterol, there were even contests as to who would eat more," he says. His "hulking" brother Ben would compete against his "hulking" cousin Ben. "As a child, I was staggered by the intake. As an adult, I've never tasted latkes comparable to Mom's," he says.
Judy Sheindlin, the judge with an attitude on "Judge Judy": She says that her first memory of her favorite kosher food was the potato knishes sold at Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, N.Y. "A similar concession stand in Fort Lauderdale (today) would probably make a fortune," she says.
Bill Goldberg, former NFL player with the Atlanta Falcons and pro wrestler: "It was my grandmother's matzo and eggs every Saturday and Sunday morning. Her matzo ball soup wasn't too bad either." He says his favorite food as an adult is still matzo with eggs although "I can't make it nearly as well as she could."
He describes the concoction he tries to replicate like this: "Scrambled eggs on top of soaked matzo and soak it in scrambled egg, with a little bit of sugar on top. I use the egg whites now, I don't like all the cholesterol. Ten egg whites and two yolks, with a couple pieces of matzo and I'm on my way to a bountiful breakfast.
"I'm so active, I eat just about anything to keep the weight on me, but I abstain from sweets obviously."
Now his weight is down to 260 pounds because he's recuperating from shoulder surgery, but his standard athletic frame is between 290-300 pounds. "Every night is a holiday," he says.
Edward I. Koch, New York City mayor from 1978 to 1989: His favorite kosher foods were the meat patties and veal cutlets his mother prepared when he was a child. The family was poor, he says, but well fed. "My mother specialized in buying cheap cuts of meat, which we referred to as third cuts, and turning them into delicious tasting, first-cut meats," he explains. His mother couldn't afford true veal chops during the Depression (1930-1940) so she bought shoulder veal chops, pounded them into first-cut shapes, and deep-fried them in chicken fat.
"Today, we are no longer constitutionally able to digest such foods, but they were delicious, and I remember them as though it was yesterday," Koch says.
Mayim Bialik, star of the 1990s NBC show "Blossom," who is currently studying for her doctorate in neuroscience at UCLA: "My mom has gone pretty 'gourmet' in the last few years, so our Jewish food has a definite distinctive L.A. feel to it," she says.
One recipe, though, has gotten a well-deserved twist: sweet potato apricot matzo ball tzimmes. The matzo balls are eaten as a course on their own; no soup needed. They are made with sweet yams and the sauce is an apple-apricot-cinnamon mixture. They remain a Pesach treat. "It's nice to keep tradition alive while still introducing new traditions," Bialik says.
Renee Taylor, from the television series "The Nanny" and currently a theater actress: She likes to make borscht. "My husband always asks me when I am going to make it; I make it like my grandmother used to," she says. The recipe calls for canned ingredients but she makes it using fresh tomatoes, beets, onions, carrots and dill. "That's really it," she says. Then she cooks a flanken on the side and puts it in later.
"When I go to a kosher restaurant, gefilte fish is my favorite, but you know, fresh gefilte fish. There's nothing like it," she says.
Ariel Sharon, prime minister of Israel, as told to us by his senior adviser Ra'anan Gissin: Sharon is anything but a picky eater, Gissin says. "He doesn't have a singular choice; there's a varied selection of dishes he chooses from. He's a connoisseur of good food - he likes to eat." But looking for ways to cut back on the prime minister's budget, Sharon has told the kitchen staff to prepare more foods and order out less. While working, sushi is his favorite food. On other days, he has salad at noon with hummus, chickpeas, cucumbers, peppers, olive oil and lemon. But when visiting the United States, he always says, "'Ra'anan, get me a hot dog with relish.'"
In Israel, he has a sheep farm and his favorite meat is lamb. His late wife was an expert at preparing lamb. He likes it stuffed with rice and raisins and baked - the Arab style. And he likes stuffed grape leaves and falafel. But, concerned about his weight, there is one kosher food Sharon is cutting back on: "Today he watches his diet. He won't eat bread," Gissin says.
Don Francisco (whose real name is Mario Kreutzberger), host of "Sabado Gigante," the highest-rated variety show on Spanish-language TV. Created in Chile 37 years ago, it has been produced by Univision that has been taped in Miami for the past 14 years and is televised in almost every country in the Americas. He also began hosting the Chilean version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" on Chilean national television earlier this year: "We cook at home here and in Chile for the big festivities--Passover and the end of Shabbat. I have so many favorite foods because I'm not skinny. I like everything, like latkes."
He adds that because of his diabetes, he's not able to eat as many of his favorite kosher foods these days, including kreplach soup, matzo ball soup and bagels with cream cheese.
His parents are from Germany, and he inherited their love for red cabbage and sauerbraten. "My favorite is blintzes, cheese blintzes with blueberries, although I can't eat it now." He adds that he just returned from Manhattan where he bit into another kosher favorite at the well-known Second Avenue Kosher Deli: "pastrami sandwich on rye bread and matzo ball soup."
Brad Ausmus, catcher for the Houston Astros: He favors latkes with applesauce. "His grandmother made them for him," says Warren Miller, team spokesman.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, the 2000 vice presidential candidate and Connecticut senator: "I'd have to say that my mother's soups are my favorite and most memorable kosher foods. Soup was a regular feature on our kitchen table from the classic Friday night chicken soup to the robust, tangy black bean soup, which warmed us up during the winter. I also have fond memories of coming home from school each day for lunch to a sandwich and a bowl of hearty tomato soup or hot mushroom soup that my mother would have waiting for me."