Food Column: Prof's stickers are not kosher


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A Saint Vincent University fine arts professor is exploring -- and having a little fun with -- the labels that are commonly used to assist with keeping Jewish dietary laws.

In kosher kitchens, milk and meat are required to be kept separate from each other. Households that follow these rules often label dishes and food products with little oval stickers denoting whether they're the meat plates or the dairy plates, for instance.

Ben Schachter -- he teaches sculpture, painting and artistry at Saint Vincent -- has set up a Kickstarter campaign to produce similar oval labels that say "treyf" -- the term for foods that are banned from the kosher diet, such as shellfish.

So ... why would you need labels for something you're not supposed to have in your house in the first place?

It's not so much a case of "needing" them, Mr. Schachter said. Nor is it meant to be insulting or "a poke in the eye" -- he keeps a kosher kitchen himself.

He meant it to be a "playful way of looking at" Jewish dietary laws. But some of his Kickstarter backers have opened his eyes to practical uses for the labels, such as labeling dishes that become soiled so that they will be used only in the craft room and never for food.

Mr. Schachter has explored Jewish themes liberally in his own artwork, which can be viewed at benschachter.com. For a group of paintings titled "Kosher/Treif," he followed kosher laws to create some paintings and did not follow them for others. For instance, he used milk paint in some images, as well as cochineal red, a pigment made from beetles.

"As an artist, I am fascinated by the intricate yet logical systems that have been developed to assist Jews [to] live a religious life within contemporary society," he wrote on his website.

Mr. Schachter, who lives in Regent Square, is seeking to raise $1,620 before Feb. 25. The money will cover the cost of printing and shipping labels. Each of his Kickstarter backers will receive sheets of labels through the mail; support levels start at $10 for three sheets of 27 labels each.

For more information about the project or to become a backer, go to kickstarter.com and search on "treyf."

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day Couples Night Classes: Menu includes spicy tomato soup with heart-shaped croutons, ham pie, mustard sweet potato crunch and molten lava cake. 6 to 10 p.m. Feb. 14, 15 or 16 at Gaynor's School of Cooking, South Side. gaynorsschoolofcooking.com.

Young Filipino American of Pittsburgh Valentines "Harana"/Serenade Party: Semiformal fundraising dinner, homemade Filipino dessert, "Harana" (serenade) songs, music, games and dancing. 6 p.m. Feb. 16 at Gaetano's, Beechview. $20 per person; free for kids ages 5 and under. 412-759-1317 or facebook.com/theFAAP.org.

Classes/demos

"Diva Chef" Elise Wims: The "Hell's Kitchen" alumna leads a Healthy Heritage Cooking Series presentation in celebration of Black History Month at 1 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Heinz History Center in the Strip District. $20, or $10 for History Center members; reservations required. 412-454-6373, or e-mail serooney@heinzhistorycenter.org with the names of all attendees.

Beating the Sugar Blues: Certified holistic health coaches from Sweat and Butter explain common causes of sugar cravings and how to combat them. 6:30 p.m. Feb. 19 at East End Food Co-Op, Point Breeze. Free, but register: 412-242-3598.

Bake some bread

King Arthur Flour has proclaimed its "Classic 100% Whole-Wheat Bread" (see recipe) the 2014 recipe of the year. "Just as Pantone scans the fashion and design world to ascertain what the color of the year should be, we've scanned food media and popular culture," Marketing Director Ton Payne said. "We've chosen a whole-wheat recipe as our first in what we intend to be an annual tradition of proclaiming a baking recipe of the year."

Classic 100% whole-wheat bread

1 to 1¼ cups lukewarm water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey, molasses or maple syrup

3½ cups whole-wheat flour

2½ teaspoons instant yeast, or 1 packet active dry yeast dissolved in 2 tablespoons of the water in the recipe

1/4 cup dry milk powder

1¼ teaspoons salt

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and stir until the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead it for 6 to 8 minutes, or until it begins to become smooth and supple. (You may also knead this dough in an electric mixer, food processor, or in a bread machine programmed for "dough.") Note: This dough should be soft, yet firm enough to knead. Adjust its consistency with additional water or flour, if necessary.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or large measuring cup, cover it, and allow the dough to rise until puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, and shape it into an 8-inch log. Place the log in a lightly greased 8½-by-4½-inch loaf pan, cover the pan loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the bread to rise for about 1 to 2 hours, or until the center has crowned about 1 inch above the rim of the pan. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil after 20 minutes to prevent over-browning. The finished loaf will register 190 degrees on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center.

Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. If desired, rub the crust with a stick of butter; this will yield a soft, flavorful crust. Cool completely before slicing. Store the bread in a plastic bag at room temperature. Makes 1 loaf.

-- King Arthur Flour


Rebecca Sodergren: pgfoodevents@hotmail.com or on Twitter @pgfoodevents.

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