Friday, September 14, 2012

White House Celebrates Jewish High Holidays By Sharing Family Recipes From Aides

Sweet Potato Tzimmes from President's Chief of Staff Jack Lew and dessert recipes from other staffers contain personal *and* funny notes...
Ahead of the upcoming Jewish High Holidays, which begin Sunday with Rosh Hashanah, the White House is posting a series of family recipes on the "Jewish Americans" blog on the official website. The creations are not from the White House chefs, but rather homey fare from members of the Administration, including Jack Lew, who serves as President Obama's Chief of Staff. Lew is the first Orthodox Jew in history to hold the post, which he took up in January of this year. (Above: Lew briefing the President in June in the Oval Office)

The son of a Polish immigrant father, Lew was born and raised in New York City, and graduated from Harvard and then Georgetown Law. He offers Sweet Potato Tzimmes, a traditional side dish that he makes with lemons, dried apricots and dried prunes.

"Tzimmes was a regular part of holiday meals at my grandmother's table and at my mother's, and I make it every year now," Lew wrote. "It has a sweet taste to usher in a sweet new year, and it fills the house with memories of loved ones past as well as present."

Some of the recipes include hilarious notes: Danielle Borin, a top aide for Vice President Joe Biden, notes that her recipe is "my mom’s best friend Sharon Karpel’s apple cake."

"Pray fervently and turn upside down to remove from pan," reads one instruction in the recipe for Oma's Triple Chocolate Bundt Cake offered by Josh Friedmann, an aide in the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The recipe, shared by his Grandma--"Oma"--for the first time, uses a pudding mix and a cake mix, Friedmann notes, though Oma always claimed it was an "an ancient, secret and complex family recipe" that required hours of slaving in the kitchen.

The White House team asks for photos from anyone who gets the recipe for Grandma's Kugloff (Hungarian Coffee Cake) to actually work. Passed down for four generations in the family of EPA's Shira Sternberg, the cake hasn't risen in years. "One minor glitch- it used to rise 7 or 8 inches but since my mother passed away 9 years ago it hasn't risen more than 3 inches," Sternberg wrote. "If you get it to rise you should take a picture and email it to the American Jewish Outreach Team, by clicking on the “Contact Us” tab above! :)."

It's not the first time the White House has spotlighted recipes from people other than the in-house chefs. In 2011, the White House Passover Recipe Collection was posted on the official blog. Acclaimed chefs were invited to offer their healthy Seder recipes as part of the Let's Move! campaign.

There is one "official" Jewish White House recipe, however. Last April, as the President prepared to celebrate Passover with his annual Seder, Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses revealed the recipe for the Apricot Sponge Cake that's served at the annual celebration.

President Obama on Thursday issued a video greeting for the High Holidays. "Michelle & I wish you & your families a sweet year full of health, happiness & peace," he said. "L'Shana Tovah."

Jack Lew's Sweet Potato Tzimmes


5 medium Sweet Potatoes (about 3 pounds)

1/2 pound to 1 pound each dried apricots and dried prunes (depending on how sweet you want it)

3 sliced lemons


1. Peel sweet potatoes and cut in eighths to fill a half warming-tray size pan (10" x 12")

2. Add dried fruit.

3. Squeeze lemons.

4. Add juice and rinds with the other ingredients and toss together.

5. Add about a quarter inch of water.

6. Cover tightly with tin foil and cook at 350 degrees for about 1-1/2 hours, or until soft.

7. DO NOT STIR -- when you turn the tzimmes out into a bowl, liquid will glaze the tops.


*Click here for all the recipes from Obama staff.

*Photo by Pete Souza/White House