Category Archives: Salads and Appetizers

Pickled Herring in Vinegar or ‘Zure Haring’

Along with Gefilte Fish, Eastern European Jews also brought herring to the Holy Land from Holland, where it’s called “zure haring” (sour herring). Recent Russian immigrants have brought new versions, and today herring is considered a delicacy by all Israelis.  You can use this recipe to make the pickled herring in vinegar on your sandwich, or as side dish or as your main meal. In Holland it’s a snack and side dish. In the Russian Israeli communities it’s specially being used as a side dish.pickled-herring-in-vinegar-4A perfect meal can be made with plain matjes herring fillets together with some pickled herring, served with hot boiled potatoes, sour cream, dark rye bread with fresh butter, and a bottle of schnapps or icy cold vodka.  Other accompaniments might include sliced radishes, thin green (spring) onions, hard-boiled eggs, and some fresh lemon juice to sprinkle on top.

Pickled Herring in Vinegar in pot
Pickled Herring in Vinegar in pot

Note that you can also buy schmaltz herring for this recipe but it needs to be soaked in water for several days to remove the salt. Matjes fillets also require soaking-either in milk or water-but only for about an hour. Ask your fish monger about recommended soaking times for the particular fish you purchase.


  • ¾ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup (300 ml) white or wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon allspice kernels
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 3 whole matjes herrings or 6 prepared fillets
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced

Pickled Herring in Vinegar
Pickled Herring in Vinegar
  1. Boil 1 cup (250 rnl) water and add the sugar, vinegar, allspice, and bay leaves.
  2. Boil for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat, and allow to cool.
  3. Refrigerate if necessary to ensure that the liquid will be very cold when poured over the herring.
  4. If using whole herrings, remove the heads and tails, split the fish open, and remove the entrails as well.
  5. Pull off the skin. Slice, with or without the bones (the bones can be removed if desired by inserting a sharp paring knife at one end and pulling the bone from the meat in one piece).
  6. The two fillets can then be pickled whole or in thick slices.
  7. In a dish or jar wide enough to hold all the fish, arrange the herring in layers, alternating with the thin slices of onion.
  8. Pour over the pickling liquid, cover, and refrigerate.
  9. The fish should be ready in 24 hours and will keep nicely for up to 2 weeks.
    1. If you take it out after 15 hours, it’ll be very sour.
    2. If you take it out after 30 hours, the fish tastes much different, but that’s each personal taste.
Pickled Herring in Vinegar shop in Holland
Pickled Herring in Vinegar shop in Holland

Gefilte Fish – Fish Cakes Simmered in Vegetable Broth

Gefilte fish in is a dish made from a poached mixture of ground deboned fish, such as carp, whitefish, or pike, which is typically eaten as an appetizer. It is dish traditionally served by Ashkenazi Jewish households. There are of course variations for the recipe (sweet, spicy) and the variations of your creativity. But before you play with the recipe, taste the real one in this recipe.

In the past, women purchased live carp for the Friday night meal on Wednesday or Thursday early morning and kept them alive in the bathtub. Traditionally, instead of cooking the fish heads with the cakes to enrich the sauce, one stuffs the heads with some fish cake mix, cooking these together with the cakes.

Gefilte Fish
Gefilte Fish

For the fish cakes:

  • 2 carp, about 2 lb ( 1 kg) each
  • ½ Ib (250 g) fillet of grouper or gray mullet
  • 3 onions
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 slices stale challah
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

For the stock:

  • 3 onions
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 potato, peeled and sliced
  • 1 celery root, peeled and sliced
  • ½ teaspoon salt plus 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Chrain, or Spicy Horseradish Sauce

    Gefilte Fish
    Gefilte Fish
  1. To make the fish cakes, have the fish monger remove the skin and bones from the fish.
  2. Reserve the heads and set aside.
  3. Peel and slice three of the onions and fry with the sliced garlic in the oil until soft.
  4. Cut off the crusts of the challah, soak in water, and squeeze out the liquid.
  5. Grind the fish together with the bread, eggs, and fried onion and garlic.
  6. Season with the sugar, salt, and black pepper.
  7. To make the stock, peel and slice the remaining onions, and place them with the sliced carrots, potato, and celery root at the bottom of a deep, wide-bottomed pan.
  8. Add 3 to 4 cups (750 ml to 1 liter) water and the salt, sugar, and black pepper.
  9. Bring the contents of the pan to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer gently.
  10. Meanwhile, to assemble, shape the ground fish mixture into flat, round fish cakes.
  11. Lay them gently, one at a time, in the simmering stock, along with the heads of the carp, and cook gently for 90 minutes.
  12. Add the juice of a lemon and tum off the heat. When the fish has cooled, transfer the fish cakes and the carrots from the stock to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate.
  13. Pour the remaining sauce through a sieve into another bowl and refrigerate.
  14. Serve cold, placing a fish cake, a slice of carrot, and about a tablespoon of sauce on individual small plates.
  15. Accompany with Chrain, or Spicy Horseradish Sauce.

Variations and idea’s

Gefilte fish may be slightly sweet or savory, so prepare the gefilte fish with sugar or black pepper. If you do, that’s considered an indicator of whether a Jewish community was Galitzianer (with sugar) or Litvak (with pepper); the boundary separating northern from southern East Yiddish has thus been dubbed “the Gefilte Fish Line”, which is nothing else then a linguistic divide between two major variants of Yiddish.

Gefilte Fish in pots. This is also gefilte fish, but not as good as the one you can create yourself.
Gefilte Fish in pots. This is also gefilte fish, but not as good as the one you can create yourself.

The many Israeli variations of the simple German Potato Salad

Potato salad came to Israel by way of immigrant Jews from Germany, who prepared it in their own special way: cooked cubed potatoes adorned with pickles, apples, and chopped onion, and dressed with mayonnaise and vinegar.

Well, the Crusaders were eating the potato salad as well, and those Crusaders were French! Well, there was a huge Arab army waiting for them at the outside of their fortresses and cities and there was not much more to eat … but they were the actual first ones eating this salad in Israel.

Potato salad
Potato salad

Christian Arabs in Israel prefer a different kind of potato salad, made with more local ingredients: olive oil, lemon juice, and spicy green peppers. The olive oil must be fresh and of good quality.

Potato salad
Potato salad

  • 4 potatoes, cooked and peeled
  • 1 -2 spicy green peppers
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • ¼ cup (90 ml) high-quality olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ cup chopped parsley or mint leaves (optional)
  • 2 green (spring) on ions, chopped (optional)

Potato salad
Potato salad
  1. Dice the potatoes or slice them fairly thinly.
  2. Remove the stem and seeds of the pepper, and chop.
  3. Mix in all the other ingredients.
  4. I fusing parsley and green (spring) onions, add more olive oil and lemon juice.
Potato salad
Potato salad

Optionally, you can use vinegar and sugar for this salad. You mix the vinegar and sugar first, let it stand for 10 minutes and pour it in the salad and mix it. And don’t tell anyone, because this makes the salad really tasty and different and nobody will know why.

Chopped Liver Salad

Chopped Liver salad is expensive. But the characteristic European Jewish cooking is to combine inexpensive ingredients with something more costly, thereby enriching the diet while extending the servings. As chickens produce only a single liver, hard-boiled eggs and fried onions were added to make that single liver feed more people.

When my wife is not looking (or when I’m alone home), and see this Liver salad, I use ketchup and eat it with a spoon or with sliced bread on it. Or I spoon it straight from the pot. I love it, except I can’t overeat myself with this salad, because it’s heavy on the stomach. But this is truly my favorite salad all times.

Now a word about the identity or history of this recipe. The Crusaders were master in making the so called chopped liver salad and they ate it regular. But they used loads of onions at at least the double amount of eggs. This chopped liver salad is not a Jewish recipe, whatever anyone may claim.

Chopped Liver
Chopped Liver

  • 1 lb (500 g) chicken livers, rinsed
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3-4 medium onions, peeled and sliced thinly
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) vegetable oil or 3 tablespoons goose (or chicken ) fat
  • 3-4 hard-boiled eggs
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 additional onion, peeled and sliced thinly (optional)

Chopped Liver
Chopped Liver
  1. To kosher (or conform to Jewish dietary laws) the livers, burn them gently over an open fire and sprinkle with salt to remove any remaining blood.
  2. Add some freshly ground pepper.
  3. Fry the sliced onions in the oil or fat until golden brown.
  4. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  5. Reheat the oil or chicken fat, add the livers, and fry just until they lose their pink color.
  6. Remove from the heat.
  7. Return the onions to the pan, add salt, and allow to cool.
  8. Grate or grind the livers with the onions and eggs.
  9. Do not use a food processor.
  10. Taste and add salt if necessary.
  11. If desired, fry the additional onion until golden and sprinkle some water on top to fry until crisp (be careful of the spatter!).
  12. Serve the chopped liver with the crisp fried onion on top.
Chopped Liver
Chopped Liver