What’s cookin’?

We asked the Chicago Jewish community to tell us what they’ve been cooking and baking during the pandemic. Here’s what they said…

What's cookin'? image
Members of Chicago Jewish Day School Bake Club: Third graders Danya Minkus, Zoe Oppenheimer, Caroline Phillips, Siona Rosen (club founder), and Avital Siegel.

Every Friday, my colleagues from around the country get together on Zoom to make challah. We start the same every week with introductions and chatter and then get right into a doughy mess. While it's repetitive to do it weekly, it gives everyone a chance to relax and bounce ideas off one another, while getting ready for the Sabbath.
Kevin Friduss, Deerfield

For me, pandemic cooking was initially a matter of necessity, but it has truly become a pleasure. Maple glazed salmon has been my most popular dinner option, because it's so easy to prepare and packs enormous flavor. Also, in a time of coping mechanisms like endless banana bread and pancakes, it's nice to eat healthy every once in a while!
Jane Yanovsky Ginns, Chicago native living in Roxbury, Conn.

My go-to baking delicacy during COVID - or really during anytime - is my famous chocolate chip, Nutella banana bread. It's as delicious as it sounds!  It's truly a fan favorite. My recipe makes multiple loaves. It melts in your mouth when it comes hot out of the oven, and it is just as delicious and quickly defrosts when you pull it out of the freezer. It's good for breakfast, a midnight snack, or dessert. I bring it everywhere, and it's loved by everyone. My famous banana bread even made it into an obituary this past spring!
Hayley Levitan, Chicago

Like many, I have been making challah almost weekly since COVID began. I have always loved baking but never prioritized it. I have been inspired by the creativity to bake unique flavors and shapes of challah on Modern Jewish Baker and Holla Challah Facebook groups. I love baking challah with my two girls - we explore various shapes, colors, and stuffings.
Shari Young Lewis, Chicago

In an attempt not to run short of food "staples" during the quarantine, we purchased a huge bag of flour, as well as a lifetime supply of dry yeast. I decided we should have a special treat, something to look forward to.  I decided to "go big" and baked my first ever batch of cinnamon rolls. They came out beautifully, well beyond my expectations as a pastry novice. Thinking it was a fluke, I made them again. And again! There is something very satisfying about using way too much effort in a bake and getting results well beyond one's expectations.
Joel Cohen, Skokie

We've made fried cheesy pickles several times during the pandemic. We even brought them to a social-distanced family BBQ over the summer. They're comfort food; but more than that, our entire family enjoys them - even my picky eater - so it's a family experience enjoying them together. The recipe comes from Molly Yeh, who we started watching on the Food Network during the pandemic. It's something we enjoy together - and at a time when everyone wants to turn to their own tech, it's something special to put down the phones and all tune in together.
Eve Samson, Lincolnshire

I've always loved baking, but since the pandemic started, I have been making challah every week. This started as something to do, and because it was hard to acquire for Shabbat. But now I make sure to make some for my mother-in-law, aunt, and various friends weekly. It's my way of giving a hug and support in these physically distant times!
Leah Buchbinder, Skokie

I started "CJDS Bake Club" because I love baking, and being with my friends but, because of COVID, I am unable to see my friends outside of school. Each week we pick a new recipe and take turns hosting the club on Zoom. It has been so fun!
Siona Rosen, Age 8, Evanston



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