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A traditional Jewish dish is reinvented


Gefilte fish isn’t typically synonymous with innovative cuisine. But Long Beach native Liz Alpern and her partner, Jeffrey Yoskowitz, have re-imagined the traditional dish and are attempting to change people’s perceptions about gefilte, usually a mixture of white fish, carp, pike, and mullet.

Alpern, author of the cookbook “The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods,” is hosting a discussion on Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Long Beach Public Library as part of a 20-city book tour.

Alpern was inspired to revive the well-known dish of the Ashkenazi culture — gefilte means “stuffed fish” in Yiddish — when she first started working in the food industry.

“I didn’t see my cultural background represented,” Alpern said. “Instead, I saw delis closing and people my age scoffing at Ashkenazi cuisine.”

Alpern said that she and her co-author, Jeffrey Yoskowitz, decided to do something about it.

“We loved the foods of our traditions and wanted them to continue to have a place at the table,” she said.

She and Yoskowitz began cooking together in 2011, and started working on the book in the fall of 2014. The book, which was published on Sept. 13, took two years to develop, and Alpern and Yoskowitz have been on tour across North America.

The cookbook started out as a four-paragraph manifesto declaring their mission after they said they could no longer bear to see their traditional cuisine forgotten.

The partners also sell their own product — a blast frozen cooked fish loaf that deviates from the original recipe of canned gefilte described as “gelatinous muck.”

“Rather than poaching it in little patties like the jarred variety, we bake ours in an onion broth so it is served in slices, like a terrine,” Alpern said.

Their fish loaves, which they began producing in the spring of 2012, consist of responsibly sourced whitefish, pike, salmon and steelhead trout. It’s the only gefilte fish on the market that is fully cooked, blast frozen and shipped to buyers ready to thaw and eat, Alpern said.

“One year later, in 2013, we scaled up to an [Orthodox Union] kosher certified, nationally available version of our product,” Alpern said.