12 Tribes: A New Kind of Farm to Table

Rabbi Rebecca Joseph changed one letter and started a business.

Last August, she launched the first kosher and sustainable CSD — Community Supported Dinnerculture project— a tasty riff on a CSA (community supported agriculture project). Community supported dinnerculture, like its agricultural counterpart, involves buying shares of a company and sharing in the proceeds. Members pay a lump sum at the beginning of a season and then pick up a freshly prepared, ethically sourced, kosher dinner for their family to enjoy at home each week.

Joseph’s CSD, called 12 Tribes Foods, runs on a seasonal cycle, with members buying shares — basically a subscription — for three months at a time. However, with its summer season beginning June 1st, 12 Tribes is experimenting with month-to-month subscriptions to accommodate people’s erratic summer schedules.

Having been a founding member of Hazon’s first CSA at Ansche Chesed in New York almost a decade ago, Joseph is well acquainted with how alternative food networks work. A year ago, she decided to apply this knowledge by giving the CSA concept a new twist and starting her own CSD.

A rabbi by training, Joseph had relocated to San Francisco and was looking to change careers, so she turned to her passion — fresh and delicious kosher cooking. A firm supporter of community supported kitchens, she did not want to go the traditional catering business route. “I had a good working knowledge of how a CSA works and what its benefits are, so I adapted the model from farm to kitchen,” she explained.

Currently, members (known as MO12T’s) pick up their meals on either Wednesdays or Thursdays at Conservative [Congregation Beth Sholom][1] in San Francisco’s Inner Richmond district where 12 Tribes rents kitchen facilities. “We are working on setting up at least two more pick-up sites in the Bay Area by the fall, in response to interest from people living to the South and East of the city,” Joseph reported.

Members can sign up for either dinner shares or dessert shares, or both. Dinner shares include soup, a main course (choice of meat, fish or vegetarian) and two side dishes. Desert shares feature some of Joseph’s specialties like pumpkin bread, chocolate babka, or peppermint dusted brownies. There are also special Shabbat and holiday shares, which include items like homemade challah, sometimes with treats inside, like cherries and almonds.

MO12T’s range from young couples with kids to older professional couples who travel a lot for work. “The age range is from late 20’s to 60’s, and they live in all different neighborhoods in San Francisco and also in Marin County [to the north of the city],” Joseph shared.

She says it is hard to generalize why members have joined 12 Tribes. Some appreciate the community-supported aspect and that the food is cooked in small batches. Others like the menus and how the food varies from week to week. For yet others, the kashrut is important. “And we inevitably get a fair number of people who tell us they are in the midst of kitchen renovations,” she laughed.

Josephs, who works with an assistant chef and runs a catering company as well, considers ethical and sustainable sourcing of food to be integral to 12 Tribes’ overall approach to kashrut. Its kitchen operates under the kashrut guidelines of Beth Sholom and its rabbi.

12 Tribes uses mostly organic, locally grown produce, and sources its ingredients only from vendors who meet Magen Tzedek’s standards for ethical treatment of workers and animals. Since kosher slaughtering facilities are not available in Northern California, Joseph has to bring meat in from other parts of the country. She gets her poultry from Naftali Hanau’s Grow and Behold Foods on the East Coast.

So as to truly use only seasonal produce, Joseph and her team come up with menus just one week in advance. However, with Shavuot coming up soon, they have already planned ahead to what they will be cooking for the holiday. Here is the recipe for 12 Tribes’ “Parve at Sinai” dairy-free cheesecake:

Parve at Sinai Cake (aka dairy-free “Cheesecake”)

3 tablespoons ground almonds
4 eggs
2 pounds tofu (see note below)
½ cup sugar
⅓ cup tapioca flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons orange juice

1) Preheat the oven to 375° F. Grease a 10-inch springform pan. Dust the bottom and sides with the ground almonds. Set aside.

2) Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Set aside.

3) Add the remaining ingredients to the egg yolks in a large bowl. Beat until smooth. Fold in the beaten egg whites.

4) Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes or until firm in the center. Cool completely.

5) Chill and serve cold.

Serves 12.

A note about tofu. For a texture similar to Italian-style cheesecake, I use 2 parts “silken”: 1 part “soft” tofu to make 2 lbs. The consistency of tofu varies considerably among brands. Your cake may look a bit different than mine, but it will still be delicious. Do not use “firm” or “extra firm” tofu for this recipe. You can use ½ cup all-purpose flour in place of the tapioca flour. This will also change the texture somewhat.

©12 Tribes Kosher Foods – 12tribesfood.com. Do not reproduce without permission.

[1]: http:// www.bethsholomsf.org/

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