Friday, August 28, 2009

My Article in this Weekend's Hamodia

Not only am I a reader and subscriber of Hamodia, the newspaper of Torah Jewry, I finally was published in it. I am so proud to be associated with this fine publication.

Reprinted in full below:

From Page A20, Hamodia Weekend Edition, August 25, 2009

Building Kosher Professional Careers, One Chef at a Time

Brooklyn, NY – The Center for Kosher Culinary Arts, which has offered a Professional Training Program in Culinary Arts for the past year, is expanding. In addition to the classic Professional Culinary Arts curriculum, CKCA will also offer a new professional training program in Baking and Pastry Arts, starting right after the high holidays.

Based in Flatbush, above a cookware store owned by Lubavitcher Jews, CKCA initially offered only recreational cooking, cake decorating and garnishing classes. However, many people who attended the classes requested more professional training, so they could learn classic techniques and apply them in kosher environments. Until CKCA was established, the only way a kosher-keeping student could study the culinary arts in the United States was to attend a non-kosher program and rely on classmates to taste the food.

Over the past year, CKCA, still the only kosher professional culinary arts program in the USA, has graduated several dozen individuals from numerous states and abroad. All who have desired internships have been placed, and many have been placed in jobs as well. Several grads are opening their own food-related businesses, and some are working as personal chefs. It is expected that the new bakers, who will graduate around Chanukah, will readily find work as well.

“It’s exciting because, as culinary education opportunities become available in the Jewish world, kosher restaurant quality is sure to improve,” said Liz K., a graduate of the CKCA Pro Program from Bergenfield, N.J.

The new Professional Baking and Pastry Arts Program will be comprised of 150 hours of training and include kitchen and classroom components. The curriculum will include a full orientation to the professional bakeshop, including the principles and science of baking, ingredients, and weights and measures. Students will learn to make breads including quick breads, yeast breads and artisan breads. They will learn the fine art of making pastries, pies and tarts, cake baking and decoration, as well as cookies. Additionally, they will master making meringues, custards, souffles, and mousses, work with dessert sauces and fruit desserts. And, of course, there will be considerable attention paid to chocolate! As in the Professional Culinary Arts Program, there will be kashrut and food safety and sanitation lectures as well as preparation for NYC Dept of Health and ServSafe certifications. Class size is limited to allow maximum individual attention.

The Head Instructor for the Pro Baking Program will be Chef Mark Hellerman. For more information, visit, or call Jesse Blonder, CKCA Director, at 718.758.1339.

Monday, August 24, 2009

When God Gives You Basil...

Make homemade basil oil!

I found a huge bunch of basil yesterday at the incomparable new Paramus Fairway Market and I remembered that Chef Avram Wiseman told me that if you buy basil in season and preserve it in a jar with extra virgin olive oil, it will deliver summer-licious taste throughout the winter. The oil's herb-infused goodness is hard to beat.

Take a clean jar and fill completely with washed and dried basil leaves. Make sure to get all the sand off the leaves. Don't be afraid to force the leaves down in there as space gets tight. Then, fill to the top with your extra virgin olive oil, cover and place in the fridge.

By the next day, the oil will smell and taste great and will be a beautiful way to add flavor to your pasta, vegetable and bread recipes. I used basil oil in my foccacia bread in culinary school, and it was amazingly good! You can use basil oil anywhere you would use extra virgin olive oil, to give sauteed veggies an extra layer of flavor, or in salad dressings, for example.

The oil will eventually solidify, but this doesn't mean it's gone off. Just take it out a half hour before you need to use it and it will return to the gorgeous green globs you want. You can use both the oil and the basil leaves in any kind of recipe. The color of the basil leaves will remain vibrantly green as long as they're covered with oil. Buon Appetito!

Basil on Foodista

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Best Pareve Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

My friend Lea just had a beautiful baby girl, and I am bringing over a couple of meals for her tomorrow. The challenge, however, is that she can't eat gluten, so I had to come up with something yummy, classic and comforting for her to enjoy for dessert. I didn't want to just cut up some fresh fruit and be done with it, and I really hope she can take some time to enjoy a meal made just for her. It turns out that everyone in the house will like these cookies, because you simply don't miss the flour.

I tried out a recipe I found from the Bob's Red Mill website; the Bob's Red Mill flours all have an underlined K, which after a little research, indicated that it is an excellent hechsher. All of Bob's Red Mill products are under the supervision of Rabbi Avrohom Teichman of Igud Hakashrus/Kehilla Kosher of Los Angeles, CA. Kehilla Kashrus is also known by a K inside a heart symbol.

I altered the recipe, originally by Carol Fenster, to make it non-dairy, without butter, and without sea salt. I also found I needed to alter the cooking time so the cookies weren't raw inside.

1-2/3 cups Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Bob's Red Mill Xanthan Gum (often available in organic sections of grocery stores)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup Smart Balance margarine
3/4 cup packed Brown Sugar
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 jumbo egg
1 cup chocolate chips

Stir together the gluten-free baking flour, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt; set aside.

In your mixer, beat margarine (room temperature, not melted) with the sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and egg. Beat in flour mixture on low speed, mixing thoroughly. Stir in chocolate chips. It gets very glue-ey.

Empty the bowl onto plastic wrap, wrap up and refrigerate for two or more hours. Roll into balls and place 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees on a greased or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet 15-17 minutes or until browned. Cool 2-3 minutes before removing from cookie sheet. Makes 24 deliciously gluten-free cookies.

Pareve Snickerdoodles!

(Click on the image for a larger picture).

These are perfect for dessert or snacks anytime!

1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup shortening (I use Earth Balance natural shortening, which is OU parve, and better for you than Crisco)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons water or rice milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Topping: Cinnamon-sugar mixture (usually about 2/3 cup sugar to 3 tbsp cinnamon). You can also use pumpkin pie spice or nutmeg to replace some of the cinnamon if you like, but go easier, because those spices are much stronger than cinnamon.

Mix the sugar and the shortening until smooth, and add the eggs and wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix your dry ingredients well, and slowly add to your wet mixture. When the dough comes together, shape into a log, cover with plastic wrap and stow in the fridge for at least two or three hours, or overnight. These also freeze well.

When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Unwrap, slice or roll out and make shapes, and dredge on both sides in cinnamon sugar. Cook 8 minutes, and take out immmediately for a softer cookie, or a little longer for a crispy cookie. Cool the cookies on racks. Makes a lot (about 65 cookies). Bon Appetit!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Melava Malka Salmon Shallot Frittata

A delicious frittata, a version of the lox egg and onion omelette, to extend the joy of Shabbos just a little longer.

2 shallots, minced small
6-8 oz. baked salmon or smoked salmon pieces, chopped
6 eggs
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Chopped fresh chives

Saute your chopped shallots until dark brown and crunchy, and heavily pepper and salt them. Beat the eggs with a little milk or water, and add them to the onion mixture. Give them a few seconds to set, then add your chopped salmon. Give it a gentle stir to make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed. Cook until the bottom is moveable and place in the broiler for a few minutes to solidify the top. Turn upside down onto a plate and serve with chopped chives.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sukkot Salads, Part I

click on the image for a large view.
As the summer wanes and school goes back into session, my mind turns not to freshly-sharpened pencils... but to my favorite salad recipes for Sukkot. Sukkot is pretty much my favorite Jewish holiday of the year, because I love to eat outside and to celebrate the bountiful harvest, in all its forms.

Today, I tested out a sophisticated bistro salad recipe (a version of which I saw on the Food Network this past weekend) that I think my salad-eater fans out there will love. Those who do not eat vegetables (in my family, and others) will not find this salad to their liking. But hey, I promise I will give you my crazily good cauliflower mac and cheese recipe real soon.

The vinagrette recipe here is what's important. The veggies are interchangeable. Basically, I used what was in the fridge after the weekend.

Liz's simply fresh vinagrette:

1 tbsp dijon mustand
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp soy sauce
1/3 cup to 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Whisk together. To this I added three cups of fresh spinach leaves, two chopped avocados, a handful of rough chopped grape tomatoes, and one rough chopped red bell pepper.

Garnish and enjoy! Bon Appetit!

For more Sukkot Salads, click here for Sukkot Salads III, or here for Sukkot Salads II.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Kosher Baking and Pastry Professional Program

My culinary school, Center for Kosher Culinary Arts, is offering a new 150-hour course, the first in the United States, a professional program focusing on kosher baking and pastry. You can learn more about it at

It's really exciting because the class is going to start graduating incredibly talented bakers, and they are going to apply their skills in kosher restaurants all over the country. I even bet that kosher bakeries will start being able to sell higher quality classic French pastry. As more kosher bakers get educated, I think the quality in the entire marketplace will go through the roof!

The master chef instructor is Mark Hellermann, who has worked as a pastry chef for Balducci’s and as executive chef for Tastings Restaurant in mid-town Manhattan. He has also produced his own line of baked goods for the NY City farmers market. Chef Hellermann especially likes working with chocolate and artisan breads. He has taught culinary and pastry classes at the New York Restaurant School for many years and has recently joined CKCA to teach the professional training program in baking & pastry arts. Tell your friends!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Peanut-Sesame Wild Rice Salad

Click on the photo for a larger image.

I've served this wild rice salad quite a few times over the last couple of years, mostly for Shabbat or chagim lunches, because it tastes great the longer it sits in the fridge. Every time I make it, someone asks for the recipe and I wish I'd made double the amount. It's that good and I never have leftovers. Dress Up Tip: For a main course meal on a weeknight, mix in some sliced, cooked chicken breast and a little more sauce.

1 package quick-cooking long grain wild rice (I use Lundberg's, pictured above, available here)
2 to 3 cups water (according to package directions)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
10-20 mini-carrots, sliced into dimes
1 stalk celery, chopped small
1 half red onion, chopped
1 large handful grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped small)
1 to 1 and 1/2 cups low sodium soy sauce
I half cup smooth peanut butter (I use reduced fat)
pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

Prepare the rice according to package directions, except err on the side of undercooking (usually about 20-25 minutes simmering). You want the wild rice to not have fully bloomed (showing the white insides of the dark rice) when you turn off the heat. About 15 minutes into the rice cooking, add the garlic powder, carrots and celery. You want the vegetables to cook lightly, not to fall apart.

While the rice is cooking, prep the sauce. Put a half cup of peanut butter in a large bowl and start stirring in the soy sauce. Add enough soy sauce, usually about 1 cup, until you have a dark, smooth mixture, with no lumps. Add one or two pinches of cayenne, according to taste.

When the rice is done, drain it completely, tip it all into your bowl of peanut sauce and mix thoroughly. After the rice has cooled a little, add your raw chopped red onions, bell peppers and halved grape tomatoes. Chill in the fridge until you're ready to serve. Garnish with parsley and chopped peanuts.