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In the JoyofKosher Kitchen with Roberta Kalechofsky


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Roberta Kalechofsky, Ph.D is a writer, speaker, and animal rights activist, focusing on the promotion of vegetarianism within the Jewish community.  She has written several books including The Jewish Vegetarian Year Cookbook and The Vegetarian Shabbat Cookbook.  Roberta lives, writes, publishes, and cooks in Massachusetts.

1              How did you wander into vegetarian cooking?

How I became a vegetarian:  in 1985 or 86, Richard Schwartz sent me a copy of his book, “Judaism and Vegetarianism” for publication.  At the time I ate kosher meat, and was shocked at his description of factory farming and the idea that factory farmed meat was kosher.  I found this hard to believe, having been raised, like most Jews, to believe that kosher meat was merciful.  There’s nothing merciful about the factory farming method.  It’s brutal.  I called my butcher and read him two paragraphs from Schwartz’ book and asked him where our meat came from.  His answer changed my life. “Mrs. Kalechofsky,” he said, “all meat for the commercial meat market, kosher or not, comes from the same place.  We just killed the animal differently.”  I read the paragraphs to my husband and told him what our butcher had said and then told him, “We’re not going to eat meat anymore.”  He was a little surprised at first, but followed me into this adventure twenty-five years ago ahd has had no regrets.

2              All of your recipes are vegan (no dairy, no eggs, no meat)  What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegan food?

The biggest misconception about vegan food is that you can’t get enough protein.  There are many sources of protein—beans, nuts, quinoa, lentils, green vegetables—and all of them healthier sources than meat.

3              What do you say to those who believe you have to have fish and meat on Shabbat?

The idea that you have to have meat on Shabbat was over-ruled after the fall of the Temple, when the sacrificial system came to an end.  It was then accepted that wine—or any source of pleasure at the table–was acceptable.  The point of the Shabbat is that you should have “joy,”—that joy does not have to come from meat, and for vegetarians it  does not.

4              How do you make your holiday and Shabbat meals special without meat?

We make the Shabbat special without meat by cooking excellent food–like one of our cholents or vegetable pies or vegetable loafs—dishes I might not have the time to make on a weekday.  We do what most Jewish households do on the Shabbat—we light candles, we have challah, we have a very good meal which we eat leisurely.  A meal is made special not by meat, but by the Shabbat atmosphere.  During Biblical times Jews rarely at meat at any time.   Fish and beets were most often eaten on the Shabbat.

5              What advice would you give someone considering going vegetarian or vegan?

Someone who is considering going vegetarian or vegan should definitely read  two or three of the excellent cookbooks available on vegetarian/vegan cooking and discover how varied and pleasurable vegetarian food is.  Don’t start by making the most difficult dishes, and certainly consider the taste of the other members of your family. The vegetarian cuisine is like any cuisine you have to learn about. Choose two or three nights a week for a vegetarian meal (make the Shabbat one of them) Within a few months everything will be familiar to you, and you will be eating vegetarian food ’round the clock.   There are considerable taste adventures to be had in vegetarian cooking, herbs and spices that will titillate your palate.  Once you have become familiar with vegetarian cooking–from making interesting rice and kasha dishes–to half a dozen ways of cooking beets or broccoli or asparagus, then discover the health qualities and the overwhelming impact on global warming that reducing the consumption meat has—and notice that I put enjoyment before health and environment—I am a glutton for good food.

6              Who is your cooking inspiration?

There have been many vegetarian “cooking inspirations” in my life.  Early on, it was Molly Kazan, but her cookbooks are heavy on eggs and cream. When I consult them today, I “convert” them.   As I became vegan, Robbie Schiff, my co-author for “The Vegetarian Shabbat Cookbook” has been an inspiration because she is so knowledgeable about vegan food.  It’s also a pleasure to shop with her–again because she knows so much about spices, etc.   I also learned a great deal from Rosa Rasiel, my co-author of “The Jewish Vegetarian Year Cookbook.”  She was not a vegetarian at the time- but the most  knowledgeable person I knew about cooking at that time and how to put a cookbook together.  Trained as an editor, she taught me how to write a cookbook.  (I am a ficton writer by experience.)

7              What has been your most memorable cooking experience?

My most memorable cooking experience was probably the five summer days I spent cooking dishes for “The Vegetarian Shabbat Cookbook” with Robbie.  It was a marathon.  The heat was about 95 degrees—and I do not have air conditioning.  We set up fans in my (small) kitchen, and cooked nine to five every day—and then went out for dinner.  Yes, it can be done.  Have everything on hand and think about the steps you will have to make.  Have your shopping list ready—last minute sprints to the market are fatiguing.

8              What is your favorite ingredient and why?

My favorite ingredient is tofu—really!  Unfortunately, most people don’t know what to do with it.  It is amazingly versatile.  You can make pies, loaves, burgers, eggless “tuna” and eggless “chopped eggs.”  Unless you’re allergic to tofu or soy beans–you can make almost anything from tofu.  After tofu, I like lentils—such an inexpensive and wonderful substitute for meat.

9              What is your earliest memory of cooking?

My earliest memory of “real” cooking was making a meal for company soon after I was married.  One of my dishes was stuffed baked potatoes.  For some reason the potatoes refused to bake well enough to scoop them out.   I finally cut them open, tried to cook them in a saucepan,  turning my kitchen into a haze of starch.  Finally I  mashed them half cooked,  with piles of butter and milk to soften them—and served them.  My guests looked puzzled.

10        What do you miss most since you went “meatless”?

I missed tuna and chopped eggs for years—they were always among my favorite dishes.  I think I  never really cared for meat–but ate it because everyone else did, and didn’t realize how much I disliked meat until I stopped eating it. Most of us are “socialized” into eating meat and I certainly was.


Here are a few recipes to try your hand at vegan cooking:

Fettuccini with Mock Alfredo Sauce

Jim Feldman’s First Eggless Challah

Broccoli Kugel

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About Tamar Genger MA, RD


Tamar lives in New York and is the mother of three amazing children, a Registered Dietitian, professor of Nutrition, and as you can probably guess, a foodie! Tamar loves to travel with her family and visits kosher restaurants wherever she goes. Although she loves the sights, she spends more time talking about the restaurants and food she ate! As a mom and a nutritionist, Tamar tries to balance her passion for healthy cooking with her insatiable desire for chocolate!




55 Responses to In the JoyofKosher Kitchen with Roberta Kalechofsky

  1. Great interview, comments, hints, and insight. I love vegetables and actually get excited when I visit my favorite produce shops. I love creative uses of vegetables dishes and do a lot of research when planning my Sabbath meals especially. To incorporate more vegetables I always cook only the freshest and try to stick with what is in season. Roasting veggies always gets rave reviews. I try to please the eye as well as the nose so to do this I use lots of fresh herbs and vary the colors on the plate. I also do not overcook the veggies – the colors stay more vibrant if you don’t overcook them.

  2. avatar says: AlanB

    Although we were ovo-lacto vegetarians before we became frum, we still love our veggies. Diet for a Small Planet was our inspiration (as well as Recipes for a Small Planet). We are no longer vegetarians, but often cook for Shabbos guests who are. At a cooking course we were once taught, that kosher chefs are limited in their proteins, so its the veggie side dishes that can make a “regular” meal into a “special” one. I try to be creative by using unusual veggies. My favorite when in season is Romanesco. It is beautiful on the plate, and a newcomer to many people. Besides, it tastes scrummy too!!

    • I am shocked Alan, I took you for real meat guy, glad to know you have veggie roots (pun intended) and I hope you will share your Romanesco recipe with photo next time you make it.

  3. avatar says: Drew

    I generally try to build our meals around vegetables and I have occasionally created entirely vegetarian shabbats. However, sometimes my inspiration runs low and we end up eating the same thing over and over again, like quinoa!

  4. avatar says: ZR

    We try to have fruits and vegies along with our Yom tov and Shabbas meals. For example, on Pesach many days we had one kugel and then 2 steamed and or lightly seasoned vegetable dishes such as broccoli, zucchini and tomato sauce, sweet potato and carrot bake(from Joy of Kosher magazine). Fresh steamed green beans in my house are cooked and left in the kitchen ion Friday and a lot of people come and “sneak” some of them. The key is to season them right or cook perfectly in order that they look and taste delicious and fresh.

  5. That fetuccini mock-alfredo looks absolutely incredible!!! (And that’s not just because I’ve only been back to chametz for less than 24 hours!)

  6. we get a box of organic vegetables weekly—-we get different vegetables every week and love to try ones we’ve never eaten before–like turnips and bok choi–which have become big favorites.mt 5 year old son loves to help me make our salad for dinner every day and usually ends up eating a bunch of vegetables at the same timeeven my 17 year old son–who is not a big vegetable fan loves the fresh salads we make and devours the snap peas as soon as they come

  7. avatar says: sharona

    i have been doing a lot of stir fry veggies lately!

  8. avatar says: Donna M

    I cook as many vegetarian meals as I can, My daughter became a vegetarian when she was around 8 years old, (she is now 26). and I try to get inspiration from cookbooks, friends, and the internet.

  9. avatar says: SANDY

    Usually eating for breakfast an egg omellete with sauteed vegetables inside…snack I usually munch on small peeled carrots..and dinner is baked vegetables…for kiddies I make chicken capons with vegetable stuffing inside

  10. avatar says: abdant

    I like to stir fry vegetables, which taste great on a bed of brown rice. But when I’m in the mood, I love making zucchini brownies. Made with whole wheat flour and cocoa, it is a sweet way to eat vegetables.

  11. avatar says: Devorah

    I have been a vegetarian for over 26 years now!

  12. I still occasionally eat meat but have found that the more veggies I eat the better I feel. I drink a lot of green smoothies to get in nutritious greens. This cookbook sounds great. Thank you for the interview and the opportunity to win.

  13. avatar says: ruchama

    I am in a mixed marriage: we are both kosher Jews, but my husband is a meat lover. So our Shabbat dinners on Friday always include meat, which he cooks. We also always include a vegan entree. We begin every meal by serving a huge salad. We love to have guests and beginning with a huge tasty salad helps the entrees go further. During the week, we eat vegan. I’ve used the Vegetarian Year for several years. It’s especially useful for Pesach which can be a real challenge for us vegans. I am looking forward to the new book.

  14. avatar says: Elisa

    I buy organic produce and roast or grill veggies and some fruit on either stainless steel trays using cold-pressed olive oil or a stainless grill. I also use a ble nder to blend all kinds of veggies with a bit of black strrap molasses and/or soy milk – that’s a power drink! I LOVE quinoa, love salads with olive oil and sea salt dressing, make my own bread and challah, too. I NEED this cookbook, so pick me, and I will buy another one for my college-age son who likes to make Shabbat dinners for his friends!

  15. avatar says: SANDY

    having them fresh and out to be seen encourages more eating…I also buy ittle meat- we have meat maybe 2x a week if that…so we do stir fry- soy, zuccini lasagne

  16. avatar says: onit z

    My husband and I are fearless about adding veggies to our food- shoestring beets in our salad, edamame in our quiche and just about ANYTHING in an omelet! We take lots of long car rides together and bring some veggie snacks along. We are both celery fans and when they are cut just thin enough, they make for a perfect treat. We put overripe tomatoes in our cholent and top our homemade pizzas with everything under the sun (namely mushrooms and eggplant) Your cookbook sounds AWESOME!

  17. avatar says: Elana

    Vegetarian for almost 15 years! If we have meat, its on Shabbat (at my DH’s request). Only the chicken/meat is actually fleisch. Everything else on the table is pareve- heavy on roasted veggies and lots of salads!

  18. avatar says: Rick

    Great article an looking more into vegetarianism.

  19. I am a vegetarian, most of the time. I feel better when I’m not eating meat. I love vegetarian cookbooks. I can’t get enough of them. I’m gonna have to try the fettechini. It looks delish!!

  20. My wife and I cook homemade meals for busy people and freeze them so they can have a homemade meal without the fuss. Think Supper Suppers but Kosher. We use only Kosher ingredients and try to do a majority meatless entrees and sides. We use vegatable based sauces (thanks to the food processor and a few hints of Jessica Seinfield’s book) and try to include (and hide) as many veggies in every meal.

  21. We joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that delivered to us each week a variety of vegetables and fruit, many of which had never crossed our table previously. This forced us to put more veggies into our meal and to become imaginative in the way we cook our vegetables. I now make a very mean collard green stir fry as a result.

  22. avatar says: P Moy

    Our family is into proteins and starches. Whenever I can I incorporate veggies and fruits into my recipes in a way that is not very noticable (e.g., chopped asparagus into my meat dumplings; chopped spinach in meatloaf). I recently saw a recipe on chocolate mousse made with avocados which I served for Pesach. It’s fun!

  23. avatar says: skossman

    We try to eat more vegetables for health and weight reasons. Sometimes we’ll make a meal of just soup.

  24. avatar says: leahk

    I’ve been eating more and more vegetable kugels. They’re delicious!

  25. avatar says: Elizabeth

    For several years we participated in a CSA and it was wonderful to eat seasonally and locally. When produce is just-picked fresh there’s not a lot more that needs to be done than just eat it. Ah…fresh tomatoes or picked greens. We use Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone a lot along with Bert Greene’s books (greens and grains). While the children like plain foods (baked chicken, pasta etc), I prefer lots of spice and making veggies interesting and in combination. One way I get them to try veggies is ethnic recipes: Indian, Chinese, Thai. Also soups using the immersion blender. Oh, and always ratatouille for Pesah.

  26. avatar says: kira

    The book looks great! I always start with veggies for inspiration and build a meal from there!

  27. avatar says: Dale

    I was raised a Jew but as a teenager growing up in the
    60′s I strayed into India and followed a yoga path that I followed and became a strict vegetarian. I was involved in this group for many, many years. A while back I went back to my Jewish roots & am now Torah
    observant. I was told by my Torah teacher and other fellow Jews that I must eat meat to really engage in the mitzvahs. My heart could really never accept that. I am so gladdened to see you have a beautiful vegetarian cookbook. Baruch Ha Shem.

  28. avatar says: Patricia

    I love veggies and I always love loads of veggies with rice and beans. I put rice in a bowl with veggies and beans on top.

  29. avatar says: dalesusan

    We are not a totally vegetarian household, but frankly because of the cost of kosher meat and fish, we eat dairy vegetarian almost every night for dinner (same for lunch and breakfast). I’m always on the lookout for new ways to combine veges and protein. Thanks for the suggestions. They inspire me to use more tofu in my cooking. At this point, the only time I have used tofu in a recipe is when I make quiche. I’ll try more tofu ideas! Hope I win the cookbook.

  30. avatar says: Patrice

    I have been a vegetarian for several years, because of my love of animals. I am always on the lookout for new vegetarian recipes.

  31. avatar says: sa

    i introduce vegetables into a roasted potato dish that is already a favorite. the favorite vegetable snack for the kids is edamame. thank you for the informative interview and the contest opportunity.

  32. avatar says: sherri

    I have been trying for months to make vegetarian Shabbatot special and experiment every week. The problem, I find is vegie food usually can’t sit as well on the flame or in the oven until people get back from Synagogue and what was great when it was made is played out by the time it gets to the table. There are a few things that don’t get played out like lentil soups and such, but we are still doing a lot of experimenting and once in a while we go back to our chicken soup and non vegie fri/sats. because we’ll have guests who won’t appreciate it or it’s just so much easier. So I would definitely use this cookbook if I had a copy of it!!! Thanks.

  33. avatar says: SarahG

    Yum! Thankfully my husband and I both love vegetarian food and eat meatless most nights, and occasionally on shabbat as well. A frequent weeknight dinner– a mexican-style bean dish along with a goat cheese salad loaded with veggies. Eating less meat is also the best way to save money keeping Kosher. I hope this site features more meatless shabbat meal ideas.

  34. Thank You!!! This past Pesach, I officially became sick of brisket and chicken. I look forward to trying out these recipes these next few weeks; perfect timing. This Shabbat will be the first test- the main course friday night will be very pareve. So wish me luck!

  35. avatar says: Sue Levin

    I follow the ‘rule’ that 2/3 of your plate should be vegetables (& whole grains). I rarely eat red meat — stopped buying it after college; I save it for eating out, as a treat. I eat a fair amount of fish, but to keep variety in my diet, I make vegetarian main meals with tofu (stir fry w/ vegetables, garlic, etc.) or grains & beans.
    I once spent a summer (as an adult) at a summer camp that claimed to serve nutritious food. There were vegetables, but not enough. Even though I was able to go home for most weekends, by the time the season was over, I was having vegetable cravings. I went shopping & bought a lot of greens & made a huge stir-fry. After a couple of days of that, I felt as if I’d replenished my stores of all-those-good-things-that-vegetables-supply.

  36. I love serving hearty vegetarian dishes throughout the week, it really helps me feel better heading into Shabbat when I’m certain we will be eating some sort of meat. I always serve at least one, usually two vegetarian dishes at my Shabbat table as well, you never know which of your guests has sworn off meat at the present time :)

  37. We’ve always had Meatless Mondays at our house. I’m thinking of trying meatless meals during the week – mainly for me. My cholesterol and triglyceride numbers are on the low scale of high. Medical team always tell me not to worry as they have patients who are so far worse than me. So, I want to do something about it myself. I’m so glad that this article came out when it did. AND all these comments — What a great starting place. PITCH TIME: It certainly would help my project if I won the cook book. More importantly, thank you commenters. I was worried about trying out vegetarism during the week as my husband and my family tradition for Shabbos is some type of meat. Glad to know we come in all varieties.

  38. avatar says: Judy

    My children are allergic to Dairy and eggs, and I am always trying to find delicious ways to eat filling meatless meals. It’s definitely a challenge!

  39. Would love to win a copy of The Vegetarian Shabbat Cookbook. Am always looking for ways to include more vegetarian offerings into our diet.

  40. I make hearty vegetable soups-always different- my own creations-with added beans, rice, barley, mushrooms, and sometimes some meat.

    I also make my salads more interesting, healthful and tasteful, by adding pumpkin and sunflower seeds, fresh squeezed lime or lemon juice, olive oil, chick peas, garlic powder, and sometimes mozzarella or muenster cheese.

    My salads and soups- are complete and satisfying meals.

    I would love to win the VEGETARIAN SHABBAT COOKBOOK – to add more vegetable dishes to our Shabbat meals.

  41. Shalom!

    I really like mushrooms and I know they are much better for me than meat. Whenever I make spaghetti with sauce, I use lots of mushrooms instead of meat. They help to make the dish taste yummy and I do not miss the meat at all.

  42. avatar says: Roni

    I make a big salad with seasonal vegetables/ fruits at every meal. I also make vegetarian soups all year round.

  43. avatar says: Sharla

    Thank you for a wonderful interview! After my sister-in-law became a vegetarian, I started to learn more about the lifestyle. Now that she is slowly becoming vegan, she’s sharing a lot of ideas and recipes with me. Though I’m not sure that I will ever become fully vegan, I have found out recently that I have a sensitivity to dairy, so such recipes are being used more often in my home.

  44. I began my “serious” interest in veggies when I became a Mom. Diet for a Small Planet was my first vegetarian cookbook. After that I began ‘hiding’ veggies in everything. The easiest is spaghetti sauce – finely chop and saute in zucchini, carrots, red and green peppers, eggplants, anything you like – it’s delicious.

  45. avatar says: Nina

    I try to make sure that half the plate at every meal consists of veggies.

  46. avatar says: Amy

    I put chopped spinach in my meat sauce. Hubby doesn’t know the difference!

    By the way, this site is not set up well for smart phones. Love it on the computer, but my computer is far from my kitchen.

  47. We make sure every meal and snack has a vegetable with it (whether it’s cut up raw vegetables or they’re cooked into the product or juiced).

  48. avatar says: Samantha

    Well, I am vegetarian, so getting more vegetables in my diet is a big deal. I like to eat salad once or twice a week and put a vegetable with my meal at dinner time every night. Also, I absolutely LOVE putting vegetables in my pastas. Gives more flavor as well!

  49. avatar says: Sand

    I incorporate more vegetables by making them the main entree instead of a side dish.

  50. avatar says: Gianna

    I put them in sauces, crock pot dishes, oven baked meals and use them frequently as sides.

  51. i have tried to incorporate more vegetables into my life by having salad for lunch every day, it’s a great way to eat healthier!

  52. avatar says: Jamie

    Due to various health reasons, I have added more vegetables into my diet. I try to have salad as a meal for either lunch or dinner. My garden yields produce that is a joy to eat!

  53. avatar says: DanV

    I get more veggies in my diet by cooking most of my meals with added veggies, plus veggies as a side (and carrot stick snacks)

  54. Congratulations to Chaim Garfinkel and Chaya Devorah Shuhat, you both won this fantastic cookbook. Thank you all for participating, make sure to enter our other new contests (2 right now) find out more at http://joyof.kosher.com/contests-brands/