Blogger Spotlight: Lévana Kirschenbaum

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Tell us about your blog and how you got started: A dear friend, fan of my demos, suggested I change my website to a more interactive format, and proceeded to not only do the whole format conversion, but to give me a whole tutorial about how to use the blog. It was as if I was learning Chinese. To think I finally got it!

What is your earliest cooking memory? Definitely, cooking with chestnuts. My first encounter with raw chestnuts was brutal. In fact, it was the reason it took me a few months instead of just a few days to establish myself as a talented cook with my new entourage. At seventeen, I was fresh out of my childhood home and living in a dorm on the university campus in Strasbourg, France. Looking out of my window one Sunday morning, I admired a chestnut tree growing right on the campus grounds. Until then, I had always enjoyed chestnuts roasted from the street stands. I had a sudden urge for the delicious nuts and decided to go down and get some. "How hard could it be to roast them?" I wondered. I put them in a pot, covered the pot and put it on the stove of the dorm kitchen. I decided they would be ready in about half an hour, ample time for a bath.

After about fifteen minutes, I heard what sounded like a mob pounding at my door. Seized with panic, I managed to get dressed at lightning speed and opened the door with great trepidation. The mob was led by the custodian of the dorm, who appraised me with a scornful look. The chestnuts, I was told, had burst out of their shells and out of the pot. The whole dorm had heard the "explosions". "For crying out loud," the custodian said haughtily. "Don't you know you have to make a slit in the chestnuts before you cook them?" How would I know? No one had ever told me, at that tender age, about boiling chestnuts, and a slew of other valuable things in life. Now I know!

What is your favorite kitchen implement / utensil / gadget? Without hesitation, I would say the food processor. I simply couldn't live without it!

What's your favorite kosher dish to cook? As you know I develop all my recipes, for my cookbooks and my demos, so they are all my babies: Do I need to choose between them? OY! Let me just give you a hint: I absolutely love to cook all those dishes, of which I speak abundantly in my latest cookbook, that take minutes, costs pennies, and taste like a million bucks: My chapter on grain soups, and my chapter on Chicken One, Two and Turmeric, with all fish adaptations, and all meat adaptations, bear out my point in full!

Who is your cooking inspiration? My mother is my first and most enduring inspiration. She is the artisan I admire the most, for her streamlined, inexpensive and super healthy cooking, as well as for all the other crafts she is so extraordinarily talented at.

Please share a favorite cooking tip or trick with our readers: It sounds ridiculously simple, maybe even frankly a little reckless, but I would be happy to be challenged about it anytime: Cooking from scratch wins the race!

Which recipes are you sharing with us today?

Caesar's Salad
Soba Noodles with Roasted Roots
Moroccan Chraimi Fish 

About Lévana: Lévana Kirschenbaum was co-owner of Levana Restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side (alas, recently closed after thirty two years), and the pioneer in Kosher upscale dining. She is a cooking teacher and cookbook author, and gets countless devoted fans for her fearless, practical and nutritious approach to cooking. She gives weekly cooking demos, and gets cooking demo engagements around the country. She has published "Lévana's Table: Kosher Cooking for Everyone", "Levana Cooks Dairy-Free!”, and a book-dvd set based on her demo series called "In Short Order”. She is launching a line of all-natural spelt desserts, called, what else, Lévana. Her weekly cooking demos take place at her apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side: Get ready for dinner and a show! Go onto her website to find out more about her demos, cookbooks, desserts, and entertaining stories at www.levanacooks.com

Click to Pre Order Lévana's newest cookbook " THE WHOLE FOODS KOSHER KITCHEN: Glorious Meals Pure and Simple", coming out March 15th 2012.