The Kosher Home

 

Even Chefs Make Mistakes Part 2

 

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This post is a continuation of my WORST mistakes of all time!  These are skills I have learned by way of mistakes.  I hope to never make them again, and prevent you from ever making them in the future!  I even added a recipe that I adapted from non-kosher to kosher.

1.  Knife Skills


 

Even Chefs Make Mistakes Part 1

 

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I’m about to tell you an embarrassing confession.   Earlier this week I was dipping cheesecake truffles into melted chocolate. I “invented” a double boiler using a bowl and a pan filled with boiling water to melt the chocolate.  I placed the bowl on top of the pot of hot water and waited till my chocolate melted.   As I waited, I went to finish up other preparations for my recipe.  Washing dishes, I began smelling a mixture between chocolate and plastic.  I turned around, and there was my plastic coated metal bowl melting all over my Calphalon pot.   “Holy Shnikey!”  I ran to remove the bowl from the pan to prevent more damage, but it was stuck.  Literally fused together.  I sulked in my embarrassing mistake and wondered how could this happen?  I am a good chef!  After all, I just graduated culinary school and started working at a hoity-toity restaurant in Manhattan.   While I do have more common sense than this, I made a mistake.  It happens.

Chefs make mistakes.  No chef was born great, they all had to acquire skills.  But, like every position, these skills have shortcomings.   Chefs feel their best when they serve a completely satisfied customer.  Thomas Keller, one of the greatest chefs in America, was quoted as saying “When you acknowledge, as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, then the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear: to make people happy, that is what cooking is all about.”  There is no perfection in cooking, or life for that matter, but we can strive for our best and make ourselves and other people happy along the way!


 

A Star Wars Birthday Party

 

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A few years ago my boys were crazy for star wars.  All their costumes were star wars, they loved the light sabers and they watched as many of the movies as they could.  It was no surprise that when my oldest turned five he would want a Star Wars themed party and being the loving mother that I am I obliged.

I was living in the city so space is not easy to come by, but I am lucky that his birthday falls in the Summer and I get to host a large party outside.  There happened to be a small playground across the street from us and so I kept the party simple.  The kids could play in the playground and then we would order pizza and have cake.  Then I thought about a piñata.  We could hang it from the jungle gym and the kids could use a light saber to hit it, so I decided I had to make our own.  I got my five year old involved and we made a paper mache piñata of Darth Vader.


 

Kitchen Style – A Study in Contrasts

 

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Designer Pamela Jemal made this kitchen not only a functional workspace-but an oasis of glamour.  Contrast creates the drama, and high gloss marries the elements together.


 

Favorite Kitchen Gadgets – 8 Tools for...

 

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With Shavuos upon us, our menu focus, at least to some extent, is on dairy and pasta dishes, and luscious cheese and crème filled desserts in different shapes and sizes.  To ease meal preparation, great tools are the key.  Join us to  view a collection of cheese tools, some of which  you might not have used in the past.

Did you know that you can get more taste from your favorite cheese with a cheese slicer (also called a cheese plane)?  The Boska Holland cheese slicer is handsome, well-priced, and perfect for semi-hard and hard cheese.


 

Dairy Cocktail Recipes

 

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My parents were pretty strict with alcohol consumption through my teenage years. The two exceptions were wine during Shabbat meals (though I was limited to one glass) and any cream liqueur. For some reason, Godiva Chocolate and Irish cream liqueurs didn’t count as alcohol, since they were so rich and in my mother’s opinion, you could only drink it in a glass, on ice, at times when you wanted to indulge.

The issue with these creamy libations is that for most Kosher-observing families, opportunities to drink a dairy cocktail are rare, unless the kids are asleep and you have an hour of free time to rest. Thankfully, Shavuot is right around the corner, so here are some ideas for dairy cocktails that I encourage you to try!


 

Cheese for Dessert

 

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Yesterday, we learned how to construct a cheese plate.  The basic concept is the same when you are serving cheese as a dessert.  With a few minor changes in accompaniments you will be good to go.  Don’t be afraid to try something new.  Serve a light lunch, salad and quiche and save some room for dessert.


 

The Making of a Cheese Plate

 

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Coming soon to a table near you: long summer days, outdoor entertaining and Shavuot.  All of these occasions lend themselves to enjoying cheese.  I realize that the concept of a cheese course is fairly new to most Jews having grown up in America with very little kosher cheese to choose, but the time is right.  There has never been more kosher gourmet cheeses available than there are right now. So, even if you don’t think you’re a cheese person, give it a chance, you might surprise yourself.

Now, the question is when to serve this fabulous course, it really is suited equally to appetizer or dessert.  Take your pick, would you rather come home from shul, say Kiddush and sip your wine with cheese and crackers and nuts and olives while waiting for the food to warm up.  Or consider an easy dessert that will satisfy everyone.


 

DIY – Make Your Own Ricotta and Cream Cheese

 

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I look forward to Shavuos and planning my menu around delicious dairy cuisine. Comforting foods like lasagna, blintzes and cheesecake always draw admiration from friends gathered around our table.

It’s one thing to make homemade blintzes, but who actually makes the cream cheese in the blintz, or, for that matter, the ricotta in the lasagna?


 

Kids in the Kitchen – Make Your Own Pizza...

 

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I love cooking with kids. Each summer I spend working at a sleep-away camp teaching girls how to cook. The girls look forward to coming to the cooking activity to create something they made themselves, which gives them a great sense of accomplishment. I encourage them to find their inner chef and use their own creativity. We have made everything from sushi, hot pretzels, brownies, even doughnuts.

Everyone’s favorite activity is making pizza. The dough recipe I use is very basic.  After the dough has risen, the girls then can use a variety of toppings to put on top of their pizza. We use mushrooms, onions, feta cheese, peppers, different spices, tomatoes, olives, even pineapple (very popular in Australia, from where I hail).


 

Getting Kids to Eat Fruits and Veggies

 

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Do your children push away spinach or refuse to eat broccoli? Do they shun the fresh fruit you offer them for snacks and dessert? If you want to inspire your kids to eat healthier, it helps to make their meals and snacks as appealing as possible. All healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables, can be just as tempting as junk food (and ideally more so).

Start by asking your children for a list of their favorite foods (cookies and cake don’t count). Then make an effort to incorporate some of their picks into the daily meals that you prepare. You will be surprised at their responses! They might really enjoy a particular fruit or vegetable they have eaten at a friend’s home or at school. They just were never offered it at your home. Do your children have a soft spot for mashed potatoes? Introduce them to the recipe which uses cauliflower, like Creamy Mashed Cauliflower. They’ll be surprised how good it is!


 

Passover Prep – The Seder Plate

 

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The highlight of the Passover holiday is the Seder. The Seder is a ritual meal at which we read the Haggadah – a book that sets out the order for this Passover meal. (Seder means order).

The Seder plate traditionally has small bowls / plates of the food items used and referenced to in the reading of the Haggadah. These are the items on it:


 

Passover Prep – Start Cooking!

 

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We made it! Now all that’s left to do is cook. I like to put up my soups and mains way ahead of time, so that I can spend the day before Passover working on my side dishes and desserts as they tend to take more time. At least if I know that the mains and soups are taken care of, I can cook the rest with a happy unstressed frame of mind.

Before I start with the individual dishes I chop onions and peel garlic enough for all my recipes. I separate the onions into ziploc baggies that hold a half cup of chopped onions. The snack size baggies are perfect for this. I chop all the veggies and bag them up. It just makes it easier to get all the cooking done. Prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking to ensure you have everything you need. This cuts down on last minute store runs.


 

Passover Prep – Turn Over The Kitchen

 

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OK. Take a deep breath. You have come this far. Your house is clean. Your shopping has been done. Errands have been taken care of. Give your kitchen a final clean. The steps you followed in Passover Prep – Clean Your Kitchen have paved the way for the final clean. Go over these steps again, paying even more attention to detail, and putting away all your chametz items that don’t need to remain on the counters. We close up our pantry for Passover, selling the contents within, and we put the toaster and the cookie jar and all those items that are out on the counter during the year are stored inside during Passover. Tape up the cabinets that will not be used over Passover.

Once everything is put away you can get to work on the counters and the sinks. I would advise you at this point to consult with your local Rabbi about the correct method of kashering your counters for the holiday. Some people steam their counters, some pour boiling water, some do both AND cover them as well.


 

Passover Prep – Time to Shop!

 

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It’s overwhelming – the amount of Passover goods that are available these days. If you are not careful you can end up spending more than you have budgeted for the holiday. I use a master list every year – and I have found that it really helps me keep my spending to a minimum.

Print it out, take it with you.