Aviva Kanoff is an artiste extraordinaire. She paints, teaches a mixed media art class, and dabbles in photography. Her creative approach to life led her to artistic experimentation with food, and after years of creating her own recipes and working as a personal chef, she wrote The No-Potato Passover, an expression of her intuitive understanding of flavors, aromas, and colors.
What inspired you to write a Passover cookbook without potatoes?
Last February, I was asked to do a cooking demonstration at a fundraiser event in Miami Beach, Florida. (my hometown). Initially, it was supposed to be a Pesach food demo. While brainstorming for recipes, I thought up the “No Potato Pesach challenge”. As it turned out, we didn’t end up doing a Pesach themed event after all, but the idea was still brewing in my mind. That night, after the event, as my sister in law, Rachelle, was driving me to the airport, she mentioned that I should write a Pesach cookbook to which I responded “no way!” ( cuz i hate to measure!) but of course started writing up a rough draft on the plane back to NYC.
What makes you an artiste extraordinaire?
That’s embarrassing. I am not a self- proclaimed artist extraordinaire, that's for sure. I do have my hands in many artistic endeavors, though. I graduated as a studio art major from hunter college after the realization that art was indeed my passion, after many years of sitting through the wrong classes. As of today, I have had my second solo art exhibition, I teach a mixed media class , dabble in photography, and am continuing to take oil painting classes with a teacher I adore at the JCC in Manhattan.
You are a self proclaimed explorer and have gone to many other countries and cultures to learn about what they eat, how they dress and how they live. How did those travels impact this book?
I think I would go as far as to say that the travel photography is what fueled this book and saw it through to completion. I am always drawn to the cooking magazines with travel photography included. I have intense wanderlust and curiosity about the world. I wanted to create a book that would become the family heirloom I never had, a scrapbook of recipes and photographs that I could treasure for years to come and share with my loved ones. I figured this book would be an excellent opportunity to use the photos I loved the most from my extensive travels.
What country have you learned the most from?
Italy has to be the most inspiring place in the world for me. I love the geography, the friendly people, the accents!, the culture, the food, the architecture. So many of the most unique and beautiful places I have ever seen are right there in that tiny little country. The food is so simple yet so fresh tasting and delicious! to me, that's the ultimate combination.
What is your favorite cuisine?
I am most definitely a carnivore. No arguing with that. I crave turkey the way other people crave sweets. One of my favorite ways to describe the extent of my intense need for protein is in the following anecdote. My Dad and I sitting across from each other eating breakfast. He has a bowl of oatmeal, I have a bowl of meatballs. “that's your breakfast?” he asks, rightly so, to which I reply “I’m a tiger”.
I’d love to be able to say this happened as a child but it was last year :)
What sparked your interest in cooking? What is your earliest memory of cooking?
As a young kid, I remember my parents telling the babysitter “make sure Aviva doesn’t cook anything” before they ever left the house ( cuz I was six and they didn’t think it appropriate for me to be using the stove. I don’t know why.)
Needless to say, every time without fail, they returned home to culinary surprise.
Finally after a few years of making carrots floating in water and salty chocolate cake, I mastered my first Shabbos meal at the age of twelve.
What is your favorite food to cook?
I am most attracted to color, above anything else, this applies to food as well. Nothing makes me more excited than seeing all the colors in the vegetable aisle. I pretty much love anything roasted with garlic. My favorites are brussel sprouts and cauliflower. My real favorite food is fresh pasta with salt and butter.
Are all the recipes in the book low carb?
Most of the recipes in this book are low carb or can be substituted as such (many times substituting ground walnuts for matzoh meal).
What about for vegetarians, would this book be good for them?
This book is definitely great for vegetarians! Even though there are many meat and chicken recipes, you can substitute a lot of them with fish. Also, there are many quinoa dishes which contain complete proteins as well.
A sampling of Aviva's recipes are the following:
Now, go and buy the book.