Kosher cooking maven Elizabeth Kurtz brought her delicious new cookbook to Providence on March 6 – and even offered up a taste to the community.
Kurtz, with able assistance from her teenage daughter Sarah, did a cooking demo of recipes from “CELEBRATE: Food, Family, Shabbos” at the Cooking for a Cause fundraiser for the Providence Hebrew Day School, held at the Providence Marriott Downtown. Kurtz whipped up Sesame Chicken Hand Rolls, Tortilla Soup and an Asian slaw as she explained her philosophy about food.
“I’m really all about teaching your taste buds” to savor all flavors, not just the overly sweet or overly salty flavors of many foods that Americans are raised eating, she said. And Kurtz believes meals should truly be a celebration – of “Food, Family and Shabbos,” as the title of the cookbook says.
“My entire relationship with food, reading and writing recipes, cooking and eating, is all about love,” she says.
No one wants to sit down to the same old boiled or baked chicken every Shabbat, Kurtz said. Preparing a mouth-watering Shabbat meal that is sure to delight, she says, should be as joyful as savoring the meal with family and friends. With that in mind, “CELEBRATE” offers 200 recipes that are “easy enough for everyday but special enough for Shabbat.”
On the cookbook’s glossy, richly illustrated pages, there are nearly a dozen recipes for challah alone, including pumpkin, spelt and gluten-free versions, as well as innovative recipes for everything from soups and first courses to meats, dressings and desserts. Fresh, flavorful ingredients are part of every dish and many of the recipes are influenced by Asian, Indian, French and other cuisines.
The cookbook also includes Passover conversions for more than 120 of the recipes, special sections on Kiddish, Shalosh Seudos and the pantry, and make-ahead tips, prep-ahead instructions and freezing options. And, perhaps sweetest of all, “CELEBRATE” is a fundraiser for EMUNAH of America. EMUNAH is Israel’s largest women’s religious Zionist organization, sponsoring a vast network of children’s homes, social services and education programs throughout the country.
Kurtz, of Lawrence, New York, who runs the website Gourmet Kosher Cooking (www.gourmetkoshercooking.com), says some of the recipes in “CELEBRATE” have already become culinary stars, including Everything Bagel Chicken and the sweet and salty Ballpark Cookies. Here are a few of Kurtz’ personal favorites from the cookbook:
Sesame Chicken Hand Rolls
The chicken is best served warm in cold, crisp lettuce cups and eaten by hand. It’s especially good with a dipping sauce like sweet chili sauce, hot and spicy duck sauce, Spicy Peanut Sauce or Peanut Dipping Sauce. Makes 8 servings.
1 1/2 pounds ground chicken
3 scallions, minced
4 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and chopped
3 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
20 large butter lettuce leaves
1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts
Combine chicken, scallions, 3 tablespoons soy sauce and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Marinate 10 minutes at room temperature.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add ginger and garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Add brown sugar, water, remaining tablespoon soy sauce, and reserved chicken mixture. Cook, stirring often, until golden brown and cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes.
Arrange lettuce on a large platter. Spoon chicken mixture evenly among lettuce leaves. Garnish with peanuts. Serve immediately. To eat, roll leaves around filling and dip into sauce.
Spicy Peanut Sauce
Makes 1 cup.
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut water
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 clove garlic
In a food processor or blender, combine all of the ingredients and puree until smooth.
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 10 to 12 graham crackers ground in a food processor)
1/3 cup unsalted margarine, melted
4 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup pareve whipping cream
7 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate (not more than 70% cacao), finely chopped
1 large egg
Pinch of salt
1 (16-ounce) container of marshmallow fluff (or less, as desired)
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Crust: Lightly grease a 9- to 9 1/2-inch pie pan or a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Stir together graham cracker crumbs, margarine, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl; press evenly on bottom and up the sides of the pie plate. Bake until crisp, 10 to 12 minutes; cool on a rack to room temperature. Leave the oven on.
Filling: Place whipping cream in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil over medium-high heat. Add chocolate and remove from heat. Let stand 1 minute, and then gently whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Gently whisk in egg and salt until combined. Pour into graham cracker crumb crust (crust will be about halfway full). Bake until filling is softly set and jiggles slightly in center when gently shaken, about 22 to 25 minutes. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack (filling will firm as it cools), about 1 hour.
Topping: Melt marshmallow fluff in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until soft and spreadable, about 4 minutes. Pour over cooled chocolate filling. Use as much fluff as desired, but cover chocolate layer completely.
Preheat broiler and place oven rack a few inches under the broiler. Broil assembled pie about 30 seconds, watching closely, or until the topping is slightly browned and look like toasted marshmallows. Store at room temperature until ready to serve.
Copies of “CELEBRATE: Food, Family, Shabbos” can be purchased at local stores, Emunah.org and Amazon.com.
CYNTHIA BENJAMIN is a chef, writer and editor, and a member of Congregation B’nai Israel, in Woonsocket.