Cooking through ‘More Real Life Kosher Cooking’

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Blogging has always been a hobby of mine, or at least I’d like to think it is. I’ve started three blogs in my lifetime, and I do very much enjoy writing out my thoughts. But, like most of my other hobbies, the blogs get pushed aside or forgotten about when life gets in the way. Currently, my blogs are just sitting in cyberspace waiting for a playwright to stumble upon them and make me famous.

When I was approached by the Jewish Rhode Island editor to prepare a few recipes from Miriam Pascal’s cookbook “More Real Life Kosher Cooking” (Mesorah Publications, 2019), I happily accepted the task. I feel most comfortable in the kitchen, but only when I’m baking. Baking is a science, it can be perfected. And there are many constants, such as flour, sugar, eggs and vanilla. If it’s done right, baking is predictable, and that is what I love about it.

For me, cooking is a chore. I’ll never be able to make matzah ball soup the way my mom does, even when I follow the exact recipe! I struggle with my knife skills and keeping track of different ingredients. So, yes, cooking intimidates me – but I wanted to challenge myself.

Before I started, I researched cookbook author Miriam Pascal to learn a little bit about her style and get a sense of what I was in for. Pascal claims she makes her recipes with “approachable ingredients that are still exciting and delicious” (overtimecook.com).  As a novice cook, this was great news!

I flipped through her recipes and bookmarked a few that spoke to me – and immediately felt relieved that the ingredient lists were, for the most part, short. There is nothing worse than buying half a shopping-cart’s worth of food for one meal (looking at you, beef bourguignon) only to be disappointed with the finished dish.

The original plan was to make a recipe or two for this article and share my process and overall thoughts on the cookbook. However, COVID-19 hit, and I had a change of plans. Instead of just making a few of Pascal’s dishes, I decided to cook my way through “More Real Life Kosher Cooking” during my self-isolation, and document it along the way. Back to blogging!

So far, I’ve made six recipes from the cookbook and I’ve been impressed! As a home baker, I find it difficult to relate to cookbook authors. I struggle with the language and the measurements: A pinch here, or a dash there, is not very accurate. And blanching? What is that?

But Pascal recognizes that good food doesn’t have to be complicated, as shown in her simple recipes and easy-to-follow directions. My definition of a simple recipe is either semi-homemade (for example, using store-bought pizza dough and filing it with spiced ground beef, as she does), or one that uses a short list of accessible ingredients that pack a powerful flavor (like her roasted vegetable soup).

If there are readers out there looking for uncomplicated yet flavorful dishes with ingredients you likely already have in your pantry, I highly suggest picking up a copy of “More Real Life Kosher Cooking.” You’ll find a variety of impressive meals that you’ll want to add into your rotation. And right now, you can check out Miriam Pascal’s website, overtimecook.com, to get started.

I’d love to hear your experience with her recipes and hope you feel inspired by both of our cooking stories.

LISA MAYBRUCH (lmaybruch@jewishallianceri.org) is the manager of adult programs at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island. A lifelong foodie and baker, you can follow her on instagram @mayflour_bakery

Here are some recipes suitable for Passover with Miriam Pascal’s comments  from “More Real Life Kosher Cooking”:

RAINBOW SALAD

Pareve

Yield 6 servings

With almost nothing to prep, I make this recipe when I don’t have time, but still want to wow my guests. The combination of sweet and savory flavors, plus all kinds of great crunchy textures, really make this a winner.

Ingredients

Maple Lime Dressing

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 clove garlic, minced OR 1 cube frozen garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Pinch cayenne pepper

Salad

8 ounces romaine lettuce

4 ounces shredded red  cabbage

1 mango, diced

1 avocado, diced

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

1 cup lightly crushed sweet potato chips

3/4 cup crispy fried onions (such as French’s)

Directions

1. Prepare the dressing:  Whisk together all dressing ingredients in a small bowl until combined. Set aside.

2. Place all salad ingredients  in a large bowl. Add dressing just before serving; toss to combine.

Variation: When pomegranate seeds are not in season, use dried cranberries or dried cherries instead.

Plan Ahead: Dressing can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. Salad should be assembled fresh.

Recipe used with permission “More Real Life Kosher Cooking,” by Miriam Pascal.

 

ROASTED VEGETABLE SOUP

Pareve

Yield 6-8 servings

What started out as a fridge full of produce that had to be used up has morphed into one of my all-time favorite soups. Roasting the vegetables brings out their flavors, resulting in a healthy soup that’s packed with flavor and so filling! Feel free to customize your soup based on whichever veggies you happen to have on hand.

Ingredients

Roasted Vegetables

2 large zucchini, diced 

3 medium yellow squash, diced 

2 red bell peppers, diced 

2 onions, diced 

1 pound frozen cauliflower florets, defrosted 

1/4 cup oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Soup

4 cups vegetable broth 

About 6 cups water 

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon kosher salt

Directions

1. Prepare the roasted vegetables: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. 

2. Place vegetables, oil, salt, and pepper into a bowl. Toss to combine. Divide between prepared baking sheets. Roast for 50-60 minutes, until vegetables are starting to brown. 

3. Prepare the soup: Place roasted vegetables, along with any juices, into a large soup pot. Add soup ingredients; bring to a boil. 

 4. Simmer for about 1 hour. Discard bay leaves. Using an immersion blender, blend soup well, for about 3 minutes, until fully smooth. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Plan Ahead: This soup can be prepared ahead and frozen in an airtight container.

Recipe used with permission “More Real Life Kosher Cooking,” by Miriam Pascal.