Rebbetzin Shoshana Laufer and her husband, Rabbi Yossi Laufer, run the Chabad of West Bay Chai Center, in Warwick. Shoshana’s love of Kosher cooking and her culinary skills have made a significant contribution to Rhode Island’s Jewish community.
Jewish Rhode Island recently spoke with Shoshana about her passion for homemade food, Kosher cooking and mitzvot.
The following Q&A has been lightly edited for clarity.
Q: How did your great interest in cooking start?
My mother always made homemade dishes, and I didn’t realize how special that was until my friend, who came for Shabbat, said, “You’re so lucky that your mother makes everything homemade because my mother couldn’t.” So I started thinking about the love and the warmth that comes from homemade food.
There’s this whole idea about bringing godliness into our day through our food, which is why there are so many mitzvot connected to food. I also feel that when we cook, our energy goes into our food, so if we’re in a happy mood, people feel it. I also love hosting and connecting with people through food, and I feel it’s a very powerful way of connection.
Q: What is your favorite recipe? What does everyone seem to love?
Have a pareve section in the kitchen. It’s not meat and it’s not dairy, which means that whatever I make on that side, I can use either for a meat meal or dairy meal. Examples are challah, cakes and other pareve dishes that can be served as a dairy meal or meat meal, as well as vegetarian options.
Use your oven. This prevents stirring time and possible burning on top of the stove. Examples are rice, roasted vegetables, anything that you can sauté goes in the oven.
Use one special spice or seasoning for a dish. It can change the flavor and it’s easy.
Give charity before cooking. When we think of others before we cook, by putting a coin in a box [tzedakah], it gives a special blessing to the food.
Q: How have you brought cooking and food to our Jewish community?
When the pandemic hit, and I couldn’t host in-person women’s cooking events, I thought of new ways that I could connect to the people.
After Passover of 2020, we started offering Shabbats to-go, which consisted of grape juice, candles, challah and one other dish. I continued that for about a year and a half, and I’m still doing the challah, Kiddush and candles. I still bake about 50 challahs a week that are distributed, with most people picking them up.
I like to be available if someone’s going through a hard time. I help them with homemade food to give them support. Sometimes I help when families are having relatives over who are Kosher. I believe in families being able to eat together when one member becomes Kosher and the other isn’t.
Food is such a beautiful way to connect with people, especially because food is central to our lives as Jews, in so many of our traditions and holidays. We get mitzvot from eating whether its matzah or Kiddush, and for eating in the sukkah. The eating experience brings the family and community together.
PATRICIA RASKIN, owner of Raskin Resources Productions, is a media host, coach and award-winning radio producer and business owner. She is on the board of directors of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence. She is a recipient of the Providence Business News 2020 Leaders and Achievers award.
A few of Shoshana Laufer’s favorite recipes:
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup matzah meal or bread crumbs
1 onion grated
1 carrot grated
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Combine all ingredients except tomato sauce. Roll mixture into meatballs.
Cooking Option 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread layer of sauce in 9- x 13-inch cooking tray, put meatballs on top and cover with another layer of sauce. Cover and bake at 350 for 1 1/2 -2 hours.
Cooking Option 2 (suitable for 1-3 pounds meat): Bring water to a boil, add tomato sauce and 8-ounce can of tomato paste and return to a boil. Add meatballs to the boiling water, bring back to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours.
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Vigorously mix all ingredients together.
The dressing goes nicely with shredded cabbage or green salads.
1 pound angel hair pasta or thin spaghetti, cooked and drained
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup sesame seeds, optional
Combine soy sauce, toasted sesame oil and sugar to make a dressing.
Pour dressing onto cooked pasta and mix well.
Toss with sesame seeds, if desired.