For Pesach — or Just For Pleasure
Lisa Kelvin Tuttle
I recently was delighted to be a guest participant at a fundraising event for
Congregation Ahavas Yisroel Chabad of
Wynnewood — a cooking demonstration and luncheon with master kosher chef, Levana Kirschenbaum, cookbook author and co-owner of Levana Restaurant in New York City. Thirty women attended this elegant gathering in a beautiful Main Line home with a dream kosher kitchen.
Levana's menus reflect her Moroccan upbringing, and exotic and aromatic ingredients are standard fare. Saffron graced
two of the dishes, anisette or arack liqueur lent mystery to the soup, and our delicious dessert was a moist and fragrant almond wine cake which Levana prepared first so that it could bake as she prepared the rest of the dinner.
Besides sharing her wonderful recipes, all of which are included in her cookbook
(in the recipe section below), Levana provided a wealth of kitchen advice. Among the wisdom gleaned from 25 years of experience in professional cooking, recipe development, catering, and teaching:
Your food processor is the workhorse --
let it do the work! Levana even used one to mix the cake
Only use fresh garlic-never jarred! Garlic has oil glands within each bulb that will become rancid if not used when at its freshest.
Cooking need not be complicated and fussy to impress -- using the very best quality simple ingredients will always elevate your cooking to a higher level. In her long career as a caterer, many clients have told her they wrongly
assumed she would be more expensive, due to the upscale impression she makes with her food.
Levana also had a word to say about olive oil. In our quest for lightness in our cooking many of us have come under the assumption that "light" olive oil is somehow a lower-calorie fat than extra virgin, or that it will have the benefit of giving food a lighter taste. Nothing could be further from the truth, Levana said: "What you get for using the light variety of olive oil is an inferior product, stripped of its taste; so don't be
fooled -- use the best extra virgin olive oil you can afford."
She also showed that a little preparation goes a long way. Levana had all of her ingredients for every dish beautifully prepared and waiting-the eggs cracked and pre-separated, the flour measured, the vegetables washed and chopped and ready in small bowls on the counter. What a pleasure it was to see the colorful array of foods spread before us, and it made preparing a multi-course meal a snap.
If, like me, you enjoy traditional foods prepared in a refreshing way, are willing to experiment with flavors, and would like to add some great new dishes to your repertoire, you will be delighted to have Levana's artistry grace your table.
Until we eat again . . .
Moroccan Fish Soup (parve)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 medium-sized onions, quartered
- 2 large leeks, white part and most of the green part, sliced
- 4 ribs celery, peeled to remove coarse strings
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 large bunch flat-leaf parsley
- 1 small bunch cilantro, stems cut off
- 2 red peppers, seeded and cut in chunks
4 cups canned crushed tomatoes
- heads and tails of any large kosher fish, cut in large chunks and tied securely in cheese cloth
- 2 quarts (8 cups) water
- 2 large potatoes, cut in small chunks
- 1 cup dry white wine
- ½ teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
good pinch ground cloves
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- a few strands saffron
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons Anisette or Arack liqueur, optional
- 6 cups boneless, skinless fish, cut in about 1" cubes: salmon, tile, snapper
- Heat the oil in a heavy wide-bottom pot.
- Grind the first 7 ingredients coarsely in a food processor
(pulse -- do not let the mixture get watery).
- Heat the oil in a heavy pot, and in it sauté the ground mixture till limp.
- Add all but the last four ingredients (salt and pepper, liqueur, if using, and fish), and cook 45 minutes.
- Add last four ingredients and cook another few minutes, just until fish is cooked through. Press on cheese
cloth to release as much liquid as you can, then remove and discard.
- Adjust consistency and seasonings and serve hot.
Makes 12 servings.
Almond-Beef Stuffed Chicken Breasts With Orange Sauce
8 skinless, boneless chicken cutlets, pounded flat
1 pound extra-lean ground beef
2 cups ground almonds
- 1 bunch parsley, minced
- 2 eggs
- 1 small onion, minced
- 2 tablespoons potato starch
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- zest of one lemon
- pinch of nutmeg
- ground pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups orange juice
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup dry white wine
- generous pinch saffron
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- To make the stuffing: Mix all the stuffing ingredients in the food processor and process until smooth. Transfer the stuffing to a bowl.
- To prepare the chicken:
Bring about 3 cups water to boil in a large wide pot. Form logs of stuffing that are as long as the chicken breasts are wide. Place a stuffing log on a long side of a breast and roll the chicken up tightly, encasing the stuffing completely. Wrap tightly in foil, twisting the ends like candy wrappers. Repeat with the remaining logs and chicken breasts. Drop the chicken packets into the boiling water and poach for about 20 minutes. Remove the packets from the water and unwrap them carefully.
- To make the sauce: Stir all the sauce ingredients into the boiling water and add the chicken breasts. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, covered, for 15 minutes until the sauce thickens, turning the chicken once midway through the cooking time. Transfer the chicken to a platter and pour the sauce over it. Serve hot.
Almond Wine Cake
6 egg yolks
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups flour (Pesach: 1 ½ cups potato starch)
1 tablespoon baking powder (omit if you don't use it on Pesach)
¾ cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons fresh orange zest
3 tablespoons brandy or rum
1 ¼ cup ground almonds (filberts, walnuts, or pecans o.k.)
6 egg whites
with a pinch of salt, beaten until stiff but not dry
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream egg yolks and sugar until mixture falls in ribbons.
Add oil and mix.
Combine flour or potato starch and baking powder in a bowl.
Combine wine, orange zest, and brandy in another bowl.
Add flour mixture alternately with wine mixture to the egg yolk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour, mixing each time just until combined. Add nuts and mix till combined, carefully folding in whites.
Bake in a greased tube pan for 1 hour or until the point of a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Serve with strawberry sauce on the side.
Bring all but the last ingredient to a boil.
Add corn starch or potato starch mixture and cook, stirring, until just thickened. Cool completely before serving
Lisa Kelvin Tuttle has professional experience in the
gourmet, catering, and health-food fields, as well as being an experienced
kosher camp cook. Her greatest pleasure, though, is cooking Shabbos dinner for
family and friends. She resides with her husband, Alan, and sons Adam and Jeremy
Serve cake with sauce on the side.
Previously on the Kosher Table