Are most recipes that easy?

Stuffed Veal Breast

A recipe is a roadmap.  Would you get into your car and begin a journey without knowing where you want to go, what route to take and what you need along the way?

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

When I worked in a commercial kitchen, a very long time go, we would have a clipboard hung on a nail in the wall that showed a timeplan for the days work.  It was complete with assigned duties, built in breaks and what we realistically hoped to accomplish at the end of the shift.  Before the cooking was even begun, there was an orderlist that was shopped, costed and checked for quality before it even came in the door.

Hail, dear Chief-Cook-and-Bottle-Washer!

You, my constant kitchen companion, manage your kitchen.  (I’m speaking to myself of course.  You can listen in.)  The glorious responsibility of keeping home fires stoked, pantries packed and larders larded (kosher lard, of course) falls to none other.

How inspiring that 8 students, 1 able assistant and teacher gathered together in My Kosher Kitchen last Sunday to learn cooking skills, new recipes and discuss personal cooking issues.  Let’s face it, we’ve all got ’em.  We learned to tie a roast, stuff a veal breast and fought the good caramel fight for our sweet and sour salmon-guaranteed to become a Rosh Hashana classic.  We came together laughing, tasting and learning.

Above all, each of us came away with a greater sense of culinary confidence.

And what was the key element that helped our apron-girded waists forge on?  We came to see the prime importance of our cooking plan.

As we approach Rosh Hashana in this preparatory month of Elul, may it be that we grow in our appreciation of the fundamental role we play in the well being of our families with calm and assuredness.

Battle ready for a New Year with culinary challenges only our own wonderfully unique family could present, march on, confident with our plan at the ready, a sharp knife and a steady board.*

Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada

*Tip:  Place a dampened bar cloth under your cutting board to keep it from sliding.

Click here for the recipe: Veal Breast, Stuffed

Why Change What Works?

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There is a certain comfort and security that comes from doing what we know.  Often we think of ourselves as the job we do, either by profession or passion.  Sometimes, our cooking falls into this appraisal.  We can come to view ourselves as the meals we make.  We take a certain measure of pride from a dish well done, or can feel upset over something that didn’t turn out the way we expected.  I know it may seem trivial to think of cooking like this, but when we spend our precious time and good money on meal preparation, it becomes an investment.  A small, daily deposit in the competency account at the First National Bank of Well Being.

 So if we are chugging along with a repertoire of recipes and managing nicely, why do we feel the need to change?  What motivates us to want to develop our culinary skills?  (Which is what taking cooking classes should be about.)

 At Rosh Hashana,  which is around the corner, we recite blessings over  special foods.  Most of us are familiar with dipping an apple into honey, but there are other foods too that are part of the tradition of significant omens.  One of these symbolic foods, that is definitely not for the faint of heart, is a fish head.  In the middle of my regal Yomtov table is a large cooked salmon head, on a silver platter.  The blessing that we make over this is that we be as a head, not as a tail.

 This is always an ice breaker.

 As a head, we think, not follow.  We review our past year’s behaviour and using our knowledge, we reflect.  If we sense inconsistency, we make a plan to correct, and with the Al-mighty’s help, act on it.

 What better way to express our desire for a good, healthy and joyous year than through the very meals we make all year round?

 Wholesale change is not the order of the day, but steady constant growth by introducing a healthier choice one day, sharing your kitchen and cooking with someone you love the next, or even turning your kitchen into a chesed operation, a kitchen of kindness.  It’s not the new recipe or piece of kitchen equipment that will bring about the change, its our attitude.

 One of the dishes we will be making this Sunday, at My Kosher Kitchen @ COR’s Rosh Hashana workshop, is a sublime caramelized sweet and sour salmon.  (Although we want to remember to act like the head, it is more delicious to eat the tail and the middle.)  Please email me at nweisbrod@cor.ca if you’d like a copy of the recipe. 

Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada

homegrown hero

ImageKitchen duties can be daunting.  Shopping and preparing a family meal can feel like one more chore in a long laundry list.  But not in the summer.

In the summer it is a real treat to go grocery shopping.  The produce department is literally bursting with colour.  Pick up a ripe peach and feel its fuzz.  There is a sweet syrupy smell that comes from fresh fruit that needs only a gentle squeeze and its perfume is released.

The meals of summer almost cook themselves.  A quick scrub, a drip of olive oil, some fresh herbs and the ingredients extend the invite. 

Everyone’s outside enjoying the warm weather, but I can think of no other place I’d rather be than cooking in my summer kitchen with the late afternoon light streaming in.

There is one something I prepare all year round, but when I’m in one of these summer moods, it is positively transcendent.

First take the sweet, sharp local onions that are fresh from the field.  Peel, slice and then caramelize their goodness and experience the sublime.  Guaranteed whoever comes into the house makes a beeline for the kitchen and asks what smells so good?  Its so incredible its worth the crying.

I try and make a BIG  batch to last a couple of weeks, but inevitably they get finished on our Shabbos challa where their smooth, sweet tanginess is one of our best spreads.  It’s like an onion jam.

It takes 45 minutes for onions to caramelize, but once you make them properly, there is no turning back.

Take 5 pounds of onions, peel, cut in half from shoot to root, turn on its flat surface and horizontally, slice thinly.  Try and breath through your mouth and don’t worry about the tears.  It’s cathartic.

Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a very large wide soup pot.  Don’t let the oil get too hot or the bottom layer of onions will burn, not brown.

Add all your lovely sliced onions and leave them alone.  Resist the urge to stir.  Let them be.  They know what they are doing and if undisturbed, their sugars will gently brown and soften as they cook.  After about 20 minutes add 1 Tablespoon of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper and 2 Tablespoons of sugar.  Fold the seasonings in and move the top layer of onions to the bottom of the pan.  Continue to stir half heartedly until the onions are consistently cooked.

Once cooled, the onions can be transferred into glass jars and  will keep refrigerated for a few weeks.  If they last that long.

Join us on Sunday August 26th for our class; Preparing your Rosh Hashana Kitchen.  You’ll learn several recipes (gravlax, sweet and sour salmon with caramelized onions, soups, make ahead vegetable strudel and several more) including many that will carry you through the whole yomtov.   http://cor.ca/view/369/preparing_my_rosh_hashanah_kitchen.html will give you all the details you’ll need to join in.

 

The vagary of a recipe

A recipe is a set of instructions for preparing a particular dish including a list of the ingredients required.

Vagary is defined as whim, fancy or fad.  There is nothing enduring about a whim. 

Why is it that most recipes today look like they came out of a science lab and feel about as friendly?

In learning to cook, most of us have asked an older relative how to make a favourite dish only to be told to take a pinch of this or a cup – an old cracked t-cup – of that.

Our bubbies managed to cook without recipes.

Their kitchens were contained.  Every pot and utensil had a purpose and you knew what it was just by looking at it.  There were only so many ingredients you could find in a grocery store with only so many ways to cook them.  Nothing was a secret.  If you knew how to make a dish, you’d tell your friend.  and anyone with a lick of experience could figure out what you were talking about.

The American Dietetic Association asked its registered dieticians what skills they wished more consumers possessed.  Many answered “confidence and creativity”.  One wrote; “Consumers are afraid of cooking and fear comes from lack of experience.”  All the cookbooks in the world won’t give you that. 

Recipes do have their place in our kitchens though.  The cozy feeling I get from my old hinged box filled with handwritten recipes, stained and discoloured, helps me remember why I take the time to cook.

My daughter says she thinks of her grandmother sitting at the kitchen table of yesterday writing out a recipe as gentle guidance.  It reassuringly says; this is what my years have taught me and now I’d like to share it with you.  It’s not an instruction, it’s a warm invitation.

Some recipes are ancient.  One comes from the Babylonian Talmud that is a riddle;

“Boil a fish with his brother (salt), Plunge it into its father (water), Eat it with its son (a sauce made of smaller fish), And afterwards drink it’s father (fish broth).”  Would that a recipe could inspire and live on long, long after the dish is eaten?  Imagine the dinner table discussion served with that dish.

At mykosherkitchen@cor, let’s work together to each create our own legacy, our own culinary thumbprint that lets whoever walk into our kitchens remember they are happy to be home.

Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada