In this week’s Foundation Series cooking class we explored the world of “Root, Shoot, Flower and Fruit” and the category of vegetables referred to as greens.
When I first koshered my kitchen, over 20 years ago, I was asked by an Orthodox girls high school if I would like to do a cooking demonstration for mothers and daughters. “Sure” I replied. To make life easy, I thought I would show some recipes that I considered super simple and easy to execute. (At this point, I was brand new to the world of keeping kosher and didn’t realize how much time and effort it took to check vegetables.) Among the recipes I offered to show was a dish involving leeks-super easy, with just a few ingredients, but we would need several bunches to serve the large group expected. After I told the kind lady who was planning the program what I wanted to do, I thought I heard a gulp on the other end of the phone, but “no problem” was all she cheerfully responded.
When I arrived to give the class, they had prepared all the vegetables requested for the recipes including the big, big, biggest bowl of leeks I had ever seen. Washed and separated, leaf by leaf into a shimmering, dewy bowl of bug-free fronds. Never had leeks been treated with such respect! Each leaf touched, rinsed and inspected by hand. The process must have taken forever. The ladies who prepared the vegetables were supremely good natured about it and thoroughly enjoyed watching how the dishes were prepared and sampling them.
What I learned that day was echoed many years later when I heard a Rabbi say, that there is an unseen ingredient in each dish prepared in a kosher kitchen, and that ingredient is supervision.
Through the many years since, I have checked my fair share of vegetables. Thrilling as it is to actually find a bug every once in a while, (I have a pretty unusual idea of fun) it can be a very daunting task.
What I want to share with you is the emotional mindset recommended for the task of checking vegetables.
(Lest we think this is a lowly job, rest assured that the finest restaurants in the world assign their apprentice chefs to the salad stations who spend years ensuring that each leaf of green put on a diner’s plate is sparkling clean and bug free. They only have to answer to their head chef. We have to answer to a much higher Supervisor!)
First, be patient. In your cooking timeplan, allow yourself a sufficient amount of time to do the job properly and in an unhurried manner.
Second, relax. Either sit at the table or on a stool at your counter, in a well lit area, with lots of space for the tools of our trade, either a lightbox or sunny window, salad spinner, sink and room to work.
Third, be joyful. Be secure in the knowledge that just like Jewish women throughout the centuries, we are guarding this important mitzvah of keeping kosher, for those whom we love.
Lastly, before you begin this sublime occupation, always consult the COR website’s produce inspection guide at;
When you have a chance, you may want to try this delicious Greens, Oriental recipe that is a staple in my kitchen and I hope will become one in yours.
Shabbat shalom from My Kosher Kitchen
Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada