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In the Spotlight

Cookbook Author, Cooking Instructor and Kosher

KosherEye "Foodie" Friend

levana_garlic_portrait"Dynamic" is the first word that comes to mind when describing Lévana Kirschenbaum.  KosherEye had the opportunity to speak at length with Levana and she was energetic, enthusiastic, and conveyed a passion for cooking – healthy and nutritious cooking. 

For several decades Lévana has been a prominent figure in the New York Kosher gourmet food scene; owning and operating a bakery, catering business, and restaurant. She was a co-founder of Levana Restaurant in Manhattan. "I started out with a bakery and featured baked goods that started trends, such as Zucchini Cake and Carrot Cake", said Lévana.  New York Magazine selected her Carrot Cake as one of the best in 1979. That was certainly before the trend of using healthful ingredients, especially in baked goods.

Born and raised in Morocco, and having traveled extensively, she incorporates these diverse culinary influences into her kosher recipes. Lévana believes in using the best ingredients available; seasonal, no imitations, and not necessarily expensive. "I only use real, no "faux" anything. We have real ingredients; let us use them."

Today, Lévana's energies are directed to her weekly gourmet cooking demonstrations held at Lincoln Square Synagogue, in the Upper West Side, NY. Her classes feature menus that illustrate "how easy it is to prepare delicious nutritious meals within a reasonable budget." She even has gluten-free classes featuring Italian and Indian recipes. For KosherEye, it is particularly Lévana's Moroccan recipes that keep her at the head of the class.

Lévana "loves to teach the masses." She truly identifies with working women and housewives, "I go home and am a housewife just like everyone else." Keep in mind that during the early years of her amazing career, she was also raising a family.  Lévana compares her cooking classes to "Dinner and a Show", and the fun is the show – the cooking demonstration. To Lévana, each person’s best tool is his or her own talent, "you will be amazed at what you can do."

KosherEye asked Lévana what is her favorite kitchen tool and she promptly answered, "The Cuisinart Food Processor."  We have to agree! It is also one of our favorites and it does almost everything!

The author of two popular cookbooks, Levana's Table and Levana Cooks Dairy-Free!, she  is currently working on another cookbook. She did not share the title with us but did reveal that the book will feature unprocessed food recipes and will be available September 2010.  Lévana is sharing two of her recipes with KosherEye readers, Chick Pea Soup and, from her upcoming book, Chicken with Pomegranate Sauce.

We salute Lévana Kirschenbaum for embracing delicious, kosher, healthful living and teaching others to do the same.

For more information on Lévana  and her Cooking Demonstrations, visit her website LevanaCooks.com.

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KosherEye salutes Cinco de Mayo!

cinco de mayo 2016

We start our salute by raising our Margarita...and such a good Margarita, made with Tequila of course.  Silver (regular white) Tequila is kosher even without certification. This type of Tequila is made from agave cactus and sugar cane; both Gold and Repasado Tequila must have a hechsher (kosher certification on label).
And from the California Avocado Commission--along with our signature Margarita, serve some muy bueno avocado recipes. Try this fresh Guacamole Auténtico dip. So good and, as the recipe name indicates, so authentic!  
F
or a main course, make it a true fiesta with this "One-thousand–layer, California Avocado Mille Feuille", courtesy of Chef Rob Wilson, Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, CA.

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Baking Royalty

kingarthurallpuepoaw

 King Arthur Flour is truly an American success story; the company has been making its flour for over 200 years. Think of it this way – it is America’s oldest flour company, founded in 1790, just after George Washington had been elected president! The company is headquartered in Norwich, Vermont in a 16,600-square foot timber framed structure known as “Camelot”.

In 1990 the company had 5 employees. Now it has grown to over 160 employees with over $70,000,000 in annual sales. “We are an employee-owned, open-book, team-managed company, with profit sharing and an employee stock ownership program. Our employees have a stake in what we do, and it shows in every bag of flour.” King Arthur Flour also owns a retail store, The Baker’s Store, in Norwich, Vermont; a destination store for bakers from around the world.

So what makes this flour special? All of King Arthur’s flour products contain only the highest grade of American wheat, and contains no artificial enhancements. White flours are carefully milled from the innermost heart of the wheat berry, which contain the richest, gluten-producing protein. Although it costs a bit more, KosherEye thinks it’s worth it! Although it costs a bit more, KosherEye thinks it’s worth it! Many King Arthur Flour products are certified kosher. To verify kashrut agency, search King Arthur website or contact the company.

 It was well worth the trip to attend King Arthur’s Baking Across America educational demonstration program! We enjoyed a 2–hour class packed with valuable baking tips and techniques; it was both enlightening and entertaining. KAF teacher and bread whiz, Susan Reid made a basic sweet bread dough and demonstrated the many ways this soft and pliable dough can be used, including Cinnamon Rolls. Soft dough is the secret to soft, tender bread.

About Chef Susan Reid:

susan reidAfter a career in public relations and communications, Susan Reid switched gears and pursued a professional culinary education as a student at the renowned Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park New York. She graduated first in her class and was winner of the school’s coveted Roth award, selected by administration and instructors. She began her cooking career working at various high–end restaurants in New England and Chicago. Along the way, Susan had the pleasure of meeting Julia (Yes, Julia Childs), and being a classmate of the inimitable Alton Brown.

Over the years this talented writer, chef, and teacher has enjoyed quite a diverse professional path; teaching for eight years at the New England Culinary Institute, and sharing her expertise with how2heroes.com, an independent website that creates videos of foodies and chefs preparing recipes. Since 2002, her main focus is on the development test kitchens and publications of King Arthur Flour. Susan is editor of King Arthur’s popular Baking Sheet Newsletter where readers can find baking videos and tips, and she has co–authored several books for the company.

If you missed the Baking Across America demonstrations, in cooperation with our friends at King Arthur Flour, we are happy to share some of the recipes, tips, and techniques.

Susan Reid suggests trying these King Arthur Flour challah recipes: Classic Challah, Millie's Whole Wheat Challah and Raisin Challah.  And according to Chef Susan, "Any of these recipes can be mixed in the bread machine on the dough cycle, then shaped by hand and allowed to rise once more before baking. If the dough is to be baked in the machine, choose the light crust setting. In challah (and other recipes), margarine will work as a substitute for butter; and an equal amount of parve soy milk can be substituted for yogurt."

 Tips:

  • When possible it is best to measure flour and other ingredients by weight, not by cupful. King Arthur Flour Master Weight Chart
  • Knead dough until it is soft and springy, like an earlobe or a baby’s bottom
  • If you store dough in the refrigerator bring it to room temperature before rolling
  • It is fine to freeze dough after shaping; defrost in refrigerator and then bake
  • Use egg beaters instead of eggs to glaze dough- less waste
  • Line pans with parchment – “Parchment is flour’s friend”

Some must have baking tools:

  • Offset spatulas
  • Danish dough whisk (KosherEye will be featuring this wonderful tool soon!)
  • Parchment paper

News  you “knead” to know: 
King Arthur Flour has recently introduced its newest kosher products: Gluten–Free Multi–Purpose Flour and Unbleached Cake Flour Blend.  KosherEye will report on our baking results with these new products.

Visit KingArthurFlour.com for additional product and recipe information.

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For the Whole Michpucha (Family)

yavneh_logo_interior

Where oh where, can you take the whole family for vacation…and not just any vacation, but for a fun-filled, entertaining and active kosher getaway? One answer is go directly to Camp Yavneh, in Northwood, New Hampshire, a 30 minute drive from the Manchester NH airport.  This year, Yavneh family camp will be held from Wednesday through Sunday, August 24 – 28, 2011.

Camp Yavneh was established over 65 years ago in 1944 and has provided a Jewish camping experience to approximately 6,000 young people. In 2004 Yavneh introduced Family Camp, an opportunity for Jewish families to spend four days and nights together for fun and learning. The camp offers activities for most age groups and interests. Over the last five years, family camp has attracted a growing list of 200-250 “campers”  (50-60 families). One third of the families have attended for five years straight!

To get a glimpse into “family camp” we talked to Jody Fredman, camp program coordinator. We wanted to know about a typical day at camp …so here goes: (Tell us when you’re too exhausted!)

  • 6:30 - 7:30: Family Fishing
  • 7: 45:  T’filot (prayer) - Traditional or Egalitarian
  • 9:30 - 12:30: Kids’ camp time, and many choices for adults too such as:  scenic bike riding, yoga class, archery, art projects, boating, cooking or just relaxing
  • 12:30-1:30: Lunch
  • 2:00-5:30: Family Time. Entire families can choose from activities such as art projects, fishing, archery, swimming and boating, soccer game, challah baking and more!
  • 5: 35: Community flag lowering – “mifkad”
  • 5:45:  Dinner followed by Mincha/Ma’ariv
  • 7:00-9:00:  Family program such as Family Talent Show, camp fire with s’mores (Yumm) or other fun activities
  • 9:00:  Bedtime for younger children;  snack and activity, such as movie night or  karaoke for older kids
  • 9:30-11:00:  Wine & Chocolate adult social and/or a guest speaker. Babysitters available
  • Laila Tov (Good Night!).  Bet you’re ready to rest!

And how about: Adult Iron Chef competition judged on taste, appearance and Jewish content; Wine and cheese tasting; Sushi making classes, and even a special mini-Israeli program, complete with food (Eggplant Salad with Lemon & Olive Oil and Matbucha – Tomato & Pepper Salad) and activities.

Shabbos at camp was described as a peaceful, meaningful, enriching family experience complete with Special Shabbat meals. Scholars-in-residence and a staff of professional educators offer optional sessions on various topics. Since attendees are from diverse backgrounds,  the camp has both Orthodox and Egalitarian services. There is also a learner's minyan/service for those who would like to understand more about Jewish prayer. Three minyanim are available daily.

Of course, being food obsessed, we asked about the meals and menus. Check them out at CampYavneh/Food. The full camp breakfast was quite a “lure”, especially after a morning of fishing! 

About the Kashruth:
According to assistant camp director Jeff Weener:

“Camp Yavneh in Northwood NH maintains a glatt kosher kitchen with a full-time Orthodox Mashgiach who is approved by the Vaad of Massachusetts. Camp Yavneh is not directly supervised by the Vaad, however, the camp follows their standards. For any questions relating to Kashrut at Camp Yavneh, please contact Jeff Weener at jeff@campyavneh.org.

This is Jeff’s 10th summer at camp. He manages all operational aspects of the camp as well as camp technology and the website. Jeff has an MBA from Babson College. We have discovered that Jeff is a serious foodie! He has shared his delicious personal recipe for Buffalo Wings with KosherEye.

For more information visit CampYavnehFamilyCamp.

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Mountain View, California

From the moment we entered the The Kitchen Table Restaurant in Mountain View, California, it was obvious that we were going to have a special experience. Our first impression was correct.

The Kitchen Table is located on “restaurant row” in the small town of Mountain View, California — in the heart of Silicon Valley.  It is just a few miles from Palo Alto, and within a 40-minute drive of San Francisco.  Upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted by a welcoming staff, contemporary, creative decor and an innovative, but moderately priced menu.  Only nine months old, the restaurant is an exceptional artisanal, upscale eating destination; one that focuses on fresh, California seasonal, made-from-scratch food, and is kosher certified by the VAAD Hakashrus of Northern California.

Salad Portobello Burger

We ventured in for lunch on a Friday. Our goal was to taste many of the restaurant’s specialties. We managed to accomplish our goal. We tasteda traditional chicken and matzoh ball soup; the vegetables were crisp, the matzoh balls delicious and the chicken plentiful.  Next came the unique “piece de resistance” Koshuterie Plate, complete with a variety of smoked meats including pastrami, salami, lamb “bacon”, and duck “ham” alongside a pablano pepper — all prepared, cured and smoked in-house. The lamb “bacon” and the duck “ham” were extraordinarily delicious and the pastrami, which is their most popular lunch item, was irresistible!  Yes, we asked, but no, they do not yet ship! Next we sampled both a Portabella Mushroom Burger, and a hamburger. Shall we say that we stopped there? No, we couldn’t — we absolutely devoured our fresh, hot sweet potato fries.

Sweet Potato Fries Pastrami

So, who runs the day to day operations of the restaurant… and how did this restaurant come to be?

Our conversation began with the restaurant’s talented manager, Steven Long. Steven has impeccably delicious credentials... Before coming to The Kitchen Table, he worked on the famed Google campus in its catering facility — supplying food to Google’s employees along with founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Larry especially loved his food!). Steven also taught at the San Francisco Culinary Academy and still occasionally works as a private chef for several VIP clients including Henry Kissinger, Gerald Ford, Shirley Temple, and more. On Thanksgiving he prepared a deep fried turkey for Nancy Pelosi’s family! Steven explained that he has a passion for cooking and that the added challenge of using kosher ingredients was intriguing to him. These were two motivations for him to join The Kitchen Table, which currently is northern California’s only upscale kosher restaurant.

Chef Jay Vigilla is the chef de cuisine, the master behind the house cured meats, aged steaks, smoked fish, home made pita, and all of the in house specialties! According to Chef Jay, since the restaurant is located in northern California, he also has access to fresh, superb produce.

Now to the second question… how did the restaurant come to be? The answer lies in the vision of its majority owner, Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of Ariba, Bobby Lent and a group of investors he assembled. Together, they planned the launch of an exceptional restaurant, one focused on excellence in quality and service, and which “incidentally” would be glatt kosher. By opening The Kitchen Table restaurant, Bobby, who is well known for his philanthropy in the Jewish Community, has presented an upscale and kosher eating venue for those who appreciate fine food.  We wish him well!

By the way, if you go (and you simply must if you are in the San Francisco area), in addition to the freshly made food, enjoy the restaurant design and wall décor… all selected by the owners’ wives.  A large digital picture frame is mounted prominently on a frame filled wall (quite appropriate for Silicon Valley), and it is both entertaining and nostalgic as it continually shows old photos of multi-generational families sitting at their kitchen tables. You can send them your family photo too!

The new spring menu can be viewed at www.thekitchentablerestaurant.com.

In addition to lunch, the Kitchen Table is open for dinner, and also for Sunday brunch. Reservations are accepted. Shabbat takeout and Corporate catering available. The restaurnat is certified Glatt Kosher by the VAAD Hakashrus of Northern California.

The Kitchen Table Restaurant
42 Castro Street
Mountain View, CA 94041-1202
Phone: (650) 390-9388

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