While I was in Bend, Oregon a few weeks ago, Chef Bette Fraser of the Well Traveled Fork cooked up a couple of magnificent meals for us and our house guests. We had more than a few stipulations including gluten and dairy free, kosher, and vegetarian. No problem! We started with this impressive summer appetizer one night and I knew I had to share this recipe. Continue reading
By Camillo Ferrari
The vibe at the Lime restaurant in Norwalk, CT is a throwback to the late 70′s. Square sheets of glass protect faded, striped umber and orange tablecloths and customers’ business cards are wedged between cloth and glass. A smattering of haphazardly framed photos of early 1980′s T.V. icons hang next to kitchen tools and framed notices of events from another era.
I appreciate the calm each time I tuck into Gobo, a vegetarian retreat with convenient locations in the West Village and UES, NYC. The mostly blond and spacious interior is simply appointed with undressed wooden tables and comfortable cushioned seating. Plenty of space between tables encourages good conversation and lingering. There is a Zen simplicity that is intentional here and it carries through to the deceptively simple, Asian inspired dishes on the menu. Continue reading
You wonder how you’ve arrived at this hour, AGAIN, without being prepared. It’s not a surprise, after all, that sometime between lunch and twilight you will be rummaging through your bag or desk frantically searching for a snack to satisfy that grumbling.
When that late afternoon craving finally settles in, what do you reach for?
What’s YOUR 4:00? Continue reading
By Melissa Roberts
On a recent, chilly March evening, members of the Westport, CT Chabad community were treated to a taste from the warmer shores of Brazil, featuring chef Leticia Moreinos Schwartz. Leticia, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York and a Weston, CT resident by way of Rio, honed her considerable skills in restaurants, including Le Cirque 2000, La Grenouille, and Payard, and as a writer for magazines such as Saveur and Fine Cooking.
Brazilian and kosher cuisine may not seem a natural pair; in fact, Leticia admitted that keeping a kosher home while growing up in Brazil was difficult for her parents. Kosher butchers, for example, weren’t easily accessible, and overall the country’s Jewish population is small–150,000 in total with roughly 30,000 in Rio alone. Conversely, she recalls Jewish culture, as rich and very much alive, heavily influenced by an Israeli connection.
Leticia spoke fondly of being educated in Hebrew day schools, and having a strong sense of her heritage through music and song. And while Jewish life didn’t have a huge impact on her cooking, the backdrop of her native country did.
Brazilian food is a varied mix of flavors that reflect an equally diverse and far reaching population. African, Portuguese and Indigenous cultures all have an overriding influence, though other European countries, even Lebanon and India make an appearance, dashes of each exemplified in the dishes Leticia presented in her warm, lively way.
A side dish featured hearts of palm. The tender trunk of a tree with over 100 varieties in Brazil alone, many of us have seen it in jarred or canned form, nestled in salads. Leticia brought it front and center, sauteed with shallots and parsley, perhaps a nod to France, the palm hearts very Brazilian.
Xim Xim de Galinha, a braised chicken stew in a tomato and coconut based sauce was enriched with ground cashews and peanuts, an African technique, the tomatoes an addition from the New World, the turmeric and paprika nods to India and Hungary, the chopped cilantro at the end, Latino. The sauce was creamy and rich without a lick of dairy. Different and delicious all at once.
The recipe featured here, Guava Thumbprint Cookies, sums up the mongrel nature of Brazilian cuisine perfectly. Guava being indigenous to the country and its tropical climes, the crumbly nut based cookie drenched in powdered sugar reminiscent of a Mexican wedding cookie, the thumbprint, very American. Leticia omitted dairy from her recipes accordingly, easily adapting them to a meat centered meal.
Thanks to Leticia, it was a special lesson in the diversity and flexibility of Brazilian cooking, and how kosher can go beyond familiar borders.
Leticia Moreinos Schwartz is the author of The Brazilian Kitchen and the upcoming My Rio de Janeiro. To learn more about participating in Leticia’s cooking classes you may contact her at http://www.chefleticia.com/cookingclasses.
Portrait of Leticia: Chia Messina.
These fragrant cookies are a specialty of Leticia Schwartz, The Brazilian Foodie. She blogs at http://www.chefleticia.com/
These tasty bites may be dairy or parve (dairy free).
We found kosher guava paste at www.earthy.com. One lb is $7.50.
- 2 cups lightly toasted walnuts
- 1¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 sticks ( 1 cup) margarine or butter substitute (such as Fleishman’s or Earth Balance) or unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- Confectioners sugar for dusting
- 1 cup guava paste
- Few drops of lemon juice (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Place the walnuts in the food processor and whir until finely ground, being careful not to turn into a paste. Add the flour and pulse until well combined.
- Using a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the margarine or butter and sugar together on medium speed, until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the extracts and beat to blend. Reduce the speed to low, and add the nut-flour mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl, mixing only until it is incorporated into the dough.
- Working with a teaspoon of dough at a time, roll between the palms of your hand to form small balls and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Secure each cookie with one hand down at the sheet pan, and use the pinkie of your other hand, or the end of a wooden spoon, make an indentation in the center of each cookie (be careful not to go all the way through). Bake until slightly colored (pale golden), about 15-18 minutes, rotating the sheet at the mid time point.
- Remove the baking sheets from the oven, and let them cool for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. When it’s cool, dust with confectioners sugar. Repeat baking procedure with all the dough.
- Place the guava paste in a small saucepan and add just a few drops of water to melt the paste to the consistency of jam. Add a few drops of lemon juice to balance the sweetness to taste (optional). You want to fill the cookies while the jam is still warm, so that it sets inside the cookie. Fill the indentations of all cookies with enough warm guava jam to come to the level with the tops. Cool to room temperature.
Tell Me More! is a new series at Kosher Like Me. I’ll be sharing interviews and tidbits with you about Chefs, Cooks and other fascinating folks in the food world. These are people and stories I want to know more about. I think you will, too.
I completely ignored the macaron craze for a few years, even snubbing a certain French biggie when they opened a shop in my neighborhood and the throngs of meringue lovers wound around the block.
So I was caught off guard last spring when I found myself falling for these brightly colored treats. We converged on Paris with a carefully researched eating/tasting/shopping plan. Unbeknownst to me, a certain macaron-loving member of my family made it her business to craft a well researched list of the most notable macaron options in Paris.
How could I not oblige and taste along with her?
I realized I was hooked.
So when E suggested that I meet her at Macaron Cafe on Third Avenue between 46/47 (NYC), a few weeks ago, I took my time reminiscing as I inhaled the flowery and herbal scents and rejoiced in the neatly stacked rows of vibrant colors.
I knew that this cafe was owned by a French couple who bake their macarons here in NYC. Cecile and Arnaud Cannone opened their first location and dream venture four years ago, only one year after arriving in the USA.
Today, they have three locations and a thriving special order and delivery business. They continue to bake all of their own product in the second floor bakery above their original location.
I wanted to know more.
I met Cecile Cannone, French pastry chef and owner of Macaron Cafe, last week over cafe au lait, many delectable bites of heavenly macarons, and her story.
Kosher Like Me: Why are Americans so crazy about French macarons and is there a reverse trend of something traveling from the U.S.A. to Paris?
Cecile Cannone: Our cultures have been fascinated by each other for many years. We will always be linked and we love to explore trends from each other’s countries. While Americans love macarons, the French are very into American cupcakes at the moment. And I suspect that if I shared peanut butter macarons with my French friends in Paris they would love them.
KLM: You received accolades from the Wall Street Journal soon after you opened your first location. And a few months later, Food and Wine Magazine labeled your macarons “Champion Cookie” in 2011. Was that a surprise for you and your partner/husband Arnaud?
CC: We were so busy baking and setting up the business, that we never anticipated any attention being paid to us. As new immigrants, every contract, every bit of business we conducted in English, required more effort. So, when we arrived at our cafe, one morning, to see a line down the street waiting for us to open, we wondered what could have caused the crowd to gather. We were completely surprised and thrilled to find that the crowd had read the WSJ review and wanted to taste our macarons. New Yorkers have been very , very welcoming and kind to us.
KLM: I was surprised to see that you have a kosher certification. What prompted you to seek that?
CC: Our first location is in the garment district and many of our customers are kosher. They wanted a certified product and asked for it. It was not difficult to find kosher ingredients and to honor the requirements.
KLM: What is your most frequently requested flavor?
CC: Pistachio, without a doubt! For pistachio lovers they get intense flavor three ways: the cookie, the filling and the bits of pistachio pressed around the edge.
KLM: What are the most unusual flavors you offer?
CC: all of the flower based flavors! In the south of France, we are accustomed to eating lavender flavored items, for example. Here, our most exotic flavors are honey lavender and rose lichee.
KLM: What makes your macarons stand out among your competitors?
CC: Well, all ingredients are American and we are very proud of that. I bake with my team in NYC. We make all of our own jams and fillings. Our fillings are abundant and the almond: sugar ratio in the cookie is equal, making the cookie very flavorful.
KLM: What is the most unusual event you ever baked for?
CC: We baked 28,000 macarons and wrapped each one individually before sending them off to 280 Ann Taylor retail locations for Mother’s Day last spring. They handed them out to customers, who were totally delighted. Now, that was a lot of work in our small bakery!
KLM: What kinds of desserts do you bake at home?
CC: I bake simple crepes and top them with honey or sugar. For my two boys I bake lemon tarte for one and pear honey tarte for the other.
KLM: Do you order dessert when you eat out in restaurants?
CC: If there is a pastry chef, definitely! I look at the menu backwards and order my dessert before my meal, so I am not disappointed if they run out. Recently, I ordered dessert and ate it with our cocktails at the bar, before dinner.
Many thanks to Cecile for sharing a recipe from her book: Macarons, Authentic French Cookie Recipes from the Macaron Cafe. Watch for it later this week.
Macaron Cafe has three locations in NYC. Their macarons are certified kosher (some are parve), gluten free, and free of trans fats. They are available for delivery in NYC, and may be shipped nationwide. They welcome special orders for events of all sizes.
I love a good walking tour almost as much as a hands-on cooking class. So when Jennifer Abadi sent me her Syrian cooking class schedule along with dates for Context Travel’s “Jewish Cuisine and Culture” walk on the Lower East Side, NYC, I was ready to zip on my warm boots, grab a proper winter hat and prepare for a big nosh fest.
What I found was that having an expert lead me from one culinary landmark to the next, while sharing historical and social history of the neighborhood where my grandparents lived in a tenement upon landing at Ellis Island, left even this knowledgeable New York eater to some thrilling new tidbits to chew on. Continue reading
I’ll admit to feeling a quick flutter of excitement when friends suggest eating together and the expectation is that I chose the “perfect” spot.
I rapidly flip through my mental rolodex, wondering if they want the meal to comfort them or blow them away with offbeat creations? Do they want a hip, cacophonous environment or a conversation friendly dining room?
When I ask these questions, I often get the hand-wave and hopeful “YOU chose”. Continue reading