Kosherfest: Delights With That Special K

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Kosherfest is a Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for those who keep kosher, offering every kind of mouth-watering food imaginable.

Imagine a bigger-than-a-football field Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, where, instead of chocolate, there is every kind of kosher food imaginable.
 
Welcome to the world of Kosherfest 2014! Kosherfest is a kosher food wonderland that takes place every year around the beginning of November. The past few years Kosherfest has taken place at the Meadowlands Convention Center in New Jersey, with vendors from all over the world coming to show the kosher (and non-kosher) consumer their new (and some not so new) exciting kosher products.
 
There were wines from Argentina; plantains from Costa Rica; Zelda’s caramel corn from Chicago; truffle patek from Italy; Guss’ kosher pickles from the Lower East Side of Manhattan; and Bamba snacks from Israel. There were even a few vendors from Philadelphia.
 
Nearly every exhibitor has a sample table so you have to come prepared to spend an entire two days eating. There is so much food that I, like many others, split the sampling into a “dairy” day and a “meat” day so that I wouldn’t miss a single sample. When it was over, I was stuffed!
 
In addition to food exhibits there were also famous kosher cookbook authors introducing and signing their new books, like Leah Schapira (Secret Restaurant Recipes From the World’s Top Kosher Restaurants); Estee Kara (Cooking Inspired); and Chicagoan Lynn Shapiro (Food, Family, and Tradition: Hungarian Kosher Family Recipes and Remembrances), to name a few.
 
My personal method for going through Kosherfest is to go up and down each row talking to each vendor, finding out about the unique attributes of each product, and getting a feel for what makes each sample special. There was a general theme of healthier, better-for-you products.
 
This Kosherfest featured a significant number of gluten-free products. Many of the vendors that generally prepare products for the Passover market have come to realize that there is a huge demand for gluten-free foods and have started to make their goods available year-round. 
 
Some have developed gluten-free baking products like coconut and sesame flours and flour mixes that are touted to work better as a one-to-one substitute for wheat flour — all better alternatives for the gluten-concerned consumer. 
 
There were some definite winners and some products that warrant an honorable mention. Here are my top picks.
 
Philadelphia Purveyors
Burning Bush Hot Sauce (burningbushhotsauce.com) — This hot sauce is awesome on its own as a dip, or added into your favorite foods like soups, pizza, hummus, eggs, burgers, chicken wings or even hot chocolate.
 
RC Fine Foods Soup Bases & Mixes (rcfinefoods.com)— Delicious kosher soup bases that you don’t have to be hesitant to use. Why? Because they are gluten, egg, dairy, and MSG free — but not flavor-free.
 
Kosherfest Top Pics
Guss’ Pickles “Imitated But Never Duplicated” (gusspickle.com) — This old-timer is one of my all-time favorites. It brings back memories of buying Guss’ pickles straight out of the barrel on the Lower East Side of New York. It’s the first booth I always stop at; there’s nothing like a super-sour pickle for breakfast to start your day! 
 
De La Rosa Products “Bringing the ‘Soul’ Back Into Food” (dela­rosa613. com) — It was one of the best “healthy” vendors and I was so impressed by the quality of De La Rosa toasted oil varieties, traditional and black hummus, sesame flours, coconut products, juices,and vinegars that I became the food writer waiting for samples at the end of the show. I wasn’t disappointed! Stay tuned for some exciting sesame flour-black hummus recipes! (www.delarosa613.com)
 
Cheese — It’s hard not to be a fan of my local Chicago “landsmen,” the Oneg & Shtark Cheese Company. Fabulous smoked and spicy cheese blends were my favorites. Kosher cheese used to be limited to your yellow or white American varieties. Fresh mozzarella cheese and other gourmet cheeses were prevalent at the convention. A new company, Milano’s Isaac’s, is a taste straight from Italy! It has no fillers, is gluten-free and delicioso! 
 
Zelda’s Sweet Shop Caramel Corn (zeldas.net) —-Winner of the Best New Sweet Snack, Cookie or Cracker, Zelda’s, run by my friend Linda Neiman, makes the best caramel corn anywhere on the planet. Guests often will bring me a tub when invited for a Shabbat meal, and my family knows I don’t share the caramel corn. Get your own tub!
 
Blends by Orly Gluten Free flour mixes — Winner of the Best New Mix (blendsbyorly.com) — Orly is a professionally trained pastry chef and has developed a line of specialty gluten-free flour mixes to suit every type of baking need at a one to one ratio to regular flour. I have my package of London blend which is perfect for cookies etc. It actually stood up to my chocolate chip cookie test! Now my gluten-free cookies will “Taste as good as they look.”
 
Boneless Wings – GFE 
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsps. salt
2 tsps. pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. coarse garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1⁄2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 eggs
2 cups rice milk
4 boneless chicken breasts, sliced into 1⁄2-inch wide “fingers”
8-12 cups vegetable oil
1⁄2 cup Burning Bush Kosher Hot Sauce (BB)
2 Tbsps. margarine
fresh romaine leaves
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk eggs and rice milk in a small bowl. Preheat 4 to 6 cups of oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat.
 
Dip each piece of chicken in the egg mixture, then into the dry blend. Repeat again to double-coat. Once breaded, refrigerate 15 minutes, then fry each piece 5 to 6 minutes or until golden brown.Remove each piece when done, blot with paper towels, and put in a large bowl.
 
While frying, microwave the margarine and hot sauce for 25 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir to mix thoroughly. 
 
Once the chicken is cooked, pour the sauce over it and gently stir until coated. Serve on a bed of romaine leaves.
 
Serves 4 to 6.
 
Orly’s Apple Bundt Cake – GFE
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 cups granulated white sugar
4 eggs
1⁄4 cup orange juice
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
3 cups Blends by Orly Paris Blend
3 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Filling Ingredients:
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced into small chunks or slices
1⁄2 cup sugar
Preheat the oven to 350˚. Coat a 9-inch bundt pan with oil or butter.
 
In a separate bowl, mix apple chunks and sugar together and let sit for 10 minutes, until the juices of the apples absorb the sugar.
 
In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, mix together the oil and sugar. Add eggs 1 at a time, and then the orange juice and vanilla, and mix together for 2 minutes.
 
In a separate bowl, mix together Paris Blend, baking powder and salt. Add your dry mix into the bowl and mix together until all ingredients are incorporated and form a thick batter, about 3 minutes.
 
Spoon or pipe half of the batter into the prepared bundt pan. Then add a middle layer of the apple mixture by spreading the apples over the batter evenly. Finally, cover the apple layer with the rest of the cake batter. 
 
Bake the cake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
 
You can replace the recipe with blueberries for a delicious blueberry cake.
 
Chicagoan Sharon Matten is a freelance pastry chef, kosher food writer, electrical engineer, wife and mom (not in order of importance!). Find Sharon at: www.koshereveryday.com or email: [email protected].