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Forbidden Foods? Think Again!

December 20, 2007
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Photos by Menachem Adelman and Meir Pliskin
If you think steering clear of dairy means giving up your favorite dishes, then you're in for a delicious surprise.

In her new book -- Levana Cooks Dairy-Free! -- restaurateur, chef and cooking instructor Levana Kirschenbaum offers a collection of recipes made with natural dairy alternatives, such as soy, rice, oat, and almond and coconut milks, that are all significantly leaner than their richer, real-dairy counterparts.

Kirschenbaum addresses the needs of the lactose-intolerant, as well as kosher consumers.

Below is a small sampling of recipes featured in the cookbook.

Cream of Watercress and Asparagus Soup
(Pareve)

1/3 cup olive oil
3 large leeks, white parts and tender green parts, sliced
2 medium onions, quartered
6 medium shallots
10 cups water
1 cup dry white wine
1 large head celery root, grated
2 lbs. asparagus, tough ends discarded, cut into 2-inch sections
salt to taste
8 cups watercress, packed, stems and all (about 3 bunches)
1/4 cup fresh chives
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup tapioca flour, mixed with a little cold water until smooth
pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a heavy pot.

In a food processor, coarsely grind leeks, onions and shallots.

Add the ground mixture to the hot oil and sauté until the mixture is translucent.

Add the water, wine, celery root, asparagus and salt.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the flame to medium and cook, covered, for 30 minutes.

Add the watercress, chives, nutmeg, tapioca mixture and pepper.

Cook just until the watercress wilts, about 2 to 4 minutes. Do not allow the watercress to cook longer, or it will get discolored.

Cream the soup in batches in a blender or with an immersion blender until smooth. If after blending you still have some asparagus strings left in the soup, strain through a medium strainer; this will only take a minute.

Adjust the consistency and seasonings before serving. Also delicious iced.

Serves 12.

Bread-Artichoke-Fennel Casserole
(Pareve)

3 cups soy or other non-dairy milk (rice, grain, oat, almond)
6 eggs
1 cup Tofutti brand cream cheese
6 cups day-old bread cubes, packed
1 large head fennel, sliced very thin
1 large head celery root, grated
4 leeks, white parts only, sliced very thin
1 large onion, sliced thin
1 box (10 oz.) frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped coarsely
6 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch dill, fronds and stems, minced
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs and cream cheese.

Add the bread cubes and combine thoroughly. Add all remaining ingredients and combine.

Pour mixture into a greased 9x13-inch baking dish.

Bake about 35 minutes, until casserole looks golden and puffy.

Serve hot.

Serves 8.

Chicken Tandoori
(Meat)

This Indian grilled chicken dish is usually taboo to dairy-intolerant diners because it contains yogurt, and to kosher diners because it combines dairy and meat items. Making buttermilk by letting soy milk and lemon juice or vinegar curdle allows you to make and enjoy all those previously off-limits food.

1 cup soy milk
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 Tbsps. olive oil
2 Tbsps. curry, a little more if you like it hotter
1/3 cup lemon or lime juice
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium onion, quartered
1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
5 chicken thighs, skin on
5 chicken drumsticks, skin on
3 chicken breasts, split, skin on
pita bread

Combine the soy milk and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice in a large mixing bowl and reserve.

In a food processor, place olive oil, curry, lemon or lime juice, black pepper, onion and ginger. Grind finely. You will obtain a slightly runny paste.

Transfer mixture to a bowl with the reserved soy mixture.

Make 1 or 2 gashes on the skin side of each of the chicken pieces. Add them to the mixing bowl, and thoroughly mix all the ingredients in the bowl. Marinate overnight.

Discard the marinade, and broil the chicken pieces for about 5 minutes on each side, or bake in a preheated 450° oven for about 30 minutes, until golden and tender. The breasts may be ready first, so be prepared to remove them a few minutes sooner.

Serve with pita and Cucumber Raita (recipe below).

Serves 8.

Cucumber 'Raita'
(Pareve)

2 cups soy milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
red-pepper flakes to taste (optional)
3 scallions, sliced very thin (both white and green parts)
1/4 cup finely chopped mint leaves, packed
1-2 Tbsps. sugar
2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded and coarsely grated

Combine the soy milk and lemon juice in a mixing bowl. The mixture will curdle.

Add the salt, ground pepper, red-pepper flakes (if using), scallions, mint, sugar and cucumber.

Mix gently with a spoon, taking care not to extract any moisture from the cucumbers.

Makes about 31/2 cups.

Lamb Moussaka
(Meat)

4 large eggplants, sliced lengthwise 1/3-inch thick
vegetable spray
1/3 cup olive oil
2 large onions, quartered
12 large garlic cloves
1 large bunch flat parsley
1 large bunch mint, leaves only
1 small bunch cilantro, tough stems discarded
3 lbs. lean ground lamb
3 cups crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsps. curry
1 tsp. turmeric
2 tsps. allspice
2 tsps. cinnamon
1 cup Tofutti brand sour cream

Preheat oven to 450°.

Line two cookie sheets with foil. Spray heavily with vegetable spray.

Place the eggplant slices and spray heavily again. Bake 20 minutes, or a little longer, until nicely browned.

Transfer the eggplant to a tray and set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 350°.

To Make the Filling: Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet.

In a food processor, coarsely grind the onion, garlic, parsley, mint and cilantro.

Add the ground mixture to the oil, and sauté 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the lamb, and cook 2 to 3 minutes, breaking up the lamb as you go to make sure it browns evenly. Add the remaining ingredients, and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer.

To Assemble: Spray a 9x13-inch lasagna pan with vegetable spray.

Cover the bottom with a layer of eggplant (use 1/3 of the slices). Top with half the filling.

Top with another third of the eggplant slices. Top with the rest of the filling, and finish off the dish with the remaining slices of eggplant. Spray the whole top of the dish with vegetable spray.

Bake for 35 minutes.

Let the dish rest about 10 minutes before cutting it into squares.

Serve hot.

Makes 10 ample servings.

Fruited Indian Rice Pudding
(Pareve)

3/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
4 cups soy or other nondairy milk (rice, grain, oat, almond)
4 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
1/2 cup golden raisins
grated peel of one orange
2 Tbsps. orange flower water (available at specialty-food stores)
2 good pinches saffron
1 Tbsp. cardamom
good pinch salt

In a heavy, nonreactive pot, whisk the rice and tapioca flours in some of the milk until smooth.

Turn on the heat and add all the remaining ingredients.

Bring to a boil, whisking occasionally.

Reduce the flame to low and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Serve alone or with a scoop of coconut sorbet.

Serves 8.

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