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Kosher, Healthy: What Could Be Bad?

March 20, 2008
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Thanks to the ever-increasing number of kosher products now available to home cooks, it's never been easier or more satisfying to prepare delicious, wholesome and healthful kosher meals.

In Healthy Cooking for Jewish Living, just out this year, author Faye Levy presents a progressive, upbeat approach to nutritious kosher cuisine highlighting the pleasure of preparing and eating mouthwatering dishes that promote well-being.

Kosher foods are being used more and more in American homes, and their abundance and diversity are increasing at an impressive rate. From the traditional to the exotic, from extra-virgin olive oil to tasty cheeses, from spicy condiments to Asian-style sauce, from Latin flavors to Indian, Levy introduces both novice and seasoned cooks to a grand array of international ingredients.

With a focus on foods with substantial health benefits -- nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables -- Levy, the lead cooking columnist for The Jerusalem Post and author of more than 20 cookbooks, revamps old favorites, turning them into updated wholesome creations.

Whether you're cooking for yourself and your family any day of the week, or preparing a holiday feast for friends and relatives, Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home is bound to satisfy.

Here is a small selection of recipes.

Lox, Eggs and Spinach Burritos

(Pareve/Dairy)

11/4 bunch of spinach (3/4 to 1 lb.), stems discarded, leaves rinsed well, or 1 bag (10 oz.) of cleaned spinach leaves
3 Tbsps. olive oil or vegetable oil, or 2 Tbsps. oil and 1 Tbsp. butter
1 cup chopped onion
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tortillas, preferably whole grain
6 eggs, or 4 eggs and 3 egg whites
3/4 cup finely diced or thin strips of lox or smoked salmon

Add spinach to a saucepan of boiling salted water and boil, uncovered, over high heat for 2 minutes or until just tender.

Drain in a colander, rinse with cold water, and drain well.

Squeeze spinach by the handfuls to remove as much liquid as possible. Chop well-drained spinach fine with a knife.

Heat 11/2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy nonstick skillet.

Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, for 7 minutes, or until tender and light golden. Remove half of the onion and reserve for mixing with eggs.

Add the spinach to the pan, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and heat through. Transfer mixture to a bowl and keep warm. Wipe the skillet clean.

Warm tortillas in microwave or in a steamer; cover and keep warm.

In a bowl, beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat the remaining 11/2 tablespoons of oil (or 1 tablespoon of butter with 1/2 tablespoon of oil) in skillet. Add the egg mixture to the skillet and scramble over low heat, stirring often, until eggs are set to your taste.

Remove from heat, and gently stir in lox. Spoon spinach onto tortillas, top with scrambled egg mixture and roll up tortillas.

Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Mushroom-Mozzarella Crostini

(Dairy)

6-8 oz. mushrooms, rinsed, patted dry
2-3 tsps. extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. chopped basil
cayenne pepper
12 thin slices of whole-grain baguette
12 thin slices of fresh mozzarella
12 small basil leaves (optional)

Chop mushrooms in a food processor in fine pieces until they are almost a purée.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a medium skillet. Add garlic and sauté over medium heat, stirring, for a few seconds.

Add mushrooms, salt and pepper.

Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for 3 minutes or until mixture is dry. Off heat, stir in chopped basil. Add cayenne to taste; taste and adjust seasoning.

Preheat broiler with the rack about 5 inches from heat source. Toast bread about 2 minutes per side or until lightly browned. Turn off broiler; set oven at 450°.

Put toasted bread slices on a baking sheet. Spread them with mushroom mixture and top with mozzarella. Return to oven and heat just until warm, for about 3 minutes.

Drizzle with olive oil if you like. Top each with a basil leaf, if desired, and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutty Sole

(Pareve)

3/4 cup almonds, macadamia nuts or pecans
1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
2 eggs or egg whites
1 to 11/4 lbs. sole fillets
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-4 Tbsps. canola or grapeseed oil
lemon wedges for serving

Preheat oven to 400° with a rack in upper third of oven.

Finely grind almonds in a food processor, stopping often to scrape down mixture so that nuts won't become pasty. Transfer to a shallow bowl.

Spread flour in a large plate.

Beat eggs in another shallow bowl.

Sprinkle a fish piece with salt and pepper, and lightly coat it with flour on both sides, tapping to remove excess flour.

Dip fish piece in eggs.

Then dip fish in nuts to coat it, pressing lightly so nuts adhere; handle fish lightly. Repeat with remaining pieces. Set them side by side on a large plate.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy, large skillet over medium heat. Add enough fish to make one layer. Sauté on one side only for 1 minute. Transfer fish to a baking dish in one layer.

Continue with the remaining fish, adding oil to pan if needed.

Bake in upper third of oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until fish is cooked through.

Serve hot with lemon wedges.

Makes 4 servings.

Kosher Tandoori Chicken

(Meat)

2 lbs. kosher chicken pieces
1/4 onion, peeled
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped ginger
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsps. canola oil or other vegetable oil
2 tsps. paprika
11/2 tsps. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves

Remove skin from chicken.

Combine the onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor. Process until finely chopped.

Add the lemon juice, oil, paprika, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon and cloves. Process until combined.

Put the chicken in a shallow bowl. Add marinade and rub it all over chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 400°.

Set chicken and its marinade in a heavy roasting pan. Cover and roast for 20 minutes. Uncover, and continue roasting for 20 to 30 minutes, checking chicken occasionally and covering it again if it browns too fast.

When done, juice should come out clear when a skewer is inserted into the thickest part of the meat; if juices are pink, continue roasting for a few more minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

Sephardi Rice With Beef and Cabbage

(Meat/Pareve)

21/2 to 3 Tbsps. olive oil
2 onions, chopped
12 oz. extra-lean ground beef, ground turkey or soy ground "meat"
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1/2 small head cabbage (about 1/2 lb.), shredded (4 to 5 cups)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes, with their liquid
31/4 to 31/2 cups hot beef, chicken or vegetable broth, or water
11/2 cups long-grain brown rice
1 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Heat 11/2 to 2 tablespoons of oil in a deep sauté pan.

Add the onions and sauté over medium heat for 7 minutes, or until softened.

Add the meat (or soy "meat"), cinnamon and nutmeg, and sauté, stirring to separate meat into small pieces, until it changes color.

Add the cabbage, salt and pepper and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring often.

Add the tomatoes and 1/4 cup broth, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until meat and cabbage are tender, adding a few tablespoons of broth from time to time if mixture becomes too thick.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a stew pan.

Add the rice and cook over medium-low heat, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until rice is evenly coated and lightly toasted.

Add 3 cups of broth, salt and pepper. Stir once and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over a low heat, without stirring, for 25 minutes.

Add the cabbage mixture to the pan of rice, without stirring. Bring to a simmer. Add a few tablespoons of broth or water if mixture is dry.

Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, or until rice is tender.

Let stand, covered for 5 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork, mixing gently with remaining ingredients.

Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more nutmeg if you like.

Serve hot, sprinkled with parsley.

Makes about 6 servings.

Turkish Carrots With Walnuts and Yogurt Garlic Dressing

(Dairy)

2 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 cups coarsely grated carrots
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed and very finely chopped
1 to 11/3 cups yogurt, or 1/4 cup labneh and 1 cup yogurt
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise, preferably low-fat
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
salt
2 Tbsps. whole or coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

Heat oil in a medium skillet.

Add the carrots and cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 5 to 7 minutes or until tender.

Transfer mixture to a bowl and let cool.

In a small bowl, mix the garlic, yogurt, mayonnaise, half the walnuts and salt to taste. Mix well. If the dressing is too thick, gradually stir in 1 or 2 tablespoons cold water.

Gently fold dressing into carrots. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve cold or at room temperature, garnished with remaining walnuts and parsley.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

Ricotta Noodle Kugel With Caramelized Onions

(Dairy)

3 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
3 large onions, halved and sliced thin
7-8 oz. whole-wheat noodles, either medium or wide
salt
3/4 cup low-fat ricotta
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream or plain yogurt
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
freshly ground black pepper
cayenne pepper
2 large eggs or equivalent in egg substitute, or 1 egg plus 2 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350°.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet.

Add the onions and cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 5 minutes.

Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of paprika.

Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, for 15 minutes, or until onions are tender and golden-brown. Add water by tablespoons if pan becomes dry. If onions are tender but not brown, uncover them and sauté over medium-high heat, stirring, to brown them.

Add the noodles to a large saucepan of boiling salted water and boil, uncovered, over high heat for 5 minutes. They should be nearly tender but firmer than usual. Drain, rinse noodles with cold water, and drain again.

Transfer noodles to a large bowl. Add onions and toss with noodles. Add the ricotta, sour cream and half of the pecans; mix well. Season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne.

Beat eggs, and add them to the noodle mixture. Mix well.

Lightly oil a 6- to 8-cup baking dish and add the noodle mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of oil, then with remaining pecans, and dust lightly with the remaining paprika.

Bake uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until set; if top appears to be browning too quickly, cover and continue baking.

Serve from baking dish.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Corn-and-Rice Pudding

(Pareve)

3/4 cup rice, preferably short-grain rice
21/2 to 3 cups soy milk
pinch of salt
1/2 cup canned coconut milk, preferably light, or additional soy milk
1 cup frozen or canned corn
1/3 cup sugar, or half sugar and half non-caloric sweetener
coconut extract to taste (optional, if not using coconut milk)
toasted, grated coconut or toasted slivered almonds (optional)

Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan and add rice. Boil, uncovered, for 7 minutes; drain well.

Bring 21/2 cups soy milk to a boil in same saucepan. Add rice and salt. Return to a simmer.

Stir in the coconut milk.

Cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes.

Add the corn and bring to a simmer, stirring. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until rice and corn are very soft and absorb the milk. If they absorb the milk before becoming soft, gradually add a few more tablespoons soy milk or water and continue to cook. Pudding should be creamy, not soupy and not dry.

Stir in the sugar and cook over low heat for 1 minute, stirring; if using sweetener that is sensitive to heat, add it off heat.

Taste and add more sugar, if needed, and coconut extract, if using.

Serve warm, sprinkled, if desired, with toasted coconut.

Makes 4 servings.

Sesame Sundae With Halvah, Date Syrup and Fresh Figs

(Dairy/Pareve)

4 oz. sesame halvah, plain or pistachio
4 fresh figs, quartered
1 orange, peeled and cut into segments
1 banana, sliced
1 pint light vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt
1/4 to 1/2 cup date, carob, chocolate or strawberry syrup
2 tsps. toasted sesame seeds or toasted slivered almonds

Put halvah in a bowl and use a spoon to divide it into small chunks of 1/2 to 1 teaspoon each. Don't worry if it crumbles.

Mix the quartered figs, orange segments and banana slices in another bowl.

At serving time, scoop some ice-cream or frozen yogurt into 4 dessert dishes or sundae glasses.

Spoon the fruit and halvah around edges of dish, and pour a little syrup over the ice cream or yogurt.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Serve immediately with more syrup on the side.

Makes 4 servings.

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