The Modern Kosher Kitchen's 10 Commandments
Ronnie Fein's new book offers 125 recipes to the kosher cook who's interested in stylish presentation and contemporary ingredients.
Over the years of creating recipes, I’ve also learned lots of time-saving and cleanup tips, an understanding of ingredients and a sense of what is important about why I cook. Here is a rundown of my top ten … well, not quite commandments exactly, but pieces of good advice:
1. Save everything edible. That leftover cooked corn cob can be shucked for salad. Potato skins can make delish hors d’oeuvre, and there’s a recipe in The Modern Kosher Kitchen. Cheese that’s dried out at the edges is ideal for macaroni and cheese. Bones for soup.
2. Don’t be afraid to make reasonable substitutions and changes to create your own new recipes. Like using plain Greek yogurt instead of dairy sour cream for quickbreads. Waffles in place of bread for paninis – here’s another recipe from my new book. Cooked whole grains are more interesting than rice in soups and salads.
3. Prepare as much as you can ahead of time and keep the ingredients separate, in small prep bowls or plates. In the recipe for Kamut, Corn and Tomato Salad, for example: Cook the grain hours ahead and cut the tomatoes, zucchini etc. Cover the bowls. All you have to do it put it all together at the last minute.
4. Use a serrated knife for bread and a smaller serrated knife for tomatoes. They really are useful, and not just an extra knife the manufacturer is trying to get you to buy. Serration prevents tearing the bread and tomato flesh.
5. Eggs are easier to separate when they are cold, but whip up better when they’re at room temperature. When making a meringue, separate the whites and yolks about 30-45 minutes ahead of when you need to use them for cooking.
6. Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet. They don’t need much – if any – extra sweetening. Instead of adding gobs of high-calorie sugar, cook the potatoes and mash the flesh with “sweet” ingredients such as orange peel, cinnamon, applesauce and so on. You can also save fat calories by fluffing the sweet potatoes with items such as orange juice or apple cider instead of butter or margarine.
7. Roast beets to bring out their intense, sweet flavor. Don’t peel them first – the skins are easier to get off once the beets are cooked. Also, it’s a good idea to use disposable gloves when peeling beets.
8. Thin kosher meat cuts such as skirt steak taste particularly salty. You can soak them in water for about 30 minutes before using for a recipe, to help get rid of some of the salt.
9. Consider smoked salmon end cuts. Many stores sell these, and they are much cheaper than sliced smoked salmon and are absolutely just as good in recipes where you need the fish chopped, like frittatas, dips and so on.
10. Don’t be afraid to make a new recipe for company. Most likely you’ll be serving plenty of food, and no one will go hungry if the dish isn’t perfect. Plus, you will get everyone in your corner and in good spirits, just for trying.
For example, you could make chicken-fried mushrooms for brunch. Your guests would love you. It's my vegetarian riff on chicken-fried steak, a popular dish in the South, which is itself is a riff on Southern fried chicken, only it’s made with beef. My dish is made with seasoned and floured “meaty” Portobello mushrooms cooked to golden brown, crunchy-crusted goodness.