Cooking Class: Fast and Easy

For a pre-Yom Kippur menu, I make certain to select dishes that are simple, light and not too pungent or salty or sweet.

Chocolate crunch cake (photo credit: Meir Pliskin)
Chocolate crunch cake
(photo credit: Meir Pliskin)
The following dishes are all excerpted from my latest cookbook, The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen: Glorious Meals Pure and Simple. Just like every recipe in the book (more than 400), they clearly express my mind-set and the guidelines I strive to impart to my readers: If the three golden rules in real estate are location, location, location, mine are streamline, streamline, streamline.
Streamline the costs; streamline the steps; streamline the number of tools and utensils.
Above all, there’s one thing that will afford you all this streamlining deliciously, painlessly and effortlessly and, of course beautifully – use only the best. That is, use the real thing. While food shopping and cooking, hum to yourself, as I do, Marvin Gaye’s immortal song “Ain’t nothing like the real thing.”
Your house will fill with the heady fragrance of the lemons and herbs. This is a snap to make. Even the individual roll variation I am including is much simpler than it looks and will make you look like a pro with just a few more minutes’ work.
✔ 1 side salmon, skinless and boneless, about 1.8 kg., trimmed ✔ 3 Tbsp. olive oil ✔ Juice and zest of 2 lemons ✔ 1 bunch flat parsley ✔ Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste ✔ A handful of fresh herbs of your choice: thyme, basil, rosemary, tarragon, chervil, etc. (no more than 2 kinds), leaves only ✔ 6 large cloves garlic
Preheat the oven to 220º. Place all the ingredients except the salmon in a food processor and grind until you obtain a smooth paste. Rub the salmon in this paste, using it all up. Place the salmon in a pan just large enough to contain it (if you have empty spaces, the liquids will burn).
Roast 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish with lemon slices and chopped herbs.
Variation: Herbed salmon medallions Preheat the oven to 220º. Cut the salmon into 10 strips, reserving the tail end for another use. Cut each strip through its thickness, leaving them attached at one end: You will get long, thin strips. Rub each strip with the paste, then roll tightly and secure with toothpicks. You will get neat little cylinders (medallions). Place the medallions in a pan just large enough to contain them. Roast 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish with lemon slices and chopped herbs.
Steaming is an easy and super-nutritious way to cook, and bamboo steamers are a wonderful thing: They sit snugly in a skillet and have compartments that pile on top of one another, which allows you to place the longest-cooking item (tofu, fish, chicken, beef) in the bottom layer and the quicker-cooking items (snow peas, baby bok choy, nappa, sprouts, etc.) on the topmost layer, with everything else in between (medium layers for carrots, string beans, mushrooms, celery, squash, etc.). I have built my steamer “real estate” to several stories, piling those layers nice and high.
It’s such a fun and quick way to cook. My trick is that at the end of cooking, I reduce the bottom cooking liquids and add some miso paste and get a wonderful sauce, which I pour over the finished dish.
✔ 2 cups water ✔ 1⁄2 cup sake ✔ 1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger ✔ 1 stalk lemongrass, minced ✔ 2 Tbsp. bottled hot sauce ✔ 1⁄4 cup toasted sesame oil ✔ 8 chicken cutlets ✔ 450 gr. shiitake mushrooms, caps only, sliced ✔ 8 baby bok choy, split lengthwise ✔ 1 bunch scallions, sliced very thin ✔ 1⁄3 cup white miso paste (dark, if you prefer a more intense flavor)
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Click for more JPost High Holy Day features
Put the water, sake, ginger, lemongrass, hot sauce and oil in a wok or pan large enough to accommodate your steamer and bring to a boil. Reduce the flame to medium. Line the first part of the steamer with the cutlets and place it in the pan.
Place another steamer layer on top of the first and place the mushrooms in it. Place a third steamer layer on top of the second, place the bok choy in, and cover.
Cook 15 minutes. Transfer the vegetables and cutlets to a platter. Add the miso paste to the cooking liquids in the bottom pan, whisking until smooth, and cook 2 to 3 more minutes, and then pour it over the dish. Serve hot.
Note: Substitute firm fish fillets (e.g., tilapia, bass or salmon), tofu or thin beef strips for the chicken and proceed as above.
With this dish, I am doing nothing more than grouping the vegetables many of us wouldn’t imagine eating raw. The result is a real triumph, so get ready to adopt them wholeheartedly into the family.
You would enjoy beets and turnips much more often, even raw, if you grated them very fine in a food processor. The salad will keep well for a few days.
✔ 1 bunch kale, tough stems removed, leaves cut into very thin ribbons ✔ 1 large beet, grated very fine (food processor fine shredding blade) ✔ 6 scallions, sliced very thin ✔ 1⁄4 cup hijiki or other seaweed: wakame, arame, etc. (health-food or Asian stores), soaked in hot water to cover ✔ 1⁄2 cup sesame or other seeds (chia, flax etc.), toasted ✔ 1 cup Chinese green tea dressing (see below) Place all salad ingredients in a mixing bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Store refrigerated in glass jars.
 • Substitute other greens for the kale – mustard, collard, turnip, spinach, even cabbage.
• Substitute carrots or zucchini for the beet.
• Throw in diced avocado.
• Throw in some sprouts.
• Throw in some chopped toasted cashews or peanuts.
• Use any other kind of seaweed – nori, kelp, wakame, arame, etc.
• Throw in some cooked lentils, brown rice, thawed frozen corn kernels or any grain you have on hand and turn it into a complete main course.
✔ 1 5cm. fresh ginger, peeled ✔ 1⁄2 cup sesame oil ✔ 1⁄2 cup strong green tea (decaf is OK) ✔ 2 Tbsp. honey, agave or maple syrup ✔ 1⁄3 cup soy sauce ✔ 1⁄3 cup apple cider vinegar or brown rice vinegar ✔ dash of bottled hot sauce to taste
Grind ginger finely in food processor. Add all remaining ingredients and process until smooth Store refrigerated in a glass jar.
I developed this wonderful recipe to accommodate kosher diners after a meat meal, as well as dairy-intolerant diners.
Although it is delicious as is, feel free to substitute dairy ice cream for the sorbet, keeping the color scheme monochromatic: vanilla, coffee, chocolate. I tried with a red layer (berry) but found it disrupted the earthy color and flavor theme.
Crust: ✔ 4 cups crisp rice cereal ✔ 2 Tbsp. instant coffee powder, diluted in a few drops of water ✔ 1 cup unsweetened grated coconut, packed ✔ 1⁄2 cup pure cocoa powder ✔ 1⁄2 cup agave or maple syrup ✔ 3 cups coconut sorbet (first sorbet layer)
Cake layer: ✔ 1 store-bought sponge cake, good quality, sliced 1 cm. thick ✔ 1⁄2 cup agave or maple syrup ✔ 3 cups coconut sorbet (second sorbet layer)
Top layer: ✔ 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips ✔ 1⁄2 cup coconut milk ✔ 1 Tbsp. agave or maple syrup ✔ 2 Tbsp. oil ✔ 1⁄4 cup white or dark rum (don’t skimp: this is what will keep the top layer from freezing solid)
Mix the crust ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. Press the mixture firmly into a 25- cm. spring form pan. Spread the sorbet (first layer) over the crust. Spread the cake slices over the sorbet, compacting it, making sure you cover the whole surface. Pour the agave syrup slowly and evenly over the cake. Spread the sorbet (second layer) evenly over the cake. Place the cake in the freezer 2 to 3 hours to firm up.
To make the top layer: Melt all top-layer ingredients over a very low flame (or microwave 1 to 2 minutes). Whisk the mixture until smooth and let it cool a few minutes, then pour evenly over the cake.
Cover the cake tightly with plastic wrap and return to the freezer. Freeze the cake 8 hours or more. Take out the cake a few minutes before serving, then cut in wedges.