Wholesome Jewish Cooking

Cookbook author Paula Shoyer seems to follow similar guidelines in her new book, The Healthy Jewish Kitchen: Fresh Contemporary Recipes for Every Occasion.

Chocoloate quinoa cake (photo credit: BILL MILNE)
Chocoloate quinoa cake
(photo credit: BILL MILNE)
How do we make Jewish cooking more healthful? Over time, the thinking about this important topic has evolved.
Back in the previous century, when I was writing The Low-fat Jewish Cookbook (1997), the key to healthful cooking was to use a minimal amount of fat. Nutritionists recommended that no more than 30% of the calories in any recipe should come from fat, and this was the principle I followed.
I pondered this question again for my cookbook Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home (2008). By then, the approach to healthful cooking had changed. Following the government’s updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans, instead of dwelling upon ingredients to avoid, I emphasized wholesome foods – a high proportion of vegetables; good fats from plant sources such as nuts and olive oil; good carbs from whole grains, legumes and certain vegetables such as sweet potatoes; good proteins from lean meats such as turkey, from omega-3-rich fish such as salmon and sardines, and from low-fat dairy foods.
Cookbook author Paula Shoyer seems to follow similar guidelines in her new book, The Healthy Jewish Kitchen: Fresh Contemporary Recipes for Every Occasion.
Shoyer uses good fats – avocado oil, canola oil, coconut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil – and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, kasha and whole-wheat pasta. She uses a minimal amount of salt and as little sugar as she can, and avoids sugar substitutes, margarine and processed foods.
In her book Shoyer includes plenty of vegetable recipes and few that use red meat. When making stuffed cabbage, for example, she uses dark-meat turkey and brown rice instead of beef and white rice. To avoid frying, she bakes her chicken schnitzel, and uses a nut coating to give the schnitzel richness. (See recipe.) “Variety is the key to a delicious, nutritious meal,” wrote Shoyer. “First I make sure every dinner plate has a variety of colors and textures. Next, I make sure that we eat both raw and cooked vegetables at every meal.” One of Shoyer’s secrets to staying fit as a chef is: “I eat a lot of salad.”
Shoyer loves to use almond flour for making healthful desserts. “I use this flour a lot in my gluten-free baking and often combine it with potato starch to hold doughs and batters together. I use a coffee grinder to grind whole nuts, as it is cheaper than buying almond flour and tastes fresher. Almond flour is my go-to flour substitute for Passover baking.”
For her chocolate cake, Shoyer uses quinoa instead of flour and enriches the cake with coconut oil. (See recipe.) “The cake is surprisingly moist and delicious,” she wrote.
Faye Levy is the author of Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home.
BAKED SCHNITZEL WITH NUT CRUST
Paula Shoyer recommends making this dish after Passover, when you are likely to have leftover ground nuts in your pantry. It’s also good cold the following day, she wrote.
Serves 4 to 6 (8–10 slices)

910 gr. to 1.2 kg. thin slices chicken breast (cut for schnitzel or scaloppini), about 10 pieces
3 Tbsp. sunflower oil, divided
1 cup (120 gr.) shelled pistachios
1 cup (120 gr.) slivered almonds
½ cup (45 gr.) ground hazelnuts (filberts)
1½ tsp. ground turmeric
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. paprika
2½ tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
2-3 large eggs, as needed to coat all the pieces
1 cup (110 gr.) chickpea flour (or potato starch) Sprigs of Italian parsley, for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 245-250°.
Place 1½ tablespoons oil on each of 2 jelly-roll pans and spread to coat. Place pistachios, almonds and ground hazelnuts in bowl of food processor. Add turmeric, cumin, paprika, ginger, garlic powder, cayenne, salt and black pepper. Process until nuts are reduced to very small pieces but not ground into powder. Place them in a shallow bowl.
Beat 2 eggs well in a shallow bowl. Place chickpea flour in a 4-liter-size freezer bag or a shallow bowl. Cut chicken into as many pieces as you like and, using your fingers, dip each piece into chickpea flour to coat it completely, shaking off excess. Then dip pieces into the beaten eggs and press them into nut mixture to completely coat chicken. Place chicken on a large plate. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water.
Place the oil-coated pans into preheated oven and heat for 5 minutes. When pans are hot, very carefully remove one pan at a time and add chicken, leaving a little room between the pieces so that they don’t touch one another. Bake chicken for 10 minutes. Using tongs, turn pieces over and bake them for another 5 minutes. Rotate pans halfway through cooking time so that each pan has a turn on bottom rack to ensure maximum crunchiness. Serve immediately.
CHOPPED STRING BEANS WITH BASIL AND PINE NUTS
For this dish Shoyer prefers to use very thin green beans. She likes to make it when she is serving a meal with many dishes, because chopped green beans take up less room on the dinner plate than whole ones.
Serves 6 to 8
½ cup (70 gr.) pine nuts
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
680 gr. green beans, trimmed and chopped into 2-cm. pieces
1 to 2 Tbsp. water
¼ tsp. salt or more, to taste
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 cup (40 gr.) basil leaves, sliced chiffonade (stacked and cut in strips)
Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add pine nuts and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned and releasing their aroma. Transfer pine nuts to a small bowl.
Heat olive oil in same pan over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté it for 1 minute, stirring a few times. Raise heat to medium-high, add beans, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add water and cook beans, covered, for another 4 minutes. If they are still not fork-tender, cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper and remove from heat.
When ready to serve, reheat beans and add basil and pine nuts. Add more salt and pepper, if desired.
TZIMMIS PUREE
“Tzimmis, a stew of sweet potatoes, carrots and dried fruit,” wrote Shoyer, “is becoming one of those lost and forgotten jewels of Ashkenazi cuisine.” This version “truly tastes like my usual tzimmis, but is presented more elegantly as a French puree.”
Serves 10 to 12
1 Tbsp. sunflower or safflower oil
1 medium onion, cut into 2.5-cm. pieces
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 kg. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5-cm. cubes
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2.5-cm. chunks
1 cup (200 gr.) dried apricots
½ tsp. grated orange zest (from 1 orange)
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups (480 ml.) water
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook them for 3 to 5 minutes, or until translucent and just starting to color. Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
Add sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots, orange zest, cinnamon stick and water and bring to a boil. Stir mixture, cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until carrots and sweet potatoes are soft. Let mixture cool for 10 minutes, covered.
Remove cinnamon stick. Use either an immersion blender to puree the mixture until it is smooth, or transfer it to a food processor. Taste, and add salt and pepper, if desired.
COQ AU VIN BLANC
If kumquats are out of season, Shoyer uses sliced oranges cut into small triangles, with the peel kept on. “I have also prepared this dish with varying qualities of white wine,” she commented, “always with good results.”
Serves 4 to 6
1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces
3 large shallots, halved and sliced thinly
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced into 6-mm. slices
1 onion, cut into 6-mm. slices
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 head garlic, cloves separated but unpeeled
1 bottle (750 ml.) white wine
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
10 kumquats, each sliced into 4 pieces, or three 8-mm. orange slices, peel intact, cut into 8 triangles
225-280 gr. pearl onions
Preheat oven to 180°. In a large frying pan, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Using tongs, add chicken in batches and brown it well on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Place browned chicken in a 23- x 33-cm. roasting pan.
Reduce heat to medium-low and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to frying pan. Add shallots, leeks and onions and cook them, scraping up the browned bits from the chicken, for about 6 to 8 minutes, until they start to brown. Add salt and pepper and stir.
Scoop shallot, leek, and onion mixture out of pan and place it under chicken pieces in the roasting pan. Do not wash the frying pan. Scatter garlic cloves around chicken. Pour wine on top. Add rosemary and thyme sprigs and sprinkle tarragon over chicken pieces. Place kumquats or orange pieces on chicken. Cover roasting pan tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, add pearl onions, boil them for 2 minutes, then drain. When onions are cool enough to handle, cut off their ends and squeeze them out of their skins. Heat the unwashed frying pan over medium heat and add pearl onions. Cook them for about 5 minutes, shaking pan often, so that the onions brown on all sides.
After chicken has cooked for 1 hour, remove foil and add pearl onions. Cook for another 30 minutes, uncovered, and serve.
CHOCOLATE QUINOA CAKE
This cake, wrote Shoyer, which is flavored with orange juice and vanilla, is great for Passover and all year round.
Serves 12
Cake:
¾ cup (130 gr.) quinoa
1½ cups (360 ml.) water
Cooking spray
2 Tbsp. potato starch
¹⁄3 cup (80 ml.) orange juice (from 1 orange)
4 large eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract (or other vanilla for Passover)
¾ cup (180 ml.) coconut oil
1½ cups (300 gr.) sugar
1 cup (80 gr.) dark unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
55 gr. bittersweet chocolate
Fresh berries, for garnish (optional)
Glaze (optional):
140 gr. bittersweet chocolate
1 Tbsp. sunflower or safflower oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (or other vanilla for Passover)
Cake: Place quinoa and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook quinoa for 15 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed.
Preheat oven to 180°. Use cooking spray to grease a 2.8-liter Bundt pan. Sprinkle the potato starch over the greased pan and then shake pan to remove any excess starch.
Place quinoa in food processor. Add orange juice, eggs, vanilla, oil, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Process until mixture is very smooth.
Melt chocolate over a double boiler, or place in a medium microwave-safe bowl, and put in a microwave for 45 seconds, stirring and then heating chocolate for another 30 seconds, until it is melted. Add chocolate to quinoa batter and process until well mixed. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into cake comes out clean.
Let cake cool for 10 minutes and then remove cake gently from pan. Let it cool on a wire cooling rack.
Glaze: Melt chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl in microwave (see above) or over a double boiler. Add oil and vanilla and whisk well. Let glaze sit for 5 minutes and whisk it again. Use a silicone spatula to spread glaze all over cake.


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