Latest update: January 6th, 2013
Goodbye humdrum. Hello, gorgeous!!
With the release of CHIC Made Simple, an all new cookbook written by food stylist, columnist and recipe developer Esther Deutsch, kosher food continues to blaze new trails, offering sophisticated, appealing recipes that are, (surprise, surprise!) both delicious and deceptively easy to prepare.
As a food editor at Ami Magazine, Mrs. Deutsch, a Flatbush resident, developed a loyal following with her MANNA column, which dazzled readers with recipes that were a cut above their usual fare, but didn’t require endless hours in the kitchen. Fast forward to her debut cookbook CHIC Made Simple, a 384 page volume studded with over two hundred photographs that are so appealing you have be careful not to drool all over the pages.
CHIC Made Simple features over 185 recipes, some original and some reader favorites, with chapters devoted to Appetizers and Sides, Soups, Salads, Poultry, Meat, Fish, Dairy and Desserts. Creativity abounds here from Gefilte Fish Sushi to Balsamic Grilled Peaches with Basil-Pistachio Ice Cream on Cinnamon Skewers to an intriguing recipe for ice bowls, made out of empty half gallon and quart containers.
The Jewish Press: How did someone with no formal culinary training become so intricately involved in cooking and styling food?
Esther Deutsch: Aside from the actual satisfaction I get from cooking, plating and eating, of course, I am a photography enthusiast and would capture my plated dishes on camera. Looking to take things to the next level, I scheduled a session with a professional food photographer to take pictures of my favorite family recipes in order to get my cookbook project going, but with a son and daughter close in age, I put the idea of writing a cookbook on the “back burner.”
Fast forward a couple of years, and while organizing family photos on my hard drive, I came across the food photographs and I thought “what a shame that such beautiful mouthwatering images were left forgotten.” So, I posted them on Facebook, where Rechy Frankfurter, who was then the editor for Mishpacha magazine and is now editor of AMI magazine, stumbled upon them. The rest is history.
The term food stylist didn’t even exist until recently. Why do you think the visual presentation of food has become so important?
ED: The presentation of food will determine whether your dining experience will be an adventure or an just an average eating experience. A few extra seconds devoted to prettying up a plate will whet the appetite. Even if you are preparing a dish for yourself, it is amazing how much more enjoyable your meal will be if your food is nicely displayed. “We eat with our eyes” is an old, but true, cliché. When it comes to food, the more senses you capture, the more enjoyable the eating experience.
How tough is it to come up with things that not only look and taste great, but don’t take forever to prepare?
ED: Raising young children definitely does not offer the luxury of fussing in the kitchen all day. I don’t want to spend an entire Friday cooking in the kitchen, even when we are expecting company, while my children are home. So my main objective is recipes that are quick and easy. When I developed and tested the recipes for CHIC Made Simple, there was a rigorous mental checklist. First and foremost, I would ask myself “Is this fast and easy? Delicious? Beautiful? Will I want to prepare this dish many more times?” If there was a resounding yes to all four questions, I knew it was a keeper.
Is it even feasible to expect today’s women, who are typically working full time and doing it all, to create elegant presentations in addition to turning out incredibly delicious food?
ED: CHIC Made Simple was designed for the busy woman. The recipes are fast, the ingredient lists are short and the dishes only look complicated. In reality, they are a snap to prepare. My approach of “less is more” works best when it comes to cooking and plating food. If you look at cookbooks or magazines from several decades ago you see how food presentation has evolved. In the past food was over styled. The serving pieces were ornate and there were lots of props surrounding the dish. Because life has sped up and become busier, we look for simplicity wherever we can, especially in the kitchen. What people find appealing now is presentation that’s kept simple: all you need is a clean white plate, a simple garnish, and a little TLC in order to produce a well presented dish. It is okay if it isn’t perfect looking; there is beauty in imperfection. There are also so many fabulous inexpensive white plates available and they add lots of visual interest to the dish, while eliminating the need to fuss with the styling.
Do you ever miss the days of PB&J, Grilled Cheese, Franks and Beans and Macaroni and Cheese, when Swiss Fudge Cookies were considered a seriously good dessert?
ED: We still have those days. My children are picky eaters and they prefer many of the same comfort foods that other kids enjoy. During the week, I try not to introduce new dishes more than twice a week so that they enjoy a nice balance of familiar foods and new cuisine. I save most of my experimentation with new dishes for Shabbos meals. My idea of gourmet food? A well prepared tuna sandwich.
Leafing through CHIC Made Simple, everything looks both gorgeous and delectable, but a little intimidating. Are these recipes are really fast to prepare and present?
ED: The recipes and presentation are much like that woman who is wearing the dress from H&M but you are convinced she is wearing haute couture. The recipes only look intimidating, but they are easier than easy. You won’t believe it until you try them for yourself.
While certain ingredients look very intriguing, but I don’t know that I have ever seen them with kosher certification. Sriracha sauce? Pomegranate molasses? Where do you find these with a hechsher?
ED: To truly label a recipe quick and easy, the shopping list must be taken in consideration as well. The recipes in CHIC only call for ordinary ingredient and most of the recipes use ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. Sriracha sauce has become a staple in most supermarkets and one bottle will last you awhile. And yes, there is one recipe in the book that calls for pomegranate molasses, which can be found in some supermarkets.
CHIC Made Simple is published by Feldheim and is available online and in Judaica stores everywhere. Trust me when I tell you this is one cookbook you don’t want to miss!
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Filet Mignon au Poivre
This savory dish may serve as a midweek dinner or you can save it for your Friday night menu. If you’re serving this dish alongside other main-course dishes, the portion sizes can be cut in half. If preparing this in advance, you can reheat it, uncovered, in an oven set to 175° F for no more than two hours.
Filet mignon, prized for its melt -in- the-mouth texture, is considered a kosher cut, even though it is located near the sciatic nerve. According to kosher dietary laws, it’s forbidden to eat the sciatic nerve, so it requires a very experienced butcher to separate the sciatic nerve from the filet mignon. For this reason, filet mignon is hard to obtain. If you can’t get kosher filet mignon, club steak and rib eye resemble the flavor of the well-marbled filet mignon in taste. Both of these cuts of meat work in this recipe; your butcher might even be labeling them “filet mignon.”
For this recipe, I use port as the wine of choice because of its rich color, but cognac and madeira both work well, too.
4 round-cut filet mignon steaks (6 oz. each)
* Kosher salt
* Fresh black pepper
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp. oil
7 Tbsp. shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup port wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs tarragon
3 Tbsp. trans-fat-free margarine
1. Season the steaks with the salt and black pepper to taste, then sprinkle with the Worcestershire sauce. In a sauté pan, heat the oil over high heat. Sear the steaks in the oil until medium-rare or they reach the desired level of doneness, about 4–5 minutes per side. Remove the steaks from the pan.
2. To prepare the sauce: Add the shallots and garlic to the pan in which the steaks were pan-seared and sauté briefly, about 5 minutes. Leaning away from the stove, add the port, madeira, or cognac and cook for a few seconds. Add the chicken stock, mustard, thyme, and tarragon and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to scrape up all the drippings. Reduce the heat to medium–high and continue to cook until the liquid is thickened and reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove the sprigs of thyme and tarragon. Add the margarine and stir until incorporated.
3. Pour the sauce over the steaks and serve warm. Serves 4.
* * * * *
Sweet Gefilte Fish with Caramelized Tomatoes,
Mushrooms, and Onions
If the concept of a gefilte fish craving sounds foreign to you, well, that’s about to change. At Toby E.’s house we’re always served a glorious amount of fabulous food (which leaves me with a glorious amount of inspiration). This is one of Toby’s recipes, and it’s the kind of recipe that travels fast. You’ll see…
Note: If the frozen gefilte fish loaf is wrapped in parchment paper, let the fish thaw slightly. It will be easier to remove the paper before baking.
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
10 oz. white button mushrooms, quartered
2 Tbsp. oil
1/3-½ cup sugar, to taste
Pinch of white pepper
1 loaf (20 oz.) gefilte fish
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a 9×13-inch baking pan, combine the onion, tomatoes, mushrooms, oil, sugar, and salt. Roast, uncovered, until caramelized, 30–40 minutes.
2. Remove the pan from the oven and stir the roasted vegetables to combine. Add the gefilte fish loaf to the pan and bake, covered, for 1 hour and 30 minutes longer. Serve the gefilte fish warm, topped with the vegetables. Serves 6–8.
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Healthy Moist Carrot Orange Muffins
These muffins contain the sweet goodness of freshly grated carrots, unlike so many other carrot muffin recipes that call for a jar of baby food—which imparts a slight bitterness to the muffins. Grating the carrots does require a bit more effort, but it is well worth it! When your children insist on ice cream, or sweets for breakfast, these carrot muffins may work as a reasonable substitute for satisfying a sweet tooth. Keep the muffins tightly covered to maintain moistness.
Tip: It’s best to bake these muffins directly in a muffin pan. Using disposable cupcake holders will not yield uniform looking muffins.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 lb (16 oz. bag) fresh carrots, finely grated
1 cup sugar or sugar substitute
¾ cup canola oil
¼ cup orange juice, fresh or bottled
1 orange, zested (optional)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the flours, carrots, sugar, oil, orange juice, orange zest, eggs, lemon juice, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and salt until well combined, about 1 – 2 minutes. Pour the batter into a 12 generously greased muffin tin (or 2 greased disposable muffin tins), filling the cups 2/3 full.
2. Bake for 22 – 25 minutes until the center tests clean with a toothpick. Do not over bake. Allow to cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for maximum freshness.
Yields: 12 muffins
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Warm Deep-Dish Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie Torte
Shoshana treated my family to the most incredible chocolate chip cookies…and the recipe! The original recipe called for shortening, but because the ingredients are so well balanced, it doesn’t miss a beat with oil. I’m convinced this is the best chocolate chip cookie recipe I’ve ever tasted. But how do you transform an already great chocolate chip cookie into a full-blown dessert? Make it an inch and a half thick, of course. And…serve it with ice cream.
Note: This recipe yields two 9-inch round cakes. You can serve the second one as a breakfast cake.
2 cups oil
1 cup sugar
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 pkg. (10 oz.) chocolate chips
*Store-bought vanilla ice cream
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the oil, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, eggs, flour, baking powder, and salt on medium speed until well combined, about 2–3 minutes. Add the chocolate chips and combine.
2. Pour the batter into two 9-inch round baking pans and bake, uncovered,
for 55–60 minutes. Serve the torte warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.
3. To reheat, warm the torte, tightly covered, in a preheated 200° F oven for no longer than 1 hour. Serves 16.
About the Author: Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who writes for numerous websites, newspapers, magazines and many private clients. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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