It’s hard to imagine anyone taking a more circuitous route to her current occupation than Toronto resident Estee Kafra. The author of three highly-acclaimed cookbooks, who has worked for two Jewish magazines and who currently edits a kosher cooking website, Estee Kafra’s odyssey to kitchen queen began with, drum roll please, a photography class.
“I was living in Israel and had just had my second child and I decided I wanted to do something,” explained Estee. “I needed a creative outlet so I went to photography school.”
While Estee started with children’s photography, an opportunity to photograph food soon presented itself, followed by freelance work until Estee was finally offered the position of food editor at Binah Magazine.
As for her cooking experience, Estee admits that while her mother was a seasoned cook, her kitchen skills were initially rather limited, to say the least.
“I couldn’t boil an egg when I got married, but I learned quickly in Israel when we would have ten boys as Shabbos guests every week,” said Estee. “Experience is always the best teacher and I learned on the job.”
Clearly Estee was a star student – her first two cookbooks, Spice it Right and Cooking with Color were both highly acclaimed.
Estee went on to serve as the food editor for Mishpacha Magazine and is now the editor of Kosher Scoop, which evolved out of Mishpacha’s own food magazine, titled Kosher Inspired.
“It is the same writers and the same content, only published online,” said Estee.
While there are those who prefer holding a printed recipe in their hands, Estee has found that a cooking website has many advantages. Aside from the obvious cost factor and the ability to fix the rare mistakes, websites have a far greater ability to offer feedback.
“Sometimes you get feedback immediately, and you can see how many people like which recipe. I like that particular aspect much better than in print,” said Estee.
Since its launch two years ago, Kosher Scoop has become a destination unto itself, with over 1,000 recipes on the site from Estee and other well-known kosher food writers, including Levana Kirschenbaum, Paula Shoyer, Alexandra Zohn, Norene Gilletz, Chaia Frishman and Daphna Rabinovitch, among others. The site also incorporates several blogs offering everything from advice on food allergies and articles from Rabbi Tsvi Heber, director of community kosher for the Toronto-based Kashruth Council of Canada, to Shabbos recipes, and a contest and giveaway section. Subscribers to the site receive a newsy email every Wednesday, highlighting some of Kosher Scoop’s newest culinary creations.
As always, there are plans to expand the scope of Kosher Scoop and Estee hopes to add a shopping section to the site in the coming months.
“We have already identified some very cool stuff, the kinds of items that I like that aren’t readily available,” explained the mother of six.
Estee’s latest gastronomic offering is an all-new kosher cookbook, appropriately titled Kosher Inspired, and she describes the book as a reflection of the site, but loaded with new material. With tantalizing photographs, most taken by Estee herself, Kosher Inspired is a multifaceted book that is equal parts recipes, flashes of insight and magnificent pictures. Word of warning: don’t read this book when you are hungry, because you will find yourself drooling all over the pages and you don’t want to get saliva all over your brand new cookbook.
In an unusual twist, the recipes are marked by season, giving readers the ability to know when produce items are at their most flavorful. Gluten-free and Passover-friendly recipes are clearly marked with the notations GF and P, respectively, and each of the sections has its own inspiration which includes community, roots, family and the five senses, among others.
Flipping through the 300-plus page volume, I took a few scraps of paper from my desk and used them to mark the recipes I wanted to highlight, but it wasn’t long before I was out of paper and had to resort to using anything at hand as page markers. By the time I was done, my copy of Kosher Inspired was littered with expired coupons, receipts and the tags I had just taken off my new sweater.
So many recipes called to me. Honey Quinoa Rolls made with both white and whole wheat flour as well as quinoa and oats, Curried Cauliflower and Apricot Soup with white wine and cumin and a Sweet and Salty Salad that combined sweet potatoes, maple syrup, fresh spinach, feta cheese, pecans and Montreal Steak Seasoning. Was that my stomach that just grumbled or was it yours?
Classic Beef Lasagna, with spinach and ground veal is something I have wanted to experiment with on my own for years. Fried Cous Cous Cakes are an interesting twist on latkes just begging to come to life in my kitchen and Roasted Radishes, which according to Estee mellows the taste of radishes into something really special, is just too bizarre not to try. (Note to self: don’t tell kids when we are having that one or they will all find an excuse to get invited out for that meal.)
While Kosher Inspired does have a variety of bundt cakes, the one that called my name was the Jubilant Jelly Doughnut Bundt Cake. I’m hoping that if I leave Kosher Inspired out on a kitchen counter open to this recipe, my daughter will graciously volunteer to make it for me. Decadent Halva Ice Cream Cake marks the first time I have ever seen techina used as a cake ingredient and They’ll Never Know Brownies is so intriguing, given that it substitutes pureed canned chick peas for flour.
With over 200 creative recipes from Estee and several others, Kosher Inspired will leave you not only itching to get into your kitchen and start cooking but also stirred, motivated, encouraged and, you guessed it, inspired.
For more of Estee’s tantalizing recipes and to enjoy the full Kosher Scoop experience, visit the site at www.KosherScoop.com.
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Braised Lemon Chicken With Herbs
6 chicken leg quarters
¾ cup flour
2 tbsp oil
1 Spanish onion finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine (semisweet or sweet)
1 juice of lemon
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1¼ cups chicken broth
1 ½ tsp dried thyme, crushed
1 tsp dried basil, crushed
½ tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees – coat the chicken legs with the flour.
Heat oil in a large ovenproof pan or shallow pot with a lid, on medium to high heat.
Add chicken in single layer and sear on both dies, for about 5 minutes on each side (you may need to do in batches). Remove chicken and set aside.
Add 1 tsp of oil to the same pan, and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add the wine and let cook until reduced by half. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for about 5 minutes until flavors are melded. Add the chicken into the sauce, spoon sauce over to cover, and cover pan, and bring to a boil.
Place pan in a preheated oven, and bake for 1½ hours. Serve with sauce.
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Easy “Meatball” Soup
What a great dinner idea! Low in fat, super tasty and so simple to make. The turkey balls freeze well for advance preparation. If you prefer, the turkey can easily be interchanged with lean ground chicken.
2 lb lean ground turkey
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp ketchup
¼ cup breadcrumbs (I prefer flavored)
2 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 small onion, grated
½ tsp Kosher salt, or to taste
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Ingredients for Soup:
3 cups chicken broth
4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
4 stalks celery, cut into chunks
1 onion, quartered
½ tsp Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 package (8 oz) rice noodles
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs in a bowl, mixing well.
Form into walnut-sized balls and place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Set aside.
Soup: Fill a 4-quart or larger slow cooker* half-way with water and add the broth. Add the carrots, celery, onion, baked turkey meatballs and salt. Season to taste with pepper.
Cook on medium heat for about 6 hours or until the flavors are well melded. (If your slow cooker does not have a medium setting, cook on high for 2 to 3 hours and then decrease it to low to cook for another 3 to 4 hours.)
About 10 minutes before serving, soak the rice noodles in a bowl of cold water for 2 minutes.
Drain; add the noodles to the slow cooker. Serve in large bowls.
Makes 8 servings.
*Don’t use a slow cooker that is smaller than 3-quarts.