Photo Credit: Jewish Press

As it happens, I was feeling under the weather the day that Rivky Kleiman’s Simply Gourmet arrived on my doorstep. I had decided to put my feet up for a while and maybe even take an hour or two off from work, but after turning just a few pages in this gorgeous new ArtScroll cookbook, I jumped up and ran straight to my kitchen. Whatever lingering bug I might have had was just going to have to wait for another day – there were crispy stuffed baked potatoes and tantalizing veggie burgers to be made and it needed to happen immediately, if not sooner.

Several hours later, after having enjoyed the aforementioned dishes immensely, I sat down to bond with Simply Gourmet yet again, this time with a pen and paper in hand. As it was two weeks before Shavuos, I was hoping to find a few more recipes to add to my Yom Tov menu, however, there weren’t two or three or four recipes in Simply Gourmet that I absolutely had to make for Shavuos – there were well over a dozen. Suffice it to say, Shavuos 2019 in the Eller household was a Simply Gourmet production and, best of all, while the recipes I made definitely fell into the wow-you-gotta-taste-this category, each was relatively easy to make and came out fabulous.

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It is rare that a cookbook grabs me as much as this one did, but the recipes here just seemed to talk me, each one further enhanced by Moishe Wulliger’s stunning photography. The first page sums up what this book is all about in seven short words “Simple to create, gourmet on the plate.” There are 135 recipes, the level of difficulty clearly marked on each one, with a “simple supper” icon showing which ones can be prepared and on your dinner table in 30 minutes or less, a gift on those nights when chaos reigns supreme.

The sections are broken down into starters, brunch-lunch and beyond, salads, soups, fish, poultry, meat, sides, dessert and baked goods. I have to admit that appetizers always stump me when I plan a Shabbos menu, but the first three recipes here grabbed me. I served the pulled beef nachos with peach salsa on Shavuos and while they were a little time consuming to prepare, my guests were blown away and every last crumb was demolished. I have yet to make the adorable meatballs and zoodles and the shallot and pastrami stuffed mushroom caps, but they are both on my culinary to-do list. In the dairy and salad sections we have the delightfully addictive maple pecan granola which is so easy to make, the impressive but uncomplicated malawah calzones, and multiple meat salads starring assorted proteins including dried salami, hanger steak, chicken and pan-fried sausage. The soups are so appealing you are going to want to make them even in the summer – chestnut apple, butternut squash with French toast croutons and the wild mushroom are all getting added to my repertoire. Be sure to check out the honey mustard salmon with pretzel crumb topping, General Tso’s chicken with broccoli and the ready in a flash deconstructed meatballs for great main dishes. As for desserts, my favorite part of any meal as you all know by now, get ready to enjoy sticky toffee pudding cakes, snowball truffles and (kiss your diet goodbye) the no bake cheesecake meltaways.

304 pages of deliciousness with inspired recipes that won’t let you down, Simply Gourmet is your new secret weapon, one that will turn you into a kitchen star without ever breaking a sweat.

Next up, allow me to introduce you to Nealy Fischer, also known as The Flexible Chef. A mother of four and a yoga instructor who divides her time between Israel, Hong Kong and a Montana ranch, she understands that more often than not you have to go with the flow because life is always filled with surprises. Some days that can mean substituting ingredients when a recipe calls for something you don’t have, while other times it is about rescuing a dish that, for whatever reason, didn’t quite come out as intended. A big believer in sneaking vegetables into her cooking to up their nutrition quotient, Fischer packed her ideas together in her debut cookbook, Food You Want, a Hachette Books collection of more than 100 recipes designed to make cooking quick, stress free and delicious.

Flip It is Fischer-speak for getting creative with your recipes, and includes suggestions for swapping out ingredients, repurposing leftovers, using alternate preparation techniques or being flexible in your cooking. She also uses the term “Nail It” for helpful tips, the kind of advice that mom or grandma might give you if you were working next to them in the kitchen. Those Fischerisms appear on just about every recipe, part of the underlying theme of this book that time in your kitchen should be relaxing and stress free.

It should be noted that Fischer herself does not eat gluten, so don’t be alarmed when you see ingredients like sorghum flour and xanthan gum – there are often workarounds using conventional ingredients. Hats off to Fischer for adding in pages that include cheats and time savers, no recipe side dishes, ten minute dinner ideas and baking pointers, all of which are filled with practical ideas that are often very helpful.

Food You Want is broken down into chapters on breakfast, baked goods, soups and small plates, salads and dressings, fish, poultry and meat veggies, desserts and drinks and nibbles. The final chapter on condiments and pantry essentials features basics that can be used in a variety of ways including crispy onions, pesto, tahini, chumus, schug and veggie filled marinara, just to name a few. Quite a few of those recipes appear in the ingredients list of other recipes in the book and you will likely find yourself turning to the back of the book for these fairly often.

My favorites in this book? Beautiful butter lettuce cups filled with marinated chicken thighs and topped with pesto and mango salsa, unfried chicken marinated in a tangy vinaigrette, noodle-free lasagna made with layers of thinly sliced eggplant and zucchini, healthified chocolate peanut butter cups, an elegant lemon mousse topped with limoncello-soaked berries and an icy coffee chocolate milkshake spiked with your choice of espresso vodka or tequila that can also be frozen and served as a granita.

While the recipes, many of which are accompanied by pictures, manage to be both light and delicious, equally impressive is the underlying theme that this is almost the un-cookbook. Fischer devotes two pages to how to adapt recipes, empowering even novice cooks to stretch their culinary wings and transform existing recipes into creations that best suit them and their families. Realizing that recipes aren’t written in stone and that, at the end of the day, cooking should be enjoyable, Food You Want lives up to its name, giving great advice and suggestions on how to make food that you actually want.

* * * * *

Unfried Chicken Schnitzel
From Food You Want

Steps: Marinate, Coat, Bake!
Makes 4 to 6 servings

The kicker to this recipe is to marinate the chicken overnight in a honey mustard dressing. Instead of discarding the marinade, you savor it like gold and keep every last drop in the bottom of the pan while the chicken cooks. The crumbs melt into the mustard sauce, making this dish sing. Complexity can be overrated – many of the best simple recipes, like this one, are the most requested.

 

Ingredients:
1 whole 4½-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
Tangy Mustard Vinaigrette Dressing (see recipe below)
3 cups cornflake crumbs (store-bought or crushed cereal)
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions:

Marinate the chicken in the vinaigrette directly in the baking dish, refrigerated overnight or up to 24 hours. Alternatively, to save space in the fridge, marinate it in a Ziploc bag – but don’t discard the marinade, you’ll pour it into the pan with the chicken before roasting.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Season the corn flake crumbs with salt and pepper.

Place about 1 cup of the crumbs in a shallow bowl or plate. Coat the chicken pieces in the crumbs, then return them to the pan with the marinade. Replenish the crumbs as needed. Make sure each chicken piece is well covered.

Bake the chicken for 40 to 50 minutes. Start checking at the 35-minute mark: Prick the chicken to see if the juices run clear and it’s cooked through.

 

Tangy Mustard Vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons plus 1½ teaspoons honey mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon finely grated peeled ginger
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

 

Directions For Vinaigrette:

In a blender or medium bowl, mix together honey mustard, vinegar, chives, ginger, soy sauce, garlic and salt.

Slowly blend or whisk in the oil to emulsify.

Keeps, refrigerated, up to 4 days.

This dish can be made a day in advance and reheated, uncovered, just before serving. If making in advance, underbake the chicken by a few minutes so that it remains moist after reheating the next day.

 

Nail This:

Don’t skimp on the flavor infusion achieved by marinating the chicken overnight.

You can either buy a box of Kellogg’s cornflake crumbs or (what I usually do because I often can’t find ready-made crumbs) crush a box of cornflakes in a food processor or by hand – just put them in a Ziploc bag and crush away. A rolling pin is a good tool for this task. This is a great way to involve your kids in meal prep. Don’t forget to season the crumbs to taste.

* * * * *

Lotus Ribbon Bundt Cake
From Simply Gourmet

Pareve
Yields 12 servings

 

My top criteria for a perfect cake are moist texture and fabulous flavor. Achieving this combination was not easy. After many trials, I took one bite and knew this one was a keeper. This “honey” cake is a great idea to make for Rosh Hashanah.

 

Lotus Filling:
¾ cup crushed Lotus cookie crumbs (14 cookies)
1 oz bittersweet chocolate, grated

 

Cake:
2 cups  flour
½ cup vanilla instant (1 [3.5-oz] pudding mix package)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ cup orange juice
¼ cup honey
¼ cup bourbon
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
¾ cup canola oil
1¾ cups sugar
4 eggs

 

Chocolate Glaze:
3.5 oz bittersweet chocolate, very finely diced or grated
¼ cup almond creamer or nondairy whipping cream, hot
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
¼ tsp vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt

 

Directions:

Adjust oven rack to middle-lower rack.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan; set aside.

Prepare the Lotus filling: In a small bowl, toss together cookie crumbs and grated chocolate. Set aside.

Prepare the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pudding mix, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, honey, bourbon, and vanilla extract. Set bowls aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed, beat together oil and sugar until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until light and fluffy.

Lower mixer speed; beat in ⅓ flour mixture, followed by ½ liquid mixture. Beat in remaining flour and liquid mixtures until just combined.

Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top. Sprinkle evenly with filling. Pour remaining batter over filling. Gently tap the pan on the counter to settle the batter. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean with a few moist crumbs.

Allow cake to cool 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Allow cake to cool 2 hours. Transfer to cake plate.

 

Prepare The Chocolate Glaze:

In a medium bowl, whisk all glaze ingredients together until smooth. Allow to set and thicken for 25 minutes. Pour over completely cooled cake.

Allow glaze to set before serving.

 

Note: This recipe is freezer friendly!

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