The ProsenPeople

In Defense of Kosher Food: A Recipe

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 | Permalink

Cindy Silvert is the author of The Hungry Love Cookbook: 30 Steamy Stories, 120 Mouthwatering Recipes. She is guest blogging here all week as part of the Visiting Scribe series on The ProsenPeople.

I am of the opinion that kosher food gets a bum rap. I won’t deny that having a kosher kitchen can be a challenge, especially if you have a small kitchen or members of your household who think you’re a killjoy. Kosher food is hardly inexpensive, and unless you live in Israel or France (and care about these things) the modest variety of cheeses could make one weep—ditto for meat, if you’re a meat eater and don’t happen to live in Argentina. Traveling to places where bacon is a national treasure can limit one’s dining options and make the natives suspicious, and even at home there are way less restaurants, caterers, and foodie shows for the kosher palette.

The Good Book limits not just what one can and cannot eat, but also when, where and how one eats. But does limited necessarily mean bad? In parenting, we know kids need boundaries to become healthy, responsible citizens—so how about us? Might the limitations required by the laws of kashrut not be, in fact, our friends?

Consider kashrut as the prototype for super-trendy mindful eating. Stopping to say a few words of appreciation in reciting a blessing before you stuff another chocolate fudge brownie in your mouth can have a powerful effect on you. Kosher observance is a self-imposed, grown up version of “Hungry children elsewhere would give anything to eat that.” It makes you stop and ponder how this stuff got on your plate and just how lucky you are to be eating in the first place. Even I have come to the realization, on more than one occasion, that a piece of fruit is a better for me than a paw-full of Oreo cookies—yes, even the thin ones. It’s a reminder that the whole gastronomical world ain’t your, well, oyster.

Besides, by restricting you from eating anything, anytime, a kosher diet can have a slimming effect on one’s waistline—Jewish holidays aside. The self-discipline demanded by kashrut instills a sense of humility that predates veganism and every other popular diet by a couple millennia. (The Paleo diet, the one exception, is of a slightly different mindset: see food, pounce on it, rip it to shreds, gobble it up). Self-help gurus suggest that gratitude can cure just about anything, so why not start with dinner?

Below is a recipe for Shiitake Croquettes from the very first saga of love and eats from The Hungry Love Cookbook. This recipe is proof that kosher can be both trendy and delicious. Moreover, as a pareve dish containing neither meat nor dairy, it can be served with any meal. The only problem with these croquettes is that they’re extremely popular and addictive. People are going to pop them into their mouths like there’s no tomorrow, which means you will have to sautée four rainforests worth of mushrooms to satisfy your greedy guests.

Seriously, however many mushrooms you think you need, double or triple that amount. These are great by themselves or dipped in a sweet-and-spicy sauce.

Recipe: Shiitake Croquettes

Ingredients
1 medium onion
1 TBS vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
1 garlic clove
1 lb Shiitake mushrooms
¼ cup sherry
½ cup breadcrumbs or panko
½ tsp garlic powder
3 TBS chia seeds

Instructions
1. Chop and sautée onions and S&P in oil on medium heat for 10 minutes.
2. Mince the garlic clove and add to the onion.
3. Sautée onion and garlic another 2 minutes and remove from heat.
4. Chop and sauté mushrooms and S&P in oil on medium heat for 10 minutes.
5. Add the sherry and simmer until the liquid is absorbed by the mushrooms.
6. Puree the onion, garlic, and mushrooms in a food processor until smooth.
7. Add half the breadcrumbs or panko and garlic powder to the mushroom mixture and form walnut-size balls.
8. Combine the remaining breadcrumbs, chia seeds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
9. Roll the mushroom balls in the breadcrumb mixture.
10. Spray lightly with oil.
11. Bake at 350° for 20 min or until lightly brown and crispy on the outside

Hot & Sweet Dipping Sauce

Mix the following ingredients:

½ cup light mayonnaise
2 TBS BBQ sauce
1 lime juiced
1 dash Tabasco sauce
1 TBS honey
Salt and pepper

Cindy Silvert is a food columnist, humor writer, and self-taught cook. She is currently touring for the 2016 – 2017 season on her book The Hungry Love Cookbook through the JBC Network.

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30 Steamy Stories and Corned Beef on Rye

Monday, June 27, 2016 | Permalink

Cindy Silvert is the author of The Hungry Love Cookbook: 30 Steamy Stories, 120 Mouthwatering Recipes. She is guest blogging here all week as part of the Visiting Scribe series on The ProsenPeople.

I always knew that I would write short stories. I didn’t dream they’d be these stories, packaged so lovingly into this silly book, but I knew I’d write. With a taste for the tragic (Paul Johnson’s A History of the Jews), the wacky (Gary Shteyngart’s The Russian Debutante's Handbook) and historical biographies (books about the guys who built this country, dreamed Israel into reality, Stacey Schiff’s page-turning Cleopatra, etc.), I was as surprised as anyone when The Hungry Love Cookbook spilled out of me. So how do I explain it?

Just as the body swells to create a natural cast, a cocoon of sorts, for an injured or delicate part, so too writing is my way of not having to think about ISIS, college funds, or retirement. I always thought that creative was my family’s code word for stupid: “Cindy is so… creative!” So after dabbling in theater and visual arts, I got myself an MBA to prove I wasn’t a complete dolt.

Still, how does a nice Jewish girl from the suburbs come up with 30 tawdry tales—and why pair them with a kosher cookbook? Isn’t kosher cooking difficult enough? If you’ve read even one of the stories in The Hungry Love Cookbook, you know that they’re a lot more innocent than they’re cracked up to be, and that I’m a bit of a weirdo. I’m that person who laughs at that part of the movie that no one else laughs at. I don’t usually get jokes printed on T-shirts and, at the risk of being labeled a freak, I’m not ticklish. Way back when, a friend (yes, a friend) nicknamed me Marshmallows and Daggers: I can be both uber-sensitive and less than kind. It’s all in a day’s work: I’m a writer.

The thing about being a writer is that, well, I’m just not that special anymore. Once upon a time being an author meant something: pouring your tortured soul and sullied past onto paper, thus making family relationships even worse while providing yet more fodder for your ever-obliging therapist. You had something to be proud of! Now everyone’s a blogger, a photographer, a social commentator. And a lot of these people are taking up excellent causes. Just about everyone on Facebook seems to have more of a social conscience than I do, and I thought I was one of the good guys. But I digress. How and why write in this deluge of thoughts and words? Well for one, at least I’m not confined to distilling my life’s work into no more than 140 characters. And frankly, I’m too old, prickly, and opinionated to get a real job.

The fact is, in every reincarnation of my career path, I was essentially making everything up. Whether I was Cindy the actor, the director, the teacher or the florist, I was inventing, creating, painting a picture or sorts. For The Hungry Love Cookbook, I’ve painted 30 over-the-top scenes that you can relish with or without food. True to my Marshmallow-Dagger nature, I’ve contrasted genres, time periods, and techniques in sharing some of my favorite dishes drizzled on top in the hopes of making you smile as you churn out meal after meal, be it for yourself or a whole clan of ingrates. If that’s you, you deserve a break. I would know.

Cindy Silvert is a food columnist, humor writer, and self-taught cook. She is currently touring for the 2016 – 2017 season on her book The Hungry Love Cookbook through the JBC Network.

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