When I had my restaurant in New
York, I would take a break outside on 55th street and Madison
Avenue. I watched, day after day, 2 hot dogs carts at lunch time. One cart was
a kosher cart and one was not. I saw long lines form at the kosher cart as
people would wait traffic light changes just to get to the kosher cart.
I almost felt bad for the
non-kosher cart as the lines were miniscule compared to the kosher cart.
I asked a cook in my kitchen who
was a native NY’er and he told me that the perception was that the kosher dog
Better? Maybe! Healthier? Probably
not! Unless those dogs were nitrate and coloring free there are basically the
same other than the whole kosher part.
Observant Jews know that keeping kosher does not necessarily
equate with healthy eating and living.
Indeed the Jewish calendar is a minefield of dietary
disasters waiting to happen. Jewish Holidays are food-centric and the norm and
let’s face, we are food people! With us cheesecake and dairy goodies on
Shavuot, fried potato pancakes during Chanukah, an eight-day eating fest during
Pesach and Shabbat with its long leisurely meals and some Jews even feeding
their neshama yeterah (extra
soul on Shabbat), it’s no wonder many Jews are loosening their waistbands and
are concerned about their health.
Eating to excess and high cholesterol foods are
unhealthy regardless of whether they are kosher or not. Jewish dietary laws are
not laid down as health laws, but religious laws, but there is no law for the
quality of the food, nor for the amount eaten, just that it be kosher.
As a chef, I cannot offer advice on diets and weight loss; I
can however tell you that the quality of food does matter. I work with food all
day long. I read labels and understand ingredient function and I can tell you
that the best tasting and most satisfying food is that food made from whole ingredients.
We hear over and over again to limit processed foods. Most
packaged food products are made from inferior ingredients, loaded with salt and
sugar and cheap fats. Unfortunately many of them are kosher and widely
purchased and served. As a chef, I am going to say that everything you make
from a box, jar or package can be made better at home.
We are also told to eat seasonally. Seasonal food is
cheaper, better tasting, and easier on the environment. I am going to go one
step further and tell you that seasonal food is exactly what your body needs at
the time it is in season. Ever notice how citrus fruit season peaks at cold
season? Here in the Midwest we don’t grow citrus but we do have long storing
hard shell squash like acorn squash, butternut, and pumpkin. These versatile
fruits (yes they are fruit) are loaded with vitamin C, folate, and other
vitamins just at the peak of cold season and just what your body needs to make
it through the winter.
But how do you know what is in season? My best advice is to
visit a Farmer’s market. Get to know the farmer, visit their farm, and learn to
cook with local and seasonal foods. It is exactly what your body needs.
I have been cooking professionally for a long time and I
still get excited when I see gorgeous ingredients at the peak of their season.
I spend hours cooking and experimenting with delicious foodstuffs only to watch
people SNARF up their meal in minutes.
Hey! I want you to enjoy the food, but maybe enjoy each
bite? Slowly and carefully, really enjoy the food I just made. Doctors and
nutritionists are right when they say that our stomachs need time to signal the
brain when they are full. If you eat slowly, you will be in sync with your
body. I will never forget my first dinner service at my former restaurant. I was
sitting at the bar (resting my weary body!) when a customer came up to me and
gave me a thumbs up for what she said were NICE PORTIONS!
Maybe if she ate slower and more mindfully, the flavor and
perfectly seasoned food would have been the thumbs up?
Eat well my friends and enjoy your food. Abi
Sugar Dusted Sock-Eye Salmon, Harissa Spiked Coconut Yogurt, Toasted Farro and
Mustard Seed Roasted Carrots
This easy to prepare but flavor packed salmon dish takes advantage
of wild salmon. Sustainable and heart healthy salmon has natural sweet
brininess that is enhanced with a brown sugar and cumin crust.
For the Salmon
Wild Sock-eye Salmon Filets, skinned and boned
virgin olive oil)
tablespoons light brown sugar
1. Lightly pat dry the salmon filets. Season
the salmon with kosher salt and pepper.
2. Heat a sauté pan, lightly coated with
EVOO, over medium high heat. Place the salmon filets, presentation side down
(non-skin side) in the pan. DON’T FUSS WITH THE FISH!! Allow the fish to
caramelize and brown.
3. Turn the salmon, remove from heat and
cover the pan to finish the cooking process.
Harissa Spiked Coconut Yogurt
yogurt is lightly coconut flavored and has a lusciously decadent texture. Zesty
harissa adds a toasty heat with complex spices and garlic.
tablespoons purchased or homemade harissa (or favorite hot sauce)
freshly cracked pepper
favorite old grain! Farro has been farmed since Neolithic times and is grown
almost exclusively in Italy. The chewy, nutty flavored nuggets are perfect with
meat, fish, and veggies. High in fiber, protein and vitamin B3, farro packs a
nutrition and flavor punch with undertones of cashew and earthy cinnamon.
1 cup farro
2 cups water
freshly cracked pepper
tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
1. Toast ⅓ cup of farro in a sauté pan, lightly coated with
olive oil, over medium heat. Toast the grains until they are medium brown
and smell like popped corn.
2. Simmer the water and all the farro, covered, over medium heat
until the water has been absorbed and the farro is tender (about 20
3. Add the remaining ingredients to the farro and combine.
Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Mustard Seed Roasted Carrots
1 pound baby carrots, peeled
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
Freshly cracked pepper
to 350 or grill to medium
1. Toss the baby carrots with the oil, spices
and salt and pepper.
2. Spread the carrots on a parchment lined
sheet pan or on an oiled grill.
3. Cook the carrots until they are fork
tender (about 15 minutes).
everything else, homemade is always best! Harissa is quick to whirl up in a
blender or food processor.
is only a guideline. Make it your own by adding roasted garlic, fresh herbs,
additional spices and even fresh hot peppers.
crushed red pepper flakes
3 cloves of
lemon, zested and juiced
⅓ cup EVOO
1. Rehydrate the crushed red chili flakes in the boiling water
until they are quite mushy (about 10 minutes). Drain the water and
2. Process all the ingredients in a blender or food processor
until the sauce is smooth. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper
Place the farro on a serving platter, arrange the salmon on top of
the grains. Place the carrots on the platter and drizzle with harissa spiked
Garnish with chopped fresh herbs and lemon slices.