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
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 hosts a weekly food and hospitality segment on Joe Massaglia’s Table for Two broadcast on 1400 WOND of southern New Jerseyand authored “The Final Word” column in Ed Hitzel’s Restaurant Magazine.