International chefs tailor their tastes to keep it kosher

December 30, 1992|By Peter D. Franklin | Peter D. Franklin,Contributing Writer Universal Press Syndicate

Paolo Lattanzi, Millie Chan, Flower Silliman, Ursula Forem Hidehiko Takada, Mimi Olanoff, Maria Colon Goldman, Jose Prud'homme and Nicole Routhier share something in common.

As one might correctly guess from the nature of this column, each is a cook. What is not as easily discernible is the fact that each teaches cooking -- kosher cooking -- at one of the nation's unique cultural institutions, the 92nd Street Young Men's Young Women's Hebrew Association in New York.

The aforementioned names are among the Y's instructors in diverse international culinary styles, from Italian, Indian, Moroccan and Japanese to French, Mexican, Cajun and Vietnamese. Although the flavors may be from different lands and cultures, the food is always prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary laws.

Some of the very best recipes from these cooks at the Y have been brought together in a very interesting volume, "The International Kosher Cookbook: The 92nd Street Y Kosher Cooking School," edited by Batia Plotch and Patricia Cobe (Fawcett Columbine, 418 pages, $22.50).

Not all the instructors are Jewish, so in order to conform to the dietary laws, some changes must be made in the recipes. For example, the editors note that "the Chinese cooking teacher [Millie Chan] substitutes veal or turkey for pork in her mu shu recipe; coconut milk is used instead of yogurt or regular milk in an Indian chicken curry; and non-dairy creamer replaces cream in a rich French carrot soup. All the classes are conducted in synagogue kitchens under strict rabbinical supervision."

Here are three Jewish-style recipes from Morocco created by Levana Levy Kirschenbaum, who was born in Morocco but now works in New York as a caterer and as an instructor at the Y.

The first recipe she describes as "the traditional Moroccan Rosh Hashana soup [that serves] to symbolize the sweet year ahead." She prefers to use butternut squash instead of pumpkin "because it has a more consistent flavor and its flesh is always sweet and firm."

One further note: You many want to watch the garlic in the carrot salad; three cloves were two too many for my taste.

Pumpkin soup (Mark Del Gar'a)

Makes 8 servings.

1 medium butternut squash or 1/2 medium pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch squares

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water

3 medium onions, peeled and quartered

2 quarts beef broth or water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/4 cup honey or brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

dash of ground cloves

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, combine squash or pumpkin, chickpeas, onions, broth or water, oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, about 1 hour.

Stir in honey or brown sugar, cinnamon and cloves; cook 15 minutes longer.

Transfer mixture in batches to food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Adjust seasonings and texture, adding more broth if necessary. (Soup should look light and creamy.) Serve hot.

Chicken tagine with potatoes, olives and tomatoes (Bel Btata)

Makes 8 servings.

2 (3-pound) chickens, cut into pieces

24 small, red-skinned new potatoes.

6 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped, or 1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes, chopped

1 small bunch parsley, coarsely chopped

24 pitted green olives

1/3 cup vegetable oil

about 12 saffron threads

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In Dutch oven or large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, place chicken and enough water to barely cover; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cover and simmer 30 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients. Cover and cook 45 minutes longer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. (Cooking liquid should form a nice thick gravy; if too thin, cook uncovered a few minutes longer over high heat. If too thick, stir in a little more water.)

To serve, arrange chicken in center of serving platter. Arrange potatoes all around and pour gravy evenly on the top of both. Serve hot.

Grated carrot salad (Salada de Chizo)

Makes 8 servings.

1 pound carrots, peeled and grated

4 parsley sprigs, chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced

1/3 cup vegetable oil

juice of 1 lemon

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Serve at room temperature.

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