Cooking lessons are so much fun. I still dust off some of my old lessons when asked or, occasionally, as donations to charity. So, when a friend asked to sell one of my lessons at a live charity auction, I was delighted. The lesson, “Stocks and the Five Mother Sauces”, was from my repertoire of tried and true lessons. I could teach it in my sleep. Piece of cake. Sure, I would be happy to donate the lesson.
Then came the surprise from the buyer:
CLIENT: By the way, we eat a kosher diet – and largely vegetarian.
ME: Oh, no worries. I’ll just select a different lesson.
CLIENT: Thanks so much. We look forward to the new menu.
So, all I had to do was dredge up one of my many Kosher lessons. Right?
There were cooking lessons from about 25 countries in my bag of tricks. Surely, at least one was kosher or at least vegetarian? But, alas, there was not a single one.
Time to expand the old repertoire. First, I had to make sure I knew how to do a kosher menu correctly. I got on the phone to some Jewish friends and found a helpful website on Jewish dietary laws. Strict Kosher eating includes certain meats (beef and selected poultry), fish (with scales, not shells) and vegetables (clean and bug-free, something we all aspire to). Dairy is permitted but not when served with or on the same dishes as meat. So, a strict Kosher home maintains two sets of dishes, something I recall from my childhood friends. It is not an easy process, and I knew it would be impossible in my kitchen.
Time to panic? No (not yet, anyway). My clients knew that the lesson was in MY home, so, clearly, separate sets of dishes were not expected. However, to be safe, I would do mostly vegetables with just one beef dish, and I would eliminate dairy completely.
I would start with a basic Brown Vegetable Stock. Vegetable stock is so much more difficult than making a good meat stock, where bones are rich with flavor. A bad vegetable stock can taste a cut above a too-weak cup of green tea. So, some work was in order to get the recipe I wanted:
Step 1: The best hope for a good vegetable stock is browning (caramelizing). As with meat stocks, you can brown ingredients (for a brown stock) or not (for a white stock). With vegetables, white stocks can be a bit anemic, so I think browning is a must. (see browning (caramelizing) vegetables.)
Step 2: What mix of vegetables to use? Besides the obvious onion, carrot, and celery (standard mirepoix), what would give some depth and breadth of flavor? After some experimenting, I decided on fennel and aromatic herbs. Any mix of aromatic herbs would do, but I love rosemary, and it was the only one still surviving in my garden under eight inches of snow.
Step 3: Add mushrooms for a bit of earthiness. White mushrooms give sufficient flavor. You can use mushrooms with stronger flavor, but I stay away from intense mushrooms like porcini — as they will dominate.
Brown Vegetable Stock in place, I rounded out the cooking class menu with a vegetarian version of my Lentil Soup and Mongolian Beef, which doesn’t require butter or other dairy. The lesson also captured different cooking techniques for vegetables: browning via roasting, extraction (Vegetable Stock), sweating (Lentil Soup) and browning via pan frying (Mongolian Beef).
KOSHER COOKING CLASS MENU
Vegetable Brown Stock (recipe below)
Vegetarian Lentil Soup (recipe below)
Despite some of my initial trepidation about doing a new lesson, it all went smoothly. My clients were so very delightful. They were happy with the menu choices, had boundless curiosity about the cooking and consumed all with gusto. What more could a chef ask?? And now I have a Kosher cooking class in my repertoire. Perfect.
Vegetable Brown Stock
Recipe By: A Global Garnish, LLC
Yield: 2-3 Quarts
16 ounces onions, about 3 medium or 2 large onions
12 ounces celery
12 ounces carrots
1 medium leeks, white and green parts
3 cloves garlic, whole
3 tablespoons oil, olive
8 ounces fennel, coarsely chopped
8 ounces mushrooms , stems removed and coarsely chopped
1 cup tomatoes, canned, diced, or 3 sweet, ripe tomatoes, chopped
8 sprigs parsley, fresh
6 leaves sage
2 sprigs thyme or rosemary, fresh
1 bay leaf
3 cloves, whole
12 black peppercorns
1. Preheat oven 400 F. (I prefer convection.)
Peel and chop carrots and onion. Wash and chop celery. Peel garlic but leave whole (minced garlic will burn). Mix all in a bowl with olive oil.
2. Place vegetables on sheet or roasting pan in a single layer – without crowding. If you have a Demarle Silpat for lining your roasting pan, this will help your clean-up and make it easier to deglaze brown bits. Roast vegetables for about 45 minutes to an hour or until browned. The more browning, the more complex the flavors. However, be careful not to burn the vegetables. Stir vegetables about every 15 minutes.
(NOTE: Vegetables can also be browned on the stove-top. I find oven browning less time consuming and less messy.)
3. Fill a large stock pot with about 2 quarts of COLD water .
While vegetables are roasting, prepare fennel by removing soft leaves (save this for another recipe) and coarsely chop remainder. Remove mushroom stems and chop large mushroom caps. Add fennel and mushrooms to the pot of cold water.
Add remaining tomato, herbs and spices to the pot of cold water.
4. When vegetables are sufficiently roasted, add roasted vegetables to the pot. DEGLAZE vegetable sheet pan with 1 cup boiling hot water. Scrape up browned (not burned) bits and add to pot.
5. CULINARY SCIENCE NOTE: DEGLAZING. Deglazing is the process of capturing caramelized (browned) foods left in the base of your pan using water or other liquids. If your roasting pan can be placed on a burner, add a bit of water and bring to a simmer while scraping brown bits from the bottom of the pan. If you used a Silpat or non-flameproof pan, add some boiling water and scrape the pan. The resulting mixture of caramelized food and deglazing water is the fond.
6. Bring stock to a boil.
Simmer stock for at least 1 hour. (It is not necessary to cook as long as a meat stock) Add water if needed to keep vegetables covered.
Remove stock from heat. Place a colander over another large pot and strain stock into pot. Press vegetables firmly to remove as much liquid as possible.
7. COOL STOCK stock as quickly as possible by one of the following methods: 1) Pour into a shallow pan, creating more cooling surface area, and cool stock until barely warm. Then place in a covered container and refrigerate or freeze. 2) Place stock pot in a sink filled with cold, iced water (blue ice works). Place a rack or blocks under your pot to allow water to circulate below the pot. Water in the sink should be low enough that the pot will sit securely in the sink. When cooled, refrigerate or freeze.
8. CULINARY SCIENCE NOTE: COOLING STOCK QUICKLY. The reason for cooling quickly is to get your stock through the temperature danger zone (40-140 degrees F) as quickly as possible. If you place a large stockpot of very warm liquid into the refrigerator, the liquid will cool from the outside in. You then risk having the liquid in the center of the pot cool too slowly, which will allow bacteria growth.
9. DO-AHEAD INSTRUCTIONS: Stock is great for sauces, braising vegetables, etc. Depending on your uses, you should freeze in appropriate quantities. When I make stock, I usually freeze it in one quart, one pint, and one cup containers. That way I have a mix of portions available to me. I almost never make stock on the day I need it as it takes such a long time to cook.
Lentil Soup (Meat or Vegetarian Variation)
Recipe By: A Global Garnish, LLC
Serving Size: 8
8 ounces bacon, smoked, chopped (omit for vegetarian variation)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
8 cups stock, chicken or vegetable
1 bay leaf
15 ounces tomato, diced
10 ounces lentils, French (Puy), rinsed well
salt, (amount will depend on whether you start with salted stock or home-made)
1/2 teaspoon pepper, black
2 cups pasta, cooked
1/2 lb. spinach, baby, chopped (or substitute kale or chard)
5 tablespoons white wine vinegar or lemon juice
1. Chop bacon. Saute in Dutch oven. Remove bacon and reserve. Discard all but about 1 T bacon fat.
(VEGETARIAN VARIATION: Omit bacon. Use 1 T olive oil instead of reserved bacon fat.)
Add chopped onion, celery and carrots to the pot. Saute until onion is translucent.
Add garlic and cumin. Cook another 3 minutes.
2. Add stock, bay leaf, tomatoes and lentils (rinsed). Bring to a simmer. Cook about 30 minutes or until lentils are tender. Stir occasionally to prevent lentils from sticking. Adjust seasoning for salt and pepper.
3. While lentil soup is cooking, bring a separate pot of salted water to a boil and cook your pasta. Drain and set aside.
Rinse your greens. If using baby spinach, it may not require chopping. If using kale or chard, you will want to remove large stems and chop leaves into about 2 inch pieces.
4. At service time, add cooked bacon, greens and cooked pasta to your soup. Return to a simmer and cook 5 minutes to blend flavors. Finish with a few T vinegar or lemon juice.
VEGETARIAN VARIATION: Omit bacon, as noted above. Use 1 T olive oil instead of reserved bacon fat to sauté vegetables. Use vegetable brown stock in place of chicken stock.