Warm Weather Recipes from American Chefs
Summer reading usually means light-hearted genre fare, favorites like mystery novels, romances and science fiction. But what is more escapist and transporting to read—and ogle over, thanks to beautiful, vibrant photography—than cookbooks? Here is a roundup of kosher cookbooks written by American chefs from the past year that deserve, if not a beach read (after all, these tomes are quite heavy), then a post-beach, cocktail-on the-deck perusal to answer this season’s perennial question, “What should we barbecue tonight?”
Chic Made Simple (Manna 11) by Esther Deutsch
This release from Esther Deutsch, a New York-based food editor, writer and self-taught chef, features what most cooks will consider to be relatively easy recipes to reproduce in their own kitchens. Nothing too difficult here, and the focus is definitely on contemporary, pretty food with lots of ethnic accents. Here are two possibilities for summer dinner and dessert. Two notes: though the black tuna has a kitchen-sink full of ingredients, don’t be put off, it is a cinch to prepare; and the plum torte is adapted from the famous original shared by Marian Burros in The New York Times for close to 20 consecutive years.
For the Dressing:
4 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
For the Spice Rub:
2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon garlic powder
4 tablespoons oil
For the Salad:
1 fresh mango, diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 1/2 hearts of romaine, sliced
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lime juice and garlic. Rub the tuna steaks with the mixture and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours in a sealed Ziploc bag.
2. To prepare the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, orange juice, honey, oil and sesame seeds.
3. To prepare the salad: In a large bowl, combine the mango, red pepper, red onion, scallions, raisins, cilantro and jalapeno pepper. Add half the dressing and toss to combine.
4. To prepare the spice rub: On a plate, combine the paprika, cayenne pepper, onion powder, salt, black pepper, thyme, basil, oregano and garlic powder. Remove the tuna steaks from the marinade and coat each side with the spice mixture. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the 4 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the tuna steaks and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the steaks to a clean plate and allow to cool.
5. Set aside a third of the mango-and-pepper salad mixture to use as a garnish. Add the romaine hearts and the remaining dressing to the other two-thirds of the mixture. Slice the tuna lengthwise and arrange on a plate along with generous serving of the salad. Sprinkle the reserved mango and pepper mixture over each portion of the salad and serve immediately.
Plum Torte (Serves 8)
3/4 cup sugar
4 ounces (1/2 cup) trans-fat-free margarine or butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
6-8 dinosaur plums (aka pluots), cut into eighths
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
The Modern Menu (Gefen) by Kim Kushner
According to New York-based cooking instructor Kim Kushner, “less is more, simple is always best, and food should look as good as it tastes, and taste as good as it looks.” Her first book, The Modern Menu, strives to follow through on that philosophy, encouraging home chefs to try for foodie kosher heaven in their own kitchens, in contemporary, easy-to-replicate recipes from Chicken with Pumpkin, Figs, and Honey to Tequila London Broil with Mango Chutney. For summer, try her light and healthy Middle Eastern Mixed Greens salad and Mediterranean-Style Sea Bass.
Middle Eastern Mixed Greens (Serves 6-8)
For the Salad:
8 cups mixed greens
1 fennel bulb, cored and very thinly sliced
2 cups variously colored cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup dried mission figs, stemmed and thinly sliced
For the Dressing:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon za’atar
1 teaspoon dried basil
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Place the mixed greens in a large bowl. Top with the fennel followed by the tomatoes and feta. Scatter the fig slices all over. Set aside.
2. To make the dressing: Combine the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, honey, garlic, za’atar, basil and pepper in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake to thoroughly combine.
3. Drizzle just enough of the dressing over the salad to lightly coat it; do not soak the greens. Toss until all of the greens are lightly coated. Serve immediately.
Mediterranean-Style Sea Bass (Serves 6)
3 tablespoons capers, drained
8 oil-packed sun-dried tomato slices, plus 3 tablespoons of the oil
4 scallions, white parts only
2 garlic cloves, peeled
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 sea bass fillets, about 6 ounces each, skin removed
1. Combine the capers, sun-dried tomatoes and their oil, the scallions and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process until a paste forms, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Place the fillets in a single layer in a baking dish. Using the back of a spoon, rub the paste all over the top of the fillets. The fish can be covered and refrigerated at this point for a few hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for about 12 minutes, until the fish flakes apart when pricked with a fork.
The New Jewish Table: Modern Seasonal Recipes for Traditional Dishes (St. Martin’s Press) by Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray
The Grays are the best-known chefs among this crop of kosher cookbook writers. They run the celebrated (nonkosher) Washington, D.C., Equinox Restaurant as well as Muse at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. It’s worth pointing out that when this husband-and-wife team decided to write their first book, they opted to make it a Jewish one: Ellen is Jewish, and her husband has learned to both cook and love the classics, incorporating his farm-to-table sensibility to the dishes. Here are two summer recipes to try after a bumper-crop visit to your local farmers’ market.
Quick Summer Squash Ratatouille (Serves 8 to 10)
2 ripe tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium red onion, cut into medium dice
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups V-8 Juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (8 ounces) grated Gruyère or Swiss Cheese
1. Prep the tomatoes: Bring a medium-size pot of water to boiling over high heat. Drop the tomatoes into the water and cook for 1 minute. With a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Use a paring knife to peel the tomatoes; then core each one and squeeze out the seeds. Chop the tomatoes.
2. Cook the ratatouille: Heat the oil in a large ovenproof sauté pan over medium heat. Stir in the onions and garlic, cook until shiny—2 minutes. Stir in the zucchini, yellow squash, peppers and tomatoes; cook until they are shiny and slightly softened—3 to 5 minutes. Add the juice and thyme; bring the mixture to simmering. Lower the heat to low; cover the pan and simmer until the mixture has thickened and the vegetables are cooked through—30 minutes.
3. Add the topping: Preheat the oven to broil. Stir the salt and pepper into the ratatouille; taste the mixture and add more seasoning if you wish. Sprinkle the cheese over the ratatouille and place the pan under the broiler until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately, family style with garlic toast if you wish.
Corn Chowder with Shiitake Mushrooms (Serves 6)
5 medium ears of fresh sweet corn
5 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon fresh vanilla bean seeds or vanilla extract
4 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups 1/2-inch cubes brioche bread, for croutons
2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
1. Prep the corn: Husk the corn. Slice the kernels from the cobs; do not discard the cobs.
2. Cook the soup: Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium stockpot over medium heat. Stir in the onions, celery and garlic; cook for 3 minutes. Measure 2 cups of the corn kernels and set them aside; add the rest of the kernels, the cobs and vanilla bean seeds to the stockpot; stir. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the stock and cream. Bring the soup to simmering; lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the kernels are tender—about 30 minutes.
3. Toast the croutons: Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet; drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the canola oil and toss to coat; spread evenly. Bake the croutons for 10 minutes; stir. Continue to bake until they are toasted and crunchy—about 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack.
4. Make the garnish: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat. Stir in the reserved corn kernels and sauté until soft and slightly shiny—4 to 5 minutes; transfer to a small bowl and keep warm. Place the sauté pan on the back burner, raise the heat to medium, and add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil. When hot, stir in the mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook until mushrooms are tender—3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate to drain and keep warm.
5. Purée the soup: Using tongs, remove and discard the corncobs. Working in batches, transfer the soup to the container of a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Return the soup to the stockpot (pouring through a fine mesh strainer if you prefer a fine texture). Keep warm over low heat and stir in remaining 1 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper (taste the soup and adjust the seasoning if you wish). Ladle the soup into six individual bowls. Add a spoonful each of the sautéed corn and mushrooms and scatter a few croutons on top. Serve immediately.