Cooking with Lisa #5

Four months ago I sat down at my kitchen table to browse through a kosher cook book that was given to me by the editor of Jewish Rhode Island. If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you know that this project was supposed to be a simple recipe review. All I had to do was pick a dish, cook it, and then write about the process of making it. Fast forward to July 8, 2020: 4 recipes were posted to the website, 2 articles were published in the newspaper and now we’re hosting virtual kosher cooking classes (more on this down below, keep reading)! When I started sharing my content online, the goal was to get some readers to interact with the blog, post their favorite recipes and we could trade tips and secret ingredients. What I didn’t intend on happening was how I would also reconnect to some traditional Jewish recipes I grew up with. When I was younger, I always enjoyed our Shabbat dinners and watching my mom make matzo ball soup from scratch, but when I left home for good, I started to explore new traditions and recipes that didn’t always involve kosher ingredients. After many failed attempts in the kitchen, I turned to baking which always came easier to me and just used ingredients for cooking that were accessible and easy to manage.

After 5 years of living out of state, I came back home to the New England area and accepted this position at the Jewish Alliance which helped me reconnect to my roots. During my first week on the job, I attended the Greater RI Challah Bake which inspired me to perfect recipes from my past, specifically all of the baked goods. I made hamantaschen, rugelach, challah and more challah. Still, I wasn’t ready to tackle food. However, once our world turned upside down due to COVID-19, I challenged myself on this cooking journey and learned a lot along the way. Not only was I learning how to cook, but I was able to share the recipes with the Jewish Community and learn more about Kashrut.  For those of you that are also new to cooking or habitual restaurant goers and fast food connoisseurs, I get it! The kitchen is a daunting place- so many sharp objects, fire hazards and family members that apparently have just been promoted to Zagat food critics. I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to overcome your fear! To help get you started, we set up cooking classes with Tova’s Catering so you can learn from the professionals in the comfort of your own home!  To find out more information and to register for this free opportunity, click HERE.

I was excited to get the chance to chat with Tova and learn more about her catering business. It’s clear that Tova has so much passion for cooking and I only wish I could have spoken to her way before my failed attempt at chopping onions! Tova’s biggest advice to anyone new to cooking is to start with a nice, sharp knife. Get yourself the basics: a cutting board, a good pan and that sharp knife. As new chefs, we see recipes that involve so much “stuff.” Not only are we driving ourselves crazy at the grocery store looking for specialty items, but now we feel like we have to own a wok and an air fryer… or is that just me? Tova said that you don’t need fancy equipment or ingredients and suggests using what you have on hand.

When Tova started getting more serious about cooking, she hosted Friday night meals for her friends. Then one night, her friend suggested she start her own catering business and she decided to go for it! So here I am, as your blogger friend, telling all my readers to just go for it! For Tova, what started as one event a week, blossomed into her current catering business and we too, need to start somewhere.

Before you tune into the class, you’ll need to have some ingredients on hand. Tova will provide a shopping list, but remember, don’t stress if you need to substitute.  If possible, use good quality ingredients. Tova says if you’re going to do something, do it well! Good ingredients complete the dish and you can taste the difference! She learned this from her mom who made everything from scratch.

For me, one of the most difficult parts of cooking is troubleshooting when things go awry. Luckily, I was able to channel Miriam Pascal from More Real Life Kosher Cooking, but sometimes you feel hopeless when something doesn’t go right. Remember when my egg fell out of its pastry from my first blog? Or when I couldn’t bear the thought of cutting a mango? What I’m most excited for in Tova’s class is she’ll be right there guiding us through the recipes. Even when I asked Tova about some of the challenges she faces in her business, her immediate response was focused on the solution, not the problem. To quote Tova directly: “Part of the satisfaction of solving a challenge is having the resolution for the next time. Now you’re experienced.”  That’s one for the vision board! She also said there are things to learn from everywhere and everyone, so let’s all join in and make some delicious meals!

If you’re worried about kosher cooking, don’t be. Tova mentioned how there are so many more kosher options out there than there used to be and a lot more substitutes. For beginners, just keep track of meat, dairy and pareve dishes along with their respective bowls and serving pieces. Although there are a lot of rules and regulations, just take it slow and use reliable resources to help guide you.

I hope by now you’re excited to learn how to make some delicious food. We’re looking forward to hosting you and Tova’s team throughout this cooking series. As a reminder, they will take place on Tuesday’s July 14, 21, and 28. Spots are limited and you don’t want to miss out cooking with Tova, so register now!

Cooking with Lisa #5

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