I have the best job in the world. I am a professional chef and author. Everyday I go to work in my kitchen at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago. I get to work with the best ingredients and create delicious food for hungry guests. Every time I pull a pan of chicken out of the oven with crackling-fragrantly herbed skin, scrape a vanilla bean to reveal perfumed gooey goodness or sear a gorgeous rib eye roast slathered with peppercorns and mustard I am proud and thrilled that I am a chef. I know that I am lucky that I found what I love to do and actually get paid for it!
When I am at home I am the mother of three "mostly" adult children whom I cook for and experiment upon. There is a twist to my job and that is that my professional and home kitchens are both kosher.
I started keeping kosher almost twenty years ago when my oldest son Zachary was about three years old. My husband and I (we are now divorced) wanted to provide a home where any of our friends and children's friends would be comfortable eating. Let's face it-potato chips on a napkin is not exactly a welcoming snack for hungry kids. We consulted with our Rabbi and kashered our home.
I opened my first kosher restaurant-Shallots ® in 1999 in Chicago and created a menu that emphasized seasonal produce driven fare. In 2000 I, and several partners, opened Shallots NY in midtown Manhattan with a similar seasonal menu that featured global ingredients. In 2004, I moved the Chicago restaurant to Skokie-a suburb with a large observant Jewish population outside of Chicago. Shallots NY closed and my first book was published--JEWISH COOKING FOR ALL SEASONS (John Wiley and Sons).
I joined the Wolfgang Puck catering organization several years ago and enjoy the beautiful views of Chicago's lakefront from our gorgeous catering hall in Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies. We cater amazing social and corporate events within the confines of a dazzling building steps from Grant Park or we pack up our kitchen and bring the bash anywhere in the Chicago area. Our kitchen at Spertus is the first full time kosher kitchen in the Wolfgang Puck organization.
My second book--JEWISH SLOW COOKER RECIPES (John Wiley and Sons) is due out next month and our catering organization is crazy busy. I love it!
This blog is a look at modern, bold kosher food that is seasonal, sustainable and ethical.
Sweet Potato Salad with Tahini-Lemon Vinaigrette
Serves 6 plus leftovers
I don’t know why most folks only eat sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. I love them all year round. I remember the first time I had sweet potato chips as a side. My mother and I attended a birthday party (or was it a bridal shower?) Either way, it was about one hundred years ago and I cannot remember the occasion but I remember the food. We were at an art gallery on the North-West side of Chicago. The meal was a wonderful roasted vegetable and Gruyere cheese sandwich with several sides. The luncheon was great, but the chips were revolutionary to me. They were a lovely shade of burnt orange, piled high, crunchy, perfectly salted and garnished with specks of freshly chopped rosemary. YUM!
Since that day-I use sweets for everything and all year round. My favorite potato salad is bold and colorful and can dress up any burger or piece of chicken.
• 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 12 ounces each)
• 1 small red onion, cut into small dice
• 1 small fennel bulb (save the fronds for garnish) cut into small dice
• 1 red pepper, roasted and cut into julienne
• ¼ cup golden raisins
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
• 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced thinly
• Salt and freshly cracked pepper
Preheat the oven to 350
1. Roast the sweet potatoes in the pre heated oven until you just able to pierce them with a paring knife (about 1 hour). Do not over cook them or they will fall apart and be mushy-you want them to hold their shape. Cool the potatoes completely.
2. Peel the potatoes and cut them into large 2 inch pieces. Combine all of the salad ingredients together in a large bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve. The salad can be made one day ahead of serving and can be stored, covered in the refrigerator.
For The Vinaigrette
• Juice and zest of 1 lemon
• 2 tablespoons of tahini
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• ¼ cup water
• Salt and freshly cracked pepper
1. Whisk all of the above ingredients together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.