Susie Fishbein, author of the popular “Kosher by Design” series of cookbooks, returned for a second annual visit to Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale on January 13 for an evening of teaching, cooking and, of course, eating.
As part of her cooking demonstration, Fishbein prepared a three-course dinner for the attendees based on recipes found in her various books.
A light but satisfying Zucchini and Lentil Soup was the first course she prepared and served, enhancing the soup with an herb-seasoned cracker made from baked egg roll wrappers. The soup was delicious, with a unique texture provided by the red lentils, which were added to the soup towards the end of the cooking time. From her book “Kosher by Design Lightens Up,” the recipe is a healthy version of a hearty soup.
Next came a family-friendly recipe that was a twist on traditional lasagna. Called Mexican Lasagna, the dish replaced noodles with flour tortillas. Layers of tortillas alternated with layers of ground beef (ground turkey is another option) flavored with onion, green pepper and a packet of taco seasoning; crushed tomatoes; canned refried beans; and non-dairy cream cheese. Easy enough for a weeknight meal, the lasagna was perfect for hungry children and adults alike.
Dessert, which also came from the “Lightens Up” cookbook, was Baklava Bites, where Fishbein re-imagined traditional Greek baklava in a lighter, less-sweet format. Healthy walnuts replace pistachios in this recipe, and non-stick cooking spray replaces the butter typically slathered on the layers of dough. In her version, the defrosted phyllo sheets are folded with the nuts and honey and then cut into individual portions that are placed in muffin tins for baking. Pretty enough to serve to company, the bites were small enough that they would appeal to the calorie-conscious.
Throughout her demonstration, Fishbein provided interesting tips about food products, cooking utensils and cooking equipment. Knife skills, essential to anyone who cooks, were also demonstrated, as well as other useful techniques. Copies of her various books were on hand, which she signed for those interested.
Sponsored by the temple’s Women of Reform Judaism, the evening was well attended by both members of WRT and by the outside community.
Ms. Fishbein has generously shared the recipes with us – so try them at home and send in comments to let us know what you thought:
Zucchini Lentil Soup – Meat or Parve – Makes Six Servings
Red lentils add an earthy tone to this soup and are one of the fastest cooking legumes. Lentils are even mentioned in the Bible, as Esau traded his birthright to Jacob for “a potage of lentils”! This historic legume is rich in fiber, niacin, potassium, and zinc. Don’t overcook the lentils or they will start to come apart.
The spiced egg roll wrappers are a crisp garnish and sub in nicely for crusty bread or soup nuts.
3 egg roll wrappers, such as the Nasoya® brand
1 egg white (from large egg)
1 tablespoon water
1⁄4 teaspoon dried dill
1⁄4 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, cut into 1⁄4-inch pieces
4 cloves fresh garlic, coarsely chopped
1⁄2 teaspoon dried sage
1⁄4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 large or 3 medium zucchini, with skin, cut into 1⁄4-inch pieces
1⁄4 cup fresh dill, stems trimmed, loosely packed
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup dried red lentils
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Lay the egg roll wrappers on the prepared cookie sheet. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white and water. Brush each egg roll wrapper very lightly with the egg white mixture. Sprinkle with dried dill and dried basil. Place into the oven and bake for 5 minutes or until just golden brown. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, sage, and thyme. Cook until the onion is translucent; do not allow it to brown.
Add the zucchini and dill. Sauté for 4–5 minutes, until zucchini is a little shiny.
Add the stock. Simmer for 15–20 minutes, or until the zucchini is soft.
Using an immersion blender, right in the pot, purée the soup until creamy. This can also be done in batches in a blender.
Add the lentils. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Holding a spiced egg roll crisp over the pot to catch the spices that may fall off, break each into uneven shards and stand a few in the center of each bowl.
Mexican Lasagne - Status: Meat
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 12 servings
1⁄4 cup canola or olive oil
1 Spanish onion, cut into 1⁄4-inch dice
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1⁄4-inch dice
2 1⁄2 pounds ground beef
1 (1.25-ounce) packet taco seasoning
6 (10-inch) flour tortillas or more if you are using smaller flour tortillas
1 (15-ounce) can refried pinto or kidney beans
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1 (8-ounce) container nondairy cream cheese, such as Tofutti brand
5-6 scallions, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray a large (9- by 13-inch) rectangular oven-to-table baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and green bell pepper. Sauté for 6 minutes or until vegetables are softened.
Add the ground beef and use a wooden spoon to break up the chunks of beef. Mix in the taco seasoning. Sauté until the meat is no longer pink. Remove from heat.
Spread 3–4 heaping tablespoons of the refried beans into a thin layer on one side of each tortilla. Cut each tortilla in half.
Place 4 tortilla halves, plain-side-down, into the prepared pan. Place the straight edges against the short edges of the baking pan so that they fill the bottom of the pan better. Overlap the two center tortillas as necessary in the middle.
Spread one-third of the meat mixture evenly over the refried beans.
Spread 11⁄2 cups crushed tomatoes over the meat.
Measure 3 tablespoons of the nondairy cream cheese and break into small pieces. Scatter the pieces of cream cheese over the tomatoes.
Sprinkle with one-third of the chopped scallions and a sprinkle of cilantro.
Repeat layering in this order 2 more times
Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Serve hot.
Baklava Bites- Parve- Makes 10 servings
Baklava is a type of Greek pastry. In its original form, it is phyllo dough sheets coated in melted butter, with chopped pistachios between the layers. Immediately after baking, a sweet syrup is poured over the pastry and soaks through the layers.
In my re-made version, the sheets are sprayed with nonstick cooking spray to replace the butter. Walnuts, high in omega-3 fatty acids, replace the pistachios, and a small amount of honey in place of sugar syrup supplies enough sweetness while cutting down on the sugar content. All these changes, and the fact that the pastry is pre-portioned, make this sweet treat delicious and good for you.
Honey, composed of the sugars glucose and fructose, is also full of minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium chloride, sulphur, and iron. This golden liquid glimmers with health benefits, but the value of the benefit depends on the quality of the honey. Some studies have shown that a single dose of buckwheat honey before bedtime effectively relieved the symptoms of night-time coughing and sleeping difficulties. Although honey is a healthier alternative to sugar, it is slightly higher in calories.
10 sheets (13- by 8-inch) phyllo dough from 1/2 (16-ounce) box
Olive-oil flavored nonstick cooking spray
¾ cup walnuts
1⁄3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ cup honey
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Defrost phyllo according to package directions. Keep the stack covered with a damp cloth when not using, to prevent the sheets from drying out. Spray a 12-serving muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 375°F.
In the bowl of a small food processor, combine walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Pulse until the mixture is finely ground and uniform.
Place one phyllo sheet horizontally on the cutting board, with the long edge closest to you. Evenly coat the dough with the spray — enough to cover, but not soak the phyllo. Sprinkle about 5 teaspoons of the walnut mixture all over the sheet, and top with a second sheet. Repeat, so that there are 5 layers of phyllo dough, and 5 layers of walnut mixture.
Fold the dough into thirds, like you would a letter. You should now have a long piece about 13- by 4-inches. Spray the top.
Starting right to left, cut six 2- by 4-inch pieces. Gently fold in half so you now have a thick piece that is about 2- by 2-inches. Gently place each into a sprayed muffin cup. Repeat the whole process to make 6 more.
Bake about 15–20 minutes, or until golden brown and baked through. White spots in the dough may indicate that it is undercooked.
Meanwhile, in a small microwave-safe container, combine the honey and water. Heat for 40 seconds or until the honey and water are hot and thoroughly combined. Add the vanilla.
Remove the baklava bites from the oven. Let cool 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and place onto a wire rack. Drizzle the bites with the honey-vanilla syrup and cool completely.
Serve 1 baklava bite per person, with any extra syrup drizzled over the top or in a ramekin on the side.
Profiled in The New York Times and on CNN, Ms. Fishbein has been a guest on such network television and radio programs as “The Today Show,” “Living it Up with Ali and Jack,” and “Martha Stewart Radio.” The release of “Kosher by Design Lightens Up” marks the sixth book in seven years for Ms. Fishbein. Other bestselling cookbooks in the series include “Kosher by Design,” “Passover by Design,” and “Kosher by Design Kids in the Kitchen.” She has traveled the country sharing recipes and techniques through book signings and cooking demonstrations, and has been the featured celebrity guest on cruise ships. Ms. Fishbein has also taught at the Degustibus cooking school in New York.