Book Review by Norene Gilletz
Levana Kirschenbaum has delighted New Yorkers with her bakery, restaurant, catering and cooking classes for over 20 years. Now she shares her kosher recipes and kitchen wisdom with cooks all over the world in Levana’s Table, Kosher Cooking for Everyone
The magnificent colour photos and 150 delectable recipes reflect her Moroccan upbringing, including vegetarian dishes, foods for the Jewish holidays and entertaining. I’m sure you will enjoy her delicious recipes for Olive-Lemon Chicken and Levana’s Potato Latkes.
Levana writes, “I rarely fry anything else, but there is no Chanukkah without latkes! In my catering career and for my friends and family at home, I have made thousands upon thousands of them and always watch them disappear at an alarming but flattering rate. There is no doubt about it: Latkes are a heavenly treat, and once we enter a house where the heavenly fragrance of fried foods wafts through the kitchen, even spartan dieters will sheepishly watch their noble resolution not to each such things turn to dust.”
Levana’s Kitchen Wisdom: The oil must be hot, or it will seep into your food, making it inedibly greasy. Don’t crowd the pan; it lowers the temperature of the oil. If you must fry in advance, fry until 90% cooked through. Store in a shallow pan in one layer. (You can place the latkes standing upright in the pan like a deck of cards.) Cover tightly. Refrigerate or freeze. Reheat uncovered at 350° F for 15 to 20 minutes if latkes were frozen.
Levana’s Potato Latkes
1 medium onion
Vegetable oil for frying
1 cup flour
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper
8 large Idaho or russet potatoes, peeled
Applesauce, yogurt or sour cream for serving
In a food processor fitted with a grating blade, grate onion. Heat 1/3 inch oil in a heavy frying pan until very hot. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine flour, eggs, onion, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste and mix thoroughly. Grate potatoes in the food processor or by hand and immediately stir them into the batter. Work very quickly so they do not have time to get discolored.
Form small patties, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, and lower them into the hot oil, or drop the batter into the oil by heaping tablespoons. Fry until golden, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove latkes and drain them on paper towels. Serve with applesauce, yogurt, or sour cream.
Vegetable Latkes: Substitute a mixture of zucchini, carrots and parsnips (about 3 pounds) for the potatoes. Add seasonings of your choice such as oregano, garlic and basil.
Sweet Potato Latkes: Substitute sweet potatoes for regular potatoes and add brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger to taste.
Don’t make this dish without preserved lemon (see recipe below) or you will have a good but ordinary result. With the preserved lemon, you will be transported by the authentic Moroccan flavors and heavenly aromas of this dish.
2 pounds chicken parts, dark and white meat, or all dark
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup green pitted olives, thoroughly rinsed
1/4 tsp. turmeric
Pinch of saffron
1 cup water
1/4 of a preserved lemon, skin only, rinsed and chopped very fine
2 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
Freshly ground pepper
Place chicken, onions, ginger, olives, turmeric, saffron and water in a heavy pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook covered for 1 hour. Add lemon, parsley, cilantro, and pepper to taste, and cook for another 10 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a platter and check the cooking liquid. If it is too thin, cook it over high heat until it is reduced and thickened. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Serve hot.
Makes 4 servings
According to Levana, there is no Moroccan cooking without preserved lemons. They take about 10 minutes to prepare and 2 weeks to incubate. The result is a few months’ supply of the single element that will transform many of your dishes from plain to glorious.
Do not let the amount of salt daunt you. Most of it gets washed away, and you can reduce or eliminate salt from the dish you are preparing with the preserved lemons.
8 – 10 large lemons
Wash and dry lemons thoroughly. Remove any green points attached to ends of lemons. Cut them in quarters almost all the way through, leaving them attached at one end. Enlarge the openings with your fingers and cram them full of kosher salt. Close lemons and place them in a clean, wide-mouth, quart-sized glass jar, pressing down hard on lemons as you go to draw out the juice. Don’t worry if juices don’t appear immediately; they will soon with all that salt.
Repeat with all the lemons, forcing them into the jar. The lemons should be totally submerged in their own juices. Top with an extra layer of kosher salt to ensure that no lemon skin is exposed.
Place the jar in a dark cool space (e.g., under the sink). Lemons will be ready in 2 weeks, at which point they should be refrigerated. To use, take out a quarter of a lemon at a time. Discard the pulp, rinse the skin thoroughly, and mince. Add to fish and chicken dishes, bean soups, salads and salsas.
Makes 1 quart
Levana’s Table, Kosher Cooking for Everyone
by Levana Kirschenbaum
Stewart, Tabori & Chang