Ordinary Ingredients, Extraordinary Meals

[article first appeared in the Canadian Jewish News]

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Leah Schapira, author of Fresh & Easy Kosher Cooking (Artscroll), has an energetic passion for creating scrumptious, uncomplicated dishes for the kosher cook, using ordinary ingredients to create extraordinary meals. You’ll find more than 170 creative recipes for every day or for special occasions that are sure to tantalize your taste buds. There are fabulous, full-colour photos throughout the cookbook that will inspire the reader to stop reading and get in the kitchen to start cooking!

Schapira’s Fresh & Easy Kosher Cooking includes menu suggestions, side dish pairing suggestions for each recipe, and tips for food preparation, storage and freezing. She offers cooking suggestions for what’s in season, advises the reader how to choose pots, pans and utensils – she even explains how to pick the right pasta shape for each type of sauce.

Her mouth-watering recipe selection includes: Squash Souffles, Onion Blossoms, Caramelized Onion Kishka, Asian Burgers, Chimichurri Skewered Steaks, Chicken Panini, Orange-Glazed Flanken, Caramelized French Roast, Flanken Egg Rolls, Sundried Tomato Salmon, Pistachio-Crusted Tilapia and Lazy Man’s Cholent, complete with cholent-making tips. Sweets include Rainbow Cupcakes (perfect for the birthday child), Everything but the Kitchen Sink Cookies, Healthy Peanut Bars, a No-Mixer Brownie and even a pareve Hot Molten Chocolate Cake (see recipe below).

As a young child, Leah was a very picky eater. Foods couldn’t touch each other: chicken was on one side of the plate, fries on the other. If they touched, the meal was over! Her parents ignored, promised, and pleaded, even took her to doctors.

Leah writes: “Finally, when I was eight years old, my mother took me into the kitchen. She involved me in the preparations – if I saw everything that went into a dish, I wouldn’t be scared to try it…I became obsessed with knowing how everything was prepared. Once I made dishes, I wanted to try them. As a teenager, I took cookbooks to bed and fell asleep reading recipes.”

She continues: “To all mothers of picky eaters: Never force children to eat. Instead, teach them how to cook. Let them understand how food is prepared. Learn what appeals to them. There’s a world of great flavors out there.”

A self-taught cook and seasoned international traveler, Leah Schapira has been the food editor for two popular Jewish weekly magazines. She shares her love of cooking through her articles, through her website www.cookkosher.com, and through cooking demos and classes. She resides in New Jersey with her husband and children.

Leah encourages her readers to have fun in the kitchen, get creative and add some spice to their everyday meals. This is a cookbook that definitely deserves a place in your kitchen – it will make a wonderful gift for both the new bride and for seasoned cooks. Let the cooking begin!



Can’t find Thai sweet chili sauce? In Israel it’s called chili matok. You can also substitute La Choy sweet and sour sauce, or make your own (recipe follows). My mother was not too happy when my sisters and I, dressed in cream gowns, stationed ourselves at the buffet at another sister’s wedding. The attraction was this pasta, which was being made fresh. It was so addictive, it was worth the risk of a stain.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, halved and sliced into thin strips
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup bean sprouts
1/2 lb spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp Thai sweet chili sauce (recipe follows)

1. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 1–2 minutes. Add peppers, mushrooms, and bean sprouts. Sauté for 4–5
minutes more until vegetables are slightly soft and lightly browned.

2. Add spaghetti, soy sauce, and sweet chili sauce. Cook for 2–3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Yield: 4 – 6 servings.



Thai Sweet Chili Sauce is one of the greatest condiments that exists. While I buy a ready-made version all the time, it’s really easy and quick to make it yourself.

Sweet Chili is a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. Most recipes call for red jalapeño or chili peppers. Since the red ones aren’t available all year round where I live, I substitute a red bell pepper with some crushed red pepper flakes. I use the sweet chili as a dipping sauce for eggrolls and wontons, in stir fries, and, surprisingly, it tastes amazing with pizza!

2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 large red bell pepper, seeds and stems discarded
1 1/2 – 2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp honey, optional

1. Using a food processor, blend together garlic, sugar, 3/4 cup water, vinegar, salt, bell pepper, and red pepper flakes until well combined.

2. Transfer to a 2-quart pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Dissolve cornstarch in 2 Tablespoons water and add to mixture. Stir well until sauce thickens slightly.

4. Add 2 Tablespoons honey, if desired.

5. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Yield: 1 cup.



Dipping the chicken into cornstarch and then egg whites makes for an exceptionally crunchy, succulent chicken. Topped with an Asian-inspired sauce, it’s a delicious supper that’s only good fresh out of the pan. Serve with Lo-Mein Noodles (see recipe) or over rice with a side of roasted vegetables.

Oil, for frying
4 chicken cutlets, cut into strips
3 egg whites
Cornstarch, for dredging
2 Tbsp mustard
6 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp sesame oil
4 Tbsp vinegar

1. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.

2. Place the egg whites into a small bowl. With a hand whisk or two forks, beat the egg whites until frothy.

3. Coat the chicken strips with cornstarch. Dip into the beaten egg whites and fry on both sides until crispy and golden. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. You will need to re-beat the egg whites often as you work.

4. Pour off the remaining oil that is in the pan. To the pan, add the mustard, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and vinegar. Cook for 1-2 minutes
until the sauce is smooth. Return the chicken strips to the pan and stir gently until they are well coated and sauce clings to chicken. Serve

Yield: 4 servings.



Some desserts leave me speechless.

On Pesach, substitute potato starch for the flour for fabulous results. I also like to exchange the sugar for confectioner’s sugar.

4 oz good quality bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
6 Tbsp flour

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

2. Thoroughly grease 4 individual glass ovensafe cups or a muffin pan.

3. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate with the oil. Remove from heat. Cool slightly

4. With a fork or a whisk, stir in the sugar until well blended. Beat the eggs and egg yolks with a fork; quickly add to the double boiler. Add the
flour, stirring constantly. Pour into the prepared cups and bake for 13-15 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven. Let stand for 1 minute. Invert onto a plate.

Yield: 4 servings.

Norene Gilletz, Cookbooks, Culinary Solutions
Gourmania Inc., Toronto, Canada
Tel: 416-226-2466
www.gourmania.com … just click to flip through my books!