Everyday Secret Restaurant Recipes

Everyday SecretOver the past few years I have written reviews on a few kosher cookbooks by author’s Leah Shapira and Victoria Dwek. I have reviewed Passover Made Easy, Dairy Made Easy and Secret Restaurant Recipes and I (pardon the pun) devoured them all. Hungry for more great recipes from this duo I was ecstatic when I was asked to review their most recent addition to cookbook shelves everywhere. Everyday Secret Restaurant Recipes gives us recipes geared for weekday meals from kosher restaurants all over the world. Recipes that immediately lure you into the kitchen to prepare them. I am amazed by just how many kosher restaurants there are. Some are traditional and their recipes evoke a time when my mother was a child in the 1920s and others are as modern as today. All of them are tantalizingly delicious.

Everyday Secret

Quinoa Salad from Borochov 88

Everyday Secret

Gong Bao Chicken from Dini’s Kosher Restaurant

In this new book you will find lots of practical information as well. There are shortcuts and easy to find ingredients for home cooks along with secret techniques and tips directly from the restaurant kitchens. Another feature that I really enjoyed was that there are gorgeous full color photos for each recipe. I have heard a lot of home cooks mention that they learn from the pictures because it shows them what the dish should look like. It’s like a guide. I don’t keep kosher but that didn’t stop me from making the recipes. Don’t let it stop you. Trust me. These dishes are tasty no matter what your ethnic background. It’s just really great food.

Gong Bao Chicken
Serves 4
At Dini’s, Beijing’s only kosher restaurant, the chefs cook authentic Chinese food along with traditional Jewish dishes and Western favorites that travelers expect (there’s a sushi bar too). The restaurant is named for Dini Freundlich, the local Chabad shlucha. Local Chinese residents also enjoy eating at Dini’s because they feel that kosher food is safer to eat; the Chinese term for kosher is “Jie Shi,” “clean food.”
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  1. 1 lb chicken breast, cubed
  2. 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  3. 2 Tbsp water
  4. Pinch coarse black pepper
  5. oil, for frying
  6. 2 Chinese leeks or scallions
  7. 3 Tbsp salted peanuts
  1. 2 tsp soy sauce
  2. 2 Tbsp sugar
  3. 4 tsp vinegar
  4. 2 tsp hot sauce
  5. 4 tsp ketchup
  1. Place chicken into a small bowl. Sprinkle with cornstarch; top with water and black pepper. Mix to coat the chicken. Let stand for 2 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a wok or sauté pan over high heat. When oil is very hot, add chicken cubes in batches; fry for 4-5 minutes. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
  3. Drain oil from the pan. Add soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, hot sauce, and ketchup. Cook until sauce thickens slightly, 2-3 minutes. Add chicken and scallions; toss to coat. Top with peanuts.
  1. Tidbit: Dini makes her own version of hot chili sauce to use in the restaurant. She says it’s the Asian equivalent of Israeli red chug.
  2. Home Cook: We’ve tested this with all different types of hot sauce and they’ve all been successful. Halve the quantity if serving this dish to children -L.
Food and Fond Memories http://www.foodandfondmemories.com/

My Fat Dad


My Fat Dad is a memoir of food, love and family, with recipes written by Dawn Lerman. At her father’s heaviest he weighed 450 pounds! He was constantly on a diet. In fact he tried every fad diet from Atkins to Pritikin. Dawn lived in Chicago for her early years. Her dad was a brilliant copywriter from the “Mad Men” era of advertising at Leo Burnett and McCann Erickson. He is responsible for some of the best known slogans ever such as “Fly the Friendly Skies”, “Coke is It” and “Leggo My Eggo”. But part of the job required schmoozing clients over fancy lunches and dinners.

Sadly there was an invisible wall that seemed to separate her from her dad. It seemed his closest relationship was with his bathroom scale. And that scale controlled his moods. It also controlled what the family would eat and for the most part ruled their lives.

Dawn’s mother was a skinny mini who was pursuing an acting career and basically ate one meal a day, a can of tuna eaten over the kitchen sink. She was too busy flitting from one audition to another to cook proper meals for the family.

Dawn spent her early years hungry. This hunger was both physical and emotional but thankfully she received the loving attention that she so desperately needed from her maternal grandmother, Beauty. Dawn spent almost every weekend at Beauty’s home and their time together instilled in her a passion for cooking for herself and others. She learned that the best food is prepared with the freshest ingredients. Dawn learned from Beauty to enjoy the adventure of picking out the most beautiful vegetables for supper and the art of making the perfect strudel.

When Dawn was nine the family moved to New York because her father had taken a prestigious job with McCan Erickson. She was devastated to leave Beauty but her grandmother continued Dawn’s culinary education by sending her a recipe card every week along with a twenty-dollar bill to buy the ingredients. This became her life-line as she navigated the streets and neighborhoods of Manhattan on her own.

Visits to her paternal grandparents was very different. Her father’s mom showed love with food. Dawn was expected to eat everything on her plate. In fact she was obliged to eat so much that she ate until she got physically ill. It made it easy to see how Dawn’s dad could easily learn to equate abundant food with love!

At the urging of her dad’s boss Dawn’s father spend six months at a Fat Farm in North Carolina so that he could get a promotion. At ten years old Dawn stayed with him for the summer absorbing culinary knowledge while she was there. When they returned home she tried to help him keep the 175 pounds that he lost off by cooking her grandmother’s recipe cards with a healthy twist. This ultimately lead to her career as a board-certified nutrition expert. Her company, Magnificent Mommies, provides nutrition education to students, teachers and corporations.

Herb Infused Ranch Style Sweet Potato Chips with Coconut Oil

Herb Infused Ranch Style Sweet Potato Chips with Coconut Oil

Dawn with Linzer Tarts

Dawn Lerman with her Linzer Tarts

I think award winning actor Ray Romano summed it up best: “Dawn Lerman grew up Jewish in the 70’s. I grew up Italian. Might sound different, but for the most part, it’s the same. Especially when it comes to food. The philosophy was simple, food = love. My Fat Dad hilariously and poignantly captures that essence. Whether you’re Italian, Jewish, or anything else you can relate to how family, food, and the love of both affect how we grow up, and live our life. Manga!”

Herb Infused Ranch Style Sweet Potato Chips with Coconut Oil
Yields 4
These sweet potato chips are crunchy, slightly salty, and have that wonderful ranch taste. They are a healthy take on traditional store bought chips. They are fried in coconut oil-- which not only helps the chips to brown beautifully, but aids in speeding up your metabolism. They are a constant staple in my formerly fat dad-- 450 pounds, now 210 pound --snacking regime.
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  1. 4 large sweet potatoes, can also use white potatoes or beets
  2. 1/2 cup coconut oil
  3. 1 teaspoon of dried parsley
  4. 1 teaspoon of garlic salt
  5. 1 teaspoon of onion powder
  6. 1 teaspoon of minced onion
  7. Sea salt for seasoning
  8. Fresh thyme for garnish
  1. Pre heat oven to 375 degrees, scrub potatoes to remove dirt. Then slice into thin, even pieces. You can cut them by hand or use a slicing attachment on a food processor. Rinse your potato slices in cold water. Now soak the slices in cold water for 30 minutes.
  2. Drain the potatoes and lay them on a paper towel or paper keeping them slightly moist. Dip in bowl with herb mixture --dried parsley, garlic salt, and onion powder. Make sure chips are coated.
  3. In a skillet melt the coconut oil over medium heat. When the oil sizzles place them in the oil for about 1 min till they get slightly brown. Do not over crowd the pan. Best to do in small batches. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to remove your chips from the coconut oil. Drain the chips on a layer of paper towels, and repeat till all chips have been fried and blotted.
  4. Then place all the cooked chips on a baking sheet and bake for 1 minute. Remove and serve warm. Sprinkle with sea salt and garnish with fresh thyme.
  1. If you do not want to fry the chips you can take coated chips, lay them out on a baking sheet sprayed with coconut oil and bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees until golden brown.
Food and Fond Memories http://www.foodandfondmemories.com/
Protein-Packed Linzer Cookies
Yields 12
This is a healthier version of my grandmother Beauty’s hamantaschen--a cookie filled with sweet jelly surround by a buttery crust. My recipe is made with almond and oat flour, coconut oil and a some flax seeds-- making it not only delicious but nut nutritious --packed with protein, heart healthy fats and fiber. This is a win-win as both a dessert or on the go breakfast or snack.
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  1. 8 tablespoons coconut oil or (put a tablespoon aside for greasing the baking sheet if you are not using parchment paper)
  2. 1 egg, beaten or (flax eggs- one tablespoon of flaxseeds whipped with 3 tablespoons of warm water. Let sit in fridge for ten minutes before using)
  3. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  4. 2 tablespoons nondairy milk
  5. ⅓ cup maple syrup
  6. ½ cup almond flour (plus additional, as needed, for thickening)—if you have a nut sensitivity you can use oat flour
  7. 1¼ cups oat flour (you can make your own oat flour by blending oats in a blender)—if you are gluten free use gluten free oats
  8. Pinch of sea salt
  9. ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  10. ¼ cup strawberry jam or preserves (½ teaspoon of white chia seeds can be mixed into the jam for an extra shot of omega 3’s and fiber)
  11. Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
  12. ½ teaspoon of flax seeds
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine the oil, egg, vanilla, milk, and maple syrup and mix well. In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, salt, and baking powder. Then combine the ingredients from both bowls and mix together with your hands until they form a sticky dough. If the dough feels a touch dry, you can add a splash of water to thin it. And if it feels a bit wet, you can add a touch more oat flour. Roll the dough into balls with your hands; I like mine to be 1½ to 2 inches across. Place them on a parchment paper–covered or lightly greased cookie sheet, flatten them slightly with your palm, and push a thumbprint into each ball. Add a dollop of jam or preserves into the thumbprint. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly brown on the bottom. Let cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar (if desired) before eating.
  1. Can Be Gluten Free and Vegan
Food and Fond Memories http://www.foodandfondmemories.com/
Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book to review, but the opinions written are 100% my own. 

Valentine’s Lunch Fit for Royalty

Penny Lewis

Country House Cook Penny Lewis and Me                                                                                                                 Photo Credit: Steve Axelrod

On the most romantic day of the year my husband Steve and I were invited to a Valentine’s Day lunch. What made this so special was that this lunch was prepared by country house cook Penny Lewis who is in South Florida for the month. Chef Penny hails from Great Britain and has the distinct honor of being one of the chef’s to cook for Queen Elizabeth and HRH Prince Philip. What Penny lacks in size she more than makes up for with with tenacity. Don’t let her quiet demeanor fool you because in the kitchen she is a real Welsh dragon! According to Penny she is not a chef because she doesn’t cook in a restaurant, catering hall or large-service facility. She calls herself a country house cook because “dinner parties with ladies dressed in gowns and men in their their tuxedos or smoking jackets are more her style.

When Penny isn’t preparing delicious meals for the posh set she holds cooking classes at her storybook cottage near Abergavenny, Wales. Her students live at The Culinary Cottage while they are learning the techniques of basic cooking and the intricacies of haute cuisine. Somehow in her busy schedule she has carved out a spot for Wellington, Florida to visit friends and bring her magnificent meals to a select few very lucky people. And Steve and I were among the fortunate few.

We were invited for 12:45pm with service at 1. Upon arrival we enjoyed a Pimm’s Aperitif and a few moments to meet the other guests. Promptly at one we were seated at a beautifully and properly set table and our champagne flutes were filled. Our first course was a lovely dish of perfectly Seared Scallops with Tomato Consommé and a Julienne of Courgette (Zucchini). It was a delicately balanced dish where the sweet succulent scallops played nicely with the ever so slightly acidic tomato broth and the zucchini added another dimension with its slightly crunchy texture.

Seared Scallops with Tomato Consommé

Seared Scallops with Tomato Consommé and Julienne of Courgette
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

That was followed with an entrée of Beef in a Basket with Sliced Filet, Creamed Cauliflower, French Green Beans and Potatoes Anna. For me the real star on the plate was the Beef in a Basket. The meat was so richly flavored which can only happen when you cook the beef shank low and slow until it falls off the bone. And this fabulous meat was shredded and filled a beautifully golden and crisp, yet tender, puff pastry basket. The mushrooms, shallots and burgundy wine that the beef shank cooked in created the most amazing sauce for the filet and the buttery potato cake and green beans rounded out our main course.

Beef in a Basket

Beef in a Basket with Sliced Filet, Creamed Cauliflower, French Green Beans and Potatoes Anna
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

Our dessert was a perfect Valentine’s Day show stopper. The Summer Fruit in Rose and Champagne Jellies was as pretty as it was tasty. And the Hazelnut Crinkles that accompanied the dessert added a delightful change of pace with its nutty crunch. I can’t believe we have to wait a whole year to experience the joyful spirit and exquisite food of Penny Lewis!

Summer Fruit, Rose and Champagne Jellies

Summer Fruit, Rose and Champagne Jellies with Hazelnut Crinkles
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod