“First learn stand, then learn fly,” Miyagi responds.
Sure, we learn by taking baby steps, but it also helps to have a great master to guide us. That’s as true of cooking as anything else, and the synergy between a great teacher and a willing student can produce spectacular results.
When Daniella Silver, a young mother with a burning desire to write a cookbook, dialed fellow Canadian Norene Gilletz, the best-selling cookbook author and “matriarch” of kosher cuisine, as she is sometimes called, her heart began to race. “What will she say?” Daniella thought. ”Will she even meet with me?”
Daniella needn’t have worried; she couldn’t have found a more generous mentor than Norene. Food writer, culinary consultant, cooking teacher, and now food manufacturer (her individual kugels, called “Koogletz,” came out this year), Norene had fifty years’ experience and nine cookbooks to her credit.
On the other hand, Daniella, for years challenged by her children’s’ food allergies and passionate about serving her family healthful, attractive meals, had amassed a collection of recipes and ideas, but in order to turn her bulging binder into a cookbook she needed help. That phone call began a collaboration that resulted, two years later, in “The Silver Platter: Simple to spectacular wholesome, family-friendly recipes” (Artscroll, $34.99) by Daniella Silver and Norene Gilletz, with over 160 beautifully photographed, easy-to-follow recipes.
“When I first met Daniella and saw her passion and commitment,” Norene said, “I was very excited about helping her achieve her goal of writing her own cookbook. Daniella reminded me of myself when I was her age, a young mom, very involved in community projects, highly energetic and committed. Her passion for creating spectacular food from simple ingredients and her beautiful sense of color and design blew me away.”
From childhood cooking and baking had become Daniella’s outlet of artistic expression. Descended from a long line of fine artists and graphic designers, Daniella is ever mindful of presentation, as evidenced by the mouth-watering color photos that accompany each recipe. “I believe that you eat with your eyes first,” she said, “so each dish was created to have aesthetic appeal. Food has to look beautiful to be appetizing.”
The recipes run the gamut from elegant appetizers such as Roasted Asparagus with Poached Eggs to everyday favorites like Chunky Chili and Sesame Ginger Chicken, to kid-friendly dishes such as Halibut Fish Sticks, to hearty mains including Jalapeno Short Ribs. The salads and sides are standouts: Red Cabbage and Kale with toasted sunflower seeds and hearts of palm, Roasted Balsamic Tomatoes and Feta, Black Rice with Mango, Pomegranate and Avocado and all sorts of lovely quinoa permutations. “I belong to the “desserty” subset of foodie culture,” asserts Daniella, so there is no lack of sweet treats, like Almond Crusted Chocolate Tart and Chewy Raspberry Oatmeal Bars.
Each recipe is accompanied by “Norene’s Notes,” helpful hints or suggestions, explanations of ingredients, serving options and substitutions, and freezing and storage instructions. We can almost see Norene, ever the teacher, guiding Daniella—and us.
With grilling season upon us, Israeli-Style Satay makes an elegant appetizer for entertaining, while being easy enough for family dinners. In Norene’s Notes we learn that tahini “is made from ground sesame seeds and makes a great addition to hummus. To prevent it from becoming rancid, store tahini in the refrigerator once the container has been opened. This tahini sauce keeps about two week in the refrigerator.” And don’t let the lack of a grill dissuade you from preparing this recipe. “Sauté chicken strips in a nonstick skillet for four to five minutes per side, or bake it, covered at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes,” she suggests.
Nothing says summer like berries, and I love this Cranberry-Blueberry Crumble. Serve it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. Norene even offers variations in her “Notes”: nectarines for the cranberries or strawberries for the blueberries.
With one daughter allergic to nuts and another allergic to gluten, Daniella is particularly mindful of these limitations. Many of the recipes are gluten-free or offer a gluten-free option, making them perfect for Passover as well. “In eliminating certain foods from our household,” she said, “I’ve learned to understand what’s really involved in choosing the best ingredients–what’s healthy, what’s not; what’s processed, what’s not; and most importantly, what I want to serve my family to keep them satisfied, strong and happy.”
The spirit of this unique collaboration of the generations is best summed up in the book’s opening line: “Good food goes best with friends and family, and if you don’t have an occasion, make one.”
Israeli-Style Satay with Tahini Dipping Sauce
Yield: 6-8 servings
This easy-to-prepare Israeli spice rub is delicious on juicy grilled chicken or beef.
6 single boneless skinless chicken breasts or 1 1/2 pounds London broil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 teaspoons sweet paprika
3 teaspoons garlic powder
3 teaspoons onion powder
1/2-1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
12-16 bamboo skewers
1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)
3/4 cup water
1 clove garlic, minced (about 1/2 teaspoon)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (preferably fresh)
Kosher salt, to taste
1 Cut chicken or London broil into long, thin strips.
2 In medium bowl, combine salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and parsley. Mix well.
3 Add chicken or meat strips to spices and mix well. Let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature.
4 Meanwhile, soak bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes. Thread chicken or meat strips onto skewers.
5 Preheat grill to medium-high.
6 Grill over indirect heat 4-5 minutes per side, until grill marks appear and juices run clear.
7 Stir tahini sauce ingredients together in a bowl.
8 Transfer skewers to individual plates or a serving platter and serve with tahini sauce.
Yield: 8 servings
Norene’s Notes: If crumble has been frozen, reheat before serving to crisp up topping.
Do-Ahead: Assemble crumbles earlier in the day and store them in the refrigerator. Bake before dinner.
2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
4 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup flour (or gluten-free flour with xanthan gum)
1 cup flour (or gluten-free flour with xanthan gum)
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 8 ramekins or 10-inch deep pie plate with nonstick cooking spray and place onto parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.
2 Filling: In medium bowl, combine cranberries, blueberries, sugar, cinnamon, and flour. Mix well.
3 Topping: In second bowl, combine topping ingredients; mix together to form crumbs.
4 Divide filling among ramekins or spoon into pie plate. Sprinkle evenly with topping mixture.
5 Bake ramekins for 35-40 minutes or large crumble for 45-55 minutes, until topping is golden and juices are bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Jlife food Editor Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish” (Workman) and “The Perfect Passover Cookbook” (an e-book short from Workman), a columnist and feature writer for the Orange County Register and other publications and can be found on the web at www.cookingjewish.com.