Archive for the 'spicy eggplant salad' Category

20
Apr
10

Cooking with Lévana – Part 1


Every Monday evening at Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan (200 Amsterdam Ave – at 69th Street – New York, NY 10023), Lévana Kirschenbaum holds a cooking class, dubbed by most as “Dinner and a Show.” CS and I were privileged to attend last night’s special Yom Haatzmaut demo: Beyond Milk & Honey: Israeli Street Foods.

The menu for the evening was: Spicy Bean Soup, Chraimi Fish, Minted Lamb Kebobs, Spicy Eggplant Salad, Hummus-Tehina, Israeli Salad, and Makrod (a semolina/date pastry); all made and served up, to 25 people, in the space of two and a half hours. Experiencing Lévana’s cooking class means experiencing Lévana.  One doesn’t need to ask her about her particular philosophy of good cooking; the woman walks the talk of it!

While preparing the Spicy Bean Soup made with large lima beans, cilantro and cayenne pepper (which on principle sounded unappealing to me; wooow, was I in for a surprise!!), someone asked about the pot she was using, and someone else mentioned the use of garlic powder. Lévana recommended 18-10 stainless steel pots and pans, stating that her pot was made in China, quipping “there’s no room for politics in cooking!” Regarding garlic, she told us about someone who asked if they ran out of garlic powder could they use real garlic? ” Never settle for powder when you can get the real thing”, she replied, as she whacked a clove using the edge of her palm against the flat of her knife, demonstrating how easy it was to prepare a clove. “When should one look for a substitute?  Only when the real ingredient is unavailable. You can find garlic anytime anywhere  in the world. We’ve got so many choices, garlic in oil, minced, bottled, etc. Just because something is there doesn’t mean it’s good…..ersatz (artificial or inferior substitute or imitation) is so plentiful in so many forms, we think the imitation is real!”

Hot, steamy, aromatic!

Truth be told, the rich aromatic scent of  fresh herbs on her cooking table awaiting deployment, enhanced every dish Lévana prepared. Her use of market fresh healthy ingredients along with her quick prep techniques, easy humor, mastery of her trade and generous spirit of sharing her knowledge with others, made the evening delightful. Preparing the eggplants for grilling, she opted to lightly spray the eggplant slices top and bottom with oil . “Remember you’re the boss. Don’t let the eggplants boss you around. Don’t be afraid of them.”  Yet, she insisted on a full half cup of oil for the soup. “If there’s no oil, there’s no emulsion.”  Considering, however, that the pot yielded 25 decent sized portions, that was a very small amount of oil. A true creative chemist in the kitchen, Lévana cooks her magical eupeptic dishes mixing  wit, instincts, ingenuity,  inventiveness, along with her many years of experience. It’s almost like the ingredients bend to her will, bringing out their tastiest characteristics to serve the Queen of masterful combinations.  The soup by the way was incredible. The combined ingredients illuminated by the addition of home made pickled lemon, lit my palate with its explosion of  fresh tangy tastes, The lima beans, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and fresh garlic all combined for a delicious harmony of flavors.

We can’t cover all of the dishes in the space of this post, but here are few further highlights. Lévana included some standard and not so standard ingredients for her Israeli Salad, creatively using the pulse feature of her food processor as a  time saver -  combining the celery, cucumbers, scallions, radishes and parsley; she hand chopped the tomatoes and lettuces, one could never tell in the finished product that any short cuts were taken.

Preparing the sauce for the Chraimi fish

Cooking the sauce with two layers of fish on top.

I’m not a big fish lover, but that Chraimi Fish was savory delicious.One of the regular attendees told us she loves it so much that she makes a fresh batch every week… CS, a carnivore to the core, will tell you that as far he is concerned, the Minted Lamb Kebob (recipe to follow) was the evening’s real pièce de résistance. The exotic flavoring of the extra lean ground lamb was delicious and went perfectly with the Sliced Grilled Eggplant. The Chummus was nothing short of spectacular. Write us if you want Lévana’s recipe.

Sliced grilled eggplant

Levana describes herself as a a reverse chic kind of a person.  Her food is earthy and terrific, prepared simply- as low tech as possible.  But the woman herself is an articulate worldly person, well informed,  generous and a techie twitterer to boot.  Her days are filled with cooking for others and countless good deeds, so we heard from her devoted groupies.  They are a  tight loving group who acquired a love of cooking through experiencing Lévana’s warmth, good humor, talented free-reign creative fun cooking style and healing psychology delivered through the medium of food. Group regulars find the class absolutely addictive, having missed important meetings to be there each and every week.  It’s their fun night out, as they learn that cooking can indeed be a fun experience and not a drudgery. Many feel more empowered in the kitchen and love Lévana’s uncomplicated style and generous funny nature.  They’ve all learned to cook healthier recipes (with faster prep!) packed with fresh healthy ingredients, eager to replicate the recipes at home and experiment with variations.

All in all it was a fun evening spent with a really nice group of people. Considering the upcoming courses, we will certainly be back for sure …you know, she is kind of addictive…

SYR

RELATED POSTS

Lévana’s Recipe

15
Apr
10

Beyond Milk and Honey: Israeli Street Foods


Lévana Kirschenbaum, from levanacooks.com is presenting another delicious “dinner and a show” this coming Monday, as a fitting end to Israel’s independence Day. As Levana’s site tells it:

BEYOND MILK AND HONEY: ISRAELI STREET FOODS GLUTEN FREE

Let’s celebrate the end of Israeli Independence Day together, simply and in style, and with loads of Sephardi Ta’am! Who knew Israeli salad could be so much more distinguished than the bland cucumber-onion-and-tomato hash that arrive with every falafel order? And yes, you can find gluten-free pita!

Spicy bean soup; Chraimi fish; minted lamb kebobs; spicy eggplant salad; hummus-tehina; Israeli salad; makrod (date almond pastries)

What? You haven’t heard about Lévana’s cooking demos before? Haven’t you missed the legendary Lévana’s Restaurant? Now you can again enjoy her food while learning some of her cooking secrets! Her food is naturally delicious. As her site explains it:

Our new cooking class demo schedule is chock-full of exciting, fun, and super-natural menus! See how easy it is to prepare delicious nutritious meals within a reasonable budget. Enjoy learning practical shortcuts to gourmet cooking. Impress your friends with your culinary skills, exerting much less effort while doing the real thing than you previously have while settling for mediocre store bought stuff! It’s dinner and a show! Once you try it, you will return repeatedly, just as the rest of the big Lévana Cooking Demo extended family does!

Gluten-Free: While I find it totally unnecessary (and frankly a little silly) to put the whole nation on a gluten-free diet, I think it is very useful to try whenever possible to offer gluten-free options to our celiac friends: You will be mighty pleased to see I have done just that, without even going out of my way!

Whole grains, seasonings and natural sweeteners: This health nut cooks only with whole grains and natural unprocessed sweeteners, experimenting with the whole gamut. As a result all the dishes I demonstrate are natural, much lower in gluten, and much leaner than their “white” and commercial counterparts; needless to say, they are also much lower in sodium as well.

International flavors: Around the world of seasonings and cooking techniques without even going through security, so come hungry, keep your shoes on and enjoy!

~Lévana

CLASS INFO

All cooking demos are from 7 to 9 pm at Lincoln Square Synagogue.
200 Amsterdam Avenue @69th Street. 2nd Floor

Class is followed by dinner and book signing so come hungry!

Come watch Lévana as she demonstrates, step-by-step, just how easy it can be to prepare a nutritious gourmet meal. Lévana takes her students through the creation of an entire memorable meal and serves it at the end of class for all to enjoy. She shares many stories, preparation tips, kitchen tools and exotic ingredient sources. You will not be getting your hands dirty, but the classes are definitely interactive!

Each student receives a full recipe booklet detailing each dish. When you attend Lévana’s class, you get so much more than just recipes. You’ll get the full benefit of Lévana’s experience and recipe development. Unlike a recipe in a cookbook, you will have seen the finished product and tasted each dish before you even consider making it yourself.

Class Fees:
$45 / class
$25 — attending for dinner only
$35 — child class fee (ages 12 and under)

$10 off — when you bring a new friend to class (you will get your refund in class!)

I hope to meet you there!

Mention The Kosher Scene and you’ll get a
$10 discount on your class fee!

CS




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