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Quick & Kosher

May 9, 2009 | by Jamie Geller

Recipes for people who love cooking but love life more.

In my former life, I was a single, highly motivated -- or rather high-strung -- Manhattan career girl who didn't know the difference between a spatula and a saucepan. I used my oven to store sweaters and my phone to order up dinner. Looking to marry "a nice Jewish man", I ended up at some classes disguised as singles events and before you could say "baal teshuva," I was in Israel learning.

Back from seminary, I did a lot of learning and a lot of dating, eventually got married, and moved to Far Rockaway. Thirteen months after that, we had our first baby girl -- which is when I gave up my full-time job as a producer for a major TV cable network.

Trying to cook for Shabbos when you are clueless about the oven is terrifying. I even had to call my new hubby to ask, "How do you turn this thing on?" Sounds hopeless, doesn't it?!

It took a while, but I eventually learned to do things in a way that worked for me. Every time I burned a meal, I tried again. Every time my cookbook recipe for chulent came out tasting like chalk, I hit the books harder. My awesome hubby, who happens to come from a line of caterers and naturally good cooks, gave me endless encouragement and even a few Kitchen 101 lessons.

So after all the bland and blackened dinners, the tears and last-minute takeout, here's the biggest secret I can share. You don't have to spend a whole day in the kitchen to create a good meal. Many delicious dishes can be assembled with as little as five minutes of preparation! I know -- because I've surely documented how not to do it!

As I've evolved from new bride to new mom, I've actually found that I enjoy cooking. Even so, I am all about spending less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying life --with my husband, my babies (now I have two girls) or my various freelance projects.

And I nearly forgot to mention the biggest side project of them all --my cookbook: Quick & Kosher: Recipes From the Bride Who Knew Nothing (in stores this Chanukah, God willing). It’s for the new wife or the new grandma, the new mother or the mother of 10, the career girl, or the woman starting her career, even Mr. Mom. It’s for anyone and everyone who would rather sweat at the gym than sweat over a stove. It’s for people who love cooking but love life more.

So here's a little sneak peak or rather sneak taste from the book. Enjoy!

California Avocado Salad

Prep Time: 7 minutes
Cook Time: none
Chill Time: none
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1 (11-ounce) can sweet yellow corn Niblets, drained
1 (11-ounce) can white shoepeg corn, drained
2 ripe Hass avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
1/2 (15-ounce) can hearts of palm, drained and cut into bite-sized pieces
15 grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons Ume plum vinegar
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

1. Place corn, avocados, hearts of palm, tomatoes, onion, oils and vinegars in a medium salad bowl.
2. Toss lightly (you don't want avocados to get mushy) and serve at room temperature.


Ume plum vinegar is an Asian vinegar and can be found in the specialty food aisle of your local supermarket or health food store. (It usually will not be lumped together with the other vinegars.). It has a pungent and salty taste, though, so use it sparingly. If you are watching your sodium intake, substitute additional seasoned rice vinegar. Then season lightly with salt to taste.

Lamb Chops on a Bed of Couscous

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 13 to 16 minutes
Chill Time: none
Yield: 4 servings

1 teaspoon dried sage or 1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
6 to 8 shoulder lamb chops, about 2 1/2 pounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4cup white wine
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
6 to 8 mint leaves, chopped
1 (5.6 ounce) box Near East Toasted Pine Nut Couscous, prepared according to package directions

1. In a small bowl, mix sage, salt and pepper.
2. Rinse lamb chops and pat dry. Rub spice mixture into chops.
3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
4. Place lamb chops in skillet. Fry for 6 to 7 minutes on each side for medium rare.
5. Drain off excess fat. Add wine, vinegar and mint.
6. Cover and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
7. Spoon couscous onto a serving platter. Arrange lamb chops on top and serve.

Warm Pepper and Craisin Salad

Prep Time: 8 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Chill Time: none
Yield: 8 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded, veins removed, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, veins removed, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded, veins removed, diced
1/2 cup Craisins or dried cranberries
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 (8-ounce) package mixed field greens

For dressing:

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon sugar

1. Heat olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat and sauté peppers for 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Add Craisins, balsamic vinegar and salt. Mix well.
3. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes or until peppers are slightly tender.
4. While peppers are cooking, place all dressing ingredients in a food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times; alternatively, whisk together by hand. Process or whisk until smooth and creamy.
5. Place mixed field greens in a salad bowl. Pour dressing over and toss gently. Top with warm pepper mixture. Serve warm.

Potato Kugel Cups

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Chill Time: none
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

3/4 cup olive oil, divided
3 eggs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2teaspoon coarse black pepper
6 large Idaho potatoes
1 large onion, quartered

1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
2. Liberally oil six (6-ounce) Pyrex glass dessert dishes or custard cups. Place custard cups in a 9 x 13-inch disposable pan.
3. Place the pan of cups in the oven to heat.
4. Place eggs in a small bowl and beat. Add salt and pepper, mix well and set aside.
5. Fill a large bowl with cold water and as you peel potatoes, place them in water to prevent browning.
6. Heat remainder of oil in a small saucepan on the stove over medium-low heat.
7. Cut potatoes lengthwise into halves or quarters so they fit into food processor feed tube. Process potatoes and onions using the blade that creates thin, shoestring-like strips.
8. Transfer potatoes and onions to a large bowl, add egg mixture and heated oil from stovetop, mix very well. Remove any large pieces of potatoes or onions that weren't processed properly.
9. Remove heated cups from the oven and spoon potato mixture evenly into hot, oiled cups.
10. Bake at 425° for 1 hour, or until the tops look crunchy and sides look golden and browned. Loosen edges with a knife, unmold and serve on a platter.

Frozen Chocolate Mousse Pie

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: none
Chill Time: 4 hours
Yield: 8 servings

2 (8-ounce) containers non-dairy frozen ready-to-whip liquid topping, thawed
1 (4-ounce) package Osem Instant Chocolate Pudding Mix
1 (9-inch) prepared chocolate graham cracker piecrust

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together topping and pudding mix until whipped and smooth.
2. Pour into graham cracker piecrust. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight.
3. Let soften slightly at room temperature. Slice and serve.


To make this dessert look extra fancy, sprinkle with chocolate shavings (use a cheese grater and a chocolate bar). Or spread melted chocolate on wax paper, let harden, peel off and decorate with chocolate shards, the way they do in restaurants and bakeries.

Excerpted from: Quick & Kosher: Recipes From the Bride Who Knew Nothing. (Feldheim Publishers; November 2007; Hardcover; $34.99)

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