Category Archives: Culinary School

A Funny Sounding Dessert

When I was in culinary school we made amazing looking and tasting desserts! Because of the un-kosher status of culinary school, I would go home, mouth still watering, and replicate these desserts using my kosher kitchen and ingredients.  One of my all time favorite was the frangipane.  I love desserts with nuts!  I adapted this recipe by making the crust out of nuts and in turn making this dessert gluten free!
Your food processor will be your best friend in this recipe, making the frangipane only minutes for you to prepare.  *You can also substitute any nut paste for the almond paste.

Almond Frangipane
Crust:
2 Cups Almonds
1/2 Cup Pecans or Cashews
6 Tbs. Earth Balance
1/3 C. Sugar

Filling:
1 – 6 Oz Container Almond Paste*
2 Tbs. Sugar
1 Egg
1 Egg White
1 1/2 Tbs. Rum
3 Tbs. Earth Balance

Fruit of your choice: 5 Plums, 2 Handfuls of Grapes, 2 Handfuls of Raspberries, 3-4 Pears, 3-4 Apples, etc.

Preheat oven to 400.  Pulse the ingredients for the crust in a food processor until it forms a soft but crumbly dough. Press into a 9 inch springform tart pan and bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.  Take out of oven and let cool.  Turn oven down to 375.
In the food processor add in all of the ingredients for the filling.  Process ingredients until thoroughly combined and smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary. Pour into cooled pie shell.
If using fruit with pits, slice down the middle, remove pit.  Slice each half and fan out over the filling.  If using fruit without pits, sprinkle the whole berries or grapes over the top of the filling.
Bake for 40-45 minutes until the almond filling between the fruit is a nice golden brown.  Cool and serve at room temperature.

The Kosher Revolution – Article by JSpace

Jspace is a new online website which serves as a database to provide Jews internationally with Jewish and Israel News, Jewish events in major cities, free Jewish dating, and many other incredible features.
This week, I am featured in a JSpace article called The Kosher Revolution: How Non-Kosher Influences are Modernizing the Jewish World.  

This article interviews other Jewish chefs like me about the upward shift in the kosher dining experience.  It’s a really interesting article and I highly recommend you reading it –  http://www.jspace.com/news/articles/the-kosher-revolution/9551

Introducing…Chef Alison!

This past Monday my lifelong dreams became a reality when I graduated culinary school and became a professional chef!  
Our final project was to create a banquet, or as Orthodox Jews may call it, a shmorg.   My class and I made an abundance of delicious freshly made foods.   We were each assigned to make two or three original recipes and had the entire day to complete the mission. I made Jamaican spring rolls with spicy mango dipping sauce and my infamous mojito hamantashen, all of which were not kosher.  My parents flew in all the way from Columbus, Ohio to partake in my graduation celebrations.  Since my parents, two sisters, and a bunch of my friends were coming, I brought along kosher pots and pans so I was able to make them some Kosher treats.  I seared up pomegranate-citrus glazed salmon and lemon-curry mashed potatoes (I snuck in some frozen lemon meringue bars too). 

The day was hectic and such an adrenaline rush.  We were each called up individually and were given a book and a toque.  I think I donned my toque quite well if i do say so myself!

Here I go, out into the culinary world, armed with knives and a uniform.  Some would describe that as going out to war, but I would call it living my dream!

Lemon-Curry Mashed Potatoes

Serves 8-10 people
8 Potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
½ Cup Butter
¾ C. Milk
1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper (adjust to your desired spiciness)
1 TBS. Curry
1 Lemon, juiced
Salt and Pepper
Walnuts, crushed  (Optional)
Boil potatoes in water till soft.  Drain.   While hot, mash in the butter, milk and spices.  Sprinkle with chopped walnuts.   
B’tayavon,

Chef Alison 

Starting Monday I will be interning at Solo 🙂

Exciting News for Alibabka!

Today, I was featured in an article in the esteemed Wall Street Journal!  I was interviewed by Sumathi Reddy on what it is like being an Orthodox Jew in a non-kosher culinary school.  
I spoke about the challenges I face when preparing and cooking all types of food that I am unable to taste, because of religious reasons.  As many of my readers know, I am allowed to cook certain foods even though I am religiously forbidden to eat them.  Keeping Kosher while attending culinary school is very unique and I am certainly proud of my choice to follow my dreams of becoming a professional chef, all while maintaining my religious observance.  What better way to channel my creativity than learning to substitute kosher foods for non-kosher ones?
I feel truly blessed to be able to do what I am most passionate about without ever having to compromise my integrity.  
 I would like to give a shout out to my fellow classmates and friends who also made it into the article! 
(see picture)
Me – De-veining Shrimp
Charles Grayauskie – Directly behind me, back facing camera, hard at work!
Kristen Casella – Looking towards the camera, across form Charles, prepping something delicious! 
Jiae Ha –  Behind Kristen, facing the East, filleting a fish!
Maurice S., M. Thorpe or Stanly Hui – All the way in the back, making something awesome! (you are all pretty much the same height, so it has to be one of you!)

10 Things I learned From Culinary School

I was a recently asked to be a guest blogger on CookKosher.com.  I wrote an article called “10 Things I learned From Culinary School” and I wanted to share it with all of you!  Please enjoy and feel free to pass it around!  I look forward to more guest blogging on CookKosher in the future.

Link to the website – CookKosher

 
My goal is to use what I learn to make kosher food as expansive as possible, in appearance and taste. So here are the top ten things I’ve learned, as they relate to the kosher homemaker:
Click Here for the Top 10 List

“I Don’t Roll On Shabbos”

I recently finished Module 3 at school, which means I am more than halfway done!  The topic was international cuisine and China was the last section we did in our culinary tour around the world.  I came home after a night of making beef and broccoli and dim sum and passed a Chinese take-out restaurant that was open.  I looked inside and saw everything I had made that day, #9, #47, #12…It was all there!
 
The last day of the last module we made sushi!  I was particularly excited to see the proper techniques and learn the basics of sushi making.  It was a lot of fun and boy did we roll!! No, no, no, not how it sounds…although that joke was said about 20 times that night, fitting very well into the chef and culinary stereotypes. 

It was a lot of fun and felt more like a recreational class.  If anyone is interested in me teaching them the basics of rolling, I would be glad to teach!  Enjoy and I hope to roll with you someday!
(The title to my post is a quote from The Big Lebowksi)

A great Halachic questions was just brought to my attention, “can one roll sushi on shabbos?” 
If wasabi sauce and rice are made ahead of shabbat and the other components i.e. avocado, carrot cucumber, fake crab, etc. will be cut, rolled and eaten on shabbat, or prepared ahead of shabbat, there is not a problem, If you make extra with the intention of eating it after shabbat then it is not okay.  If you make what you think you need for shabbat and there is leftover, no problem.
Some prohibit it because of boneh (building) which does apply to cheese making, etc. However, there is no difference between making sushi and making a sandwich.

Teriyaki Duck

1 Oz. Soy Sauce
1 Oz. Mirin
1 Oz. Sake or Dry Sherry
½ Oz. Maple Syrup
1 Duck Breast
Peppercorns, ground
½ Lemon, zested

Combine soy sauce, mirin, sake and maple syrup.  Heat a small skillet on low flame.  Place duck breast skin side down and sate over low heat till fat is rendered off and turns golden, about 1 hour.  Pour of excess fat.  Turn breast over and cover and cook till medium rare.  Degrease the skillet and pour in 1 oz. of the teriyaki sauce.  Bring to bowl and scrape the pan.  Boil then reduce to simmer.  Return duck to skillet and cook to coat with sauce.  Remove the pan from the heat when the sauce is syrupy and reduced, a few minutes.  Cool duck and slice thinly.  Mix with pepper and zest. (would be great over rice).

 

To see more pictures, please visit the link on the left hand side of my blog labeled “creations”

Curry On!

I was inspired by this week’s lesson on Indian cooking.  I decided to make curry cauliflower for shabbat.  It turned out so tasty!  (I happen to LOVE curry).  All my guests were raving about the intense and savory curry flavor.  Use the extra curry oil for dressing, roasting or just dipping!

Curry Garlic Roasted Cauliflower

2 Heads Garlic, whole and peeled
2 Oz. Olive Oil
1/8 tsp. Salt
½ Oz. Curry
1 TBS. Turmeric
1 Bay Leaf
1 Thyme Sprig
8 Oz. Oil
8 Oz. Olive Oil
2 Head Cauliflower, cut in uniform pieces
Oil:  Sweat garlic in the 2 oz. of  olive oil and add salt.  Add all of the ingredients except the oil (8 oz of each) for 2 minutes.  Add the 8 oz of canola oil and 8 oz. olive oil.  Simmer and let sit for 30 minutes. 
Cauliflower: Cover a little of the cauliflower in the curry oil and roast for 30 minutes.

Mama Mia!

The thought of ordering a bowl of noodles for a seriously elevated price is not something I can see myself doing.  If I can make it at home for pennies, I usually don’t order it.  Open a box, throw a few noodles in the boiling water, wait 10 minutes and bam! Nothing special.  
My world flipped when I tasted homemade noodles for the first time!  Granted, I have probably been at a restaurant that served homemade pasta, but never got up the gusto to order them.  We are up to the Italy section in class.  We have been making pasta for the past 2 weeks and I must say, homemade pasta is the bomdiggity!  You have to try it to understand the difference.  There’s a freshness and taste that can’t be described.  There are many types of pastas one can create with the correct tools.  I do not own them at the moment, but they are definitely on my list! (wink wink 😉 )   To make pasta, it must be rolled out very, and I mean VERY thin.  It can be done by hand, cranked through a machine, or put through a machine that does it for you.  I like the latter for the simple reason that it is the easiest. 
One must be coordinated and have balance.  Trying not to let the long sheets of pasta hit the floor while wrapping it around every limb is a challenge and a talent that amounts to a lot of fun.  I HIGHLY recommend making pasta or watching someone make pasta,  It’s like watching someone juggle, while holding your breath and praying they don’t let them drop!     

Pasta Dough

3 Cup Flour
3 Eggs
1-2 TBS. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-2 TBS. Water
1 tsp. Salt
Mix/knead all ingredients in a kitchen aid or by hand for about 10 min till it forms a ball and becomes elastic.  Allow to rest for a half hour.  Cut the dough into 4 pieces and put through the pasta roller three times, each time reducing the thickness.  Form the pasta into ravioli or shapes using the correct tools.  If you want colored pasta, add turmeric, spinach, curry or whatever color your heart desires.  I like this website for a few ideas.
*The addition of color doesn’t add much flavor.  It is more for appearance than for taste.
Ravioli Dough
6 oz. Italian 00 Flour
6.5 oz. Fine Semolina Flour
1 tsp. Salt
1 oz. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Eggs
1 oz. Water
 Instruction above.
Gnocchi
1 lb Cold Potatoes, baked, peeled and riced
1 C. Flour
1 Egg
1 tsp Salt
Opt: 1 pinch Nutmeg
Instruction above.

My new year’s resolution is to now give pasta a second chance.  If it is fresh and from scratch, I will now consider ordering the bowl of soft, al dante’ and savory deliciousness; The kind of pasta that makes you want to say “OH, Mama Mia!”

It’s All In The Presentation

I’m now in Module 3 (out of 5) and we are doing a lot more in terms of plating and complex dishes.  You can check out the rest of my pics on the left side of the page, titled “Creations.”  (Album Title: Ali Babka Blog)
Captions are in the album as well!
Oh! Exciting news!  I now bring a pan into class and sear fresh fish (when we have kosher, of course).  Add that to my reinvented potato…and SHAZAM!  Not goin hungry no more…

Reinventing The Potato

There’s nothing more satisfying then sitting down to a nice and tasty meal after you worked for hours preparing it.  It’s even more tempting, and some might disagree, to prepare new exciting foods that you can’t touch.  At school I make wonderful new foods that I wish I could try, savor and eat.  But I have the full, untouched plate at the end of the night. I grill my classmates on the texture and flavors, asking them a multitude of questions.  The last question I always ask: Is it worth making at home (in kosher version)? Never in my life would I have imagined that I would be boning a rabbit, grilling pork ribs, mixing chicken with cream.  But here I am, 3 days a week, doing just that, and loving every minute! 

I have always loved exploring new textures, flavors and foods throughout the world.  Everywhere I went, I made sure to know all the kosher restaurants and make an appearance there at least once.  Could you imagine going to Mexico, India, France or Israel and not trying their cuisines?  Visiting ancient ruins and trying the food, it completes a trip. Culinary school is like a trip around the world, and yes tasting is part of it.  I know it’s a little bit of a setback for me but I do manage and am learning tons!

I have to say that I have gotten really good at eyeballing the right amount of salt needed for certain dishes and ingredients.  I think of the texture, then add the salt according to how much that product will soak up.  The only thing I had to get used to was meat.  Keeping kosher, I salt the meat ever so slightly because it has already gone through a heavy salting in the kashering process to remove the blood.  The first time I made pan seared chicken, I was told it was bland.  I had to get used to the fact that when chicken and meat were on our butcher block at school, nothing had been done to it yet.

I am starving after each class, and getting home at 11 pm without having a proper meal since lunch, I ate whatever was in my cupboard.  Dinner usually consisted of fruit, leftovers from Shabbos, or worst case scenario, something snacky.  I am very into health and balanced meals, and this was not my norm.  It wasn’t until the “potato class” that I discovered I could easily make myself a baked potato!  Anyone that keeps kosher knows how to not starve in any situation where kosher food is not available.  Tuna sandwiches at Disney World, cold cereal at continental breakfasts, catered and quadruple wrapped meals on airplanes.  Any of these ring a bell?  In Cancun, I even brought along an electric burner and pan to make eggs, grillers and chicken.  And the list could go on.  

After 2 weeks of the same double wrapped baked potato, it started to get old.  It was great though, I was coming home not famished!  Potatoes are a great carb that has gotten a bad rap over the years, but I’m bringing it back!  Last week I began inventing different combinations.  I have started off slowly, adding cream, butter, milk, double stuffed, etc.  Yesterday, I decided to jazz it up a bit.  I made baked potatoes with cream and avocado!  I recently tried this at my first visit to La Carne’ Grill.  At first I was confused by the idea, but the taste was amazing!  It makes sense, avocado is a fat.  The only hesitation I would have had would be that the avocado would be hot (which would make it turn black), but it was room temperature.  Mix the avocado with some warm mashed potatoes and voila!  I still have many more combinations to try.  I get my inspiration from the leftover ingredients that we are given at school on a given day.  I am sure to have some flops along the way, but spicing up a pretty bland ingredient taps into my creative nature which i am excited to keep on discovering, and sharing with you!

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