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In the Joy of Kosher Kitchen with Judy Zeidler

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It is our pleasure to have Chef Judy Zeidler in our joyofkosher kitchen!  Chef Judy is a well known food expert and author of The Gourmet Jewish CookThe 30 Minute Kosher Cook: More Than 130 Quick & Easy Gourmet Recipes, and Master Chefs Cook Kosher.  You can see Judy on her syndicated television show, "Judy's Kitchen" and she is regularly asked to be a guest on national television and radio programs.  Judy and her husband spend a few months every year in France and Italy and are constantly finding new and innovative ways to cook kosher.  Judy is currently working on a new cookbook based on her adventures in Italy.  Here Judy shares some of her cooking experiences with us.

1       For a long time, gourmet kosher cooking was an oxymoron, but now we have our own celebrity chefs, fine dining establishments and wines that even Robert Parker can rave about.  How do you account for this dramatic change over the past several years?

I think people realize that Kosher cooking does not have to be the traditional Jewish food that they grew up with.  But, that every dish or recipe can be translated to kosher with just a little creativity.

2.      What do you see as the next big trend in kosher food?

I think Italian Cuisine is here to stay.

3       Describe your best cooking moment as a chef?

I think my best cooking moments are when my husband and I are cooking for friends in our home.  I always make a menu that includes the preferences of the guests that we have invited.  And I love serving appetizers in the living room … they become an ice-breaker when you invite friends that have never met before.

I also love when I am teaching a cooking class and inspiring people to cook and entertain more at home.  I love when they say, that they can’t wait to get home and prepare the dishes that I prepared in class.

4       You have gotten the chance to cook alongside some of the most famous chefs in the world, including Roger Verge, Michel Richard and Stephan Pyles.   What were some of the most memorable lessons that you learned from these master chefs?

For me Michel Richard was and is the most creative chef in the world.  Cooking, for him is more important than anything in his life.

Cooking with  Thomas Keller, whose restaurants are the most famous in America, was a wonderful experience.  He is humble and so talented, usually those two ideas never go together.

5       What are some of your favorite dishes?

Spending one to five months at a time in Italy for the past 35 years… the people and their food has totally won me over.  I love to make my own pasta, risotto, gnocchi etc.   They become carriers to whatever you want to cook them with, whether it be vegetables, fish, or meat.

6       What is your earliest memory of cooking?

When visiting my grandparents in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles I would go into the Jewish Bakery with my mother.  When I saw all the breads and pastries, I wanted to see how they were made, rather than craving to eat them.  I started baking chocolate chip cookies, lemon meringue and apple pies at an early age.

7       You were writing and talking about 30-minute meals before Rachel Ray.   What advice would you give the busy home cook?

Yes, I guess I was writing and talking about 30-minute meals before Rachel Ray.   People don’t realize how many recipes can be adapted to 30-minutes meals. It is important to read a recipe through and see where it can be adapted to a shorter version. But still keep away from too many ingredients that are pre-packaged or pre-cooked.  Remember a cake mix consists of only the flour, baking powder/baking soda/salt.  You still have to mix in the eggs and liquid and bake.   It takes little extra time to add your own flour etc. and then you really know exactly what went into what you are serving your family and friends.  And can say that you really made it from scratch.

8       When you are not wearing an apron and standing behind the stove, what do you like to eat?

When we go to a restaurant I am totally turned off when I am served an entre that covers the plate.  I don’t think more is better.  I enjoy a lot of courses of small dishes (tastes).

9       When did you know you wanted to cook for a living?

I always knew I loved to cook, but it wasn’t until I married my husband and we began to cook together that I knew it was what I wanted to do.  With his encouragement it became a career.

10     Describe your worst kitchen disaster as a chef?

Just recently I gave a cooking classes for the American Jewish University.  It was based on teaching the dishes that Thomas Keller prepared on my tv show.   I found that the Cornets were much more difficult to make than the recipe.  (Cornets are cone or horn shaped foods)

11     You and your husband spend several months a year in France and Italy traveling, tasting and adapting classic and modern recipes for a kosher audience and we are incredibly jealous!  What are some of the best food and cooking memories from your recent travels?

We have made so many friends in Italy that have restaurants it would be difficult to pin-point just one.   Each restaurant has a special dish that I remember.    I have just completed a manuscript based on these friends and their recipes, which will be published in the very near future.

12     As we approach the holiday of Shavuot, our thoughts turn to cheesecake, ravioli and other dairy delights.  Can you share a few of your favorite dairy recipes?

I have shared some of my favorite Shavuot recipes with, such as Oven Roasted Tomato BruschettaFresh Fava Beans with Pecorino Cheese, and Ricotta Souffles.