September 2, 2014

The Secret of Good Kosher Cooking May Be in Italy

I have over the years heard many reports of inspiring kosher cooking tours to Tuscany and other parts of Italy. The highlight is always watching some of Italy’s renowned chefs prepare dishes that use some of the freshest ingredients and perhaps even more interestingly is their fusion of ingredients that few dare to try. During my recent visit to beautiful Sorrento in Southern Italy, I watched the executive chef at one of the leading hotels prepare a tomato marinara sauce from scratch. Of course, because of the Vesuvius ash, some of the best tasting cherry tomatoes, are readily available. All cooking is done with 100% Virgin Oil (there is no doubt that it is genuine), herbs, some garlic, salt and more. It was quite a treat to watch these juicy sweet cherry tomatoes (much larger than a cherry, of course) dissolve in a frying pan along with the other delicious ingredients and emerge as a mouth-watering sauce, according to the tasters in the kitchen.

Along the kitchen walls were other great looking vegetables, like zucchini and, of course, the huge, and I mean huge, lemons, which the chef appeared to use in everything. Peeling the huge lemons seemed second nature to his assistant. While enamored by the skill and precision of the chef, I thought about the ever-growing sophisticated palate of the kosher cook. Sure, there has been much progress in the quality of the food, but we still use far too many servings from the can. Watching the chef with his romantic flare for the English language make tomato sauce from scratch made me think that while we may have arrived, as far as kosher cooking is concerned, perhaps there is still much to learn from our Italian counterparts who seem to enjoy good food as much as we do!