Previously the gourmet food buyer for Bloomingdale’s, Geila Hocherman set her sights on making kosher food as indistinguishable from everyday food as she could with the publishing of her book Kosher Revolution. This collection of recipes, from much-missed “crab” cakes and an Asian miso-glazed black cod Nobu-san would be proud of to old-world Italian and classic Indian is a testament to the versatility of kosher cooking.
Of course, the first step to cooking anything kosher is prepping your kitchen, an often long and detailed task. I asked Hocherman where to begin, just in time for Rosh Hashana.
What’s the first step to making a kitchen kosher? What is difficult to be made kosher?
The first step to being kosher is to phase out eating non-kosher foods such as pork, shellfish, and milk and meat combinations. From there, you decide how strictly you would like to adhere to the laws or not. Some people consider themselves kosher but don’t have separate dishes and some people even have two separate kitchens.
That said, bacon is difficult to make kosher, as is lobster.
What does glatt kosher mean? How is it different from regular kosher? What about Pareve?
Glatt refers to meat that not only is inherently a kosher animal slaughtered in a specific way, but also has clean lungs. The term has mistakenly carried over to a vernacular usage that implies a stricter standard of kosher. Pareve indicates that the item can be eaten either with meat or with dairy; it’s neutral.
What are some foods that might seem intrinsically kosher but aren’t?
There are some fish like swordfish, monkfish and sturgeon that are often mistaken for kosher. Also, many cheeses use animal rennet, or aren’t properly supervised.
What do you believe is the most common kosher misconception?
That you must be deprived of interesting and colorful food. Also, that Ashkenazic (Eastern European food) is the only Kosher cuisine. Jews have lived all over the world for millennia and we have always adapted to the cuisine of the country where we are living.
Was the set of your cookbook’s photoshoot entirely kosher?
Yes, The photo shoots were done in my kitchen and home and all of the food photograped was subsequently eaten!
How do you feel about about eco-kosher? That’s the practice of consuming foods that meet both Jewish dietary laws and ethical standards.
I think eco-anything is a good thing. Anything that makes one healthier and more aware of our effect on the planet can’t hurt.
How has keeping kosher inspired your cooking?
It has made me very creative and resourceful. It has forced me to experiment and go outside my comfort zone to create new techniques, as well as hunting down new ingredients to expand my kosher repertoire.
Have you heard of jewpon.com? Do you think it’s a good resource for keeping kosher?
Jewpon, Jdeal and Kosherkouponz are all sites that promote Kashrut on a daily basis, and for that we can thank them. Sometimes they have items that are very attractive and well-priced, which always is an incentive to continue. Beyond that, there are so many Kosher websites and blogs that the internet in general has created a pangea of kosher from which everyone benefits.