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‘Simply. Simply Gourmet, Every Day’ Maximizes Taste, Minimizes Time

Review ing: “Simply. Simply Gourmet Every Day,” by Rivky Kleiman. Artscroll/Shaar Press. 2021. ISBN-10: 1-4226-2991-0

Rivky Kleiman solves the daily what-do-I-make-for-dinner dilemma with delicious yet time-saving recipes in “Simply. Simply Gourmet, Every Day.” Gourmet is often defined as food that is special due to the complexity of the preparation and/or rarity of ingredients. Kleiman has a different approach. “Gourmet can have a frightening sound,” Kleiman said in a phone interview. “But with my techniques, it can be made simple.” Kleiman gives shortcuts and tips, so you don’t have to stand behind a simmering pot all day or have the knife skills of a sculptor to serve your family elegant, inspired meals.

Kleiman starts with a well-stocked pantry, and she lists the ingredients you should keep on hand. Someone who likes to cook and is comfortable with marinades and sauces will find ample excellent suggestions in this book. Unless you just want to shake salt and pepper on a chicken and throw it in the oven, every recipe has some advance preparation. Kleiman shortens the process so you get maximum flavor with a minimum of time and effort.

“Simply” is divided into the usual sections, such as Soups, Salads, Meat and Poultry. The level of skill and time needed for each recipe is shown with a graphic of utensils: one is easy, two requires a little more effort and three means get ready to patchke. In the last section, Simple Suppers, Kleiman shares meal suggestions with prep and cook times for the main. Use the times as a guide, not a guarantee. Speed is not my forte so steps like zesting a lemon put me over the time frame suggested.

I had a great week testing recipes throughout the book. Here are some highlights. In the dairy section, the Twice-Baked Eggplant Boats are a nice alternative to eggplant parmesan minus the marinara sauce, with a bit less work. Spinach Fettuccine is made with a layered sauce of shallots sauteed in butter, then joined by wine, heavy cream and feta cheese. Feta gives the sauce a more pronounced and interesting taste than milder cheeses like mozzarella. I made Raisin Bran Bruffins (combo of breakfast and muffin) using Ezekiel Cinnamon Raisin cereal. The box had been sitting in my cabinet, as I found the cereal too crunchy when eaten for breakfast in a bowl with milk, but it gave me fantastic taste and soft texture in the muffin.

I am always on the lookout for new salad dressings. Kleiman’s All Around Perfect Dressing from the salad section jazzed up a basic lettuce, tomato, cucumber, carrot salad I made and would liven up any vegetable salad combination.

One of my favorite recipes in the book is White Bean Soup, a comforting mix of vegetables with a rosemary-scented broth. If you’re watching calories, this soup gives you ultimate flavor with not a drop of sugar, and just a little oil for the initial vegetable sauté.

I make fish several times a week so I tried many of Kleiman’s recipes. Simply Savory Salmon is a lower-calorie dish with a flavorful marinade starring lemon, garlic and spices. The Lemon- Maple Glazed Salmon had a similarly easy process but with a sweeter flavor profile from apricot jam and maple syrup. I make seared tuna frequently as a Shabbat meal appetizer. Kleiman’s Seared Tuna With White Wine Vinaigrette was a refreshing change from the usual soy sauce-based topping. When I spoke with Kleiman towards the end of my cooking marathon, she raved about her Sea Bass with Mango Peach Chutney. Sea bass is extremely expensive but in the interest of a thorough review, I made it for my husband and me. We loved both the fish and the sweet, spicy chutney. I will make the chutney again for different fish or with chicken.

We can always add new chicken recipes to our repertoire for weekday and Shabbos/Yom Tov cooking. Sesame Chicken, Sweet and Sour Stuffed Capons and CranBBQ Chicken Bake were all easy to make and palate pleasing. The savory Chicken with Pesto, Shallot and White Wine Sauce was a new and successful combination for me. The Crispy Baked Lemon-Herb Chicken was brightened with Lemon Aioli dressing served on the side, making it a good choice for Shabbos lunch.

One of my favorite meat dishes was the Beef and Broccoli Ramen Bowl. I followed Kleiman’s suggestion to use New York Strip Steak, which was right on the money. Strip steak is expensive but it was the first time I achieved a buttery-soft texture in a meat stir fry. And since the meat is mixed with broccoli and noodles (I confess to also adding shiitake mushrooms) you don’t need as much meat as you would serve in a meal with separate protein, veggie and starch portions.

Kleiman knows how to make exquisite French pastry and she explained that she really tried hard to create recipes for the book that give excellent results without the complicated techniques she has mastered. Her citrus biscotti have a creamsicle-like flavor that went wonderfully with my Shabbos morning coffee and afternoon tea. To challenge myself, I made a three-utensil (labor intensive) dessert: Chocolate Mousse Cream Puff Ring. If you love chocolate and have the time, it’s a real showstopper. Everyone at my Shabbat dinner table asked what bakery it came from.

Kleiman’s passion for cooking started in childhood, when her mom, who had gone to culinary school, switched her goal from opening a restaurant to becoming a physician’s assistant. Kleiman and her two sisters pitched in to help, following a list of designated kitchen tasks their mom left on the refrigerator. “My sister looked at the paper (chore list) and saw that she had salad and I had dishwashing,” Kleiman recalled. “She asked if she could switch since my salads were better than hers.” Kleiman learned from her mother, who as a trained cook was way ahead of her time, and from perusing recipes in food and lifestyle magazines. She learned early that she could read a recipe and know what it would taste like.

Writing cookbooks is Kleiman’s second career. She gave up teaching so she could be home when her young children left for school and returned. Like all homemakers, she cooked for her family, but she went to the next level, preparing innovative dishes. One day she got a call from someone who had been to a Sheva Brachot meal that she had prepared, asking her to help with recipe development for a Bais Yaakov cookbook fundraiser. The success of that book led to a request from Mishpacha Magazine to contribute recipes. Another Bais Yaakov cookbook followed. Approached by ArtScroll, she wrote “Simply Gourmet” and the just published “Simply. Simply Gourmet Every Day.” Kleiman didn’t need downtime between books. “It’s a gift, something I enjoy,” she said. “I hope I never lose that excitement and love.” So do her fans.

 

Beef and Broccoli Ramen Bowl

Meat

Yields 4 servings

Fast and healthy, made in 15 minutes from start to finish. Less expensive, and healthier than takeout, too.

  • ½ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1½ Tbsp cornstarch
  • 6 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 4 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 5 tsp sesame oil, divided
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 (3-oz) ramen noodles packages
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil, divided
  • 1 lb New York-style strip steak or rib steak, sliced thinly across the grain
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 16 oz broccoli florets
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 4 scallions, sliced

1. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce and cornstarch to create a slurry. Add rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, brown sugar, ginger, 4 teaspoons sesame oil and red pepper flakes. Stir until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

2. In a 2-quart saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add ramen noodles with 1 spice packet. Boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat; drain. Add remaining teaspoon sesame oil. Toss to combine.

3. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add beef strips and crushed garlic. Stir fry for 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer beef to a bowl.

4. Add remaining tablespoon oil to the skillet. Add broccoli; stir fry for 2 minutes. Add soy sauce mixture to the skillet; add beef. Stir fry until sauce thickens. Add prepared ramen noodles to the skillet. Toss to combine.

5. Transfer to a serving bowl or individual bowls. Toss with sesame seeds and scallions.

 

Cinnamon Citrus Biscotti

Pareve

Yields 24 biscotti

I was hesitant to develop another biscotti recipe, uncertain that I could come up with one to rival my go-to Chocolate Chip Biscotti on my Instagram page. I am glad I challenged myself, because the subtle cinnamon and citrus flavors make these the perfect accompaniment to your morning coffee or tea.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • zest of 1 orange (2 tsp)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp orange extract
  • 2¼ cups flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • Citrus Glaze
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • ¾ Tbsp orange zest
  • 2-3 Tbsp orange juice (for desired consistency)

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle(s) attachment, beat sugar and oil until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add zest and extracts, beating until combined. Gradually add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Mix until incorporated.

3. Divide dough into 2 or 3 parts on the prepared baking sheet. With moistened hands, form into logs. (Dividing dough in 2 will yield 2 long logs. Dividing dough in 3 will yield 3 short logs.)

4. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven; cool for 10 minutes. Slice into 1-inch slices. If you enjoy crispier biscotti, turn each slice on its side; return to oven and bake 2-3 minutes longer. Repeat on the second side. Let biscotti cool completely.

5. Prepare the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together glaze ingredients. Drizzle glaze over cooled biscotti.

 

Sea Bass With Mango Peach Chutney

Pareve

Yields 6 servings

Sweet, tangy, with a hint of heat, this chutney is quite versatile. I have served it over chicken, as well, with rave reviews. Here it is perfectly paired with the mild, delicate, buttery flavor of my favorite fish, sea bass.

  • 3 (1½-inch-thick) sea bass center-cut fillets, cut in half
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped, for garnish, optional
  • Mango Peach Chutney
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 scallion, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced finely
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup peach preserves, see Note
  • 1 mango, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 1 tsp sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a baking pan.

2. Rinse fish; pat dry. Place into prepared pan. Season with salt and pepper. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the mango peach chutney: In a small saucepan, heat oil. Add onion, scallion, and jalapeño; sauté for 3 minutes. Add ginger and cayenne. Cook for 1 minute. Add preserves, mango, and salt. Cook at a low boil for 15 minutes, until thickened.

4. To serve: Place a piece of sea bass on each plate. Spoon chutney over fish. Garnish with finely chopped scallion, if desired.

Note: For apricot mango chutney, substitute peach preserves with apricot preserves.

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