Gefilte? Go Fish!

“Passover is right around the corner, so I was thinking about making a vegan gefilte fish this year.

Silence. The line went dead. After a few beats, I wondered if the call had dropped altogether, until my mom hesitantly, quietly responded, “…Why?”

My mother herself is a fair weather gefilte fish supporter, serving it dutifully every time tradition mandates. I get the impression that it’s more about ritual, symbolism, and classic Jewish guilt than genuine enjoyment, but for all that, her tolerance for the processed white fish dumpling is far greater than most. Even she couldn’t fathom why I’d want to revisit the reviled appetizer, and at such great effort.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. Maybe it’s the challenge of creating something that is otherwise unattainable, of trying something new and novel, or my general propensity towards all things bizarre.

Let’s be honest, gefilte fish is an outlandish dish. They’re like poached pescaterian meatballs, spiked with the sharp bite of horseradish and bitter herbs. You can generally find them packed in shelf-stable glass bottles, which seem to live indefinitely in the back of your bubbe‘s pantry, like a long-forgotten science experiment gone awry. To make matters worse, because cooking is verboten on the Sabbath for strictly kosher households, it’s typically served cold.

Starting from scratch with plants, we can resuscitate this Franken-fish with just a bit of patience and perseverance. Potato and cauliflower provide the substance and texture with a fairly neutral taste, bolstered by caper brine for a subtly oceanic, saline essence. Olive brine or simply very salty water could do in a pinch, but something about the faintly lemony, pleasingly metallic taste of capers really suits the original inspiration.

There are plenty of similar interpretations on the internet, but what sets my fish-free gefilte apart is the genuine coating in aspic, reminiscent of the gelatinous goop that comes within the jar. Slicked with the sheen of agar, this extra layer locks in moisture, freshness, and an added veneer of savory flavor.

No one would be fooled by my finless imposters, even amidst the cacophony of colors on the average Seder plate; these gefilte are far and away the superior option. Banish those fetid, mummified monstrosities in the closet, and try something better than merely edible this year.

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Hungry for Higher Education

Life has undergone some drastic changes for most of us in the past year. Facing pressure on all sides from rising expenses and a plummeting employment rate, the job market feels especially volatile, especially if you’re the sort of person who wants to do what they’re genuinely passionate about. The good news is that jobs in the food industry are more important than ever, and with so many people changing careers now, this is a great time to invest in further education.

Is that even possible to get a degree as an avowed vegan, you may ask? Plant-based diets are far from a passing trend, and mainstream institutions are finally waking up to the signs, revamping decades-old programs to accommodate. Brand new schools are cropping up at the same time to offer a fresh perspective on the field, too. Whereas in the past, you might have been forced to sacrificed ethics until graduation day, there are now 100% vegan culinary institutions and programs that uphold those high standards.

Compiled and provided by Culinaryschools.org, the list of options continues to grow:

Living Light Culinary Institute

Living Light is an internationally known raw organic vegan chef cooking school. Located in Fort Bragg, California, it was founded in 1997 by master chef Cherie Soria who is considered the mother of gourmet raw food cuisine. Living Light offers workshops and comprehensive chef and instructor training designed for both the serious chef and the ordinary individual interested in healthier meal choices. Their certifications include Gourmet Chef, Associate Chef. and Raw Culinary Arts Professional. Workshops in knife skills, recipes and nutrition facilitate the training. Internet classes are available using videos and online instruction.

Vegan Culinary Academy

Located in beautiful Napa Valley, California, Vegan Culinary Academy was founded in 2007 by Certified Executive Chef Sharon Christensen. Though they do not offer a certification program, all chef instructors are credentialed and certified in the state of California. Their classes are customized and personalized to include plant-based diet instruction, food sculpting, and food business management. They guide students through intensives and traineeship programs.

The School of Natural Cookery

The School of Natural Cookery has a unique curriculum where students learn to cook without using recipes. Their non-traditional professional culinary program caters to the intuitiveness of the individual chef/artist. Joanne Saltzman, who founded “The Language of Cooking” bases the school’s cuisine on original foods to include grains, beans and vegetables. The School of Natural Cookery first opened its professional curriculum in 1991 and it has flourished since. Located in Boulder, Colorado, this school offers both a diploma and certificate program as well as teacher training.

Vegetarian Society Cookery School

Part of the Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom, Vegetarian Society Cookery School is a prestigious venue for vegetarian and whole food cooking education. Founded in 1982 by Sarah Brown & formerly known as the Cordon Vert School, its diploma is well-received around the world. The highly regarded and intensive diploma program is only open to professional chefs but their courses are available to anyone who wants to excel in whole food cuisine. The school is headquartered in Cheshire, England in an old Victorian mansion. Chefs can find a helpful eLearning section online to learn the basics of vegetarian cooking and catering and to assess their own knowledge of the art.

Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts

Located in Manhattan, New York, the Natural Gourmet Institute enjoys first class facilities. Founded by Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D. in 1977, the school emphasizes the relationship of food to its effects on health. Their hands-on approach to the natural diet and cooking techniques provides the student with an overall knowledge of both theoretical and practical information. The Chef’s Training Program includes an intensive internship often leading to employment offers.

The Natural Epicurean

The Natural Epicurean bases its philosophy on macrobiotics, which they describe as a holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle choice. The academy was founded in 1994 by Elizabeth Ann Foster and is located in Austin, Texas. They offer an intense 800 hour training course and include cooking for healing, cutting techniques and home remedies. Natural whole foods cooking is combined with eclectic course offerings. Internships are available.

Natural Kitchen Cooking School

The Natural Kitchen believes in making the world a happier and healthier place one kitchen at a time. Based in New Jersey, the school was founded in 2005 by Christine Waltermyer who continues to have a large television presence as a natural and raw foods chef. The Natural Chef Training Program offers hands-on innovative cooking techniques. They often have guest chefs and include food history, food politics and personal healing in the curriculum.

Are you thinking about going back to school? Whether you’re vegan for ethical, environmental, or health reasons, you have a wealth of options to make your dreams of a culinary career come true!

 

This post was made possible as a collaboration with Culinaryschools.org. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

Bread So Nice, I Made It Thrice

Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.

-Pablo Picasso

Adversity gives us perspective; despair informs our joy. Without suffering, we would never know what it means to be truly happy. Human nature is to avoid pain, which is a general approach I would advocate for, too, but sometimes the greatest victories rise from the ashes, like the phoenix reborn.

Much has been said about the devastation wreaked by the impossible winter storm here in Texas. It’s not what I imagined for my first winter in the deep south, that’s for sure. The experience has left a mark, visibly inside flooded and now moldy apartments across the state, and mentally, still haunting nightmares and wakeful moments alike. To be honest, I’m not quite over it yet, and I was one of the lucky ones. I lost power for three days, while temperatures plummeted into the single digits, and water for six. Melting snow in the fireplace to have water to drink and dredging out the pool to flush the toilet weren’t exactly the survival skills I was taught as a girl scout. I would have likely frozen to death if not for the endlessly kind friends within my orbit. From a swashbuckling rescue across the ice-slicked tundra, gliding through the black of night under dark traffic lights, to the seemingly small offer of a warm shower, I owe these people so much.

Which is why I made them all bread.

For the first loaf, it was a matter of what I could piecemeal from a kitchen that wasn’t mine, that could be reasonably fabricated without fancy equipment. Homemade bread, soft and tender, aromatic and still warm from the oven, is a simple pleasure that everyone can appreciate. It transcends the question of sweet or savory, avoids the pitfalls of expensive ingredients, yet tastes like love itself in every bite. Thick-cut, chewy rolled oats give body to this simple sandwich bread, adding just enough interest to make it a treat without further embellishment. That said, it’s at the peak of perfection when toasted and smeared with a fat knob of vegan butter.

The loaf was further refined with a second run, rising to even loftier heights with more patience and experience. Again, the company and context added a certain seasoning that mass-produced baked goods could never have. Bread is a living thing, you know; it’s like a pet that you must nurture and train with equal parts kindness and respect.

Only when I finally returned to my own kitchen did I finally master the art. For something that started as a throwaway formula, not even written down, it became a highly sought-after prize, with inquiries about the recipe coming in left and right. So, in case you were one of the lovely people following my harrowing journey on Instagram or Facebook, thank you. This last loaf is for you.

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Prince Char-ming

You know what’s really good at True Food Kitchen? Well, everything, but I can’t ever get the charred cauliflower out of my head. Ever since the first time I tried it, I’ve been enamored with this darkly roasted, mysterious dish. Teetering on the edge of burnt but never quite crossing that line, it’s nutty, spicy, crunchy, herbaceous, salty, bold, and VERY sassy. It’s what all cruciferous vegetables aspire to be when they grow up.

You know what’s not so great at True Food Kitchen? Well, at least in downtown Austin, the parking. I have parking PTSD from that whole area; I would genuinely rather walk the 10 miles there and back than negotiate those streets. It’s an infuriating case of “so close, but still so far.”

In any event, it’s just another good reason to stay home, save money, and do it yourself, right?! Hell-bent on satisfying that craving with what was already on hand in the pantry, the results were bound to be different, but equally delicious in an entirely unique way.

Being thrifty and lazy, I’ve made all sorts of egregious substitutions. Peanut butter instead of tahini, sriracha instead of harissa, dried cranberries instead of dates. Is it even the same dish, at the end of the day? Nope, not at all. But is it delicious? Oh yes, hell yes. I’m calling that a success.

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