Keeping Kosher – The intricacies of kosher food rules

By Jean Mackenzie

Ten Dames were in attendance for our March 31st meeting that was held at Café 56 Express in Beachwood, Ohio. Our speaker was Lana Bernstein, a kosher caterer from Columbus, Ohio and the 2013 LDEI Legacy Award Winner in the culinary category.

Carol Hacker led a brief business meeting followed by our speaker, Lana Bernstein, who gave an extremely interesting and often times entertaining talk on “Keeping Kosher”. We learned about some of the laws that govern keeping kosher such as not eating meat and dairy at the same meal. This law carries the saying, “Don’t cook the kid in the mother’s milk”. We also learned that all meat must be from animals that have cloven hooves and chew their cud, which would include beef cattle and goats; all fish must have scales, so no catfish or lobster (a great sigh went up in the room upon learning that you couldn’t eat lobster!); all fowl must be domestic, such as chickens but ostrich are not included in this group, and it may not be a bird of prey. You may enjoy having meat and fish during the same meal but they must be served on separate plates. Kosher wine must be boiled before bottling and beer may not be consumed during Passover.

We learned that the term “parve” means neutral and refers to anything that is not meat or dairy. For example, eggs, fruits and vegetables are parve. Parve dishes can be eaten with both meat and milk dishes.

As Lana lectured, we were served a delicious four-course dinner by the staff at Café 56 Express. Our first course included humus, bagels, kohlrabi coleslaw, “fake” (vegan) chopped liver, an Israeli salad and gefilte fish served with beets, carrots and horseradish. The salad contained no lettuce, supporting the rule of eating no bugs. To maintain kosher, each lettuce leaf would have to be thoroughly examined to insure that there are no bugs.

For our second course, a soup course, Lana served matzo ball soup. She explained that to make the matzo balls, the wheat and water are mixed and kneaded for exactly 18 minutes. It is believed that if the mixture is kneaded longer that 18 minutes, the wheat will begin to ferment. The soup was a beautiful clear broth made with onions and vegetables. The matzo balls seemed to float in the bowl.  Simply delicious!

The third course consisted of two dishes, kugel and cholent. Kugel is typically a sweet baked pudding or casserole that is made with pasta noodles or potatoes. There were lots of oohs! and ahhs! around the table as each of us tasted Lana’s kugel dish! This could easily have been dessert! We then had cholent, which is an extremely hardy dish made with beef, barley, beans, onions and spices.

Our fourth and final course was dessert, which brings with it the challenge that no dairy products may be used. This means cream cheese, ricotta, ice cream, etc. Lana is not only a wonderful chef, she is a magician as well! She created the most delicious, non-dairy, cheesecake you can imagine! It was light and creamy and topped with fresh sliced strawberries. The perfect ending to a very interesting and delicious dinner!