When I was growing up, all home celebrations were “catered” by my mom and her sisters, always the same menu with little variation. (Not that there was anything wrong with that!) Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and parties, we knew what to expect: Aunt Irene’s sweetbreads, Aunt Sally’s kreplach in marinara sauce, Aunt Estelle’s gefilte fish, my mom’s chopped liver, all followed by the requisite brisket, potato pudding and walnut cake supplied by whoever felt the urge.
Times have changed. Discriminating partygoers and hosts and hostesses have traveled, downloaded recipes on multiple devices, taken cooking classes with famous chefs, watched countless episodes of their favorite shows on Food TV, purchased shelf-loads of glossy coffee-table-worthy cookbooks and have enjoyed fine dining in upscale restaurants.
But how to duplicate those restaurant favorites at home? Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek covered that neatly with their groundbreaking cookbook, “Secret Restaurant Recipes,” with an inside look into the kitchens of fine dining restaurants. Now with “Everyday Secret Restaurant Recipes” (Artscroll) cooks can reproduce delicious offerings from favorite kosher cafes and takeouts as well. With the success of the first book, they write, “our number one request was for more casual recipes that work for everyday meals or easier recipes that can also work for special occasions.”
Close to home, Schapira and Dwek visited Omni and Melvin Supann, owners of Beverly Hills Thai, bringing us one of their signature dishes, Beef Satay. “The ancestors of Melvin and Omni had served in the Kings Palace in Thailand with their wives serving in the Royal Palace Kitchens,” they explain. “When traditional Thai dishes were made to serve the king, they had to be the best in taste and presentation. It was these preparation methods and true traditional recipes that Melvin and Omni experienced as they grew up in Thailand.”
Omni’s great-aunt moved to California in 1970, opening one of Los Angeles’ very first Thai restaurants. Omni and Melvin followed in 1986. “They were very particular about their Thai food and would only eat in their own family’s restaurants, or they’d cook the authentic Thai dishes at home, setting their hearts on opening their own restaurant one day.” The Supanns finally realized their dream in 2008 when they opened their restaurant on Burton Way in Beverly Hills, a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. But the restaurant didn’t catch on, and they were baffled. They would ask people why they weren’t coming in. One phrase was repeated: “Make it kosher.”
With the help of California’s kashrut agency, the RCC, they qualified to become a kosher establishment. It was a natural fit, as Thai cooking, like kosher cooking, does not use dairy products with meat. Omni and Melvin reopened in January 2012 as Beverly Hills Thai Kosher Kitchen, which Schapira and Dwek call “the most authentic kosher Thai restaurant anywhere.”
Fancy for parties but easy enough for family dinners, Beef Satay makes an impressive appetizer. Note that fish sauce, a standard ingredient in Thai cooking, is unavailable in kosher form. Omni and Melvin make their own, as well as from-scratch curry paste.
For dessert we’ve selected a Chocolate Tart from Biscotti, a popular Israeli wholesale bakery with two retail locations owned by pastry chef Rosella Yonah and Amir Porat, her manager in a former restaurant. Born in Rome, for 15 years Rosella baked the Italian desserts of her childhood, all the while dreaming of the bakery that became Biscotti.
“Rosella told me that she prefers this tart cold,” says Schapira, “but many restaurants warm it and serve it with ice cream as well,”
For a tart that looks as lovely as the one shown here, use a tart pan with a removable bottom. “We love this one, with its high, regal sides,” Schapira and Dwck recommend. “It’s available in lots of sizes and shapes at BakeDeco.com.” And here’s a great tip. “When making a chocolate ganache like the one used in this filling,” advises Dwek, “use a bowl that retains heat so the hot cream can melt the chocolate completely. Glass, metal, or ceramic bowls will work better than plastic.”
To make this dessert pareve, substitute nondairy creamer (or coconut milk) for heavy cream, margarine for butter, and bittersweet chocolate for milk chocolate.
Yield: 10-12 servings
2 cups flour
½ cup almond flour
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/3 sticks butter
1 egg white
Zest from 1 orange
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 heaping tablespoon butter
2 eggs, beaten
3½ ounces milk chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
- Dough: In food processor or electric mixer using paddle attachment, combine flour, almond flour, sugar, butter, egg white, and orange zest. Mix until dough forms. Refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. On floured parchment paper, roll out dough. Press into 9-inch pie or tart pan. Bake 12 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Filling: Place chocolate in bowl. In saucepan, bring cream, sugar, and butter to a boil. Pour over chocolate to melt. While stirring, whisk in eggs, 1 at a time. Reduce oven temperature to 325ºF. Pour filling into crust; bake 10-12 minutes. Let cool.
- 4. Topping: In microwave or over double boiler, melt chocolate and cream. Pour over baked filling. Refrigerate or freeze tart until chocolate is set.
In Thai cooking, a mortar and pestle are used to make a marinade paste. The hardest ingredients, such as spices, are ground first and the softer ingredients, such as ginger, garlic, and onions, are added next.
Yield: 4-6 servings
1½ pounds London broil or rib eye (about 1½-inches thick), sliced into very thin strips, 3-4 inches long
1 tablespoon minced garlic (4 cloves) OR 2 tablespoons granulated garlic
3 shallots OR 1 small red onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh ginger (a thumb-sized piece)
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup coconut milk or coconut cream
1 cup fresh dry roasted peanuts, unsalted
½ tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced shallot
½ tablespoon crushed red pepper or cayenne pepper (optional, for spicy peanut sauce)
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
7-inch metal or wooden skewers
- Marinade: In food processor or blender, blend garlic, shallots, ginger, coriander, salt, cumin, cayenne pepper, turmeric, and brown sugar. Add oil; blend. Add coconut milk; blend to creamy consistency.
- Marinate steak, refrigerated, 1 hour to overnight.
- Peanut sauce: Preheat oven to 350ºF. On baking sheet roast peanuts 5 minutes, shaking sheet halfway through. Cool; grind in food processor until very finely ground (you can add some chopped peanuts for crunch).
- Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic and shallot; cook until soft, 3 minutes. Add crushed red pepper (if using), ground peanuts, soy sauce, salt, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil. Lower heat; simmer 5 minutes. Cool; keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
- If using wooden skewers, soak in water 15 minutes. Thread steak onto skewers. Reserve marinade mixture.
5 Preheat grill to high 5 minutes. Add satay skewers and grill, about 4 minutes per side. Brush beef with reserved marinade while grilling. Add coconut milk if it becomes too thick. Serve alongside peanut sauce for dipping.
Jlife Food Editor Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish” (Workman) and “The Perfect Passover Cookbook” (an e-book short from Workman), a columnist and feature writer for the Orange County Register and other publications and can be found on the web at www.cookingjewish.com.