As you look forward to Sukkot, you may have a few lingering thoughts from the reflection and retrospection of the High Holidays. Perhaps you promised to treat your body to more healthful, nutritious food. Or maybe your new goal is to take time out to observe Jewish holidays, or to just relax with friends over a good meal.
This can be a frustrating set of goals, since it often seems as though celebrating the Jewish holidays through food while still eating healthfully are irreconcilable endeavors. Cheesy blintzes, creamy kugel and schmaltz are hardly lean cuisine. However, a growing number of new cookbooks are oriented towards the more health conscious Jewish cook. One such book is Nechama Cohen’s “Enlitened Kosher Cooking,” published just this year.
Founder of the Jewish Diabetes Association, Cohen took her personal plight of cooking Jewish food as a diabetic and extended it through the work of her organization, whose goal is “to educate and guide individuals facing the challenges of managing diabetes within the framework of a Jewish lifestyle.”
To this end, her book not only contains hundreds of recipes that meet low-carb, low-sugar and low-fat dietary needs, but also contains a useful set of appendices with health reference information, and a holiday-by-holiday guide to her recipes.
This Sukkot, try her Etrog Compote. Or, if you would rather make a dessert with the etrog’s (citron’s) modern counterpart, I recommend the Luscious Lemon Ice Cream. At once tangy and creamy, its refreshing taste is sure to please anyone you have welcomed into your sukkah.
Another great dish is the Baked Spinach-Cheese Delight.
Due to the recent FDA warning, I used 3/4 cups frozen spinach instead of fresh. A healthier carb alternative to quiche crust, the triangles of bread also give the dish some textural variety. I used challah for a dash of Jewishness. Don’t fill the dish with much bread — it expands considerably while baking. I also halved the amount of cheese to make it even healthier, sprinkling it on the top where it is the most flavorful. As with the kugel, I recommend adding herbs to taste; this time I used dill, basil, and some ground pepper.
With both healthier versions of traditional Jewish dishes and other healthy recipes of non-Jewish food, this book appeals to a wide range of Jewish (and non Jewish) palates. While sometimes Cohen’s aim for simplicity and accessibility leaves dishes slightly unseasoned, this book is certainly a worthy primer for the cook uninitiated into the ways of more healthful cooking
(For the main course, one of the dishes Cohen suggested was the “Enlitened Mock Noodle Kugel.” Made with spaghetti squash to reduce the carbs and calories, this dish lacks the unmistakable toothsome quality of traditional kugels, but is quite tasty nonetheless.)
The more experienced cook can use the recipes as a jumping-off point for experimentation. You might just find a few dishes even your bubbe would have enjoyed, and a few others that the rest of us could learn to cherish as much as their less lean counterparts. What better way to welcome people into your sukkah than with some healthy new favorites?
Baked spinach-cheese delight
Nonstick cooking spray
2 whole eggs
2 egg whites
3/4 cup 1 percent milk or low-fat, low-carb soymilk
3 slices day-old light bread, cut into small triangles
1 cup fresh spinach, finely chopped, or 3/4 cup frozen spinach
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom of an 8-inch Springform pan with baking paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and egg whites until frothy.
Add the milk, spinach and cheese. Stir to blend.
Pour into the prepared pan.
Immerse the dried bread triangles in the mixture. After they are coated with the mixture, raise one point of each piece with a fork so that they peek out at the top.
Bake uncovered until lightly browned, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.
Loosen the edges by cutting around the outside with a knife. Remove from the pan and place on a heatproof plate.
Serve hot or at room temperature.
Makes six servings.
Luscious lemon ice creamam
1 (4 ounce) container light whipped topping
4 egg whites
2 eggs, separated
Sugar substitute equal to 1 cup sugar, divided
1/4 cup lemon juice
Beat whipped topping until stiff.
In a separated bowl, beat egg whites together with half of sugar substitute. In another bowl, beat egg yolk with other half of sugar substitute. When thick, fold in lemon juice. Fold all three mixtures together until well blended.
For a delectable pistachio-flavored ice cream, omit the lemon juice and add 1 teaspoon almond extract, 1/3 cup chopped pistachios and two to three drops of green food coloring.
Makes eight servings.