kosher kitchen

Food can help save our planet


As we enter 2019, I think more and more about ways in which the food choices we make impact our planet. We are the guardians of the earth, and it is our job to treasure it and protect it from destruction. The land, the trees, are our responsibility. 

Today, our planet is sick and hurting. Global warming is destroying so much of what is vital and beautiful and necessary for us to sustain life on this orb that circles the sun in a vast, never-ending universe. Species are dying off every day and our oceans will soon be unable to provide the fish we crave.

So what can we do? Not much as individuals, but as a group we can do a lot. We can reduce our carbon footprint — the amount of greenhouse gasses we emit every day from the energy we use — in many ways. If millions of us do this, we can change this road to destruction. Of course, the earth is not going to die in our lifetimes, or even in our great-great-grandchildren’s, but unless we each do our part, they will have a much harder life.

How does this connect to the kosher kitchen? Food production in America is one of the largest consumers of energy and one of the largest producers of greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming. It takes millions of gallons of water to can vegetables and fruits, and millions more to grow them.

But that is miniscule in comparison to the amount of water and energy used to process meat and poultry. The production of meat is costly to the environment. It takes tremendous amounts of energy to produce and process the meat and poultry we eat. According to the Earth Day Organization, if the entire US skipped meat for just one day a week, it would be the equivalent of not driving 91 billion miles or taking 7.2 million cars off the road.

Imagine how that decreased use of energy and greenhouse gas emissions could impact the planet! And what if we did it for two days a week? Or even three?

I am not here to turn anyone into a vegetarian. I am not a vegetarian myself. But I think that as someone involved in the world of nutrition and cooking, it is my responsibility to provide options for my readers and to bring up important food issues when they arise. 

So, if you are inclined, make at least one day a week a meatless day. It will help preserve our planet.

Baby Eggplant with Caramelized Onions, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and More (Pareve)

6 to 8 baby eggplants, each about 6 to 8 inches

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

2 to 3 large onions, thinly sliced

1 to 6 cloves garlic, finely minced

4 to 6 ripe Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped, liquid and seeds discarded

1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

3 to 6 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp. sugar

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

1/3 cup water 

3 to 4 cups cooked faro, lentils or wild rice mix

Optional: 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped 

Fresh or dried oregano to taste

Fresh breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a large roasting pan. Set aside.

Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Place each half, cut side up, in the roasting pan. Brush the cut side generously with olive oil and cover lightly with foil. Roast for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the eggplants are softened but not mushy. Remove from the oven and let cool. 

Cook the faro according to directions and set aside.

Peel and slice the onions. Heat a large skillet and 2 to 3 Tbsp. olive oil. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 20 to 30 minutes or until deep golden brown and caramelized. Add the garlic, chopped tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes and heat 3 to 4 minutes. Add half the sugar and 1-1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Add the parsley and, if you like, basil and/or oregano. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside to cool. 

Mix 4 Tbsp. of the remaining olive oil with the rest of the sugar and the lemon juice. Set aside.

Scoop out some of the eggplant from each half, leaving a shell about 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick. Mix the scooped eggplant into the onion mixture, chopping the pieces if needed. Mix well.

Add the faro, lentils, or rice to the onion/eggplant mixture and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. 

Fill each eggplant shell and then drizzle with the lemon juice/olive oil mixture. If you like, top with breadcrumbs. Pour the water around the edge of the pan, not over the eggplants. Cover tightly with foil and place in the oven. Let roast for 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover and baste with the liquid in the pan. Add more water if needed. Uncover and roast an additional 10 to 15 minutes, checking to avoid burning. If tops begin to burn, lower heat to 375 and tent lightly with foil.

Serves 6 to 12. Serve with a salad that has some chickpeas in it for more protein and fiber.

Great Lasagna Roll-Ups (Dairy)

1 package lasagna noodles

2 packages (10 to 12 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1 large jar of your favorite tomato sauce

3 cups ricotta cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

16 oz. mozzarella cheese divided in half

2 extra-large eggs

1 to 3 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/2 to 1 tsp. salt, to taste

1/2 to 1 tsp. pepper, to taste

OPTIONAL: freshly sliced mushrooms, sautéed 

diced onion, sautéed 

fresh basil leaves torn into bite-sized pieces

Cook the lasagna noodles according to directions until “al dente.” Drain, rinse with cold water and place on a clean towel to dry.

Mix the ricotta, Parmesan and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, eggs, garlic, salt and pepper together. Squeeze the spinach as dry as possible and add to the cheese mixture. Mix well.

Place a generous amount of cheese in a thin line along the first 3/4 of a lasagna noodle. As you gently roll up the noodle, the cheese will squeeze out to the sides and to the end of the roll. Continue until all noodles are used.

Pour about 1 cup tomato sauce in the bottom of a deep casserole dish. Spread evenly. Place the rolls seam side down in the sauce. Cover with the remaining sauce and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese over that. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until bubbly.

Serves 8 to 12. For kids, I use a half noodle and make smaller rolls-ups. Serve with a great salad and some garlic bread.

Low-Fat Cottage Cheese Pancakes (Dairy) 

My kids loved this for an occasional light supper. 

1-1/2 cups low-fat cottage cheese

6 eggs

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 to 3 Tbsp. honey or pure maple syrup

Butter or canola oil for frying

OPTIONAL: blueberries, chopped apples, chopped dates, diced strawberries

Combine the cottage cheese, eggs, flour, baking powder and vanilla. Mix well. Add the sugar and honey and mix thoroughly. Add any optional fruit (about 1 cup) and mix well. Place butter in a frying pan and add spoonfuls of the batter. Let cook through and then flip to brown the second side. Makes about 12 pancakes.