Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Keeping California Kosher

For those of you who aren't from around here, "California Kosher" is often used as a euphemism for "vegetarian, no hechsher, but what could be wrong with vegetarian?" So much so that my poor father, a cheeseburger-loving Catholic who does extensive work in the Jewish community has sometimes implored people to remember that "kosher" is not the Hebrew word for "nuts and berries".

The Balabusta's kitchen represents its own compromises. I have one set of everything, which is used for dairy, meat, and my husband's trayf microwave treats. I buy kosher meat, and read labels for egregious problems. And I don't make Cheesy Pasta Beef Delight Casserole. (This could be attributed to aesthetics, as well as religious concerns.) Everything else is pretty much up for grabs. (Don't even ask about Pesach. There's tin-foil, and a lot of wishful thinking involved. One of my fondest memories of my early teens is sitting with my father on one of the days of Pesach, out on our porch, enjoying the springtime breeze while he ate a sandwich from the supermarket.)

Naturally, this leads to all the frum Jews I know thinking I'm just a step away from eating a pork roast on Yom Kippur, while everyone else thinks I'm a dangerous religious fanatic. Go figure.

I have a fantasy that someday we will have a lot of money, and will have a house with, as I envision it, a big, properly kosher kitchen with two dishwashers and a compartmentalized fridge, and then a separate little kitchenette for my husband's stuff. He can keep his pork products there, and his carbs during Pesach, and a supply of beef jerky, and all the trayfedick-o-rama microwave stuff he enjoys.

There are also some additional problems with the Balabusta-Fella household's eating habits. Namely, religious concerns aside, we simply don't like a lot of the same foods. I like vegetables. A lot. The fella has a short list of vegetables he will eat if I think they're needed to keep him from getting scurvy.

I feel guilty if I eat too much meat. The fella feels deprived if there's not meat in most meals.

I like fish. The fella will not touch any kosher fish. (How the hell do you grow up in Hawaii and not like fish? He can pronounce the state fish of Hawaii, that's the humuhumunukunukuapua'a BTW, but he won't eat halibut.) He likes crab, but there, you see, we run into other problems again.

We have gradually grown together on some things. He will now eat pasta, (although not macaroni and cheese), and actually craves pesto. (This is thanks to my sister-in-law, who sent him a jar from Italy. When it ran out, he commented that we should ask her to send more. This led to the wonderful discovery that they sell pesto in American grocery stores.) We eat a lot of chicken. And every now and then he reminds me that I'm doing the cooking, and should just put food in front of him--if he can't eat it, he will heat a Hot Pocket.

Anyway, I'm usually on the lookout for new foods. At my old shul's Chanukah Bazaar, my mother bought me a new cookbook, titled, fetchingly, California Kosher. It appears to be the work of the Women's League of Adat Ari El Synagogue in North Hollywood, and it has a big navel orange stamped with a K on the cover.

I am having fun. We have discovered a really nice chicken recipe, so far, and I am planning to get some rhubarb and make the stuffed rhubarb recipe. Let you know how it goes. Actually, I know how it will go, having fed the fella stuffed peppers in the past, but the point is, he eats the filling.

The thing I'm still looking for is a fleishig kosher lasagna recipe. Anyone? Anyone?


debka_notion said...

I think I saw a variety of tofu that could be used as fake cheese for lazagna once- and it was specifically for that purpose, and, as I remember, it worked pretty darn well. I don't think it had a hechsher (this was quite a while ago) but if that doesn't bother you, then there you go, if you can find it. But crumbled tofu in general and relevant spices should get you a good chunk of the way there. Maybe there's some way of cooking crumbled tofu and soy milk to make a fake cheese filling, with lots of veggies?

Friar Yid (not Shlita) said...

We don't keep the big K at home, but my father and I are lactose-intolerant, so we needed a lasagna with no cheese. We've made this several times and it always comes out great (just in case you're wondering, we aren't weirdo hippy people whose tastebuds judge everything relative to unseasoned granola). If you wanted to add meat (I'm a meat-lover too but always found this satisfying on its own), you could just incorporate it in along with the tofu and spinach.

Try it and let me know how it goes!