Staff Writer
Let's Start With Dessert
When dessert means dairy, Shabbat dinner gets shaken up.
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For a pro-substitute counterpoint to this post, read Food & Wine Editor Emma Goss' take on almond milk.

I keep a kosher home and in general, I enjoy it. My husband, male that he is, tries to rationalize kashrut whenever it comes up in conversation by talking about Trichinosis in Ancient Times and all that jazz, but I don't feel the need.

To me, kashrut is a kind of holy fuss -- the two sets of dishes, the pareve utensils, the little stickers I use to remind me what's what, the drain boards in the sinks -- that keeps me mindful of bigger things even as I'm up to my elbows in the most mundane of kitchen chores.

Where I do occasionally encounter stumbling blocks is more around the quality of the food. I've got lots of quibbles of this kind and I intend to vent them all here.

But let's start, as so many like to do, with dessert. To me, dessert means dairy. Emma, our Food & Wine editor, insists almond milk is an ideal substitution, but I take a dim view of substitutions.

And don't tell me that delicious and very rich non-dairy chocolate cakes can be made. I'm sure one day I will make one, but it's not a long-term solution to the incompatibility, as I see it, of a traditional Shabbat meal and an appropriate dessert. There is no long-term solution. So sometimes, well, often, I say bye-bye to the protein and because dessert is so good, it's worth it. (Yes, I could do fish, but it's difficult to cook fish well ahead of time, as one so often must or wants to do for Shabbat.)

And so I share with you my menu for last night's Shabbat dinner, all taken word-for-word from the wonderful (and, bonus, Jewish) food blogger and cookbook author, Deb Perelman, whose Smitten Kitchen cookbook I recommend.

I made her Portobello Mushroom Bourguignon, and her Red Wine Chocolate Cake (the one from the website, not the cookbook, which asks the reader to make three cakes), and we were all very happy. Well, my son was a little farbissina, because chicken cutlets are his favorite food, but we can't have either chicken cutlets or Red Wine Chocolate Cake every week, so it will balance out.

helenatjewishweek@gmail.com; @thesimplechild

Last Update:

05/02/2013 - 15:54


I would give up my protein too for that red wine chocolate cake! I find coconut milk to be a great substitute in baking, because it's thicker than almond milk. The downside is, coconut has a very pronounced flavor, while the almond milk all but disappears in the recipe. The bigger problem is substituting butter, a dilemma for which I have yet to find a solution.

I don't know what the big deal is about dairy desserts (except for cheese cake). My mother was a very good baker (& I have been told that I am), & I don't recall that she ever made anything that wasn't pareve. With the exception of my muffin tin, all my baking equipment is pareve. Margarine subs for butter. Other liquids sub for milk.

If they're "kosher enough" for you, Quorn cutlets are a decent chicken analog. They bill themselves as mycoprotein, which I think means they're some kind of mushroom grown in a vat. And milchiks.

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