Chicken with strawberry balsamic jam or curried sweet potato borekas might not be what first comes to mind when thinking about a traditional kosher menu, but at 12 Tribes in San Francisco, innovative dishes like that are the norm. As a kosher catering company whose motto is “seasonally delicious, happens to be kosher” 12 Tribes is right at home in the San Francisco Bay Area where seasonal, sustainable and locally sourced food are a major part of the food ethos.
Throughout the Bay Area, Jewish chefs and food industry people folk are involved in fusion food projects of all kinds.
“Wherever Jews have lived we have always integrated local ingredients and local styles of cooking and made them our own,” says Rabbi Rebecca Josef, the founder of 12 Tribes.
The development of Jewish cooking has always been a back-and-forth with the surrounding cultures. The Jews introduced new ingredients and styles of cooking that were then adopted by the surrounding culture and vice versa. For example, Jews introduced eggplant into Italian cooking.
Jews in the Bay Area are no exception, taking their influences from a surrounding food culture that highlights fresh seasonal produce, ethically sourced ingredients and, above all, the use of creative techniques. Here, you might see a nostalgic Jewish-style deli like Shorty Goldsteins that uses locally sourced ingredients and, instead of just the standard dill pickles, serves pickled cauliflower and pickled asparagus, as well. Or a Jewish high school with monthly Eat Local Day, where the students are served dishes like coconut-cilantro rice with yams and broccoli or Brussels sprouts and apples with shallots for their lunch.
One way many Bay Area chefs highlight the flavors of seasonal produce by playing with the line between sweet and savory. It is not uncommon to find ingredients generally associated with savory food integrated into desserts, yielding results that are both surprising and delicious. The natural sweetness of the fruit becomes even more pronounced in these unconventional pairings, and diners come away feeling as if they have tasted familiar flavors, such as strawberries, in a whole new way.
The following recipes are both definitely dessert! But they incorporate savory elements in order to transform local strawberries. Basil and strawberries are a wonderful, if somewhat surprising, combination. The creamy basil panna cotta is balanced by the sweet, lightly cooked, strawberry sauce to make a dessert that elegant, yet comforting.
Rhubarb and strawberries are a natural pairing because they both appear in the markets around the same time. In this dish, the rhubarb is gently poached until just cooked, and the strawberries are not cooked at all, allowing the freshness of the season to shine. Enhanced by fresh lemon verbena and paired with a tangy goat cheese ice cream, this dish is the essence of spring.
Basil Panna Cotta with Strawberry Compote
For Panna Cotta
1/2 cup (13 g) packed basil leaves, coarsely chopped
6 tablespoons (84 g) sugar
2 cups heavy cream
2 1/4 (7 g) teaspoons gelatin
3 tablespoons (42 g) cold water
Special equipment: 4 (5 oz) ramekins or small glass dishes
Combine the basil, sugar and heavy cream in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove the pot from the heat and cover. Let steep for fifteen minutes. Meanwhile grease the ramekins with vegetable oil and set aside. Place the water into a medium bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Place a fine mesh strainer over the bowl.
When the cream mixture has finished steeping pour it through the strainer into the gelatin. Stir until the gelatin is fully melted. Pour the cream mixture into the ramekins and refrigerate them until set, at least two hours.
To serve run a sharp knife around the edge of the ramekin to loosen the panna cotta. Invert the ramekin onto a serving dish and spoon the strawberry compote around the panna cotta. Alternatively, the panna cotta may be served directly in the ramekins. Simply top the panna cotta with the strawberry compote before serving.
For Strawberry Compote
2 cups (11 oz) hulled and quartered strawberries
1 tablespoon fresh finely grated lemon zest (from one medium lemon)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Combine all the ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium low heat until the berries soften, approximately 5 minutes. Let cool before serving.
Strawberry, Rhubarb and Lemon Verbena Compote with Goat Cheese Ice Cream
12 oz fresh rhubarb, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
15 medium sized lemon verbena leaves, finely minced
1 cup (7.5 oz) sugar
3/4 cup (6 ounces) water
2 cups (11 oz) fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
Bring the lemon verbena, sugar and water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Stir in the rhubarb. Bring the mixture back to a simmer and cook for two minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cover. Let the mixture cool until just warm. Stir in the strawberries and refrigerate for 1-2 hours to let the flavors blend.
For Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream (preferably not ultra-pasteurized)
1 cup sugar
8 ounces soft goat cheese, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
Heat the cream and the sugar over low heat until the cream is steaming and the sugar dissolves. (This can also be done in the microwave) Place the goat cheese in a medium bowl and mash it into a thin layer with a fork. Pour the hot cream over the goat cheese and stir until the cheese is fully melted. Stir in the buttermilk. Refrigerate the mixture until cold.
Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least two hours.
Shoshana Ohriner is the creator and author of the popular blog Couldn't Be Parve, specializing in naturally delicious dairy-free desserts. Her recipes and articles have been published in a variety of publications and websites. She lives in California with her husband and two little boys. You can follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.