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Local rabbi's essay in unique Israeli cookbook

You might describe Dafi Forer Kremer’s “Melting Pot” as “post-Susie Fishbein.” Far more than a kosher cookbook with artistic layout and photography, this volume was designed for the Shabbat table and the coffee table as well as the kitchen table.

Conceived as a tribute to global Jewish cuisine in the melting pot of Israel on its 60th anniversary, the book boasts a unique structure, paralleling the Five Books of Moses. There is a recipe to match each week’s Torah portion, along with an original essay on the portion written by a well-known Jewish educator or food writer.

Livingston resident Fishbein, in fact, penned an essay entitled “Kosher by Divine Design” for Parshat Sh’mini, playing on the titles of her best-selling cookbooks.

Among the 52 contributing essayists are several others with New Jersey ties: Poopa Dweck, a noted Jewish-Syrian chef from Deal; Deena Zimmerman, a pediatrician and halachic authority on women’s issues who lives in Israel and is married to Sammy Zimmerman from Teaneck; Rookie Billet, the principal of Teaneck’s Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls; and best-selling author, Jewish Standard columnist, and TV personality Rabbi Shmuley Boteach of Englewood.

Boteach said he was happy to help mark Israel’s 60th anniversary, which he felt was under-celebrated. That his d’var Torah landed in a book about food was an anomaly, he said, since he claims to “know nothing whatsoever about cooking.”

“It really scored brownie points with my wife that a man who can do no more than turn on the stove was asked to contribute to a cookbook,” said Boteach, whose latest book, “Kosher Sutra,” has nothing to do with nutrition.

Other notable contributors include chief Rabbis Yona Metzger (Israel), Sir Jonathan Sacks (Great Britain), and Warren Goldstein (South Africa); Rabbi Shlomo Riskin; Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis; novelist Naomi Ragen; Jewish Agency head Ze’ev Bielski; Yeshiva University president Richard Joel; Nefesh B’Nefesh founder Rabbi Yehoshua Fass; international Torah lecturer (and former Moriah School of Englewood teacher) Shira Smiles; and Knesset members Michael Melchior and Yuli Edelstein.

With four young children and a national position with Israel’s Bnei Akiva Youth Movement, Kremer managed to assemble the recipes and the illustrious cast of writers within six months. That she pulled off this feat in English is even more impressive, because she is a native Israeli. She had a chance to polish her language skills during a three-year post managing a Jewish study hall for women in South Africa. It was there that she published her first book, “The Sacred Chef.”

Kremer said she first did a Hebrew version of “Melting Pot” and then consulted people all over the world to suggest contributors for the English version. “Everyone I approached cooperated,” she said.

The book is available at J. Levine Books and Judaica at 5 W. 30th St. in Manhattan or online at levinejudaica.com.

This recipe by Dafi Kremer accompanies Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s essay on Parshat VaYeshev, “The Task of the Chosen People.”

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Mince Chicken Meat Parcels

9 oz. mince meat (ground chicken)

18 oz. puff pastry

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic

1 zucchini, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 small basket of mushrooms, chopped

1 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. chicken soup mix

Salt and pepper to taste

4 oz. tomato puree

1/2 cup water

Chives

1 egg

Saute the onion, garlic, zucchini, carrot, green pepper, and mushrooms. Add tomato puree and water. Brown the mince meat. Add mince meat to vegetables. Add chicken soup mix and cumin. Let mixture cool. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the thawed puff pastry. Using sharp knife, cut into 5-inch squares. Put the squares onto a greaseproof paper sheet. Using your fingers, place a little of the mixture in each square of pastry. Mold it until it resembles a little closed paper bag. “Tie” each with a chive. Using a pastry brush, paint each parcel with egg. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the pastry has turned crispy. Yield: 12 servings.

This recipe accompanies Sherri Mandell’s essay for Parshat VeEra, “Opening our Hearts.”

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Eggplant Soup

2 eggplants

3 tbsp. olive oil

2 medium onions, sliced

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 quarts water

4 tbsp. vegetable soup powder

2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves

1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

Dash of Tabasco sauce

Cut eggplants in half and score the flesh side with cross-hatch cuts. Brush cut sides with 1 tablespoon olive oil, place on hot grill, and roast until browned and soft, about 20 minutes. Scoop out flesh and coarsely chop it. Set aside.

Heat remaining olive oil in a large, heavy pot. Add onions and garlic and sauté over medium heat until golden, 5-8 minutes. Add water, soup powder, and eggplant flesh and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 10 minutes. Add basil and oregano and cook 2 additional minutes. Strain the solids from the liquid, reserving the hot liquid in the pot. Puree the solids in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy. Return the puree to the pot and reheat to just below simmer. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce. Serve with sour cream and pesto. Yield: 4-6 servings.

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