Food writers are privy to a lot of recipes, and many of them, sadly, are repeats of ones already widely familiar, with small variations in ingredients. Infrequently, though, we get access to a compilation of recipes by a skilled author with an innovative eye and a dash of culinary talent, and the result is nothing short of inspiring.
That’s Daniella Silver’s The Silver Platter (Artscroll, 2015) in a nutshell. Silver has none of the accolades of a celebrity chef – she doesn’t call herself a professional and she never spent a day in culinary school. Still, what she lacks in education she more than makes up for in passion and ingenuity in her work. Her recipes take common, easily obtained ingredients and put them together in spectacular new ways that highlight their flavor and versatility. Lay your hands on The Silver Platter and you feel an urge to get into the kitchen and start cooking.
A mother of kids with allergies, Silver is sensitive about gluten and notes whether each of her recipes is pareve, gluten-free, freezable and if substitutions could make it appropriate for Passover. She collaborated with Norene Gilletz to write this book and adds “Norene’s Notes” at the end of each recipe. That’s great because Gilletz is a no-mess, no-fuss chef who offers great tips on food storage, easy cleanup tricks, uses for leftovers and substitution possibilities.
Each recipe has a color image of the prepared dish on the facing page and all look incredibly tempting. I have a weakness for salads and vegetarian dishes, so I loved the panko-topped bok choy with edamame, the shaved corn and asparagus salad, and the kale salad with roasted sweet potatoes. Eye candy abounds and, in almost every recipe, the ingredient list adds new flavors to old staples. For example, lentil cranberry salad; mango chicken with leeks; parsnip latkes; and roasted squash with red onion and pears.
The Silver Platter is eye candy in the best sense of the word. This is a recipe book that will earn its chefs heaps of praise as they create easy dishes with ingredients that are mostly kitchen staples. That means no hunting the grocery stores for that odd ingredient you’ve never heard of before. Nutritional information for each dish is listed in the appendix and more than half of the 160 recipes, which cover fish, meat, poultry, desserts, appetizers and soups and salads, are gluten-free and Passover-friendly.
This book is a keeper on the recipe shelf. Kudos to Silver on her winning combinations in a recipe book that will inspire even long-dormant chefs to get cooking. Here is but one example, straight from The Silver Platter.
(meat, Passover, gluten-free, freezes well, yields eight to 10 servings)
1 beef brisket (4-5 lb /1.8-2.3 kg)
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp olive oil
3 large onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 can (6 oz/170 g) tomato paste
2 tbsp honey
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup dry red wine or water
- Coat a large roasting pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add brisket; sprinkle with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Rub brisket with spices to coat on all sides.
- In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté onions for five minutes, until softened. Stir in parsley, tomato paste, honey, bay leaves, vinegar and wine. Simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool.
- Pour sauce over, around and under the brisket. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight, turning occasionally.
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Bake, covered, for three to three-and-a-half hours or until meat is fork-tender. Calculate 45 minutes per pound to determine the cooking time. Discard bay leaves. Let cool.
- Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Discard hardened fat from gravy. Trim excess fat from brisket. Slice against the grain to desired thickness.
- Reheat, covered, in pan gravy at 350°F for 25-30 minutes.
- Slow cooker method: season brisket and prepare sauce as above; add to slow cooker insert coated with nonstick cooking spray. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Place insert into slow cooker; cook on low for eight to 10 hours.
- Ask your butcher to cut a very large brisket (8 lb/3.6 kg) in half. Total cooking time will be the same as for one 4 lb/1.8 kg brisket.
- Brisket should be cooked “low and slow,” with lots of onions. The internal temperature should not rise above 180°F on a meat thermometer; after it reaches 200°F, the brisket will become dry.
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond, B.C. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.