Let us introduce you to the chef who takes the calories out of comfort food, Paula Shoyer. A French-trained chef, worldwide cooking teacher, and mother of four, Shoyer is the energetic author of, “The Healthy Jewish Kitchen,” “The New Passover Menu,” “The Holiday Kosher Baker” and “The Kosher Baker.” Media outlets like The Washington Post, Food52 and Chicago Tribune regularly feature Shoyer. You might recognize Shoyer, she’s appeared on over 30 TV shows, including being a contestant on Food Network’s “Sweet Genius.”
Melissa’s Produce recently hosted Paula Shoyer in their kitchen along with a spread of healthy, delicious recipes prepared from her cookbook, “The Healthy Jewish Kitchen.” We caught up with Shoyer afterward to have her answer a few questions we were dying to ask about Jewish cooking. Aside from tailgating recipe recommendations and unusual chocolate pairings, we also discovered ways to make our recipes a little bit healthier. Read the interview below to find out more, plus, grab her Winter Red Salad recipe from us!
Interview With Paula Shoyer, The Kosher Baker
Q: What’s your secret to taking calories out of comfort food? Are there set rules that a home chef could adopt to start that strategy with their recipes?
Paula Shoyer: First, substitute in 25 percent whole wheat or spelt flour in any dessert recipe. Next, instead of sugar in a savory recipe, try a little honey or maple syrup. Also, in baked goods, after you measure sugar, scoop out two tablespoons from the cup, and the recipe will still work.
Q: If we were to go into your kitchen at home, what would be inside a healthy Jewish kitchen? What’s in the pantry? What’s in the fridge? Are there go-to produce items that you always buy?
PS: My kitchen is full of produce, lean meats, whole grains and canned beans. I do not have many jarred sauces or grains that come with salty spice packs. Basically, no mix-type items since I make everything from scratch. I always have lemons, garlic, onions, celery, carrots, green onions and arugula in the fridge. In the pantry, there is quinoa, different types of rice, and various types of canned beans, tahini paste and LOTS of spices from all over the world.
Q: What are some favorite seasonal produce items that you love to pick up from the store?
Q: Halloween is right around the corner. If your appearance on Food Network’s “Sweet Genius” is any indication of how much you love making sweets, we gotta know what you plan on making for the holiday.
PS: As my four children are all out of the house, I bake less. My chocolate chip mandelbread is always in the freezer for when anyone shows up all year long.
Q: Sweets. Dessert. Healthy – most would think that one doesn’t belong. How do you make healthy desserts that satisfy? Is it all about portion control, or are you a supporter of ingredient substitutions?
PS: We are so used to over-sweetened desserts. I use less sugar so the flavor of the dessert, be it lemon or chocolate, comes through. I focus on desserts with fruit and put them into an unsweetened dough. Portion control is essential; if desserts are homemade and luscious, then you do not overeat them, you are satisfied with one portion. With packaged sweets, they are designed never to satisfy you, so you overeat them. As I mentioned above, I am a big fan of just reducing sugar and white flour in desserts. And I stay away from canned and packaged fillings.
Q: We love chocolate as much as you do. What are some fun unexpected produce ingredients that you would pair with chocolate?
PS: Quinoa and chocolate is one unexpected pairing. Zucchini is another; I’ve made some really delicious muffins with shredded zucchini and chocolate.
Q: You were in Melissa’s kitchen promoting your cookbook, “The Healthy Jewish Kitchen.” What is the first recipe you recommend people try making when they pick up your book?
PS: Mango coleslaw; it’s a modern spin on a classic with mango as the basis for the dressing — NO MAYO!
Q: I’m sure people will love the menu suggestions portion of the book. The Thanksgiving menu stood out to me with the holiday right around the corner. The spread looks absolutely delicious, and I’m sure anyone recreating it would have a photo-worthy spread that would wow their family members. Our table typically looks more like a potluck, where dishes come from all different narratives. What’s a fun, unexpected recipe that appears on your table around the holidays, and could you share the story behind that dish that makes it so special?
PS: Usually, big holidays are above traditional foods, but when my children are all together, I make chocolate babka. It’s an Eastern European baked good, but the recipe came from an Iraqi Israeli. I received the recipe that I use for inspiration at my bridal shower 28 years ago.
Q: We have football on the brain, and always love a good tailgating party. Are there any dishes from your book that travel well that you’d recommend making for a tailgating party?
PS: For tailgating, I would make the grilled corn with cilantro pesto — it is great at room temp.
Q: Follow up; who’s your favorite football team?
For more information and delicious recipes from Shoyer, visit her blog, The Kosher Baker!
Paula Shoyer Takes the Calories out of Jewish Comfort Food
This salad gives a blast of vivid color and crunch to an otherwise not very colorful main course such as simple chicken or fish.
- 1 package Melissa’s Steamed Baby Beets
- 2 cups shredded red cabbage (about half a large head)
- 2 1/2 cups sliced radicchio
- 1/2 small red onion (halved and very thinly sliced)
- 2 radishes (peeled into thin slices with a vegetable peeler)
- 1/2 cup cranberries
- 1/4 cup Melissa’s Pomegranate Arils (optional)
- 1 teaspoon orange zest (from 1 orange)
- 1 tablespoon fresh Orange juice (from zested orange)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
- 2 teaspoons Balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or more to taste)
To make the dressing
- Place the orange zest in a medium bowl with the orange juice, shallots, vinegar, water, honey, olive oil, salt, and pepper and whisk well. Dressing may be made 3 days in advance.
To assemble the salad
- Place the cabbage, radicchio, red onions, radishes and beets to a large bowl. Whisk the dressing and pour over the salad. Toss well. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed, and serve. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top if desired.
Parve, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Passover