Toon's Kitchen

Grandma, he had often wanted to say, is this where the world began? For surely it had begun in no other than a place like this. The kitchen, without doubt, was the center of creation, all things revolved about it; it was the pediment that sustained the temple.
--Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

My, how domestic of me.

A bit of an introduction, first. As a practicing Orthodox Jew, I keep a kosher kitchen. (Kosher: in accordance with kashrut, Jewish dietary laws.) What does this mean to you? Well, not a lot. If you don't keep kosher, you can pretty much ignore anything written here in color, as it doesn't apply to you. Unless you're curious. Or unless you're a vegetarian, in which case take note below.
If you do keep kosher, you can freely use the recipes below without worrying about having to find a good substitute for any non-kosher ingredients -- and you can take note of the color-coded Meat/Dairy/Pareve tags on each recipe.

Note to vegetarians, vegans, and lactose-intolerant: Anything labeled "Dairy" does not contain meat, and vice versa. Anything labeled "Pareve" contains neither dairy products nor meat products, but may contain eggs or fish products.

On using these recipes: Feel free! I insist only that if you pass them to other people, you let them know where you got it. And if you come up with an interesting variation on any of these, I'd be delighted to hear about it.

Some of the recipes below are the standard sort, the kind of structured recipe you find in most cookbooks. Some of the titles below, in fact, are from cookbooks; I have given credit where due (and links where possible).
Others are improv recipes, in the spirit of the old Russian proverb: "You can't spoil kasha with butter." Which means, more or less, that you can't spoil something good by adding something else good. The general rule with these recipes is flexibility. The proportions are never measured and the contents aren't fixed. If you're missing one of the ingredients (or even if you're not), try putting in something different. The final instruction in each of these recipes is: taste it and see what else it needs. Maybe add a new ingredient or three. Maybe fiddle with the proportions. Maybe run once around the kitchen and toss in whatever you find. This is the best kind of cooking to do with a friend, especially a friend with some culinary talent. Someone you can turn to and say "Here, taste this. What's missing?"

Soups, Starters & Side Dishes

  • Artichokes
    Pareve | The way my Mom taught me to make 'em for Shabbos.

  • Artichokes Dunbar
    Pareve | The story of this one: When my grandmother Cecil Kohlman married my grandfather Zolly Levin, she began keeping kosher. This meant she had to stop eating at places like the Dunbar restaurant -- a location famous for its seafood dishes, most of which are forbidden by the laws of kashrut. One dish of theirs in particular had caught her fancy: a casserole called Oysters Dunbar. Grandma recreated the dish at home, substituting canned artichoke hearts for oysters, and thus was born a family favorite.
    This recipe has traveled around the world, and enjoyed many adventures along the way. At one point a friend in Denver offered my mother an artichoke recipe, which turned out to be this one served in individual pastry shells. If you come up with a tasty variation yourself, let me know!

  • Bread Kugel
    Pareve | My mother's recipe, tweaked slightly. This is a good way to use up stale or freezer-dry bread.

  • Corn Chowder
    Dairy | Adapted from Nina Hirshman's Corn Soup and The Moosewood Cookbook's Succotash Chowder.

  • Happy Bean Soup
    Pareve | This began as Mountain Soup from the Kitchen Wizard Cookbook by Deborah Jarvis, a children's cookbook I've had since I was very small. I started experimenting with the recipe, and when I finally perfected it I was inordinately pleased with myself. Hence the name.

  • Hungarian Mushroom Soup
    Dairy | Another from the Moosewood Cookbook, with family variants.

  • Mega Tomato Soup
    Dairy | What makes it "mega?" Fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce, and sun-dried tomatoes, that's what. This began as a tomato-basil soup from a cookbook, but I prefer my own adaptation.

  • Mom's Potato Kugel
    Pareve | An old holiday favorite.

  • Mushroom Salad
    Pareve | An early experiment with reduction sauces.

  • Not My Father's Chicken Soup
    Meat | I got the original recipe from my dad, who makes tremendously good chicken soup, but I've altered it enough that it really isn't his recipe anymore. (The name is something of a misnomer, since the soup involves more turkey than chicken. Whatever.)

  • Potato 'n' Parsnip Bake
    Pareve | Pretty much self-explanatory.

  • Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
    Pareve | A necessary basic side dish.

  • Salad Toys
    Pareve | A mixture of fun things to add to your basic green salad, with a marinade dressing.

  • Savory Noodle Kugel
    Pareve | Adapted from The Spice & Spirit of Jewish Cooking, with personal variants.

  • Toon's Amazing Disappearing Stuffed Mushrooms
    Pareve | These were so successful the first time I served them that they disappeared before I could get a second helping. The next time, of course, I made sure to double the recipe. Note: this is a very labor-intensive recipe -- allow at least two hours start to finish.

  • Vegetarian Sick Day Soup
    Pareve | Not exactly mock chicken soup, but very very good for sore throats.

  • Winter Lentil-Vegetable Soup
    Dairy/Pareve | A Toon original. Good for cold nights.


  • Deli Roll
    Meat | I'm a big fan of stuff that looks more complicated than it is. This dish is a prime example.

  • Easy Quick Raspberry Garlic Chicken
    Meat | Simple and delicious.

  • New! Honey Nut Chicken
    Meat | From Merav Hoffman's recipe.

  • Mediterranean Chicken
    Meat | "But Toon, don't you have any chicken recipes that don't involve fruit?" "Sure! Um, wait ... olives are fruit, aren't they?"

  • Orange Chicken
    Meat | Almost as easy as Raspberry Garlic Chicken, and even more visually impressive.

  • Pomegranate Chicken
    Meat | My own variant on Seanan McGuire's famous recipe.

  • Pomegranate Chicken Mark II
    Meat | Yet another version, this one from Foremost Caterers.

  • Scarborough Chicken
    Meat | Yes, it probably is what you're thinking.

  • Summer Stew
    Dairy/Pareve | This one was invented by me and my friend Miri one night. I'd accidentally locked myself out of my house and needed a place to sleep, and wound up taking the subway into Manhattan to crash in her dorm room. By the time I got there I was tired, hungry, and out of sorts. I was ready to just make a sandwich and collapse, but Miri took one look at me and said "You need some real food." We raided the dorm kitchen and came up with this in about twenty minutes.
    This is nice for summer because it uses only one stove burner (ergo less heat in the kitchen).

  • Tostadas
    Dairy/Pareve | From Mollie Katzen's The Moosewood Cookbook, a vegetarian cookbook that's been in my family's kitchen for years. I heartily recommend acquiring a copy.


  • Amaretto Cake
    Pareve | A rich, moist cake with a bit of a kick.

  • New! Banana Bread
    Pareve | Also good for brunch! Adapted from Susan Young's recipe.

  • Banana Cream Pie
    Dairy | The filling for this pie was originally a vanilla pudding recipe from the Gourmet Best Desserts cookbook. Add sliced bananas and put it in a pie crust, and voila!

  • Butterscotch Cookies
    Dairy (Pareve with substitutions) | Another favorite from the Gourmet Best Desserts cookbook. The nice thing about this recipe is that the dough can be made well in advance and kept in the freezer for months, and you can even make about half of it into cookies and keep the rest for another time.

  • Chocolate Meese
    Pareve | Because everybody likes chocolate meese. Even if they pronounce it "mousse." Best thing about this recipe is that it contains neither dairy products nor anything pretending to be a dairy product.

  • Kahlua Cake
    Pareve | A rich, moist cake with a bit of a kick.

  • Megalita's Caramel Banana Pie
    Dairy | From a net.friend who liked the banana cream pie recipe.

  • Mere Trifle
    Dairy (Pareve with substitutions) | A layered dessert that tends to impress the hell out of people.

  • Walnut Twists
    Pareve | Yes, it's another favorite from the Gourmet Best Desserts cookbook, described (with some justification) as "nothing short of addictive." If you use ready-made pastry dough from your supermarket's freezer section, this is one of those wonderful recipes that looks much more complicated than it really is.

    Snacks & Light Meals

  • Aioli
    Pareve | Homemade garlic mayonnaise. Excellent on sandwiches or as a dip. According to the Moosewood Cookbook, "The traditional aioli supper consists of the central dish ... [and] clusters of freshly-steamed vegetables to dip.... Aioli is also delicious on freshly-baked fish."
    This is based partly on the Moosewood recipe, with heavy improvisation -- including using roasted garlic.

  • Borecas
    Dairy | Pastry crust with a cheese-and-potato filling.

  • Refritos
    Pareve | From Mollie Katzen's The Moosewood Cookbook.

  • Sandwiches
    Dairy/Pareve | Someday I hope to get a job as Sandwich Maker on some primitive alien planet where my sandwich-making skills would be properly revered. Failing that, however, I'll share a few of my favorite sandwich fixin's here.

    More to come!

    If you can't stand the heat...