In 2011, Mikki Samet actually did what others daydream about doing: She left her career as a copywriter, went to culinary school and is now a personal kosher gourmet chef. Samet is the owner and chef at Taste: Kosher Gourmet Meals by Chef Mikki, where she’s been busy adapting Japanese, Italian and French cuisines for the kosher palate. For the curious customer who has commitment issues but still wants to sample Samet’s cooking, she’s recently launched a weekly la carte Shabbat menu which features a soup, several sides and a dessert. For details on kashrut, email Mikki at ChefMikki@tastekoshermeals.com.
You fell in love with food while studying in Italy. Are there any dishes you learned there that can’t be replicated in a kosher kitchen?
Well, I was keeping kosher in Italy. But if you are talking about traditional dishes, there are definitely some limitations – like not being able to use Parmesan or heavy cream in a Bolognese sauce for pasta. In my kitchen, I boost the flavor of quality kosher beef with lots of herbs, spices, onions, and garlic to create an awesome meat sauce.
There are a lot more kosher options these days – it’s really exciting! You can now find kosher and authentic Parmesan cheese, miso paste, mirin (which is like a sweet rice wine) and wasabi. I recently put together a miso-glazed cod with sesame seeds, which was inspired by a dish from Nobu (one of the most respected Japanese restaurants in the world).
If you were to suggest 5 cookbooks that everyone should have in their collection, what would they be? (I call them my ‘desert island’ cookbooks.)
- The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook – If you only had this cookbook, you would make out just fine.
- How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman – I love Bittman because he is all about simple, delicious recipes and really empowers people to follow their instincts in the kitchen.
- Kosher Revolution by Geila Hocherman – A friend recently gave this to me and I absolutely love it!
- Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten – Even though several of the dishes have bacon, I just leave it out and still get wonderful results with these classic recipes.
- The Essential Recipe Collection for Today’s Cook by Williams Sonoma – I got this book for my wedding and have used it countless times.
What’s your ideal Shabbat dinner?
I think Shabbat is a time for the traditional, comfort foods we grew up with — only made better, of course. It’s so simple, but I love a pot roast with carrots, potatoes and onions. It’s fun to do things with a twist, like dying matzo balls a lovely hue with golden turmeric or various herbs. Culinary school taught me classic techniques that helped form a strong foundation. With these techniques, I can take something like mashed potatoes and make them parve yet super delicious with slow-roasted garlic and other add-ins. It’s great for vegans, and I’m always looking for ways to make things healthier.
What’s the one trayf (non-kosher) food you’ve always wondered about?
Lobster. It is something that both fascinates and repels me. I’m curious as to why it’s so addictive whether someone is at a casual lobster bake on the beach or in a fancy restaurant. What is it about lobster that makes people so happy?
Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!