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From the Shabbat table to the community

Kosher cook launches homemade meal service 

By Cindy Mindell

 

WEST HARTFORD – For many years, Beth Polebaum has reveled in her kitchen every Friday, creating elaborate Shabbat meals for her family and fellow congregants invited to the Cohn-Polebaum table from the Emanuel Synagogue, where husband Sandy Cohn is cantor.

Beth Polebaum

Beth Polebaum

Last year, Polebaum began cooking for a friend who was dealing with serious medical issues. “At the same time, I saw that my own mother – who is the best cook of all – was starting to wave the white flag and admit that she and my dad were eating out more often and bringing prepared food in,” she says. “That brought to mind the many seniors who are independent but may need some help to retain their independence.”

That’s when Polebaum conceived of L’Chaim Kosher Kitchen. She cooks for a variety of clients: seniors who need a meal delivered, people leaving rehab facilities, and those who want to give the gift of a meal to someone recovering from an illness, returning from a trip, or welcoming a new baby into the family. One client hired Polebaum after signing up with her synagogue to provide a meal for someone who keeps kosher when she herself did not have a kosher kitchen. Polebaum has also cooked dishes for dinner parties, meetings, and other gatherings. (She notes that her kitchen is not Va’ad-certified.)

Polebaum gets to know the dietary needs and preferences of each client, then works out weekly menus that includes an entrée, two side dishes, and dessert each day. The winter offerings always include soup.

“I love trying recipes and spices from different ethnic traditions,” Polebaum says. “I’ve checked out armloads of cookbooks from the library on cuisines from every corner of the globe. The Internet is a wonderful source of ideas, and I have created many of my own recipes.”

Among Polebaum’s recent repertoire is a Mediterranean meal infused with the signature flavors of cardamom, cinnamon, and za’atar (sumac). “I also made – I admit with only a shade of embarrassment – a romantic Shabbat meal for the 14th of February,” she says, “beginning with salmon mousse and ending with bourbon balls, strawberries dipped in chocolate, and mini lemon tarts in the shape of hearts.”

Polebaum says that she enjoys taking on the culinary challenge when someone tells her about their favorite treyf dish, which she then recreates with kosher ingredients – for example, paella, bouillabaisse, or Szechwan “shrimp.”

As the lone cook, Polebaum doesn’t take special orders from her clients, “but if someone has a hankering for something, I work it into the next batch of menus,” she says. “Modesty aside, I make some killer desserts!”

Info: (860) 233-6645; bmpolebaum@gmail.com; facebook.com/lchaimkoshermeals.

 

A really special family recipe is my grandmother’s recipe for apple pie. It uses strudel dough rolled very thin and baked in a cookie sheet. I also love making individual pies and decorating the top crust for the season. This one was made for Sukkot:

Nana Shenke’s Apple Pie

Dough:

2 ½ c. flour

½ t. baking powder

¼ c. sugar

1 egg

½ c. vegetable oil

½ c. lukewarm water

Sift dry ingredients. Add egg, oil, and water. Beat with a fork into a soft dough. Roll half of the dough into a thin sheet and put on a large cookie sheet. (I usually accomplish this in two separate pieces.)

 

Filling:

12 apples

1 ½ c. sugar

2 T. flour

1 t. cinnamon

¼ t. salt

Pare and slice the apples. Fill the lined cookie sheet. Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, and flour. Sprinkle over the apples. Roll out the rest of the crust and place on top, wetting the edges with water to hold them together. Slit in 4 or 5 places. Brush the top with water and sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar on top.

Bake at 400˚ for 20 minutes. Turn down the temperature to 350˚ and bake until the apples are cooked and the top is browned.

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