However, they are linked by a common belief in the macrobiotic principle that a peaceful, mindful and purposeful existence begins with eating a diet of whole, organic foods that are seasonally appropriate. The seasonal aspect of contemporary macrobiotic cuisine seems to fit Sukkot perfectly, because it is a harvest holiday focused on food and hospitality and is set in an temporary exterior dwelling.
According to Newman, who serves as a consultant to M Café de Chaya and is a Reconstructionist rabbi in Scarsdale, N.Y, "The foods that we eat on Sukkot and the vegetables that we use to decorate the sukkah are traditionally seasonal and local, which mirrors the macrobiotic philosophy. Just as macrobiotics tries to help us remember where our food comes from and to be conscious of what we put in our body, so, too, does the celebration of Jewish agriculturally based holidays, such as Sukkot."
Remembering his Hebrew school days, chef Gross noted that the Torah not only commands us to have a sukkah roofed with organic materials but also mandates that each sukkah meal must include at least two ounces of grains. All other foods -- meat, fruit, vegetables, beverages, etc. -- do not constitute a meal and may be combined outside the sukkah. Whole grains are one of the key ingredients of Gross' menu at M Café de Chaya.
Gross' voyage to Melrose Avenue parallels his curiosity for spiritual meaning in life. After receiving traditional culinary training the University of Providence, Gross was readying himself to become a chef at five-star restaurants. He worked with notables such as Daniel Bruce at the Boston Harbor Hotel, Philippe Jeanty at Domaine Chandon in Napa Valley, and the famed Al Forno restaurant in Providence, under the tutelage of George Germon and Johanne Killeen.
While these jobs satisfied his passion for food and haute cuisine, Gross' goal was to combine his social ideals and personal ethics. He began studying the relationship between food, health and the environment at an intensive macrobiotics program at he Kushi Institute, from which he made the commitment to build a new cuisine inspired both by his classical training and ecological and health imperatives.
After meeting in 2001 with celebrity macrobiotic counselor Mina Dobic, Gross became Gwyneth Paltrow's personal chef. As he traveled the globe, he incorporated dishes from Spain, Italy, Japan, India and England into his repertoire. He also further developed French patisserie items that do not contain refined sugars, eggs or dairy but taste just as good.
The concept of M Café de Chaya was born after a chance encounter in Japan with the Tsunoda family. The family has owned Chaya restaurants in Japan for more than 30 years. Shigefumi Tachibe, executive chef and owner of Chaya U.S., recruited Gross to develop M Café de Chaya, which opened in May 2005.
Located on Melrose Avenue, just west of La Brea Avenue, glass encasings display appetizing and beautiful dishes ranging from traditional bento boxes, paninis (with tofu mozzarella) and French-inspired tarts and patisseries. My personal favorite is the daily selection of salads (particularly the celeri remoulade), sushi and edamame croque-en-bouche (small potato shell bites filled with edamame). Diners can sit at small tables or a large communal table. The atmosphere is both trendy and comfortable.
While the restaurant does not use red meat or dairy, it is not kosher and, in the macrobiotic tradition, serves both fish and shellfish.
However, Gross gave me a few recipes that can be prepared in a kosher kitchen.
Both Newman and Gross describe M Café de Chaya as "eco-kashrut" for "down-to-earth Judaism." They both add that there need to be more health-conscious elements to kosher cuisine than just not mixing meat and milk and avoiding pork and shellfish.
Wild Scottish smoked salmon Benedict with soy Hollandaise
Recipe by Lee Gross, adapted by starchefs.com
Scrambled Tofu 14 ounces extra-firm tofu
1 tablespoon Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (soy 'butter')
1/4 cup minced onion
1 small carrot, grated
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons scallions, julienned
Crumble tofu coarsely by hand. Heat soy butter in a medium sauté pan. Add onion and sauté for two minutes or until translucent. Add carrot and sauté 30 seconds. Add crumbled tofu, turmeric and sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Heat through and add a few tablespoons of water. Let simmer until tofu is thick and creamy and resembles soft-cooked scrambled eggs. Fold in scallions, adjust seasonings and reserve.
4 ounces Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (soy 'butter')
1/2 cup soy mayonnaise (preferably Veganaise brand)
6 ounces silken firm tofu (Mori-Nu brand)
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoons turmeric
Dash of Tabasco
Melt soy butter and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in blender and blend well to combine. Drizzle in soy butter slowly until emulsified. Taste and adjust seasoning and lemon if necessary. Reserve.
Smoked salmon and garnishes
12 ounces naturally smoked wild Alaskan salmon
1 small bunch green kale, washed well, destemmed and coarsely chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced thick
6 thick slices of artisanal whole-grain baguette
1 small clove garlic, cut in half
Cut salmon into thin slices and set aside. Blanch kale in lightly salted boiling water until tender. Keep warm and reserve.
Brush tomato slices with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill over high heat until lightly cooked. Keep warm and reserve.
Brush baguette slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over high heat until just marked. Remove from grill and rub with cut side of garlic. Reserve and keep warm.
Place two slices of grilled baguette on warmed serving plates and top with four slices of grilled tomato. Place steamed kale on top of tomato.
Spoon scrambled tofu over kale and lay thin slices of smoked salmon evenly over tofu.
Heat soy hollandaise in a double boiler until just warm -- do not over heat or sauce will break. Spoon warm sauce over salmon and drizzle around the plate. Garnish with chives.
Makes six servings.
Elegant orange couscous
From Jessica Porter's "The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics." Book sold and recipes used at M Café de Chaya.
1 cup whole wheat couscous
1/2 cup spring water
1 cup fresh, organic orange juice
1/4 cup light olive oil
4 1/2 teaspoons umeboshi vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
6 dried apricots, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons dried currants
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/4 medium-sized red onion, finely diced (about 1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Measure couscous and put in a medium-sized bowl. In a pot, combine water, orange juice, oil, four teaspoons of the vinegar and salt. Bring it all to a boil and add the dried fruit and ginger. Let simmer for about one minute.
After a quick stir, pour this liquid mixture over the dry couscous. Stir just to eliminate any pockets of dry couscous. Cover the concoction with a plate or plastic wrap to hold in the heat. The couscous will cook by itself in about 20 minutes.
In a smaller pot, bring about a cup of water to a boil and drop in the diced red onion. Let it boil for 20 seconds. Take the onion out with a slotted spoon or mesh strainer and put aside.
Add one-half teaspoon (the balance) of the umeboshi vinegar to the onion and mix to bring out its red color. When the couscous is cooked, fluff it with a fork, and then add the onion and pine nuts. Serve.
Makes four large servings.
1 8-ounce package of tempeh
2 cups spring water
1/2 cup shoyu
3 tablespoons mirin (rice wine for cooking)
1 dash brown rice vinegar
Toasted sesame oil or light sesame oil
1 small onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Whole wheat tortillas
Soy cheese, grated
Tofu sour cream (see next recipe)
Cut tempeh into four chunks and bring to a boil in the water, shoyu, mirin and brown rice vinegar. Let simmer 20 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, over medium heat, coat a skillet generously with oil. Saute onion with salt, until onion is translucent.
Crumble up cooked tempeh into bits like ground beef and saute with the onion. The tempeh should be well seasoned, but keep the cooking liquid just in case you would like to add a little more later. Stir in chili powder and garlic powder. Allow whole concoction to cook for about five minutes. The tempeh should absorb lots of the oil and may even get a little crispy.
Warm a tortilla in another skillet. Add "beef" and some grated soy cheese (if desired). Wrap tortilla around filling, and let it warm on the skillet so that the soy cheese melts. Serve with tofu sour cream and/or guacamole.
Makes four burritos.
Tofu sour cream
1 pound soft, organic tofu
6 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 scallions, white part only
1 1/2-2 tablespoons umeboshi vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Blend all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and serve with burritos, tacos or any other dish that deserves it.
Annabelle Stevens is a freelance writer and runs a public relations firm (www.annabellestevens.com.) She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.