Jewish Journal

International cooking and local mingling with Birthright Israel Next [RECIPE]

by Jay Firestone

February 18, 2010 | 5:10 pm

A moment of confusion.

In my family, women have historically dominated the kitchens.  My grandmother is an extraordinary baker.  My mother is a wiz at Shabbas meals. My oldest sister is the most phenomenal pastry chef I have ever encountered.  And my other sister is a serious force on the grill.

But just as the women in my family assert their culinary expertise, a real man should also know how to cook.

On average, I’d say I exercise said acts of manhood about 3-4 times per week, preparing a variety of meals that range from roast chicken to turkey tacos to teriyaki salmon.

That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to enhance my testosterone this past Tuesday at Birthright Israel Next’s latest cooking class at Sur La Table: ‘International Jewish Cuisine.’ 

The group of about 25 arrived at the Farmer’s Market kitchen supply store at around 6:30 for a little wine and challah.  Sur la Table’s Chef, Martin Gilligan discussed the recipes and safety rules, while adding a few humorous tidbits in a valiant effort to break the initial awkwardness of the room (As soon as we started cooking, everyone seemed to warm up). 

After a brief demonstration of the Chinese classic, orange chicken – kosher style, the crowd dispersed into each of the menu stations.

Morocco: Fish Tagine with Peppers and Olives.
China: Mandarin Chicken with Rice Sticks and Orange Segments
India: Vegetarian Potato Samosas with Mango Chutney
Greece: Date and Walnut Phyllo Rolls with Greek Yogurt and Honey
Israel: Classic Israeli Schnitzel
Turkey: Lamb Stew with Turkish Flavors
Iran: Basmati Rice with Pistachios and Dill
Russia: White Russian Sorbet

Somehow, I found myself gravitating towards the alcoholic white Russian sorbet dessert (It was a long day, I needed to take the edge off). 

Due to the limited time we had in class, we skipped a few steps, but the final product was still dripping with flavor.  I quickly got an ice cream headache…maybe it was a hangover – I don’t know for sure.

When it was time to eat each international dish, the group gathered around table, as a feeling of achievement graced the room.  This is what world peace must feel like.

The end result: about 25 overly satisfied Jews and wealth of worldly leftovers.

Here’s a recipe that I worked on, courtesy of the Sur la Table cooking classes:

White Russian Sorbet

Yield: Serves 4


1 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon dark corn syrup
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 cup Kahlúa or other coffee liqueur
Coffee beans


Stir water and sugar in heavy medium sauce pan over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Increase heat and bring to boil. Remove from heat. Add espresso powder and stir to dissolve.  Pour into medium bowl.  Mix in corn syrup, then whipping cream, vodka and Kahlúa.  Refrigerate mixture until cold, about 2 hours.

Transfer sorbet mixture to ice cream maker; process according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Transfer sorbet to container; cover and freeze until firm, about 2 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead.)

Freeze 4 coffee cups for 30 minutes. Scoop sorbet into frozen cups.  Garnish with coffee beans and serve immediately.

Photo courtesy of Birthright Israel Next Los Angeles

FYI: Birthright Israel Next offers an awesome dose of Jewish culture mixed with hip programming.  I’ll be at a few of their upcoming events.  Visit their website for the full schedule.

Friday February 19: Shabbat Poetry SLAM
Saturday February 20: Sweatin’ to the Oldies with Richard Simmons
Saturday: February 27: Queen Esther’s Old School Skate Party

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