Tag: Montclair

Stephen Colbert and The Syrians

Hi everyone! MDT223025Z_HRE01 We attended a fundraiser for the Montclair Film Festival a few weeks ago where Stephen Colbert and Jon Oliver spoke about the state of our country after the election. Many people are afraid for their futures, of not being treated fairly or with kindness and humanity. Mr. Colbert, acknowledging that we cannot control for everything to come, said a few words that I can’t seem to forget. “Get to know your neighbors.” We took heed and invited a family of Syrian refugees to our house for Thanksgiving through a local program. We were able to host this family who has been through hell and back; they’ve lost their home, their city destroyed, they’ve had to resettle in a new country amidst a political climate that is increasingly unwelcoming to them. We wanted our invite to be meaningful. We wanted them to know that there are people who care, people who want to get to know them, people who would be honored to have the opportunity to host them in the most intimate of spaces, their home. We also wanted to nurture them. To make them feel comfortable, relaxed, cozy on a cold day. And because I am a lover of cooking, I wanted them to be nurtured through the food that I prepared for them. I wanted them to not just receive nourishment without having to worry about the cost of the food, the time it would take to make it or the clean up afterward, but I wanted them to be well fed, to enjoy every bite and to learn about us through the dishes that we chose and planned for them to enjoy. This is not new to me, to nurture through food. I have enjoyed cooking for others my entire life.  What was different, however, was that I never realized how much of a gift it would be for me to share my food as a way to bridge the cultural and religious gap between different people in my own home. I remember so vividly how I loved the elementary school International potlucks and how proud everyone was to share their food in the cafeteria; Robert Rowan’s Swedish meatballs, Patrick McCort’s chili con carne and Esther Chin’s shrimp toast. As I got older, I got more skilled with cooking and became part of an International cooking club. I later cooked for my family and my friends. I  now cook dishes from around the globe because I love to eat them and serve them. I also have a recipe blog and business where I teach people to overcome their obstacles to cooking to be able to cook. But this meal brought a new and exhilarating experience of food and connection. On Thanksgiving Day with the Syrian refugees, food brought us together. What started as an awkward kind of social experiment where no one spoke the other’s language, technology (thank you, google translate!), hand gestures, smiles and most of all a leap of faith helped us get to know our neighbors and I was grateful. I was grateful for our new Syrian friends. I was grateful to my family and friends for being open to sharing our meal. I was grateful for the team that paired the Syrian family with us. And I was grateful to Stephen Colbert who inspired me to take control of something I can indeed do, something we can all do, to get to know our neighbors. Very importantly and for the purpose of this post,  I was grateful that I had the ability and skill to make food which was the conduit for connecting with this family. My hope is to share this gift of cooking and entertaining. Of cooking ethnically diverse meals to educate, to learn about other cultures and to nurture one another. Isn’t that what community is all about? I am donating 25% of my Take Back the Kitchen individual sessions purchased until January 1st and to be redeemed within the next six months to helping relieve the financial burden that my new Syrian friends have weighing on them. This money will help pay for their airfare to the United States that they owe to the US government. Please contact me to donate to this cause or purchase gift certificates for yourselves or your loved ones from Take Back the Kitchen this holiday season! alma@takebackthekitchen.com

2 Big Food Events This Week!

Hi everyone and especially locals! Please come see me judge the “March Macness” Mac and Cheese contest tonight at the new Mac Attack restaurant. Our hope is to inspire you to make your own mac and cheese and stop using the nastiness from the box!! They also have gluten free and lactose free mac and cheese!

7PM tonight, March 11,2014
104 Walnut Street, Montclair , NJ
10% off your dinner

Also, tomorrow night, there will be an awareness raising healthy dinner served at B’nai Keshet Synagogue to show how healthy Soup Kitchens in Montclair are becoming! Be a a part of the fun and join us!

$18/single, $54 per any sized family
B’Nai Keshet Synagogue, 99 South Fullerton, Montclair, NJ

Cod Cakes with Spicy Sauce and Cooking With College Students!

Hi everyone! I am so happy to tell you that our Parents Who Rock band, The No Rehearsals, will be performing at a benefit concert to raise funds for food this summer for the SHIP program (Summer Housing Internship program). The event details are :

The No Rehearsals

Tierney’s Tavern on Valley Road in Montclair

Friday, June 14th


Minimum donation $10.00

We will also be accepting donations of non-perishables and gift cards to local supermarkets at the event. Please join us or contact me to send a check: alma@takebackthekitchen.com

I facilitated a cooking workshop  with the SHIP students today and we made a number of delicious items, one of them simple salmon cakes from canned wild salmon. We discussed how easy, healthy and delicious certain recipes can be  if you have a stocked pantry , freezer and fridge.

Here is another easy fish cake recipe that just may be the next dish we make. Enjoy!

P.S. Here is the Montclair Times article about our event:

PWR article about SHIP

Cod Cakes with Spicy Sauce:

1 1b steamed cod or any other flaky fish you like
1 large peeled, diced, steamed potato
1 tsp lemon pepper (or 3/4 tsp ground pepper with a half -whole lemon squeezed)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 TBS grated onion

1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
2/3 panko for breading

3 TBS olive oil, one TBS butter for frying, may need more


In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the panko breadcrumbs and mash with a potato masher or fork
Stir in 1/3 of the breadcrumbs until combined
Form into patties, about 3″ wide
Place 2/3 cup breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl and dip each patty in and press down so that they are covered on both sides with the crumbs. Shake off excess
In a medium sized skillet, preferably ceramic non-stick, pour in enough of the olive oil and butter to cover pan , about a TBS of oil and a tsp of butter and heat until hot
Fry patties until browned on one side, flip and brown the other side.
Repeat , adding more oil and butter until all patties are crispy
Serve with sauce (recipe below)
Makes about 12 patties

one TBS mayo
1 1/2 TBS sour cream
18 tsp spicy smoked paprika
1/8 tsp garlic powder

Stir in a small bowl until combined and chill