By ELISE LINSCOTT Gazettenet.com; Published: 12/20/2019
Chef, recipe developer and author Leslie Cerier believes in building community through sharing healthy and delicious food — and this holiday season, that includes offering a vegetarian Hanukkah cooking class, which Cerier will lead on Christmas Day.
Cerier, who has made dozens of TV appearances in her more than 30 years as a chef and published a handful of cookbooks under “The Organic Gourmet” brand, specializes in vegetarian, gluten-free and organic cooking.
She’s also Jewish, but she has never taught a Hanukkah-themed lesson before. This year, she said, she wanted to offer an alternative for Jewish people wanting to celebrate the holiday on Christmas instead of, say, going out for Chinese food.
“It’ll be a family-friendly, hands-on cooking class,” Cerier said. “I’m also working with the theme of vegetarian cooking, and cooking from your heart with loving kindness in the kitchen, which I think is a great theme for Hanukkah.
“I’m always looking to help expand people’s cooking repertoires,” she continued, “and some of the recipes I’ve created, but they’re not on my website or in my cookbooks. My thinking was, this is a new opportunity, a new holiday offering, let me share something new with you.”
Cerier also said she’s “a poster child for eating local,” as she grows much of her own food and belongs to both a winter CSA and the River Valley Co-op, where she’ll get most of the ingredients for the class.
She created the Hanukkah menu based on local produce that’s in season now. She also likes introducing people to ingredients that may be new to them, like hemp seeds or Teff and coconut flour, which are gluten-free; she asks for everyone’s food allergies and sensitivities prior to the class (and again at the start) in order to create dishes everyone can eat, she said.
“I want to cook nutrient-dense food, but I also have an expertise in using herbs and spices and flavors to make it delicious,” Cerier said. “Jewish food is all over the world, and I’m bringing in different things I’ve cooked in my nouveau tradition, so to speak. I’ve made yam fries for Hanukkah, egg rolls, any fried foods. And sometimes, I’ll make latkes just one night — it doesn’t have to be nine nights of latkes.”
Cerier regularly offers group cooking classes, but the Hanukkah event is being offered at a lower rate than others ($20 per person), thanks in part to a grant from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. (Cerier’s classes are normally $95 for those who pre-register and $125 at the door when space is available.)
The class will be held in Shutesbury from 2 to 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 25, and registration is limited to 15 people.
The day of the class, Cerier will explain all the recipes that participants are going to create, divvy up who’s going to cook what, then light menorahs and feast together.
“It’ll be a really fun, delicious class,” Cerier said.
Photos of egg rolls, amaranth corn croquettes, potato latkes, and falafel by Tracey Eller
Photos of Leslie in her kitchen and ingredients by Kevin Gutting Staff Photographer for the Hampshire Gazette