‘Queen of Kosher’ Jamie Geller talks Jewish comfort food, spices, and her fondness for matzoh balls

Jewish superstar chef Jamie Geller dishes about her culinary creations.

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Jamie Geller and her daughters baking challah.

She's been dubbed the "Queen of Kosher," but at this point in her career Jamie Geller is more like an empress. With nearly one billion views of her myriad videos, including the viral @JewlishbyJamie series-- along with more than 10,000 recipes housed on her eponymous website-- Geller lays claim to the world's most-watched kosher food network. She's also a bestselling author of seven cookbooks, and hosts a weekly live series, "Feed Your Soul." Geller and her husband made aliyah in 2012, and now raise their six children in Beit Shemesh, Israel. I caught up with her via Zoom, as she made her matzoh balls and cooked for Shabbat.

Q.You keep so busy with your umbrella company, Kosher Network International, which houses your multitude of lifestyle and food outlets. What's your latest endeavor these days?

A. We're launching a spice line! It's an authentic, incredible Israeli spice line from Israel. We've sourced them from the best places here. We're doing a small capsule collection, and we're only doing it on Amazon; we're not going into grocery store shelves. You want the za'atar like you get at the shuk , but that's not the za'atar you get in the bottle that's on the supermarket shelf.

You've grown your business over the years through acquisitions, including the Jewlish brand in January 2019. Earlier this year, you released the cookbook Jewlish by Jamie . Tell me about this latest addition to your library. 

Originally the book was released a few years ago by Jacob and Dana Attias, who were the founders of Jewlish . It sold out immediately, and they never went ahead and reprinted. So, when we did the acquisition, one of the things we wanted to do was bring the book back out and add to it. There is a QR code with every single recipe to make it more interactive. That was super important, so everyone can easily scan the recipe and see a quick, one-minute tutorial about how to make it.

From your thousands of recipes, what are your most and least favorite things to make?

I love making challah with my kids. I love making brisket. That's something I feel very expert in-I feel so confident riffing on it. I try different things all the time because I understand the principles. I [also] do love chocolaty stuff, and I love dessert. But it's my favorite thing to eat, and my least favorite thing to make.

How does Jewlish , both the book and videos, play into some of the food trends you are seeing in the world of Jewish and kosher cooking right now? 

There is no question that the trend is leaning toward traditional and Israeli. I used to really want to get into fast, simple, and quick cooking. I really loved doing three ingredient recipes and five ingredient recipes-30-minute meals. And while those things do well, nothing compares to the classic Jewish dishes. And that's the concept of Jewlish. It's Jewish dishes-comfort food from around the world. Those are the things that just go viral, and nothing holds a candle.

Comfort food is definitely something everyone needs right now! What recipes would you recommend for Chicagoans, as we hunker down this pandemic winter? 

I love soups and stews! I have a beef porridge [from] my husband's grandmother's recipe that we've adapted. And I'm the type who can put matzoh balls in everything. Everything I make is just a few ingredients, and anyone can recreate them. The soups themselves are basic, and there are a lot of fun things you can dress them up with. You can do fried sage or sweet potato chips or mini matzoh balls.

 

Jamie Geller's Sweet Potato Soup with Sweet Potato Chips 

This sweet potato soup can be served in smaller portions as a dinner appetizer or used as a meal in itself (think soup and sandwich) on a cool autumn or cold winter day.  The sweet potato chips are the added bonus. Be sure to make enough-extra chips are a must! 

Cooking hint: Cut the sweet potatoes into very small cubes to speed up cooking time.

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Makes 8-10 servings

Ingredients:

Soup:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 large yellow onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

7 cups vegetable broth

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

¼ cup pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice


Sweet Potato Chips:

1 sweet potato, peeled

Cinnamon and sugar for sprinkling

Extra virgin olive oil 


Directions:  

Soup:

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are soft, about 8-10 minutes.  

2. Add sweet potatoes, carrots, broth, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are soft. 

3. Using an immersion blender, puree soup, or transfer in batches to a blender.

4. Add maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice if desired and stir to combine. Serve warm with Sweet Potato Chips.


Chips:   

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a parchment paper.  

2. Using a vegetable peeler, create thin strips of sweet potato.  Continue peeling until the entire sweet potato is used. 

3. Lay strips on the baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake about 8 minutes until chips are crunchy, watching carefully so chips don't burn.


You can check out Jamie's recipes, videos, and more at jamiegeller.com . Connect with her on social @JewlishbyJamie; @jamiegeller; and @ShopJamieGeller. Mimi Sager Yoskowitz is a Chicago-area freelance writer, mother of four, and former CNN producer. Connect with her at  mimisager.com .  



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