Last week, I had the privilege of interviewing the talented artist and cookbook author, Aviva Kanoff. If you aren’t familiar with Aviva yet, you will love getting to know her through her wonderful answers!
And you can also check out her fantastic book, The No-Potato Passover — available now on Amazon for
$23.96, $22.26, originally $29.99.
I understand that you’ve traveled a lot. How has that influenced your recipes? And what other life experiences can be “tasted” in your food?
Growing up an Ashkenazi girl in Brooklyn, NY, I was not exposed to too many exotic foods and spices, to say the least. When I started traveling, especially to places like India and Southeast Asia. (In fact, the picture above was taken on a break from a camel ride in Pushkar, India. We had stopped to make lunch ( from scratch) and take a nap in the heat of the day in the dessert before moving on.)
Traveling really opened up my eyes to a whole new menu and philosophy about cooking. Now I cook with more ginger, garlic, turmeric and cumin on a regular basis. Not only does it open up a whole new world of taste, the health benefits are incredible as well!
What was your inspiration for writing a Passover cookbook? And what was your drive to leave out the potatoes – which, after matzah, are such a quintessential Pesach food for so many in the Ashkenazi community?
I had no intention of writing a Passover cookbook or any cookbook, for that matter. A few years ago, after dreading another monotonous, potato-filled Pesach, I decided to experiment and see what would happen if i cooked for Pesach not using a single potato. I was really excited about the results!
I remember going to the grocery store and feeling like I was seeing color for the first time. All of the sudden I was aware of the beautiful red and gold beets, orange carrots, purple eggplants etc…a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Not only was there more variety and flavor, but it was low carb as well!
I decided to share my excitement and self- publish a Pesach cookbook, giving myself a year to create all the recipes and food photography. In order to make the book more fun and visually appealing, I added my own travel photography as well pairing the recipes with photos of the countries where the food originates.
Which is your overall favorite recipe in The No-Potato Passover? Which one comes to mind for families with young (and maybe picky!) children? And which one is your go-to in a pinch recipe?
My favorite recipes in the book are the simplest ie. garlic brussels sprouts and roasted cauliflower. I also really love the coconut crusted chicken with plum dipping sauce (note from Mara: I’ll be sharing that recipe on the blog later this week!)and coconut cream pie. Kids tend to love he cajun carrot fries (which are baked and not fried) and chocolate chip muffins.
For people who are new to “healthy cooking”, it can be overwhelming to move beyond the brisket, cholent, schnitzel and potato kugel “mold”. Where do you recommend that they start, if they’re going to take baby steps into better health?
For people who are new to healthy cooking and/or have a fear of change, which is very common, I suggest starting with substituting your favorites. The three classic potato favorites tend to be potato kugel, mashed potatoes and french fries. I suggest substituting them with the salt and pepper spaghetti squash kugel, parsnip mash and cajun carrot fries… nutritious and delicious! (All recipes available in my book, No Potato Passover.)
Do you have any budget-friendly tips for cooking for Passover – or anytime of the year?
Yes! Kosher for Pesach food tends to be crazy expensive, especially ground nuts, which I use in abundance. What I do is buy a big bag of walnuts at Costco before Pesach and grind them myself in a blender. A huge money saver!
What’s the one tool in your kitchen you couldn’t live without?
The one tool I could never live without is a sharp knife. That makes all the difference. Without the right knife, even the best chef in the world couldn’t function.
What’s your favorite ingredient — that one that finds its way into many of your dishes, almost sub-consciously?
My favorite ingredient is garlic powder. Fresh garlic is delicious but when you want evenly dispersed flavor in abundance, especially for roasted veggies, I find it more convenient and yummy — two of my favorite things! Additionally, I sprinkle turmeric on a lot of food that I eat. It has a cool color, subtle flavor and so good for you!
Thanks so much, again, for taking the time to talk with me. I know my readers will appreciate your inspiration and recipes.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. I hope it was helpful and you have a Chag Kasher Vi’sameyach! A happy, healthy and colorful Passover!