[via The Boston Globe
GREAT BARRINGTON - Dawn LaRochelle's
annual Passover quest has begun: She
wants to put a new spin on ancient traditions.
The idea is that her food will feel modern and dazzle her catering clients, but it must also adhere to kosher standards stringent enough to get the nod of approval from an Orthodox rabbi.
LaRochelle, owner and operator of Bete'Avon!
Kosher Catering (bete' avon is Hebrew for bon appetit), prepares dinners for customers in Boston, Western Mass., New York's Hudson Valley, and beyond.
This year for Passover, which begins April 8 with the first Seder, LaRochelle
is testing recipes in her
"Passover is even more strict than ordinary kosher cooking," says the caterer.
"But I look at possibilities, not the limitations."
This year, she's
taking a shot at elevating the texture of the famously dense matzo ball by folding a batch of beaten egg whites into the batter.
"Most of my clientele like the fluffy floaters," she
says, separating the eggs.
"But the more observant like the sinkers.
I don't know why.
is referring to the long-held debate over feathery matzo balls, which float while they cook, vs. the heavier, heartier ones, which tend to sink to the bottom of the pot.
She's trying to achieve a pillow-like texture.
LaRochelle has run Apogee Catering for the past three years and started Bete'Avon, an entirely separate company, in 2007.
She began the second business after noticing a growing need for kosher catering in the region, in part because the Berkshires have a sizable Orthodox population.
On today's menu is chicken soup to serve with the matzo balls; a meatless tsimmes made with carrots, sweet potatoes, pears, prunes, dates, figs, and apricots; and a flourless chocolate cake topped with chocolate ganache flavored with raspberry jam.
LaRochelle grew up in the New York area, and became a lawyer; she worked for several years as a litigator until becoming disenchanted with the tedium of researching stalled court cases.
legal background, she
says, gives her
the ability to think quickly and trouble-shoot when fuses blow on a catering site and other things go wrong.
was raised in a Jewish household but only began observing the kosher dietary laws as an adult.
husband, Dennis, who is not Jewish, met at Harvard Law School
, where she
cofounded Harvard's Food
and Wine Society.
"I'm self-taught with a tremendous passion for cooking," she
"I like flavor and I like exotic.
is adding a confetti of julienned zucchini and yellow squash to a pot of simmering chicken soup.
The vegetable strips are meant to mimic egg noodles.
Along with leavened bread, rice, corn, oats, and wheat, noodles are forbidden during the weeklong Passover.
The julienne of vegetables is one of LaRochelle
's unconventional twists on her
grandmother's chicken soup (LaRochelle calls her
Another is the addition of smoked chicken bones, something she
learned from fellow caterer Carl Jones of Jackson, Tenn.
Her meatless tsimmes cooks for several hours.
ricochets around her
yellow kitchen, zeroes in on a jar of cinnamon from the spice rack, and pulls a Henckels knife from its wood base to chop sweet potatoes for the mixture.
"My goal is to provide high-end meals with ingredients that are creative," she
lifts the lid off the stock pot of simmering matzo balls to make sure they're intact (some cooks believe you shouldn't open the pot during cooking, but because of the fluffy nature of these matzo balls, she
thinks it's fine to check them).
"You can't boil them hard," she
"Or they'll stay raw inside."
catering for Bete'Avon! events, LaRochelle
staff prepare meals at a commercial kitchen in the Pioneer Valley that adheres to Orthodox standards.
Rabbi Fred Hyman of the Vaad HaKashruth of Springfield certifies Bete'Avon!'s meals.
LaRochelle, a long-distance runner, compares the challenges of incubating recipes in a low-tech home kitchen to prepping for a marathon.
"I train on a harder route than I run for marathons," says LaRochelle
Happy Spring Cleaning and Chag Pesach Sameach from your friends at Bete'Avon!
DawnIn this Issue
→ Amuse Bouch
→ Shop Till You Drop
→ What's Sizzlin'
→ 'Net Gain
→ Savory Insight
→ "I Can't Believe It's
→ To Whet Your Appetite
→ From the Recipe Archives
Kosher Catering" is offering a haute cuisine, Chinese take-out, glatt kosher menu on Christmas to residents of the Berkshires and well beyond, with a menu that includes Asian braised cranberry short ribs, red-cooked chicken with shitakes, ginger and tangerine zest; red-wine lacquered salmon; vegetarian portobello Kung Pao; and sesame noodles with Thai basil and winter vegetables Julienne.
Certified "kosher" by Vaad Hakashruth of Springfield, LaRochelle
noted that her personal and professional approach to cooking recognizes that "at its deepest and best food is about 'joy'.
It's about loving and nurturing and creating the perfect moment, one morsel at a time."
LaRochelle said of her
three year old business: "It was obvious right away that high-end kosher food was a hot-ticket item - even more than I was expecting."
"There is a vibrant and sophisticated Jewish population in the Berkshire area but a dearth of vibrant and sophisticated kosher dining options," said LaRochelle
, who scored with the offering of complete Rosh HaShanah and Kosher for Passover dinners-in-a-box and will also be offering full-course Chanukah meals and interesting and unusual takes on the traditional "potato pancake," including curried sweet potato latkes, zucchini-walnut latkes, and maize fritters.
For more information about "Bete'Avon!