Each year, I attend Kosherfest with excitement and anticipation. Walking up and down the aisles, I'm constantly amazed at the diversity and high quality of kosher products. And in the 21st century, the kosher cook can duplicate almost any dish, ethnic or otherwise. There's a kosher substitute for almost every ingredient imaginable — even kosher shellfish, prepared, shaped and flavored to resemble the real thing. The creativity of the kosher cook is unlimited.

Twenty years ago, Menachem Lubinsky, the world's leading authority on the kosher food industry, organized the first Kosherfest, and he continues to be a major force. This year, on Nov. 11-12, the show was held at the Meadowlands Expo Center in Secaucus, N.J.

As the largest kosher food, beverage, wine and spirits trade show for kosher retail professionals, it attracted some 6,000 exhibitors and visitors from a record 28 nations, each item bearing a hechsher. Several of the buyers included those from Muslim countries looking for kosher products. Israel's pavilion was especially impressive, with emphasis on organic, natural and gluten-free foods.

The number of kosher products sold in this country now has topped 110,000, and, in the past decade, kosher sales have continued a double-digit growth, 10 percent to 15 percent, even in a shaky economy. This is partly due to the buying habits of non-kosher consumers; those who are vegan, vegetarian, lactose intolerant, and Americans who prefer kosher because of health, safety or taste preferences.

With more than 300 hundred new products, there was a great deal of competition for best in show. The entries were judged on the basis of newness, quality, taste and salability. The winners were:

· Best In Show — Zelda's Sweet Shoppe Southern Pecan Pie (Skokie, Ill.)

· Best Baked Goods, Breads, Grains & Cereals — Katz Gluten-Free Challah Rolls (Monroe, N.Y.)

· Best Beverage — Kedem Food Products Int. All Natural Premium Grape Juice (Bayonne, N.J.)

· Best Cheese or Dairy — Get Healthy America Eggplant Rollatini (Plainview, N.Y.)

· Best Desserts, Candies, Cookies or Crackers — Zelda's Sweet Shoppe Southern Pecan Pie (Skokie, Ill.)

· Best Food Service Product — Davida Aprons & Logo Programs "I'm Not Crying I'm Davening" Baby Bib (Vernon, Calif.)

· Best Packaging/Design — Zelda's Sweet Shoppe Bark, Brittles & Toffee series (Skokie, Ill.)

· Best Kosher Organic — Bella's Baby Foods LLC Organic Kosher Frozen Baby Food (Massapequa Park, N.Y.)

· Best Snack Food — Zelda's Sweet Shoppe Caramel Corn series (Skokie, Ill)

· Best Fine Food from Israel — Fruit of the Land Products, Beit Yitzhak Pomegranate spread (Thornhill, Ont.)

· Best Giftware/Novelty — The Kosher Cook — Celebrations Bakeware, assorted styles (Woodmere, N.Y.)

· Best Jams, Preserves or Spreads — Quality Frozen Foods, Inc., Noam Gourmet Vegetarian Caviar (Brooklyn)

· Best Meat, Poultry or Seafood — Get Healthy America, Turkey Chili with Beans (Plainview, N.Y.)

· Best Wine, Beer or Spirits — AS Group-Imperian, Plum Brandy (Serbia)

· Best Savory Condiment, Spices, Sauces, Oil, Vinegar or Dressing — Shneiders Gran Gusto Pesto Sauce (Brooklyn)

· Best Passover Product — Cinderella Sweets/Shabtai Gourmet, Brownie Bites (Woodmere, N.Y.)

· Best Health & Wellness — Get Healthy America Gluten Free Penne Pasta with Meat Sauce (Plainview, N.Y.)

According to Bill Springer of Diversified Business Communications, producer of Kosherfest, "This year was very competitive, with a large number of exceptional products competing especially in the snack, cracker, cookie and desserts categories. The judges were very impressed with the entries, particularly from Zelda's Sweet Shoppe and Get Healthy America."

Here are some additional new items worthy of note and to enhance holiday entertaining.

Mr. Wheat's Crispy Wheat from Mr. Wheat Inc. is brand-new and an essential addition to my pantry. The crisp, wholesome, puffed-wheat shell comes in Plain, Honey and Sea Salt flavors. For a quick dessert, fill the Honey shells with ice cream, frozen yogurt or custard. Drizzle with a fruit syrup, garnish with nuts, and serve. For a side salad, spoon crisp greens into the Sea Salt shell. For a lunch dish, fill with chicken or tuna salad. No need to heat before filling.

Roasted whole chestnuts shelled from Gefen — Beats cooking and removing shells before using.

Soy Nut Butter, from SoyNut Butter Company — Peanut- and tree-nut-free. Comes plain and chocolate-flavored and tastes delicious.

Large and Mini Fillo Shells from the Fillo Factory — Warm the large fillo shells and fill with chicken or tuna salad for a main dish.

Surimi Seafood from Asian Star — Includes imitation shrimp, lobster and scallops. Prepared from Sea Bream, breaded and shaped. Kosher certified, produced in Thailand.

Gluten Free, Soy and Dairy Free dark chocolate trail mix, carrot cake and dark chocolate crunch from NuGo Nutrition. Available in individual packaged snack bars.

· · ·

Oxygen Imports from Israel offered an enormous range of tantalizing products such as Pomegranate Plum Sauce, Kiwi Mango Tropical Fusion, Zesty Indian Dressing, Turkish coffee with Cardamom, as well as date honeys, nectars and teas. They are all natural, pure and delicious-tasting.

Joey D's Foods offer an excellent variety of dressings, such as Original Chinese Chicken Salad dressing. Just add to chicken and vegetables. No additional seasoning needed.

Chicken Salad


Use to fill fillo shells or large Crispy Wheat shells. We used Joey D's Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing to mix. No additional seasonings needed.

21/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 cup canned diced pimento
3-4 sliced water chestnuts
5-6 large Crispy Wheat Shells, Plain or Sea Salt flavored
1/3 cup Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing

In a bowl, combine the chicken, celery, pimento, water chestnuts and enough Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing to moisten. Spoon into shells and serve.

Makes about 3 cups.

Chocolate SoyNut Bars


From SoyNut Butter Company

2 Tbsps. margarine, melted
3/4 cup I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup crushed graham crackers
2-4 Tbsps. apple juice
3/4 cup pareve or dairy chocolate chips, melted

In the food processor, combine the margarine and SoyNut Butter.

Add the sugar and graham crackers, drizzling in enough apple juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, to make the dough hold together, but not enough to make it wet. Press into an 8-inch square dish. Chill for 20 to 30 minutes. Spread the melted chocolate chips over.

Chill till firm, about 20 minutes. Cut into 16 squares.

Quick Chestnut Soufflé


1 package (4.85 oz.) shelled and roasted chestnuts
2 Tbsps. honey
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
11/2 cups nondairy whipped topping
1 Tbsp. finely grated orange rind
slivers of orange peel (optional)

Place chestnuts in microwave bowl. Drizzle the honey over. Microwave 1 minute or till barely warm. Place in food processor and process until almost smooth.

Transfer to medium bowl. Fold in the whipped cream, whipped topping and orange rind. Chill. Serve in small glasses or cups, or spoon into miniature fillo shells.

Garnish with slivers of orange peel (optional).

Serves 6.

Ethel G. Hofman is a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.



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