Cooking can be an educational experience for kids

The value of a Jewish education is priceless. As a parent, I really enjoy teaching my children about Judaism.

Of course, the most delicious way to teach about culture and religion is through food, and there are few children who don’t enjoy a cooking project.

I remember boiling bagels with my youth group. My own children love to prepare anything that is sweet. I’ve included a traditional cheesecake, since my daughter Violet just returned from her first visit to New York City. This recipe is from my friend Sharon Lebewohl of the 2nd Avenue Deli. My son Gideon has just recently begun to enjoy salad, Caesar being his favorite. He especially loves making and eating the croutons. Ruby, a first-grader, has just learned about Noah and the ark, the dove and the olive branch. A lover of olives, she enjoys tossing penne or other pasta with tapenade.

Classic Caesar Salad | Serves 8

1 clove garlic, peeled
2 heads romaine lettuce, rinsed, dried, and crisped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 eggs, coddled for 1 minute
3 oz. parmesan reggiano, freshly grated

1 large loaf of French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 oz. unsalted butter, melted
4 oz. olive oil

Croutons: Put the bread cubes in a bowl, add the melted butter and garlic olive oil. Toss well so that each piece of bread is coated. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated 375-degree oven for 10 minutes, or until pale brown.

Salad: Rub the garlic clove into a large wooden salad bowl. Break the lettuce into pieces, and drop in the salad bowl. Add the olive oil and toss well so that each leaf is coated. Add the croutons, salt, sugar, pepper, Worcestershire and the lemon juice. Toss again. Break the eggs into the bowl; toss again and add the grated parmesan. Toss one last time and arrange on chilled plates.

2nd Avenue Deli Cheesecake | Serves 10

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
4 oz. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 lb. cream cheese
3 eggs, beaten
3 cups sour cream
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. salt

2 1/2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Thoroughly combine crust ingredients in a bowl and press along sides of a greased 10-inch springform pan.

Using an electric mixer or food processor, beat cream cheese smooth. Add eggs and continue beating. Add all other filling ingredients and mix well. Your batter should be perfectly smooth.

Pour batter into pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out dry. Remove, and let cool slightly, but leave oven on.

Combine all topping ingredients and when cake is slightly cooled, spoon topping evenly over it. Bake for another 5 minutes. Cool on counter. Refrigerate the cheesecake and serve well chilled.

Black Olive Tapenade | Makes about 1 cup

1 clove garlic, through the press
1 cup pitted black olives (brine cured), finely chopped
4 anchovy fillets, mashed
1 Tbs. capers, finely chopped
1 tsp. chopped thyme
2 tsp. chopped rosemary
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil

Mix together the garlic, olives, anchovies, capers, thyme and rosemary. Drizzle in the lemon juice and 1/4 cup olive oil. Pound gently until well combined.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. She can be reached at [email protected].