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Published Thursday, February 12, 2015

Cara’s Cucina is CHA’licious

By Emily Strem

Cara Goldwasser, Cohen Hillel parent and school chef, of Marblehead, prepares fresh, healthy and delicious meals daily in the school’s kosher kitchen.

At Cohen Hillel Academy, a new daily hot lunch program featuring healthy, nutritious, kosher lunches for students and faculty is known simply as “CHA’licious.”

Cara Goldwasser, a CHA parent and an enthusiastic convert to Judaism and Kosher cooking, has been serving as the daily chef after a successful trial run on Fridays last year. Her popular fare has been pleasing even the most discriminating student palates.

“It makes me happy to do things I can put my heart into and cooking does that for me,” said Goldwasser, who grew up surrounded by the sights and aromas of her parents’ Sicilian and Neapolitan cooking.

Goldwasser’s menus, with input from CHA nurse Michelle Unterborn, have students and faculty lining up for seconds. Each day, a three-course meal — including a vegetable, main course and fruit — is prepared, often from scratch, in the school’s kosher kitchen. The new chef is committed to using fresh, local and seasonal ingredients that she handpicks several times each week; no frozen chicken nuggets or hotdogs are on the menu. This fall, she made hearty soups, with squash and sweet potatoes, while in the winter she has been serving creamed soups. Popular dishes include kosher chicken cutlets with a homemade sauce, homemade rice and beans (the beans are sautéed in the kitchen for hours), and pizzailoa, ground beef sirloin sautéed in oil and garlic with plum tomatoes and oregano served over rice.

Goldwasser is gratified to find that students are trying new things, too, especially vegetables and seasonings that they may have avoided in the past.

“They just trust me that it’s going to taste good,” she said, “so they’re willing to try.” Parents are thrilled, Goldwasser said, since it is opening up options for their family’s meals at home as well.

Each day of the week has a theme: Monday is pasta day; Tuesday is breakfast-for-lunch; Wednesday is meat day; Thursday is pizza; and Friday is international day featuring food from different countries and cultures, such as Mexico, Italy and Israel. Lunchtime often becomes a teachable moment when ingredients are displayed and labeled for students to see.

Families can order the hot lunch on the days they prefer. More than half of the students ordering hot lunch get it every day, and Goldwasser has started an incentive program that earns students a free meat lunch per month with everyday ordering. Anyone who orders three days a week is entered into a raffle to win a free lunch on the day of their choice.

“We all love Cara’s Kitchen,” said Allison Goldberg of Lynn, a CHA parent. “Cara makes better lunches than we could ever send to school: made from scratch, hearty, healthy and hot! The kids love it, and so do we.”

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