Conductor, organist, choir director, dancer, singer and Broadway actress Elizabeth Goldstein loves eating and cooking, and it shows in every way from the parties she gives to the foods she craves — except one: her figure. The petite blue-eyed blonde zips around town like a speed-skater, leads her choral ensembles with the energy of a Jet Ski and attacks her new organ console at First United Methodist Church like an octopus after a triple espresso.
“My favorite word is ‘flavorful,’” she tells us. And that carries over to the music she programs for her Belle Canto concerts and church services, too. There is a variety in music — from a tittle of Tchaikovsky to an iota of gospel — “but no hot spice.” So, although she’s often pushing her choral groups beyond what they think they can do, she never goes beyond good taste.
“You want to be sure a meal has color and variety,” she says. “It’s the same for (music) programming. I once went to an organ recital where every piece was loud and bombastic. I’m sure the organist had a great time playing that music, but the listening ears sure got weary of high pitches and loud sounds, well-played as they were. I recently conducted the First Church Singers in a performance on the Music Fine Arts series at First United Methodist Church. I chose the title, ‘Great Beginnings … Sublime Endings,’ starting with Rutter’s fabulously exciting ‘Te Deum’ and ending with Whitbourn’s hauntingly beautiful ‘Son of God Mass’ for organ, soprano sax and choir. The colors and contrast of sounds were perfection for me.”
How does she mix it up, musically, while she’s cooking? She doesn’t.
“The truth is, I don’t listen to music as I cook,” she says. “My days are full of music, for which I am very grateful. I usually try to listen to the news, read The New York Times and, of course, there’s the crossword puzzle to which I’m addicted. There’s always the list of emails that needs answering, too. Multi-tasking? Yes. Burn the food? Usually not.”
Then, again, with all the things that go on when you’re playing the organ — hands flying in different directions and feet scampering across the pedals — an organist has to be a multi-tasker.
“Actually, playing the organ is a bit more challenging than cooking,” she admits. “I usually get it all to the table at about the same time. With the organ, you are at the mercy of a mechanical device — like when I developed a cipher (i.e., an out of control note that gets stuck and plays continuously without the control of the organist) on Easter Sunday.
Fortunately, there are few ciphers in Goldstein’s kitchen. She not only multi-tasks for parties, she also delegates.
“I used to do the whole thing,” she says. “Then I got smart and let other good cooks share some of their favorite dishes. Belle Canto, the terrific women’s vocal ensemble I direct, recently completed our third season with some great ‘firsts.’ So, we toasted the success at a potluck dinner at my house. I made my favorite shrimp, pasta and vegetable dish as my main-course contribution (see recipe above). The other ‘Belles’ brought everything from homemade sausage and lentil soup to sushi. We ate fabulously.”
The truth is, Goldstein is such a good cook that she seeks the unusual when she goes out.
“I want to eat something out that I can’t or won’t make at home,” she says. “Therefore, I go for Moroccan, Greek or French cuisine. I cook at home very simply — fish, roasted vegetables and tofu. My husband had high cholesterol and I had to learn to cook foods that tasted good but weren’t high in fat. We ate lots of seafood and chicken and very little red meat. I still cook and eat that way.”
And her comfort food?
“That’s so easy,” she smiles and slavers. “Chocolate! Dark chocolate! I recently visited my son in New York and discovered Vosges Haut-Chocolat on Madison Avenue. Chocolate laced with wasabi. Chocolate truffles dusted with curry power. Hot, dark chocolate to drink.”
A BELLE CANTO SHRIMP AND PASTA PASSACAGLIA
Yields: 2 large servings, 4 small servings
Start to finish: 45 minutes
8 ounces of penne (preferably organic whole wheat)
1 pound raw shrimp (peeled and deveined)
1/4 cup olive oil (just enough so the veggies don’t stick to the pan)
1 green pepper and 1 yellow pepper cut in strips
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 cloves minced garlic
2 large, chopped tomatoes
1 cup picante sauce (you can substitute salsa spiced to your taste)
1 tablespoon dried basil
• Cook the pasta al dente. Drain, then set aside.
• Lightly sauté the peppers, mushrooms and garlic.
• Add the chopped tomatoes, picante sauce and basil; and simmer until the tomatoes break down (about five minutes.)
• Add the shrimp to the sauce and cook until done.
• Add the pasta to the sauce.
• Sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese on each portion and serve with a green salad.
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