Lewiston – Isaak Gekhtin likes to entertain a large number of people with a home-cooked meal. “I like seeing everyone happy and enjoying the good food. It is very rewarding,” said Gektin.

Cooking was the family business for Gektin’s family back in Europe. He is originally from the Soviet Union.

Gektin and his wife, Alexandra, left their homeland for political and other reasons. “The socialist system is not something I was happy with,” said Gektin, “My son was 5 years old at the time and we also came for the future of our children, like better education.”

When he moved here in 1975, cooking was just a hobby for Gektin. He worked locally as a painter for R.J. Morin and Son. And then he put his hobby to work at Lewiston restaurants, Marois (a French family restaurant) and Spare Time Recreation, a banquet facility.

As a banquet chef at Spare Time Recreation, he cooked for weddings, Christmas and other large parties, reunions and more.

“We served a large amount of people. Everybody was in here at one point or another,” said Gekhtin.

He speaks proudly of an award that he and Spare Time Recreation won at a March of Dimes auction in 1996. Part of the evening included tasting and judging foods from different restaurants. He and the restaurant won first place.

While Gekhtin no longer cooks for work, he still enjoys preparing meals for friends and family. He likes to focus on cooking without a lot of fats. “You still need flavor in the food so I try to use more fresh herbs and spices that complement the dish,” he said.

When Gekhtin isn’t adding fresh herbs to his favorite dishes, he enjoys discussing politics, reading, light traveling, trips to the ocean and wood-working.

Fish chowder

10 Servings

2½ pounds fresh haddock

1 pound of butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 stacks of celery, finely chopped

1 large carrot, shredded

½ cup of fresh parsley, chopped

1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped

4 large potatoes diced and cooked

1 cup of flour

3 quarts of 2% milk

2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced

1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of salt

Season fish with salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees, until done. In a large pot, melt butter. Add: onion, celery, carrot, parsley, dill, salt, pepper, garlic. Cook about 10 minutes. Add flour and cook until thickens about 4 minutes, stir often. Gradually add milk and stir until it looks like light gravy. Fold: cooked fish and potatoes. Cook until the first simmer. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Breast of chicken marsala
10 pieces of lean chicken breast about 5 ounces each

2 cups of mushrooms, sliced

1 medium shallot, minced

4 ounces of butter

1/4 cup of flour

1 cup marsala wine

1 cup of half and half
Salt and pepper to taste

Season chicken with salt and pepper, dust with flour. In a large skillet melt butter on medium heat. Cook chicken on each side 4 minutes, until done. Add mushrooms and shallot, sauté 2 minutes. Add marsala wine, cook 1 minute. Add half and half, cook 1 minute until thickens. Served with rice pilaf and fresh vegetables.

Baked fettuccine with broccoli and red peppers
Ingredients :
1 pound fettuccine, cook 10 minutes

4 cups of broccoli crowns, cook 2 minutes

2 large red peppers, diced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon back pepper

3 cloves fresh garlic, minced

½ cup of fresh parsley

½ pound of butter

½ cup of flour

3 quarts of 2% milk

6 fresh scallions, diced

½ pound of cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese

Cook fetuccine for 10 minutes in boiling water, drain and set aside. Steam broccoli crowns for 2 minutes and set aside. Season red pepper with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Saute with olive oil for 3 minutes.

Cheese sauce :

In a 4-quart pot, saute butter, parsley, garlic, scallions, salt and pepper, for 3 minutes on medium heat. Add flour, cook 5 minutes on medium heat. Gradually add milk, and cook on low heat, stirring often, until thickens, like a gravy. Add cheese, cook until the first simmer, stirring often.

Fold cooked fettuccine, broccoli and cheese sauce in a large pan, sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake in 350-degree oven until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Serve with fresh garlic bread.