When news of Susie Fishbein’s eighth cookbook in her Kosher By Design series arrived on my laptop, I wondered what could be new from one of my go-to favorite cookbook authors?
Yes, I am a big fan of this Jersey girl, but I needed to be convinced that her latest would provide me with more than just another collections of great recipes. With four of Fishbein’s previous volumes in my collection of the many cookbooks I was sure I couldn’t live without, I was looking for something truly unique in Kosher By Design Cooking Coach.
Mission Accomplished and here’s why:
Fishbein frames 120 new recipes and over 400 color photos by opening each category (appetizers through desserts including helpful poultry, meat, fish, salad, soup, egg chapters) with a “Game Plan”. These instructive and clearly illustrated sections illuminate both basic and more complex information for home cooks with a range of skill sets and experience.
I parked this beautiful volume on my kitchen counter for a couple of weeks while E was home for her winter break from university. We were both drawn to it, flipping through the sections with friendly recipes and bold photographs. Together, we discovered new and helpful bits of instruction.
At 22, and thrilled to be cooking meals on her own, (done with university dining halls forever!) E loved the step by step photos illustrating how to pin bone a salmon fillet (with pliers!) and which angle of the knife works best when skinning the same fillet.
It was through E’s eyes that I understood the value of the “Game Plan” sections for all levels of cooks. As we marked the recipes that excited us I knew I would find a spot for this COOKING COACH on a “high priority” kitchen bookshelf with my most often consulted books, right by my stove.
Still unsure about kosher cuts of beef and what to ask your butcher for?
Fishbein covers it all with descriptions and photos ranging from Entrecote to English Ribs. She covers defrosting, seasoning, cooking techniques for particular cuts, and the all important de-glazing to elicit rich and glistening gravy.
Wondering why your homemade soups lack the depth and complexity that you yearn for during these chilly months?
Fishbein explains the simple but crucial techniques of sweating your vegetables at the right temperature in order to create that flavor base. She points out the value of binding herbs, bones, and even some vegetables in a simple bouquet garni that can easily be removed and discarded together.
But its inspirational array of both traditional and ethnic inspired, kosher recipes for ingredient driven meals is what really sealed the deal for me.
I turned to the recipe for Spicy Fish Hot Pot for something Asian inspired that I would definitely order in a restaurant, but that I wouldn’t necessarily whip up at home.
Classic Fishbein here, with easy instructions and advice on how to keep the smooth Udon noodles from becoming a gloppy mess. Her advice to bundle up the herbs, resulting in a clear broth into which the chunks of cod, shitakes and Udon noodles will float, is simple and easy to follow. I feel inspired and ready to give it a try.
Fishbein is concerned with the economics and convenience of home cooking, too. She places a useful section at the front of the book, called Playbook. Here, she advises how to use leftovers and reincarnate many of the recipes that follow. Some are super easy and self evident, like using the excess glossy miso glaze from the Miso-Glazed Eggplant as a marinade for fish.
Other ideas in the Playbook provide ideas (and recipes are included) for how to morph one dish into another.
Take the Cheesy Gigante Beans recipe and be sure to double it once you read the Playbook suggestion for White Bean Bruschetta.
Is the idea of whipping the leftovers in your food processor with the addition of some garlic oil, rosemary sprigs and heirloom tomatoes revolutionary?
NO. But it’s a helpful and clever suggestion that will save you time and effort if you look ahead before making the original dish.
And because I have always loved the way Susie Fishbein re-thinks old favorites, I gravitated to her Turkey Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Topping. This classic winter comfort casserole gets a makeover (less fat) as she exchanges ground turkey for beef. Vitamin loaded sweet potatoes replace lackluster white spuds for a warming dish during these frigid days of winter.
Kosher By Design Cooking Coach would make a great gift for kosher keepers with a wide range of skills, including newer cooks,who might turn to this volume with all of their questions about basics and beyond.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be invited to dinner after the lucky recipient has taken to her/his kitchen with their reliable and trustworthy cooking coach by their side.
For those of you already comfortable in your kitchens, this cooking coach will do what coaches are meant to do. Trust Susie Fishbein to help you re-think some of your fundamentals, step up your skills, and master some new ones.
Photos: John Uher. Recipe courtesy of Susie Fishbein from Kosher By Design Cooking Coach: Recipes, Tips and Techniques to Make Anyone a Better Cook. Artscroll Mesorah Publications/October 2012.
Additional thanks to Trina Kaye- The Trina Kaye Organization.
If you are making this soup in advance, cook the pasta separately. If allowed to sit in the soup, it will release its starch and turn the soup into a thick mess. Another option is to make the soup in advance and just add the noodles and fish when heating to serve.
- 8 cups water
- 2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 3 stems fresh basil
- 8-10 sprigs fresh cilantro, root ends trimmed
- 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, sliced
- 1 pound cod or halibut fillet, skin removed, cut into equal 2 x 1-inch chunks
- 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 jalapeño pepper, pierced with a knife in 3-4 places
- 2 stalks celery, ends trimmed, very thinly sliced on the diagonal
- 1 large white onion, peeled, halved, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 8 ounces Udon noodles or brown rice spaghetti
- 1/2-1 1/2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
- juice of 1 lime
- chopped purple or Thai basil, for garnish
- In a medium pot, bring the water and 1 teaspoon salt just to a boil.
- Place the basil and cilantro into a mesh bag, or tie with kitchen twine. Add this bundle to the water along with the mushrooms.
- Place the cod into a medium bowl and toss well with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. This will help firm the fish. Set aside.
- Add the red pepper, jalapeño, celery, and onion to the pot. Turn heat down and simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered.
- Add the Udon or brown rice spaghetti to the pot, breaking as necessary. Cook until just under al dente, 1-2 minutes less than the package directions suggest.
- Add the cod to the pot. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the fish is white and just flakes when pierced by a fork.
- Scoop out and discard the jalapeño and the herb bundle, squeezing any liquid back into the pot. Taste the soup. Add 1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce. Stir. Taste again. If not spicy enough, add another 1/2 teaspoon—1 teaspoon of the sauce. The amount needed will vary based on personal taste and the heat of the jalapeño, which you can’t predict.
- Add the lime juice to the pot.
- Ladle into bowls and garnish with basil.
This parve recipe is from Susie Fishbein's Kosher By Design Cooking Coach: Recipes, Tips, and Techniques to Make Anyone a Better Cook.