Book Review: Kosher by Design Cooking Coach

Makes Every Step Easy and Delicious

— by Rabbi Goldie Milgram

Those who like step-by-step, New York Times-level recipes, where nothing is taken for granted about prior ingredient or utensil knowledge, will greatly appreciate Susie Feishbein’s Kosher by Design Cooking Coach: Recipes, tips and techniques to make anyone a better cook. This volume is part of a continuing series, which demonstrates each vital step through the vibrant photography of John Uher. Fishbein, a widely published cookbook author, also teaches on cruise ships, offers week-long culinary adventures in Israel and Italy, and has been profiled through the media.

Full review after the jump.
I was writing this review beside my son, Adam, as he and his wife Daniela were reviewing the copy that I have provided them for Rosh Hashannah. Their comments say it all:

It’s great to have a volume where you don’t have the frustration of trying to figure out how to remove the butter from the steak, the crab from the sushi, and the pancetta from the pasta. Here you have excellent, interesting dishes for everyday, Shabbat and holidays: from Italian to Japanese, French to Mexican, and Korean to Southwestern U.S. And it’s all kosher.

We have fleishig (meat) dinners for Shabbat and holidays, so I was debating whether to make the “spiced coffee-braised brisket” this Rosh Hashannah, or to try something more exotic, like the very yummy Lamb Couscous, which I tried with ease and success before sending Adam and Daniela the cookbook. The first step in this recipe is creating an infusion, using two mint tea bags — how cool is that! Oops — Suddenly, we were all captivated by the kosher grill option of “Kansas City ribs.”

Pragmatism always prevails, and your cooking life will change life if you acquire a mixer with a dough hook. The creative adaptations offered for the “Susie Bosch mixer challah” base recipe include rosemary olive challah, cinnamon raisin challah, chocolate chip-based Babka challah, and spiced pull-apart challah.

When you cook milchig (dairy), you might start with “Building a Cheese Plate” on page 52, where Fishbein ensures that you will achieve the same result as a French restaurant, or better, at a fraction of the cost.

Many press articles rue the loss of socialization skills among young people. Fishbein embraces and encourages the Jewish value of hachnassat orchim (hosting guests), right inside her recipe commentaries, e.g.:

People usually think of serving cheese plates at open house style parties or as hors d’oeuvres [first course], but a cheese plate can be a stunning simple appetizer for a dairy lunch or dinner. Not only is it delicious but it can also be a conversation piece as people share and indulge.

Fishbein opens with a section called “Playbook,” where she even teaches how to think about cooking: “Do not overcook your food on the first go around or it will not be tasty when reused and recooked in its second form… From a kosher perspective, try to preplan how you will use the leftovers…” In this section, she highlights how to “synergize” recipes to maximum effect, e.g. Cajun quinoa (page 261): If your quinoa was made in a pareve pot with parveve utentils, you can try these fantastic quinoa Burgers:

Mix 2 cups leftover Cajun quinoa with 3 beaten eggs, 1/4 cup Parmesan, 3/4 cup breadcrumbs, and 3 ounces crumbled goat cheese. Form into 4 burgers. Heat 2 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet and sear the burgers 2-3 minutes per side.

Every chapter includes a “Game Plan” section, where Fishbein visually highlights the available recipes in an overview, and gives sound advice, such as:

“Don’t serve Nori-Wrapped Salmon and then follow it with salmon as the main course. Most importantly, watch the portion size. The equivalent of a whole meal should not be served before the dinner has arrived.”

About this sample recipe from the volume, Fishbein says:

Cherries, Port, lamb and rosemary make for a perfect flavor profile. But can a dish so elegant really incite bad manners? It sure can when you find yourself licking your plate clean of this delectable sauce.

Lamb Shanks With Cherries and Port (page 198)

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes
Yields: 6 servings lamb shanks

Ingredients:

  • 6 lamb shanks (have butcher trim bones), rinsed and patted dry
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, peeled, cut into very small dice
  • 1 rib celery, minced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and minced
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves and sprigs chopped
  • 1 cup dried cherries, divided
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle Port wine (Ruby, if possible)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons divided, good-quality black cherry preserves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Preparation:

  1. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In batches, so you don’t crowd the pan, add the lamb shanks and brown, 3-4 minutes per side, turning to sear all sides. Remove to a jellyroll pan.
  2. Add the onion, celery, and carrot to the pot, stirring to scrape up browned bits from the bottom. Add the rosemary, thyme, and 1/2 cup dried cherries. Remove from heat. Pour in the Port and chicken stock. Stir. Return to medium heat. Whisk in the 1/2 cup black cherry preserves to dissolve. Drop in the cinnamon sticks. Return the lamb shanks to the pot. Raise heat, bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cover and cook for 2 hours. Check after 1 hour and see if the shanks need rotating if they are not completely submerged.
  3. Remove the shanks from the pot. Remove and discard the cinnamon sticks and rosemary sprig. Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce, then simmer for 20 minutes over medium heat, uncovered, to reduce, skimming any impurities from the surface. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons black cherry preserves. Return the shanks to sauce and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup dried cherries. Cook for 10 minutes; serve with sauce. Can be made in advance and reheated.

Blessings for a meaningful, memorable and delicious new year!

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