With the frenzied anticipation generally reserved for the appearance of a rock star, the Orthodox community sizzles with excitement when Susie Fishbein comes to town.
The effervescent author of the Kosher by Design (Artscroll) cookbooks, Fishbein has turned kosher cooking on its proverbial ear. And no wonder she bubbles over. More than 425,000 copies of her seven titles have sold with no end in sight.
Julie Ghodsi of Golden Dreidle in Irvine, Orange County’s headquarters for all things Judaica, reports, “All of Susie’s cookbooks have a loyal following, from the very observant to Reform. They sell themselves.”
Just what is this revolution in kosher cooking that Fishbein has spawned?
An Orthodox Jew and mother of four, Fishbein understands that today’s observant Jews want to prepare the same exciting dishes found on restaurant menus and serve them with style. “Kosher food doesn’t have to be simple or bland,” noted Fishbein by phone from her New Jersey home. “Just about every ingredient is available kosher.”
Routinely dubbed the Jewish Martha Stewart, Fishbein squirms at the comparison. “I’m flattered, but it’s not really accurate,” she said. “I take shortcuts she would never take. It’s not about putting on a show. These are recipes the family will want to eat over and over.” And they do. So popular are these dishes that guests recognize them on each other’s Shabbos tables!
“The recipes and serving ideas require a minimum of fuss to achieve the maximum aesthetic impact,” Fishbein noted. “I don’t aim for the level of chef. I’m aiming for the person who wants things to look elegant, but doesn’t want to spend seven hours in the kitchen.”
First in the series, Kosher by Design captures the beauty of every holiday with a feast for the eye as well as the palate. With Kosher by Design Entertains, Fishbein moved on to celebrations – a housewarming, dinner for two, an engagement party – nine in all, with spectacular menus and extravagant serving ideas along with the simple, yet elegant recipes she had become famous for.
Then followed KBD Kids in the Kitchen, KBD Short on Time, KBD Lightens Up and Passover by Design. And now her latest, Kosher by Design Teens and 20-Somethings offers easy-to-prepare fun food for young people…and the older adults who feed them.
“Today’s teens have grown up with incredible kosher take-out choices. I wanted to break them of the fast-food habit,” Fishbein noted. “They’re also food savvy. They grew up watching cooking shows and eating restaurant food. Macaroni and cheese doesn’t cut it for this generation of kids. They know better.”
Sure, you’ll find sliders, quesadillas, wraps and pizzas, but does one really have to be feeding a teenager to enjoy Pesto Salmon or Molten Deep-Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie? – exciting recipes for anyone with lofty cooking ambitions, but limited time, experience, space, equipment and/or even energy.
How does Fishbein herself explain the hoopla surrounding her books? “People clearly have had a creative passion in them that was waiting to be unleashed. I’ve unleashed their inner cook.”
(Adapted from Kosher by Design Teens and 20-Somethings by Susie Fishbein)
1 pound salmon fillet, without skin, pin bones removed
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves (picked off leaves of a large bunch)
3 cloves fresh garlic, sliced
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Preheat oven to 375˚F. Line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil. Place salmon in center of pan. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2 Place basil leaves, sliced garlic and pine nuts in food processor fitted with metal blade. Pulse until pesto is puréed. With machine running, drizzle in olive oil. Add lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; process again.
3 Reserve 1/4 cup pesto to serve with fish, if desired. Spoon remaining pesto over fish, covering completely.
4 Bake, uncovered, until desired doneness, about 25 minutes.
5 Transfer salmon to a platter. Serve with reserved pesto, if using.
Molten Deep-Dish Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: 10-12 servings depending on size
Note: Use four-ounce disposable individual aluminum muffin tins, and the cookies will come out easily. Or you can use ramekins and serve them in the ramekin. Because sizes vary, baking times may vary too, depending on size of tins or ramekins and amount of dough you need to fill them. Do not overbake or cookies will be doughy, not gooey. You are looking for tops to be golden and not wet looking.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, at room temperature for 15 minutes
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 (12-ounce) bag best-quality chocolate chips (2 cups)
Nonstick cooking spray
1 (4-ounce) good quality semisweet chocolate bar (Fishbein recommends Schmerling Noblesse® for pareve), broken into pieces on the score marks
1 Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2 In medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
3 In bowl of stand mixer, at medium-low speed, mix butter or margarine with sugars. Raise speed to medium-high and mix until creamy, light, and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium and mix in vanilla and eggs.
4 Mix in half the flour mixture. Add remaining flour mixture and mix until just combined. Mix in chocolate chips.
5 Spray aluminum tins with nonstick cooking spray.
6 Fill each muffin cup or ramekin a quarter of the way with a large, ping-pong-ball-size ball of cookie dough. Flatten slightly to cover bottom. Stick two chocolate squares in center. Cover with second walnut-sized ball of cookie dough, flattening it to completely cover chocolate.
7 Place on cookie sheet and bake until tops are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes (see note).
8 If using aluminum tins, turn each cookie out onto a plate. If using ramekins, serve in the ramekins – but be careful – they’re hot! Serve warm.