‘Kosher by Design’ author reflects on books, kosher and cooking

‘Kosher by Design’ author reflects on books, kosher and cooking

Susie Fishbein
Susie Fishbein

Anyone who can read can follow a recipe, according to Susie Fishbein.  But to be a really good cook — a “free cook” — one needs good techniques.

Fishbein sets forth many of those techniques in “Kosher by Design Cooking Coach: Recipes, Tips and Techniques to Make Anyone a Better Cook,” the eighth cookbook in her  popular “Kosher by Design” series,  released Wednesday, Oct. 31.

The idea of writing “Cooking Coach,” which highlights techniques that can take both novice and well-seasoned chefs to the next level, came to Fishbein as a result of a decade of teaching cooking classes, she told the Chronicle.

“I’ve been in front of audiences for 10 years,” she said. “What I started to realize was that the strength of the shows was not that people learned the three recipes I teach, but that they learned good techniques.”

Fishbein, a self-taught chef, has chronicled those techniques in 10 coaching sessions throughout her new book, including “game plans” for honing one’s kitchen skills, illustrated in step-by-step color photos. Everything from advice on kitchen equipment, to how to cook different cuts of meat, and why, is laid out in this volume written specifically with the kosher chef in mind.

Drawing on her experience as a fourth-grade teacher, Fishbein said she knows that successful education is not so much about teaching a particular lesson as it is about application of principles. “Cooking Coach” is thus about teaching the fundamentals of cooking so that people can use those basic tenets to create meals on their own based on the foods they like, what happens to be on sale, and what is in season.

Fishbein, a New Jersey-based mother of four, has become famous for her kosher cookbooks, known for their beautiful illustrations, and for the quality and ease of preparation of their recipes.

While her newest, “Cooking Coach,” gets into the nitty gritty of such skills as how to pin-bone fish and prep fresh herbs, it also contains 120 new recipes, as well as a section on how to “reincarnate” leftovers.

The recipes are varied and innovative and include Honey Pomegranate Chicken, Sicilian Chicken, Butternut Squash Broken Lasagna, Fall Harvest Silver Tip Roast, Spicy Fish Hot Pot, Baked Coconut-Brown Rice Pilaf, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Molten Cakes.

“There is a little something for everybody,” Fishbein said. “There are a few recipes that are technique-heavy, but there is nothing in there that a novice cook can’t do.”

Fishbein began her cookbook-writing career modestly, working on a community cookbook as a fundraiser for her children’s school.

“I fell in love with cookbook-writing,” she said, “and found I had a talent for it.”

She has now sold more than 450,000 copies of the books in her series, which include “Kosher by Design Entertaining,” “Kosher by Design Short on Time,” and “Kosher by Design Kids in the Kitchen.”

“The series follows the timeline of my life,” she said, noting that “Kids in the Kitchen” came along when her children were very young, and that she wrote “Short on Time” when her own life became very hectic.

Fishbein says that her own growth as a chef can be seen through the chronology of her books, and that her audience seems to follow her path in terms of discovering new ingredients and refining its skills. The books may be responsible for a whole new generation of talented kosher cooks.

She recounted meeting in a supermarket one of her readers, who lamented that, because of Fishbein’s books, she was no longer considered the best chef in town.

“She said, ‘you’re making all these mediocre cooks great cooks,’” Fishbein recalled.

While Fishbein is considering future projects such as writing a cookbook tailored to men, and a Kosher By Design App, she realizes that her industry is changing.

“The cookbook world and business has changed dramatically in the last few years,” she said. “People are inundated with recipes. The field is getting more crowded, even the kosher cookbook market. I feel like I got into the business at just the right time, and I want to get out at the right time.”

Fishbein will be in Pittsburgh May 1, 2013, as part of the Chabad of Fox Chapel Women’s Circle cooking series. The event will be open to women in the community, but will be limited to 60 people. More information will be forthcoming in the spring.

Recipe from:

“Kosher by Design Cooking Coach: Recipes, Tips and Techniques to Make Anyone a Better Cook”

By Susie Fishbein

Artscroll Mesorah Publications/October 2012

Silan Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Leeks

Parve – 8 Servings

Silan is date honey or date syrup. Available online, it can also easily be bought anywhere Israeli products are sold, particularly in Syrian and kosher markets. This versatile ingredient is sweet, sticky and will do wonders for any vegetable that you can roast. It has a unique flavor, deeper and richer than honey. I have seen it used in everything from cookies, Passover charoset, dressings, chicken and meat dishes, to topping off an ice creamsundae. Track a bottle down, it is so worth it.

2 large leeks, root end and top 4 inches trimmed, sliced into 1⁄2-inch thick rounds, cleaned well

6 large sweet potatoes, peel half of them, cut each into 1 1⁄2-inch chunks

1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1⁄3 cup silan date honey

1. Preheat oven to 400° F.

2. Cover 1-2 jellyroll pans with aluminum foil. Set aside.

3. Place the sweet potatoes and leeks into a large bowl. Toss with the oil to coat all of the vegetables. Pour in a single layer onto prepared pan. Roast, uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle on the silan. Be careful, the pan will be hot. Coat the vegetables well. Return, uncovered to the oven and roast for an additional 15-20 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are fork-tender and sticky. Toss once during the roasting time.

4. Transfer to serving bowl.

(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at tobyt@thejewishchronicle.net.)

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