Goodbye humdrum. Hello, gorgeous!!
With the release of CHIC Made Simple, an all new cookbook written by food stylist, columnist and recipe developer Esther Deutsch, kosher food continues to blaze new trails, offering sophisticated, appealing recipes that are, (surprise, surprise!) both delicious and deceptively easy to prepare.
As a food editor at Ami Magazine, Mrs. Deutsch, a Flatbush resident, developed a loyal following with her MANNA column, which dazzled readers with recipes that were a cut above their usual fare, but didn’t require endless hours in the kitchen. Fast forward to her debut cookbook CHIC Made Simple, a 384 page volume studded with over two hundred photographs that are so appealing you have be careful not to drool all over the pages.
CHIC Made Simple features over 185 recipes, some original and some reader favorites, with chapters devoted to Appetizers and Sides, Soups, Salads, Poultry, Meat, Fish, Dairy and Desserts. Creativity abounds here from Gefilte Fish Sushi to Balsamic Grilled Peaches with Basil-Pistachio Ice Cream on Cinnamon Skewers to an intriguing recipe for ice bowls, made out of empty half gallon and quart containers.
The Jewish Press: How did someone with no formal culinary training become so intricately involved in cooking and styling food?
Esther Deutsch: Aside from the actual satisfaction I get from cooking, plating and eating, of course, I am a photography enthusiast and would capture my plated dishes on camera. Looking to take things to the next level, I scheduled a session with a professional food photographer to take pictures of my favorite family recipes in order to get my cookbook project going, but with a son and daughter close in age, I put the idea of writing a cookbook on the “back burner.”
Fast forward a couple of years, and while organizing family photos on my hard drive, I came across the food photographs and I thought “what a shame that such beautiful mouthwatering images were left forgotten.” So, I posted them on Facebook, where Rechy Frankfurter, who was then the editor for Mishpacha magazine and is now editor of AMI magazine, stumbled upon them. The rest is history.
The term food stylist didn’t even exist until recently. Why do you think the visual presentation of food has become so important?
ED: The presentation of food will determine whether your dining experience will be an adventure or an just an average eating experience. A few extra seconds devoted to prettying up a plate will whet the appetite. Even if you are preparing a dish for yourself, it is amazing how much more enjoyable your meal will be if your food is nicely displayed. “We eat with our eyes” is an old, but true, cliché. When it comes to food, the more senses you capture, the more enjoyable the eating experience.
How tough is it to come up with things that not only look and taste great, but don’t take forever to prepare?
ED: Raising young children definitely does not offer the luxury of fussing in the kitchen all day. I don’t want to spend an entire Friday cooking in the kitchen, even when we are expecting company, while my children are home. So my main objective is recipes that are quick and easy. When I developed and tested the recipes for CHIC Made Simple, there was a rigorous mental checklist. First and foremost, I would ask myself “Is this fast and easy? Delicious? Beautiful? Will I want to prepare this dish many more times?” If there was a resounding yes to all four questions, I knew it was a keeper.
Is it even feasible to expect today’s women, who are typically working full time and doing it all, to create elegant presentations in addition to turning out incredibly delicious food?
ED: CHIC Made Simple was designed for the busy woman. The recipes are fast, the ingredient lists are short and the dishes only look complicated. In reality, they are a snap to prepare. My approach of “less is more” works best when it comes to cooking and plating food. If you look at cookbooks or magazines from several decades ago you see how food presentation has evolved. In the past food was over styled. The serving pieces were ornate and there were lots of props surrounding the dish. Because life has sped up and become busier, we look for simplicity wherever we can, especially in the kitchen. What people find appealing now is presentation that’s kept simple: all you need is a clean white plate, a simple garnish, and a little TLC in order to produce a well presented dish. It is okay if it isn’t perfect looking; there is beauty in imperfection. There are also so many fabulous inexpensive white plates available and they add lots of visual interest to the dish, while eliminating the need to fuss with the styling.