With 400,000 copies of her popular cookbooks already sold, kosher cookbook queen Susie Fishbein has become a household name. Her full-color glossy photographs and never-ending supply of innovative, upscale, and tantalizing recipes that just happen to be kosher single-handedly changed the face of kosher cookbooks forever. But it is her newly released seventh cookbook, Kosher by Design: Teens and 20-Somethings, that may be her bestselling cookbook yet.
What makes Teens and 20-Somethings so appealing is that of all of Fishbein’s cookbooks, this one achieves a delicate balance, featuring mouth-watering recipes that are tempting but not intimidating – even to a novice cook. Reading this book makes you want to head straight for the kitchen and start pulling out pots and pans. Recipes look simple enough for even the most die-hard kitchenphobes, yet sophisticated enough to appeal to food mavens of any age. Intriguing recipes such as Hot Pretzel Challah, Peanut Butter and Banana French Toast, and Za’atar Cauliflower literally jump off the page, thanks to the stunning color photographs. Fun ingredients like French’s French Fried Onions and Captain Crunch cereal make the recipes so compelling that you know you just have to try them.
Not only does Fishbein offer 100 new recipes in this new addition to the Kosher by Design series, she offers common sense advice to novice cooks, discussing cooking techniques and nutrition in an easily understandable way. Her clear explanations of special dietary needs, including food allergies, celiac disease and other food sensitivities and preferences, are an excellent addition, given today’s prevalence of these issues.
Kosher by Design, Fishbein’s first cookbook written in 2003,was an overwhelming success, setting a new standard for kosher cookbooks. The Kosher By Design series evolved in tandem with Fishbein’s life, and her second volume,Kosher by Design Entertains,focused on creating elegant yet delicious recipes. As time went on and Fishbein’s family expanded from one child to four, her focus shifted to cooking with her own children – and Kosher by Design: Kids in the Kitchen was born. The next three books in the series – Short On Time, Passover by Design, and Lightens Up – are all reflections of Fishbein’s busy and ever-changing lifestyle.
The Jewish Press recently spoke with Fishbein.
The Jewish Press: How did you get started?
Fishbein: I got started about nine years ago. I had one young child and had worked on a cookbook as a community fund-raiser. Martha Stewart was at her height, and I was suffering from cookbook envy. The kind of cookbooks I was looking for didn’t exist for the kosher consumer. ArtScroll took a tremendous gamble on me, and the cookbook was a huge success. After that, people began to clamor for cookbooks that had photos of every recipe.
How do you develop your recipes?
I’m pretty vigilant on working on recipe development, either by myself or with chefs. My favorite chef is Damian Sansonetti, an executive chef with Daniel Boulud. We struck up a friendship when he was a chef at Shallots, an upscale kosher restaurant in midtown Manhattan. I would take his recipes and make them more accessible, while he would take mine and glamorize them. We work well together and come up with great ideas.
What inspired you to do this particular cookbook?
My teenagers. My door is always open for them and their friends, and I am very much in tune with how they eat. I find that there are almost always teenagers at every show who have a real interest in cooking. This age group seems to be divided into two distinct camps: those that are surrounded by restaurants and have no idea what is in the food they constantly eat, and those that have grown up with a culture of food and are more weight- and health-conscious. This book appeals to both ends of that spectrum. I plan on doing a college road trip to publicize this book, and will do summer camp appearances as well.
What would your message be to teens and 20-somethings?
If you can read, you can cook. One day you are going to be responsible for providing three meals a day for yourself and your family. Cooking is a skill you need to learn, just like tying your shoes.
What would you say to those who find your cookbooks intimidating?
There is no reason anyone should be intimidated by my cookbooks. If you can buy soy sauce, you can buy teriyaki and Hoisin sauce. Supermarkets these days are so well stocked, and while specialty stores such as Pomegranate have aisles of gourmet ingredients, I buy my ingredients at my local ShopRite.
Is this your first cookbook that identifies recipes for people with food sensitivities?
This generation is greatly affected by these issues, either for themselves or their friends. Celiac disease and food allergies are so much more prevalent. A sidebar on each recipe indicates vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free recipes.
Why do you think your cookbooks are so successful?
I think it is because these recipes happen to be kosher; but there is nothing inherently kosher or Jewish about them. Despite their popularity among Orthodox Jews, I find that they are most well received at Reform or Conservative shows, where no one in the audience keeps kosher. They enjoy gourmet food, and take pride in something that is Jewish – yet done beautifully.
What are some of your family’s favorites?
My family loves this cookbook because they were so involved in the development. Anything they didn’t like didn’t go in the book. I can’t think of a recipe in this book they didn’t go nuts for. If they didn’t love it, I didn’t use it.
Will there be more cookbooks in the series?
I am already developing recipes for my next book. The day after I finish a cookbook, I am already hard at work on the next one.
Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who has written for various Jewish newspapers, magazines and websites, in addition to having written song lyrics and scripts for several full-scale productions. She can be contacted at email@example.com.