Quick & Kosher: Meals in Minutes by Jamie Geller ($34.99, Feldheim)
Ever since I got my copy of Quick & Kosher, Jamie Geller’s first cookbook, I’ve been hoping for a sequel. And after meeting this adorable, down-to-earth powerhouse (and interviewing her for the Jewish Press) back in 2007-she was working on new recipes even as she was out promoting that debut volume-I was even more eager to see what else she would have in store. Three years in the making, Quick & Kosher: Meals in Minutes hits stores this month.
This time around, Geller offers 200-plus recipes presented in pairs-main dish and accompaniment, usually a side dish but sometimes a beverage, soup or dessert (as well as a wine recommendation). The recipes are divided by preparation time: 20-, 40- or 60-minute meals. That is a somewhat artificial construct, which juxtaposes chicken dishes with cheesy pastas. It reminds me of a cookbook I own that divides recipes by months of the year, a cute but not exceedingly helpful concept. In both cases, if you tend to seek out recipes based on what type of meal you’re after-meat, fish, dairy, etc.-you will end up relying on the Index at the back of the book most of the time. But for those times that your palette is wide open (pardon the pun), it is fun to browse the chapters and get inspired. Each page has a full-color photo of the corresponding recipes; though we home chefs can’t quite replicate the same level of aesthetic perfection.
The estimated prep times include cooking time; not surprisingly, the faster recipes rely heavily on frying and grilling rather than baking. Geller unabashedly calls for shortcut ingredients, such as chicken broth, frozen garlic cubes and canned tomatoes. Given the plethora of table-ready kosher products available, and the endless ways they can be combined with fresh or from-scratch items (as she does so well), only the most old-school cook could object. There’s also a special chapter devoted to Shabbos and Yom Tov menus. Meals in Minutes has a more international flavor than its predecessor-think Spicy Spinach Miso Soup and Wonton Crisps (Asia) or Lamb Meatballs in Pita (the Middle East).
If you have Geller’s first cookbook, or know her from her online perch at Kosher.com, you will not be surprised to find more than just recipes. She includes a few brief, cheery chapters on topics like essential kitchen tools and types of oils. There is also a healthy dose of humor and plenty of personal glimpses into Geller’s happy, hectic life as a Jewish wife/mother/kosher cooking celebrity/entrepreneur. A sense of humor, and humility, are clearly staples when you’re in Geller’s kitchen, which is what it feels like to read the commentary sprinkled throughout the book.
Meals in Minutes is classy, colorful, and chock-full of ideas to play around with and make your own. A perfect Chanukah gift for those who love to prepare creative meals without a lot of fuss.