Book Review by Norene Gilletz
Move over, Martha…there’s a new cook on the block!
In her latest cookbook Kosher by Design Entertains (Mesorah Publications, March 2005, 336 pages, $34.95 U.S., $48.50 Cdn.), Susie Fishbein shares her simple secrets on how to be a successful, stress-free hostess. Susie is a firm believer that entertaining at home should be easy, satisfying and fun! Along with her delicious recipes, Susie offers helpful pointers and timesaving advice, as well as elegant table setting ideas.
This is definitely not your typical Kosher cookbook. You’ll find over 250 innovative, inspired recipes, including Tri-Colored Matzo Balls, Mexican Gefilte Fish, Seared Duck Salad, Roasted Eggplant Soup, Balsamic Braised Brisket with Shallots and Potatoes, Hazelnut and Honey Crusted Veal Chop, and Triple Chocolate Explosion.
Susie Fishbein explains “It’s not about old-fashioned brisket – it’s about fresh ideas. I like to use the best ingredients available to make elegantly simple, yet innovative food that wows the eye as well as the palate.”
Sales of the book are soaring; an unbelievable 30,000 copies were sold in the first 2 weeks. It won “Best of Show Award” in the cookbook category at Kosher World Conference and Expo in Los Angeles in February 2005.
Kosher By Design Entertains is jam-packed with magnificent photography that is so mouth-watering, it may even inspire you to rush right into your kitchen and start cooking! There are fabulous photo spreads for nine different party themes, each for a different occasion with a different format, e.g., a baby shower (dessert buffet), engagement party (cocktail party), anniversary party (formal dinner) and housewarming (buffet). The creative and eye-catching presentations have been designed to inspire you to adapt the details to your own entertaining needs.
If you are looking for some delicious twists to update your traditional Passover menu, look no further. The Passover Guide at the back of the book lists 70 recipes, along with substitutions and modifications, that are appropriate for Passover. Recipes are designated as meat, dairy, pareve and gebrokts. She includes suggested menus for other Jewish Holidays, a Resource Guide for unusual kosher ingredients, and a Buying Guide for the cooking tools and housewares that are photographed throughout the book.
In addition to being a successful cookbook author, Susie is also a wife and the mother of three daughters and one son. She is an everyday cook who loves to share her passion for cooking and entertaining with friends and family. This passion led to the creation of her best-selling cookbook Kosher by Design (Mesorah 2003), which has sold over 70,000 copies to date. Susie travels the country sharing recipes and techniques and has appeared on national TV, including The Today Show.
Remarkably, Susie Fishbein is mostly self-taught, although chefs from three famous restaurants worked with her in her own kitchen to develop some of the recipes for this book, providing a fusion of Italian, French and Asian cultures.
When I spoke with Susie recently, I asked her for some simple suggestions for an elegant, hassle-free Seder menu.
“I don’t like to have 17 dishes on the table,” she replied. “I prefer a lot less food and like to choose dishes that don’t cause stress. I know there will be kids at a Seder and they love my green Shrek-style Spinach Matzo Balls. They can be made in advance, which is perfect.”
I asked her what she would suggest as a main dish. Without hesitating, she said, “Rib Roast with Melted Tomatoes is outstanding. It tastes best when served fresh, so it would make an ideal main course for the second Seder, Sunday evening. The hasselback potatoes also taste best fresh from the oven.”
I asked about her Roasted Beet Salad. Susie said “Not one person in my family likes beets. Not one person left a drop of this salad over when I served it and it was requested the very next night! You can easily make it in advance.
“This year, I’ll be going to my mother’s for Passover and she is a wonderful cook. I can hardly wait to eat her awesome jelly cookies that will definitely be in her freezer!”
Without a doubt, “Kosher by Design Entertains” belongs in every Jewish kitchen. Enjoy…
SPINACH MATZO BALLS
Due to the high water content of fresh spinach, these matzo balls may be a little harder to roll. If this occurs, add some extra matzo ball mix or matzo meal, one teaspoon at a time, until the batter can be rolled into balls. You want to use as little extra as possible so the matzo balls remain light and fluffy.
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg white
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves
1 cup matzo ball mix (usually both bags out of a box)
1. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and the oil.
2. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the spinach until pureed. Squeeze the water out of the spinach.
3. Add the spinach puree into the egg mixture. Whisk to incorporate.
4. Sprinkle in 1 cup (2 bags) of the matzo ball mix. Stir in with a fork, mixing as little as possible. Don’t overwork it.
5. Chill in freezer for 20 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water or chicken stock to a boil.
7. Wet your hands in a bowl of cold water. Using your hand, and manipulating as little as possible, scoop out a ping pong ball size of the mixture. Form it into a ball with your fingertips using no real pressure. Turn the water down to a simmer. Drop the balls into the water. Cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.
Yields: 6 large matzo balls.
ROASTED BEET SALAD
The roasted beets become almost like beet chips. They are incredible. The procedure can be done with taro root or other root vegetables as well. One of the unique aspects to this recipe is not needing to peel the beets. Cutting the beets on newspaper keeps the red from dying your kitchen pink, gloves keep it off you hands. If you can’t find golden beets, just double the amount of red beets.
2 medium/large red beets, scrubbed but not peeled
2 medium/large golden beets, scrubbed but not peeled
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. Passover Dijon-style mustard
3 tbsp. orange juice
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. balsamic or apple cider vinegar
2 ounces frisee lettuce
3 ounces red leaf lettuce
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice off the top and bottom of each beet. Slice into rounds as thin as possible, 1/4-inch thick or less. Drizzle each beet slice with olive oil, brushing it to evenly coat. Sprinkle with coarse salt and thyme. Place on prepared baking sheet. Roast 18 to 22 minutes, until the beets are soft and slightly shrunken. The smaller or thinner beets will need to come out of the oven earlier so they don’t burn. Set aside. Keep the colors separate as they will bleed otherwise.
2. Prepare the dressing. Using an immersion blender or with a whisk, combine the honey, mustard, orange juice, olive oil, and balsamic or apple cider vinegar. Blend or whisk until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Place the frisee and red leaf lettuce leaves into a bowl and lightly dress, tossing to combine, reserving 6 teaspoons of the dressing.
4. Arrange the roasted beet slices, in alternating colors, in a single layer on each plate. Drizzle a scant teaspoon of the dressing over the beets. Place a tall mound of the greens in the center of each plate, allowing the beets to peek out. Sprinkle with walnuts evenly over each plate.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings. For a large crowd, multiply the ingredients accordingly.
For a dairy version, add 3 ounces blue or gorgonzola cheese. In Step 4, crumble cheese over each mound of lettuce.
BRAISED RIB ROAST WITH MELTED TOMATOES
This recipe is elegant enough to be the centerpiece of a formal dinner.
1 (5 to 6) pound standing beef rib roast
freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp. margarine (pareve)
2 onions, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, cut into chunks
2 beefsteak tomatoes, cut into large chunks
6 sprigs thyme, remove leaves, discard stems
1. Preheat oven to 450° F.
2. Season the rib roast with salt and pepper. Melt the margarine in a large ovenproof pot or Dutch oven. Add the roast into the hot margarine, turning to sear evenly on all sides, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Try not to manipulate the meat while it is searing. The meat will release itself when it is properly seared.
3. Add the onions, garlic, and tomatoes to the pot. Add the thyme leaves. Sauté 3 to 4 minutes. Add water to come up halfway on the roast.
4. Place the pot, uncovered, into the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes, until thermometer inserted in center reads between 150° and 160° F. Remove the roast from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes.
5. Serve with the tomatoes and onions from the pot.
Yield: 6 servings.
Jill Raff, the food stylist for Kosher by Design, shared this recipe concept with Susie. It is a great technique for dressing up a plain baked potato.
Here is a neat trick for cutting the potatoes so that you cut even slices but don’t cut through to the bottom. Place the potato into a wooden spoon. The sides of the spoon will keep you from cutting through. For bigger potatoes, like Idaho potatoes, place a chopstick or wooden spoon along each of the two long sides. With one hand holding the potato and chopsticks or spoons in place, slice the potato widthwise. The knife should touch the chopsticks or handles of the spoons at every slice, leaving the slices attached at the bottom of the potato. This will serve as a guide to keep your slices even and keep from slicing through as well.
8 small Idaho baking potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes
8 garlic cloves, sliced into thin slivers
coarse black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 450° F.
2. Using a sharp or electric knife starting at one end and going to the other, cut slits on top of each potato 1/8 of an inch apart, being careful not to cut all the way to the bottom of the potato; see method above. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet.
3. Place a garlic sliver into each slit. Sprinkle each potato with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.
4. Bake 1 hour, baste with the pan oil and then continue to bake for another 30 minutes, until potatoes are soft.
Yield: 8 servings.
Kosher by Design Entertains
by Susie Fishbein
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