Kosher By Design Brings It Home: picture-perfect food inspired by my travels
Susie Fishbein’s bestselling series “Kosher By Design” goes out with a bang with the final ninth volume “Kosher By Design Brings It Home.” Inspired by Susie’s travels to France, Italy, Mexico, Israel, and North America, you’ll find kosher versions of favorites such as Korean short ribs, lasagna bolognaise, and shoyu tamago ramen (which normally has a pork-based broth here in Japan). I have several kosher cookbooks that I cook from regularly (Including The Joy of Kosher and “The New Kosher”), but this was my first experience with the “Kosher By Design” series. The menu leans most heavily towards Israeli and Italian dishes, including staples like arancini (fried stuffed risotto), ravioli, Tuscan bean and farro soup, veal scallopini, brachiole, (fried) pizza Napolitana, ragu Napolitano, and lasagna, but you’ll also find Asian-inspired dishes (short ribs, spicy kim chee hangar steaks, ramen, chicken adobo) and Latin flair in the form of chicken flautas, ceviche, and pulled beef tacos. The salads and dairy / fish sections were particular favorites of mine. I love light, refreshing salads for nearly every meal, and the Israeli-inspired salads here are perfect for hot, hazy days when you don’t feel like spending hours at the stove. I loved the Provencal wheatberry salad, Lumina market salad, Carmel Spa pomegranate almond salad (I use pomegranate molasses as a salad dressing and was happy to see it in a recipe!), kale squash Caesar salad, root vegetable apple salad, and Chedva’s warm French potato salad was a revelation: baby potatoes, haricots verts, and a tangy white wine-herb dressing made this memorable (to make it dairy, you can add crumbled feta while warm). Poultry includes rosemary lavender chicken, Amalfi sage chicken, and mustard caper chicken, and the meat dishes include various roasts, grills, and stews: pumpkin braised short ribs are perfect for fall, while the lamb cholent “cassoulet” reminded me of my trip to France’s Perigord in 2012. Dairy dishes include decadent bread pudding, farroto, pasta frittata, and risotto, while the fish dishes really shone: I loved the silan-glazed salmon (see photo) and the showstopping citrus-glazed salmon, layered with rows of perfectly symmetrical cucumber slices atop a citrus mayo. I also enjoyed trying my hand at the khachapuri shakshuka; having taught many students from Georgia, I’d long heard of the magic of khachapuri but had never tried making it before. Susie’s clear instructions (and the easy shakshuka topping; save the extra for omelettes and scrambled eggs!) make this a winner for breakfast or brunch. Vegetarians have many options in the sides chapter, including a beautiful (and deceptively simple) eggplant and tomato tart (see photo), tershi and couscous (I’m a fan of all things pumpkin and had not heard / tried this amazing Libyan Jewish dish before), sweet potato wontons with teriyaki dipping sauce, chestnut tomato quinoa, and freekeh pilaf. Desserts are sure to tempt with a delightfully sweet/tart lemon tiramisu, Beresheet Spa Kanafe, banana, date, and pecan cake, almond bobka ring, halvah baklava, and fudgy New Fishbein Brownies punched up with espresso powder.
Recipes are clearly labeled as meat, dairy or pareve (with some having multiple options depending on dairy-free substitutions) using color-coded icons. Note that some spellings use the Hebrew / Ashkenazi variations (chummos for hummus, seviche for ceviche, bobka for babka, etc.). I love that the font is a little larger and easily readable from several feet away as I tend to cook using a cookbook holder (and the ingredients are handily in bold). Each recipe comes with a full-page photo by John Uher showcasing each dish. The recipes (main dishes in particular) tend to be more elegant / upscale than some of my other kosher cookbooks (dishes like dried fruit and quinoa stuffed capons, turkey breast with hoisin tangerine glaze, and pumpkin braised short ribs would all make wonderful holiday centerpieces), but there are also plenty of recipes that come together quickly for weeknight meals (the eggplant and tomato tart, fish dishes, and veggie sides). Overall, “Kosher by Design Brings It Home” is a wonderful finale to Susie’s best-selling series (with nearly 500,000 books sold) and a great way to taste the world from the comfort of your (kosher) kitchen; Susie’s headnotes introduce the reader to places and people she’s encountered on her fifteen-year culinary journey spanning several continents and multiple food traditions, from Italian nonnas to Yemenite family recipes passed down across generations. But at the end of the day, in Susie’s words, “there is nothing like the comfort found in bringing it home.”