The first word that came to mind when I was reading and reviewing Passover by Design is the Yiddish word haimish. The Dictionary of Jewish Words by Eisenberg and Scolnic defines haimish as unpretentious and homey, from the German word for “home.” So what I mean by haimish is that Susie presents her food and her recipes in a friendly manner, putting the reader at ease.
For example, the author often puts little notes or stories at the beginning of the recipe, which draw the reader directly into her kitchen. Here’s an example from one of her recipes, Warm Mushroom Potato Salad: Certain foods remind us of certain people. Potato salad will always be a reminder of my friend Lisa Goldman Altman, an extraordinary woman who passed away at far too early an age. In addition to being a wonderful wife, mother, and lawyer, she was passionate about many things, including cooking. She had created dozens of versions of potato salad, which were in her recipe box. This is a winning combination of some of those. Just reading this little story prompted me to add this to my list of “recipes to try.”
In addition, when I spoke with Susie Fishbein on the phone at her New Jersey home, I asked her about why she writes cookbooks (This is her fifth cookbook with another in the works.) when she is already a busy wife and mother of four. Her answer was also “haimish.” She told me that her mother, a practical cook, often entertained when Susie was growing up and she passed this joy to Susie of opening her house to family and friends. Susie also said that when her dining room is quiet, she often hears echoes of older family members that are no longer with them, and that she is happy she had shared her love of cooking with them. Obviously, this author has a passion for cooking because she told me that she loves getting up every morning to “go to work” in her kitchen. She said her work is a gift!
An important fact about Susie’s book is that that because so many ingredients are now kosher, creating more unusual dishes from around the world is much easier than it was in her mother’s day. So while there are traditional Jewish recipes in this cookbook suitable for Passover or any time of year, for that matter, there are some “new” recipes that might not have been found in a Jewish cookbook 25 years ago.
What this means is that the recipes can be used by anyone, Jewish or not Jewish. This fact reminds me of an ad that used to appear on the NYC subway. It showed an Asian man eating Levy’s rye bread with the caption: You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy Levy’s rye bread. Ditto with this cookbook. All you need is a passion for delicious food that borders on the exotic, but with readily available ingredients. For example, I made Thai Quinoa because it appealed to my love of quinoa, a food generally reserved for natural foods cookbooks, and Thai seasonings, which are now available with the kosher symbol.
Thus, this cookbook can appeal to anyone with an adventuresome palate. While all the recipes follow kosher dietary laws of keeping meat separate from milk, using ingredients designated as kosher, these standards do not get in the way of preparing the recipes any time of year, regardless of one’s religion.* Another important factor is that there are 130 gluten free recipes, some of which I hope to feature in a future posting on gluten free dishes, with the author’s permission
The other thought that came to mind while reading this book is that the 9 1/2″ X 8 1/2″ photos by photographer John Uher are so beautiful and realistic that I wanted to lick the pages as I turned them. Each dish looks enticing. I will say that some recipes contain more ingredients than I feel comfortable with, and Susie does use sugar, which I avoid. But even with these stipulations, as well as the fact that I don’t eat meat, there are more than enough recipes in her book for me to try that fit in with my dietary guidelines as a vegetarian.
Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So the question I asked myself is: “Do the flavors of the dishes match the beauty of the pictures?” So far, the answer is YES. Below are just three of the recipes I have prepared before posting this month’s blog. In the next couple of months I hope to try the dozen or so I have on my list. But don’t wait for me! Get your own copy of Passover by Design and start enjoying the tasty recipes that Susie has created in her “haimishe” (adjective form of haimish) kitchen and shares with all of us ready to try some dishes that may be a little different, but have a big taste.
The book is published by ArtScroll/Shaar Press and costs $34.99. It makes a nice gift for someone who loves to cook and is also a beautiful addition to your coffee table collection. The first printing of 20,000 copies were sold out immediately, so Susie’s followers are legion. I am now part of that following and look forward to her next book: Kosher by Design Lightens Up, due to be released this fall.
*SPECIAL NOTE: I came across this tidbit on kosher that I thought fit perfectly with my position that you don’t need to be Jewish or keep kosher to enjoy this cookbook. It is quoted from a small publication called Dateline: World Jewry:
The most popular claim for food products in the United States is kosher, according to a consumer products pollster. Mintel points out that the kosher label beats out all claims like “All Natural” and “No additives or Preservatives,” in a report released at the end of 2007. The pollster claims that Jewish and non-Jewish consumers believe products marked kosher are healthier and safer than non-kosher foods,and that last year alone, food and beverage companies introduced a total of 4,712 products with the kosher label.
Below are the three recipes I prepared so far. All three were well received well by my mini-luncheon guests who taste tested the recipes.
You will pop these gorgeous golden carb-friendly treats into your mouth like popcorn. The simple high-heat roasting method brings out the natural sugars of the vegetable and the spice combination works great in both flavor and color. Don’t cut florets too small because they shrivel while cooking. (Notes from the author.)
2 heads cauliflower, cut into medium-sized florets, stems discarded
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar (I substituted one packet of Stevia)
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon paprika
¼- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
6-8 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Line a jelly pan or baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine the salt, onion powder, paprika, turmeric, and oil. Add cauliflower florets and toss to evenly coat.
Place in a single layer onto the prepared sheet.
Roast, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes, until the largest pieces can be pierced with a fork. If the tops are starting to get too brown, toss the cauliflower during the baking powder.
Quinoa has become very popular with cooks today, especially during Passover when this berry, which tastes like a grain, stands in nicely for what we crave. It is high in protein and has other healthful characteristics. (Author’s comments.)
(My note: Susie also writes that quinoa may or may not be acceptable for Passover and that if you are keeping kosher, you should consult your local rabbi for clarification.)
1 ½ cups dry quinoa (I used 1/2 red quinoa and half white quinoa- E.S.)
3 cups water
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
6 basil leaves, finely chopped
3 sprigs cilantro, leaves gently torn (discard stems)
1/3 cup minced red onion (about ½ small onion)
½ firm mango, not too ripe, peeled, pitted, and cut into ½-inch dice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lime juice
Rinse the quinoa thoroughly either in a strainer or in a pot, and drain. (Do not skip this step or a bitter, soap-like natural coating will remain.) Once the quinoa is drained, place it into a medium pot with the water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes, or until the grains turn translucent and the outer layer pops off. Drain.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the minced jalapeno, basil, cilantro, red onion, mango. Drizzle in the oil, salt, and lime juice. Stir to combine.
Add the drained quinoa and toss to combine. Season with salt to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Roasted Beet Salad
Note: I photographed this on a sunny day when my blinds were at an angle and gave the photo an interesting light and shadow effect, which I liked, so I decided to use it.
Dairy or Parve (can be used with meat or dairy dishes)
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! 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 of this recipe is not needing to peel the beets. Cutting the beets on newspaper keeps the juice from dying your kitchen pink, and gloves keep it off your hands. If you can’t find golden beets, just double the amount of red beets. (Author’s Notes)
2 medium/large red beets, scrubbed but not peeled
2 medium/large golden beets, scrubbed but not peeled
coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons (imitation) Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons orange juice
or apple cider vinegar
2 ounces frisee lettuce
3 ounces red leaf lettuce
½ cup chopped walnuts
3 ounces blue or gorgonzola cheese, optional for dairy meals
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Slice off the top and bottom of each beet. Slice into rounds as thin as possible, ¼ inch thick or less. Drizzle each beet with olive oil, brushing it to evenly coat. Sprinkle with salt and thyme. Place on prepared cookie sheet. Roast 18-22 minutes, until the beets are soft and slightly shrunken. 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.
Using an immersion blender or a whisk, combine the honey, mustard, orange juice, olive oil, and vinegar. Blend or whisk until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the frisee and red-leaf lettuce leaves into a bowl and lightly dress, tossing to combine, reserving 6 teaspoons of the dressing.
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 into the center of each plate, allowing the beets to peak out. Sprinkle with walnuts evenly over each plate. If using cheese, crumble over each mound of lettuce.
Note from Ellen Sue: If using both colors of beets, use one cookie sheet for the red beets and the other for the yellow beets, so bleeding between the colors will not occur in baking. Also, I did not have frisee, so I used my Spring Greens Mix.