Susie Fishbein has done it again! Last April (2008) I reviewed her book, Passover by Design, which actually can be used all year ’round. This year Susie has produced a lighter version of her recipes, which means I can use more of them in my own kitchen. Because kosher cookbooks keep meat and dairy recipes separate, I just focus on the meatless dishes, which are many, and skim over the other recipes to see if there are any in which I can substitute tofu or tempeh, instead of meat, poultry, or fish.
The first two pages set the tone for the book. First, Susie discusses what a kosher kitchen consists of, listing about eight items. (Those who do not keep kosher can use these or not.) For example, one requirement is that produce must be washed well and checked for insects. Not a bad idea for all of us! But cooking meat and dairy separately might be something you don’t want to do, so if you serve a meat dish from the cookbook and want to use cream in your coffee at the end of the meal, that’s your choice, unless you are kosher.
The “Lighten Up” page notes that the recipes are not about numbers or nutritional analysis, but rather about becoming a more “educated eater.“ I like that term. It does not take away from good tasting food. In fact, the author’s words are very clear. “I hope this book demonstrates that ‘delicious’ and ‘nutritious’ can coexist harmoniously on your plate. Healthy eating begins with healthy choices.” (p. 9) This statement echoes my own motto of “The Good Taste of Health” recipes that I post in Kitchen Nutrition.
Susie also includes a handy Supermarket Savvy section, listing what to avoid: high fructose corn syrup, saturated fat, trans fats, enriched flour, artificial coloring, monosodium glutamate, and nitrates. She notes one item to keep: resistant starch, a new term for me, defined as a fiber found in many carbohydrates such as barley, beans, and bananas, formed when foods are cooked and cooled. Because it resists digestion, it may be significant in weight loss by helping to allay hunger pangs because resistant starch gives a feeling of fullness.
These two pages are followed by three pages of helpful food and health definitions, one page on superfoods (Ex. dark chocolate with its flavenoids and antioxidants that have health benefits) and two pages to help you read labels or understand new terms, such as” locavore,” who is someone who eats only foods grown within a certain distance of his/her home. Then, starting on page 18, the author discusses in great detail the different kinds of flours used in healthy cooking, an explanantion of whole grains, oils, sweeteners, seeds and nuts, gadgets, and great ideas for entertaining. All of these sections are peppered with gorgeous color photos covering the entire page.
The first 40 pages are therefore a whole foods primer, something that has been the norm for natural foods cookbooks in the past, but a pleasant addition to mainstream cookbooks such as this. The information is easy-to-read, not intimidating, and user-friendly. Susie partnered with Bonnie Taub-Dix, spokesperson the American Dietetic Association, for much of this “technical” information.
Now to the cooking part of the book. As the back cover indicates, there are 145 new recipes with 175 full-color photos, as well as a cross-referenced index. The recipes start with Appetizers and conclude with desserts. What I like about Susie’s recipes is that she makes them personal, with mini-anecdotes about how a particular recipe came about or with information on the main ingredient itself.
My favorite section is the one entitled Side Dishes. For me, these approximately 40 pages are worth the entire cost of the book, because these are the ones that reflect more of my ideas about health and taste. Susie has a flair with her dishes that pushes my standards up a notch or two. While some of the recipes are more “busy” than my style, I am encouraged to try them because they sound delicious!
Kosher by Design Lightens Up is available in book stores for $35.99. Its subtitle: “Fabulous Food for a Healthier Lifestyle” makes it a perfect gift for yourself or for someone who wants to eat more healthfully and doesn’t know where to start. Start with this book!
Note: I will feature one or two of Susie’s recipe in one of my June Kitchen Nutrition with Recipes posting. I believe it will be either Portobello Asparagus Salad or Summer Harvest Quinoa, because I love asparagus and I also love quinoa (Keen-wa). If you use chicken stock and not the water for the liquid, it has to be served with a meat meal, if you are kosher. Watch for one or both recipes soon.