A New Kind of Kosher: An Interview with Kim Kushner of ‘The New Kosher Cookbook’
“I want to bite into my food and savor it,” says Kim Kushner in the introduction of The New Kosher Cookbook. Kushner isn’t interested in styling and re-styling her food; she doesn’t want to make things complex. She just wants to cook like she learned from her mother, and she wants that “aha” moment at the dinner table, when everyone sits down together.
“I want to bite into my food and savor it” — Kim KushnerThe New Kosher Cookbook could just as easily be named the new cookbook, because it is written for anyone interested in quick, vibrant dishes, which we suspect is most everyone. The kosher aspect is there, of course, but Kushner doesn’t see it as restrictive. Instead, she uses it to up the ante on creativity.
The influences of her childhood — she grew up in a modern Orthodox community in Montreal cooking alongside her mother, who was born in Morocco and raised in Israel — her classical culinary background, and her roles as both wife and mother in the hectic environment of New York City all play a role in her cooking. We see this history come together in dishes like her pita chips with za’atar, smoked salmon frittata, and charred eggplant dip with maple drizzle.
TDM: Can you tell us a little bit about your philosophy on food and cooking?
Kim Kushner: Less is more. Simple is best. I truly believe that if you start with fresh, seasonal ingredients, you don’t need to do too much to them to achieve an incredible-tasting meal.
And how does that influence the recipes in this book?
All of the recipes in the book are simple and straightforward. Most of the recipes use fewer than six ingredients, many of which are pantry staples. These recipes are simple to create and very user-friendly.
In the introduction to your book you talk a little bit about keeping a kosher diet and how that compels you to create the best possible dishes. Can you elaborate?
Being part of the foodie world, I know that keeping kosher means that I am missing out on a lot of deliciousness! And that fact pushes me to work with the ingredients that are kosher and cook divine meals. My dietary restrictions light a fire in me that push me to prove to others that there are so many options when it comes to keeping kosher. Kosher food doesn’t have to keep the reputation it has had for so long. Kosher should translate to fresh, clean, delicious eating!
How would you want readers (particularly those who are not Jewish or who do not keep kosher) to approach — and use — this cookbook?
I say to approach it the way you would approach any other cookbook. If the title didn’t say “kosher,” nothing in this book would make you think it was kosher. This isn’t a kosher cookbook that happens to be great… think of it as a really awesome cookbook that just happens to be kosher.
What’s the takeaway for readers? What do you hope they’ll get from this book?
My hope is that The New Kosher will become your go-to cookbook. The recipes are simple enough that you’ll learn them by heart, and at the end of the day, this book will leave you with many incredibly delicious Mediterranean-style recipes that are easy to navigate, easy to prepare… and that you will want to make time and time again.
Anything else you want to tell us about the book?
It was time for someone to redefine kosher. I am happy to be the one to do it. The eating is the fun part. The cooking should be simple and painless. That’s what I am trying to do.
Want to try a recipe from the book?
The Perfect Stormy Cake
This is just the type of dessert you want to have on hand on a rainy, glum day — paired with a steaming cup of coffee, of course — thus its name. Unlike a typical coffee cake, which is all nuts and cake, this integrates cocoa powder, which lends an element of surprise and richness. You can make the cake in advance and freeze it, then pull it out on one of those stormy days. This recipe is based on Norene Gilletz’s Best Coffee Cake from The Food Processor Bible. — Kim Kushner
For the Perfect Stormy Cake recipe, click here.
Cucumber, Pomegranate, and Corn Salad with Poppy Seeds
This salad is a major crowd-pleaser and very easy to boot. It always amazes me how much both kids and adults like it. Serve over leftover room-temperature basmati rice for a one-dish lunch. — Kim Kushner
Seared Tuna with Sun-Dried Tomato and Jalapeño Preserves
This seared tuna makes a striking, sophisticated main course. The spicy preserves are bursting with layers of flavors from the bold sun-dried tomatoes, zesty basil, and sharp garlic. I often prepare the preserves a day or two in advance and store them in the fridge. I also like to serve this dish as an appetizer by reducing the quantity of tuna. — Kim Kushner
Crispy Rice Cake with Saffron Crust
Who doesn’t love crispy rice? This is a wonderful side dish to make year-round — crunchy, light, and flavorful. I cover the rice with a few paper towels as it cooks to absorb excess moisture, which helps to create a golden crust on the bottom of the rice. — Kim Kushner
Other Kosher and Jewish cookbooks we like.
From My Mother's Kitchen
By Mimi Sheraton
This cookbook may be out of print, but it is worth searching for at libraries and specialty used bookstores. The recipes are tried and true classics, and the stories from Mimi Sheraton’s own life cooking with her mother in a now vastly different New York City than what we have today just makes the food that much richer.
Classic Italian Jewish Cooking
By Edda Servi Machlin
Edda Servi Machlin published The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews in 1981. Now, Machlin revisits those recipes and more in her book Classic Italian Jewish Cooking, which includes over 300 recipes and pays homage to her native Tuscany.
Jerusalem: A Cookbook
By Yotam Ottolenghi
Yotam Ottolenghi tells the story of a city divided in his cookbook. He chooses recipes that reflect his home, which is uniquely occupied by Jews, Christians, and Arabs, and the myriad cuisines that mix within those confines.
Angela Carlos is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Find her on Twitter and tweet @angelaccarlos.