The only thing that would be more delicious than admiring Susie Fishbein’s latest cookbook ‘Kosher by Design Cooking Coach’ with its lavish display of gorgeous pictures would be to roll up your sleeves, open the book on any page, and go chopchop.
This, Susie’s latest and eighth, cookbook, goes beyond the scope of her series, by including several valuable chapters: the first is all about kitchen equipment and knife skills, nothing daunting or intimidating whatsoever. I was pleased to see not a single superfluous item, just the most basic knives, pots and pans, appliances, and utensils (no gadgets), well chosen and put to perfect use. Reading her page on stocking your kitchen, you will realize you might have been giving shelter to some inferior, unnecessary or expired groceries at the detriment of some fresher and brighter goodies that will do you proud (have no mercy, do yourself a favor and throw them away). Tips on special meals will teach you how to get more done without slaving. A cook after my own heart, she lets nothing go to waste; a generous chapter called “playbook” lists endless ways to recast leftovers as an exciting new dish where nothing objectionable remains of the tired-looking ancestor dish it was descended from ages ago (last night to be exact). She even discusses leftovers in reverse, sort of like future recycling, restoring their dignity and infusing them with a life all their own. Making Tomato Tarte Tatin? Hold on, doesn’t this involve roasting tomatoes? Why not roast more tomatoes than what you need for just the pie, and use the “leftovers” as a pesto base or in antipasto? See how it works? Leftover stuffed cabbage is reincarnated as cabbage soup with a little help from her pantry friends; a taco filling metamorphoses into a mushroom stuffing. Today’s curried chicken will be tomorrow’s chicken croquettes. And so on down the line: What fun, like watching a wondrous makeover: Who knew the homely beans leftovers you nearly discarded, or worse, overate because you could not bear to see them go to waste, would look so pretty and taste so delicious as a topping for bruschetta? Wow, what a little planning and a little Italian can do for you!
There’s a chapter on all different cuts of meat and how to use them. So could this be the end of the confusion we all experience at the butcher’s? Same goes for the soup, fish, vegetables and desserts chapters. Blanching, roasting, steaming, baking, breading, boning, tying, braising, whipping, carving. With Susie’s instructions, not just the French will understand what on earth all of this …. French kitchen hocus-pocus means. And, hmm…, what about spatchcocking chicken? Nonono I’m not telling you…. you’ll see….
The recipes, give or take a handful, are all simple and unfussy. I welcomed the sobriety of the photography as well, and the focus on the dish itself. None of the luxurious and often frankly excessive props that accompanied many of Susie’s dishes in previous books. Every recipe comes with its picture, whispering encouragement in your ear: a picture worth a thousand words plus complete instructions, how could you go wrong?
It is only when I got to the desserts that I found a great disparity between this chapter’s offerings (and some of the undistinguished ingredients used), and those in all other chapters. That probably explains why at her book party which I had the pleasure to attend Susie told her audience she feels more comfortable with cooking than with baking. That’s quite all right, it is still a beautiful and most useful book, which will make an ingenious and resourceful cook out of you at a much smaller expense of time, labor and costs than you might have been spending. I am delighted to own it.