Sunday, February 01, 2009

Kosher by Design Lightens Up

Kosher by Design Lightens Up:
Fabulous Food for a Healthier Lifestyle
by Susie Fishbein

(Mesorah Publications, Ltd. / 1-578-19117-3 / 978-1-578-19117-8 / November 2008 / 336 pages / $35.99 hardcover / $28.79 B&N / $23.75 Amazon)

Reviewed by Celia Hayes for PODBRAM

I will plead guilty of having more cookbooks than any normal person needs: cookbooks for French food, for Cajun, for Italian food, and practically every cookbook ever generated by Sunset Magazine, and about fifteen shelves of others, to which Susie Fishbein’s Kosher By Design Lightens Up is cheerfully added. It goes onto the shelf with my admittedly limited collection of cookbooks by celebrity cooks like Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet, and Ina Garton from the Barefoot Contessa, all of which have at least one thing in common: the recipes are fantastic. In the case of this book and Contessa, the pictures and presentation of the finished dish are to drool over – and the dishes are not terribly complicated in preparation. This is no small consideration for someone who prefers cooking from scratch, but doesn’t have all bloody evening to do it.

Being strictly kosher and relatively low-calorie has obviously set some challenges and limitations in setting up the recipes, but to an artist of any sort – even a culinary one – a limitation is nothing but a challenge to shine. The recipes from which we have tried are absolutely splendid, bursting with flavor. The Roasted Pepper Pesto over whole-grain pasta (p.232) was especially savory. The dishes are a nice assortment, taken from many different culinary traditions – Mexican, Chinese, Moroccan, as well as traditional American and Eastern European dishes, slimmed down, calorie-wise. There is a particularly tasty-looking version of ‘fried chicken’ – but instead of being battered and fried, the chicken pieces are crusted with crushed cornflakes and baked in the oven. I assume using artificial sour cream to coat the chicken underneath was necessary to meet the kosher requirement, for otherwise this collection refreshingly minimizes low-calorie fake food elements, like sugar substitutes and soy cheeses. Some recipes are more than a little creative. There is one for salmon steaks crusted with crushed wasabi peas and then baked – which does sound and look a bit strange. There are helpful hints for cooking – such as, baking the look-alike for fried chicken on a baking rack set over a pan in the oven, in order to ensure the very maximum of crispiness, and interesting suggestions and information on various ingredients – oils, whole-grains, sweetening agents and the like – but calorie information per serving is oddly omitted. Perhaps the intention is to take away the onus of being a ‘diet’ cookbook, and to concentrate on the luscious taste and appearance of the dishes as being lighter and healthier versions of well-known favorites. Overall, the recipes prove that it is not necessary to sacrifice taste in the interests of eating ‘light’.

See Also: Celia's BNN Review
Susie Fishbein's Website

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