In 2013, Kim Kushner published her first cookbook, The Modern Menu, which has a variety of kosher dishes separated into different menu themes—vibrant, crisp, saucy and so on. (Paula Shoyer wrote about it here last year.) Now she’s back with her second cookbook, The New Kosher, published this past summer.
Growing up, Kushner’s family life revolved around food. There were always guests over for dinner, and her mother frequently shared her belief of “feeding the world.” Kushner carried this impression with her and now invites friends and family over regularly to enjoy the meals she prepares. She feels that cooking is about sharing. As for kosher cooking, she sees it as being about what she can eat, rather than what is not allowed, but she uses the dietary restrictions as inspiration to turn her ingredients into beautiful and delicious meals. You can learn more about Kushner from this video or by visiting her website.
I’m more of a cookbook novice, as my husband does most of the cooking and I go with tried-and-true recipes. However, Kushner’s cookbook makes new recipes look easy and enticing, with photos of her preparing the food as well as measurement conversions (cups to ounces and grams), tips for storing the items (where and for how long) and vegetarian and pareve adaptations (whenever applicable). For each recipe, Kushner also shares personal thoughts and ideas for enhancement. I spoke with Kushner about cooking and cookbook writing, too.
Jewish Food Experience: What is something you learned from putting together The Modern Menu that you applied to The New Kosher?
Kim Kushner: I learned that it is more important to include tried-and-true, easy, go-to recipes in a cookbook than it is to just fill the pages with hundreds of recipes. It always comes back to quality over quantity.
JFE: What is your favorite recipe to cook and why?
KK: I love cooking one-pot meals. My favorite is the Red Roast chicken with Lemon, Whole Garlic and Vegetables in my book. Something about a complete meal cooked in one pot feels so homey and reminds me of my childhood. Plus, it makes dinner so much easier!
JFE: What was the most important lesson you learned from your culinary studies?
KK: The most important lessons I learned in culinary school have nothing to do with cooking. Hard work and respect are the most valuable lessons of all in any field. Culinary school is a high-pressure and super-competitive environment. Most people are not there for the fun of it. When you are in a small class made up of 12 students ranging in ages from 20 to 70, some people juggling two or three jobs just to be able to work their way through the program, others starting fresh after making career-changes…it’s intense. But everyone is there because they want to make some type of career out of cooking. I always say that there’s no glamour in chopping onions. Hard work and respect will get you a long way.
JFE: What is the first recipe you ever learned to make when you were growing up?
KK: I can remember sitting in my parents’ kitchen with my two sisters peeling potatoes before Passover, assembly-line style, preparing to make Pastellot, a traditional Moroccan dish of mashed potato patties stuffed with ground beef.
JFE: What is the greatest challenge when it comes to making kosher food? Greatest reward?
KK: The greatest challenge is baking and cooking without butter (to keep it dairy-free), especially sauces and doughs (and I don’t use margarine!). And the greatest reward is when someone who is not kosher comes up to me to tell me how much they love my recipes because for me, that’s what it’s really all about—blurring the lines between kosher and non-kosher cooking. There doesn’t need to be a noticeable difference.
JFE: With Sukkot and Simchat Torah approaching, what is a recommended dish to make for either (or both) holiday(s)
KK: Lentil Soup with Carrots, Lentils and Greens (recipe included); Shredded Romaine Salad with Seeds and Sweet Onion Vinaigrette; Tamari Salmon with Edamame; and Slow-Cooked Chicken with Fennel and White Wine are just some ideas from my book.