Paula Shoyer, DC-area author of The Kosher Baker, The Holiday Kosher Baker and The New Passover Menu, has a new cookbook coming out shortly, and it’s not what you’d expect. The French-trained pastry chef’s new book, The Healthy Jewish Kitchen, illustrates just what its title proclaims; it’s Shoyer’s contribution to helping kosher cooks make healthier, delicious meals.
Her main approach involves forgoing margarine, reducing sugar, adding in whole grains and omitting processed ingredients. While this pastry chef still includes a chapter on desserts and breads, the recipes in that section include unique, healthier twists such as sourdough challah, chocolate quinoa cake and aquafaba chocolate mousse (aquafaba is the liquid found in canned chickpeas).
Shoyer notes the applicability of each recipe for special diets such as gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan, and also points out when recipes are pareve and especially appropriate for certain holidays. Right up front, she provides a list of various holidays and the recipes that would make a great menu for them.
There are also text boxes containing cooking and entertaining tips and trucs included throughout. These range from helpful ideas such as “cooking for 1 to 2 people or for the elderly” and “planning meals for children and teens,” to “melting chocolate” and “storing fresh herbs.”
Shoyer answered some of my questions about The Healthy Jewish Kitchen and how she came to write it:
Jewish Food Experience®: What is the essence or spirit of the “healthy Jewish kitchen?” What was your priority or focus in writing this book?
Paula Shoyer: My goal was to use all natural ingredients, a new way of cooking for kosher chefs who rely too often on processed ingredients. I wanted to use lower salt, sugar and fat than typical kosher cookbooks and more whole grains. My goal was to get people to start eating healthier by giving them recipes that are familiar, that they already know and love—but make them lighter.
JFE®: Please talk a little about your path from pastry chef and author of baking books to a healthier book. I’m wondering if your Passover book was a transition for you as well. Is this a public service book of sorts?
PS: The New Passover Menu idea came to me from my publisher. I had said for a long time to people who asked me to write a food book that I wouldn’t pivot to savory until I had something new to add to the kosher food world. The Passover book is a collection of all the recipes that were in my head after years of improvising, but I also knew people really fear cooking for that holiday, and I was happy to make it easier for them. My own cooking has shifted healthier over the past few years, and when Sterling asked about doing The Healthy Jewish Kitchen, it was a natural progression. I have also seen that there are pockets of our community where people are still eating very poorly—half a cup of sugar in every salad dressing, sweeteners in every roast and tons of salt in everything—and I wanted to use my platform to help them eat better.
JFE®: What are some of your favorite or most innovative recipes in the book? Why?
PS: Chocolate Quinoa Cake is revolutionary because it is a gluten-free cake for Passover that I would eat any day all year long. The only grain is quinoa, and it is rich, dense and chocolaty with a nutty texture. And Bouillabaisse—I have seen this soup in France for my entire adult life and could never eat it as it is always made with shellfish. It always looked interesting, so I worked hard to come up with a kosher fish version. It has such interesting flavors such as saffron and licorice and is an entire meal in the bowl.
JFE®: What is your creative process or inspiration for your savory recipes? Sweet? Is it a different process?
PS: For the desserts here, I wanted to take the recipes we love and make them healthier, without sending people to multiple stores to buy weird-sounding ingredients. I took what I love, such as babka, and worked to eliminate margarine, excess sugar and add whole grains. Whenever I am done with a dessert recipe, I test it one more time with less sugar and find it is even better. For savory dishes, I really just walk the supermarket aisles and see where my eyes lead me and then try to combine ingredients in new ways. In this book, I also wanted to bring new food trends to the community, but make them kosher and make sure they were not too complicated. I try to put myself in the shoes of the home cook to see what they would actually make and reduce steps and cleanup if possible.
Join the Jewish Food Experience® and Moti’s Market on November 19, 2017, 1–3 pm, when Paula Shoyer will present her new book, The Healthy Jewish Kitchen, offer a sampling of some of the recipes, answer questions and sign books. Find out more and register here.