The Kosher by Design series of cookbooks, by Suzie Fishbein, specializes in what some food bloggers jokingly call “food porn.” Readers of the new Kosher by Design Teens and Twenty-Somethings: Cooking for the Next Generation, won’t be disappointed. This beautifully designed KBD for young people contains gorgeous, mouth-watering photographs with each recipe, just like the previous books in the series.
Kosher by Design Teens and 20-Somethings offers easy recipes, while making no assumptions about prior cooking knowledge. You could safely pass this book on to a teen or a newlywed couple. Don’t expect any panicked phone calls, either, since Fishbein carefully explains how to tell when fish or chicken is fully cooked. To quote Suzie: “If you can read, you can cook.”
My favorite chapter is Soups and Salads. I especially liked Tomato Egg-Drop Soup (56), Chicken-Noodle Soup (58), Pizza Soup (62)—a tomato-basked soup heated in a crock and topped with toasted French bread and cheese, and Orange Butternut Squash Soup (56). Not one calls for soup powder or canned broth. The gluten-free Chicken Tabbouleh Salad (78), based on buckwheat (kasha) looks excellent as does the Mango Brown Rice Salad (72). The No-Mayo Potato Salad (86), similar to one I often make at home, is dressed with vinegar, mustard and olive oil.
Fishbein introduces each recipe with cooking tips, variations, or an anecdote. I read about how to cut mangoes and that Israeli pickles are (surprising to me) a well-known treat at American sleep-away camps. She combines the pickles, along with canned chickpeas and the usual cucumber, land tomatoes, to make “Modern Israeli Salad.” (p. 68). I also learned (after searching the internet) that the raw corn in Tex Mex Salad (80) is edible.
Readers of my Cooking Manager site know I avoid using processed ingredients. Most ingredients in Teens and Twenty-Somethings are natural and readily available. I still found a fair number of ingredients I would skip even if I could find them in Israel at a reasonable price, including: Powdered lemonade mix (Amalfi Chicken, 102, with a warning not to use the diet version), Panko breadcrumbs (had to ask what they were), Tater Tots (a school-lunch staple from my public high school days—amazing they are still around) and French’s Fried Onions (for Ellie’s Onion-Crusted Chicken, 100). And I wonder whether a kosher version of store-bought gnocchi for the Creamy Gnocci Pesto Salad (70) even exists outside of the New York area.
The author exhibits cognitive dissonance when it comes to nutrition. For instance, I liked New Tuna-Noodle Casserole (154) because it calls for homemade white sauce instead of canned soup. Fishbein recommends yolk-free noodles to lower the cholesterol count. But how much cholesterol is there in each serving of a casserole made from whole-egg noodles? It seems pointless to buy a special item to cut cholesterol in a recipe calling for 3 tablespoons of butter and 8 ounces of cheddar cheese.
My least favorite recipe involves breading 4 chicken breasts with two cups each of Captain Crunch cereal and pretzels, then frying in two inches of oil to make an imitation of a recipe served in a Teaneck restaurant (Homemade Chickies, 118). For the purposes of this review I leafed through the desserts, which are impressive to look at but rich, rich rich. If you include the frosting, 24 Red Velvet Cupcakes (206) contains 2 cups butter, 4 cups sugar, and a 1-ounce (!) bottle of red food-coloring. To balance things out, Fishbein calls for low-fat milk and reduced-fat sour cream.
As you would expect in a cookbook for beginners, Fishbein includes basic information on running a kitchen including preparation, cleanup, shopping and menu planning, equipment suggestions, and safe food habits. She gives tips for adding vegetables to your diet, and explains the labels on each recipe: Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Nut-Free.
Suggestions for future editions would include more recipes based on legumes instead of meat, and instructions for making basics at home. New and experienced cooks often take shortcuts, but a simple marinara sauce recipe is a low-cost, healthier alternative to the bought sauce that Fishbein recommends. Chicken or vegetable broth, dried beans, and grains are also items that every cook should know how to make at home. But they probably don’t photograph as well.
If you own other cookbooks in the series, you’ll appreciate this free index of 900 Kosher by Design Recipes so you can easily locate the one you want.
Despite my reservations about processed ingredients, many of which could be omitted or substituted, I recommend Kosher by Design Teens and 20-Somethings as a good first cookbook for beginners. The attractive pictures and simple instructions will make the teens and 20-somethings you know want to run into the kitchen and start cooking.
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