Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Modern Kosher, The Modern Menu

Kim Kushner's The Modern Menu, Gefen Publishing House, is very much the modern kosher cookbook for the Modern Orthodox or to be perfectly honest a very good cookbook for anybody looking for a cookbook for special meals.  The fact that the very tempting and attractive recipes are kosher is almost irrelevant. 

Kushner's book isn't a "Jewish cookbook."  Don't buy it for the young bride who wants to bake challah and make the traditional Ashkenazi foods.  You won't find challah, geffilte fish, kneidelach or latkes.  And the Moroccan foods she includes, such as her bourekas, aren't at all like you'll find in one of the popular bourekas joints in Israel.  It's all very modernized. And it all looks delicious.

I've reviewed quite a few kosher cookbooks, and my practice is to read them, review them and then give them to my sister-in-law.  She cooks by recipe; I don't.  I have no doubt that she will absolutely love this cookbook.  Even I'm tempted to try a recipe*, which is pretty much unheard of in my kitchen.

Unless I missed it, there's no explanation of what kosher means or how to plan a kosher meal by not serving meat/poultry and a side dish or dessert made with butter.  Actually, I only noticed one of the butter using recipes that indicated that margarine could be substituted. Could it be that Kushner originally wrote it for the general market (meaning publisher) and not the Jewish or Israeli one? Also in only one of the mentions of the crab, which isn't at all kosher, is it explained that she really is referring to surimi, which is mock crabmeat made from kosher fish.

Kushner has some important recipes "hidden away" as part of a larger recipe, like the pesto in Baby Lamb Chops with Pesto Croute. (exactly how it appears in the book)
This recipe calls for frenched lamb chops, which are chops with the meat cut away from the end of the rib so that part of the bone is exposed. Frenching the chop makes it cleaner and let’s call it fancier, almost like a lamb lollipop, if you will! Your butcher can do this with the quick swipe of a knife; asking him or her to do this makes fast work of this simple-to-prepare dish. Croute simply means “crust” in French. Fancy.
Serves 6
Ingredients
1 handful fresh basil, washed and dried well
½ handful cilantro, washed and dried well
3 garlic cloves, peeled 
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ cup unseasoned dried bread crumbs, plus more for sprinkling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 baby lamb chops, frenched
Directions
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
In a food processor, combine the basil, cilantro, and garlic. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the olive oil and pine nuts and process until the mixture forms a paste, about 30 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, stir in the bread crumbs, and season with salt and pepper.
Season both sides of the lamb chops with salt and pepper. Prepare a grill or set a grill pan over high heat. Sear the lamb chops on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a baking sheet.
Place a spoonful of pesto in the center of each chop, then spread it evenly over the surface. Sprinkle with additional bread crumbs and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until the crust is golden and crisp and the lamb is pink inside, about 10 minutes. Serve warm.
A recipe I really must try is her *Lemon Celery Root Salad with Walnuts.
This salad takes me right back to my childhood home in Montreal: It was on the table, without fail, every Friday night. The funny thing is, I hadn’t a clue that the primary ingredient was celery root; I just knew that I loved the mild celery-like flavor and creamy texture. I love preparing dishes with somewhat unusual ingredients such as celery root; it’s what keeps me interested in cooking.
Ingredients
1 celery root, rough outer skin discarded, root halved
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

On the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor fitted with the grater disk, grate the celery root. Transfer to a medium serving bowl. Pour the lemon juice and olive oil over the celery root, add the walnuts, and season with the salt and pepper. Toss to thoroughly coat and serve.
Serves 4 to 6
There really are many interesting recipes to choose from, and I like the fact that Kushner doesn't obsess over her cooking.  She likes to experiment, which is what we should all do.

The Modern Menu is for the sophisticated kosher cook or any cook who wants good food without too many complicated steps.

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