Grandma Fanny died 5 months before I got married. It was totally unexpected and planning a wedding was bittersweet without her. In fact, we didn’t even have the chance to tell her we were engaged. Though Grandma Fanny wasn’t at my wedding she left me a bountiful array of gifts in the form of cookbooks and a Kitchen Aid mixer. I received the best collection of old ORT and Haddasah cookbooks that a girl could ever want, in addition to others that she had bought over the years.
As the years have passed I still read these cookbooks. Though many are dated and falling apart, I treasure them dearly. My grandma was a dietitian in her day and loved to cook. From what I understand she worked a lot and only cooked and baked on the weekends. We didn’t live in the same town but when I was older and could drive I would go spend weekends with her. We always had such fun eating and gabbing and well, I really loved my grandma.
But her cookbooks just keep on giving. She had a favorite bread cookbook and a favorite baking cookbook and every now and then while perusing the pages I come across hand written notes that she wrote in the margins. When I see these I feel like she is talking to me and that is a wondrous feeling. After this “gift” I started writing notes in my cookbooks that one day far off in the future, I hope my kids will find.
Every now and then I come across an envelope stuffed in the pages that contains a menu in her special penciled script. She must have grabbed the first piece of scrap paper that she could find. Well, I confess to the same. There have been many times that I have written down menus for special occasions and then stuffed them away to run across when I least expect it. To bad I didn’t write them down in a book, which I heartily recommend for anyone young enough that loves to entertain. What memories those scrap papers bring back. Friends you haven’t seen, dishes you should cook again or dishes you wonder why you ever made…
And that leads me to this cookbook I was asked to take a look at. It is a Kosher cookbook and it contains lots of creative, but simple recipes that my Grandma would have adored. Traditional Jewish dishes updated for a modern cook. My grandma would have loved writing menus from this. I love cookbooks and could have a giant library if space and budget allowed. But alas, I find myself at the library quite often in the cookbook section looking for something new to try. How nice it is to receive a copy of a book that I can write in!
Let me be the first to say that my mom told me that if you don’t have something good to say, just don’t say it. Well, when it comes to this cookbook, I have a lot of good things to tell you. This book, The Modern Menu by Kim Kushner, and photography by Andrew Zuckerman is a fun book for anyone’s collection. It may be kosher but you will see no use of margarine here. You do find surimi which I wonder about. I mean if I kept kosher I’m not sure I would use fake crab, but that’s me. I will tell you that the three recipes she uses surimi for sound divine. Subbing in steamed fish or in my case, shrimp or real crab, would work better for me. One is a salad with spicy mayo and a rice krispie topping with avocado and cucumber. Add rice and you’ve got a kosher California roll! The other is a croquette and the last is a mango salad. All fresh, all luscious. Sorry, I just can’t get used to the surimi thing.
Kim teaches cooking and considers cooking her form of therapy. I can’t say I disagree. She loves new ingredients, flavors and simplicity. I also agree. And that’s why my Grandma Fanny would have loved this book. It’s chock full of vegetables that aren’t often found on our table, but should be. Things like kohlrabi and celery root. Other flavors include miso and za’atar and sesame and soy. She takes traditional dishes and jazzes them up.
I can’t wait to try chicken with pumpkin, figs and honey or beet and goat cheese salad with curry dressing. Heirloom tomatoes with mint and cilantro and crispy miso marinated chicken are two others I can’t wait to give a go. My grandma’s cookbooks didn’t have a jalapeno or a mango to be found but Kim gives us a jalapeno chutney and a mango chutney. I tried several recipes but loved her salmon en croute. Basically it is a fillet of salmon wrapped in puff pastry with some mushrooms and miso flavors. It is a fancy dish made extremely simple. My husband would tell you to leave the spinach out as it is not necessary and I agree. But a showstopper this dish is and perfect for Shabbat.
Her zucchini noodle kugel is a keeper for when the garden over produces. I like her use of fine egg noodles which when combined with the zucchini almost resembled a potato kugel. She also adds a touch of Worcestershire and some apricot preserves which give this dish a tempting zing. Very good and I bet your kid would eat vegetables this way!
|Zucchini Noodle Kugel|
Last but not least was the salad I made that was supposed to contain kohlrabi which I could not find at my local Whole Foods, so I substituted fennel. This is a gem of a salad and I can’t wait to try it again with kohlrabi. This dish truly exemplifies her use of new ingredients in kosher cooking. Dried cherries, maple syrup, sunflower seeds and lemon. Most definitely a dressing I will use on any green salad if I don’t dunk a piece of bruschetta in it first!
Check this book out. Modern Menu was just published in March and is a book wanting to be cooked from. The print is easy to read. The photos are glorious. The recipes are simple and exciting. The rewards are vibrant flavors, healthy eating and exciting discoveries. Grandma Fanny would have been pleased.
Kohlrabi and Cabbage Salad with Maple Lemon Dressing
4 bulbs kohlrabi (I used 2 fennel bulbs and slice them thin,)
3 c shredded green cabbage
1/3 c dried cherries
1/4 c salted, roasted sunflower seeds
1/4 c chopped fresh dill
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
3 T real maple syrup
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
1 minced garlic clove
1/4 t kosher salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
If using kohlrabi, remove long stems and greens. Trim away the thick green skin until you reach the light green to white part that is free of tough fibers. Shred on the medium holes of a box grater or in a food processor fitted with the shredder disc. For fennel, just wash and slice into half moons.
Combine kohlrabi or fennel, cabbage, cherries, sunflower seeds and dill in a large serving bowl. In a small jar with a tight fitting lid, combine olive oil, maple syrup, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Shake to combine. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat well. Let sit for about 20 minutes before serving.
Let your taste buds sing!