After six successful Kosher by Design cookbooks, the energetic and creative chef-author, Susie Fishbein, has added a seventh to the series, Teens and 20-Somethings. Susie’s target audience of young adults is an unusual one for a cookbook, especially since she further focuses on those who are kosher. As anyone who has cooked for this age group knows, this is a demographic with strong food preferences and habits. They have particular opinions of what they like to eat (healthy choices are not necessarily a consideration) and how – or if – they are willing to prepare the food. Let’s not forget a shortage of time they can devote to making it and a desire for instant results.
But Susie believes that today’s cooking generation of teens and 20-somethings is underserved. There are certainly young adults who grew up with easy access to fast food and have no desire to cook. But then there are those who are conscious of healthy eating styles and want to learn more, as well as those who aspire to be gourmet cooks or cooking professionals, both of which are trendy career choices. Each of Susie’s cookbooks reflects the course of her life, and lately, those of her children. So it was a natural move then, with several of her four children in or entering their teens, to write a cookbook that would reflect their food tastes. Susie also wanted to gear the cookbook to young people who “are living on their own for the first time and are becoming more responsible for their own cooking.” Included between its covers are both new and traditional recipes that Susie adjusted with funky and appealing twists. She even used a panel of youths in their teens and twenties to taste-test the recipes, resulting in a book written for and tested by this very discerning age group.
What better way for Susie to introduce her new cookbook than to bring it directly to her audience on their own turf? The kickoff of the Kosher by Design: Teens and 20-Somethings College Road Trip Cooking Demo was held at Emory University’s Chabad Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
The room was packed with more than 30 Emory University teens and 20-somethings. Susie started the pre-event for early arrivals with an informal Q&A. She addressed one particular question that she is often asked: “What is one of the most memorable demos you have done?” Susie responded that there have been several, but the most meaningful demo experience occurred after a presentation in Manhattan. At the end of the autograph line, Susie had noticed two young women engaged in friendly banter. “You tell her.” “No, you tell her!” she overheard. When the two finally reached the front of the line they shared this story: Both were college graduates who lived on their own and enjoyed busy social lives. But each felt that something was missing. They remembered attending Friday night dinners in college (organized by Hillel or Chabad) and decided to invite friends over for a Friday night dinner party, choosing recipes from Susie’s original Kosher by Design cookbook. The dinner party was such a success that the girls continued to host such regular Friday night dinner “parties.” Eventually, these became Shabbos dinners. In doing so, the two friends began to investigate the significance of Shabbos and what it means to be Jewish. They had a heartfelt message to share with Susie. “You carry a lot of things on your shoulders in doing these books, but one of the things you carry is our souls. Now we are becoming more observant Jews because we just wanted to throw a fun Friday night dinner party.” Hopefully, Susie will continue to reach more young Jewish people through her newest cookbook.
The students at the Emory presentation were also inspired. Susie demonstrated three recipes, interspersed with helpful cooking tips and advice. From the style of her presentation and the information she was sharing, it was clear that Susie was quite comfortable appearing before a group of young people. Indeed, she had much practice, having taught in the public school system for four years with an MA degree in Science Education.
As is her practice when presenting cooking demos, Susie mixes it up, using recipes from both new and earlier cookbooks. This presentation was no exception. From Kosher by Design: Short on Time, she presented Creamy Chummos with Steeped Tomatoes, garnished with Vegetarian Cigars. What a perfect recipe to use as an example of delicious and healthy eating! “Why make chummos, which is so easily available at grocery stores?” asked Susie. Her answer was simple: a product with a long shelf life contains preservatives or extra ingredients that keep it fresh. “The fewer processed foods you eat, the better off you are… Foods that can be made in your home are usually healthier and better for you.”
Susie’s discussions extended far beyond her recipes. She had some great kitchen advice to share, including tossing leftover lemons (from the chummos recipe) into the garbage disposal with baking soda to clean the appliance; using cold, first-pressed olive oil because it produces the freshest, brightest taste; achieving creamier chummos with canned chickpeas (by rubbing off the light shell covering with your fingers); and on it went. Leave it to this mother of four to explain why sweets cause a sugar crash and that what you put into your body has a roller coaster effect. Her advice to the students: “Eat chummos – even packaged. Not M&M’s!”
The next two recipes Susie demonstrated were from her new book, Kosher by Design: Teens and 20-Somethings. Mexican Chicken with Hot Dipping Sauce and Molten Deep-Dish Chocolate Chip Cookies were both quick, simple and luscious choices. When preparing the Mexican Chicken, Susie stressed the importance of proper food-handling techniques. There are no shortcuts; wearing disposable gloves when working with raw food is a must! She demonstrated the proper way to bread chicken by keeping one hand wet (to dip into the liquid) and one hand dry (to dip into the breading). She made it all look so easy!
Susie’s inspiration for the Molten Deep-Dish Chocolate Chip Cookies was obvious – the ever-popular chocolate chip cookie! This version’s molten center – gooey and chocolatey – has advanced the average cookie to a new level. The crowd loved it.
Throughout the demonstration, Susie emphasized her sentiment that cooking your own food is the surest and healthiest way to develop good eating habits and serve delicious food. She demonstrated to her young audience that there are healthful food choices that taste good, look good and are easy to prepare.
Kosher by Design: Teens and 20-Somethings features 100 easy-to-prepare recipes accompanied by John Uher’s beautiful photographs. Each recipe has an icon designating it as vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free or nut-free. The book’s introduction offers tips on menu planning and the basic kitchen equipment that one needs to get cooking. This is a beautiful cookbook, sure to be enjoyed by teens, 20-somethings and their parents, too. It is one that you will add to your cookbook library and keep coming back to.
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This article and its accompanying recipes were featured in Kosher Inspired Issue 1, November 2010. Kosher Inspired is a project of Mishpacha Magazine.