Passover by DeisgnTwo Reviews!
Passover by Design

Susie Fishbein

Reviewed by Susan Helene Gottfried

When Susie Fishbein released her first cookbook, Kosher By Design, those of us who needed to feed good kosher food to our extended family breathed huge sighs of relief. Beautifully photographed, with recipes that were easy to understand, the book -- with its spiral binding encased by a hard cover so it would lay flat and yet the spiral would be protected from being smashed -- enticed from the get-go.

     Other Kosher By Design books followed. Kosher by Design Entertains wasn't something I needed, nor was Short on Time or Kids in the Kitchen. As beautiful as the books were, limited space demanded practicality.

     Then I got word that a new book in the series was coming out, and I drooled at the mere thought. The seven-day Jewish holiday of Passover brings with it dietary restrictions that can make facing the kitchen daunting. I had faith that Susie Fishbein would save me from another year of matzah kugel and leftover brisket -- and not much else.

     By altering many of her recipes featured in the original Kosher by Design, Fishbein lives up to expectations -- and then goes beyond. She partners with Kosher caterer Moshe David to put together a book that just may result in Passover food becoming some of the best to grace my table during the entire calendar year. With such goodies as Steamed Thai Sole Rolls and Cranberry Chicken, I'm finding I'm actually looking forward to what used to be a holiday of culinary drudgery.

     As with every cookbook, not everything appeals. I don't eat veal, for instance. Yet veal eaters ought to be drooling at the mere thought of the goodies included. Hazelnut- and Honey-Roasted Veal Chop? I'm almost tempted.

     One thing unique to Fishbein's cookbooks is that they are aimed at the most pious of chefs. Aware of that, Fishbein marks each recipe as dairy, meat, or parve, Gebrokts, or non-Gebrokts in observance of a long-standing tradition among Ashkenazic Jews.

     For us Jews of more modern observance, this emphasis becomes a learning experience. Myself Ashkenazic in heritage, I'd never heard of this Gebrokts before. Neither had my mother, or the women in my book club. After reading about it and mulling over the recipes, I'm still not certain I fully understand it. Yet its inclusion -- as well as the clear markings of what is considered dairy and what is meat -- are surely quite appreciated by the diners who need this information while planning their meals. By appealing to the most strict, the rest of us can easily adapt -- or not. Everyone should be happy.

     One item that seems contrary to this is the picture of Sliced Beef with Shittake and Cherry-Brandy Sauce. The meat pictured is rare, apparently a no-no for the Orthodoxy. I'd advise consulting your rabbi if you're unsure, of course. But for those of us for whom rarity isn't an issue of kashrut -- Kosher rules -- this dish, as with all the rest in the book, presents beautifully. It is on my must-make list.

     Not all recipes in this book are easy to make. The Salmon Tataki, for instance, is marked as being "not for beginners." Consisting of pureed cauliflower and rolled salmon, I can see where the thinly-sliced daikon radish that surrounds this stacked appetizer would be intimidating to a cook who does not like to fuss.

     Yet for those of us who do, I almost felt let down by the instructions to use bottled French dressing or frozen peaches. My husband and I are purists; we'd rather peel our own peaches -- although with fruit, perhaps this isn't an issue of convenience so much as availability.

     In short, this book ought to appeal to everyone out there, Jewish or not. While the innovative spiral binding housed inside a hard cover has gone away, Passover by Design is a more sophisticated looking book than the original in the series. That does, however, come at a price: as I passed the book around my book club, the ladies for whom font size is an issue said that while the ingredient list is easy to read, the instructions aren't. Given the level of interest in the book when I announced I had a copy of it, this should be of much concern. Age doesn't diminish a Jew's love of cooking. The book would be better served with a more readable font.

All in all, this is one cookbook that anyone who cooks for Jews -- be they family or merely Kosher-keeping friends -- needs to have. Best of all, this is a book that transcends Passover cooking, Jewish cooking, and everything else. Susie Fishbein's Kosher by Design series is one of those sets of cookbooks that you can turn to time and again, night after night, for consistently good food.

Reviewed by Charity R. Bartley Howard

If you are preparing for a Passover meal then the cookbook, “Passover by Design” is a must in your kitchen. Even if you are not preparing such a meal the recipes in this cookbook are worth trying.

This cookbook by Susie Fishbein with mouthwatering photography by John Uher provides over 160 recipes as well as some décor ideas. Cooks looking for appetizers through desserts will find a lot of choices in this collection. Recipe directions are perfectly placed on the pages to allow easy preparation.

One of the recipes found in the Salad chapter is Spiced Matzo Chips
Makes 6 servings
Gebrokts (calls for matzah meal or even broken matzah pieces)
4 whole matzo boards
olive oil
1 teaspoon shwarma spice
½ teaspoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Preheat oven to 350F. Brush matzo boards with olive oil. Sprinkle with shwarma spice, parsley, turmeric, and garlic. Place on baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes. Break into shards.

There are several chapters filled with a variety of recipes. Recipes for veal loaf and crispy mushrooms for appetizers as well as side dishes and desserts such as Fresh Fruit Lollipops are tasty dishes for anyone to try. But, if you are preparing for Passover or are new to these customs she defines some of the terms at the beginning of this book.

She also tries to explain some of the traditions of Passover and mentions helpful ideas for preparing the seder. The author gives details including, “The seder preparations should be made in time for the seder to begin as soon as the synagogue services are finished; it should not begin before nightfall, however.” She continues by giving details to the customarily arrangement of the plate.

“Passover By Design” is not only wonderful for those who prepare for Passover, but a good gift idea for friends to give to those who observe Passover. Even these friends, might want this cookbook to help them prepare a meal for friends who visit for a Passover feast. But, cooks don’t have to be preparing for Passover or a kosher dish to use this cookbook. Many of the recipes and décor ideas are welcome in any home.

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