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Meet Susie

Interview with Susie Fishbein, Author of the Kosher by Design Cookbook Series


Susie Fishbein

Susie Fishbein

1. To what do you credit your great success?

I think it was about being really lucky, and being in the right place at the right time. Just as I was putting out Kosher by Design, many ingredients were becoming kosher, companies started paying attention to kosher as a valuable market share, and kosher restaurants began to raise the bar. People began to see kosher as more than Ashkenazi brisket or a deli sandwich. Kosher was becoming cross-cultural, healthful, eye-pleasing, interesting and varied.

2. What was your favorite book to write?

That is like asking which child is my favorite. I love each book - for the time it marks in my life as well as for how each fits into my lifestyle. When I entertain, I look for the fancier foods and ideas in the Entertains book. The photo shoots for this book were the most fun. I really enjoyed getting my whole team together on location. They are a great group of people who ooze talent and ideas. When my 5-year-old pulls up a chair to help cook for Shabbos, it’s the Kids in the Kitchen book I use. And each Friday I open up the original Picture-Perfect Food to make the bread machine challah. I loved writing Short on Time for the same reason I am loving the Lightens Up book I am working on - I know my audience wants and will appreciate these books.

3. What is your all-time favorite recipe to make? What is your least favorite food to cook?

I love making Peking Duck Wontons because they always get rave reviews. I can’t cook what I won’t eat, so bouillabaisse or any fish stew would top my least favorite list.

4. What is your personal favorite food to eat?

I love anything prepared well, from pizza to an elegant steak dinner. Start with good ingredients, cook it properly and you will have a winner that I will love.

5. What is your family’s favorite food to dish?

My family loves my Wonton Wrapped Chicken, Cinnamon Buns, Asian Big Bowl, challah, and Wacky Mac from the box (yes, they are normal kids!).

6. What’s a typical Shabbat menu at the Fishbein home?

There is no typical. Our Sabbos meals vary according to what I am working on. But I can give you last Friday night’s menu. Homemade Challah served with heads of roasted garlic for smearing. Ginger Broth with Steamed Wontons. Choice of Filet Split with Cherry Brandy Sauce or Honey Mustard Chicken. Steamed Asparagus. Brussel Sprout Poppers. Spicy Potato Stacks. Dessert was Cookie Crunch Brownies.

7. What do you usually serve for Passover Seder?

This year I will be featuring amazing foods out of the new Passover by Design book. Teriyaki Chicken Sates. Beef Roulades in Red Wine Reduction over Creamy Parsnips. And Warm, Runny Chocolate Soufflés will definitely make the list.

8. Do your children like to cook? Would you want any of them to become a chef?

All four of my kids are comfortable in the kitchen. They love being there because that is where I am. They like participating in food preparation and LOVE when I host a tasting. Cooking is a skill I will pass on to all my kids. They will eat three meals a day for the rest of their lives, so they should know how to cook, even if it is not their career path.

9. Do you taste food while cooking? If so, how do you keep from gaining weight?

Portion control is important. I eat what I love (or what I am cooking) in small amounts.

10. Do you cook with organic fruits and vegetables?

Sometimes. I have very few absolute rules in my cooking, although I am always learning. Organic produce makes insect issues worse so except for certain items (like raspberries, where fields are soaked in chemicals before planting), I am pretty flexible. I am more interested in locally grown foods. I find a taste difference in fruit and vegetables grown locally and in season than those imported from places like Chile in the winter. I love wandering around a green market to see what they have there. One of my favorite parts of summer in New Jersey is the farmer’s markets which are EVERYWHERE!

11. Is there a difference between Kosher Food and Jewish Cuisine?

The difference is exactly who I am. I almost never cook Jewish food, so I don’t write about it. I write about kosher food. My food is French, Asian, Italian, Korean, Mexican, basically any culture whose flavors might be new to my audience and whose ingredients are now available kosher. As I stumble on ingredients with kosher certification like Panko Bread crumbs, rice paper, refried beans, and more, I get inspiration for a new recipe. I leave Jewish cuisine to the experts who focus more on Jewish history and Jewish food.

12. Is there such a thing as Israeli Cuisine?

Funny you ask this question now. My tradition is that I finish a book, take a day off and begin the next book. Passover by Design is on press and out of my hands. Kosher by Design Lightens Up will be done in a few months. So now it is time for me to plan my next project. And I have been thinking seriously about writing about the foods of Israel. I am blown away by everything I read about how cutting edge Israel is and about how prominent Israel has become on the map of gourmands. We ate our way through Israel on our last trip (from glamorous meals at Decks to fabulous burgers at Normans and Joy’s Grill to fresh falafel at local hangouts). I think between the restaurants, caterers, spas, etc., there is a book to be written. And I hope to write it very soon!

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