Being the parent of an infant is kind of like being back in college: Your place is a mess, bottles are everywhere and there’s a new test every day.
While I’d love to be Ina Garten in the kitchen, there are big limits on my time and energy these days. I barely have time to shower, much less chiffonade. That’s why I was excited when the latest in Susie Fishbein’s popular kosher cookbook series, “Kosher By Design: Teens and 20-Somethings,” landed on my desk. A cookbook for busy young people? Sign me up!
“Teens and 20-Somethings” contains 100 recipes with incredibly gorgeous, full-page photos of each dish. Even the simplest dishes are made to look positively exquisite.
The most mouthwatering photo is probably of the peanut butter and banana French toast (yes, this really exists). It’s almost enough to convert a hardcore banana hater such as myself.
The book divides the recipes into the standard general categories, including salads, snacks, side dishes and desserts.
Each recipe indicates if it’s gluten-free, vegetarian, nut-free or dairy-free. Being a kosher cookbook, it also says whether it’s meat, dairy or parve, and often gives options for making a dairy recipe parve.
“Teens and 20-Somethings” also includes several pages with healthy eating tips and information about kitchen equipment — it’s what you’ll find in most cookbooks these days, and not particularly new information, but it might be useful for young adults just getting into cooking their own meals.
The last pages are devoted to party-hosting ideas, such as a backyard party and a game night. I’ve always found these kinds of write-ups a little goofy and idealistic, but there are a couple good tips.
Not all the recipes are winners. I had to laugh at the “simple salad,” which is just greens and a homemade balsamic vinaigrette (though, to be fair, Fishbein does say that the recipe is a “blank canvas” for salad creativity).
I also thought the book dropped the ball when it came to food pairings. It would have been nice for Fishbein to suggest sides or salads to go with each of the main courses, especially since people new to cooking don’t always know what tastes will go well together.
Fishbein also neglected to include time estimates for making the recipes. I’m torn over whether this is a problem — I always find it takes me longer than the estimated time, but it’s also helpful to know whether something you’re thinking of making will take around 20 minutes or around two hours.
I recently had a friend over for dinner to test out some of the recipes in “Teens and 20-Somethings.” On the menu were the book’s spiced carrot sticks, simple salad (with my own embellishments), pineapple and maple-glazed salmon and, for dessert, the chocolate tart in pretzel crust.
My husband was at work, so I had to prepare all of this alone, while simultaneously making sure our 8-month-old didn’t eat any power cords.
The best thing about this book is that it doesn’t go for fancy ingredients. I already had most of the things I needed on hand — in fact, the only things I had to get were salmon, pretzels and chocolate bars.
The most complicated dish was the tart, and even that wasn’t actually complicated. I just had to make it early to allow it two hours in the fridge to set.
While a meal with more than two dishes usually has me running around our kitchen for at least an hour, I actually found myself waiting to start cooking until shortly before my guest arrived.
The carrots took about 10 minutes to prep (the most time-consuming part was peeling and cutting) and 20 minutes to roast. The salmon took about two minutes to prep and 15 minutes
in the oven. That’s my kind of time frame.
The verdict? The recipes were good: nothing terribly special or unique, but easy to make and perfectly fine for a no-frills dinner after a long day of chasing after a crawling kiddo — or writing a term paper.
“Kosher By Design: Teens and 20-Somethings” by Susie Fishbein (233 pages, Mesorah Publications, $29.99)