Fishbein, who was named to the Forward 50 as one of the most influential Jews in America, is known for her easy, elegant and healthy recipes in the “Kosher by Design” cookbook series. I own “Kosher by Design Lightens Up” and “Kosher by Design Short on Time.” Other books include Passover, kids and entertaining.
Strictly approved by Orthodox rabbis, her work expanded into Reform and Conservative kitchens because of the books’ appeal: full-color, glossy pages of food displays formed by her top-shelf team, including a florist from the Plaza Hotel, Manhattan event planners and table-setting experts.
Fishbein, a mother of four and former public school teacher, prepared eggplant-and-tomato tart, cold carrot-coconut vichyssoise and salmon primavera for a group of 30 women in East Cobb.
She said she is a “big Atlanta fan” because her daughter attended Emory University.
Beth Gluck, the Southern Zone director of JNF, extolled the good work JNF does in research and development for agriculture and in maximization of Israel’s water resources.
She described her favorite project, which hosts 1,400 farmers on the Jordanian border to learn the modern techniques Israel develops and shares. Gluck said, “Over 50 percent of the attendees are women learning in the classroom and fields.”
Fishbein added, “Israel does not get sufficient publicity of the good they do sharing know-how in needy places like Africa.”
Jaffe: Your successful series is over. What’s next for you?
Fishbein: Luckily, I am as busy as ever. My weekly cooking demo schedule for 2017 is almost full and includes great stops like this one in Atlanta. I just returned from running my annual Culinary Tour of Israel, which takes place each February. I write a column for Mishpacha magazine and always have other pots simmering. Last summer I launched the first-ever-of-its-kind Kosher Culinary Institute for kids for the NJY Camps. The facility was built to my specifications and is state of the art as far as kids’ cooking schools go. Follow me on the Susie Fishbein’s Fan Page on Facebook and on Instagram at Susie Fishbein.
Jaffe: Which book was the most difficult to write?
Fishbein: “Kosher by Design Lightens Up” was my most difficult to write because at that time strictly healthy cooking was out of my wheelhouse. The writing of this book goes back many years, and at that time healthy cooking was not the hot topic; flavor was. So I had to educate myself about whole grains and spices that were new to me, techniques that replaced fat without compromising flavor, and I had to find ingredients to stand in for my easy go-to ones like puff pastry. This is much closer to the way I cook today but newer to me at that time.
I love each of the books like a child. Each represents a special time and a place in my life.
Jaffe: What is your husband’s favorite meal?
Fishbein: He is a big fan of my Yemenite beef soup from “KBD Cooking Coach” and my roast turkey from the original “KBD.”
Jaffe: What process do you go through to publish or endorse a new recipe?
Fishbein: I get an idea, either through discovery of a new spice/ingredient or by inspiration from dining out or travel. I work on the recipe, most often multiple times, to get it right. I used to hold tasting parties where groups of people would evaluate batches of 10 recipes. Sometimes there is no getting it right, and I move on.
Jaffe: You’ve been called “easygoing and gracious.” To what do you credit your success?
Fishbein: My mantra is “Have no ego, do your job well, and go home to your family.” Repeat the next day.
Jaffe: You grew up in a kosher home. Were your mother and grandmother old-fashioned schmaltz cooks?
Fishbein: My mother is and my grandmother was awesome. Strong, capable, amazing and talented women in so many ways, just not in the kitchen.
Jaffe: Do you have any favorite Jewish charities that you are involved in?
Fishbein: I am a big fan and supporter of Masbia, the only kosher soup kitchen in the New York area. Feeding people a healthy meal and a dose of dignity is the most basic of good deeds. This speaks especially strongly to me as putting food on my table is something I never have to think twice about but never take for granted.
Jaffe: What advice would you give young people today for setting up their own kitchens and developing cooking habits?
Fishbein: Don’t over-buy, don’t over-plan and don’t overcook. Having a closetful of gadgets is fine and fun, but I can do 90 percent of what I know how to do with a good knife and a cutting board. When you are entertaining, put your menu and shopping lists on paper so you are not tempted to make too many dishes. Plan as if you are dining at a fine restaurant: a soup/salad, an appetizer, one (maybe two) mains, a vegetable, a grain and a single dessert. No dessert buffets needed.
Tips From Fishbein
- Make your own vegetable stock and freeze it. It’s healthier (less sodium) and tastes better.
- Even if you are at home trying to launch a cupcake business, take yourself very seriously so others do.
- Get to know your fishmonger. Quality fresh fish does not smell. I’m not wild about Costco fish or prepackaged fish.
- Learn more cooking techniques instead of following recipes. I myself never took a cooking class.
- My favorite go-to topping is Honeycup mustard — goes on fish, chicken, dips.
- Israel gave the eggplant to Italy, who initially derided it as “crazy apple.” An old Arab saying is “Do not marry a woman who cannot prepare eggplant in 40 ways.”