Reviewing: “Millenial Kosher,” by Chani Apfelbaum. ArtScroll Shaar Press, 2018, 320 pages. ISBN-10: 142262055. $31.49.
Don’t pass up “Millennial Kosher,” thinking it’s only for those of a certain (younger) age. The catchy name is meant to introduce new ideas of seasonings, techniques and flavors. “Millenial Kosher” is for baby boomers who love experimenting with new trends in food preparation as well as millennials entertaining with roommates or starting married life.
Author Chani Apfelbaum has become well known in the kosher community with her blog “Busy in Brooklyn.” She writes in the introduction that she began blogging as a way to use her creative energy after leaving a job as a web designer to be at home with her children. She developed her culinary skills, and then photography expertise, by taking classes, watching YouTube tutorials, reading and practicing. She notes that she has come a long way from the teenager who wanted no part of helping her mother in the kitchen, and once mistakenly used salt instead of sugar in a salad dressing.
The first section defines Apfelbaum’s approach with instructional subheads like Eat in Season, Fresh Is Best, Cook with Color, Menus Matter, Cook Savory, Lighten Up, Track the Trends and Reinterpret Tradition. That’s essentially the outline for Apfelbaum’s recipes. Traditional cooks looking to branch out will appreciate Apfelbaum’s reviews of different kinds of oils, vinegars and hot sauces, and their uses. She also has a category called Umami, “the fifth taste, after sweet, salty, sour and bitter.”
With the weather heating up, I was drawn to Apfelbaum’s salads with their unusual mixes of ingredients and flavors. The photo for Summer Berry & Feta Salad with Basil Lime Dressing caught my eye with its beckoning colors and ingredients I love individually. Putting them together was a master stroke. The emerald-green basil lime dressing screams bright and bold, yet it is tamed by sweet strawberries and blueberries and tangy feta cheese. Take a bite and imagine you have been transported to a tropical paradise.
The Marinated Cauliflower Salad uses this versatile vegetable as a blank canvas for stronger flavors including sun-dried tomatoes and sliced black olives. The vinaigrette is seasoned with za’atar, a Middle Eastern seasoning I use frequently. Fresh, crunchy and assertive.
I used farro for the first time in the Figgy Farro Salad. Farro is a grain with a nutty flavor. Silan, date syrup, which I also use frequently, gives a hint of sweetness, along with diced dried figs. Butternut squash, one of my favorites, adds color; its smooth texture is a pleasing contrast. Cumin and cinnamon add a Middle Eastern, spicy sweet flavor.
I loved moussaka in my pre-kosher days and I keep trying kosher adaptations. The original recipe is a combination of meat sauce, lamb or beef, with feta cheese and a béchamel (white sauce) on top. Kosher cooks have to choose which flavor they most want: meat sauce with a faux béchamel sauce or a dairy version with feta and faux meat. Apfelbaum makes a fleishig version: Lamb Moussaka Eggplant Boats with cauliflower “cream” sauce. The pureed cauliflower sauce calls for nutritional yeast, another first for me, and imparts the savory, almost cheesy flavor. While classic moussaka stacks eggplant slices with the other ingredients, Apfelbaum contains her mix in a roasted eggplant “boat.” I scored the eggplant halves before roasting for easier removal and mixing of the flesh with the other ingredients. This is a satisfying meat-based version of moussaka, with a creamy sauce that almost tastes dairy.
I puzzled over the recipe for Drunken Hasselback Salami. Apfelbaum writes that this recipe put her blog “on the map.” I almost turned the page, thinking that salami is not exactly a fresh, light millennial kind of ingredient. But my millennial daughter said it was a big hit at a Shabbos lunch she and her husband hosted so I gave it a try. It was tasty, with its sweet apricot sauce, but if I have a craving for deli, I think plain salami with a dab of mustard will do. I’d like to try the sauce with chicken cutlets.
Apfelbaum reinterprets tradition, as she advises millennials to do, with Moroccan Fish Cakes. Instead of boiling a frozen log the usual way, she defrosts it, mixes it with Moroccan seasonings including cumin and turmeric, shapes the mix into patties and fries them. The slices are topped with a tomato and bell pepper sauce. The uninformed would not know that this was doctored gefilte fish.
Desserts are the bane of fleishig meals and they usually rely on mediocre dairy substitutes. The Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache Tart with Macaroon Crust uses coconut prepared in different ways to achieve a deliciously chocolate dessert with a combination of textures. The base is made with baked coconut flakes combined with dates, the filling is a combination of chocolate and coconut milk and the topping is made with coconut milk solids whipped into a smooth cream. To emphasize the chocolate, I added extra vanilla to mask some of the coconut flavor.
I had to stop testing recipes to finish this review. But with so many more to try, I’m keeping “Millennial Kosher” on the top of my collection.
Summer Berry & Feta Salad With Basil Lime Dressing
DAIRY • YIELDS 4 SERVINGS
- 5 oz. frisée or arugula
- 1 cup sliced strawberries
- ½ cup blueberries
- ⅓ cup candied pecans
- ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Basil Lime Dressing
- ⅓ cup light olive oil
- 3 Tbsp lime juice
- 2 Tbsp honey
- ½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
1. Prepare the dressing: Place oil, lime juice, honey, basil, salt and pepper into a blender or food processor; blend until smooth and creamy.
2. Spread the frisée on a platter; top with strawberries, blueberries, pecans, red onion and feta. Drizzle with dressing before serving.
By Bracha Schwartz