Chanie Apfelbaum

This millennial cookbook comes with an unexpected twist.

Arielle Weg
July 31, 2018

I’ve eaten kosher since I was a kid. Like every other Jewish mother in town, my mom cooked almost exclusively from old-school books like Joy of Kosher, Kosher by Design, and The Kosher Palette, touting classic recipes for challah, matzo ball soup, and potato latkes.

There's no shortage of rules when it comes to keeping a kosher diet, which is why it’s easiest to cook from recipes that already take those restrictions into account. At a very basic level, those who eat kosher don’t mix dairy products with poultry or red meat, don’t eat pork, and only eat seafood with fins and scales. But the thing about kosher cooking is—it’s often brown, bland, and repetitive. That is, until now.

My understanding of kosher cooking changed when I found the cookbook Millennial Kosher by Busy in Brooklyn blogger Chanie Apfelbaum. See, I was at my Rabbi’s house for dinner one night and his wife was adding the finishing touches to a stunning plate of sushi nachos. The platter of fried wonton wrappers was loaded with chunks of raw, sushi-grade tuna, avocado, radishes, and edamame, with sriracha, spicy mayo, and flaked nori adorning the top. It was a far stretch from the plate of gefilte fish with a hard boiled egg and carrot I expected to eat at home. When I asked her about the dish, she pulled out this cookbook, and I was sold.

In Millennial Kosher, Apfelbaum reinvents the wheel of kosher cuisine from a modern perspective. Recipes take on 21st century ingredients and trends, while also reimagining old-school Jewish plates. Her book features ingredients not traditional to kosher cooking like coconut oil, zoodles, bone broth, tempeh, and Everything Bagel Seasoning. She features highly millennial, not distinctly Jewish, dishes such as cauliflower poutine, overnight oats affogato, cookie butter frappuccinos, and spanakopita quinoa patties… in short, it’s imaginative. In fact, it’s inspiringly mouthwatering.

My favorite recipes in the book are those that reawaken classic Jewish dishes. Gefilte fish finds itself in a pizza format, topped with horseradish cream, beets, arugula, carrots, and quick pickled onions, and Israeli shakshuka gets an upgrade with ramen noodles. Hamantaschen cookies go savory with a chicken marsala twist, and Apfelbaum sneaks some extra veggies into a classic with her spinach matzo ball minestrone soup. It’s kosher food for a new generation of home cooks attempting to maintain dietary laws that are thousands of years old. It’s brilliant.

But what relevance does this book have for someone who doesn’t keep kosher or isn’t Jewish? A ton, actually. Because kosher recipes can’t mix meat and milk products, it’s incredibly easy to find recipes that work wonders for other dietary restrictions. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, there are meatless and dairy sections of the book that will serve you well. Plus, recipes are labeled as dairy or pareve, meaning there is no meat or dairy included (but check for eggs and fish). And if you’re dairy-free, there are meat- and poultry-focused sections that do not use butter, cream, or cheese. The recipes are fun, fresh, and follow an anyone-can-cook style that readers of all skill levels can enjoy.

Speaking as a Jewish woman who does eat kosher, this book is essential. I know for me, finding small ways to help maintain cultural traditions feels more significant than ever—and Millennial Kosher instills a refreshed sense of relevance, creative possibility, and longevity into kosher cooking. These are recipes I can happily serve to a crowd of Jews and non-Jews alike on any occasion, while also introducing culturally Jewish foods to those who may only be familiar with potato pancakes and bagels. They are recipes I can incorporate into my daily cooking, and I can only hope other cookbook authors follow Apfelbaum’s lead in putting Jewish cuisine in a contemporary spotlight.

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