In the JOK Kitchen with Helen Nash and The New Kosher Cuisine

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Helen Nash has just released her third cookbook.  Following the popular Kosher Cuisine and Helen Nash's Kosher Kitchen, her latest cookbook is filled with modern recipes that are still respectful of tradition.  Helen Nashs’s New Kosher Cuisine: Healthy, Simple & Stylish features healthy modern fusion recipes as well as old favorites.  She also includes tips on freezing some of her dishes in advance so you can always have a healthy delicious meal ready to go even at the last minute.

Your first cookbook came out in 1984.  What inspired you to start writing cookbooks?

My daughter went off to college and I was an empty nester.  Around the same time, the legendary Random House editor, Jason Epstein had dinner at my house.  After dinner he said that if I ever wanted to write a kosher cookbook, he’d publish it.  I put together a proposal and that was the first cookbook.

tuscan cake

Tuscan Cake

Your second book was published in 1988 and now your third in 2012.  How has your cooking style changed over the years?

My approach to cooking and eating has always been the same: simple, nutritious, and smaller portions.  I also believe that what is best and freshest at the market – fish, vegetables, fruit, meat – should dictate the menu.  The better your ingredients, the better your results.  Over the years I’ve been able to experiment with new ingredients as kosher versions become available so I’ve expanded my repertoire to include many fusion recipes and international dishes such as Sake–Steamed Chicken or Seared Tuna with a choice of a Ginger Sauce or a Piquant Asian Sauce, frittatas, soufflés, and clafoutis.

How does your new book modernize traditional Jewish recipes?

I am respectful of tradition but I like to incorporate many ingredients that at one point weren’t available to the kosher cook, such as a variety of vinegars, oils, mustards, panko bread crumbs, and a larger selection of cheeses.  As a result, many of my traditional Eastern European dishes have a little twist to them.  For instance in the recipe for Chopped Liver I use sherry instead of adding more oil to obtain the right consistency.  In my Potato Latkes recipe I do not fry the latkes, but I bake them.  I use soy milk and wine in my Mushroom Soup and miso in my Barley Soup.

tuna tartare

Tuna Tartare

How and when did you learn to cook?

When I first got married, 55 years ago, I knew nothing about cooking.  I decided to take cooking classes.  I first studied with Michael Field. He realized that I had limitations because I never ate any of his meat dishes. But he wanted to help and gave me substitutes and kept saying you can do this. From there I moved on to Chinese cooking and classes with Millie Chan.  I also read a lot of books and took notes.  And as ingredients became available in kosher versions, I experimented.

What is your earliest cooking memory?

One of my earliest memories is making a smoked salmon quiche, which my teacher Michael Field suggested.  It was delicious!

baked eggplant with ground beef

Baked Eggplant with Ground Beef

What are some of your favorite foods?

I have a lot of favorites, but I especially like eggplant caviar, meat loaf, and halibut with caper sauce.  I love soups such as beet soup and summer corn soup.  And rugelach have always been a favorite dessert of mine.

Here are three four recipes from my new book I am sure you will love.

Zucchini Cake

Tuscan Cake

Baked Eggplant with Ground Beef and Pine Nuts

Tuna Tartar with Eggplant Avocado

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