“The power to transform just a few ingredients into something memorable has always been magical to me,” writes Kim Kushner in the introduction to “The Modern Table: Kosher Recipes for Everyday Gatherings” (Figure 1 Publishing, $35). Like her three previous bestsellers, the New York City-based cooking instructor’s latest cookbook reveals a culinary philosophy rooted in freshness, simplicity and an overwhelming desire to make every gathering special.
While her recipes and menus adhere to kosher law — no pork, shellfish, or mixing of meat and dairy — she presents them in a style all her own, blending her Moroccan and Ashkenazi-Canadian heritage with her current lifestyle as a New York mom and world-traveling cooking teacher.
Rather than new spins on matzo ball soup and brisket, she offers in these pages sophisticated, unfussy creations designed for busy lifestyles, such as Honeydew with Sea Salt and Lime-Poppy Seed Drizzle, Za’atar Cauliflower Steaks, and Chicken with Red Onion and Fig Sauce.
Much as she loves to cook, she puts as much thought into creating a convivial vibe with thoughtful, decorative touches, mostly using random items around the home. She shows us how a bouquet of fresh herbs from the fridge can look just as elegant as a lavish floral arrangement, how paper bags with the tops rolled down can make striking “bowls” for holding chips and nuts, and how a handful of ice cubes and flaked sea salt can jazz up a crudité display in a flash.
Super-thin pieces of Nova Scotia salmon “get the respect (they) deserve” on a stark-white platter with slices of lemon, shallot and dill sprigs, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Leftover spaghetti and chicken transform into a savory no-waste pie. And assorted berries soaked in red wine and mint leaves are spooned into well-chilled serving bowls and topped with curls of high-quality dark chocolate for an elegant and near-effortless finale.
In Kushner’s book, remaining relaxed as the host is as key to an enjoyable get-together as the food. “When you remove the pressure on yourself, things manage to fall into place.”
Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.
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