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Susie Fishbein
Keeping Kosher in Virginia is easier than you think.
Picture this scene. You are in New York visiting family. It’s 6:00 P.M. and you notice your stomach rumbling. You realize you are famished! Lucky for you, you have an entire kosher world of restaurants within one mile of your door. Your hardest step is deciding which one to choose: pizza, Chinese, sushi, burgers and fries, falafel? You get the idea.

Not so in Virginia. Our hardest step in eating kosher is, well, a little harder. We have to make an effort. Find the recipes. Find the ingredients. Take the time to cook it. Hope it comes out tasty. And for many of us, that means every day. Day in and day out.

Enter Susie Fishbein, best-selling author of five kosher cookbooks, to help us make our commitment to the Torah’s laws of kashrut easier. Each of her Kosher by Design cookbooks contains beautiful photos of hundreds of recipes, from the more traditional kugels and chicken to the very sophisticated glazed yellowfin tuna with arugula and shiitake salad. Susie’s joyful personality is so contagious that it makes you to want to give kosher a try.

Moroccan Chicken Stew

Susie says, “It has never been easier to be kosher. Treif companies are suddenly becoming kosher.” Jelly Belly candy is a recent example. “I know of a Mexican brand of refried beans that recently got a hechsher. There are no cultures off limits.” Susie emphasizes that today one doesn’t have to give up much to keep kosher. And what one gets in return is so worth it and meaningful. Besides fulfilling the mitzvah of kashrut, Susie points out the additional benefit of living consciously. “We make choices everyday. What outfit will I wear? How should I do my hair? And also, what am I putting in my body?”

Keeping Shabbat is another expression of living consciously while observing a Torah commandment. “It doesn’t matter what deadlines I have or what is going on in the world. Everything stops except the most important thing – family. I may need to run an errand, but because of my commitment to Shabbat, I will put it off.”

Susie Fishbein and her husband, a graduate from U.Va. Law School, have three girls and a boy. Her home is her absolute happiest place. “Home means everything in the world I care about. All my happiest moments took place in my home. My husband and I were newlyweds in it. I brought all my babies home to it. Over 10 years, I have decorated every inch; it reflects me. I never made a birthday party outside my home. And at night, when it’s really quiet, I like to go in my dining room where I can almost hear the echoes of parties past. I can still recall the happy memories made at my dining room table.”

On the day of our interview Susie was simultaneously preparing for a meeting about a potential magazine project, and creating six recipes for her forthcoming book, Kosher by Design Lightens Up, due out this fall. Her family will eat all this food over the next few days. Though her children happily eat all the adult food she makes for her cookbooks, they don’t mind when she does a cooking show at night, for that’s when they get to choose their own dinner. Not surprisingly, they usually choose the kid classics: macaroni and cheese from the box or pizza.
Susie’s busy schedule, which is booked through 2010, includes an event in Norfolk on February 2, 2009. With bubbly enthusiasm in her voice, she shares, “My favorite thing about being Jewish is that we’re all connected. There are people who think like I do. I’m part of a global community.” We’re so glad you are Susie! You’ve enriched it for us!

Sea Bass

Steamed Sea Bass in Savoy Cabbage
(Passover By Design)

1 head savoy cabbage, cut out the core, separate into leaves
3 (6 oz) sea bass fillets
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 (10 oz) package sliced lox
6 tbsp white wine, divided
½ cup nondairy creamer or heavy cream

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the largest cabbage leaves into boiling water and blanch for 10 seconds, until they begin to wilt. Remove from the water.

Meanwhile, cut each sea bass filet into 4 chunks. Season the sea bass with salt and pepper. Spread the lox out in pairs of overlapping slices on a piece of plastic wrap. Cover with another sheet of plastic wrap. Pound the lox with a meat pounder or the back of a knife to flatten and meld the pieces together. Wrap each sea bass chunk in a slice of the pounded lox. Depending on how wide the lox slices are, you may need to trim off excess lox to just cover the sea bass. Wrap each lox-covered sea bass chunk in a cabbage leaf, rolling it like a burrito or stuffed cabbage. Trim the cabbage if it is too long. Reserve these scraps.

Pour ¼-½ inch of water into a high-sided skillet or pot. Add 4 tbsps of wine. Bring to a gentle simmer. Add the sea bass rolls, making sure you are on a low enough flame that all you have are small bubbles. Cover the pot and steam the rolls for 15 minutes. Do this in batches if necessary. Reserve the fish broth.

In a small pot, heat remaining 2 tablespoons white wine. Add the cream and 1 cup of the fish broth. Add 2 tablespoons of the chopped dark green cabbage-leaf scraps.

Cut each cabbage roll in half on the diagonal. Lay one half on the other. Surround with the sauce. Makes 6 servings.

-Wendy Lusk

Copyright 2007. Virginia Jewish Life Magazine.