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Cookbook Review: 'Cooking Inspired'

Classic and innovative kosher recipes to inspire home cooks just in time for Passover

Reviewed by Amy Kritzer, Fri., April 4, 2014

Mindful Meals

Cooking Inspired: Bringing Creativity and Passion Back Into the Kitchen

by Estee Kafra
Feldheim Publishers, 368 pp., $35.99

For many home cooks, making meals is a necessary chore. But Estee Kafra, editor of the kosher website Kosher Scoop, recognizes that food should be more than a primal need: "I believe we can take this everyday act and elevate it into an experience of creativity, mindfulness, and meaning," she writes.

In that vein, Kafra put together Cooking Inspired, a compilation of more than 200 recipes culled from various Kosher Scoop contributors that aim to bring the joy back into cooking. Addressing busy mothers and cooks who find themselves making "safe," go-to meals too often, Kafra argues that food is more than nourishment. It's a way to connect to past generations and create your own family's food history. Passionate cooks get inspiration from all around them, but with practice, anyone can acquire this skill.

The book is organized untraditionally by various inspirations, but each chapter is also home to a category: For the Five Senses (appetizers), Community (all-day brunch), Roots (bread), Nurture (soup), Family (tossed salads), Healthy Living (fish), Holidays (the main course), Seasons (on the side), and Special Occasions (desserts). A longtime cookbook photographer, Kafra provides a mouthwatering photo for each recipe. There are notations for Passover-friendly recipes, gluten-free options, and tips on optimizing the seasons to make cooking timely meals a little easier.

The recipes offer a plethora of traditional staples like kugels and latkes interspersed with ethnic recipes such as Duck Dumplings With Sweet Dipping Sauce and Four Cheese & Mushroom Lasagna. Some standouts include Cedar Planked Salmon With Maple Glaze, Curried Cauliflower & Apricot Soup, Pizza Tartlets With Onion Jam and Salad, Lamb With Lemon Mint Sauce, and Decadent Halvah Ice Cream Cake. Most of the recipes can already be found on KosherScoop.com, making the $35.99 price point a little hard to swallow, and in many cases the photos are exactly the same. For select recipes, the website offers a step-by-step video, which is a useful bonus.

For home cooks looking for very doable, creative recipes that happen to be kosher, Cooking Inspired can help anyone create pleasurable dining experiences for years to come: "Usually, a few simple ingredients and some basic techniques are enough to do the trick," the author assures us, "and when you have done it long enough, this sort of cooking becomes second nature."

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