Kim Kushner, the author of three popular cookbooks, showed an interest in cooking at an early age.
“My mother always hosted and entertained. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen watching her cook,” she said.
Kushner spoke to The CJN by phone from New Jersey, where she spends her summers with her husband and four young children. Today, she is based in New York, but she grew up in Montreal and graduated from Hebrew Academy.
Kushner’s books are geared to the home cook. She released her third book, I Heart Kosher: Beautiful Recipes from My Kitchen, in 2018.
“Right now, the kosher food world is really evolving,” she said. “It’s so much better than it was 10 years ago.… There are a lot of beautiful and incredible cookbooks that have just come out.”
Kushner said people tend to equate kosher cooking with traditional Jewish recipes, but it’s much broader. “It’s about recipes that follow the Jewish dietary laws,” she said. “I love to eat fresh, healthy food in season. My style of cooking starts with great produce and good proteins.”
She pointed out that there are a lot of high-quality kosher products on the market: “There are amazing soft and hard cheeses and you can get good kosher broth, which is better than the (soup) powders we used to use.”
Kushner’s background is Ashkenazic and Sephardic. Her mother, Judy Pekofsky, was born in Morocco, but she grew up in Israel. When she was in her 20s, she immigrated to Montreal, where she met and married Gary Pekofsky.
Kushner, one of the couple’s four children, moved to New York following her marriage to Jonathan Kushner. (Yes, they are related to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. They’re first cousins, but they don’t get to see each other very often.)
Kushner attended the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, where she learned French cooking techniques. “I have always been kosher. I cooked everything (at culinary school), but I didn’t eat or taste anything,” she said.
Kushner did an internship at Food & Wine magazine, because she was interested in recipe development and food writing. In fact, the very first food article she wrote – a piece on pareve desserts – appeared in The CJN in 2006.
She said that working in the magazine’s test kitchen was helpful, but it wasn’t home cooking.
“What I’m putting out there is home cooking,” she said. “The recipes are simple and straightforward. The ingredients list is short. These are easy and simple recipes that make delicious food.”
Right now, the kosher food world is really evolving.
– Kim Kushner
During her internship, she looked at the kosher cookbook market and wondered why there were no “beautiful kosher cookbooks,” with proper food styling and modern photography.
Kushner insisted that she did not set out to change the kosher cookbook landscape, but that she “just wanted to create a great cookbook that happens to be kosher.”
Her first book, The Modern Menu, won joyofkosher.com’s best new kosher cookbook award in 2013. The New Kosher, published in 2015, has been a best seller. I Heart Kosher has also been very well received, Kushner said, as “sales continue to be really strong.”
In Canada, I Heart Kosher is available at Indigo, Amazon and several Judaica stores.
Sexy Red Kale With Red Beets and Fresh Dill in Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
- 300-450 g (4-6 cups) red kale leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 Belgian endives, leaves peeled off whole
- 1 red beet, peeled and thinly sliced
- 180 g (1 cup) frozen shelled edamame, thawed and rinsed
- 60 g (1 cup) roughly chopped fresh dill
- juice of 3 Meyer lemons
- 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) whole mustard seeds
- 1.25 ml (1/4 tsp) crushed dried rose petals (optional)
- 15 ml (1 tbsp) honey
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
- splash balsamic vinegar
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Combine the kale, endive leaves, beet, edamame and dill in a large bowl or platter. Toss together.
Pour lemon juice into a glass jar. Add mustard seeds, dried rose petals (if using), honey, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and shake well. Spoon the vinaigrette over the salad just before serving.
The beet may be sliced and stored for up to 3 weeks. The salad ingredients may be assembled in advance and stored, covered, in the fridge for up to 2 hours. The vinaigrette may be prepared and stored in the fridge for up to 1 week. Dress the salad just before serving. Makes 6-8 large servings.
Apple and Olive Oil Cake
- 120 ml (1/2 cup) light olive oil, plus more for greasing
- 100 g (1/2 cup) sugar
- 10 ml (2 tsp) vanilla extract, or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
- 3 large eggs
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) milk or almond milk
- 200 g (1¾ cups) all-purpose flour
- 10 ml (2 tsp) baking powder
- 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) kosher salt
- 2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices
- 5 ml (1 tsp) ground cinnamon
- 5 ml (1 tsp) light or dark brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 160 C (325 F). Line the base of a 23-cm (9-inch) springform pan with parchment paper and grease the base and sides with oil.
Using a hand-held electric mixer, or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat oil, sugar and vanilla until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating each until incorporated. Add the milk and stir on low. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and mix on low until incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and arrange the apple slices on top of the batter, pressing the apples slightly into the batter in any motif you may like. Sprinkle the cinnamon and brown sugar over the top of the apples and bake in the oven until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
Set the cake on a rack and let cool completely before unmolding and placing on a cake plate to serve.
Apple and olive oil cake may be made and wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored in a cool place for up to 2 days.
Cake may be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw on the counter for a few hours.
Sticky Chicken Thighs In Fig-Wine Sauce
- 10 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in, trimmed of excess skin and fat
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) honey
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) ketchup or tomato paste
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) soy sauce
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
- 75 ml (1/3 cup) dry red wine
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 15 ml (1 tbsp) dried rosemary
- 80 g (2 cups) dried Turkish figs, stemmed and halved
Place chicken thighs in a large roasting pan. Combine the honey, ketchup, soy sauce, olive oil, wine, garlic, rosemary and figs in a small bowl and pour over the chicken. Cover the pan with foil and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Roast the chicken, covered, for 30 minutes. Raise the oven temperature to 200 C (400 F). Uncover and roast until the chicken is crispy on the outside, 20-30 minutes. Makes 6-8 servings.
Sticky chicken thighs may be assembled and marinated in the fridge for up to 48 hours. Bring the chicken to room temperature before cooking. Cooked chicken thighs may be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.
The chicken thighs may be stored in the freezer for up to 1 month. Thaw in the fridge overnight. To reheat: let the chicken come to room temperature, then reheat, uncovered, in a 180 C (350 F) oven for 7-10 minutes.