November 21, 2011

Noted Cookbook Authors Push New and Upscale Kosher Cuisine, Kosher Food Bloggers Hear

Secaucus, NJ… I slid quickly into my seat on Tuesday morning — while there would be a lot fun experiences over the next two days at Kosherfest, I was most anticipating the cookbook author panel, “Kosher 2012: The New Demands of the Ever-changing Kosher Palate.” “How do the cookbook authors seated here connect to the hundreds of products featured out on the floor?” asked moderator Leah Schapira (author of the new Fresh & Easy cookbook). “When a new product comes on the market, the food writer teaches the consumer how to use it. In my own experience, when I featured a recipe using tarragon vinegar, Pomegranate told me they sold 66 units in three days, when they had previously sold 66 units in the last three months.”

Cookbook authors influence the products we buy and dishes we create. “What do they think we'll be eating in the coming year?” Esti Berkowitz led a team of bloggers who posed the questions. “One specific area of food that is currently on the rise is gluten-free,” said Susie Fishbein. “We’re also beginning to borrow more ingredients from different ethnicities. We enjoyed sriracha sauce in the spicy mayo we eat with our sushi, but now that it is available, I use it as an ingredient in my books.” "Even for people who love to patchke, there are so many more demands on our lives now. Especially with the economy, more women are working out of the home,” answered Jamie Geller. “They want simple to prepare recipes, whether it’s gluten-free or low carb. There will always be foodies who care, but for mass market appeal, we need ingredients that are accessible."

Will food taste better when the next great thing becomes available? Some say yes. Kosher Eye’s Lois Held and Roberta Scher asked, “What products do you wish were available, that are not currently kosher certified?” Levana Kirschenbaum has been proactive in pushing manufacturers to apply for kosher certification. “I’m working very hard to get a hechsher on desiccated anchovy powder—you use it in Caesar dressing. It tastes fabulous.” “When I started in kosher,” answered Chef Jeffrey Nathan. “I had a very small painter’s palette. I owe a lot to Menachem Lubinsky and Kosherfest. We wanted sriracha; we wanted wasabi; we wanted tarragon vinegar. But I am a big believer in keeping things simple. The best ingredients speak for themselves. I ate the best meal of my life in Italy. I had mozzarella that was just made and was still wet and warm, a tomato that was picked off the tree three feet from where I was sitting, a piece of basil I picked off a branch, and oil that was just pressed.” Gil Marks agreed. “It’s nice to have exotic items. But that’s not what’s going to make our food taste better. Much of the produce in America is so bland. They are grown for shipping and storage purposes. Look into CSA’s (community supported agriculture); go to farmers' markets. You’ll enjoy produce on its own if it tastes good.” It’s not just the cookbook industry that’s changed—the cookbooks themselves have a different look from the ones which held heralded spaces on our mothers’ shelves. Norene Gilletz, author of The Food Processor Bible, tuned into this trend. “Many of today’s kosher consumers are interested in lower-fat, higher-fiber, sugar-free, lower-carb recipes, and gluten-free options. They want recipes that take little time to prepare, with beautiful photos, and nutritional analysis for each recipe—and the book shouldn’t cost very much! What are you doing to address their requests?” “The books should also do their laundry and drive their carpool,” Susie Fishbein joked in response. “You can’t be all things to all people in one book. People watched me grow up in this industry, and the books followed the time line of my life. Each book might not be the topic that someone is looking for, but be true to what you are writing about and hope your audience comes along.”