Good Taste Meets A Slimmer Waist

By Joshua Yaffa

Published November 10, 2006, issue of November 10, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 35, Nechama Cohen was forced to rethink the traditional kosher kitchen she kept with her husband and their six children. Schmaltz was certainly out. So were refined sugar and high-gluten flour. In short, all the things that Jews have been led to believe are necessary to make plump, fluffy challah and silky, marbled gefilte fish.

“I felt immediately that I did not want diabetes to hinder my Jewish way of life,” said Cohen, now 56, of her struggle to balance the demands of the disease with the comforting heft of her grandmother’s cooking.

It was, at first, an admittedly daunting task.

“But from a battle it has turned into an enjoyable way of life,” Cohen said this week from her home in Jerusalem. She has compiled her ever-growing stable of nutritional guidelines, culinary wisdom and almost imperceptibly modified recipes in her first cookbook, “Enlitened Kosher Cooking,” released last month by Feldheim Publishers. The hardcover book, which retails for $39.95, features some 250 recipes “from the simple to the elegant” and is accompanied by the kind of vivid, up-close photos that would make the book seem equally at home on top of the coffee table as on the kitchen counter.

“Jewish cuisine is far less stubborn than people realize,” she said of the process of re-imagining familiar Jewish staples as low-fat, low-carb alternatives.

Much as it is said that you can tell a quality sushi chef by his omelet, matzo balls are the surest measure to sniff out a serious Jewish cook. Cohen went through a few versions of her “enlitened” matzo balls before she found a recipe that faithfully retained the toothsome suppleness of the original.

“A matzo ball is matzo; that’s all it is,” she said of the challenge, which she eventually solved with a splash of seltzer and a mixture of soy and almond flour.

Other dishes — like the virtually carbohydrate-free Passover blintzes — were “a pleasure and a joy to create,” she said. Potato starch replaces flour in the recipe, and Cohen suggests halving the standard amount of mashed potato filling and adding cooked cauliflower instead.

“It’s a whole lifestyle,” said Cohen, who has served as the head of the Jewish Diabetes Association since 1985, when she founded the group in the wake of her own diagnosis. The recipes and practical advice in the book are an outgrowth of the diabetes support meetings that began two decades ago as informal salons in Cohen’s basement in Brooklyn.

The first 30 pages are devoted to a wide-ranging discussion of what it means to eat healthily: the role of fat in the diet, good carb vs. low carb, and when it’s okay to just throw up your hands and devour a slice of chocolate babka.

“It’s not cheating, it’s choices,” maintains Cohen, who is careful not to label her eating plan a “diet.”

“A diet is a temporary thing,” she said. “But you can live like this forever without feeling like you’re being deprived.”

Joshua Yaffa last wrote for the Forward about the chef Dan Barber.






Find us on Facebook!
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.