I know, I know: Valentine’s Day is not a Jewish holiday.
Still, when Kim Kushner’s new cookbook, “I Heart Kosher,” landed on my desk, my heart beat a bit faster as I flipped through the dessert section and read her recipes for marvelous meringue kisses, chocolate-dipped figs with pistachios & rose petals, and flourless chocolate-almond gooey chewy giant cookies. These treats seem intentionally designed to win someone’s heart. But with the Jewish “love holiday” of Tu B’Av months away, I decided to try out a couple of confections against the backdrop of America’s Hallmark day of romance instead.
Yes, I can rationalize anything if dessert is involved.
I started with the meringue kisses, which, as Kushner points out, are very easy to make — though people can be intimidated if they haven’t done it before. The instructions were clear, the ingredients were few, and it was fun to use a pastry bag to pipe out the egg-white mixture into little swirls. (I looked at a couple of YouTube videos to see how it was done, and quickly got the hang of it.) I added a bit of rose-colored food coloring to half my mixture, resulting in what you may consider to be either whimsically pink or disgustingly pepto-colored meringues — to each his own.
The gooey chocolate cookies couldn’t have been easier. They don’t even require a mixer; just a big bowl into which you dump six simple ingredients and stir. The one amendment I made to the recipe was to sub out about a quarter of the regular cocoa powder for a super-dark one I purchased on Amazon called “black cocoa,” from King Arthur Flour. The cookies are just as good without it, but this cocoa provides a bit more richness and a darker color.
Note that Kushner says the recipe yields about 16 cookies. The second time I tested it, I made 12 larger ones, and baked them for 14 minutes (which is the amount of time the book recommends for 16 of them). Dumb! Because my cookies were bigger this time, I should have left them in the oven a couple more minutes. They were fudgy and divine, but almost impossible to peel off the parchment paper in one piece. So either stick with the recommended 16 cookies or up your baking time accordingly.
I wanted to try out the chocolate-dipped figs too, but figs aren’t in season. And I’m intrigued by the tahini chocolate chunk cookies with sea salt, which involve a tablespoon of white miso paste. I’ll do that next.
“I Heart Kosher” isn’t only desserts. The book — with gorgeous, vibrant images by photographer Kate Sears — contains 200 pages of recipes that Kusher calls her “dependable standbys,” divided into categories such as “Ready to Go,” “Quick Stovetop Mains,” “One-Pan Meals,” and “Hot, Slow & Simmered.” All of them seem designed with unfussy, modern elegance in mind. And Kushner, who also wrote “The New Kosher,” tested the recipes on her four children, so they’re universally appealing.
In the introduction, Kushner explains why she called her new book “I Heart Kosher.” “Those of you who know me know that I love to love. What you see is what you get. I’m an all-or-nothing type of person. I love my family and I love my friends. I love life. I love food, and I love to eat, but more than anything else, I love to feed the people around me. What really makes me happy? Good food. Good, kosher food.”
If this isn’t a Valentine to the kosher community — and to anyone who loves great recipes — I don’t know what is.
Liza Schoenfein is the senior food writer at the Forward. Her blog is Life, Death & Dinner. Follow her on Instagram, @LifeDeathDinner