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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Healthful, elegant recipes - short on deprivation, long on flavor, December 26, 2007
This review is from: Enlitened Kosher Cooking (Hardcover)
author of Cooking Jewish: 532 Great Recipes from the Rabinowitz Family

excerpted from The Orange County Register, Hanukkah 2006

Nechama Cohen, founder and CEO of the Jewish Diabetes Association, slashes her way through the schmaltz (chicken fat) with "Enlitened Kosher Cooking" (Feldheim Publishers, $39.95), a lusciously photographed new cookbook with over 250 good-carb, healthy-fat, sugar-free recipes that nourish the soul without damaging the heart.

"I was diagnosed with diabetes in 1985 and was presented with a real kitchen challenge," recalled Cohen, who spoke to me by phone from her home in Israel, "so I started `enlitening' recipes. After 20 years it was time to put them in writing!"

But you needn't be diabetic or kosher or even Jewish to appreciate these healthful and elegant recipes that are short on deprivation and long on flavor. "Traditional Jewish cooking is known to be heavy," Cohen noted, "but lightening up these dishes is really doable. No matter what your ethnicity, you can live an enlightened lifestyle and be healthy and happy. "

How do you lighten Jewish cooking? "We need to look at fat and carbs," said Cohen. And with her slimmed-down versions of our beloved holiday recipes, we can have our latkes and eat them too!

Hanukkah (beginning tomorrow at sundown) presents a challenge, because this holiday is all about the oil. In 164 B.C.E. the land of Judea was occupied by Antiochus IV and the Syrian-Greeks, who had forbidden Jewish observances and desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem, turning it into a Greek shrine for the sacrifice of pigs. Judah Maccabee and a tiny band of Jewish freedom fighters, against all odds, overthrew the enemy and cleansed the Temple. Only a small cruse of consecrated oil was found with which to light the eternal flame. Miraculously, this oil that should have lasted but a single day burned for eight, and we've been celebrating with a frying frenzy ever since.

"With nonstick pans and cooking sprays and healthier oils - olive, canola, walnut, grapeseed - it's really easy to lighten these recipes," observed Cohen. Try crunchy cauliflower, cabbage and zucchini latkes, made with a minimum of oil, instead of potato.

"Potato latkes are very difficult not to nibble on," Cohen admitted, "so I've got mine prepared before I start the others. I'll try to convince my family to try some potato-combo latkes before they try anything else. And I keep them in the oven on the lowest setting. The nice thing about latkes is if they dry up a bit, they just get crispier."

As a diabetic, Cohen also had to cut down on sugar...fast! "I've learned to use other ingredients, so we don't need to load up on sugar or even sugar substitutes," she said. Take applesauce - that de rigueur dip for the Hanukkah latkes. "People think applesauce, big deal. But the herbal tea bags make this recipe unique. I found because of the flavor of the herbal tea, I needed much less sugar."

Moderation is key, said Cohen. "I don't believe in the word `diet.' A diet is temporary. Long-term lifestyle changes need to be coupled with moderation so it can last."

While many of the dessert recipes in the book call for sugar substitutes, non-diabetics can use sugar or even go fifty-fifty, advised Cohen, "but these recipes contain normal amounts of sugar, not two and three cups of sugar. Same thing with the fat. In standard cookbooks the amount of sugar and fat in the recipes is scary."

A lesser-known Hanukkah tradition involves the eating of cheese. Judith, an unsung legendary heroine of the Apocrypha, was a beautiful Jewish widow. She dined with the enemy general Holofernes, plying him with cheese to make him thirsty for wine. When he fell into a drunken stupor, she beheaded him with his own sword. Because her bravery is said to have inspired the Maccabees, some communities remember Judith by eating cheese on this holiday. But how to work cheese into an "enlitened" Hanukkah table?

No problem! Carb-free and low fat, Cohen's colorful Cheese Balls make an elegant appetizer or satisfying nibble just for yourself.

Cohen's common sense approach to creating a healthy lifestyle means you enjoy the holiday, not just get through it. "Here in Israel the only difficulty with Hanukkah is the sufganiyot (jelly donuts) all over the place in every flavor you can think of," lamented Cohen. "You can smell them ten miles away. But every Jewish holiday is definitely livelier here and more intense than it is in the states. It's the nicest time to be in Israel."
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