Q&A with Leah Gottheim, Kosher.com VP, and Naomi Nachman
Leah: Why did you decide to create a cookbook for Pesach?
Naomi: Professionally, I’m a personal chef; people hire me to cook their Pesach food. So I have 13 years’ worth of recipes I’ve been making for my clients and all that I’ve learned from my experience, like tips for cooking techniques and a guide on freezing food. It was time to put it all in a book!
L: What types of recipes, and what style of cooking, did you include in your book?
N: Easy recipes that home cooks can follow easily, with accessible ingredients most people will be able to find in their local kosher store or online if they live out of town. Many of my recipes are year round recipes that are easily adapted to Pesach with a minor switch of ingredients – for example, using kosher l’Pesach ketchup instead of Heinz. Salads, soups, meat – much of my repertoire worked perfectly for Pesach in this way.
L: What makes your cookbook unique? What’s special about it?
N: Well, first of all, the beautiful photography and cutting-edge styling by Miriam Pascal!
My recipes are unique – no one’s ever made these before, I use a lot of combinations that most people haven’t thought of yet. And I adapted many Sefardi recipes for Ashkenazim to be able to eat on Pesach, like my Cauliflower Crust Lachmagine recipe.
L: You wrote in the intro to your cookbook that you have a special family history with Pesach food. Can you tell me about it?
N: My parents ran a Pesach program for 28 years in Australia. My mom was in charge of desserts and gefilte fish, made in the Yiddishe mama style. I learned a lot from her passion for cooking, and I brought that into the book.
You know, my parents started the program after one year when my mother had worked so hard preparing the food that she collapsed at the seder – she fell asleep in her chair and couldn’t keep her eyes open. So my dad said, that’s it – time to start a Pesach program in Australia. And that’s how it all began.
L: What’s different about Pesach cooking today than it used to be years ago when you started out?
N: It’s not just potatoes anymore! Mind you, I have creative potato recipes in my book, too. But thanks to the amazing creativity and innovation in the kosher industry, companies like Gefen and others are coming out with fresh new items that make Pesach so much easier, and there are so many more options. Cumin and curry and similar items have only become available under Pesach supervision in the last few years, and they make cooking so much more flavorful.
L: What recipes would you suggest to someone who is making Pesach for the first time, that aren’t intimidating?
N: Try my Seder Pot Roast for Seder night. A chicken recipe – maybe Braised Chicken with Apples and Sweet Potatoes, because it’s a built in side dish and it freezes amazingly. All the salads are easy to try. Then a soup – my Kitchen Sink vegetable soup is so good, you can prep ahead of time and make it quickly. And then Mini Lemon Curd Trifles – so easy and a beautiful dessert.
L: Tell me a funny behind-the-scenes story from the making of your cookbook.
N: There were so many! We made stuff for the photo shoots and everyone there kept tasting it because it was so good. I would turn around and realize that we needed to cook the dish again because it was gone! Everyone had nibbled it away a piece at a time.
Also, there was a time when I was fleishig for almost two weeks solid! We tested food and after my morning coffee, I was fleishigs all day.
And then there was one time when we had cholent for breakfast! My Ultimate Pesach Cholent, it was so good.
L: What’s your own family’s favorite recipe from the book?
N: Lamb chops, hands down! My family loves anything with lamb.
L: What’s the goal that you hope this cookbook will accomplish?
N: I want it to be a fun book that people will want to use all year! Why save it only for Pesach? These are real, regular recipes that you will be able to enjoy.
The Perfect for Pesach cookbook is available here at artscroll.com!
Watch Naomi’s kosher.com videos from her Sunny Side Up show!