Total­ly Kosher: Tra­di­tion with a Twist! 150+ Recipes for the Hol­i­days and Every Day: A Cookbook 

  • Review
By – April 4, 2023

Although you’d nev­er guess it from a quick skim of her books or a scroll through her Shab­bat cook-along Insta­gram sto­ries, Chanie Apfel­baum was not always the cook she is today. As she notes in the intro­duc­tion to her new cook­book, Total­ly Kosher, as a young new­ly­wed Apfel­baum had nev­er stepped foot into the kitchen.” She goes on to joke that, when met with the chal­lenge of what to cook for din­ner, she turned to take­out — and come Shab­bat, she relied on her mother’s recipes for clas­sic Ashke­nazi fare. How­ev­er, a cru­cial shift came when she began to under­stand her kitchen as an are­na for her cre­ativ­i­ty, using fla­vor and visu­al appeal to guide her. 

Apfel­baum has come a long way since that rev­e­la­tion (her Insta­gram account, @busyinbrooklyn, has 99,000 fol­low­ers and count­ing). While her debut cook­book, Mil­len­ni­al Kosher, brought mod­ern flare and an expand­ed palette to a large­ly kosher audi­ence, Total­ly Kosher builds on her predilec­tion for zhuzhed-up Jew­ish clas­sics and brings kosher and Jew­ish cui­sine — and a well-round­ed per­spec­tive on obser­vant Jew­ish liv­ing — to a not nec­es­sar­i­ly Jew­ish audi­ence (Total­ly Kosher is, notably, pub­lished by a sec­u­lar pub­lish­er, unlike Apfelbaum’s first cook­book). The book is an absolute joy to behold, offer­ing a range of fusion-for­ward takes on Jew­ish fare, allow­ing us a glimpse into the life of the con­vivial Chanie Apfelbaum. 

The book is divid­ed into a whop­ping four­teen sec­tions, with a range of fla­vors and meals (there is even a sec­tion called Nosh­es and Nib­ble,” which serves up var­i­ous sweet and savory bites for all those in-between moments). In the break­fast sec­tion alone, Apfel­baum takes read­ers to Per­sia for tahdig toast (with a nod toward Asian cui­sine, she uses vine­gar-bound sushi rice to side­step the fussi­ness of tra­di­tion­al tahdig, all while main­tain­ing its irre­sistible crispy crust), then cross­es over to the Mid­dle East for a knafeh-style cheese latke. She also tries out a whol­ly Amer­i­can con­cept: she takes her chal­lah kugel and waf­fles it. While one may be wary of a book that relies so heav­i­ly on fusion — fla­vors com­bined in this way often end up mud­dling each oth­er — Apfelbaum’s recipes show the restraint and seri­ous­ness of a tru­ly sea­soned cook. 

Seek out Total­ly Kosher not just for its spin on lentil soup (fin­ish it with a healthy squeeze of lemon and a pinch of saf­fron — trust me), but also for its jubi­lant dis­play of con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish life. We are enter­ing a new era of Jew­ish cook­ing, one in which a kosher cook­book can go main­stream (Total­ly Kosher has already made it to the fea­tured tables of the Strand Book­store and giv­en a shoutout by Eater). And with Apfel­baum as our fear­less and thought­ful guide, we are bound to go far.

Han­nah Kres­sel is a cur­rent fel­low at the Pardes Insti­tute of Jew­ish Stud­ies in Jerusalem. She holds a Mas­ters in Art His­to­ry from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford and a Bach­e­lors in Art His­to­ry and Stu­dio Art from Bran­deis Uni­ver­si­ty. Her research exam­ines the inter­sec­tion of con­tem­po­rary art, food, and reli­gion. She is an avid bak­er and cook.

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