A KosherEye Chat with Zipporah Malka Heller & Shifrah Devorah Witt


We are continuing our conversation with Zipporah Malka and Shifrah Devorah, the mother/daughter authors of The Best of Mexican Kosher Cooking.

What was the defining moment when both of you decided to collaborate on a cookbook?
Yes. I was already working on a cookbook with the intention of using it as a family cookbook to make the dinner process a smoother one. Then the acquisitions editor at Targum asked me to do an Asian kosher cookbook and I asked them immediately if I could use my daughter as my co-author.

SD: By trade I am a writing consultant. I was working on a client’s manuscript, ghost writing a large part of it, and I remember sitting in a café and wanting so badly to help him publish the book; he was writing it for family with no intention of taking it to a publisher. Then I thought about it and said why is it I am more committed to getting him a book deal than myself? I had a vision in that café that within a year I wanted to publish a book. When mom asked me to collaborate with her, I jumped at the chance.

Why did you pick out Mexican cuisine as the topic for your second book?
It is my second favorite cuisine.

SD: Again, mom was the visionary, but she had my full support. We live in Israel and I can’t tell you how often I hear Americans wishing there was a Kosher Mexican restaurant here. I felt a kosher Mexican cookbook was the next best thing we could offer them. Also, we came from CA where kosher Mexican is easy to find, and we were lucky enough to enjoy lots of it. So once we were here, I started to miss the flavors of the Mexican palate. When I miss a cuisine enough I start to cook it, and one thing leads to another. That’s how we came out with two cookbooks in two years.

The book is a collection of recipes that represent different regions of Mexico. What were your criteria for determining what type of Mexican recipe would be considered for inclusion in the book?
We started with all the recipes that we loved and had nostalgic feelings about. Then we went on to recreate traditional Mexican recipes and give them a kosher twist. Having chicken and fish dishes that would be good for Shabbat was also an important criterion in selecting and developing recipes.

SD: We closed our eyes, thought about the flavors of the past that we missed and started making a list. Then there were the classic recipes we felt should be included. So between part A and part B the table of contents was set.

Do you work on recipe creations together or do you each "do your own thing" and then discuss/test/taste the recipes?
We work separately except I always check with my daughter to adjust the seasonings. She is a genius in that area. My strength is researching and developing recipes. My daughter is also the expert on recreating recipes from memories of food she’s eaten in restaurants.
SD: Mom said it all.

What is a little known fact about each of you?
I love Archaeology and the ancient world is near and dear to my heart. I am also a licensed tour guide in Israel and live in Jerusalem. Another little known fact about me−my 3 ½ year old grandson calls me “Bubba.”

SD:  I really cook because I love to eat. I think that cookbook writing has come out of necessity; creating recipes has been a way of eating the food I missed from my past, and that didn’t exist in my present. I joke about myself that if I lived in a kosher metropolis like NY or LA I would be perfectly happy to eat in restaurants or order take-out every night.

What are your favorite kitchen "must have" tools?
I am very old-fashion in many ways so I would have to say wooden spoons.

SD: I love long metal tongs and a hand-held blender.

What is your absolute all-time favorite cuisine? (one pick each)
I love Chinese, Mexican, and Sushi.


To read the KosherEye book review, click here.

April 30, 2012

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