By Sue Tomchin
“Of the making of books there is no end,” declares a world-weary Kohelet in Ecclesiastes, read on the fall holiday of Sukkot. For those of us who love cookbooks, however, new additions to the genre are always welcome, whether as sources of new recipes and techniques or as delectable bedtime reading.
June Feiss Hersh has burst upon the Jewish cookbook scene with not one, but two exceptional new books this year. The first, Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival, was published in June by Ruder-Finn Press in association with the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. The book is the product of more than 80 interviews Hersh conducted with Holocaust survivors and their families to elicit their cherished stories, food memories and recipes. The response to the book was immediate and enthusiastic: It sold out its first printing within two weeks.
Among the recipes—all diligently tested by Hersh—are such classic dishes as Lilly Schwarcz Kaplan’s Chicken Paprikash, Ruth Baumwald Stromer’s Honey and Lemon Stuffed Cabbage and Evelyn Pike Rubin’s Sweet Summer Peach Cake.
The experience of researching Recipes Remembered inspired Hersh to write her newest book, The Kosher Carnivore: The Ultimate Meat and Poultry Book (St. Martin’s Press, $27.95), due out in September. “There are a lot of ‘meat bibles’ available for the non-kosher consumer,” says Hersh, but none for the kosher consumer or someone like herself who doesn’t keep kosher, but is taking steps in that direction. As part of her research, she talked to dozens of kosher butchers to glean tips on how to get the cuts you need. (For example, is first- or second-cut brisket the one you need for a recipe?) “This book empowers you so you know what you are talking about and can approach the meat counter with confidence,” she says.
No slouch in the recipe department either, The Kosher Carnivore contains 120 recipes that run the gamut from slightly traditional to unexpected. There’s Classic Pot Roast, but also Moroccan Lamb Shanks with Pomegranate Sauce; Turkey Meat Loaf, but also Peach and Ginger Glazed Chicken. She has also developed an array of flavorful, pareve side dishes such as Creamy Mashed Potatoes (she uses Yukon Gold potatoes and boils them in chicken stock to amplify the flavor) and Quinoa With Apple Cider-Braised Squash and Prunes.
Another new book in a different vein comes from kosher gourmet queen Lévana Kirschenbaum, who has 25 years of experience as a cooking teacher, restaurant owner and cookbook author. The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen (Skyhorse Publishing, $14.95) shows you how to cook easy, flavorful and fast meals using unprocessed foods with maximum nutritional value. She embarked on the path toward eating healthy and healing foods after struggling with a serious case of irritable bowel syndrome that didn’t respond to medications. “In three short months,” she writes, “I felt wonderful and shed 10 pesky extra pounds.”
Kirschenbaum’s recipes include an array of homemade dressings, soups, salads, fish, meat and vegetarian entrees, and desserts. Some examples: Vegetable and Dried Fruit Couscous; Salmon in Pomegranate Sweet-and-Sour Sauce; Indian Red Lentil Soup; 10 variations on hummus; 15 ways to make easy stovetop chicken; and the intriguing Chocolate Jasmine Marble Cake. Many of the recipes are gluten-free. The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen features photographs by Meir Pliskin and health information provided by co-author Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., a nationally recognized nutritionist.
Claudia Roden’s 1997 book The Book of Jewish Food is beloved not only for its recipes, but for her remarkable capacity to span the history of Jewish life through its food. Roden, a highly regarded expert on Mediterranean cooking, has now written The Food of Spain (Ecco, $39.99). She spans the country’s regions providing insights about the people and the culture and gathering hundreds of recipes, among them Baked Rice With Currants and Chickpeas; Salmon in Brandy Sauce; Eggplant Fritters With Honey; and Almond Cake, which she suggests may have its origins in a flourless Jewish Passover cake.
She includes a fascinating chapter about Jewish legacies in Spain. After the Inquisition was established in 1478, “certain foods were used as evidence of practicing Judaism in secret when women were brought to trial,” Roden writes. Authorities would watch to see if Conversos cooked with olive oil instead of pork fat, for example, or made stews using chickpeas, a primary ingredient in the Jewish Sabbath stew adafina, and cite them as a sign of “Judaizing.” As a result of this scrutiny, Roden writes, “Conversos ate pork ostentatiously.”
If you read The New York Times regularly, you can’t help but have encountered Melissa Clark’s column, “A Good Appetite.” The same engaging style and imaginative recipes that make that column a pleasure to read characterize her newest book, out this October, Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can’t Wait to Make (Hyperion, $29.99). Anyone who enjoys visiting weekly farmers markets will find this book a boon since Clark demystifies the principles of eating seasonally. Her recipes encourage us to use such interesting produce as kale, parsnips, beets, mustard greens, leeks, cabbage, rhubarb, fennel, figs and more. Among her recipes: Roasted Chicken Legs With Smoked Paprika, Blood Orange and Ginger; Honey-Roasted Carrot Salad With Arugula and Almonds; Cinnamon-Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Garlic; Parsnip Latkes; Beet and Cabbage Borscht With Dill; and Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread.
Recipes from these cookbooks:
Beet and Cabbage Borscht with Dill (Cook This Now)
Golden Parsnip Latkes (Cook This Now)
Chicken with Prunes Tsimmes (The Kosher Carnivore)
Grandma Rose’s Cabbage Soup (The Kosher Carnivore)
Quinoa with Apple-Cider Braised Squash and Prunes (The Kosher Carnivore)
Eggplant Fritters with Honey (The Food of Spain)
Fried Goat Cheese and Honey (The Food of Spain)
Spinach with Raisins & Pine Nuts (The Food of Spain)