A Menu of New Kosher Cookbooks

Arts & Books

A Menu of New Kosher Cookbooks

Libby Barnea

Dazzling, richly colored, sensual photography; memory-fueled anecdotal asides; recipes that promise mouthwatering results—no matter the attraction, we all love cookbooks. From the hardcover, coffee-table tomes to the spiral-bound, paperback how-tos, all forms feed our soul and spirit.

The last year’s crop of kosher cookbooks will no doubt sate the hungriest reader. In fact, kosher cookbooks are big business in a time when publishing in general is experiencing a downturn. One general rule of recent releases: few are holiday titles, long the mainstay of Jewish cookbooks. Instead, the focus is on elegant, ethnic preparations or, interestingly, the reverse—easy, everyday cooking, as is the case with our own 2011 title, The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook: Daily Meals for the Contemporary Jewish Kitchen (Universe).

Jamie Geller’s first cookbook, Quick & Kosher: Recipes From The Bride Who Knew Nothing (Feldheim), was an instant hit back in 2007, and now she has followed up the success with Quick & Kosher: Meals in Minutes (Feldheim). This new collection of recipes again stresses easy, speedy recipes for the busy moms out there. Her influences are global—Vietnamese Beef and Noodle Soup, Greek-Style Chicken with Lemon and Dill, Irish Stew, Lentil Dal with Chicken and Jasmine Rice. Geller provides several helpful guides, one favorite being her discourse on various cooking oils. (Geller’s empire extends beyond her two books. Her name, likeness and Quick & Kosher brand is online, and she is behind the new print magazine Joy of Kosher.)

Geller is not the only bride who recorded her culinary education in a book. Reyna Simnegar’s Persian Food from the Non-persian Bride: And Other Sephardic Kosher Recipes You Will Love (Feldheim) is a current best seller. In it, the Venezuela native offers exotic yogurt and lime- and rosewater- infused dishes and, since this is after all a Persian cookbook, an entire chapter with accompanying tutorial on rice (for instance, her Jeweled Rice with barberries, pistachios and raisins). Simnegar weaves in frequent commentary on the intricacies and history of Persian cooking. So if your mouth waters at the mention eggplant, lime syrup, quince, saffron, pomegranates, dates and apricots, indulge yourself with a visit to Simnegar’s kitchen.

Before Geller and her Quick & Kosher label there was Susie Fishbein and her Kosher by Design series, perennially popular among Orthodox American Jews. Fishbein’s latest is Kosher By Design: Teens and 20-Somethings (Mesorah).

If miniature presentation connotes elegance in your culinary imagination, then Efrat Libfroind’s Kosher Elegance: The Art of Cooking with Style (Feldheim) is for you. The book’s lavish photos are some of the best of the last year and bring to mind the industry colloquialism “food porn.” But be aware, the recipes are anything but simple and everyday, frequent buzzwords in contemporary cooking. Instead, Libfroind, an Israeli pastry chef, offers a chapter on sushi and various stacked, skewered and individually wrapped presentations as well as petits fours creations (Mini-Salmon Skewers, Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Hazelnuts and Cranberry, Bite-Sized Rolls with Chicken-Pine Nut Filling). Think swanky passed hors d’oeuvres and you get the idea. (Though there is a Simplicity chapter whose recipes, like one for Sweet Potato Salad, claim to take only two minutes.)

Geila Hocherman and Arthur Boehm’s Kosher Revolution: New Techniques and Great Recipes for Unlimited Kosher Cooking (Kyle Books), due out in September, reads like a Martha Stewart Living or Real Simple layout writ large in book format. The design is clean and contemporary, the photos—of easy foodie recipes like Miso-Glazed Black Cod and Chicken with Grapes and Mushrooms—fresh and modern. This tasty collection of recipes should become a classic, a Silver Palate for the kosher set.

No matter how enlightened and lightened our kitchens become, meat remains our go-to main course, our sine qua non of dinner. June Hersh tackles all things fleishig in one of her two new books, The Kosher Carnivore: The Ultimate Meat and Poultry Book (St. Martin’s Press), due out in September. In it, the author cooks her way through familiar meat dishes (burgers, briskets) as well as more unusual creations like Pretzel-Crusted Chicken.

Hersh is also the author of Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival, published by the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. This is more than a cookbook: It is a scrapbook replete with memories of long-ago lost family and hometowns. Each recipe is presented alongside a story: Ada Ehrlich’s Chocolate Chip Cake, interpreted from handwritten notes that Ada, a survivor of Auschwitz, wrote in her later years, accompanies testimony from her granddaughter, Jolie Feldman, who coincidentally—or cosmically?—married the grandson of Ada’s friend and fellow Auschwitz survivor, Nadzia Bergson.

And then there are cookbook luminaries Gil Marks and Joan Nathan and their most recent gastronomic adventures.

Marks’s Encyclopedia of Jewish Food (Wiley) is exactly what it claims to be; a thoroughly researched, meticulously compiled account of Jewish food customs and recipes from Israel and the neighboring Levant to all corners of the diaspora, from Ashkenazic to Mizrahic to Sefardic cooking styles. You will be wiser—and much hungrier—about the evolution of global Jewish food thanks to Marks’s work.

Nathan, superstar author of several best-selling Jewish cookbooks, notably the beloved Jewish Cooking in America (Knopf), late last year released Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France (Knopf). This book takes Nathan, ever a food anthropologist, on a delicious hunt through food-crazy France, on the lookout for Jewish origins behind classics dishes like pot-au-feu and ratatouille.

Those concerned with vegetarian and vegan diets will welcome Roberta Kalechofsky and Roberta Schiff’s The Vegetarian Shabbat Cookbook (Micah Publications). Several dishes require little cooking and keep well for the next day—a prerequisite for successful Sabbath cooking. Included are recipes for egg-free halla and all-veggie cholents, among over 150 other dishes.

For Jewish cookbook lovers looking to add another holiday title to their bookshelf, there is Jane Portnoy’s A Jewish Calendar of Festive Foods (Janelle), organized by the months of the Hebrew calendar. While few photos accompany the text, charming, Norman Rockwellesque illustrations by Robin Reikes introduce chapters and sections.

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