‘Tis the season of endless Jewish holidays, back to school frenzy, an abundance of apples…and also niche Jewish cookbooks. With the releases of The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat and Nosh on This: Gluten-Free Baking from a Jewish American Kitchen we add two fascinating but narrowly focused cookbooks to the collection.
I love schmaltz, and so I was pretty excited to receive a copy of The Book of Schmaltz. You should know: I keep several kinds of schmaltz in my freezer at any given moment, and love to find ways to incorporate it into a variety of dishes, so this book couldn’t be more perfect for a fat-lovin’ gal like me.
The book contains recipes for all the classics you would expect including traditional chopped liver, chicken soup with matzo balls, and kreplach. Some of the more surprising recipes included in the book are schmaltz-roasted potatoes with onion and rosemary, chicken sausage and even oatmeal cookies with dried cherries (I will be trying this recipe very soon).
Ever heard of helzel? Well I hadn’t until I saw it listed under “Traditional Recipes.” Ruhlman’s version calls for stuffing kiskhe into chicken skin – yum! Though when my husband and I called the grandmothers to consult about this long–lost dish we heard that their versions of traditional helzel was prepared by stuffing a turkey neck. In fact, my Grandma Phoebe shared that her grandmother (my great-great grandmother) would include helzel in her weekly Shabbat cholent .
But before James Beard Award-winning author Michael Ruhlman gets into the recipes themselves, he actually gives a easy-to-follow guide to making your own homemade, perfectly rendered chicken fat – very useful indeed especially for the schmaltz virgin.
What a great gift for any of your family or friends who loves traditional Ashkenazi fare and isn’t afraid a little fat.
The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat, Michael Ruhlman and Donna Turner Ruhlman, (August 2013)
Schmaltz is not the only ingredient I gush over: I also gush for gluten. I have written before about my distaste for the gluten-free fad we are currently experiencing. But I do feel for my fellow gluten lovers who are unable to consume gluten-laden products due to medical reasons, which includes authors Lisa Stander-Horel and Tim Horel, two bakers dedicated to high-quality gluten-free baked goods. Their cookbook Nosh on This was also just released.
“The tragic irony is that we Jews are a people with an extensive repertoire of high-gluten delicacies, many of which we regard as cultural icons. We even have special prayers that we say before eating pastry.”
I never thought of it in this way but it is true: we are a people who value breads and sweets. So what is a gluten-free Jew to do!? In Lisa Stanger-Horel and Tim Horel’s case, they perfected a wide range of baked goods including Jewish classics like chocolate babka, honey cake, challah, rugelach and hamantaschen. Some other stand-outs? “Marizipany Gooey Brownies,” apple pie, and even éclairs and tiramisu.
Love eating matzo at Passover but can’t handle the gluten? They’ve got a recipe for that too.
For the Jewish baker the ultimate compliment is always, “it’s so good, it doesn’t even taste pareve.” These recipes look as mouth-watering as their gluten-laden counterparts. What a wonderful cookbook for the baker in your life who needs to stay away from gluten.
Nosh on This: Gluten-Free Baking from a Jewish American Kitchen, Lisa Stander-Horel and Tim Horel (September 3, 2013)
Most cookbooks leave me a bit bored and uninspired. I am admittedly very picky about where I procure recipes from, and which cookbooks occupy the precious counter space in my kitchen. But it was a delightful day last week when my copy of the Balaboosta cookbook by Chef Einat Admony arrived.
I have eaten several times at Balaboosta in NYC. And by several I mean, so many times I probably cannot count. Never once did I leave disappointed. When a friend tells me they are going to eat at Balaboosta, I always reply “make sure to order the cauliflower – it is the best cauliflower you will ever eat!” For those that haven’t yet tasted the cauliflower, they always look at me a bit strange. I mean, how life-changing could a cauliflower dish really be? Well, it is.
And to my supreme happiness, Einat’s recipe for salty, sweet tangy “Cauliflower Everyone Loves” is included in the cookbook.
Balaboosta’s menu is deeply rooted in Mediterranean flavors, although I would really call it Israeli fare – not kosher, but inspired by Einat’s Persian Jewish roots: grind your own hummus at the table and then relish eating it up with fluffy pita. Fried olives with labne. And whole grilled fish, just to name a few of my favorite dishes.
The cookbook itself is a more of a hybrid, featuring the Mediterranean flavors of Balaboosta the restaurant, while also including some of Einat’s kids-friendly food ideas (bourekas, veggie chips and schnitzel fingers), romantic meals (coconut milk french toast, lamb chops with Persian lime sauce) and also her favorite healthy cooking options (butternut squash and saffron soup, pavlova with berry coulis). It also has an entire section dedicated to traditional, Israeli foods. Like the restaurant, not all the recipes are kosher, but there are so few dishes that include shellfish that I would recommend this cookbook to those who keep kosher (and don’t) without hesitation.
I expected to love the recipes in the Balaboosta cookbook. I didn’t expect to LOVE Einat’s stories about her family and food. For me a cookbook is about the recipes, not about the author. But I find myself unable to tear myself away from the authentic narrative sprinkled throughout her recipes.
Perhaps my favorite quote from Einat is her explanation of the Yiddish word ‘balaboosta’ and what it means to her:
Like my mom, my aunt Chana and the generations of balaboostas before then, I cook from the gut: no measuring cups, no scales. But unlike them, I see being a balaboosta not just a way to run a home but as a means of navigating the pitfalls of life with a courageous heart, a head filled with determination and a spirit of risk and adventure.
Every cookbook should have great recipes, and stories, that inspire even beyond the kitchen. So Chef Einat, thank you!
Balaboosta is available for pre-order on Amazon now and will be available on September 3rd. Will be a tad too late for Rosh Hashanah inspiration, but hopefully you can snag your copy in time for the remainder of the Jewish holidays this Fall and beyond.
As I have written about before, I love good cookbooks (not all cookbooks), so when a cookbook comes across my desk I am skeptical until proven otherwise.
I recently came across a copy of One Egg is a Fortune, a beautiful (very large) cookbook with recipes compiled by Pnina Jacobson and Judy Kempler. It’s sort of a Stars of David in cookbook form, with recipes and stories from famous Jews from around the world.
One Egg is a Fortune serves as an informative and captivating history of Jewish food traditions from around the world. And if the stories don’t grab your attention the mouth-watering photos will. The bold photography seems to tell two kinds of stories – the stories of the food itself and the story of the food’s journey. New Yorkers will love the obvious reference to its beloved Fairway supermarket on the Upper West Side, the famous Katz’s deli on the Lower East Side and familiar sight of street pretzels while Jerusalem lovers will immediately be drawn into the sounds and smells of its famous marketplace.
While readers might initially get excited to peruse recipes from famous Jews such as chocolatier Max Brenner, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and Marlee Matlin, the recipes from some of the lesser-knowns are just as satisfying including Sam Lipski’s Aromatic Roast Brisket and Alan Gold’s Hungarian Scalloped Potatoes.
I personally prefer a straightforward cookbook without the fancy photos (as beautiful as they are) and family stories, but for those of who love more than just the recipes, this is definitely the book for you!