Cookbook Review: Simply Southern With a Dash of Kosher Soul

The good people from the Margolin Hebrew Academy/Feinstone Yeshiva of the South sent us a copy of their awesome kosher Southern cookbook to review, so last night I made three recipes and cozied up with Simply Southern With a Dash of Kosher Soul. Here are my thoughts:

The Pros:
–This is a community cookbook, but you’d hardly know it. Beautifully made, it’s sturdy, nicely designed, and has a smattering of nice pictures
–There are a lot of distinctly Southern recipes, which you tend not to find in kosher cookbooks
–It also has lots of basic Jewish recipes, like kugels, brisket, Deli Roll, and lentil soup.
–Many of the recipes serve 10, 12, or 15. This is really helpful when you’re cooking for a large Shabbat or holiday meal, and you rarely find it in recipes these days.
–Each chapter begins with a little story about a member of the community, and the stories are invariably adorable.
–The recipes are all relatively simple to make. None of these recipes have directions that go on for pages. This is a cookbook that can easily be used by even a beginner in the kitchen.
–Lots of veggie options. There’s certainly a lot of meat in this cookbook, but there’s also a lot of vegetarian recipes for the non-meat-eaters among us.

The Cons:

–This is not health food. Though many of the recipes give suggestions for cutting down the fat, the basic recipes are appallingly unhealthy, calling for tons of processed and canned ingredients as opposed to fresh produce.
–Not a lot of seasoning. The recipes I made from the cookbook were good, but could have used a lot more seasoning.
–The directions aren’t always as clear as they could be. I read through a few recipes that were confusing, or had strange directions, like the fish recipe that called for 10 1 inch pieces of salmon. What does that mean? One inch of a fillet? One inch thick? And anyway, can you really buy fish by the inch now?
–The recipes don’t feel new. This doesn’t have to be a con. These are tried and true dishes from members of this community, and so for the most part I didn’t feel a whole lot of innovation. If you’re looking for something exciting and fresh, this isn’t the cookbook for you.

Last night I made the Jicama Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing, Crustless Spinach Quiche, and Jack Daniels Salmon. The Jicama salad is great–the crunch and sweetness of the jicama and peppers is really refreshing, but in the future I will probably doctor the dressing a bit. I think it’s a bit too sour. The Jack Daniels Salmon is delicious and was super easy to make, but I think I would cut down on the brown sugar some, and maybe add some nutmeg or vanilla to the marinade to give it a little more depth. I do appreciate the cooking with whiskey, though. The real standout, though, was the quiche, which seemed like it could be kind of heavy and gross, but turned out to be really delicious for breakfast, filled with lots of spinach, eggs, and cheese. It was a great way to start my morning.

You can order your own copy of Simply Southern With a Dash of Kosher Soul at the cookbook website for $34.99 plus shipping. It’s also available at many Judaica stores.

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