Cookbooks are always a wonderful gift, says the cookbook author. But seriously, anyone who loves to cook, bake, ferment or just learn about how food tells stories of history and life knows you can simply never have enough quality cookbooks. A cookbook is also a wonderful idea for a hostess gift when you are visiting at the holidays.
Every year, and each season, a selection of new Jewish books is released, and I wanted to feature a smattering from this year to consider as gifts to the ones you love. Or yourself — self care matters.
From celebrated cookbook author Leah Koenig, this beautiful collection of Roman Jewish recipes is part history lesson, part travel porn and part authentic Italian deliciousness. I’ve made several dishes from the book, and can vouch that the recipes are accessible, tell meaningful Jewish stories and never require 1,723 ingredients. For a sneak peak check out her recipe for pollo arrosto (roast chicken with rosemary, garlic and potatoes).
And for those who want to lean into fried foods for Hanukkah, there’s an entire section devoted to “fritti” (fritters), including fried zucchini blossoms, mozzarella-stuffed risotto fritters and, of course, classic Roman-style fried artichokes.
I would be remiss not to mention The Nosher’s collection of “Jewish Foods from Around the World“! We curated this collection of beautiful and delicious recipes that celebrate stories and dishes from varied Jewish traditions. You’ll find time-honored dishes like hearty, vegetarian Moroccan harira soup and fragrant Persian fesenjan — a pomegranate, walnut and chicken stew — alongside contemporary takes on classic recipes, like Mexican churro-inspired challah and ube and coconut rugelach — a brightly-hued Filipinx take on the traditional Ashkenazi cookie.
This gorgeous book showcases the breadth and diversity of Jewish food from a wide selection of our talented contributing writers, including Susan Barocas, Jennifer Abadi, Sonya Sanford, Emily Paster, Abby Ricarte, Emmanuelle Lee and many more.
“Braids” is the debut cookbook by Nosher contributor Sonya Sanford. You may already know some of Sanford’s work through popular dishes like her One-Bowl Apple Sharlotka Cake and Vegan Turmeric-Maple Challah. The recipes in the book are inspired by growing up in a Soviet Jewish immigrant household in the Pacific Northwest, and her adventures living and working as a chef and videographer all along the West Coast.
Writer Alicia Jo Rabins shares beautifully: “Braids is more than a collection of delicious recipes; it’s also a quilt of sacred stories about the relationship between food, culture, diaspora, and community. Between recipes for marionberry rugelach and the perfect challah, Sonya Sanford writes beautifully about coming of age as a chef; the profound relationship between food and Jewish practice; the magic of community; and the simple, transformative power of the vegetable.”
You can pre-order the book here and it will be available on Amazon in early December.
“Love Japan,” a cookbook that came out earlier this year by chefs Sawako Okochi and Aaron Israel, together with food journalist Gabriella Gershenson, is a love letter to Japanese cooking, with a Jewish twist. Okochi and Israel are the owners and founders of Shalom Japan, a charming restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Okochi was raised in Hiroshima, Japan and Israel is an Ashkenazi Jew who grew up on Long Island. Two years after their first date, they opened Shalom Japan, where the couple combined their culinary backgrounds to create a unique menu. The cookbook is dedicated less to dishes from the restaurant and more to Japanese home cooking with some Jewish twists and flavors.
In “Kugels & Collards,” written by Rachel Gordin Barnett and Lyssa Kligman Harvey, you will find plenty of Jewish classics, but it’s the recipes like baked stuffed squab, grits and lox casserole, and kosher collards that tell a uniquely Southern Jewish story. In an interview with my colleague Caleb Guedes-Reed earlier this year, Gordin Barnett shared the stories and personalities behind this important piece of American Jewish food history:
“My grandparents were Ashkenazi so there was the brisket, tzimmes, matzah ball chicken soup, sweet and savory kugels, but the Southern part comes in with the overlaying of the African American influence on the Jewish table. You get the melding of cultures on this table. You might have a brisket and fried chicken for your protein, maybe you’ll have a bowl of collards sitting there. You might have a biscuit sitting in the bread basket next to the challah,” she said.
Written by cookbook author June Hersh, “Iconic New York Jewish Food” was published benefitting Met Council, a New York-based Jewish charity serving more than 315,000 needy people each year. In the book, Hersh writes about Jewish foods that have become New York staples and are closely associated with the food landscape of the city today: bagels, egg creams, cheesecake, hot dogs and much more. The book combines humor, history (the evolution of the hot dog bun, for example) and tons of enticing recipes, like potato latkes made with corned beef and pastrami. You can read more about the book from our partner site The New York Jewish week.
“Shabbat” is the newest cookbook from best-selling author and food writer Adeena Sussman. It’s filled with Sussman’s memories of Shabbat from her childhood in Palo Alto, CA, and some of the simple, flavorful and hearty foods her mother, Steffi, to whom the book is dedicated, prepared. Those dishes are among the 130+ recipes that fill this lush, beautifully written and photographed ode to the global foods of Shabbat.
I had the honor of making a dish from the cookbook earlier this fall with Sussman, and I can’t stop talking about the recipe: ptitim risotto. The recipe combines a technique from Libyan Jewish cuisine where spinach (or in this case, Swiss chard) is fried in oil until it’s inky, crispy and something all together different from how most Americans think of leafy greens. Israeli couscous is cooked up along with whole zucchini, and then a sauce is made with butter, garlic and sage. The elements all come together in an absolutely delicious, complex and comforting dish. If you’re not convinced yet, check out Sussman’s recipe for fig and pomegranate brisket.
Limor Chen’s first cookbook “My Tel Aviv Table” is a love letter to the beaches, diversity and vibrant cuisine of the city where she spent her formative years. Her and her husband Amir brought that cuisine to London, where they feature fusion Eastern Mediterranean home cooking at their two restaurants. Chen’s recipes are inspired by the melting pot of Tel Aviv flavors and her mixed roots: her father’s family came from Iran, while her mother’s side hailed from Odessa. Touching photos and stories of her family pepper the book. Like Israeli British chef Yotam Ottolenghi, Chen’s recipes are vegetable-forward and vibrant, but not quite as involved or fussy. The book also includes lots of helpful how-tos on incorporating common Israeli ingredients like pickles, sumac, labneh and za’atar.