"Jewish cooking" news and stories
'Love and Knishes: An Irrepressible Guide to Jewish Cooking'
Recipes by Sara Kasdan
Illustrations by Louis Slobodkin
The Vanguard Press, 1956
Buy it at Amazon
Dedicated "To the Wonderful Women Who Never Cooked from a Book," Sara Kasdan's Love and Knishes (1956) is both a very traditional Jewish cookbook (with recipes for knaidlech and kugel) and a fascinating, funny historical document of mid-century attitudes about cooking, ethnicity, and health. Kasdan wrote her book at a time when, as she writes witheringly in a chapter titled You Can Be Normal, Too, Why Not? "Nowadays, everything is psychology...everybody has complexes." Interspersed with her recipes for tzimmes and kasha varnitchkes is a caustic sense of humor that makes the tome compulsively readable. Kasdan's audience is a generation of women whose instincts and traditions were about to get run off the road by everything from Julia Child and processed foods to cookbooks purporting to teach them what they already knew.
Takeaway Tips: Look for the double entendres: Kasdan's one-page chapter about salads is called "Papa Called it Grass." She suffers none of the pretensions or guilt of modern cookbook writer, and the book is a festival of schmaltz, sour cream and refined carbohydrates. A helpful glossary defines foods like lox ("A partner to bagels") and kreplach ("Chinese definition: Won Ton; Italian definition: ravioli.") And all of the chapters come with lengthy anecdotes about everything from picky husbands to Rosh Hashana strudel.
Quality of Illustrations: Crude but hilarious.
Though some Jewish food mavens may beg to differ, we think few dishes are as associated with the children of Israel as gefilte fish. While not as easy-to-love as blintzes, as versatile as horseradish or as soothing as chicken soup, the ubiquitous balls of ground fish make a fine appetizer for almost any holiday meal.
Gefilte fish, which takes its name from gefüllte, the German word for "stuffed," was traditionally made using finely ground pike or carp mixed with eggs, onion, flour, seasonings and either matzoh meal or challah bread. It was then packed into the skin of a deboned fish, poached with onions and carrots, chilled and sliced. Today gefilte fish is typically formed into patties and served cold. It is often preserved in a jellied fish broth and commonly accompanied by horseradish and a slice of carrot.
While gefilte fish isn't one of the symbolic foods on the Passover Seder Plate, it is a traditional part of the meal in many households. Part of its popularity lies in the cultural significance underlying its preparation: Since one can buy it deboned, it doesn't require work at the table, which means that it can be eaten during the Sabbath when work is forbidden. Another benefit is that fish is parve, so kosher consumers can eat it on the same plate with either meat or dairy foods.
Another reason for the aqueous critter's lingering popularity lies in its economy. Originally developed in Europe's Ashkenazi Jewish community, gefilte fish balls incorporated cereals and fillers to stretch the fish itself. The fish was class-free -- accessible enough for the poorest member of a community, yet glitzy enough for the most wealthy.
Today gefilte fish continues to be a popular and enduring cultural motif. On one end of the spectrum, enterprising chefs like Wolfgang Puck are finding ways to make it more exciting; on the other, a strong market for the traditional ground fish and stuffing survives. Brett Werner, manager of Miami Beach's popular Roasters' n Toasters deli, estimates that his store has sold approximately 200 quarter-pound pieces of the fish for this year's Passover already!
How do you feel about gefilte fish?
The book is organized by the Jewish holiday calendar and so opens with recipes appropriate for celebrating Rosh Hashanah. A key at the beginning of the book reminds us that traditional foods for this holiday include Honey and Apple (to remind us that life is sweet), Honey Cake (delicious stuff if done right) and Tzimmes of Carrot (which according to the recipe in this book includes carrot, potato, sweet potato and beef brisket, although I find that it is most frequently made as a carrot-based sweet side dish).
While this cookbook has an unfortunate fondness for foods molded in rings (also, much like my Aunt Doris) the recipes are wonderful for people who want to evoke a sense of classic, Americanized Jewish holiday cookery. In addition to offering recipes for every Jewish holiday, it also offers sections on Sabbath cooking as well as recipes to make home celebrations (like weddings and bar/bas mitzvah ceremonies) more festive.
Filed under: Cookbook Spotlight
When I called my mom for cookie recipes that were appropriate to Hanukkah, she said that she didn't think cookies were particularly big during Hanukkah. Then she dug out her Jewish Festival cookbook (from 1953) in order to confirm her suspicion. Not content with that answer, I put out a call to some of my friends to see if anyone had their own traditional Hanukkah cookie recipe. My friend Megan responded with her grandmother's Mandelbrot recipe.
It's a good cookie, sort of like a Jewish biscotti (only much gentler on the teeth). I especially like the fact that the way to get those streaks of dark in the light is by taking out some of the batter and stirring in an insane amount of cinnamon. It leaves the cookies highly flavored but not overpoweringly cinnamon-y. Check out the recipe, after the jump.
My real Jewish friends are off tonight having a "Break Passover" party, a little "celebration" where they're going to indulge in all those foods they couldn't eat for eight days - yeasted breads, cakes, pretty much anything that contains wheat, all of which were replaced during the Passover holiday with matzo.
Since the holiday is over, there might be a lot of leftover matzo. Sure, eating it at three meals for eight days, one might get sick of the hard, cracker-like flatbread, but no one ever gets sick of matzo ball soup. How could they? Matzo ball soup doesn't cause sickness, it cures it. It's known as Jewish penicillin, great for anytime of the year.