Cook up some gift ideas

We've sifted through the slew of new kosher cookbooks on the market.

polenta 88 (photo credit: )
polenta 88
(photo credit: )
With Hanukka in full swing and your gift radar on high, you may want to buy any of the several new must-have cookbooks for your favorite chef. (All are available on-line, in case you can't find them here.) Susie Fishbein, in collaboration with Bonnie Taub-Dix, national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, has created another book in her Kosher by Design series. This book is an introduction to eating more healthily, but deliciously and nutritiously. I must admit that at first glance I was not terribly impressed with the book. I lent it to Judy Kiser, a friend who is a registered dietician, to get a professional opinion. Kiser was impressed, which made me take a closer look. After a more thorough examination, I changed my opinion. This is a book for those who are trying to eat more healthily, but not give up eating well. Like the other books in the series, there are over 145 recipes and 175 beautiful, scrumptious full-color photographs. There are sections on How to Lighten Up, Supermarket Savvy, Definitions, Superfoods and explanations of the various types of flour, grains, oils, sugars and ideas for entertaining while lightening up. Each recipe has a comment about its nutrition, although there are no nutritional analyses of the recipes - which is generally de rigueur in diet or healthy-cooking books. Fishbein affirms that "this is not a diet cookbook. It's not about numbers or nutritional analysis; it's about becoming a more knowledgeable eater." With these recipes you don't have to give up the foods you love, just lighten them up. An example is an appetizer recipe for Pastrami-Wrapped Stuffed Figs. The suggested portion size can fill your craving for pastrami while including the fiber-rich sweetness of the fig (a super high-fiber fruit packed with potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium). There are lightened-up but delicious recipes for Healthy Deli Rolls, Glazed Turkey Roast with Cranberry Chutney, Creamy Garlic Salad, Fudge Brownie Torte, Peanut Butter Pizza, and Banana-Chocolate Strudel. The foods of the Jewish table are global by nature, reflecting the flavors of the countries where Jews have settled. They also have their roots in tradition. Ashkenazi and Sephardi foods are very different, but cross-cultural marriages and the intermingling of different people have blurred the boundaries. Marlena Spieler is a passionate cook who discovered her love of cooking while living in Israel as a teenager. She has written several cookbooks, including a No. 1 best-seller, a winner of Best Cookbook in the World at the World Gourmand Awards 2000 and two James Beard short-listed awards. This new book presents an eclectic mix of Jewish cooking, from the traditional Ashkenazi dishes our grandparents brought with them from eastern Europe (Hungarian Cherry Soup, Kasha and Mushroom Knishes, Polish Apple Cake) to the delicious Sephardi recipes of Spain, Turkey and the Arab countries (Dag Hasfarim, Stuffed Polenta Fritters, Tunisian Almond Cigars), to the modern Jewish cooking of America, Italy, India and England (Salad with Watermelon and Feta Cheese, Lamb with Globe Artichokes, Cauliflower with Garlic Crumbs). Besides providing a wealth of recipes to choose from, the book contains a nutritional analysis of each recipe, over 220 mouth-watering photographs and a section which explores the culinary history of the Jewish people. This is definitely a winner of a cookbook and one you'll want to have. REBECCHINE DE JERUSALEMME These stuffed polenta fritters come from the Jewish community of Italy. Polenta, cooked to a thick consistency and poured out to cool into a firm bread-like mixture, is the "bread" of these tiny fried sandwiches. Makes 6 servings 4 11⁄2 cups polenta 4 2 to 3 Tbsp. tomato paste 4 2 to 3 Tbsp. diced ripe fresh or canned chopped tomatoes 4 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary 4 2 to 3 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese 4 130 gr. mozzarella, gorgonzola or fontina cheese, finely chopped 4 1⁄2 vegetable and 1⁄2 olive oil for frying 4 1 to 2 eggs, lightly beaten 4 All-purpose flour, for dusting 4 Salt 4 Diced red bell pepper, shredded lettuce and rosemary sprigs, to garnish In a large pan, combine the polenta with 1 cup cold water and stir. Add 3 cups boiling water, bring to a boil and cook, stirring, for 30 minutes, until the mixture is thick and no longer grainy. Season. Pour into an oiled baking dish, forming a layer 1.5 cm. thick. Chill. Using a 6 to 7-cm. cookie cutter, cut the polenta into rounds. Combine the tomato puree with the tomatoes. Spread a little of the mixture on the soft, moist side of a polenta round, sprinkle with rosemary and a little cheese, then top with another round of polenta. Press the edges together. Fill the remaining polenta rounds in the same way. Pour a 5-cm. depth of oil into a large frying pan and heat until hot enough to brown a cube of bread in 30 seconds. Dip a sandwich into the egg, then coat with flour. Fry for 4-5 minutes, turning once. Drain and cook the remaining polentas in the same way. Garnish with pepper, lettuce and rosemary. Ronnie Fein, the author of two previous cookbooks, in this book offers delicious, quick and modern recipes that adhere to traditional Jewish dietary laws for the modern kosher family, relying on ingredients that are readily available in local supermarkets. Many of the recipes include menu suggestions, and sidebars provide variations and helpful prep hints about ingredients and tools. Fein paraphrases a famous slogan, saying "You don't have to be Jewish to eat or cook kosher food." She describes halal, permitted Muslim foods, and notes that Muslims and other non-Jews, including vegetarians, vegans, those with certain allergies or lactose intolerance are turning to kashrut as a cleaner, purer, more humane - or healthier - way to eat. The book features versatile recipes for all occasions: Pumpkin Bisque with Curry Pear, Steak Salad with Mustard-Shallot Vinaigrette, Warm Lentil Salad with Sausage, Curried Quinoa Stir-Fry, Banana and Honeyed-Fudge Sauce Sundaes. It is a fun cookbook with a fortune of unusual and quick-to-prepare recipes you'll want to try. CURRIED QUINOA STIR-FRY Quinoa is fairly new to many, but it has been around for thousands of years. The beads are small and crunchy and have a nutty flavor. You can use quinoa like rice; serve it plain or as a salad, casserole or pilaf. It's high in fiber and protein, making it a healthy choice. It is important to rinse the grains under cold water to remove the bitterness, but most packaged brands are already rinsed. Makes 4 servings 4 1 cup quinoa 4 1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil 4 1 medium onion, chopped 4 1⁄2 small red bell pepper, chopped 4 1⁄2 cup thawed frozen peas 4 1⁄4 cup chopped dried apricots 4 1⁄4 cup toasted cashews 4 1 tsp. curry powder 4 Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 4 1 cup firm tofu, cut into cubes 4 1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat and add the quinoa. Lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Set aside. Heat the olive oil in a wok, stir-fry pan or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add the peas, apricots, cashews, curry powder and salt and pepper to taste, and cook for 1 minute. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring to distribute ingredients evenly. Add the tofu and toss the ingredients gently. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until the ingredients are hot. Dish out and sprinkle with parsley. This delightful, kid-friendly cookbook is designed to give kids the experience of working in the kitchen. It is a compilation of recipes that appeared in the Binah Bunch Magazine. The book is beautifully illustrated with full-color photographs of each recipe. The recipes, such as Pizza, Hot Pretzels, Potato Knishes, Cucumber Salad, Play-Doh Cookies and Refreshing Fruit Salad, have clear instructions and safety precautions. There are sections entitled Caution in the Kitchen, Safety Tips, Measuring and Measurements and dictionaries of basic cooking, baking and mixing terms. It encourages kids to create their own recipes. I highly recommend this as a Hanukka or birthday gift for any child over the age of seven.