Hungry for more

Three new kosher cookbooks offer a range of options – from broad to niche

Cranberry chocolate chunk cookies (photo credit: COURTESY ARTSCROLL)
Cranberry chocolate chunk cookies
(photo credit: COURTESY ARTSCROLL)
THE SILVER PLATTER By Danielle Silver with Norene Gilletz ArtScroll Mesorah 336 pages; $34.99
Something for everyone
The extensive new kosher cookbook The Silver Platter is a collaboration between a young mom, Danielle Silver, and an experienced cookbook writer, Norene Gilletz. Between the two of them, they’ve come up with more than 160 recipes for appetizers, soups, salads, fish, poultry, meat, dairy, side dishes and of course – desserts.
The recipes are mostly from the repertoire and imagination of Silver, with Gilletz on hand to offer tips and techniques to the reader.
Each recipe is marked whether it works for Passover, is gluten-free and can be frozen. An index in the back lists the nutritional information for each dish – a nice plus (and it is smart to tuck it away in the back for those who aren’t interested).
The book is well laid out, with clear directions, and the tips from Gilletz are a nice touch. The full-page color photos of each dish are mostly fresh and appetizing looking, though a few are surprisingly and unfortunately out of focus.
Overall, the recipes are a good mix of easy and more complex, with a nice focus on fresh ingredients, though a fair amount also call for canned staples.
Some recipes are very simple and will appeal to only a starter cook – roasted cauliflower, sweet-potato soup, chocolate- dipped pretzels. But even a more advanced chef will be eager to try out crunchy corned-beef strips; halibut, grapefruit and spinach salad; bourbon marinated prime rib; or wild rice with roasted peppers and candied almonds.
A girl after my own heart, Silver doesn’t skimp on desserts, offering cranberry cornflake biscotti; rocky road brownie cake; and halva cheesecake, among many others.
The Silver Platter is an attractive and comprehensive look at cooking kosher that has something for everyone – even as a coffee-table book for a non-cook.
JEWISH SOUL FOOD By Carol Ungar Brandeis University Press 224 pages; $27.95
From Hungary to Yemen
Unfortunately for Carol Ungar, the most memorable thing about her cookbook, Jewish Soul Food, is what it lacks – a single color photo. There are sporadic illustrations, which are sometimes helpful but mostly not, and small black-and-white photos of the different hallot. While once upon a time a kosher cookbook without color images would have been enough for home cooks, grateful for recipes adapted to their needs, today they expect much, much more.
Leaving that aside, Ungar has created a comprehensive look at traditional Jewish dishes from around the globe, from Poland to Hungary, Germany, Italy, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Morocco and everywhere in between. No part of Jewish culinary life is skimped on, including every holiday and life-cycle event.
Recipes provided for Shabbat cycle through homemade wine for kiddush to eight halla variations, pickled herring for the third meal and even homemade bagels for melaveh malka. Of course Rosh Hashana through Shavuot are covered, but so is Tu Bishvat (Etrog Confit), Lag Ba’omer (Bar Yohai Carob Fudge Bars) and Tisha Be’av (Existential Lentil Soup).
Each holiday gets its own explanation, and each recipe includes a note about its origin and link to the occasion.
The book is a wonderful introduction to the holidays and rituals of the religion, but someone with a strong background will find little new in its pages.
In the end, Ungar’s idea is well-covered ground in a large number of published cookbooks, most of which are hundreds of times more visually appealing.
SPIRITUAL KNEADING THROUGH THE JEWISH MONTHS By Dahlia Abraham-Klein Shamashi Press 174 pages; $24.95 Baking bread on a higher level
More so than almost any other food in Jewish life, bread – and specifically halla – plays a special role. Halla is not just the central food at every Shabbat meal; even making the bread is imbued with layers of significance in Jewish ritual. Enter Dahlia Abraham- Klein, whose new book, Spiritual Kneading Through the Jewish Months, approaches halla baking with a higher calling in mind.
Her book is certainly not just a cookbook; in fact, in a way it is hardly a cookbook at all. It contains fewer than 20 recipes, some of which are more accurately described as ideas for shaping and decorating loaves.
More than a cookbook, Spiritual Kneading is a guide. It is ostensibly designed for women’s groups that meet once a month on Rosh Hodesh and bake halla together. The book is divided into 13 chapters – one for each month in the Jewish calendar (including Adar Bet). Each month gets a corresponding recipe – from rose-shaped halla with raisins and rosewater to three-strand carrot raisin halla – but also a theme corresponding to the Jewish rites or rituals from that month. Within the theme are topics for meditation, things to discuss while the dough rises and reflective questions linked to holidays and customs.
The month of Tishrei – which is host to the High Holy Days – gets a recipe for spiral halla with apple and silan. As the dough rises, readers are encouraged to discuss the idea of teshuva, or repentance, and its four steps: confession, regret, abandonment and resolution.
Spiritual Kneading is a very niche book that would be a wonderful present – if you can find the right person to give it to.