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Kosher Cookbooks 2.0

Kosher Cookbooks 2.0

Glossy pictures, healthy living and iPad apps are just some of the ingredients making up a 21st-century Jewish recipe collection.

Gone are the days of the spiral-bound, synagogue-issued cookbooks, with six untested instructions for broccoli kugel, recipes printed five to a page and no photos in sight. Today’s kosher cookbooks are filled with tried and tested recipes, full-page color photos, tips for healthy living — and may not even be printed at all.

For a cookbook that can double as a coffee table conversation starter, pick up “Kosher Elegance” by Efrat Libfroind. Each of the 115 recipes in this eye-catching new book is accompanied by a glossy, full-color photograph. The chapters range from the simple brunch and hors d’ouevres to the whimsical “layers and sushi” (a variety of foods presented in roll or stacked form). There are recipes for five-ingredient chicken, or a 22-ingredient, four-step Chocolate Halva Roulade. Chicken stir-fry is stacked between slices of sweet potato, and salmon mousse is rolled up in roasted red peppers and sliced in to medallions.

Libfroind, a pastry chef living in Israel, said that including photos for each recipe was crucial. “When I look through a book, I look at the picture first and then the recipe,” she said, adding that she is more likely to cook something that has a photograph. The book is heavy on dessert recipes and many that are intricate, with multiple steps and a focus on presentation.

“Anyone can do any recipe” from the savory sections of the book, said Libfroind, but she acknowledges that “the chocolate requires a little more attention..and a lot of patience.”

“Kosher Elegance” was published in Hebrew in Israel earlier this year, before being translated to English.

While Libfroind’s book may shake up the printed Jewish cookbook world, Ofer Vardi is looking to bypass it entirely. His newest offering, “Going Paprikash,” is published exclusively on the iPad and iPhone. It offers traditional Hungarian recipes from Vardi’s grandmother, alongside photographs, Hungarian music and home videos.

“This is the future,” said Vardi, a Tel Aviv-based reporter. “Maybe it’s already the present.” He noted that it is “much more fun” to cook this way, with “nostalgic movies, Hungarian music playing in the kitchen.” The application also includes built-in shopping lists, and kitchen timers
for cooking and baking.

This is not Vardi’s first time playing with the traditional cookbook format. His first book, “Goulash Lagolesh,” (Hebrew for “goulash for the surfer”) which is the basis for the application, eschewed the standard cookbook layout, by providing each recipe on cards that can be torn out of the book, and kept in a recipe box or stuck on the refrigerator. The free version of the iPad or iPhone application includes 10 sample recipes; you can get all 120 — including cherry soup, liver pate and cheese dumplings — for $3.99.

If you’re looking to explore more than just Hungarian food, pick up “Recipes Remembered,” by June Feiss Hersh. Instead of chapters for entrees, salads or desserts, the book is organized geographically, with section titles like Poland, Belgium and France. The book, subtitled “A Celebration of Survival,” gathers the recipes, stories and histories of Holocaust survivors from all over Europe, to bring their family dishes to the current generation.

“The women said they cook in the style of their childhood because that’s the way they can connect back to their family,” said Feiss Hersh, who interviewed more than 75 survivors and their ancestors for the book.

Ruth Schloss, who traveled from Germany to France to the United States through the Kindertransport children’s rescue program, contributed a recipe for spaetzle with cooked dried fruit, a traditional German dish.

Celia Kener lived in the ghetto in Lvov, Poland, before being hidden with a Christian family for the remainder of the war. She shared a recipe for un-stuffed cabbage, a shortcut on the traditional Polish dish known as Holishkes.

And while some may see the book as a lighthearted approach to a serious topic, Feiss Hersh took the utmost care in presenting the stories of survivors. “The people I spoke to are happy, they’re joyful,” she said. “They don’t make light of the experience, but they are also not mired in tragedy.”

Some have critiqued her decision to include recipes from professional contributors, like Joan Nathan and Mark Bittman. Feiss Hersh consulted with them to provide recipes for those survivors with strong memories of a dish, but no recipe or details. Feiss Hersh, who considered herself “a good home cook,” turned to experienced chefs “when I had a survivor who describes something she ate as a child and I didn’t begin to know how to create it.”

The proceeds of the book go to benefit New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. The first printing, of 2,000 copies, sold out, and the second is available now.

The celebrated cookbook author and former owner of Levana kosher restaurant in Manhattan is out to change your whole eating lifestyle. Levana Kirschenbaum didn’t set out to write a diet book, and in fact considers her newest cookbook, “The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen,” to be “a culmination of my life’s work.” The book emphasizes eating “whole foods” — ingredients that are fresh, unprocessed and unrefined, with all their nutrients intact. “Just by switching to whole foods,” said Kirschenbaum, “everybody looks better, feels better, acts better.”

From starters to dessert, Kirschenbaum offers recipes with simple and recognizable ingredients — like roasted salmon with maple glaze, Moroccan turkey patties with lemon sauce, and chocolate beet coconut cake. There are three indexes in the book: general, gluten-free and Passover.

Though Kirschenbaum worked for over two years putting the book together — which includes tips for healthy living and guidelines from a nutritionist — the finished product had some “major, major glitches,” she said. Though all the content are there, the layout and feel of the finished product are not up to Kirschenbaum’s standards, and she is republishing the book in about six months. But she urges people to still check out the low-priced current version, with all 350 recipes intact — “just call it your Passover copy.”

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