Home July 2010 Cooking and Culture

Cooking and Culture

Simply Southern With a Dash of Kosher Soul is a compilation of nearly 300 of the best recipes submitted to the cookbook’s editorial committee at the Margolin Hebrew Academy, a small Jewish day school in Memphis, Tennessee.  They are traditional kosher recipes turned Southern and traditional Southern recipes turned kosher.  The cookbook also features the personal stories of several contributing families and the role that food has played in their lives.  The cookbook, which has already sold nearly 2,500 copies in the U.S., Canada, and Israel, is edited by Tracy Rapp and Dena Wruble.

Three years ago, friends of the Margolin Hebrew Academy/Feinstone Yeshiva of the South set out to collect, edit, and preserve the distinct tastes of Southern kosher cooking. While both Southern cooking and kosher cooking have been accorded prominent places within American cuisine, little is known and almost nothing has been published regarding the small Jewish communities of the South whose multi-generational families have blended these two culinary traditions in their own unique way for almost two centuries.

The new cookbook, Simply Southern: With a Dash of Kosher Soul, serves to bring this hidden gem of American cooking to the kitchens across the country and around the world.  Originally conceived as a fund-raiser for the school, Simply Southern has become so much more.  Under the direction of a group of volunteers, hundreds of recipes were culled from kosher southern cooks of all ages and backgrounds, and then vetted, tasted, and sampled to find those that represented the best of southern kosher cooking.  In the end, nearly 300 recipes were chosen, rewritten with clear and easy to follow instructions, and then combined with stunning glossy pictures and a narrative that tells the stories of kosher southern cooks and their love of Jewish soul food.

Simply Southern With a Dash of Kosher Soul is available at Jewish and general interest bookstores in the U.S., Canada, and Israel, as well as online at www.simplysoutherncookbook.net.  For more information contact editors Dena Wruble and Tracy Rapp at (866) 715-7667.

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As many Jewish households can attest, kosher desserts can often fall in two categories: dry and drier.  Not anymore.  With the publication of The Kosher Baker (Brandeis University Press; $35/hardcover) pastry chef and author Paula Shoyer is declaring a new era in pareve desserts, where people who keep kosher now have access to the same fabulous desserts as everyone else.

Shoyer has spent over 15 years perfecting her recipes and techniques, and can convert any naysayer who thinks desserts need butter or cream to be sublime.  In The Kosher Baker, Shoyer shares her baking insight and over 160 sumptuous recipes including pareve versions of traditional favorites, updates on kosher classics, and treats you never thought could be dairy-free (like the typically butter-laden French pastries including Madeleines, Profiteroles, Tarte Tatin, and Crème Brûlée).  Shoyer even takes away the “no time to bake” excuse, as over 50 recipes have a prep time of 15 minutes or less.

Along with recipes, Shoyer includes a plethora of tips like getting a head start on Rosh Hashanah by baking in August, and advice on storage, freezing, and thawing; as well as tools, must-have ingredients and a source list.

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Jane Ziegelman offers a richly detailed investigation, complete with recipes, of how immigrant food became American food in 97 Orchard,, An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement (Smithsonian, 253 pages, $25.99).  The portrait of immigrant life on Manhattan’s Lower East Side focuses on five families — German-Jewish, Russian-Jewish, German, Irish, and Italian — and the kitchens of the apartments they occupied at 97 Orchard St. between 1863 and 1935.

Ziegelman researched census data, family documents, newspapers, cookbooks, and memoirs to come up with a story of how immigrant food influenced the cuisine of the locals.   As earning power increased, the immigrants were able to prepare the foods they knew back home.  The book even includes a recipe for zesty kosher dill pickles which, according to the author, Americans once believed were a form of stimulant that might lead children to alcohol abuse in later life.

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In Jewish Holiday Cooking (Wiley; 592 pages; $32.50), Jayne Cohen shares a wide-ranging collection of traditional Jewish recipes, as well as inventive new creations and contemporary variations on the classic dishes.  She offers an engaging reference guide to Jewish holiday cooking and celebrations featuring more than two hundred tempting recipes for eight major Jewish holidays –Shabbat, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Hanukkah, Purim, Passover, and Shavuot — including both classic dishes and innovative variations, along with personal reminiscences and Jewish historical notes.
For home cooks, drawing from the rich traditions of Jewish history when cooking for the holidays can be a daunting task.  Jewish Holiday Cooking comes to the rescue with recipes drawn from Jayne Cohen’s first book, The Gefilte Variations — called an “outstanding debut” by Publisher’s Weekly — as well as more than 100 new recipes and information on cooking for the holidays.

Cohen provides practical advice and creative suggestions on everything from setting a Seder table with ritual objects to accommodating vegan relatives.  The book is organized around the major Jewish holidays and includes nearly 300 recipes and variations, plus suggested menus tailored to each occasion, all conforming to kosher dietary laws.  The book offers personal reminiscences and tales from Jewish lore as well as nostalgic black and white photography from Cohen’s own family history.

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