Jewish Journal


April 3, 2003

From Page to Plate

For tasty Pesach dishes, look no farther than your bookshelf.


Passover cooking becomes more fun each year with the publication of glossy new kosher cookbooks brimming with creative suggestions for elegant and enticing Passover dishes.

Whether you are planning your seder menu, looking for a memorable Passover gift, or you just want a break from cleaning, salivate over the scrumptious recipes in these cookbooks from master chefs and food writers.

"The Hadassah Jewish Holiday Cookbook: Traditional Recipes from Contemporary Kosher Kitchens" (Hugh Lauter Levin, 2003), edited by Joan Schwartz Michel, is a gorgeously photographed collection of 250 recipes from Hadassah's great cooks -- Ashkenazic and Sephardic -- in America and Israel. Commentaries on holidays and their foods by Jewish cuisine experts like Joan Nathan and Claudia Roden precede each section. The extensive Passover section features seven types of charoset, from a Suriname cherry jam and dried fruit recipe to the Persian version studded with pistachios, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, dates, apples, pears and gingerroot. Try Traditional Chopped Liver, Apple-Spiced Brisket or Chicken Marrakesh baked with olives, cumin, thyme, apricots, figs, brown sugar and pecans. For dessert, whip up an Egyptian Sephardic-style Orange Cake; or please kids and adults with Matzah Brickle, Chocolate Pudding Cake and Lemon Squares.  

"Adventures in Jewish Cooking" (Clarkson Potter, 2002) presents the innovative cuisine of Jeffrey Nathan, executive chef of Abigail's Restaurant in Manhattan and host of the PBS series, "New Jewish Cuisine." Alongside creative alternatives like Latin American Ceviche instead of gefilte fish, Nathan offers "heritage" recipes like classic chopped liver. Date charoset gets an extra kick with the addition of diced mango and quartered red grapes; chicken soup goes Sephardic with saffron matzah balls; sweet oranges, smoky trout and raddichio blend in an unusual salad; and wild mushroom-farfel dressing complements a rack of veal. End on a light note with Banana Cake and Strawberry Marsala Compote, or go all the way with the crunchy, creamy combo of Matzah Napoleon with White Chocolate Mousse. Salivating yet?  

"Levana's Table: Kosher Cooking for Everyone" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2002), offers 150 recipes from Levana Kirschenbaum, owner of Manhattan's kosher gourmet Levana Restaurant. Directions for creating homemade condiments like preserved lemons and fiery Moroccan harissa will come in handy when adding pizzaz to the Passover palate. The cookbook is divided by courses (appetizers/soups/salads and so on, with a section on favorites from the restaurant and even a kosher wine list), but cull through the book for numerous recipes that can be made for Passover (some with minor adjustments) like the nondairy Cream of Broccoli and Watercress Soup and Tricolor Ribbon Salad with Cider-Shallot Dressing. Her suggested Passover menu: Trout Stuffed With Gefilte Fish in Jellied Broth; Matzah Ball Soup; Brisket in Sweet and Sour Sauce; Cider-Roasted Turkey with Dried Fruit Stuffing; Artichokes and Carrots in Lemon Sauce; Potato Kugel; Almond-Wine Cake; and Poached Pears With Chocolate Sauce.  

Chef Joyce Goldstein explores Sephardic foods in her newest cookbook, "Saffron Shores: Jewish Cooking of the Southern Mediterranean" (Chronicle, 2002). As she traces the crosscultural culinary trail of the diaspora, Goldstein explores the spice-infused dishes of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, as well as Judeo-Arabic recipes. Goldstein introduces the book with an informative history of Jews in Muslim lands, description of kosher laws and a selection of menus for holidays. Be aware that Sephardim consider legumes and rice kosher for Passover. Three Passover menus -- two for dinner, one for lunch -- include an emerald soup of pureed peas, beans and greens; a vegetable stew of artichokes, fennel and celery root; a Sabbath stew (akin to cholent) called D'fina; Tunisian Fish Ball Tagine, Whiting and Potato Pie; Moroccan Carrot Salad with Cumin. Oranges, dates, raisins and walnuts star in candied desserts and, strangely enough, there's a candied eggplant, too. 

"Sephardic Israeli Cuisine: A Mediterranean Mosaic," by cooking instructor and author Sheilah Kaufman (Hippocrene, 2002) treads the same ground, from an Israeli perspective. Following an historical overview, Kaufman offers tasty recipes, many of which can be made for Passover. Specifically for the holiday, there are Turkish and Portuguese haroset recipes-both date-based; Meat and Leek Patties; fava bean Soup; Moroccan apricot lamb shanks; spinach bake; sweet potato cake, and sponge cake.

"Tastes of Jewish Tradition: Recipes, Activities & Stories for the Whole Family," by Jody Hirsh, Idy Goodman, Aggie Goldenholtz and Susan Roth (JCC of Milwaukee, 2002) provides a complete family-friendly holiday experience. Before the pages of 125 recipes even begin, parents and grandparents are invited to delve into each holiday through stories, cartoons, games, activities, craft ideas and a special "Kids in the Kitchen" page. For Passover, there's Matzah Pizza as well as directions for making seder plates, afikoman bags, frog hats, Burning Bush table centerpieces and more. In the recipe section, try Sweet and Sour Meatballs, Easy Eggplant Dip; Honey Pecan Crusted Chicken; Salmon with Brown Sugar and Mustard Glaze; Passover Popovers; Cherry Muffins; Greens Salad Garnished With Fresh Strawberries; "Macaroni" (i.e., farfel) and Cheese; Flourless Chocolate Cake, Mandel Brot and Brownies.

I don't know about you, but suddenly I'm raring to get into the kitchen. With these guidebooks and a little creativity of your own, Passover dishes can be delicious, eclectic, elegant, easy and appetizing.  

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