by Bonnie S. Benwick
King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking Around the World
by Joan Nathan
Alfred A. Knopf
April 2017 / $35
It seems that all the scholarship and experience of the beloved and acclaimed Washington author culminate in this, her eleventh book. Nathan makes a convincing case that the story of Jewish cuisine begins with traders who made their way from Judea to India during Solomon’s reign in the 10th century BCE, and she charts many of the subsequent culinary routes herself, connecting the likes of cheesecake and stuffed cabbage eaten in diverse lands. One dives into King Solomon knowing that the notes accompanying each recipe will be as enriching as the dishes themselves—a testament to the author’s prowess as a culinary historian and chronicler of Jewish cooks. Who knew that Jewish food fairs in America date back to just after the Civil War? That chopped liver originated in the 11th century in what is now Alsace-Lorraine? That Jewish physicians were the reason why Romans overcame their fears of eating tomatoes and eggplants in the 1700s? The book’s simple and inviting food photography is on par with its content. If the author never produces another cookbook—and we hope that’s not the case—you would think she had been saving the best for last.
Fress: Bold Flavors from a Jewish Kitchen
by Emma Spitzer
April 2017 / $35
This knockout debut cookbook from a 2015 UK’s Masterchef finalist seamlessly blends Ashkenazic and Sephardic culinary heritage. Cooks who are game enough to gather amchur (mango) powder, dried barberries and the Middle Eastern spice blend called baharat will be rewarded with a spectacular yet unfussy zucchini and labneh dish, a beautiful buckwheat salad and a new flavor profile for roast chicken. Spitzer is a Brighton-born travel business entrepreneur who now caters and teaches cooking classes in England. In Fress (“to eat copiously and without restraint,” as translated from Yiddish on the book’s cover), her voice is that of a home cook privileged to be a part of the new food world order, acknowledging her Russian roots, her mother-in-law’s Israeli feasts, British celebrity chef John Torode and cookbook author Claudia Roden. There’s a touch of Yotam Ottolenghi in the book’s images—vegetables that look lush and savory on the plate. Props to the styling team, who make even beef-stuffed artichokes look handsome.
Matzo: 35 Recipes for Passover and All Year Long
by Michele Streit Heilbrun and David Kirschner
March 2017 / $15
With five generations of matzah makers in her family, co-author Heilbrun offers passion and tender memories in this slim recipe collection. Folks who always keep the bread of affliction on hand, or derivatives such as farfel and matzah cake meal, will be familiar with the recipes for granola, “pizza” and matzah crunch. But they’ll also find ways to matzah up chilaquiles, fried chicken and the Roman Passover fritters called pizzarelle. The book is matzah sheet-sized and appropriately dimpled on the cover, which makes it a cheeky gift to match a Seder host’s matzah-patterned napkins and yarmulkes.
From Matzo: 35 Recipes for Passover and All Year Long
Serves six to eight
7 large egg yolks • 1/2 cup sugar • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sweet Marsala wine • 8 ounces cream cheese • 1 cup heavy cream • 1 cup brewed coffee or espresso • 1/4 cup rum • 5 sheets matzah, broken into 2-inch pieces • 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer over medium heat. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.
2. In a large heatproof bowl, whisk together the yolks and sugar. Using the simmering pot as a double boiler, set the bowl on top of the pot, being sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl, and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Add the 1/3 cup Marsala and continue to whisk until the mixture is thick, has doubled in volume, and reads 150oF on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. If you don’t have a thermometer, watch for the ribbon stage: The custard is ready once thick, pale-yellow ribbons form and hold their shape.
3. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the cream cheese until fully incorporated. Set the bowl in the prepared ice bath, touching the water, and continue to whisk until the custard begins to cool down, 3 to 4 minutes. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Let sit in the ice bath until fully cooled, about 20 minutes.
4. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining two tablespoons wine and the coffee and rum. In a medium bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture to lighten. Add half the matzahs and soak for 30 to 40 seconds, until it begins to soften. Arrange them in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish, then evenly spread with half the chilled custard. Soak the remaining matzahs for 30 to 40 seconds, lay them over the first layer of custard, then top with the remaining custard. Evenly sift the cocoa powder over the top. Wrap the tiramisu with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.