I’m back, with the next installment of my series on the essential elements of a Jewish food library. Today I’m sharing the juicy answers from Laura Silver, author of Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food, and Beth Kanter, author of Washington DC Chef’s Table.
First up, Laura Silver. She’s known as the world’s leading expert on knishes…she’s basically the Elvis of knishes.
You’ll find “a binder of handwritten recipes” she’s collected, “scrawled or stuck there for safe keeping” in Laura’s kitchen along with several bookshelves of edible literary goodness: A Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes from Grandma Fritzie’s Kitchen by Jennifer Felicia Abadi; Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking; The Brooklyn Cookbook by Lyn Stallworth and Rod Kennedy, Jr.; Cooking with Joyva: 19 Nutritious Delicious Recipes Made with Joyva Sesame Tahini; Flushing (Queens) Rotary Club International Friendship Cookbook; Lucid Food by Louisa Shafia; Sundays at the Moosewood Restaurant by the Moosewood Collective; Still Life with Menu by Mollie Katzen; and What To Cook When You Think There’s Nothing in the House to Eat by Arthur Schwartz.
Silver also tells me she ends up tumbling down Internet rabbit holes when she clicks on the daily search alerts for her book. Take a moment to consider the greatness of a daily email search alert devoted entirely to knishes…why didn’t we think of this sooner?
Turns out that when you ask food writers to tell you what they’re reading, their responses are as artfully arranged as the perfect bite of bagel/cream cheese/lox.
Here’s a small glimpse into Laura’s creative process via Jewish food resources: “I had Save the Deli (David Sax) in my kitchen for the longest time, not to cook from, but just because it looked good in the nook next to the window, along with Maria Balinska’s The Bagel. Surrounding myself with finished books was really important when I was in the thick of writing Knish. Now that nook has newspapers and magazines. It’s a fertile corner.”
From one New York–born Jewish food writer to another… Beth Kanter fell in love with DC and made the move from the Big Apple to Beltway Insider. I would be attempting to pull the latke over your eyes if I didn’t disclose this fact: Kanter is a great friend, and we collaborated on the Washington DC Chef’s Table. When I was cooking up my dream interview list for this series, Beth was at the top. So now that you’re picturing the two of us gallivanting through the streets of DC with hamantashen and egg creams in our hands (a food photographer can dream), here are her reading suggestions…
Without knowing it, Kanter gave a shout-out to balaboosta (Yiddish for homemaker, perfect cook and hostess) Shannon Sarna, also included in this series. “I am a big fan of the food section of Tablet magazine. I like how the magazine approaches food through a Jewish lens and how it combines traditions old and new—like how they recently ran a recipe for a candy-filled challah when Friday night met Halloween this year,” says Kanter. Who developed that candy-filled challah recipe? Ms. Sarna, that’s who.
Kanter’s morning inbox usually contains emails from Eater, Eater DC and Tasting Table. She adds that Epicurious, Smitten Kitchen, Food52, Saveur and The Kitchn are also regulars on her screen as well.
I’ve spent lots of time in Kanter’s kitchen and can attest to the presence of a really good cookbook collection. I asked her to describe her faves. “I love everything about Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s stunning Jerusalem: A Cookbook. The recipes, the photographs, the stories, the concept, the writing—love it all. I reach for California Kosher time and time again, and the pages of our copy have the food stains and dog-eared corners to prove it. I make a doctored-up version of the artichoke dip that still gets me rave reviews—I quadruple the garlic and use both sour cream and mayonnaise. The original Kosher by Design is another old reliable title for me. I might not use it for months but then always manage to rediscover it.”
Are your shelves still in need of some additional Jewishly food-centric content? Have no fear… I’ll be back next week with the last installment in this series.
Top photo: Soupergirl’s West African Peanut Stew from Washington DC Chef’s Table.