Due to Passover food restrictions, it is always nice to find cookbooks that offer a variety of new choices for your holiday repertoire and the various meals you prepare. Personally, every year I like to add some new dishes and keep the traditional ones that my family and friends expect.
Today there are also family members and friends with new dietary food restrictions, and it can be hard to translate favorite old recipes to meet these restrictions. Luckily, gluten-free is rarely a problem at Passover, but there are many other allergies and special diets. Hopefully these new books and their recipes will offer you some great new choices.
Yashim Cooks Istanbul: Culinary Adventures in the Ottoman Kitchen by Jason Goodwin (Argonaut Books, 2016)
Jason Goodwin is a bestselling novelist, traveler, historian and terrific cook, and I am fortunate to call him a friend. Goodwin studied Byzantine history at Cambridge University, and in 1990 he hiked on foot across Eastern Europe to Istanbul, covering 2,000 miles. Inspired by what he saw, he wrote an award-winning book, On Foot to the Golden Horn, and then a history of the Ottoman Empire—plus he married his hiking companion, Kate. To feed four children, Goodwin shifted gears and wrote five acclaimed mystery novels set in 19th-century Istanbul, beginning with The Janissary Tree. Translated into 40 languages (including Hebrew), they all feature Yashim, the sultan’s confidential agent, and his friend, the Polish ambassador to Istanbul.
Goodwin believes “cookery works like a passport to another time, another place, so I made my detective Yashim a great cook, to draw people in to a culture and a city which might otherwise seem very far away, and long ago.” Readers of the mystery novels love it when Goodwin describes a quiet evening in, Yashim at the stove, Ambassador Palewski nursing his bison grass vodka on the sofa, picking at a selection of little mezze. Or Yashim in the market, buying cheeses and pastirma and joshing with the Greek greengrocer over tiny fresh eggplant or a basket of fresh zucchini flowers. In those scenes, readers tell him they smell Istanbul.
“Inevitably, they began asking for the recipes in full—and that’s where Yashim Cooks Istanbul comes in.” Goodwin inherited the cooking bug from his mother, a cookbook writer, and so at last the series now has its own illustrated cookbook, packed with recipes, snippets from the novels and evocative pictures of the city, now and then. Though not specifically Jewish, the cookbook captures Mediterranean flavors often common in Sephardic homes.
The New Passover Menu by Paula Shoyer (Sterling Epicure, 2014)
I met Paula Shoyer many years ago when I wanted to write about her first book, The Kosher Baker. She was passionate about baking, a delight to talk to and a lovely hostess, and I loved every one of the baked goodies she served me. I always find it fascinating to find out what authors and craft people did in their “other lives” before they switched careers. Shoyer shared, “I had been a practicing attorney who loved baking, decided to give up my career, go to France and study pastry-making.” Now she teaches cooking and baking classes and is a regular TV guest, contributing food writer (including, of course, for JFE®) and consultant for kosher bakeries. These days she specializes in developing dessert recipes that are dairy-free, sugar-free, gluten-free and/or vegan, in addition to being kosher.
The New Passover Menu, which she released two years ago, deals with the most popular of the Jewish holidays. This book is designed to take the stress and pressure out of preparing meals for the eight-day holiday. The 65 recipes will take you from breakfast to dessert, and you will find new ways to prepare old traditional favorites. “With this book you can enjoy delicious, elegant, inspired Passover meals and create new memories at the same time,” Shoyer guides.
The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods by Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern (Macmillian, 2016)
The Gefilte Manifesto comes to us from the co-owners of The Gefilteria, whose mission is to take old-world Ashkenazic Jewish foods and reimagine them into inspiring and delicious dishes. An exciting, inventive work full of beautiful photos and remarkable creations from gefilte fish to desserts, it also includes lots of history, tips and hints.
Alpern, who now travels extensively around the globe doing food writing and cooking as a recipe tester, educator and entrepreneur, shares, “I grew up in a family where we ate fresh, healthful meals, but I didn’t come from a line of expert cooks. I really dove into cooking by necessity, and I discovered how much I loved trying out new recipes and experimenting with new techniques. Once I started cooking I never stopped, and now it’s me who cooks all of our family meals for holidays and celebrations…I was motivated to do this work for so many reasons especially since I looked around and saw an explosion of food producers and chefs re-exploring their ethnic traditions.” In particular, what Alpern found missing were her own food traditions (Ashkenazi). She felt these foods, if done right, could be flavorful and exciting and continue to develop for a new generation of cooks and eaters.
Yoskowitz became interested in food writing while in college, and with positive feedback just kept writing about food more and more, finding he enjoyed the process. After college, he lived and worked on an organic farm and began blogging to process the experience. Then he moved abroad and started pitching stories about food and how it explains the world to various magazines and newspapers. “I like to think that we ‘reimagine traditions’ rather than reinvent them. It’s inspiring to learn about the wisdom that our ancestors had and how it applies today,” he says.
Traditional Jewish Baking: Retro Recipes Your Grandma Would Make…If She Had a Mixer by Carine Goren (Page Street Publishing, 2016)
This is an unusual book as it recreates new versions of traditional recipes for baked goods, including holiday desserts and even homemade candies. Carine Goren is the self-taught author of a number of baking cookbooks and is the host of Israel’s top baking show. Like many authors, Goren wants to teach others how to make wonderful baked goods simply and without stress while reworking traditional desserts. Her asides, marked “Grandma Knows Best,” are full of techniques, hints and information of how and why recipes work. Reading this book, it’s easy to see why Goren is known as the “Baking Guru of Israel.”