Alright guys. Now haven’t we all had quite enough of Thanksgivukkah by now? Can we just stop with all the turkey-stuffed-sufganiyot-served-with-cranberry-gravy talk? Please?
Pardon my frustration. When I first heard about this year’s confluence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah - a once in a lifetime occurrence - I was excited too. Two of the year’s best food holidays overlapping in a raucous smorgasbord of culinary delights? The anticipation was almost too much to bear. At the same time, I almost immediately began dreading the onslaught of wacky fusion recipes, listicles, and “worst of Thanksgivukkah” roundups that were likely to come. And then did come in droves. The internet really has a way of taking the fun out of things sometimes, you know?
Before I sound like the Grinch who stole Thanksgivukkah, let me say: some very good things have come out of this calendrical phenomenon. Rivka at Not Derby Pie posted a gorgeous recipe for Nutmeg Donuts with Cranberry Curd Filling. And Molly at My Name is Yeh created some very tasty looking Brussels Sprout Latkes with Balsamic Dijon Sour Cream. These, my friends, are the kind of Thanksgivukkah recipes a girl can get behind.
But it’s enough already. Thanksgiving and Hanukkah’s food traditions are so similar already - what with the seasonal root vegetables and tangy-sweet sauces - there is almost no need to improve upon either. And much of the time, trying to find ways to merge, say, tzimmes and pecan pie, like jamming together two mismatched puzzle pieces, ruins both. As a wise friend put it, “Why bother fusing the two holidays? Just celebrate Thanksgiving and then you still have 7 more nights to fry latkes.”
Indeed. And what better way to celebrate than with a festive drink? Like Mulled Apple Cider Sangria. A fusion recipe in its own right, this boozy punch mixes the clove and cinnamon-spiked mulled cider so popular this time of year with a party-friendly drink, red wine sangria. It’s lightly sweet, mellow, and brimming with juicy pieces of fruit. (Use organic if you can, since you don’t peel the fruit.)
Serve it on Hanukkah, alongside a plate stacked high with crispy potato pancakes. Or keep your guests happy before Thanksgiving dinner while your turkey finishes roasting. However and wherever you drink it, enjoy - and make a toast that Thanksgivukkah comes but once a lifetime!
Mulled Apple Cider Sangria
3 cups/710 L apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
zest of 1 orange, plus 1 whole orange, thinly sliced and cut into half moons
1/3 cup/80 ml maple syrup
1 small Granny Smith apple, quartered, core removed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup/85 g halved green or red seedless grapes
1 bottle/750 ml dry red wine
1/4 cup/60 ml brandy
1. Add the cider, cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice, and orange zest to a medium pan set over medium high heat. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat; stir in maple syrup, then allow to cool completely.
2. Strain cooled cider through a fine mesh sieve into a large pitcher. Add the orange slices, apple, grapes, wine, and brandy and mix to combine. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Serve over ice.
Back in high school I did a lot of musical theatre. Meaning, I auditioned for school plays and got cast as a backup dancer. But whether I played the lead role (never happened) or a member of the chorus, I got really into the process.
I loved the long hours of rehearsal, even if I spent most of them reading biology homework on the sidelines. I lived for the camaraderie that formed with my fellow actors, enjoyed the feeling of building toward something, and thrilled over those electric moments just before the show began.
And then. The show’s run would end, the cast parties would dry up, and life would continue as usual. And every time, without variation, I would just completely deflate. All of the excitement that had built up during the show would evaporate, and I would flop around the house with a baffling, empty-at-the-core kind of melancholy.
Turns out, that same feeling applies to manuscripts.
After 10 months of dreaming, testing, tasting, writing, and tweaking, I sent the manuscript for The Modern Jewish Cookbook to my editor at Chronicle. The moment of pressing send was incredible - like flinging the entire contents of my heart into the ether. But barely 1 hour later, on the walk home from a celebratory coffee and almond croissant, that old familiar “What next?” sadness began to settle in.
Maybe you know the feeling?
Now here I am back at the office - or as close to the office as I get, anyway. I am working at a magazine for two weeks, fact checking while they get an issue ready to send to the printer. I am grateful for a bit of stable income to help bridge the gap as I start pitching articles again. But whooo boy, it is a change.
In the meantime, I look forward to lunch. While testing recipes for the cookbook, lunch consisted of whatever I was working on, along with leftovers from the previous day’s work. One day there might be apple cider braised chicken and leftover kasha varnishkes with shiitake mushrooms. The next maybe spiced lentil patties and a batch of butternut squash and sage bourekas.
But now that I am on the 9-5 grind for a while, the temptation to forego making lunch for a few extra minutes of sleep is tempting. Unfortunately the lunch I would then buy - usually some wilted chopped salad or mediocre sandwich purchased within a 4 block radius of the office - is enough to downgrade my already mopey mood into despair.
I am determined to not let that happen. Inspired by Food 52’s awesome NotSadDeskLunch column (Do you work in an office? If so, read it immediately!), I am working to maintain a bit of respectability and excitement in my mid-day meal. Not only are my lunches better off for it (and Yoshie’s too, since he gets the leftovers), but it gives me a chance to reconnect with the culinary creativity that writing a cookbook allows to blossom.
First up, Barley Pilaf with Roasted Fennel and Cauliflower. Barley is one of the starring ingredients in The Modern Jewish Cookbook. The nubby, nutty-flavored little grains, which are at the center of many traditional Jewish dishes, are nutritious, filling, and flavorful. For this warm grain salad, I simmered the barley in vegetable broth and paired it with cauliflower and fennel that I roasted in the oven until tender and caramel-sweet. A handful of golden raisins and shower of sliced almonds rounded things out beautifully.
This dish travels well, holds in the fridge, and reheats nicely, making it a satisfying and unexpectedly elegant office lunch. Paired with a small hunk of gouda and some saucy beans (I particularly like these), it offered a big dose of comfort - even spooned out of a Tupperware at my desk.
There is not much I can do about my post cookbook melancholy. Just like the anticipation of starting a new project, and the slow-burning focus of being in the middle of one, it is just part of the process. But at least now I can invite it to a proper lunch.
Barley Pilaf with Roasted Fennel and Cauliflower
- 1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 lb/910 g), cut into 1-inch florets
- 2 medium bulbs fennel, quartered, core removed, and cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1 head garlic, cloves peeled
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, divided
- 1/4 cup/60 ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup/180 g pearled barley, rinsed and drained
- 2 3/4 cups/660 ml vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup/80 g golden raisins
- 1/2 cup/55 g sliced almonds
- shaved parmesan, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a large, rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Add the cauliflower, fennel, garlic cloves, and 2 thyme sprigs to the baking sheet. Drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven, discard thyme sprigs, and set aside.
2. Meanwhile add the barley, broth, and 2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves to a medium saucepan set over high heat; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 40 minutes. Pour into a colander to drain off any excess liquid, then transfer barley to a large bowl.
3. Add roasted veggies, raisins, and almonds to the barley and toss to combine. Taste; if desired, drizzle with a little more olive oil and season with additional salt and pepper. Divide into bowls and sprinkle with shaved parmesan, if desired.
What is your favorite ##notsaddesklunch?
Yesterday I made gefilte fish. On purpose.
I have never been a fan of the poached fish quenelles eaten by Ashkenazi Jews on Shabbat, Passover, and other holidays. But I feel strongly that the Old World dish has an important place on the modern Jewish table. I also know that when it is done right - and by “done right” I am not talking about the stuff that slumps out of a jar from the supermarket - gefilte fish can actually be mild and delightful. So, into the cookbook it goes!
After making several significant tweaks to the typical recipe (bye bye sketchy fish head broth, hello lemon zest and herbs), I’m quite pleased with how everything turned out. But after I had scrubbed out my food processor and packed the little gefiltes into a Tupperware for their requisite chill in the fridge, I was hungry.
The lingering scent of Passover in my kitchen got me thinking about the makeshift lunches my mom would make while cooking for the holiday. There was always boiled chicken around from the gallons of soup she simmered for the seder meal. She would lay a bowl of the chicken and a bag of potato chips on the table, and head back to whatever she was making. For her, it was a no fuss meal. To me and my brother, the mix of tender chicken and crunchy, salt kissed chips was perfection - better than anything we could have imagined.
Hoping to recreate a little of those magic lunches, I fried up some chicken schnitzel, which layers the crunch and salt right on top of the chicken. I also roasted up a tray of sweet potato half moons and red grapes, which i added on a whim. Because they were there. And because roasting intensifies and concentrates fruit’s jammy sweetness. Meanwhile, I whisked up a fig jam and balsamic dressing for a green salad.
Mind you, this is hardly my normal quick meal fare. Usually I just grab cereal or a bowl of yogurt, which I sprinkle with raisins and walnuts so it is not completely sad. But I’m telling you, there’s something about making gefilte fish that puts you squarely in the cooking zone.
Instead of serving the various dishes separately, I drizzled the dressing over the greens and tossed in the roasted sweet potatoes and grapes. Then I sliced the schnitzel into crunchy strips and laid them over top. Because laying things on top of salad makes everything fancy. And oh, I was very, very happy. This is a salad equal to the sum of its parts, but its parts are spectacular.
After testing gefilte fish recipes all morning, it felt so great to improvise on a dish - not for the cookbook, not for an article: just for lunch.
Schnitzel and Sweet Potato Salad with Roasted Grapes
- 1 small sweet potato (about 1/2 pound / 227g), peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4-inch half moons
- 1 cup (170g) red grapes
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon fig jam (I like Bonne Maman)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 small head (about 1/2 pound / 227g) red Romaine lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces (about 6 cups)
- 3/4 cup (115g) all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup (80g) Panko breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup (50g) sesame seeds
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces / 170g each), halved and pounded 1/4-inch thick
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- vegetable oil for frying
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add the sweet potato, grapes, and thyme to a large, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Roast, stirring occasionally, until sweet potatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven, discard thyme and let cool.
2. Whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil with the shallots, mustard, jam, vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; set aside.
3. Add the flour and eggs to two separate, shallow bowls (pie plates work perfectly). Mix together the breadcrumbs and sesame seeds in a third bowl. Season the chicken pieces on both sides with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour and shake off excess. Dip in the eggs, then coat well with breadcrumbs.
4. Heat 1/4-inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat until shimmering. Working in batches, add the coated chicken pieces to the hot pan and cook, turning once, until crispy and cooked through, 5-6 minutes total. Transfer chicken to a plate lined with paper towels and let drain. Using a sharp knife, slice the chicken into thin strips.
5. Add the lettuce to a large bowl and scatter with the sweet potato and grape mixture. Drizzle with 2/3 of the dressing and toss gently to coat. Divide salad between four plates and lay several chicken strips over each. Drizzle the tops of each salad with about 1 teaspoon of the remaining dressing and sprinkle with more black pepper.
I have 25 days left to finish my cookbook manuscript. That means I have officially been putting off developing a sufganiyot (deep fried and filled Hanukkah doughnuts) recipe for nearly 10 months.
Can you blame me? Two Hanukkahs ago, I developed four sufganiyot recipes for CHOW over the course of a month. That’s 4 recipes x 34 doughnuts per batch x 3 attempts each, which equals 408 doughnuts and about 6 gallons of vegetable oil. On the one hand, it was an absolute dream assignment. On the other hand, 408 doughnuts. After that trial by hot oil, I felt a bit burned out on the subject.
But here I am again, stocked up on flour and yeast and vegetable oil and ready to fry, fry again. Unfortunately, my creative well is a bit drained, and I am having trouble coming up with another winning combination that takes the traditional jelly doughnut into tasty new territory.
That’s where I’m hoping you come in. I need your help with dreaming up 1 incredible sufganiyot recipe for Modern Jewish Cooking. I’m looking for something that is both playful and delicious. To get your creative juices flowing, here are the four recipes I developed for CHOW:
- Sufganiyot with Ginger Lime Curd
- Apple Cider Sufganiyot with Salted Caramel (pictured. so pretty!)
- Mexican Hot Chocolate Glazed Sufganiyot with Marshmallow Filling
- Chai Sufganiyot with Orange-Pumpkin Buttercream
Have a brilliant idea for a next generation sufganiyot? Let me know in the comments below and I might just end up immortalizing your creative brain in doughnut form. As thanks for sharing your ideas, I will also randomly pick one person from the comments and send you a copy of my first book, The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook.
Sound like a deal? Hooray and thank you!
Congrats to Robin Sheldon, who was the randomly-selected winner of the cookbook. And thanks to everyone for sharing their ideas below and on Facebook. For now, I am going to keep the new sufganiyot flavor under wraps, but look forward to frying with you when the book comes out!
Yesterday I went to pick figs in my friend Julie’s backyard. I wasn’t vacationing in California, Israel, Tuscany, or some other warm weather locale. Instead, I was three blocks from my apartment.
Yes, fig trees do grow in Brooklyn - in decent abundance it seems, thanks to the influx of Italian Americans who moved here in the years before World War II. But stumbling upon a tree hanging heavy with plump, drippy figs over someone’s fence, or being granted access to one in your friend’s backyard still feels pretty magical.
The fig tree actually belongs to Julie’s landlord, Monica, who lives downstairs. She prefers the fig tree’s leaves for making tea over the fruit themselves. She is also 75 with skin and eyes as vibrant as someone 20 years younger. So maybe we should all be drinking fig leaf tea?
Monica’s generosity meant that Julie and I ended up with a lot of figs to share. Figs that were green on the outside, bright ruby in the middle, and endlessly lovely. I ate several of them straight away, shared some with friends at a dinner in their sukkah, and enjoyed the rest this morning in my favorite early autumn breakfast: Fresh Fig Toast with Ricotta and Honey. It’s barely a recipe - more of a riff. But a truly delicious one.
As I plucked the fat fruits from the tree yesterday, I had a startling realization: fig season is about. to. end. Where Julie and I live in the Northeast, fresh figs are typically only ripe for a couple of weeks on either side of Labor Day. And at this point we are way past the point when wearing white is seasonally appropriate.
Just kidding, wear whatever you like. But when it comes to figs, don’t mess around. Whether you pick them off a tree yourself or find them at the grocery store, now is the time to slice, eat, and be happy.
Fresh Fig Toast with Ricotta and Honey
1 piece your favorite bread
1-2 tablespoons ricotta, Greek yogurt, labneh, or peanut butter
2-3 fresh figs, sliced lengthwise
honey and cinnamon for topping
1. Toast the bread and cut in half, if desired. Spread with ricotta (or topping of choice), and top with a layer of fig slices.
2. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with cinnamon to taste.
Can’t get enough of figs? Me either - here are some other lovely ways to make and eat them.
Grilled Fig and Orange Blossom Sundae (my recipe on CHOW)
Figs with Peppered Honey, Goat Cheese and Mint (The Forest Feast)
Fig Old Fashioned (The Kitchn)
Caramelized Figs (Food 52)
Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Fresh Figs (Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi)
Lamb and Fig Kebabs with Honey and Rosemary (New York Times)
Yesterday Yoshie walked into our kitchen to find me in jeans and a gray sweatshirt, stirring a baking sheet of root vegetables that were roasting in the oven. “I like autumn Leah,” he said.
I joked back at him, saying something needlessly snarky along the lines of, “I hope you like me during the other seasons too.” But the man has a point: autumn is my power season. I belong to the tribe of pumpkin bread and sturdy, laced up boots. I feel most vibrant walking through the season’s crisp, bracing days, when everything glows auburn and gold in the waning afternoon sun.
And that is why I cannot get enough of Sukkot, the Jewish calendar’s primary harvest holiday. From dining outside in a sukkah (a temporary hut built from natural materials and meant to resemble the shelters the Israelites built while wandering in the desert), to the stuffed vegetables and warming stews that serve as the center of Sukkot’s meals, the weeklong holiday offers so many ways to celebrate the fall.
When I was a little kid, my mom and I used to help decorate the big communal sukkah at our synagogue. We would sip cold apple cider and fan away bees while weaving pine branches into the structure’s walls, leaning bundles of corn husks by the door, and stringing gourds and paper chains from the rafters. Hoping to bring some of those natural decoration ideas to the Sukkot dinner table, and inspired by a basket of gourds and mini pumpkins I saw at the farmer’s market, I set about making these gourd, flower, and tea light centerpieces.
Lest you worry that I am about to lead you towards an inevitable “Pinterest Fail,” know that I am decidedly craft-averse. Knitting? Don’t have the patience for it. Beading? Needlepoint? Clay pot painting? Nope, pretty much never. So trust me when I say that these centerpieces are quick, simple, inexpensive, and require no special equipment. Or, just have a look for yourself:
- Several small pumpkins, gourds, and squash of varying sizes. Look for ones with flat bottoms that will stand up straight without tipping.
- A sharp, sturdy knife and a hammer
- A spoon
- Aluminum foil
- Assorted fall flowers and tea lights
Step by Step: Pumpkin Vase
Carefully cut off the top of a round pumpkin with a sharp knife. If you have trouble getting the knife all the way through the pumpkin, use a hammer to gently but firmly bang on the knife until it slides through.
Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Make sure to remove as much of the stringy flesh as possible. You ideally want to end up with a smooth, hollow interior. Discard the seeds or roast them for snacking. (mmmm. snacking…)
Line the inside of the scooped out pumpkin with aluminum foil and fill the foil with cool water. Cut flowers to whatever length they need to be to fit comfortably in the pumpkin crevice and arrange them however you like.
Make ahead tip: The morning before you plan to use the centerpieces, cut the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds, and cover them with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until shortly before you need them, then proceed with fitting them with foil and arranging the flowers. Change the water every day to increase the vase’s life.
Step by Step: Squash Candle Holder
Slice off a thin layer from the top of the squash or gourd. Use a small knife or a sharp spoon to cut or scoop out a circular shape just big enough to fit a tea light (There’s no need to remove all the seeds, but you can if you’d like.)
Fit the tea light into the scooped out hole and press gently to fit it snugly inside. That’s it. No really, you just made a squash candle centerpiece in less than 2 minutes.
Repeat these steps as many times as needed to make your desired amount of centerpieces, using any variation of squash, flowers, and candles that makes you happy.
I like to cluster these mini centerpieces in several spots along the table. Actually, who am I kidding? I don’t ever do this kind of thing, so I don’t really know what I like. For all you crafty types out there, go forth and make these vases and candle holders better than I did! Just make sure you tweet the result to @leahbkoenig so I can
be jealous of admire your handy work.
Every year it happens. Summer is whistling along, all trips to the beach and drippy watermelon slices. Everyone you know is just back from vacation, or packing to leave for one. Out of the corner of your eye you might spot a back-to-school display screaming out from a shop window. But it is easy enough to ignore and focus on what’s important. Like your second ice cream cone of the day.
And then. The temperature drops 20 degrees. Your teacher friends disappear. You consider the passing thought that maybe it is time to switch to hot coffee from iced. (Almost.) You spontaneously tear up when the nostalgic scent of autumn surprises you out of nowhere on a late night walk home from the subway. Or maybe that’s just me?
And suddenly it’s Rosh Hashanah, a.k.a. The Jewish New Year.
Every year, I tell myself that I am going to be prepared for the High Holidays. That I will take time to journal more, read more, and slowly find pathways in to the contemplative, introspective, and spiritual mood that dominates the season. But every year (something tells me you might know where this is going…) I arrive at the holiday’s start line woefully unprepared.
With Rosh Hashanah beginning next Wednesday - just two days after Labor Day (two. days.), this year’s autumn sneak up feels especially ridiculous. But instead of crawling under a blanket to hide, which is what I’d actually like to do, I’ve decided to meet the challenge head on.
Step one: bake this Upside-Down Apple Cake. Apples and honey are two of Rosh Hashanah’s most symbolic foods that represent our hopes for a sweet and full New Year. I’m not a huge fan of the honey cakes that tend to show up on people’s holiday tables (though, I have heard great things about cookbook author Marcy Goldman’s version, as immortalized by Deb Perelman on Smitten Kitchen.)
I am, however, easily swooned by a good apple cake. And this one is seriously good. Not necessarily traditional, but good.
Riffing off the retro-classic pineapple upside-down cake, which was last popular during the Mad Men era, I swapped out canned pineapple rings for sweet apple slices nestled in a pool of caramel atop a layer of tender cake. I hate to place too many hopes or pressures on a baked good, but this cake might be just the thing needed to begin Rosh Hashanah and autumn off on the right foot.
Upside-Down Apple Cake
Use firm, sweet apples like Granny Smith, Gala, or Empire that will hold shape during baking. Depending on the size of your apples, you may not use all of the slices. Use as many as you can without making a second layer, and snack on the rest.
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter or non-hydrogenated margarine, melted
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 medium apples (about 1 pound, peeled, cored and cut into 12 wedges each
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or non-hydrogenated margarine, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup apple cider or juice
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch round cake pan. Add the melted butter (or margarine), sugar, and cinnamon to the pan, mix well to combine, and use a rubber spatula to spread it in the bottom of the pan. Arrange apple slices in an overlapping circle on top.
2. Make the cake: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl; set aside. In a standing mixer, or using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter (or margarine) and sugar at medium speed until pale and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, followed by the vanilla, beating until incorporated. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by half of the cider (or juice), beating on low until just combined. (Don’t beat too long at this stage or your cake might turn out tough.) Repeat process, adding another 1/3 of the flour, the remaining cider, and the final 1/3 of flour.
3. Spoon mixture over apples and smooth the top. Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 35-45 minutes. Remove from oven and set cake on a wire rack; let cool for at least 30 minutes, then run a knife along the sides of the pan and invert cake onto a plate.
The final Modern Jewish Cooking countdown is on. Right now, 100+ recipes sit snugly in the “finished” folder on my desktop (and, just to be safe, in about a million backup folders as well.) That means I have a little more than 50 recipes to go and 10 weeks until my deadline. I predict a rough and brambly race to the finish line, but meanwhile, I have other concerns on my mind. Like how I should structure this thing.
Here’s something you never think about until you’re writing a cookbook: organizing recipes is a pain in the tush. They can be structured by meal type (breakfast, lunch, dinner etc.), by food type (vegetables, grains, pastries), by holiday, by season, by mood…it goes on.
And while some recipes fit clearly into one category or another - like omelets in “breakfast” and hamantaschen in “Purim,” others are far less obvious, or fit equally well into multiple categories. This is especially true if you’re working with both traditional and non-traditional recipes, as I am.
I have gone back and forth multiple times about possible structures - with my agent, my publisher, and in my own head. Particularly late at night when I’m trying to fall asleep. I have flipped through other cookbooks hoping that the perfect structure will peer back at me from the table of contents. But with 10 weeks to go, and a lot of writing to do as well as recipe developing, I need to make a decision.
That’s where I hope you come in!
Friends, acquaintances, readers, cooks, eaters, smart humans - I need your help! The bottom line is that I want the cookbook to feel totally accessible, regardless of whether or not someone has a lot of familiarity with Jewish food/cooking. So, how would YOU want a book filled with delicious, traditional and innovative Jewish recipes to be organized?
Here are the working TOCs I currently have in mind. Which one would you prefer? Imagine you were in a bookstore leafing through a cookbook on Jewish food - would you gravitate towards one over the other? Is one clear and the other confusing? And if so, why?
Recipes separated into two broad categories:
Part 1 (traditional recipes - e.g. latkes, hamantaschen, matzo ball soup etc): broken up by holiday - Purim, Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah. The idea here would be someone could think, “I really want to make latkes,” and know exactly where to turn - though this model assumes everyone knows latkes and Hanukkah go together.
Part 2 (non-traditional recipes - e.g. smoked salmon hash, toasted almond Israeli couscous) broken up by meal - breakfast, soups, salads, sides, mains, desserts
Each of the sections would have a short introduction page.
All recipes in one category, broken up by meal and type: breakfast, soups, salads/spreads, vegetables, grains, mains, desserts, breads/pastries
This version would highlight the holidays in two ways. The recipe headnotes would say things like “hamantaschen are traditionally eaten on Purim.” There would also be holiday explanation pages that would call out traditional foods associated with it, and offer suggested holiday menus.
OPTION 3: Your brilliant, amazing idea. Do tell!
I’m not going to write about the egg cream - the frothy soda fountain drink made with chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer water and, curiously, neither eggs nor cream. What more is there to say about the classic New York libation that has not been covered again and again?
I could write about the battle over the egg cream’s origins - invented by a Jewish candy store owner, or perhaps by a hero of the Yiddish stage, either on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, or in Brooklyn - but that’s been done.
I could mention how Jack Kerouac and his fellow beatniks swilled egg creams in the East Village in the 1950s and 60s. But why repeat history?
I could write a reverb and nostalgia-heavy rock ode to the egg cream, but Lou Reed already took care of that.
And, of course, I could - and actually did - write about how egg creams are making a comeback (again) in upscale restaurants and artisanal pharmacies across the country.
But while I don’t feel much need to write about the egg cream, on this sticky summer day, I definitely want to drink one.
And, thanks to a container of fresh, glistening strawberries I recently brought home from the farmer’s market, I even have something important to add to the conversation. And delicious too.
Chocolate Strawberry Egg Cream
For the tastiest results, the seltzer and milk should both be straight-from-the-fridge cold.
- 3 ripe strawberries, stems removed
- 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup (ideally Fox’s U-Bet)
- 3 tablespoons milk
- seltzer water
1. Add the strawberries to a pint glass and thoroughly muddle with a cocktail muddler.* Add the chocolate syrup and milk and stir to combine. While continuing to stir, add seltzer to taste (start with about 1/2 cup and add more if desired). Serve immediately.
*If you don’t have a cocktail muddler, mash the strawberries in a bowl with a potato masher, then add to the glass.