Book Reviews, Culinary Arts, Literature

Hazana – Paola Gavin

Hazana

If you have ever wondered what to serve to a vegetarian family member or guest, or are hoping to expand your vegetarian repetoire, Hazana – Jewish Vegetarian Cooking is exactly the book you have been looking for. Paola Gavin presents simple and diverse recipes inspired by traditional Jewish dishes from across Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Gavin includes the basic culinary history of the Jewish communities from which she draws her recipes at the beginning of the book, which allows her to give homage to their roots while maintaining a clear emphasis on ingredients and instructions further on. Her associations of the dishes with Shabbat and other holidays are an added bonus for the meticulous menu-planner. While Gavin’s writing assumes that readers know their way around a kitchen, the recipes are not overwhelming for the novice cook. With her emphasis on ingredients and enthusiasm for her subject, Gavin succeeds in encouraging her readers to try something new, while allowing more experienced cooks the freedom to experiment with difference techniques and flavors. For those who are willing to sacrifice total authenticity for time-saving conveniences, most of the recipes in this book can easily transform into quick, healthy, and delicious weekday dinners.

So go ahead and buy some eggplant, watch the cauliflower disappear from your children’s plates, and savor the taste of traditional Jewish vegetarian cooking from around the world.

 

Jerusalem Biennale For Contemporary Jewish Art 2017

From their website:

“The 3rd Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art, which will showcase the work of nearly 200 professional artists, Israeli and international, in dozens of exhibitions and installations in the capital, will take place from October 1 through November 16.  The Jerusalem Biennale, which explores the places where contemporary art meets the Jewish world of content, will this year take as its theme Watershed.”

http://www.jerusalembiennale.org/tickets-1/

Book Reviews, Literature

King Solomon’s Table – Joan Nathan

45 seconds. That was how long it took me to get to the front door, open the box, and start reading after I go the alert on my phone that Amazon had delivered Joan Nathan’s latest cookbook, King Solomon’s Table. In this sequence of events, I broke a number of house rules: 1. my phone was on the table during dinner; 2. I looked at the messages on my phone during dinner; 3. I opened a non-birthday package at the table in the middle of dinner; 4. I was reading during dinner. Luckily only the four year old mini-bookandblintz was home with me that evening, and she doesn’t particularly care about those rules. She was more than happy to join in the fun and announce that each picture looks delicious. And she was right.

It’s impossible to read this book without thrilling over just how far kosher cookbooks have come. This volume is nothing less than an exultant celebration of the art, the clarity of writing, the range of available ingredients and the diversity of Jewish food in cookbook form. A quick comparison between this book and the three other Joan Nathan cookbooks sitting on my bookshelf kicks the party into high gear. This book has a polish and sophistication that cooks could only dream of Jewish Cooking In America was published 50 years ago.

As I read through the volume, my joy came as much, if not even more so, from the stories and descriptions that accompany each recipe.  Nathan has achieved an impressive balance between presenting functional instructions for food preparation, a travel and professional memoir, and a textbook on the history of Jewish communities and their appetites. The only potential fault is in the possibility that younger readers may find it more difficult to relate to her scenes of delightful domestic cooking without finding it just a bit twee. Nevertheless, I think this cookbook belongs on the shelf in every home that considers itself to be connected to the Jewish heritage. King Solomon’s Table would make an excellent gift for anyone taking a new step as a Jewish cook, from an epicurean bar mitzvah boy to a downsizing retiree. Basically, anyone with a kitchen and a willingness to try cooking something other than toast.

I have yet to try cooking any of the recipes myself, but I expect the book to prove user-friendly. While the recipes are grouped by meal, course, and ingredient (breakfast, starters, salads, meat, etc.) I suspect that one of the unique attributes of this collection is the versatility of so many of the dishes to be eaten and served at different times and places. As diverse cultural practices and local ingredients dictated traditional foods and when they were eaten, readers will inherit this wider array of options, allowing for even greater creativity. I will, of course, follow up with this review to show off the results of my experiments.

There is just one question that this book leaves unanswered. As a native Torontonian, the blueberry buns Joan Nathan associated with my hometown are less familiar to me than the exquisite “cheese bagels” we enjoyed during our trips to Montreal to visit my grandparents. These pastries, relatives of the humbler cheese danish, are shaped liked horseshoes, have a ricotta/cream cheese filling, and are ideally finished with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar. I can only imagine that the author does not have the recipe, otherwise I must beg her to add it to the next edition.