Photo Credit: Jewish Press

New cookbooks seem to magically materialize on my doorstep begging to be read (and hopefully praised on these page) and, while many are lovely and full of promise, only a handful of them make me want to drop everything, head to my kitchen and start cooking. Celebrate, an all new cookbook by Elizabeth Kurtz to benefit Emunah of America, is one that does. Its 352 pages are full of culinary inspiration, enticing pictures, helpful tips and other useful factoids.

What sets this book apart is the focus, which is made abundantly clear on the front cover. Celebrate is subtitled Food Family Shabbos. A Shabbos-themed cookbook really calls to me because, other than a big midweek pot of soup or two, the vast majority of my cooking is Shabbos-related. It’s not that we subsist on pizza, fish sticks or other convenience foods during the week, but our meals generally consist of either Shabbos leftovers or easily-prepared fare like roast chicken and rice. Once my thoughts turn to Shabbos, however, all that changes and I shift into serious cooking mode as I continue my perpetual quest for new and exciting dishes to incorporate into our repertoire.

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Allow me to introduce Elizabeth Kurtz to those of you who, like me, had never heard of her name. A mother of five, Kurtz blogs at GourmetKosherCooking.com, keeping readers supplied with a steady diet of innovative recipes since 2009, and also authors cooking columns for several outlets including the Jerusalem Post and Aish.com. A lover of farmers markets, cookbooks and all things food related, Kurtz scours her sources to find exciting new recipes and then works her magic to both simplify and kosherize them. That passion for food brings us Celebrate, a wonderful collection of recipes that will answer your weekly, “Oh no, what am I making for Shabbos?”

Oddly enough what called to me most was one of the very last sections in the book, the one dedicated to Shalosh Seudos. While I should be used to making Shalosh Seudos after all these years, week after week I find myself surprised to realize that after a marathon cooking session, I am still faced with yet one more meal to prepare, and, to add insult to injury, it has to be completely and totally pareve for the vast majority of the year. The recipes here are fun and intriguing: Everything bagel salad with romaine lettuce salad, lox and bagel chips, topped with a dressing inspired by the crumbs and spices left in the bottom of a bag of everything bagels. Other creative entries include watermelon tabbouleh and a guacamole recipe with five additional variations that will really make everyone’s favorite avocado recipe sing.

Another chapter that pays homage to the realities of Shabbos is the Kiddush section, with plenty of trendy offerings as well as traditional dishes that include an overnight potato kugel and a basic cholent recipe with variations that transform the Shabbos staple from classic to international to health conscious. Gefilte fish gets a funky facelift in skewered gefilte fish with zesty ratatouille and even chicken livers go hip when paired with brandy, mushrooms and dried cherries. The Challah chapter also includes several interesting recipes, but while the onion-poppy seed challah looks delicious and the spelt and gluten-free challahs will appeal to many, it is the vanilla challah that I plan on making the next time I bake.

There are plenty of other lovely recipes that are on my to-be-made list, including Italian pumpkin and amaretto soup, Good-as-a-latte Wild Mushroom soup, Horseradish Meringue Topped Salmon and Succulent and Crispy five-hour roast chicken. Of course, no cookbook is complete without a really heavenly selection of desserts and the ones featured here are guaranteed diet killers, but well worth the calories.

As always, some of my favorite cookbook pages are not the recipes but the extras. Kurtz’s cookie troubleshooting chart is full of helpful information to help prevent those epic failures and a fully-illustrated meat guide identifies different cuts of meat and how best to cook them. Scattered throughout the book are frequent tips and notations, with Pesach suggestions and substitutions listed when applicable.

Celebrate is a great addition to your cookbook collection and makes a great Chanukah gift. Distributed by Feldheim, it is available online and at your favorite Judaica store.

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Acorn Squash Stuffed With Jeweled Israeli Couscous

Larger than traditional couscous, Israeli couscous cooks and tastes more like a small pasta. I love the presentation of this dish, which uses squash halves as natural serving vessels for the colorful couscous. It has bursts of color from the dried fruit, parsley, and acorn squash and extra bursts of flavor from the garlic and orange zest. After you zest the orange, be sure to use the fresh juice in the recipe for its bright, clean flavor.

Serves 8

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Squash:

4 acorn squash (about 1½ pounds each), halved lengthwise and seeds removed
3 tbsp canola oil
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
¾ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper

 

Filling:

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 (8.8-ounce) packages Israeli couscous
2 ¾ cups pareve chicken broth or chicken broth
2 tsp orange zest
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup diced dried apricots (optional)
¼ cup craisins (optional)
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
¼ to ½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ cup pinenuts, toasted

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425°F. Place acorn squash, cut-side up, on two baking sheets. Brush the

flesh of the squash with canola oil, sprinkle with brown sugar, and season with salt and

pepper. Roast in the oven until just fork tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.

 

Heat a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add oil. When oil is hot, cook onion until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and mushrooms and cook an additional 4 minutes.

Pour in couscous and stir for 2 minutes, until it begins to smell toasty and nutty.

Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 8 minutes, or until liquid is fully absorbed. Add orange zest, orange juice, apricots, craisins, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook an additional minute for the orange juice to absorb. Add

pinenuts.

To serve, spoon couscous into squash halves. Rewarm in oven if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Make Ahead

Can be prepared one day ahead. Store, covered, in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature or rewarm, covered, in a warming drawer or 300°F oven.

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Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who writes for numerous websites, newspapers, magazines and many private clients. She can be contacted at sandyeller1@gmail.com.
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