When most people hear the word Chanukah they start thinking dreidels, latkes and jelly donuts.
Me? I start to contemplate polishing the menorahs, a job that I have to psych myself up for several weeks in advance. Sweetening the tedium of tarnish removal is a favorite winter treat: leafing through the new drop of cookbooks, released just in time for Chanukah. There is nothing like cracking open a fresh new cookbook, the pages still pristine and crisp and wondering what surprises are about to jump off the pages and leap onto your serving platters as they wait to be carried to your table and devoured.
If you’re anything like me, you have been waiting for the latest volume from everyone’s favorite cook, Jamie Geller, for a long time. Her third cookbook, Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes, is bursting with tantalizing recipes and is clearly a labor of love that goes straight from Jamie’s heart to yours.
Part of Jamie’s success is that she is so real. She doesn’t pretend she knows it all; she shares her triumphs, and kitchen mishaps, equally – and more than any other kosher cookbook author, Jamie is the girl next door. In Joy of Kosher III, Jamie takes things to the next level, sharing personal stories about her life and family, as well as pictures of the entire Geller clan and suddenly Jamie, who describes herself as “an incurable hugger,” has become your best friend. And honestly, wouldn’t you trust your best friend when she says, “you must try this recipe”?
In this case, Jamie’s recipes have split personalities with each of the 100 recipes presented two ways: a quick and easy version for when you need to get food on the table ASAP and the other, a dressed up version, for those occasions when you want to serve something with a little extra panache. Many of the recipes also include tips, timesaving suggestions, wine pairings and other helpful advice. Published by William Morrow, Joy of Kosher III is aimed at the mainstream market and, using her engaging writing style, Jamie nimbly demystifies kashrus so that it doesn’t seem complicated or overly restrictive.
The recipes…ah, the recipes. As I turn the pages, I have to restrain myself from heading to my kitchen and trying them out right now. Garlic Wilted Spinach, which Jamie skillfully transforms into Wilted Spinach with Garlic Chips, is something that will definitely be on my Shabbos menu this week. Somewhat Sephardic Chulent is intriguing with brown rice, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, eggs, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and allspice and becomes downright fascinating when upgraded to Puff Pastry Sephardic Chulent Cups. Chilled Coconut Berry Soup looks like the perfect appetizer for a Shabbos meal, and with the addition of Fruit, Flower and Mint Ice Cubes has the potential to be a real show stopper at your next simcha. Spiced Pumpkin Mousse, a dessert that you can actually claim has nutritional benefits since it is made with protein packed tofu and uber-nutritious pumpkin, looks mouth-wateringly easy and when you upgrade it to Cocoa Cream Pumpkin Mousse Trifles it graduates to sinfully delicious. Add in ten different varieties of challah, Yom Tov menu suggestions and a four page recipe index of Pesach-friendly recipes and there is a whole lotta yumminess going on here.
With chapters titled “Thursday: 4:30 a.m., I think” and pictures of the youngest Geller wearing a roll of toilet paper on her head while surrounded by miles of the unfurled white stuff, Joy of Kosher III is a unique volume that exudes warmth, humor and a sense that with our hectic schedules and the demands of everyday life, Jamie is truly one of us. Half cookbook, half a delightful invitation into Jamie’s home and her heart, Joy of Kosher III is a seriously good read and a welcome addition to any kitchen. Okay, Jamie, I’m ready for my hug!
The names Leah Schapira and Victoria Dweck are well known in the kosher food world and with the introduction last year of their new “Made Easy” cookbook series, the two have legions of loyal fans everywhere. While I enjoyed their first two cookbooks, the first tackling Passover and the second shining the spotlight on appetizers and side dishes, it is their third volume, Kids Cooking Made Easy, that has me falling head over heels in love.