It’s getting to be that time of year again.
You know what I mean. It’s not about buying notebooks or seeing warm woolies on store shelves. I’m talking about major cooking marathons, filling your freezer with stacks of foil pans while peeling, slicing and dicing till your fingers are ready to fall off. Yup, the yomim tovim are coming, which means it’s time to dust off those family favorite recipes while searching out new and exciting items to add to your holiday menus. To the rescue come our good friends at Israel Bookshop and Feldheim with a pair of gorgeous new books, chock-full of stunning pictures and tempting recipes that are just waiting to be made.
First up, Kosher Classics by Gitta Bixenspanner. With an author who is a certified nutritionist and hails from Montreal, Kosher Classics starts the year off on the right foot, taking readers through a full year’s worth of health-conscious recipes. Kosher Classics starts with a Shabbos chapter and then goes through the months one by one beginning in September, with recipes that are matched either to a particular yom tov or season.
Since I am writing this column in August, I found myself starting at the last chapter of the book, which has a fascinating section on preserving those extra fruits and vegetables that seem to multiply with alarming frequency. Stock up on canning jars because you are going to find yourself making Hungarian pickles, pickled cucumbers and compote. Have an overabundance of tomatoes? Dry them in your oven and use them year-round in salads, pizzas, sauces and other dishes. But the most interesting recipe for me was one for cheese, made with milk that has started to go bad. I confess, as of this writing I haven’t tried this one yet, but next time I have a carton of milk that starts to smell funny I might just be tempted to make my own cheese. There is also a nice section here on cookies that you can make ahead and stash in your freezer, lightened up with trans fat-free margarine. Bixenspanner also includes a recipe for one of my go-to simcha recipes: praline cookies made out of graham crackers that are baked in a syrup of melted margarine and brown sugar and topped with melted chocolate. While Bixenspanner suggests cutting them into strips, I like to decorate mine with pearlized gold sugar and break them into irregular pieces for a really beautiful-looking (and super easy) praline bark.
Looking ahead to September, there is a great selection of intriguing lunches your kids might actually be willing to eat, recipes for some of the more commonly-eaten Rosh Hashanah simanim and a fun-looking chocolate spice cake that is a great way to use up the leftover bottle of Coke that has been sitting in your refrigerator all week. If you want to start cooking ahead for Sukkos, Kosher Classics has a particularly healthy Chol HaMoed menu and I am going to have to run out and buy hazelnuts because Bixenspanner’s soup with toasted hazelnuts, butternut squash, carrots and zucchini is definitely calling my name.
Be sure to check out Kosher Classics’ section on crock-pot cooking (November), melava malka recipes (January), shalosh seudos menus (June) and summer barbeque (July). An Israel Bookshop publication, Kosher Classics is full of year-round suggestions, advice and, of course, recipes that may soon become family favorites.
* * * * *
Kosher Taste, an all-new cookbook by Amy Stopnicki, is my kind of cookbook – it contains recipes for food that is yummy, pretty and easy, with an emphasis on easy. There are plenty of cookbooks that stress simplicity but all too often they are just, well, boring. I want recipes that are fun and intriguing, things that you look at and say, “Oh my gosh, I have to make that,” but have neither the patience, the interest, nor the desire to spend endless hours in the kitchen fussing over a million little details that need to be executed with military precision. Give me a book loaded with recipes that are tempting, yet not too complicated, and I am one happy camper.
Those of you who know me or follow me on Facebook know that I share my kitchen with my teenage daughter, a budding foodie. She read Kosher Taste before I did and, coming into my office, handed it to me saying, “You are going to love this one.”
Smart girl, that one. She was right. I do.
While Stopnicki compiled and edited the recently-published Gathered Around the Table, Kosher Taste is her first solo cookbook. From the opening pages it is obvious that she, like so many of us, is a busy individual who plans ahead for maximum efficiency. She shares with us healthy meal planning strategies, freezing and defrosting tips for a variety of items, a veggie grilling and roasting guide, three weeks of suggested menu, and a Pesach index.
Leafing through Kosher Taste to see how the recipes were divided, I find some of the usual entries. Soups and Salads. Sides. Mushrooms.
Wait… did that say mushrooms? Yet another reason why I love Kosher Taste – it has an entire chapter devoted to everyone’s favorite fungus. In no time at all, my mind raced ahead to the basket of fresh mushrooms in my refrigerator and I started planning my Shabbos menu in my head. (Bad idea, by the way. Always write your menus down because if you don’t you will either forget to make something or neglect to serve something. Or both. Trust me.)
Anyway, back to the mushrooms. Should I make mushroom focaccia? Stuffed mushrooms? Balsamic mushroom and spinach salad? I add another item to tomorrow’s to-do list: go to Costco and buy more mushrooms, because there is no way I am going to be able to pick just one recipe.
Continuing on, there are sections for Fish & Dairy, Mains (with a very impressive 31 recipes) and Trendy Recipes, a fun section that ventures into slightly more exotic territory. Am I brave enough to try carrot and daikon salad or faux shrimp stir-fry? Possibly. The garlic tofu with pistachios looks like a great meat-free supper, one that I look forward to trying on some night when my husband isn’t home for supper and it is just us tofu-loving girls at home.