Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Turn the clock back twenty, thirty or forty years and kosher cookbooks were very different than they are now. Mostly spiral bound, soft covered and (gasp!) picture-less recipe collections, they featured treasured offerings put together by shuls, school PTAs and community organizations. When I read through them as a kid, it was fascinating to see what the other moms in the neighborhood were cooking up and, in a way, it was almost like being invited to peek into their kitchens.

The first cookbook I ever came across that didn’t fit that mold was the Spice and Spirit cookbook – the iconic purple tome first published in 1990. There was nothing fancy, just plenty of good, solid recipes and you felt that no matter what you wanted to make, if you couldn’t reach your mom on the phone, that big purple book was going to save the day.


All that has changed. Today, our gorgeous cookbooks have full-color, high-gloss pages, are loaded with gourmet recipes and are heavily marketed in advertising campaigns. Still, there are quite a few smaller, less known cookbooks that have more than their fair share of excellent recipes. Kind of like the quieter kids in school who are never chosen to run for class president or head of G.O. but are mega-talented in an understated way, these less heavily marketed cookbooks are great additions to any kitchen.

Simply Delicious (Gefen Publications) by Mindy Ginsberg is small but mighty and a really useful book to have on hand, particularly in the warm weather months when we tend to gravitate towards lighter fare. Paperback and top spiral bound like your typical elementary school assignment pad, Simply Delicious focuses heavily on fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and legumes, with over 140 recipes that are satisfying without being heavy. A word to the nut allergics out there: while not every recipe in this book incorporates nuts, a significant portion of them do. There are so many great looking ideas here: avocado cashew salad drizzled with honey mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, three quinoa salads, and several other salads that incorporate whole wheat grains and bulgur. Vegetable recipes include the very intriguing onions and nuts, featuring sliced onions baked in butter, salt, pepper, tarragon, caraway seeds, pine nuts and walnuts. Lest you think that this entire book is dedicated to grains and vegetables, Ginsberg includes sections on pastas, chicken, beef, turkey and fish and, while the dessert section has some healthier options, there are indulgences as well, including pecan pie, cheese swirls and butterscotch brownies. Simply Delicious is Ginsberg’s third cookbook.


While the two volumes of Cooking for the King by Renee Chernin are officially holiday-themed, both of these relatively slim soft-covered books are full of versatile recipes that work equally well all year round. Understanding that it sometimes feels like your brain is turning to mush after a particularly intense pre-Shabbos or Yom Tov cooking marathon, Chernin thoughtfully includes occasional doses of inspiration interspersed throughout her recipes, a gentle reminder that cooking is far from mundane and is, in fact, full of meaning and purpose.

There is a lot to love in each of these books. The original Cooking for the King, dedicated to Shabbos and Yom Tov cooking with an emphasis on Rosh Hashanah, has quite a few creative dishes involving symbolic foods for the New Year. Chocolate pomegranate cookies are a unique flavor combo and Texas caviar, starring black eyed peas, pineapple, roasted peppers and a honey-Dijon dressing, is a refreshing way to enjoy yet another Rosh Hashanah staple. Chernin transforms lowly corn fritters into an omen for prosperity, dubbing them Dixie corn dollars, and serving them with a fabulous honey-mustard sauce. My favorite is the imaginative mango-granate fish, where mango, pomegranate, barbeque sauce and plenty of spices become a sauce for pretty much any white fleshed fish, definitely a must-try recipe.

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Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who writes for numerous websites, newspapers, magazines and private clients. She can be contacted at [email protected].