The Jewish Holiday Kitchen: 250 Recipes from Around the World to Make Your Celebrations Special

The Jewish Holiday Kitchen: 250 Recipes from Around the World to Make Your Celebrations Special

by Joan Nathan
"Joan Nathan is the authority on Jewish cooking, from the folkloric-cultural-historical perspective, and the food angle as well." —Mollie Katzen, author of The Moosewood Cookbook

"This is how holiday cooking should be—warm, welcoming, and straight from the heart."
—Anne Willan, author of Cook It Right

Only the best


"Joan Nathan is the authority on Jewish cooking, from the folkloric-cultural-historical perspective, and the food angle as well." —Mollie Katzen, author of The Moosewood Cookbook

"This is how holiday cooking should be—warm, welcoming, and straight from the heart."
—Anne Willan, author of Cook It Right

Only the best cookbooks stand the test of time, and this rich assemblage of holiday recipes by Joan Nathan, award-winning food writer and host of the PBS series Jewish Cooking in America, has brought the joy and festivity of holiday cooking to Jewish households for more than two decades.
        Here are 250 recipes for main courses, soups, appetizers, breads, and desserts culled from around the world to help you enhance your family's celebrations of the sixteen major holidays. In addition to the foods you remember from your mother's table, there are dishes that date as far back as the Second Temple, as well as contemporary American Jewish creations. Explaining their origins and the holidays that have shaped them, Nathan peppers these delicious recipes with delightful stories about the people who make them today.
        Try exotic dishes like the Yemenite High Holiday Soup Stew or the Persian Pomegranate-Walnut Chicken. Or, closer to home, choose the Charlestonian Broth and Matzah Balls. No matter what you select, this essential book will bring the rich variety and heritage of Jewish cooking to your holiday table year round.

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Schocken Books, Incorporated
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7.34(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Greek Egg-Lemon Chicken
This is a favorite Greek Passover dish.

One 2 1/2-pound chicken
Salted water
5 eggs
Juice of one lemon
Salt and fresh pepper
1/4 cup pareve margarine

1. Place the chicken in a heavy pot. Cover with salted water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 1/2 hour, or until chicken is cooked. Remove to a separate plate and cool the chicken.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
3. Bone the chicken and place all the meat and skin in an ovenproof low caserole.
4. Pour off all but 2/3 cup liquid from the original pot. Gradually beat in the eggs, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and margarine. Pour this sauce over the chicken.
5. Bake about 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
Yield: 4 - 6 servings.

Yemenit Haroset
Probably the closest to the way the Jews originally ate is the Seder of the Yemenites. According to Hava Nathan, an Israeli cookbook writer, the Yemenites transform the entire dining room table into a Seder plate, with the guests sitting on the floor all around it. While the men set the table with greens, radishes, and parsley which they bring in picked straight from the garden, the women prepare the meal. The men set the table in gratitude for the women who prepare the food. This comes from Nathan's Passover Seder Cookbook, published by Zmora Bitan Publishers in Tel Aviv.

1 pound fresh dates
1 pound raisins
3/4 pound almonds
1/2 pound walnuts
3 whole pomegranates, peeled and seeds removed
1 tablespoon mixed spices of cinnamon, pepper, cumin, cardamon, cloves, andginger

In a food processor or with a chopper in a woodenbowl, chop all the fruits, including the pomegranate seeds and juice and the nuts. Add the spices, adjusting the amounts of each to your family's tastes.
Yield: About 7 cups.

Orange-Chocolate Cake
Once in a while, someone writes me about a favorite recipe. Gary Stotsky, a speech therapist in York, Pennsylvania, wrote because he liked the wine cake recipe for Passover. He then shared his favorite Passover dessert recipe. The cake is delicious, and leftovers can be diced, soaked in Sabra liqueur, and served with whipped cream and orange slices for a divine Passover trifle.

9 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 cup ground almonds or walnuts
1/2 cup chopped almonds or walnuts
1 tablespoon potato starch
3 tablespoons sifted matzah cake meal plus matzah cake meal to flour cake pan
1 tablespoon powdered instant coffee
4 ounces coarsely grated bittersweet chocolate
Grated rind of 1 large orange

1. Beat egg whites until foamy. Slowly add 1/2 cup sugar while beating until stiff but not dry. Set aside.
2. Beat egg yolks with remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Fold yolks into whites. Gently fold remaining ingredients into egg mixture.
3. Pour batter into a 9 or 10-inch tube pan greased with pareve shortening or oil and floured with matzah cake meal.
4. Bake in 350-degree oven 45 minutes.
Yield: 10 servings.

I peeked into our own courtyard and saw all the neighbors washing and scrubbing, scraping and rubbing, making tables and benches kosher-for-Passover. They carried huge pots of boiling water, heated irons and red-hot bricks, all of which gave off a white vapor . . . . We had bought our matzohs a long time ago and had them locked in the cupboard over which a white sheet had been hung. In addition, we had a basketful of eggs, a jar of Passover chicken-fat, two ropes of onions on the wall, and many other delicacies for the holiday.
--Sholom Aleichem, "The Passover Eve Vagabonds"

Passover is probably the Jewish holiday that occasions more joyful anticipation than any other. It is one of the world's oldest continually observed festivals and still, despite intrusions of modernity, retains its ancient charm.

It is celebrated in commemoration of the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. For eight days we do not partake of any leavening agent in our food. A reading of the Haggadah-- a narration of the Exodus--is a central part of the first (and second) night of Passover.

For weeks prior to the festival, houses are thoroughly cleaned to remove any trace of leavening, and the day before the Seder feast, the head of the household searches for leavening hametz. Before the search bedikat hametz, someone, usually the mother, places breadcrumbs on napkins and hides them in various rooms of the house. The head of the household then recites a blessing on the hametz (which is actually burned the following morning) and proceeds to search the house for any crumbs overlooked during the cleaning. One hopes no hametz is found, except the crumbs left by the mother. The crumbs serve the purpose of not allowing the head of the household to make the blessing on the burning of
the hametz in vain.

No products made from regular flour and no leavening agents can be eaten at Passover. Although the Sephardim eat all vegetables and some even eat rice, Ashkenazim eschew such vegetables as corn, string beans, and peas. They also refrain from lentils, chick peas, and other dried beans.

Conservative and Orthodox families who can afford it have separate sets of dishes, cutlery, and cooking utensils for Passover, which are kept carefully packed away the rest of the year. The less well-to-do have certain utensils made kosher for Passover. Dishes, pots, and silverware can be converted for Passover use by being scalded in boiling water. Metal pans can be passed through fire and broilers heated red hot.

The observance was originally a nature festival celebrated by nomadic desert Jews, with a roasted sheep or goat as the central food. Centuries later, the peasants of Israel had a spring grain observance, the Festival of Unleavened Bread.

Later still, the seasonal aspect of the festival was transformed into a freedom holiday representing more closely the history and social and spiritual strivings of the Jewish people.

The meal of the first two nights has been formalized into a Seder (order), imbuing the original lamb, bitter herbs, and matzah with new symbolism. Additional foods were to recall the historical trials of the Jewish people. The Seder is a family meal, and those sitting at it are reminded, both by narration and by the foods to be eaten, of the rich heritage of thousands of years and the suffering through those millennia.

Pesah means "passing by" or "passing over," and the holiday was called Passover because God passed over the Jewish houses when He slew the firstborn of Egypt. Matzah, unleavened and quickly baked, now recalls that the Jews fleeing Egypt had no time to leaven their bread and to bake it properly. Usually two hallahs are served at ceremonial meals; but on Passover, three matzot are placed on the table instead.

Maror, bitter herbs, are served as reminders of the bitterness of enslavement in Egypt. Haroset, a blend of sweet fruits and nuts, represents the mortar used by Jewish slaves in building for their masters. A roasted egg (betzah) represents the festival sacrifice brought to the Temple and is thus a symbol of mourning for the destroyed Temple. Karpas -- parsley or other available greens such as celery or romaine -- recalls the "sixty myriads" of Israelites oppressed with difficult labor.

Four cups of wine are poured during the service; a fifth cup is left for the Prophet Elijah, a harbinger of freedom and the Messiah. The wine symbolizes the four divine promises of redemption found in the Scripture in connection with Israel's liberation from Egypt: "I will bring you out....I will deliver you....I will redeem you....I will take you to Me" (Exodus 6:6-7).

Since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., there have been no sacrifices at Passover. Therefore, for some it is forbidden to eat roast lamb at the Seder meal until the Temple is rebuilt. Jews usually substitute turkey or chicken as a main Seder dish and lift zeroa, a roasted lamb shank bone, as a reminder of the pascal sacrifice at the Temple.

Each civilization has left its mark on the customs and foods of the Seder. Wine and soft sofas upon which to recline were added in Greco-Roman times, as these were part of a feast. Eastern European Jews may eat parsley, while Sephardic Jews choose romaine lettuce. The haroset varies, too, depending on the availability of ingredients.

Today, despite the dispersal of Jews throughout the world, the eight-day festival maintains its family character and begins with the traditional Seder meal. The central object of every table is the Seder plate arranged with the symbolic foods. There is no rule for menus for the meal, although there are traditions, as shown in several of the menus . . . . Some families repeat the same menu both nights; others have two different ones. From what I have ascertained, what once had to do with the wealth of the family became a nostalgic custom. Some families with no servants repeated the menu, making it easier for the housewife. Wealthier families had no problem in varying the food for large gatherings.

Besides the traditional Seder dish with symbolic foods, Passover recipes themselves have evolved throughout the years, according to the country to which Jews immigrated.

Meet the Author

Joan Nathan's books include The Jewish Holiday Baker, The Children's Jewish Holiday Kitchen, and Jewish Cooking in America, which won the IACP Julia Child Award for Best Cookbook of the Year and the James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook. She lives in Washington, D.C.

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