This rich tapestry of more than three centuries of Jewish cooking in America gathers together some 335 kosher recipes, old and new. They come from both Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews who settled all over America, bringing with them a wide variety of regional flavors, changing and adapting their traditional dishes according to what was available in the new country.
What makes Jewish cooking unique is the ancient dietary laws that govern the selection, preparation, and consumption of observant Jews. Food plays a major part in rituals past and present, binding family and community. It is this theme that informs every part of Joan Nathan’s warm and lively text.
Every dish has a story–from the cholents (the long-cooked rich meat stews) and kugels (vegetable and noodle puddings) prepared in advance for the Sabbath, to the potato latkes (served with maple syrup in Vermont and goat cheese in California) and gefilte fish (made with white fish in the Midwest, salmon in the Northwest, haddock in New England, and shad in Maryland). Joan Nathan tells us how lox and bagels and Lindy’s cheesecake became household words, and how American products like Crisco, cream cheese, and Jell-O changed forever Jewish home cooking.
The recipes and stories come from every part of the U.S.A. They are seasoned with Syrian, Moroccan, Greek, German, Polish, Georgian, and Alsatian flavors, and they represent traditional foods tailored for today’s tastes as well as some of the nouvelle creations of Jewish chefs from New York to Tuscon.
When Jewish Cooking in America was first published in 1994, it won both the IACP / Julia Child Cookbook Award for Best Cookbook of the Year and the James Beard Award for Best Food of the Americas Cookbook. Now, more than ever, it stands firmly established as an American culinary classic.
About the Author
Joan Nathan was born in Providence, Rhode Island. She graduated from the University of Michigan, where she eventually received a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University. For three years she lived in Israel, where she worked for Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem. In New York, she founded the Ninth Avenue Food Festival. Ms. Nathan wrote for the Washington Post for eight years and currently contributes articles on international ethnic food and special holiday features to the New York Times, Food Arts, Gourmet, and the B’nai B’rith International Jewish Monthly. She is the author of An American Folklife Cookbook and coauthor of The Flavor of Jerusalem. Ms. Nathan lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and their three children.
Read an Excerpt
Soufganiyot—Israeli Hanukkah Jelly Doughnuts
About 24 doughnuts
Every baker in Israel worth his dough makes thse jelly doughnuts for Hannukkah. Soufganiya, the modern Israeli word for a doughnut stuffed with jam, also called ponchik in Russian, comes from the Gree sufgan ("puffed," "fried," and "spongy") and from the Hebrew sofiget ("water) and sofeg ("to blot"). It is typical of new Israeli words that they are sometimes inspired by the Arabic, by the Hebrew, or by other languages, and sometimes just invented; but they are all deeply discussed by the Academy of the Hebrew Language before being incorporated into the lexicon.
In the beginning, a soufganiya consisted of two rounds of dough sandwiching some jam, but the jam always fell out during the frying. Today, with new injectors on the market, balls of dough can be deep-fried first and then injected with jam before being rolled in sugar. This is a much easier and quicker way of preparing the doughnuts, and no jam escapes during cooking. This recipe is adapted from that of Bulgarian-born Sophi Ashkenazi, one of Tel Aviv's leading caterers. It is perhaps the only distinctly Israeli holiday dish.
1 package dry yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup lukewarm water
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (about)
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
Pinch of salt
Grated zest of 1 lemon
3 1/2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Apricot jam, about 1/2 cup
Confectioners' or granulated sugar for rolling
1. Dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the water. Let sit for 10 minutes.
2. Put the flour in the bowl of a food processor equipped with a steel blade. Add the dissolved yeast, milk, whole egg, yolk, salt, lemon zest, and the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Process until blended. Add the butter and process until the dough becomes sticky yet elastic.
3. Remove the dough to a bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for at least an hour. If you want to prepare it ahead, as I often do, place the dough in the refrigerator overnight, then let it warm to room temperature before rolling and cutting.
4. Dust a pastry board with flour. Roll the dough out to a 1/2-inch thickness. Using the top of a glass, cut into rounds about 2 inches in diameter and roll these into balls. Cover and let rise 30 minutes more.
5. Pour 2 inches of oil into a heavy pot and heat to 375 degrees.
6. Drop the doughnuts into the oil, 4 or 5 at a time. Cook about 3 minutes on each side, turning when brown. Drain on paper towels. Using an injector (available at cooking stores), insert a teaspoon of jam into each doughnut. You can also use a turkey baster, first softening the jam in a food processor. Simply push a knife halfway into the doughnut to cut a slit, then put the turkey baster into the slit and squeeze out the jam. Roll the soufganiyot in confectioners' or granulated sugar and serve immediately.
FLUFFY MATZAH BALLS
about 12 large, soft matzah balls
If you like light, airy matzah balls, you'll like this recipe. It's my son David's favorite, especially when his grandmother makes the matzah balls.
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons chicken fat or vegetable oil
1/2 cup seltzer; club soda, or chicken broth
1 cup matzah meal
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Mix the eggs well with a fork. Add the chicken fat or oil, soda water, matzah meal, and salt and pepper and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for several hours.
2. Dip your hands in cold water and make about 12 balls slightly smaller than Ping-Pong balls.
3. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add salt and place the matzah balls in the water. Cover and simmer about 30 minutes or until soft.
Tip: I often make chicken soup and matzah balls ahead. After cooking the matzah balls I just place them in the warm soup, which I then freseze. The liquid keeps them fluffy. I defrost the soup, reheat, and serve. If you like them more al dente, use large eggs and cook a shorter time.
Note: To reduce the cholesterol in this receipe, use 2 egg whites and 2 whole eggs as well as canola oil.
What People are Saying About This
A Review of Jewish Cooking in America
This is a newly released revision of award-winning author Joan Nathan's classic cookbook on Jewish cooking in America, a companion volume to her current PBS series of the same name. It is one of those must-haves for any complete cookbook library, and it most certainly is an essential piece of a Jewish cook's reference shelf. Well written with a wonderful sense of history and tradition along with straightforward recipes and instruction.
From a Barnes & Noble.com E-nnouncement
Joan Nathan's new, expanded edition of Jewish Cooking in America is a rich voyage into Jewish culture. Using not only recipes but photographs, stories, and old advertisements as well, Nathan traces the importance of food in Jewish life. Food not only draws the family together; it has a symbolic role. For example, during Rosh Hashanah, families dip apple slices in honey, representing their wishes for a sweet New Year. This new edition, expanded from the IACP/Julia Child Cookbook Award-winning 1994 edition, includes a preface that highlights Nathan's experiences while working on her PBS television series based on the book.
Joyous Rosh Hashanah Table Marks a Feast of Optimism
By Author Joan Nathan
Sunday evening, September 20th, marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanahthe New Year festival celebrated by Jews throughout the world. This holiday, a time for self-examination and the commencement of the period of repentance, precedes the day of divine judgment, which follows ten days later on Yom Kippur, September 30th.
Unlike Passover, where bitter foods are prepared in commemoration of hard times, the Rosh Hashanah table is laden with delicacies representing optimism for a sweet future. Dishes abound with honey, raisins, sweet carrots, and applesall seasonal reminders of hope for the coming year.
My father's family, of German-Jewish heritage, had its own symbolic foods for this festival, many of which had been with our ancestral family in Bavaria for centuries. Unlike the tables of eastern European Jews, our table did not include such favorites as gefilte fish, tzimmes (sweet carrot casserole) or honey cake. Instead, we ate sweet-and-sour salmon, apple streusel, zwetschgenkuchen (plum pie), and other dishes.
Today we have a mixture of both traditions and new ones learned through the years. After the traditional Hebrew blessings over candles and wine, our meal commences with the prayer over a round challah, the sweet bread representing the double portion of manna that the Israelites ate in the wilderness during their flight from Egypt. For Rosh Hashanah it is circular, representing a complete year. Then, an apple is dipped in honey, and a blessing is made, asking for a sweet and good year.
In Germany, the main course would have been roast goose with cabbage salad, potatoes, and carrots. In this country my family has substituted a honey orange chicken served with seasonal vegetables, including carrots. The Yiddish word mern, literally meaning "carrots," is translated as "to increase or to multiply."
Traditionally, honey cake is served at the end of the meal, symbolic of wishes for a sweet new year. The following recipe, which appears on p. 338 of my newly updated book, Jewish Cooking in America, is quick, easy, and a family favorite. I hope your family enjoys it too.
Oregon's Kosher Maven's Honey Cake
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 cup warm black coffee
3 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.
2. Place the eggs, lemon juice, lemon rind, oil, honey, and coffee in the bowl of an electric mixer equipped with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until well blended. Gradually add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cream of tartar, sugar, and cinnamon, mixing for about 5 minutes, or until well blended. Add the slivered almonds.
3. Pour the batter into the tube pan. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Yield: 1 cake (P)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Borrowed this from my grandmother and decided I had to have my own! This is so much more than a cookbook. Cooking with this cookbook has so much meaning and significance - and thus is more fun! - because each recipe is presented along with the history of its origins. These recipes are more than good food - they are covered with the fingerprints of Jewish cooks through the centuries and will continue to be relevant, interesting, and delicious for centuries to come! Note that it is fairly thick, with the dimensions of a novel (and I could read it like a novel, it is so in-depth and well put together) so I keep mine on a bookshelf so as not to clutter up my tiny kitchen.
This book offers user-friendly recipes, and most of the ingredients called for are easily obtainable. The majority of the recipes appear to be for dishes that are actually eaten by Jews rather than for ones that are definitely not part of Jewish cuisine although they have been passed off as such by some authors. Ms. Nathan is passionate about the food she describes and provides a generous amount of information on the history, lore, and cultural and religious traditions of the Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews who settled in America. She also includes menus, a helpful glossary of Jewish terms, and many interesting illustrations.
Besides being a definitive guide to Jewish-American cooking, the anecdotes that accompany the recipes are wonderful. When my elderly mom was no longer able to read for herself, she loved me to read them to her.