With all due respect to the Kindle and other e-readers, I think that cookbooks — meaning the printed-in-ink kind — make the best presents. There is just nothing that can quite top the joy of unwrapping a beautiful cookbook, thumbing through the collection of recipes, stories, and photos within, and starting to dream about which dish to make first.
Just in time for the holiday, here is a roundup of our favorite recently-published Jewish cookbooks. From shakshukah to pastrami, and schmaltz to gluten-free challah, there is a cookbook here to delight everyone on your Hanukkah shopping list.
The Holiday Kosher Baker: Traditional & Contemporary Holiday Desserts
By Paula Shoyer (Sterling, November 2013)
Pastry chef Paula Shoyer's beloved first book, The Kosher Baker, which came out in 2010, helped revolutionize the way Jewish cooks think about their dessert table. Now she is back with The Holiday Kosher Baker, a stunning collection of traditional and innovative recipes for every Jewish holiday, including more than 45 desserts specifically developed for Passover. These recipes alone — for Mexican Chocolate Cookies, Rosemary Nut Brittle, and Flourless Chocolate Amaretti Cake, among others — make the book a must have. And in this case, a must-give. (See Paula's Thanksgivukkah menu here!)
The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home
By Nick Zukin and Michael Zusman (Andrews McMeel Publishing, September 2013)
For more than a century, the cured meats and pickles found at the delicatessen have helped define Jewish American cuisine. And over the last two decades, a new crop of artisanal Jewish delis — places like Wise Sons in San Francisco, Kenny & Zuke's in Portland, Oregon, Mile End in New York City, and Caplansky's in Toronto have begun to breathe new life into the traditional deli cuisine. Authors Nick Zukin (the "Zuke" of Kenny and Zuke's) and Michael Zusman have captured the best of the deli old and new, offering DIY recipes for potato latkes, pastrami, and babka French toast, among other favorites, while sharing the stories and shtick from this beloved Jewish food culture. (Read more thoughts on this book here.)
By Einat Admony (Artisan, September 2013)
Israeli-born chef Einat Admony, who runs the beloved eateries Taim and Balaboosta in New York City, recently published her first book — a collection of "bold Mediterranean recipes to feed the people you love." From the baked egg shakshuka and harissa-spiced Moroccan fish, to the butternut squash and saffron soup and Turkish coffee brownies, each recipe in the collection beckons readers off of the couch and into the kitchen.
Nosh on This: Gluten-Free Baking from a Jewish-American Kitchen
By Lisa Stander-Horel and Tim Horel (The Experiment, September 2013)
Traditional Jewish food is undeniably delicious, but many of its classic dishes are not accessible to people who avoid gluten. Fortunately, this cookbook bridges the gap, offering more than 100 gluten-free recipes that are inspired by traditional Jewish fare. Once off-limit treats like black & white cookies, rugelach, challah, and marble chiffon cake are now back on the menu. It is the perfect gift for any gluten-free friend on your Hanukkah list.
The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat
By Michael Ruhlman (Little, Brown and Company, August 2013)
Cookbook author Michael Ruhlman is not Jewish, but he is a long time advocate of cooking with fat — including schmaltz, (rendered chicken fat popular in Old World Jewish cooking). His newest book serves as a primer to the beloved fat, offering fresh takes on traditional recipes from matzo balls to kugel. The book also features contemporary recipes, including schmaltz-roasted potatoes that will forever change your outlook on the classic side dish.
The New Persian Kitchen
By Louisa Shafia (Ten Speed Press, April 2013)
Shafia's cookbook explores the cuisine of Iran from a contemporary American perspective. While not exclusively Jewish or kosher in focus (Shafia gleaned many of her recipes and cooking techniques from the Muslim branch of her family on her father's side), the book contains fascinating essays about the role Jews played in shaping Persian cuisine. And her enchanting collection of recipes — for whole roasted fish with oranges and saffron, tomato rice with dried limes, and mulberry yogurt cake — would be welcome in any kitchen. (Read more on this book here.)
Did you have a favorite new cookbook in the Jewish cooking tradition this year?
(Image credits: The Kitchn; Paula Shoyer; Anjali Prasertong; Emma Christensen; The Experiment; Little, Brown and Company; Dana Velden)