It’s almost time for Purim, and then it’s Pesach and then, and then… The Jewish holidays really never stop coming (circle of life or something like that) so you always have to be prepared. To feed people that is.
Now I’m not the greatest chef around, but I’ve had my moments, and the few Jewish cooking moments I’ve had have been thanks to Sara Kasdan, the author of “Love and Knishes: An Irrepressible Guide to Jewish Cooking.” I can hear you arguing with me now. But what about this cookbook and this one? Yes, there are dozens of Jewish cookbooks around and yes, you’re right, they’ll all probably help you make a kugel to charm the company.
But what makes “Love and Knishes” so fabulous is not just the recipes but Sara’s writing and her Jewish mamale attitude.
The book starts with definitions (“lox” = “a partner to bagels,” “mitzvah” = “a good deed, like taking the cook out to dinner once in a while. In some cases this mitzvah is a two-way good deed: she’s enjoying and you’re getting a good dinner for a change”).
The chapter on soups (chicken soup, barley soup, lentils, split pea, cherry and wine) is called “It shouldn’t happen like it happens” as in your friends shouldn’t get sick and need you to make them matzo ball soup, but somedays they do, and so, nu, you should cook them some. As Sara says…
It shouldn’t happen like it happens, but sometimes a friend gets sick. So it is positively your duty to do something about it. Why should you sit there and let her die without your help? . . . What can you do? I’ll tell you: a good plate chicken soup has cured more ills than penicillin.
Sara’s recipe for chicken soup looks strikingly like my mother’s. Or my mother’s looks like Sara’s. But don’t tell her I said that. And anyway, isn’t that the point? Sara’s recipes are like mom’s. And bubbe‘s. And her bubbe’s bubbe.
My favorite chapter is called Yom Kippur Cookery. Turn to page 129 and all it says is “Ah ha! You looked. Shame on you! You should be fasting.”
But what have you made from this cookbook, Leora? I know you are asking this. And your shoulders are scrunched up and your voice is whiney. I heard it. From my kitchen typing this I heard it. Here’s the “Love and Knishes” recipe I’ve made maybe 50 times, maybe 100.
Lokchen Kugel with Apples
2 eggs, beaten; 3 tablespoons sugar; 1/4 teaspooon cinnamon; pinch of salt; 1/2 pound noodles (either broad or fine), cooked and drained; 1 cup shredded tart apples; 1/4 cup raisins; 1/4 cup chopped nuts; 4 tbs melted butter
Instructions: Combine eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add to the noodles. Add apples, raisins, nuts, and melted butter. Mix thoroughly. Place in a well-greased 1 1/2-quart casserole. Bake at 400 degrees until brown on top (about 1 hour). Serves 6.
Maccabee Family variations (because we all make this recipe): No nuts. Add a little vanilla and an extra egg to keep it together. Make sure to use golden raisins. They’re prettier. And take the skin off the apples.
But since Purim is coming up, I figured I’d start you off with a hamentaschen recipe from this trusted source. I haven’t made it yet, I admit, but I believe Sara that if she says it’s good, it’s good.
2 cups sifted flour; 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder; 6 tablespoons sugar; pinch of salt; 2 eggs, beaten; 3 tablespoons salad oil
Instructions: Sift together dry ingredients. Make a depression in the center and add eggs and oil. Mix thoroughly. Roll out to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured board. Cut into rounds about 3 inches in diameter. Place a tablespoon of filling (see below for poppy seed or prune fillings) on each round. Bring three sides of the circles together at the center to form triangles. Pinch the edges together to form a slight ridge. Bake on a greased baking tin in a 350-degree oven until golden brown (about 30 minutes). Makes 12 small Hamentaschen.
1 pound prunes, stewed; 1 cup chopped nuts; 1 tbs lemon juice; 1/4 tsp cinnamon mixed with 1 tbs sugar.
Instructions: Remove pits from prunes. Chop prunes and nuts very fine. Add lemon juice and cinnamon-sugar mix.
Poppy Seed Filling:
1 cup poppy seed; boiling water; 2 tbs sugar; 1/4 cup honey; pinch of salt; 1/2 cup water; 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds.
Instructions: Pour boiling water over poppy seed and let stand until cool; drain. Pound seeds well. (If they are large they can be run through a food grinder). Cook together poppy seed, sugar, honey, salt, and water over moderate heat until thick, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in chopped almonds. Cool.
If you want to buy Sara Kasdan’s book Love and Knishes: An Irrepressible Guide to Jewish Cooking, click on this link and buy it through TC Jewfolk’s Amazon.com store and then we’ll get a percentage of the cost of the book. Thanks!
(Photos: roboppy, stu spivak; joshbousel)