Title: Cooking Jewish. 532 Great Recipes from the Rabinowitz Family
Author: Judy Bart Kancigor
Publisher: Workman Publishing, New York
Web Site: WWW.CookingJewish.com
ISBN-13: 978-0-7611-4452-6 (hc)
ISBN-13: 978-0-76611-3581-4 (pb)
Review written by Susan Billie Taylor for CookbooksEtcetera on March 13, 2008
If you like to read cookbooks like novels, then you will love reading this book because it is much more than a cookbook. If you do genealogy, this book is also for you. It is the quintessential example of how to preserve your family stories, history, photos, and of course, recipes. In fact, a genealogist, such as myself, is in awe of the hours of work it took to put together this 656 page book with 532 recipes.
If you attended our 2005 cookbook convention in Los Angeles, you remember Judy spoke to us about her first cookbook, "Melting Pot Memories." Her dynamic speech ended with us lined up to buy her book. We knew that if her recipes were as good as her stories, then "Melting Pot Memories" would be a winner, and we weren't disappointed.
So, when I heard that Judy was writing her second cookbook, I knew one thing was for sure. I wanted a copy.
The first thing you will notice about "Cooking Jewish" is its size. I bought the hard cover edition, and it's one of the largest cookbooks I own.
The next thing you notice as you open the book, and start thumbing through the pages, is the way it is designed. Photos of Judy's family are sprinkled throughout the pages complete with captions. A second glance brings a smile to my face. Judy's wonderful sense of humor creates a delightful flavor to the book.
Let's now take a look at the table of contents. In Judy's introduction, we learn all about how this cookbook came to be which includes many stories and photos. We are taken "back to the old country" where Judy's family lived in Slonim, located in present day Belarus. Maps are included. The next chapter answers all of your questions about how to eat Kosher. Now for the recipes! The chapters are: appetizers, soups, salads, meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, potatoes & noodles & rice & grains, breads, breakfast, cakes, pies & pastries, cookies, desserts & candy, Passover, and drinks. A conversion table is also included. Lastly, the index will take you wherever you want to go.
Located throughout the book are orange boxes which contain precious treasures of family stories. I especially like the one on page 205 by Stu Kancigor. He made "Spaghetti a la Bradley" for his in-laws only to discover a whole jar of garlic doesn't equal one head of garlic. Why do these things always happen when cooking for in-laws?
Judy was able to secure over 500 recipes from over 200 of her relatives! Located right above each recipe is the name of who submitted it to Judy. So we don't get too confused as to who all these people are, she even includes a family tree. Oh, Stu Kancigor is Judy's son. And yes, I agree with Judy when she says that it took a planet, not a village to write this cookbook.
Just when you need one, Judy supplies us with a cooking tip. Page 329 gives tips for making Challah. I wouldn't attempt making it without following her advice. Page 458 has tips on making cookies that are good reminders.
Some of the titles of the recipes could only be found in a family heirloom cookbook such as this one. The name, "Chicken Stupid!" makes perfect sense for this recipe when you read how it got its name on page 192. "Tanta Esther Gittel's Husband's Second Wife Lena's Nut Cake" (pages 402-3) is self-explanatory, but by the time you say it, everyone has eaten their piece of cake.
Not all of the recipes in the book are traditional Jewish dishes. Brad, Judy's other son, contributed a Greek dip called "Sally Kay's Tzatziki Dip" (pages 9-10). Sally is a friend and former coworker of Brads. "Taal's Chicken Biryani" (pages 201-2) is an Indian recipe originating from Taal Indian Restaurant in Orange County, California. "Chicken Stir-fry with Walnuts" (pages 202-3) is a Chinese recipe. So, as you can see, Cooking Jewish is a cookbook full of recipes from around the world, cooked by a Jewish family.
Of course, there are plenty of Jewish dishes to make. Farfel is a tiny egg noodle, and used in the side dish, "Grandma Blanche's Farfel" (pages 311-2). Serving "Gefilte Fish" (pages 51-3) is a Sabbath tradition. And, what everyone knows as Jewish penicillin, "Chicken Soup" (pages 63-4), is not just any chicken soup. This recipe comes from Judy's Mother, Lillian Bart, who is seen holding a large terrine of her masterpiece which appeared in the food section of The Orange County Register.
Why it is so much fun to enter into the world of another family through the food they eat is probably because we can all relate to the sharing of food. Stories are told and traditions are created. Take a peak into Judy's family and you will share in her families memories, history, and of course, the food they eat.
I chose to make Judy's "Bread Machine Pita" recipe. When I read her story of why she bought a bread machine, all I could think of was one thing. Anyone would buy a bread machine after that.
These pitas were very simple to make as the bread machine does most of the work. I baked half of them. I wrapped the other half of the dough in a plastic bag, and put it into the refrigerator. I made the second half of pitas two days later, and they came out just fine.
If this recipe is any indication of the others in this book, then they are winners. I will definitely make these pitas again and again. They are absolutely delicious! I also can make them anytime because these ingredients are staples in my house. Enjoy!
Bread Machine Pita (page 335)
3 ¾ cups bread flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large egg
1 ½ tablespoons honey or sugar (I used sugar)
2 teaspoons yeast for bread machines
vegetable cooking spray, for greasing the baking sheet
1. Place all the ingredients except the cooking spray in the bread machine bowl, following the order suggested by the manufacturer. Set the machine on the dough mode.
2. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
3. When the cycle has completed, remove the dough and shape into golf-ball-size balls. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet, cover with a kitchen towel, and allow to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. (An oven preheated to the lowest setting and then turned off works for me.)
4. Place an empty, ungreased baking sheet in the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
5. Roll the balls of dough to form flat rounds and place them on another ungreased baking sheet. When you have 7 or 8 rounds, remove the hot baking sheet from the oven (with a mitt, please!), spray it quickly with vegetable cooking spray, and quickly throw the flattened rounds onto the hot sheet. Bake until brown on one side, 2 minutes. Turn them over with tongs, and bake until brown on the other side, 1 minute more. Quickly remove the pitas from the baking sheet and place them in a single layer on another baking sheet. Respray the hot baking sheet, and repeat this process until all the dough has been flattened and baked.
6. The pitas will puff up on baking and will be easy to split if you don't cover them or seal them in a plastic bag. To serve, split the pitas and fill them for sandwiches, or cut or tear them into eights for dipping. I like to serve them in a straw basket lined with a linen napkin.