The Jew And The Carrot

2012's Best Jewish Cookbooks

By Devra Ferst

  • Print
  • Share Share
Nate Lavey

This year my desk has been strewn with cookbooks containing recipes for homemade pastrami, sweet potato and farmer cheese blintzes, German Jewish cakes, Sephardic treasures from the island of Rhodes and delicious dishes to keep one warm during the winter. These cookbooks have called me to the kitchen and many have made appearances both at my dinner table and at the table of the reviewers below. The books have coached us through fermentation experiments, allowed us to travel to Zimbabwe without leaving our kitchens and helped us understand the culinary legacy of Jerusalem’s diverse population.

From our eight favorite books from the year — one for each night of Hanukkah — we present two below. (Check back every day this week for another two books.) They are all great holiday gifts for the passionate cook in your life or a treat for yourself.

A Borderless Kitchen for the Mideast Maven

Jerusalem: A Cookbook
by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Ten Speed Press, 320 Pages, $35

Few 2012 cookbook releases were as highly anticipated as this fall’s “Jerusalem,” and for good reason: The authors, Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi, make for good press. Tamimi, a Palestinian, grew up in East Jerusalem, while Ottolenghi, a Jew, was raised in the Western portion of the city. They met as young chefs in London, and formed a professional alliance — five restaurants, three books and counting — that shows no signs of slowing down. This begs a question: Were it not for the compelling back-story, could the cookbook’s spine stand as straight? Thankfully, the answer is a resounding yes. Not only is “Jerusalem” exquisitely photographed, but the recipes — colorful, lavish salads, nut-studded stuffed vegetables, one-pot Palestinian holiday dishes — are bolstered by meticulous historical research and highly personal recollections from the two authors about their family-food morays. The authors’ harmonious narrative balances the scales of a city and cuisine more regularly viewed through a singularly Western, Jewish prism. In sharp contrast to most stories about Jerusalem, theirs — recounted in pomegranate seeds, cuts of lamb and saffron threads rather than chronicles of holy wars and conflict — celebrates the food in its element, putting forth a seductive argument for an edible coexistence that will likely outlast any political treaty.

— Adeena Sussman

Plane Ticket to Rhodes for the Globe Trotter

Stella’s Sephardic Table: Jewish Family Recipes From the Mediterranean Island of Rhodes
by Stella Cohen
Hoberman Collection, 304 pages, $50

Part memoir, part history of the Jews of Rhodes and part cookbook, “Stella’s Sephardic Table” is a beautiful tribute to Stella Cohen’s ancestral home. Although she grew up in Zimbabwe, Cohen always felt a strong connection to the Greek island Rhodes through her mother’s cooking, the stories of her great-grandfather Yaacov Capouva (a respected sage and rabbi of Rhodes) and annual trips to the island.

The coffee table-sized book is a labor of love, with more than 250 recipes, gorgeous color photos, clear instructions, a glossary of ingredients and terms, and even a section featuring Cohen’s paintings. “This book,” Cohen explains in the introduction, “is a collection of my most-loved traditional Sephardic everyday food and festive dishes from Rhodes.”

The recipes in “Stella’s Sephardic Table” tell the story of the Diaspora and the myriad influences on the food of Sephardic Jews, incorporating aspects of Spanish, Ottoman Turkish, Greek and in this case even African cuisines. From Turkish kebabs to African piri-piri sauce and from Greek meatballs to Spanish fried rice pilaf, Cohen paints a picture of her heritage and the beautiful flavors that come from it.

— Katherine Martinelli

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Hanukkah, Best Jewish Cookbooks, Best Cookbooks 2012

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  •'s Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.