As sure as crocuses and daffodils push through in spring, you’ll find a crop of Jewish cookbooks designed to help with Passover meals. Here’s a brief look at some notables this season:
by Joan Nathan
Alfred A. Knopf
April 2017; $35
It seems that all the scholarship and experience of beloved and acclaimed Washington author Joan Nathan culminate in “King Solomon’s Table,” her 11th book. Nathan makes a convincing case that the story of Jewish cuisine begins with traders who made their way from Judea to India during Solomon’s reign in the 10th century B.C., and she charts many of the subsequent culinary routes herself, connecting the likes of cheesecake and stuffed cabbage eaten in diverse lands.
One dives into “King Solomon’s Table” knowing that the notes accompanying each recipe will be as enriching as the dishes themselves — a testament to the author’s prowess as a culinary historian and chronicler of Jewish cooks. Who knew that Jewish food fairs in America date back to just after the Civil War? That chopped liver originated in the 11th century in what is now Alsace-Lorraine in France? That Jewish physicians were the reason Romans overcame their fears of eating tomatoes and eggplants in the 1700s?
The book’s simple and inviting food photography is on par with its content. If the author never produces another cookbook — and we hope that’s not the case — you would think she had been saving the best for last.
by Michele Streit Heilbrun and David Kirschner
March 2017; $15
With five generations of matzoh makers in her family, co-author Michele Streit Heilbrun offers passion and tender memories in the slim recipe collection “Matzo.” Folks who always keep the bread of affliction on hand, or derivatives such as farfel and matzoh cake meal, will be familiar with the recipes for granola, “pizza” and matzoh crunch. But they’ll also find ways to matzoh up chilaquiles, fried chicken and the Roman Passover fritters called pizzarelle. The book is matzoh sheet-sized and appropriately dimpled on the cover, which makes it a cheeky gift to match a Seder host’s matzoh-patterned napkins and yarmulkes.
by Emma Spitzer
April 2017; $35
“Fress,” the knockout debut cookbook from Emma Spitzer, a 2015 finalist on Britain’s “MasterChef” show, seamlessly blends Ashkenazic and Sephardic culinary heritage. Cooks who are game enough to gather amchur (mango) powder, dried barberries and the Middle Eastern spice blend baharat will be rewarded with a spectacular yet unfussy zucchini and labneh dish, a beautiful buckwheat salad and a new flavor profile for roast chicken.
Spitzer is a Brighton-born travel business entrepreneur who now caters and teaches cooking classes in England. In Fress (“to eat copiously and without restraint,” as translated from Yiddish on the book’s cover), her voice is that of a home cook privileged to be a part of the new food world order, acknowledging her Russian roots, her mother-in-law’s Israeli feasts, British celebrity chef John Torode and cookbook author Claudia Roden.
There’s a touch of Yotam Ottolenghi in the book’s images — vegetables that look lush and savory on the plate. Props to the styling team, who make even beef-stuffed artichokes look handsome.