Jewish Con Men, Nice Arabs Score Oscar Noms

I am voting for Nebraska (which was mostly filmed in Montana).

omar3Films depicting noble Arabs in the Middle East and Jews acting as con artists in America scored high among the Oscar nominations that were made public on Thursday morning, January 16, 2014 in Hollywood.

An Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film was received by OMAR, a film from Palestine directed and written by Hany Abu-Assad. The film will be released in the United States in February 2014, and tells the story of Omar, a young Palestinian baker who decides to fight Israel. He is beaten and interrogated by Israelis, and pushed into serving as an agent, or double agent. The love story stars Waleed Zuaiter, Adam Bakri, Leem Lubani, Samer Bisharat, and Eyad Hourani. Abu-Assad’s earlier film, “Paradise Now,” was nominated for an Oscar in 2005. OMAR was filmed in Nazareth, Israel, and in Nablus and other parts of the Palestinian Territories. The Palestinian and Emirati production was the opening film of last year’s Dubai International Film Festival (the DIFF); it received the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival last May.

The film, OMAR, is similar in story to the Israeli Oscar candidate, BETHLEHEM, which never made it to the Oscars’ short list of semi-finalists. It is a reminder that films titled for people do better than those named for a town.

A nomination for Best Documentary Feature was received by THE SQUARE, by Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer. It follows half a dozen participants in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for nearly three years. Noujaim’s earlier acclaimed documentaries include and The Control Room. Noujaim, a resident of Cairo, began filming the demonstration in Tahrir Square and followed several charismatic protestors including a British actor/activist, a Muslim, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and more. Her team shot over 1,600 hours of Digital Video and edited it down to 90 minutes. After showing the gripping, bloody film at Sundance last January, she shot more video and re-edited the doc after President Morsi was forced out of office in 2013. Watching THE SQUARE, you get a on-the-street view of the protests, organization, lack-of-organization, and the story of how the most well-meaning, debate-filled activists can easily lose the war to a more organized group, like the Army or the Muslim Brotherhood.

Of course, my favorite part of THE SQUARE was the woman – a picture of Che on her bookcase in the background – who said she was so fed up with Egypt that she would even let a JEW be President if he could restore order. My only question is why did Magdy Ashour, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose own son was ordered to beat him and other protestors, always wear the same anti-Israel BDS movement t-shirt each day (when he wasn’t wearing a Morsi t-shirt).

The Square features Khalid Abdalla, Ahmed Hassan, Aida Kashef, Magdy Ashour, Ragia Omran, Ramy Essam, Aida El Kashef, and of course Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi

Major nominations for actors, actresses and films went to films that portrayed Jewish men as con artists. They included WOLF OF WALL STREET and AMERICAN HUSTLE.

In AMERICAN HUSTLE, a New York City small-time con man, Irving Rosenfeld, meets a lovely hustler named Miss Sydney Prosser and their scams are targets of FBI agent Richie DiMaso. They are forced into an even larger scam. Irving is based on the real life scams of Melvin ‘Mel’ Weinberg.

In WOLF OF WALL STREET, a broker decides to start a penny-stock scam/boiler room and generate millions of dollars in profits for him and his brokers. The story is based on the real life crimes of Jordan Belfort, a Jewish young man from Bayside, Queens who graduated from American University with a degree in biology, and generated millions of dollars before being sent to prison. His partner in the firm, Stratton Oakmont, was Danny Porush (played by Joanh Hill in the film), who served 39 months in prison.

The Oscars will be telecast in America on ABC-TV on Sunday, March 2, 2014.

Gates Criticizes Obama in New Memoir

DUTYRobert M. Gates, former U.S. Secretary of Defense, who served Presidents Bush and Obama writes in a new memoir that President Obama was frustrated over his Afghan policy — expressing doubts about Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander he had chosen, and questioning whether he could do business with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. “As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his… For him, it’s all about getting out.”

In Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, Mr. Gates offers a detailed history of his personal wars with the U.S. Congress, the Pentagon bureaucracy and President Obama’s White House staff.

Shortly before he stepped down as secretary of defense, Gates harshly criticized PM Netanyahu’s Israeli government and called Israel an ungrateful ally of the United States. Should make for an interesting read.

Jewish Books from The Miami Book Fair International

Thirty years ago, a Book Fair was launched in Miami with three major authors and several hundred attendees. Thirty years later, the Miami Book Fair International – hosting 500 authors and 250,000 attendees – is vying with “Art Basel-Miami” as the defining annual high culture feature of Miami and Dade County, Florida.

Book fair chairman, Mitchell Kaplan, launched this year’s festival by introducing author Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code; Inferno) at a seafood restaurant. Kaplan, a past president of the American Booksellers Association, is a co-founder of the festival, and owns the Books & Books chain of Miami (and the Hamptons) bookstores. The opening was given a royal flair with the presence of Spain’s Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia. They were present to celebrate the fair’s Spanish books and readings and mark the 500th anniversary of the Spanish colonization of Florida by Juan Ponce de Leon.

Among the authors present and books featured were the top books of 2013. The included:

arishavitAri Shavit. Author of “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel” which was named a top book by The Economist and The New York Times Book Review. Shavit, a columnist for Haaretz, draws on interviews, historical documents, private diaries, and letters, vignettes of yishuv figures, as well as his own family’s story, to tell the story of Zionism and Israel, and call – a scream – for a change in Israel’s narrative. Shavit introduces the reader to Shavit’s great-grandfather, Herbert Bentwich, a British Zionist leader who in 1897 visited Palestine on a Thomas Cook tour, reported back to Herzl, decided to stay, and later, bought land from his Arab neighbor in the 1920s to grow the Jaffa oranges that would create Palestine’s booming economy. He mentioned his great grandfather so much in his talk at the Miami Book Fair that I got the feeling that he had a “chip on his shoulder,” and was trying to distance himself from any other Israeli who came to the land in the various waves of aliyah or who did not purchase their land legally. He primarily asks what Israel is and what its future should and shall be. His stories set up the foundations for what became the current state and structures of Israel. he writes that Israel’s main problem is that it lost our narrative: “We were a story that became a reality, but we lost our sense of meaning. We need to love Israel in a new, authentic way.” Shavit will visit a number of American college campuses in 2014. He realizes that many young Jews “who see Israel as an embarrassment and he wants to make Israel attractive and sexy again, and to connect it with the heart of the Jewish experience. Essentially, he wants to renew Zionism. Should be interesting conversations.

A video of his talk at the Miami Book Fair International can be found HERE. Shavit appeared on stage with Scoot Anderson, the author of Lawrence IN Arabia: The Making of the Modern Middle East. Anderson tells the real story of T.E. Lawrence who toiled to unite the Arabs against the Ottoman Turks, which he said was a sideshow to the sideshow, and ignored by Britain, which was much more busy with WWI. Among the stars of his book is Curt Prüfer, an effeminate academic who worked for Germany in Cairo and tried to get the Arabs to revolt against Britain, and Aaron Aaronsohn, the renowned Jewish agronomist and committed Zionist who gained the trust of the Ottoman governor of Syria and ran a complex Jewish spy ring that the British ultimately ignored, since they hated the Palestinian Jews, and Jews in general.

doubledMark Halperin and John Heilemann authors of “Double Down: Game Change 2012” read from their book on the 2012 U.S. presidential contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It is filled with gossip and jokes and big words that make the authors look wise. They expose the successes, gaffes, arguments, blunders, and background machinations on the campaign trail. You find out that the Romney’s actually liked that Ann Romney was said not to have ever worked; if Joe Biden was seriously considered being dropped from the ticket, and why New Jersey governor Chris Christie could never be Romney’s running mate (too many skeletons in his closet).

A video of his talk at the Miami Book Fair International can be found HERE.

I was excited by the book reading by civil rights leader and U.S. Congressman John Lewis (D-GA). Part of the excitement came from bumping into him looking for umbrellas for sale as the rain poured down in Miami, and sitting next to him in a small coffee bar as we waited for the book reading to begin. What can i say, I am a sucker for political celebrities. Lewis was promoting his graphic memoir March – Book 1 which he wrote with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. March – Book 1, tells the story of Lewis growing up on his father’s farm, preaching to chickens and his younger cousins (the chickens never said AMEN), his letter to Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., his college years, and his involvement with King and the civil rights movement. It was Rosa Parks’ lawyer who introduced the teenage Lewis to King and Ralph Abernathy. It was actually a MLK, Jr comic book that influenced the start the lunch counter sit-ins movement in Greensboro. Lewis, who met with President John F. Kennedy in 1963 after the March on Washington (Lewis is the last surviving member of the March’s main speakers), told the book fair attendees that he has been arrested forty times. Lewis told his readers to stand up, and get into trouble; good trouble and necessary (non violent) trouble.

Representative Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-FL) also was at the book fair and spoke to her constituents and readers about the book she co-authored, For the Next Generation: A Wake-Up Call to Solving Our Nation’s Problems, in which she talks about her experiences in politics, and challenges the American people to address issues that face future generations. Her talk can be found HERE.

Chris Matthews, a pundit, media personality, author, and political speechwriter read from his book, Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked. Seriously, I thought he was a little inebriated during his hilarious reading. But I sense this is just his speaking style. More enjoyable than the book were his answers to audience questions, during which he told one fan to watch another television show if they weren’t happy enough with his. The reading can be seen HERE.

Actress Anjelica Huston presented her memoir at the fair. It is titled A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London, and New York. It is the story of her youth and education and early acting career before she moved to Hollywood in 1973. She was raised on an Irish estate and was introduced to dozens of authors and actors. At age 17, precocious, vulnerable, and model thin, she was devastated when her mother died in a car crash. Months later Anjelica (who dreamed of being Morticia Adams) moved to Manhattan, fell in love with a much older, disturbed photographer named Bob Richardson, and became a model. They lived in the famed Chelsea Hotel. Her decision to write the memoir came when she was shooting a film in Prague, and felt bored. Acting, she said opens you to criticism, boredom, disappointment, and a lot of waiting. She began to trade e-mails with producer Mitch Glazer (the son of famed Miami writing coach, Zelda Glazer), and he began to coax her to to her memoirs (which she did, by hand… and in pencil.)

heartcheneyA late addition to the festivities was former Vice president Dick Cheney in a book discussion with his co-author and cardiologist, Dr. Jon Reiner, or George Washington University Medical Center. Their book is titled, Heart: An American Medical Odyssey. The book tells the history of modern cardiovascular medicine using Cheney’s life as the sample subject. He had his first heart attack in 1978 as a young adult, had several more heart atacks and bypass surgeries, lived with a pacemaker, and an artificial heart pump, and recently recovered from a heart transplant. In 1978, the White House was stock full of free cigarettes and Wite House matchbooks; there were no drugs to open arteries or stents. These are now standard tools. As a young teen, Cheney witnessed his grandfather die of a heart attack in their house. Did this affect his political outlook? Who knows. Their book is a fascinating account of a man who changes his lifestyle in order to live.

paulausterPaul Auster’s reading was a multimedia event, combining a slide show with a reading from his memoir, Report From The Interior. The book charts Auster’s moral, political, and intellectual journey as he inches his way toward adulthood through the postwar 1950s and into the turbulent 1960s. My favorite segment? He was distant from his father until he learned that his father had worked for Thomas Edison. For years, Auster felt second-hand esteem from that fact, until as a teen, he learned that his father had only worked for Edison for a few days. Edison learned that Paul’s father was Jewish and had him fired immediately. Auster evokes the sounds and smells of his early life in New Jersey.

Thane Rosenbaum read from Payback: The Case for Revenge. A legal scholar, novelist and professor, he is an outspoken critic of Holocaust literature. Revenge, he argues, is not the problem. It is a healthy emotion. Instead, the problem is the inadequacy of lawful outlets through which to express it. He mounts a case for legal systems to punish the guilty commensurate with their crimes as part of a societal moral duty to satisfy the needs of victims to feel avenged.

Just down the hall from Rosenbaum at Miami-Dade College, cultural critic Roger Rosenblatt read from his memoir, The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood. When he was nine years old, living on Gramercy Park in Manhattan, he imagined himself a private detective in search of criminals. With the dreamlike mystery of the city before him, he sets off alone, out into the streets of Manhattan, thrilling to a life of unsolved cases. A grown man now, he investigates his own life and the life of the city as he walks, exploring the New York of the 1950s. Rosenbaum was followed by Greg bellow, the son of author Saul bellow, and his book, Saul Bellow’s heart: A Son’s Memoir it is an affectionate and honest look inside the life of one of America’s greatest writers, his father the Nobel Prize-winning author Saul Bellow, Greg Bellow offers a if a man known to be quick to anger, prone to argument, politically conservative, and vulnerable to literary critics.

Other authors of note at the fair included Dani Shapiro (Still Writing); Gary J. Bass (The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide); Peter Baker (Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney); Joshua Safran (Free Spirit: Growing Up On The Road and Off The Grid); Leslie Maitland (Crossing the Borders of Time); Rich Cohen; Samuel G. Freedman; Rabbi Solomon Schiff; Richard Breitman (FDR and The Jews); James Goodman (But Where is the Lamb? Imagining The Story of Abraham and Isaac); David Kaufman (Jewhooing The Sixties); and Dror Burstein (Netanya).

First Post – Cookbooks of 2013

newjewishtablegrayThe New Jewish Table: Modern Seasonal Recipes for Traditional Dishes by Todd Gray, Ellen Kassoff Gray ,and David Hagedorn When Todd Met Ellen And Opened a DC Restaurant. When Chef Todd married his wife, Ellen, who is Jewish, their physical, legal, and spiritual union brought about his culinary initiation into the world of Jewish cuisine. In 1999, they opened a farm-to-table eatery, Equinox, in Washington, D.C. Their cookbook combines Eastern-European Jewish with seasonal American. Todd is a five-time James Beard Award nominee, CIA grad, and he puts a professional chef’s spin on the homestyle recipes. Top recipes: Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Latkes: Matzo-Stuffed Cornish Game Hens; Fig and Port Wine Blintzes: and Chocolate Hazelnut Rugelach.

russandaughtersRuss & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House That Herring Built by Mark Russ Federman with a foreword by humorist Calvin Trillin I am not a Litvak… well, perhaps I am a half-Litvak, but still, I never ate whitefish or lox until I was at least twenty. And I still have never eaten herring. And yet, I loved this book. Mark Russ Federman, the grandson of the founder of Russ & Daughters, Joel Russ, recounts his family’s stories from Manhattan’s Lower East Side; the founding of his family’s cut-rate herring and appetizing store; life in a four-generation family business; and glimpses into the Jewish or Russ family style of retail customer service. And for good measure, he throws in a few – very few – recipes. Joel Russ (pronounced Rooos originally but who’s going to argue with a customer; just say Russ) arrived on Manhattan’s Lower East Side from the Austro Hungarian area of Southeastern Poland and started to peddle herring from a barrel. Like many other peddlers, he worked his way up from peddling, pushcart, storefront, and store, to building-ownership. he put the whole family to work. Federman anecdotely recreates the world of sawdust covered stores and the transition to linoleum; the demolition of the elevated trains; the postwar flight of the middle class from the LES to the suburbs; the decline of the area and its current regeneration or gentrification. There are thirteen (13) recipes. They are for Mushroom Barley Soup (uses dried and fresh shrooms); Lox Eggs and Onions; Herring in Parchment (adapted from the former chef at the Swedish consulate); Beet, Apple and Herring Salad (uses Swedish mustard and a sour pickle); Fruit Studel; Egg Cream; Cheese Blintzes (uses cinnamon); Whitefish and Baked Salmon Salad (do you know what kippered salmon means?); Smoked Salmon Tartare (use Gaspe Atlantic or Western Nova); Potato Latkes, Bagel Chips; Bagel Pudding with Prunes and Raisins; and Lox Chowder (uses heavy cream and chicken stock, so kosher readers should substitute).

ottolenghiOttolenghi: The Cookbook. By Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi The authors did so well with their bestselling “Jerusalem” cookbook, that they have repackaged their UK cookbook as Ottolenghi. It contains 140 recipes from London’s Ottolenghi restaurants, which specialize in Mediterranean cuisine. Yotam grew up in a Jewish family in Jerusalem, and Sami’s family is Palestinian. The book opens with the following sentence, “If you don’t like lemon or garlic . . . skip to the last page.” You should also enjoy za’atar and sumac, as in Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za’tar, and Lemon. Other recipes include those for The Carrot and Walnut Torte Cake; Chicken with Caramelized Onion and Cardamom Rice; Marinated Turkey Breast with Cumin, Coriander, and White Wine; Peaches and Italian Speck Ham with Orange Blossom; Grilled Broccoli with Chile and Garlic and couscous with oven-dried tomatoes, and dried apricots and butternut squash; and Panfried Sea Bass on Pita with Labneh, Tomato, and Preserved Lemon.

artisanjewishdeliThe Artisan Jewish Deli at Home by Nick and Michael Zusman. Nick is one half of the popular Portland oregan deli “Kenny & Zuke’s.” He is the Zuke. It is one of those artisinal, neo-Jewish deli’s like Mile End in Brooklyn and Wise Sons Delicatessen in San Francisco. Michael is a state court judge in Oregon and a freelance restaurant and food journalist. The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home updates classic deli recipes. The range of favorite recipes include: Crispy Potato Latkes with Chunky Ginger Applesauce; Summer Chicken Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumber and Cracklings; Wise Sons’ Chocolate Babka French Toast; Pastrami Benedict; Bagel Chips; Home Oven Pastrami; Stuffed Cabbage Rolls; corning beef; smoking pastrami; kippers; lox; pumpernickel bread; challah; babkas; sourdough bread; rugelach; knishes; bagels; Cold Beet and Raspberry Summer Borscht; and Celery Soda.

balaboostaBALABOOSTA. Bold Mediterranean Recipes to Feed the People You Love by Einat Admony. Einat Admony is a mother, wife, chef, and runs over three very busy New York City restaurants (more than three, since there is also a food truck). She is a balaboosta (“super-perfect housewife”). She is Israeli-born of Yemenite and Persian/Iranian Jewish heritage, and her 140 sophisticated Mediterranean recipes reflect her background and kitchen experiences. She learned to cook from her mother, and her first job was at Keren, Haim Cohen’s famed restaurant in Israel. (she includes his sardine recipe). One of her favorite cookbooks is The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur. Throughout BALABOOSTA, she shares personal stories on how to prepare the item and how to eat it. For example, who eats turnips for breakfast? Einat shares a story on how her mother served them split in half and sprinkled with brown sugar, and she ate them with a spoon as you would a grapefruit. Recipes include those for Harissa-spiced Moroccan Fish; Chicken with pomegranate and walnuts (a variant on the Persian Fesenjan) but you can use molasses, juice, and honey; Red velvet (Beet) Gnocchi; Schnitzel; Root Vegetable Chips; Butternut Squash And Saffron Soup; Lamb chops with Persian Lime Sauce; Turkey Meatballs with Okra (but use 3 TEAspoons of kosher salt, rather than the book’s 3 TABLEspoons); Moroccan Carrots with tomato paste, cumin, vinegar and garlic; and Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas and Preserved Lemon. (Some cooks have told me that you should read the book for its stories, but some of the recipes are not tested well. The amounts and yields are incorrect, and you will not have the same results. If you purchase it, it is probably best to go to her website and ask her for any needed post-publication corrections)

schmaltzThe Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat by Michael Ruhlman, with photographs by Donna Turner Ruhlman Michael Ruhlman proves that you don’t need to live on a coast to succeed as a food journalist and author. The respected culinary expert and Iron Chef judge explores schmaltz (or rendered chicken fat), once a staple ingredient in traditional Jewish cooking> In his ode of chicken fat, he re-visits recipes for the three K’s: kugel, kishke, and kreplach; and tells us how fat makes them better. Potatoes cooked with schmaltz take on a crispness and satisfying flavor that vegetable oil can’t produce (remember how oreo cookies took decades to change from animal fat to vegetable oil). Ruhlman, the author of Ratio and The Elements of Cooking explains that meat and starches (potatoes, noodles) have a depth and complexity that set them apart from the same dishes prepared with olive oil or butter. Recipes include those for chopped liver with schmaltz, chicken soup with matzo balls, kreplach, knishes, cholent, vichyssoise with gribenes and chives, chicken confit, Parisienne gnocchi with spinach, onion, a poached egg and schmaltz, chicken with dumplings, pate, and egg and gribenes spread. Also available for i-Pads.

joyofkosherJoy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes by Jamie Geller. Known as the “Queen of Kosher” and the “Jewish Rachael Ray,” Jaime Geller is the founder and chief creative officer of the Kosher Media Network and She is also host of the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller cooking special on PBS and a show on JLTV. She and her husband and their five children recently moved to Israel. The book includes more than 100 recipes, plus each one has a creative twist, so it is as if you have 200 recipes. But wait, you make them with an outstretched hard of five fingers, so you can multiply the recipes by five and have more than 1,000. The include, Crystal Clear Chicken Soup with Julienned Vegetables and Angel Hair; Garlic Honey Brisket (Dress It Down: Honey Brisket Pita Pockets); Miso-Glazed Salmon (Dress It Up: Avocado-Stuffed Miso-Glazed Salmon); and Butternut Squash Mac ‘n’ Cheese (Dress It Down: Mac ‘n’ Cheese Muffin Cups). Challah? Recipes for Sun-Dried Tomato, Garlic, and Herb Braided Challah; Blueberry Apple Challah Rolls; Sea-Salted Soft Challah Pretzel Rolls; and Gooey Pecan Challah Sticky Buns.

primegrillThe Prime Grill Cookbook
by David Kolotkin and Joey Allaham.
Opened 13 years ago, The Prime Grill in Manhattan is one of a few high-end kosher restaurants. Recipes include (but NO recipe for their famous duck spring rolls): Truffled Deviled Eggs, “Crab” Cakes with Horseradish Aioli, Delmonico Steak with Peppercorn Sauce, BBQ Briased Short Ribs, Helene Kolotkin’s Holiday Brisket with Carrot and Onion Gravy, steak with fennel puree, Mediterranean Tuna Tartar, Seafood Ceviche, dairy-free creamed spinach, Apricot-Glazed Beignets, Southern Pecan and Chocolate Chip Pie, Prime Grill Rosemary Potato Chips, and a host of dairy-free desserts as well as a foundation of stocks, sauces, and dressings.

noshonthisNosh on This: Gluten-Free Baking from a Jewish-American Kitchen by Lisa Stander-Horel and Tim Horel, with a Foreword by Arthur Schwartz The the authors of the Gluten Free Canteen blogger, these food bloggers (FLoggers) present a gluten-free Jewish baking book. 100 gluten-free recipes including Mom’s Marble Chiffon Cake, Black & White Cookies, Corn Bread Challah Stuffing, O’Figginz Bars, hamantaschen, mandelbrot, honey cake, chocolate babka, kugel, latkes, macaroons, and Big Fat Baked Sufganiyah Jelly Donuts.

holidaykosherbakerThe Holiday Kosher Baker: Traditional & Contemporary Holiday Desserts by Paula Shoyer Washington, DC-area Attorney Paula Shoyer was disappointed with kosher desserts that tasted like cardboard, so she wrote her own cookbook, The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-Free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy (Brandeis University Press). She graduated from the Ritz Escoffier pastry program in Paris, France, and teaches baking classes. She is the editor of the popular cookbooks Kosher by Design Entertains and Kosher by Design Kids in the Kitchen (both Mesorah publications). In this book, there are six color-coded sections, one for each of the main holidays: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Chanukah, Purim, Passover and Shavuot. Recipes for classic traditional desserts abound, including: sponge cakes, babkas, challahs, and rugelach, Ombré Layer Cake, Raspberry and Rose Macaron Cake, upside-down apple cake, Green Tea Hamantaschen, Caramelized Mocha and Vanilla Bean Napoleons, babka bite muffins, Cranberry and Orange Spelt Scones, and a Salted Caramel Banana Tart Tatin.

eatingthebibleEating the Bible: Over 50 Delicious Recipes to Feed Your Body and Nourish Your Soul by Rena Rossner. You are probably familiar with Rena Rossner from her cooking columns in The Jerusalem Post and the Jerusalem Report. Her Jerusalem Post cooking column, “The Weekly Portion,” combined recipes with biblical verses. Rossner relates that it all started en years ago, when she was served a bowl of lentil soup. The portion of the Bible that had been discussed that week was the parshat (Toldot) in which Esau sells his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of red lentil soup. Rossner was struck by the ability to bring the Bible alive in such a tactile way and decided on the spot to see whether she could incorporate the Bible into a meal each week. The result, Eating the Bible, is an cookbook with easy-to-prepare recipes that will prompt conversations on the bible about Eden Salad and Mannah Bread. What if the parshat was about mortar? You can serve peanut butter. And what about “Abraham and Isaac, and may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land.” (Bereshit 48:16), What would you serve? sardines, of course.

newpersianThe New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia This contemporary take on the alluring cuisine of Iran from cookbook author Louisa Shafia features 75 recipes for both traditional Persian dishes and modern reinterpretations. Chef Louisa Shafia explores her Persian heritage by reimagining classic Persian recipes from a fresh, vegetable-focused perspective. She uses rose petals, dried limes, tamarind, and sumac, while offering surprising preparations for familiar foods such as beets, carrots, mint, and yogurt for the busy, health-conscious cook. Recipes include Turmeric Chicken with Sumac and Lime; Pomegranate Soup; Persian “Matzoh Balls” with Chickpeas and Chicken (Gondi), Pomegranate Walnut Stew (Fesenjan), Rice with Rose Petals and Barberries (Zereshk Polo), Nutty Chocolate Bark with Cardamom and Coffee (Sholeh Zard), and Cardamom Pizzelles. Louisa adds that growing up, she did not eat pork, since her father is Muslim and her mother is Jewish. She yearned for fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Her mother focused on French and European cooking as well as fried matzoh, latkes, borscht, dill pickles, and bagels with lox. Her father loved flatbread, tart yogurt, fluffy saffron rice, charred and juicy kebabs, fragrant and complex Persian stews like eggplant and tomato bademjan, and mouth-puckering torshi pickles. They had a cook/nanny (Mrs. D(ugan)) who had run a canteen for laborers in Philadelphia, from who she learned to cook also.

bataliThe Batali Brothers Cookbook
by Leo Batali and Benno Batali.
For the past decade, the Batali family spends a month in Northern Michigan at a blue roofed, pink and orange walled summer house on Grand Traverse Bay in the Leelanau Peninsula (by the way, “Leelanau” pretends to be a native American word that means ‘delight of life’ but it was made up by a man who gave many towns faux-Indian Ojibwa sounding pace names). The Batalis cook a lot. For chef Mario’s 50th birthday, his sons prepared a cookbook of favorite family foods, and Susi Cahn, their mother, took pictures. But when your family is friends with publishers, that homemade gift becomes a public book. There are about 17 recipes in part one of the book by the kids, and then 16 recipes by Mario that his kids enjoy. Recipes include: Cinnamon Swirl French Toast; Brown Sugar Pancakes; Sloppy Sloppy Joes; and Franny’s Sunshine Cake (Birthday Cake). The Batali brothers scramble their eggs in virgin olive oil. Their whole roasted chicken uses 1.5 cups of pickle juice and 8 cloves of garlic. Their Triple P Salad is Potatoes, Peas and Pesto.

sovietcookMastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya Von Bremzen. Anya Von Bremzen is a James Beard Award-winning writer who was born in the USSR and came to the US with her family. In school, she black-marketeered Juicy Fruit gum, and longed to taste The West. Anya and her mother dreamed of food; it was an obsession. A maternal grandchild of the Frumkin’s, she knew of scarcity, and even when she emigrated and landed in Philly in the 1970s, as a child, she craved the flavors of Soviet candy and meats, and worse, Soviet mayonnaise. In this book, she eats and cooks her way through every decade of the Soviet experience — turning her mother’s kitchen into a “time machine and an incubator of memories.”

isadoesitIsa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week by Isa Chandra Moskowitz Recipes, tips, and strategies for easy, delicious vegan meals every day of the week, from America’s bestselling vegan cookbook author. Isa’s blog gets 5 million visits a year, and she has more than 20,000 Twitter followers.
Isa grew up in Brooklyn eating powdered potatoes and hamburger helper. Then she went vegan and her mother bought her a small stack of cookbooks. She dropped out of the coveted High School for Music and Art (Fame, I Want To Live Forever), focused on cooking, and now we have this, her latest cookbook. How does Isa Chandra Moskowitz make flavorful and satisfying vegan meals from scratch every day, often in 30 minutes or less? It’s easy! In ISA DOES IT, the beloved cookbook author shares 150 new recipes to make weeknight cooking a snap. Recipes like Sweet Potato Red Curry with Rice and Purple Kale, Bistro BeeT Burgers, and Summer Seitan Saute with Cilantro and Lime illustrate how simple and satisfying meat-free food can be. Here are two items I want to mention. Her coconut chana saag uses coconut instead of a tomato base (although it does use tomato juice and a can of whole ones). She also skips the spinach and uses kale instead. Her warm potato salad uses grilled seitan and asparagus.

berlinkitchenMy Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes) by Luisa Weiss. Deb Perlman (The Smitten Kitchen) says “Luisa has a way of telling a story that’s nothing short of entrancing.” Luisa Weiss was working in New York when she decided – before her marriage – to cook her way through her massive recipe collection. The Wednesday Chef, the cooking blog she launched to document her adventures, charmed readers around the world. But Luisa never stopped longing to return to her childhood home in Berlin. Luisa was born in Berlin, in a former Jewish neighborhood of West Berlin, after her Italian (with a Sicilian uncle) mother and Jewish American father met in a German class in Europe. They subsequently divorced (oh those were heady academic time when the grad students had their phones bugged) and young Luisa spent her time shuttling between the Boston area and Berlin. This is her food memoir with recipes, My Berlin Kitchen deliciously chronicles how she finally took the plunge and went across the ocean in search of happiness—only to find love waiting where she least expected it.

mondaymorningMonday Morning Cooking Club Cookbook bu the Sydney Australia Monday Morning Cooking Club and Merelyn Frank Chalmers, Natanya Eskin
Lauren Fink, Lisa Goldberg, Paula Horwitz, and Jaqui Israel.
In 2006 a group of Sydney Jewish women came together to share recipes and talk about food. They cooked, ate, drank endless cups of tea and—often heatedly—discussed the merits of different recipes. After just a few weekly meetings, the Monday Morning Cooking Club was born and a legacy of food and recipes spanning many cultures and generations began to take shape. Five years and hundreds of dishes later, six members of the sisterhood have handpicked their favorite recipes for publication in their first book of the same name. More than 100 culturally diverse recipes from more than 60 cooks have been tried, tested, and refined for inclusion in the Monday Morning Cooking Club book. Each recipe begins with a short story of the cook and their history of the dish. These stories, interweaved with amazing recipes, narrate the rich and personal history of far-flung communities and families who find a deep connection through food and the memory of generations that have gone before.

ivanraminIvan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo’s Most Unlikely Noodle Joint by Ivan Orkin and Chris Ying, with a foreword by David Chang. The all guide to ramen from Ivan Orkin, the iconoclastic Syosset, Long Island-New York-born owner of one of Tokyo’s top ramen shops. While scores of people line up outside American ramen powerhouses like Momofuku Noodle Bar, chefs and food writers in the know revere Ivan Orkin’s traditional Japanese take on ramen. Ivan Ramen chronicles Ivan Orkin’s journey from dyed-in-the-wool Jewish New Yorker to the chef and owner of one of Japan’s most-loved ramen restaurants, Ivan Ramen. Orkin cooked at Mesa Grill and Lutèce before he moved to Japan and opened two wildly successful ramen shops in Tokyo in 2007 and 2010. The original ten-seat Ivan Ramen opened in 2007 in Setagaya, Tokyo, with a second, in Kyodo, in 2010. Being perceived as a Western interloper to a thriving market of some 80,000 shops dominated by tonkotsu masters and venerated traditions was a given, but Orkin’s attention to detail won him praise. Sapporo Ichiban began production of an instant line, with Orkin’s face on the microwave-safe bowl. Orkin imparts a bit of his Jewish upbringing to his menu by rendering his own schmaltz “ramen in Japan is really like a slice of pizza in NY,” meant to be slurped on the fly. His preoccupation with any given bowl of soup, he says, is nailing what he calls the “slurping ratio” of fat and al dente noodles.

Dining at the White House: From the President’s Table to Yours by John Moeller Okay. It is not a Jewish cookbook, but it tells the tale of the White House Kitchen, and the recipes for what was served to dignitaries from the State of Israel: roiled salmon with black peppercorn and ginger potato and celeriac puree; mesclun salad with leeks and beets, and black raspberry sorbet.

tanisOne Good Dish by David Tanis. David Tanis was a longtime chef at the acclaimed Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif. He credits Jewish cooking with inspiring him. He grew up in Dayton, Ohio, where he would eat on Friday nights at the home of his Aunt Edith and Uncle Marvin. There he learned to eat chremsel and matzoh balls and matzoh brie and herring. For many years he has worked half a year in Calfiornia, and half in Paris, where he has run a small private dining club that he and his partner Randal Breski dubbed Aux Chiens Lunatique, At the Crazy Dogs’ Place, after their dogs, Arturo and Ajax. In this, his first non-menu cookbook, the New York Times food columnist offers 100 utterly delicious recipes that epitomize comfort food, Tanis-style. Individually or in combination, they make perfect little meals that are elemental and accessible, yet totally surprising—and there’s something to learn on every page. Among the chapter titles there’s “Bread Makes a Meal,” which includes such alluring recipes as a ham and Gruyère bread pudding, spaghetti and bread crumbs, breaded eggplant cutlets, and David’s version of egg-in-a-hole. A chapter called “My Kind of Snack” includes quail eggs with flavored salt; speckled sushi rice with toasted nori; polenta pizza with crumbled sage; raw beet tartare; and mackerel rillettes. The recipes in “Vegetables to Envy” range from a South Indian dish of cabbage with black mustard seeds to French grandmother–style vegetables. “Strike While the Iron Is Hot” is all about searing and quick cooking in a cast-iron skillet. Another chapter highlights dishes you can eat from a bowl with a spoon. And so it goes.

Roberta’s Cookbook by Carlo Mirarchi, Brandon Hoy, Chris Parachini, and Katherine Wheelock. Not a Jewish cookbook, except that they rented the bunker from an Orthodox Jewish family when they first started. I knew nothing about the restaurant or its stellar status; I walked by it in error and saw people heading into a non-descript, horrid looking cement warehouse. I poked my head in, and saw the restaurant packed with people on a Saturday afternoon. The wait for a shared table is usually always over an hour. The Brooklyn destination the New York Times called “one of the most extraordinary restaurants in the country” began as a pizza place and quickly redefined the urban food landscape. The recipes are for its pizzas and unique dishes.