When it's cold and wet outside, the next best thing to savoring a home-cooked meal is curling up in an armchair and reading about one. This year's crop of cookbooks covers a wide spectrum of topics and is filled with gems worth reading and referring to again and again.
·Inside the Jewish Bakery: Recipes and Memories from the Golden Age of Jewish Baking by Stanley Ginsberg and Norman Berg -- If you buy only one cookbook this year, it must be Inside the Jewish Bakery. The authors, who both grew up in New York City's outer boroughs after World War II, have put together a riveting collection of memories and recipes.
The authors have scrupulously researched culinary culture from the early 16th century, when Yiddish civilization began, to the food habits of shtetl life. Then they move on to the present day where frozen, ready-to-bake breads, cakes and cookies led to the demise of the Jewish bakery.
But in this bakery tome, recipes that stir up the tastes and smells of a bygone era can easily be recreated by even the beginning home baker.
·Edible Brooklyn -- This book amounts to a close-to-home culinary celebration of Brooklyn's diverse cultures. The recipes are unpretentious, culled from the kitchens and pantries of a variety of people -- like a farmstead cheesemonger, several rooftop gardeners, a musician who writes ditties for summer ice cream trucks and many others who make up today's flourishing Brooklyn food community.
Almost all the recipes may be prepared in a kosher kitchen.
Within the pages of Edible Brooklyn, you'll find photographs, profiles of real people in the business and more than 100 recipes, tips and techniques, making this a spellbinding read, as well as a fine cookbook.
Rose Petal Jam by Beata Zatorska and Simon Target -- This book is made up of recipes and stories from a summer spent in Poland. And what a treasure it is.
Through brilliant photography, Simon Target captures the scenery and flavors of Poland. Beata Zatorska, returning to the village where she was raised in the 1960s and '70s, reminisces with appropriate nostalgia. Though Zatorska now lives in Australia, her childhood comes alive on every page.
A deep love of her country and it's complex cuisine were instilled in Beata by her late grandmother. A professional cook, her grandmother came from Lwow, one of the most ethnically diverse regions of Central Europe.
However, take note that the ingredient amounts are rendered in grams and ounces so that they need to be converted to cup measurements before cooking (ingredient equivalents may be found online).
All said, Rose Petal Jam is a beautiful coffee-table book celebrating the sounds, sights and foods of Poland.
125 Gluten Free Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Fenster, Ph.D. -- Gluten-free and vegetarian are two of the hottest food and health issues today. And Carol Fenster, a recognized authority in gluten-free and vegetarian cooking, is well-equipped to produce this knowledgeable and stimulating cookbook.
Inspired by her personal experiences and the knowledge that 22 million Americans are sensitive to gluten, Fenster has created 125 recipes that are not only gluten-free but vegetarian.
With scores of tips and resources, this is an essential book for those on gluten-free, vegetarian diets, but the recipes are so deliciously indulgent that they can be served to everyone concerned with eating healthy foods, no matter what their nutritional preferences.
From Inside the Jewish Bakery. Onion kichel is a delicious peppery snack. They get better after two to three days, but chances are, they won't last that long.
12/3 cups finely chopped raw onion
1-2 large eggs, beaten
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. ground black pepper
32/3 cups bread flour, unsifted
11/2 tsps. baking powder
Preheat oven to 325° with the baking rack in the middle.
In a large bowl, mix by hand, the onions, eggs, oil, salt and pepper.
Place the flour and baking powder into the bowl of a mixer using the flat (paddle) beater to blend at low medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the onion mixture and continue mixing until the flour is well hydrated. Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 to 6 minutes longer. Dough will be stiff and slightly sticky.
Turn onto a well-floured work surface and knead for 2 to 3 minutes until it no longer sticks. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let the dough rest for 20 to 30 minutes to relax the gluten.
Roll out dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch using addition-al flour as needed. Using a sharp knife or pizza wheel, cut the dough into 11/2-inch squares. Arrange on a parchment lined sheet pan about 1 inch apart. Prick each cookie several times with a fork.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes until the onion is golden brown.Remove to a rack and cool.
Makes three to four dozen snacks.
Plum-Filled Potato Dumplings
From Rose Petal Jam
5 medium potatoes, unwashed
2 cups plus 3 Tbsps. all-purpose flour
10 large ripe plums
10 tsps. sugar
4 oz. butter
5 Tbsps. breadcrumbs or crushed cornflakes
1 cup plus 3 Tbsps. superfine sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
Peel the potatoes and boil in salted water until tender. Drain, mash and allow to cool.
Sift the flour onto the mashed potato and mix in the egg by hand to form a dough mixture. Divide into balls about 2 inches in diameter. On a floured wooden board, roll each ball 1/4-inch thick and 6 inches across. Each circle should be large enough to wrap around a plum.
Cut each plum in half, remove the stone and put a teaspoon of sugar into the cavity. Place the two halves together, then enclose in a pastry dough circle. Pinch the pastry together and smooth it to an even thickness around the plum. Drop into fresh boiling water for about 5 minutes or until they float to the surface. Remove and drain.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the breadcrumbs, superfine sugar and cinnamon. Mix well and cook for a few minutes over medium heat. Roll each ball in this mixture to coat evenly.
Makes 10 large dumplings.
Posole With Crispy Tortilla Strips
From 125 Gluten Free Vegetarian Recipes. Posole, a traditional Southwestern soup, is made with hominy, a form of corn. Be sure to serve with tortilla strips, also traditional.
2 Tbsps. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery ribs, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsps. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried
1/2 tsp. ancho chile powder
1 can (15 oz.) chopped tomatoes, undrained
1 can (15 oz.) white hominy, drained
3 cups homemade vegetable broth or gluten-free store-bought
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
vegetable oil for frying 3 yellow corn tortillas, cut in 1/4-inch strips
salt to taste
garnishes: chopped avocado, sliced radishes, shredded cabbage, lime wedges, vegan sour cream and tomato salsa
In a Dutch oven or soup pan, heat oil over medium heat. Cook the onion, carrots and celery, stirring often, until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, oregano and chile powder. Cook 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Add the tomatoes, hominy, broth and 1/4 cup cilantro. Cook over low heat, covered, for about 1 hour. Taste and add salt if needed.
While posole is cooking, make the crispy tortilla strips.
In a small saucepan, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil until very hot. Fry the corn tortilla strips a few at a time until crisp. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels, then sprinkle with salt. Or arrange the strips in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, coat with cooking spray and bake in a preheated 375°-oven until lightly browned and crisp, 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve soup in warmed bowls, sprinkle with tortilla strips, the remaining cilantro and your choice of garnishes.
Chocolate-Covered Kale Chips
From Edible Brooklyn
1 bunch small to medium leaf kale, washed, dried and stemmed
1 Tbsp. tamari sauce
1 Tbsp. extra virgin oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. pareve sea salt
pareve dark chocolate
Preheat oven to 350°.
Place the kale in a large bowl, drizzle in the tamari and oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix and massage the kale with your hands until all the ingredients have coated the leaves.
Bake the kale on a sheet pan in the oven until it begins to dry out and becomes crispy and the ends begin to brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate slowly in a double boiler set over low heat. Dip each piece of kale into the chocolate so that three-quarters of the leaf is coated. Place on a wax paper-covered tray in the refrigerator to allow the chocolate to harden. May be stored overnight in an airtight container and served the next day.
Makes about 1 dozen.
Ethel G. Hofman is a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Email her at: email@example.com.