Who are the Feldheims and why are they messing with my food obsession?
The first question is the easy one to answer — they’re more a what than a who. Feldheim is a third-generation, family-owned publisher of Jewish-interest books. They offer a wide-ranging selection of titles in Hebrew and English (www.feldheim.com).
Three recent Feldheim cookbooks are guaranteed to send the serious — or beginner — cook into a spatula-whipped kitchen frenzy. However, because these books all look as luscious as the food they’ll help you concoct, you’ll get equal satisfaction lying on the couch looking at the full-page, full-color pictures that accompany the recipes.
All three authors claim their recipes are easily followed and not too challenging. The most challenging overall is probably Efrat Libfroind’s Kosher Elegance: The Art of Cooking With Style. Libfroind, a well-known Israeli chef and mother of six, is focused as much on style as on taste. She encourages us to add a little pizzazz to our tired old menu with a dash of culinary presentation. Thus, a regular old green salad is now served in individual crystal dishes and topped with rings of curly sweet potato fries. (Libfroind loves sweet potatoes, which are now grown in Israel. Who knew?)
You’ll need to drag out all those wedding gifts or make a run to the cooking store to accomplish some of these dishes (or buy your molds and pastry bags at the author’s website), but just as many can be done by the average cook in the average kitchen. The large format keeps recipes on one page and easily read and followed. Each one is illustrated by a full-page color photo. The dessert section, one third of the recipes, might be the most challenging for the inexperienced. If you’re like me, you might stick to tormenting yourself with the amazing photos of fabulous chocolate concoctions. Kosher Elegance comes with a well-thought-out index arranged by ingredient.
In the middle, in terms of complexity, is Persian Food for the Non-Persian Bride and Other Sephardic Recipes You Will Love by Reyna Simnegar (mother of five boys!). Simnegar was not born into a Persian family, so a good part of her text are stories of learning to cook from her mother-in-law and getting to know her Persian family and their ancient culture. These recipes range from easy to complex, but are well thought out and well laid out. The most complicated section seems to be the one on rice. Even after a two attempts I could not seem to master the art of “tadig”— re-cooking rice until that crunchy crust forms on bottom of the pan — which Persians have made into an art. One of the book’s simplest recipes, garbanzo salad, has become a staple in my house. The combination of culture, food and photos make this cookbook highly entertaining.
Cookbook author Jamie Geller made her mark on the food world with her first book, The Bride Who Knew Nothing. From that nothing, Geller has practically become a kosher food institution with a series of cookbooks, a blog, and as chief marketing officer for Kosher.com. Now Geller (mother of four) has come out with Quick and Kosher: Meals in Minutes. As with the other cookbooks featured here, this one is large format with one recipe per page and a big color photograph of each dish, but adds a bonus of a suggested side dish or salad recipe and wine recommendation included on each recipe page.
Geller’s focus is the less-experienced cook, although anyone can benefit from her techniques and advice for fast meals. The book is organized by preparation time into 20-minute, 40-minute and 60-minute recipes. The quicker the meal prep, the more prepared ingredients it calls for (many of which you can purchase, of course, at Kosher.com, if you can’t find them locally). While she offers plenty for the sophisticated palate, many recipes will clearly appeal to kids, or to the kid in you, like fish-and-chips sandwiches, chicken tacos and lemon-blueberry pancakes (for dinner, yes!).
Both Geller and Simnegar offer suggestions for holiday menus as well, and Libfroind’s entire book could be seen as a challenge to dress up your holiday table. All these books are reasonably priced at $35, considering their size and full-color presentation.