Cookbooks sweeten menus for Holy Days, anytime

new york (ap) | With plenty of occasions ahead for preparing Jewish dishes, cooks may wish to take a look at the books on the subject.

n “The New York Times Jewish Cookbook” (St. Martin’s Press, 2003, $35), edited by Linda Amster, packs in more than 825 traditional and contemporary kosher recipes from around the world. Most have appeared in the newspaper, although a few are from other sources.

It’s a wide-ranging collection. Amster’s preface speaks of “the arc of history reflected in the recipes,” spanning eras from the ancient to the contemporary. In her foreword, Mimi Sheraton submits that “Jewish food is the world’s oldest fusion cuisine,” using the fashionable term for chefs’ multiethnic blending.

Israeli cuisine today, Joan Nathan writes in another introductory essay, “reflects the modern mosaic of the country, embracing the culinary influences of its Arab neighbors and accommodating the varied tastes of the world’s Jews.”

Recipes for every course of the meal are presented together with holiday menu suggestions, explanatory notes and glossary.

n “The Hadassah Jewish Holiday Cookbook” (Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, 2003, $29.95), edited by Joan Schwartz Michel, offers ideas for family feasts year-round.

The book’s 250 recipes feature traditional dishes as prepared in contemporary kosher kitchens all over the country. They have a personal flavor — they’ve been contributed by a wide range of American home cooks, members of Hadassah.

The large-format book has color photos showing many of the dishes, reproductions of art works and antique kitchenware.

n “Jewish Cooking for Dummies” (Wiley, 2001, $19.99 paperback) is by Faye Levy, a prolific food writer and an authority on Jewish cooking. The book is in the style of the Dummies series — packed with content, in a no-frills presentation.

However, there is a helpful table of contents, and bonus tips and information are tucked into many pages, plus a few color photos. Good general background is provided, with chapters on Jewish food origins and history.

n “A Sweet Year: A Taste of the Jewish Holidays” (Doubleday, 2003, $12.95), by Mark Podwal, is a slender volume illustrated with the artist’s charming paintings, complementing a simple, poetic text.

This is not a cookbook – it has no recipes – and a line on the title page designates it a book for young readers. But it is not childish; it evokes its own special flavor as it pinpoints the character and meaning of each major holiday food tradition in the calendar. It would make a thoughtful family present.