Indiana synagogues cookbook is a delight

Synagogue fundraising cookbooks cross my desk by the dozens. I eagerly read and love them all. In fact, I collect them, because to me they are precious histories of how Jewish and kosher cuisine have evolved in America.

These books resonate with beloved family recipes usually involving simple ingredients easily executed into just plain good food. There’s an earnestness and sincerity to the recipes that is absent in many commercially produced cook books that offer glitzy photography and lengthy head notes. These homely keepers come from all corners of the US, some so remote you would never dream that Jewish communities thrive there, much less kosher kitchens.

“A Taste of Beth Shalom” is one such treasure that hails from Bloomington, Ind., and benefits the synagogue’s pre-school. It captured my heart the moment I opened it. Off to a perfect start was a page titled “Cook with Your Children!” (how to make chicken soup with young children). A practical chapter called “This and That” is exactly like it says — sauces, marinades, etc. Hints on making the kitchen a cook-friendly place (“To fix sticking sliding doors, windows and drawers, rub wax along their tracks”).

The recipes offer a nice balance of contemporary (smoky black bean dip) and traditional (herring salad) and are organized from appetizers to desserts. A useful section in the back of the book deals with pantry basics, cooking timetables for fruits and vegetables, napkin folding, equivalency charts and counting calories. One suggestion for their next printing would be to include the number of servings in each recipe.

Most importantly, this charming, practical spiral-bound book emphasizes the importance of food in our daily lives not only because we eat to live, but for the pure enjoyment of sharing our meals with family and friends.

“A Taste of Beth Shalom” is available by writing to Gan Shalom Preschool, 3750 E. Third St., Bloomington, IN 47407.

Smoky Black Bean Dip

1 15 oz. can black beans
3 Tbs. chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 large garlic cloves
1 dried chipotle pepper, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes and chopped
1 pinch cayenne
1-2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
Rinse and drain black beans. Combine cilantro, onion, garlic and chipotle pieces in food processor. Run the machine in short spurts to mince vegetables. Add beans, cayenne, lime juice, salt and pepper. Run machine until beans are pureed. Chill and serve with tortilla chips. Recipe may be doubled.

Julie’s Bread Machine Challah

1 tsp. yeast
3 cups white flour
4 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water, very warm
1 egg for glaze
sesame or poppy seeds
According to your bread machine, put in the ingredients in the appropriate order, excluding the egg for the glaze. Set on manual mode.
When finished mixing and rising, remove dough from machine and roll out on floured surface. Separate into 3 pieces and roll pieces into ropes. Braid rope, place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and let rise approximately 45 minutes in a warm place. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix one egg and brush mixture over top of unbaked bread. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Sage

2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
5 oz. fresh goat cheese
1/4 cup whole milk
3 Tbs. butter
4 tsp. fresh sage, chopped
Cook potatoes in large saucepan of boiling water until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain well. Return to same pan. Add cheese, milk and butter; mash until smooth. Mix in chopped sage; season to taste with salt and pepper. Mound potatoes in bowl. Garnish with fresh sage.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].