Where to look for Jewish cookbook page-turners

The best of the new crop of Jewish-themed cookbooks feature topics ranging from the ingredients of ancient Israel to the food eaten by Lower East Side immigrants to Jewish cooking in France, according to local booksellers and Judaica merchants.

“It gives you a sense of this is what our ancestors ate,” said Chaim Mahgal-Friedman, co-owner of Afikomen Judaica in Berkeley.

Although he could have been speaking about several books currently on the market, Maghal-Friedman was talking specifically about the new edition of Kitty Morse’s “A Biblical Feast: Ancient Mediterranean Flavors for Today’s Table” (BookSurge, $27.99). All the recipes in the book utilize ingredients thought to be used in the Jordan River Valley during biblical times.

Mahgal-Friedman likes how the book has clear instructions on how to go back to basics by making your own goat cheese, unleavened breads and sourdough starter. The 96-page book is “beautifully illustrated” and easy to use, he said.

Afikomen is known for its large selection of Jewish cookbooks, and Mahgal-Friedman also recommended “The Book of New Israeli Food” (Schocken, $35) by Israeli food writer Janna Gur. Gur’s 304-page book is a few years old but gained local attention this year with a display of stunning food photographs from the book at the Peninsula JCC in Foster City and a few local appearances by the author.

Another recent book Mahgal-Friedman is excited about is “The Complete Asian Kosher Cookbook” (Targum Press. $16.99) by the mother-daughter team of Shifrah Devorah Witt and Zipporah Malka Heller. The duo adapts Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Thai and other Asian favorites so they can be made kosher with easy-to-find ingredients but still taste authentic.

Celia Sack, the owner of a bookstore in San Francisco called Omnivore Books on Food, offers a hearty recommendation for “97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement” (HarperCollins, $25.99).

The author, Jane Ziegelman, is the head of the culinary department at the Tenement Museum in New York City, and her 272-page book was published this summer. It details the food lifestyles of five different immigrant families who lived in a tenement house on New York’s Lower East Side and includes 40 recipes from the families’ German, Italian, Irish and Reform and Orthodox Jewish traditions.

Nurit Sabadosh, owner of Alef Bet Judaica in Los Gatos, is looking forward to stocking the latest book in the “Kosher by Design” series. The books, by Susie Fishbein, are bestsellers for Alef Bet and Sabadosh expects the newest one, “Kosher by Design: Teens and 20-Somethings” (Mesorah Publications, $29.99), to be popular as well. The book, due out Oct. 26, features fast-food alternatives that can be made with no special equipment and little or no cooking skills.

At Dayneu, a Judaica store in San Francisco, co-owners Eva-Lynne Leibman and Hiroko Nogami-Rosen say they are looking forward to the upcoming “Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France” (Knopf, $39.95) by Joan Nathan, author of longtime favorite “Jewish Cooking in America.” Due out Oct. 26, the 400-page book traces how Jewish cooking in France evolved, and then influenced general cooking in France.

Another new book is “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food” (Wiley, $40) by Gil Marks. The author of “Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World” has crafted a 672-page colossus that is part food history book, part cookbook.

There’s also “The Kosher Baker” (Brandeis, $35) by Paula Shoyer, a 348-page collection of 160 dairy-free desserts.

“I think it’s the best thing coming out right now,” Sack said of “The Kosher Baker. “It’s a beautiful book, and I don’t think the topic has ever been written about this extensively.”

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is faithkramer.com. Contact her at [email protected].