From a leading voice of the new generation of young Jewish cooks who are reworking the food of their forebears, this take on the cuisine of the diaspora pays homage to tradition while reflecting the values of the modern-day food movement. Author Leah Koenig shares 175 recipes showcasing handmade, seasonal, vegetable-forward dishes. Classics of Jewish culinary culture—such as latkes, matzoh balls, challah, and hamantaschen—are updated with smart techniques and vibrant spices. Approachable recipes for everything from soups to sweets go beyond the traditional, incorporating regional influences from North Africa to Central Europe. Featuring holiday menus and rich photography, this collection is at once a guide to establishing traditions and a celebration of the way we eat now.
Leah Koenig signs copies of Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen at Omnivore Books on Food on Wednesday, March 25 from 6:30-7:30pm. Free.
Reprinted with permission from Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen by Leah Koenig, ©2015. Published by Chronicle Books. Photographs copyright ©2015 by Sang An. You can buy an autographed copy of Modern Jewish Cooking at Onmnivore. We urge you to support your local bookstore. They can order it for you if not in stock. Otherwise you can purchase through our affiliate links with Amazon and Indiebound or at your local bookshop.
CARROT SALAD WITH MINT AND DATES
Moroccan carrot salads flavored with cumin and coriander have become a staple of the Jewish table. But to be honest, they’re not really my thing. I offer this dish as an alternative. Grated carrots get paired with Mediterranean ingredients like dates, fresh mint, and hazelnuts for a sweet, crunchy, lemon-kissed salad that might just become your new favorite.
- 1/2 cup/60 g raw hazelnuts
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
- 2 tbsp finely chopped shallot
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp extra-kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb/ 455 g carrots, peeled
- 1/3 cup/50 g finely chopped pitted Deglet Noor dates
- 1/4 cup/10 g roughly chopped mint leaves
- 3 cups/75 g baby arugula
- Place the hazelnuts in a small pan set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a small bowl to cool completely, then peel off the skins with your fingers and roughly chop.
- Whisk together the lemon juice, shallot, and olive oil in a small bowl, and season with salt and pepper.
- Grate the carrots on the large holes of a box grater or with a food processor fit with a shredding blade. Combine the grated carrots, toasted hazelnuts, dates, mint, and arugula in a large bowl. Drizzle with the dressing and gently toss to combine. Taste and add more lemon juice, if desired. Divide the salad among plates and serve immediately. (If not serving right away, keep the dressing and salad in separate containers; combine and toss just before serving.)
Over the last decade, matzo lasagna has quickly and emphatically entered the Passover mainstream. Its rise has partly to do with the need it fills for a substantive main dish to serve during the holiday’s weeklong bread ban. The other reason for its popularity? It’s delicious, and remarkably so. Softened matzo provides a convincingly noodle-like base for the rich ricotta and mozzarella, tangy marinara, and tender spinach threaded throughout the layers. I like to imagine that, fifty years from now, my future children and grandchildren will swear that Passover is not Passover without spinach-matzo lasagna.
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large yellow onions, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 5 oz/140 g baby spinach
- 4 cups/910 g full-fat or low-fat Ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 cups/200 g grated mozzarella
- 1/4 cup/10g roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 9 sheets matzo
- 4 cups/960 ml good-quality marinara
- 1/4 cup/20 g grated Parmesan
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium pan set over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and spinach and cook, tossing with tongs, until the garlic is fragrant and the spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, eggs, 1/2 cup/50 g of the mozzarella, and the parsley. Season generously with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Fill a shallow baking dish with water. Dip 3 sheets of the matzo in the water and let soften for 1 to 2 minutes. (Not longer—you want the pieces to feel soft, but not mushy or soggy. They should still hold their shape.) Spoon half of the marinara into the bottom of a 9-by-13-in/23-by-33-cm baking dish. Shake the excess water off of the softened matzo pieces and arrange in the baking dish, breaking the sheets as necessary to fit. Top with about half of the ricotta mixture, followed by half of the spinach mixture. Repeat with half of the remaining marinara, another 3 softened sheets of matzo, and the remaining ricotta and spinach mixtures.
- Soften the remaining 3 sheets of matzo and arrange on top. Spoon the remaining marinara over the top, then sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1 1/2 cups/150 g mozzarella and the Parmesan.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake until heated through, about 45 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the cheese is lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let stand for a few minutes. Serve hot.
The first time I made hamantaschen—the traditional triangle-shaped Purim cookie—by myself, I was twenty-five and was working with a sketchy dough recipe I found on the Internet. The dough tasted fine but was super-delicate, and I ended up with a sorry-looking batch of cracked, leaky hamantaschen and two baking sheets caked with burnt jam. If only I had made this dough recipe instead. Bound with egg and oil and sweetened with orange juice, it rolls out and shapes with relative ease, making it ideal for beginners and skilled hamantaschen makers alike.
MAKES ABOUT 36 COOKIES
Note: For this recipe, I strongly recommend using the “spoon and sweep” method for accurately measuring the flour with measuring cups. (Find out how in Modern Jewish Cooking .)
- 2 1/2 cups/315 g all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup/60 ml vegetable oil
- 2/3 cup 130 g sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- Possible fillings: Lekvar, golden apricot filling, chocolate-poppy seed filling, raspberry jam, blueberry jam, strawberry jam, Nutella, peanut butter, chocolate chips
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the orange juice, vegetable oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest until combined. Slowly stir in the flour mixture, mixing until the dough begins to come together. Turn the dough out onto a flat surface and knead a few times with your hands until it is smooth, but not sticky. (If the dough appears too dry, knead in more orange juice, 1 tsp—and no more!—at a time. If it looks too wet, knead in up to 1/4 cup/30 g more flour, 1 tbsp at a time, until you reach the right consistency.)
- Gather the dough, then divide it in half with a knife and form into two flat disks. Wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Remove half of the dough from the refrigerator (keep the other half wrapped and chilled). On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough to 1/8-in 4-mm thickness. Use a 3-in/7.5-cm round cookie cutter or glass to cut out as many as circles as possible and carefully transfer them, about 1/2 in/12 mm apart to the prepared baking sheet. Gather the dough scraps, reroll, cut out additional circles, and transfer them to the baking sheet.
- Spoon 1 tsp of filling into the center of each dough circle. Fold the left side over an angle, followed by the right side. Fold the bottom flap up, tucking one end under the side flap to make a triangle-shaped pocket (the filling should still be visible in the center); pinch the seams firmly to seal. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and filling.
- Bake until lightly golden and browned at the corners, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Leah Koenig is a writer and cookbook author whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Saveur, Gastronomica, Modern Farmer, Food Arts, CHOW, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Tablet, and The Jewish Daily Forward. Her first cookbook, The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook: Daily Meals for the Contemporary Jewish Kitchen (via Amazon or Indiebound) , was named one of the Best Books of 2011 by Library Journal. Leah lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband Yoshie Fruchter, and leads cooking demonstrations around the country. Visit her at www.LeahKoenig.com.