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Kosher made easy

‘Joy of Kosher Cooking: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes’

By Jamie Geller (William Morrow, $30)

Quick Look: With Passover approaching, this kosher cookbook offers more than 100 recipes that can be dressed up for special occasions and holidays or dressed down for everyday meals.

What’s Inside: “Kosher is not tedious, not limited, and not complicated,” Jamie Geller writes in the introduction to her third and latest book. And who would know better? Geller, who lives in Israel with her husband and five children, founded Kosher Media Network and edits But she wasn’t raised in a household with a kosher kitchen. It wasn’t until she married into a family of kosher caterers that she really embraced “those old dietary restrictions.” Her in-laws were used to celebrating some 130 Shabbos and holiday meals each year with six-course kosher meals for extended family. And Geller, the self-proclaimed Bride Who Knew Nothing, made it her mission to “show ’em all.”

Still, you don’t have to be a kosher foodie to enjoy her new collection of mouth-watering recipes paired with vibrant food photos. There’s a quick overview of what it means to keep kosher – no pork, no shellfish, never preparing or eating milk and meat or their products together – as well as the kosher status for each dish: meat, dairy or pareve (foods that are not meat or dairy: fruits, vegetables, eggs). Recipes are divided into chapters – soups and starters, sides and salads, mains, desserts and challah – which are divided into kosher categories and accompanied by anecdotes with corresponding dates and times: Wednesday, 5:30 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m.; Sunday, noon.

Geller’s vignettes offer insight into what it means to be a modern Jewish mother. She talks about her husband, children, grandmother, friends, neighbors, adventures in cooking, favorite ingredients and recipes’ origins. Her tone is bubbly and casual – there’s a chapter called “About the Kosher Thing” – and it’s served with sides of self-deprecating humor and a sense of warmth and welcome, like she’s confiding in a friend. This is the kosher version of “How to Feed a Family.”

There are sample menus for Shabbos, Hanukkah and Purim. A chart guides home cooks through adjusting recipes for Passover, and a glossary explains “Hebrew/Yiddish/ Yinglish” terms like bissel (a little; not much) and shmear (a smear, a dab). Recipes feature Asian, Mexican, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences as well as recommendations for complementary kosher wines. When hunting for a recipe, take note: individual recipes aren’t listed in the table of contents; they’re itemized on the title page of each chapter.

Recipes include Lemon Lover’s Hummus, Falafel Poppers with Lemon Sesame Schug, Baked Herbed Gefilte Fish, Cranberry Chestnut Challah Stuffing, Latkes with Caviar and Cream, Cardamom-Scented Hanukkah Cookies, Ktzitzot or Israeli beef mini burgers or sliders, and Yerushalmi (Jerusalem-style) Kugel, an egg and noodle dish. “They’re foolproof, actually, because I’m the fool who worked them over and over, and they became go-to recipes for my family meals,” Geller writes. “I really try to feed my family well.”

What’s Not: Real names. Although there are photos of all of them, Geller refers to her family members with nicknames. Her husband is Hubby, and her children are: Little Momma, Miss Bouncy, Angel Face, Bruiser and The Baby.

Yerushalmi Kugel

From “Joy of Kosher”

The recipe for this Jerusalem-style, traditional dish – sweet, peppery, caramelized – came from the mother of a friend by way of a woman who’s a native of Jerusalem. They all wanted to remain anonymous, so Jamie Geller is “happy to take all the formal credit for this winner.”

To make it Passover-friendly, use kosher-for-Passover angel hair pasta instead of the egg noodles.

Cooking spray

2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup margarine

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups water

One 12-ounce bag extra fine egg noodles

2 large eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch round or square baking dish with cooking spray. Place the sugars, margarine, salt, pepper and water in a medium pot and bring to a rapid boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, add the noodles, and mix quickly and vigorously with a wooden spoon to coat and combine. Add the eggs and stir quickly. It’s OK if the eggs start to cook; just work fast and pour into the prepared dish. Bake until golden brown and crunchy, about 1 hour. Slice into squares and serve, hot or cold.

Yield: 8 servings

Cardamom-Scented Hanukkah Cookies

From “Joy of Kosher” Save this recipe until December for the eight-day Festival of Lights.

“Just a touch of cardamom transforms these bland little cookies into something super special.”

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

1 cup powdered sugar


Blue sugar or sprinkles, for decorating

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom and ginger in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugars with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and orange juice and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly flour your work surface. Flour your rolling pin and cookie cutters. Roll out the dough to ¼ inch thick on the work surface. Cut into desired shapes and place them on the prepared baking sheets. Reroll the scraps as needed. Bake until the edges are just golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool 2 minutes on the baking sheet, then move to a wire rack.

Place the powdered sugar in a small bowl. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and whisk until a smooth, thick, but pourable consistency is reached. Drizzle the frosting on the cookies and decorate them with blue sugar or sprinkles.

Yield: 24 cookies

Latkes with Caviar and Cream

From “Joy of Kosher”

Potato pancakes or fritters are another staple at Hanukkah, but can be enjoyed any time of the year.

4 large russet potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds)

3 large eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Canola oil, for frying

1 medium onion, quartered

1/4 cup fine cornmeal or matzo meal

1 1/4 cups crème fraîche or sour cream

Caviar, for garnish

Fill a large bowl with cold water. Peel the potatoes, cut them into quarters lengthwise and place them in the cold water to prevent browning. Combine the eggs, salt and pepper in a large bowl; set aside. Heat about 1 inch of the canola oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.

Put the onion and potatoes in a food processor and pulse until pureed. Transfer the mixture to the large bowl with the eggs. Add the cornmeal and mix to combine. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Using a 1/4-cup measuring cup, scoop up the potato mixture and carefully drop it into the hot oil. Use the back of the measuring cup to flatten the latke. Fill the pan with as many latkes as you can, but do not let them touch. Do not overcrowd your pan or the latkes will be soggy instead of crisp. Fry until golden brown and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Drain on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining batter.

To keep latkes warm and crispy once fried, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in a 200-degree oven until ready to serve. To serve, place the latkes on a large serving tray and garnish each with a generous tablespoon of crème fraîche and caviar.

Note: Make sure the latkes aren’t touching and there is room around each for the edges to crisp. That’s the perfect latke: soft, fluffy and creamy on the inside with crispy edges.

Yield: 20 latkes