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Modifying traditional Jewish cuisine
on September 17, 2009
The first part of this book, which is not exactly a cookbook, discusses food and the Jewish philosophy as related to eating. Then there is a long discussion of healthy diet (One of my non-Jewish friends out and out told me she thought traditional Jewish cuisine was probably one of the most unhealthy she'd ever run across. I thought about pot-roasted brisket or noodle kugel, laden with butter and eggs, and well, I didn't exactly jump up and protest.)
So who is this book directed to? I suppose it is aimed at anyone eating a glatt-kosher diet with traditional recipes from Bubbe (grandma) and who hasn't found a way to update these traditional foods.
Jewish cooking has kind of a split personality these days; the Eastern European foods come out of a diet of deprivation in a cold climate (or as a friend puts it, where cabbage boiled in duck fat is considered a green, leafy vegetable.) But more recently, Jewish cookbooks have added the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern foods and healthier foods of the Sephardic Jews, who eat chick peas, cous-cous, lentils, and more vegetables in general. The biggest culprits of fat-laden dishes may be pareve (non-meat or milk) and "milchig" or dairy-based dishes. When creating a menu, the foods are either meat-containing and neutral, or dairy-containing and neutral, which means no meat lasagna with cheese or pizza-with-pepperoni, by the way.
Some updated recipes in the back include Sephardic red lentil soup (rather like Turkish red lentil soup) and matzoh brei with asparagus (fried soaked flat cracker-like bread; matzoh can be used as a pasta substitute during Passover.) Also a matzoh lasagna. Hints are given on how to reduce fats and salt in traditional foods.
This is a thoughtful book, probably aimed at those who live in a community where traditional Kosher cooking rules supreme and where change must be weighed against a strong tradition going back for hundreds of years.