Eating Well in Asheville

2 Jul
Photo Credit: Michael Whiteman

Photo Credit: Michael Whiteman

Asheville is a lovely town in North Carolina where hipsters meet farmers, artists meet artisans, street food meets street people, and where adventurous restaurants lure masses of hungry tourists. With an influx of Floridians escaping the heat and New Yorkers escaping the cold, it feels less “southern” and more small-scale cosmopolitan.

On business a few weeks back, I took in both its thriving arts scene and its far-reaching gastronomic offerings. I say far-reaching because (for example) you can queue for a biscuit as big as your fist at Biscuit Head, filled with regionally appropriate salty country ham buffered by a fried green tomato, some cheese, a runny egg and one of seven gravies. But this is no sloucher place — on the menu are: sriracha slaw, smoked chevre grits, kale salad, seitan sausage, brie, and smoked tomato hollandaise. There’s a stupendous marmalade bar with at least a dozen varieties of freshly-made jams to pile onto your still-warm biscuit.

At the other end of the gastro-spectrum is Curate, an always-crowded tapas restaurant run by (now famous) chef Katie Button who rose to stardom after working under José Andrés and Ferran Adrià. You’ll find a deep list of authentically Spanish dishes and a curated assemblage of Spanish sherries and wines. Don’t miss warm octopus with Spanish paprika and silken Yukon gold puree; spicy chorizo wrapped in a crisp potato chip; Moorish-spiced lamb skewer; patatas bravas (a must-have) and Spanish tortilla (a classic potato-and-onion omelet). Curate has an open kitchen with a bar-counter where you can watch a dynamo of cooks turning out small plates and excellent cocktails.

White Duck Taco’s food is equally worldly. Non-traditional fillings include Bangkok shrimp, jerk chicken, Korean bulgogi, duck with mole and banh mi tofu. They’re cheap so order lots for lunch, then walk off your meal by exploring numerous nearby galleries and workshops in the River Arts District. There’s also a branch downtown.

Not easy to find, but so worthwhile is The Bull and Beggar, which abuts the yellow-ish, hipster-ish, biker-ish Wedge Brewery, with an outdoor cinema and food trucks serving creative snacks to the assembled thirsty. The menu at rustic Bull and Beggar looks “frenchified” with terrines, rillettes and shellfish platters, but it is a rock-solid restaurant run by an extraordinarily talented chef. You’ll want one of everything, but we reveled in chef Matt Dawes’ fatted, truffled duck liver parfait; charred octopus with a memorable romesco sauce; seared broccolini with chili and anchovy; beets with fromage blanc and cumin; and roast baby chicken with wild mushrooms, red currants, game chips, upland cress and liver toast. Quirky, wonderful wine list.

Formerly chef at much-lauded Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, where he re-invented Southern cookery, John Fleer now runs Rhubarb in Asheville. Rhubarb specializes in boldly flavored dishes that range across the globe. Roasted oysters with country ham and greens, Mongolian lamb ribs with collard green kimchee, rhubarb glazed duck confit with sweet potatoes Anna and shaved asparagus, and IPA-marinated cauliflower steak with flageolet cassoulet and arugula pesto (Whew! The ingredients just keep coming). Well organized wine list that’s easy on the wallet.

The Bull and Beggar, Rhubarb and many others in town get their vegetables and greens from Evan Chender’s Culinary Gardener, which I wrote about two weeks ago.

Barbecue addicts can’t do better than 12 Bones, on the edge of the arts district. A big smoker out back slowly transforms all manner of protein into redolent and succulent barbecue sandwiches or platters. A go-to sandwich is Hogzilla, a layering of sugar bacon, bratwurst, pulled pork and pepper jack cheese. Although I can’t quite wrap my mind around the concept, blueberry-chipotle is their most ordered sauce.

Here’s how to start a perfect evening: Head over to Battery Park Book Exchange in the Grove Arcade. This quirky used-book store contains a lovely champagne bar with a large by-the-glass selection and comfy places to sit, sip and snack.

Here’s how to end a perfect evening: Climb the stairs to Nightbell, a restaurant-lounge run by Katie Button. Signature cocktails are perfect and desserts are first-rate.

And here’s how trendy Asheville is: The menu at Table includes barbecued fish collars, asparagus chawanmushi, and striped bass with nasturtium butter. All Souls Pizza mills it own flour and offers hand-cut rye noodles with fermented turnips and charred spring onions, and smoked sardines with salsa verde. Curate’s menu tells you which dishes are vegan or gluten- lactose- and tree-nut free. At the hot Mexican restaurant Limones, your “Mayan margarita” glass is crusted with chapulin salt, “chapulin” made of dried, ground crickets. Down at a nearby farmers market, Cricket Girl sells cricket-based protein bars and is aiming for veggie packed smoothies thickened with her insect protein-flour combination. Toto… we’re not in Brooklyn anymore.

Sugar and Sweets

23 Jun

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In my formative years as a budding chef and food writer, I did an unusual thing and read the mammoth Larousse Gastronomique, all 1,168 pages with its thousands of entries, cover to cover – or shall I say, from abaisse (a term used in French cookery for a sheet of rolled-out pastry) to zuppa inglese (a Neapolitan pudding). The first English edition appeared in 1971, when I was 17 and already a bartender mixing Negronis in Queens, New York. (For those who might remember, it was the Olde London Fishery on Union Turnpike.)

This memory was triggered when a voluminous book, The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets (Oxford University Press, 2015) about the size of a three-pound box of Godiva chocolates, appeared on my desk last week. With more than 850 pages and 600 articles about the arresting history of sugar and sweets, I have decided to repeat my own history and take this encyclopedic work to bed with a cup of tea or a pony of alkermes. Poignantly, this book, too, ends with an entry about zuppa inglese (written by author Clifford A. Wright) with an interesting debate over the dessert’s true origin (is it from Naples as friend and food writer Arthur Schwartz insists, or Lazio, or Tuscany, as others suggest?)

The book begins, not with abaisse but with another nod to the French, a la mode – followed by a three-page entry about sugar addiction, contributed by Ashley Gearhardt. Such is the width and breadth of this alluring new tome. Under the brilliant baton of food writer and historian Darra Goldstein, 265 experts in the culinary world have weighed in with well-researched commentaries about an irresistible subject. A la mode, by the way, translates to “in the current fashion.” According to contributor Carolin Young, “In France a la mode refers to a traditional recipe for braised beef, which at one time was considered a new fashion,” whereas in America the phrase refers to a scoop of vanilla ice cream served with a slice of pie.

Evocatively, the first line of the book’s foreword begins: “I can remember easily the first time I stood deep in a field of sugarcane in full bloom, a field already marked for harvesting. It was spring of 1948, and I had just begun fieldwork in Puerto Rico.” Written by Sidney Mintz (who is 92 and considered “the godfather of food studies”), this triggered another profound memory. The year was 1962 and I was standing deep in a field of sugarcane when I was eight years old. The location was Belle Glade, Florida, where my cousins ran a plantation and owned the local movie theater. I will never forget the sickeningly sweet smell of extracted molasses wafting through the wet heat of the day from the factory nearby. It made me woozy. Which, of course, is what sugar does, and accounts for, in part, why we love it and sometimes loathe it.

The history of sugar is not all sweet. There is much suffering in the quest for this cherished foodstuff. Our hunger for sugar fed the institution of slavery, led to ugly legacies of racism, to the invasion of weaker nations by stronger ones to manipulate sugar prices, and to the exploitation of children and minorities who worked the fields. Bravo to the book’s editors for not sugar-coating the more painful aspects of its past.

Whereas this is an encyclopedia, meant to be dipped in and out of at leisure, it is unlike any other I’ve seen. There are hundreds of illustrations including mouthwatering paintings by Wayne Thiebaud (a personal favorite), Andy Warhol, and Will Cotton, a handful of historical recipes, and more than 600 erudite essays by pastry chefs, neuroscientists, food historians, and chemists, about what has become a grand metaphor for human pleasure. Equally satisfying are the book’s comprehensive appendices – anthologies of films, songs, outstanding pastry shops, and museums around the world, dedicated to our universal, and historical, predilection for sugar and sweets, first evidenced by Eve and an apple.

I’m not sure if I’m more excited learning about wasanbon (the most famous sugar used in traditional Japanese confectionery), or sitophilia (which describes sexual arousal involving food), but lurking between the candy-coated endpapers of The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, is something gratifying for everyone.

The Culinary Gardener

11 Jun
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A saute of celtuce, saltwort and young garlic. (Photo credit: Shayna DePersia)

For years I have been citing a directive of my own making – that one should eat, when possible, from one’s own zip code. More poetry than practical, I came up with this notion way before the farm-to-table movement, way before “local” became a destination, way before “sustainable” became a slogan. I wrote about the pleasures of eating from my window box in my first cookbook Little Meals, in 1993. Back then I pulled a few zucchini from my Park Slope backyard garden, culled a pint or two of little tomatoes, and had enough basil to keep me well supplied with freshly made pesto most of the summer. Some friends nearby grew figs and grapes in their yards, which we occasionally swapped.

Just last week, in a small organic farm in Asheville, North Carolina, I had the giddy pleasure of digging for my own lunch and then preparing the “materie prime” (prime ingredients, as the Italians would say) an hour later in the home kitchen of Evan Chender. Evan is a young soil farmer by way of Vassar College who developed his formidable skill and passion at chef Dan Barber’s world-famous Stone Barns, a sustainable farm and Michelin-starred restaurant on the Rockefeller estate in Pocantico, New York. At the age of twenty-six, Evan and his new bride, Claire (also a Vassar grad, a surfer and foodist) moved to Asheville as the town itself emerged from a sleepy enclave to a vibrant community of artists, brewers, and buskers with a burgeoning restaurant scene, daily farmer’s markets, and bespoke food.

Evan first worked as a cook in nearby Weaverville and then decided, with the help of Asheville’s great climate and sustainability vibe, to begin his own organic farm. Only 8,000 square feet, it supplies Asheville’s top restaurants (The Bull and the Beggar, most notably) with topnotch ingredients – many of which I never heard of, let alone eaten. May I extol the virtues of his saltwort, celtuce, Kailan (Chinese broccoli), menegi scallions, borage leaves, and wild vetch tendril? These, my friends, are the ingredients of the future (and some cultures’ past). If you want to partake, call Evan. He tends to every square inch of the soil, scours the world’s seed markets via the internet, and seduces the town’s voracious chefs into taking everything he grows, no matter how unusual. He is a well-tuned, one-man band. He plants every seed by hand, knows when to water, when to rotate, when to turn, turn, turn. He has already had enough seasons under his belt to make a living and live his dream. Coming this season? Aleppo pepper, fenugreek shoots, purple shiso, vegetable mallow, flageolet shell beans, and yes, tetragonia, a kind of spinach indigenous to Australia and New Zealand. In the fall you can expect to see a crop of yokatta na, shunkyo radish, oca and mashua. This is the language of poets.

And so was our zip code lunch. Freshly-dug potatoes were gently broken apart when tender and tossed in a homemade mayonnaise with freshly picked radishes, fennel fronds, and nasturtium flowers. There was a beautiful, radically fresh salad of just-picked gem lettuce, variegated lusia radicchio, powerful arugula, and fragrant bits of coriander flower, gilded with an emulsion of spicy mustard, local maple syrup, Greek olive oil, and homemade vinegar that Evan secrets in his top cupboard. Shavings of an excellent parmesan tied it all together. The most exciting dish of all contained nuggets of celtuce (hard to describe but with a slight cucumber taste, firm flesh, crisp and briny, waterchestnutty), sauteed with strands of saltwort (I am a huge fan of this sea-like veg), slivers of young garlic and finished with purple shiso. We drank a bottle of Reuilly, a crisp, aromatic white wine with subtle minerality from the Loire. The experience was nothing short of a thrill.

And how do I know Evan? He was a culinary savant at the age of fifteen who cooked lunch for me and later helped me with a cookbook I wrote for teens called Eat Fresh Food (reviewed in the science section of the New York Times in 2009). Who knew he would take it so seriously.

(www.theculinarygardener.com)

Chocolate + Tahini

6 Feb
Photo by: Jonelle Weaver

Photo by: Jonelle Weaver

I was among the first to make ganache from chocolate and tahini (instead of cream) and invented a recipe in 1999 for a Gourmet magazine cover story.  I created a chocolate petits fours for a kosher-style meal where the mixing of meat and dairy was not allowed.  This idea is now a hot new trend and lots of chefs are exploiting tahini (sesame seed paste) to the max.  Here’s my recipe from Gourmet for Chocolate-Tahini Cups.  They are radically simple to make and taste like a sophisticated Chunky bar.  A great idea for Valentine’s Day.

Chocolate-Tahini Cups
1/2 cup dried currants
1 cup boiling-hot water
8 ounces best quality semi-sweet chocolate (like Valrhona)
3-1/2 tablespoons tahini (Middle Eastern sesame seed paste)
vegetable cooking spray
18 – 1-inch candy papers/liners

Soak currants in hot water for 5 minutes.  Drain and pat dry with paper towels.  Melt chocolate with 3 tablespoon tahini in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth, and stir in currants.  Lightly spray liners with cooking spray and spoon chocolate mixture into candy paper liners.  Cool 5 minutes. Decorate candies by dipping tip of a skewer or toothpick into remaining 1/2 tablespoon tahini and swirling over tops.  Chill until set.  Makes 18.  Will keep, covered and chilled, for 1 week. 

New Food Trends 2015

17 Dec
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Vegetable-flavored ice cream

At the end of every year, platoons of food professionals — consultants, chefs, writers and research firms — race to predict the trends that will influence foodies all over America and ergo the world. According to Carol Tice from Forbes, the forecast released in mid-November by Baum+ Whiteman international restaurant consultants, was “one of the most fascinating.” You can check out their full report of 11 dining trends plus 22 hot restaurant buzzwords for 2015 here.

Although I am married to Mr. Whiteman, his prognostications were unknown to me until they were released on Nov. 11th. The trends sit in telling categories: how the importance of technology will profoundly change the way restaurants function; how the notion of authenticity has less relevance, and how our lust for new and different has resulted in “restless palate syndrome” — meaning that we can’t leave simple food alone. One upon a time we liked salty, sweet, spicy, smoky, fatty and bitter flavors — but now we want them all at once. In other words, “too much ain’t enough.”

The report, picked up by an Arabic newspaper, focuses on the importance of hummus, which Whiteman says, is probably the most mispronounced word in our country’s food vocabulary. It gobbles up shelf space in our supermarkets because of a profusion of flavors added to what simply is a chickpea dip eaten in Israel and Arab countries. It now comes in dizzying variations including red pepper, chimichurri, lemongrass-chili and even chocolate mousse! (I’ve recently discovered a hummus ice cream in Tel Aviv).

Or take beer. Cocktails with beer are finding favor in trendy bars. Meanwhile, Micheladas are creeping up on us. Micheladas are Mexican beer concoctions that invite you to dump in all manner of spices — bloody Mary mix, chipotle-tomato juice, soy sauce, beef broth and tequila …you get the idea: beer for restless palate people who’ve become blase about just a pint of IPA.

They also note in their predictions that honey is being “enhanced” with ghost peppers; that bourbon is being flavored with honey and chili pepper or with pumpkin pie spices; that while the fixation of everything-bacon may be abating, now there’s ‘ndjua, a light-up-your-mouth spreadable sausage from Calabria that’s finding its way onto pasta, melted over pork chops, even blended into vinaigrettes as sauces for fish. “If bold flavors are a trend” they say, “this eye-stinging, red-peppered mushy salami is next year’s bold flavor.”

Do strawberries taste sweeter on a black plate or a white plate? On a square plate or a round plate? Their forecast about “neurogastronomy” — how your mind and body can be manipulated to enhance how you sense and taste food –is required reading. So is their comical rant about overpriced avocado.

Among their predictions: The death of tipping, and a reduction in the vast earnings gap between tipped waiters and low-paid cooks and dishwashers; fine dining chefs ditching flowers, linens, reservation systems and expensive china, instead going downscale to develop fast-casual restaurants; insects as food as we search for renewable sources of proteins; savory ice creams and yogurts as consumers realize how much sugar they’re getting in sweetened cold treats; the war on waste is gaining traction; pistachios will be the nut of the year; authentic Jewish delis and also Jewish-ethnic mashups; savory waffles and waffle sandwiches; matcha (green tea powder) in fancy beverages and even seafood stocks and sauces; night markets, building on food truck rodeos, growing around the country with multi-ethnic festivals that bring thousands to riverfronts and public squares.

In their trend called “Soda Fountain Crashes the Bar,” Baum+Whiteman sees childhood treats boozed up as adult shakes and smoothies with bourbon, gin, Frangelico, Galliano, Chartreuse.

Even coconut and cucumber waters, promoted as somehow being “purer,” are being overlaid (or adulterated) with flavors like coffee and mango and with energy-boosting ingredients. Now maple water and birch sap are being tested.

Finally, clever computer programs now allow high-end restaurants to sell tickets for dinner rather than take reservations. Eating out could become as hateful as dealing with the airlines, the consultants say, with cancellation penalties and price shifting based upon demand for seats or time of day.

My adds? Cabbage. Food as medicine. Page oranges from Florida. Tahina is the new mayonnaise. It will come in as many colors (and flavors) as a box of crayons. See you in 2015.

You can also check out the National Restaurant Association’s list for the coming year, Carol Tice’s report from Forbes, and this article from Cosmopolitan.

More Holiday Books 2014

11 Dec

During the next few weeks, I will be cooking from and reviewing some of the year’s best books for gift-giving. They mostly are personal selections from chefs whose work I know well plus a few I don’t know at all. I always am enamored of cookbooks from Phaidon, Artisan, Chronicle and Ten Speed Press, but am impressed this year with the quality and variety of cookbooks published by smaller presses; Monkfish and Interlink among them.

In addition to their more obvious purpose, cookbooks are great sources of inspiration and bedtime reading. They are often the gifts we don’t give ourselves but, like a good box of chocolates, we’re thrilled to be the recipient. Happy Holidays!

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Fresh Cooking by Shelley Boris
Monkfish Book Publishing, New York , 2014, ISBN: 978-1-939681-15-7

The subtitle of this compelling book – a year of recipes from the Garrison Institute Kitchen — tells the tale of a talented chef cooking for hundreds of guests in a beautiful monastery on the Hudson. Garrison Institute, created by inspired thinkers, Jonathan and Diana Rose, has served as a beacon for the world’s great spiritual and educational leaders, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama who has dined there on several occasions. Shelley Boris, the chef at Garrison for more than ten years, has wowed me with her intelligent, countrified sensibility since my first visit a decade ago. There have been many visits since and I was honored when asked to write the foreword to her book. Shelley’s compassionate approach to cooking, deeply rooted in the seasons, is always mindful of the communal table – which is literally how one eats in the Institute’s massive sun-lit dining room. From her large gracious kitchen, Shelley delights in the daily planning of her menus, each a short story revealing something immediate in nature. January brings her comforting Onion Soup with Sprout Creek Cheese and Sour Rye Toast, baked white beans, and crimson quince blanketed in phyllo. May is more spontaneous and carefree – braised lamb and rhubarb chutney, rice with sorrel, garlic chives and mustard greens, and strawberry shortcakes. The book’s recipes range from simple creations – pan-quiche with cauliflower and cheddar, savory chickpea cakes with tahini sauce; winter root vegetable salad with sherry-hazelnut dressing – to dishes that require slow seduction to coalesce their flavors — Thai-style eggplant curry with coconut milk, lemongrass and shiitakes, and braised spicy lamb with apples. Other standouts are Shelley’s breakfast scones – the best I’ve ever had — and her dizzying array of addictive vinaigrettes — carrot-lime, ginger-grapefruit, pear-beet, creamy shallot.

Personal and idealistic, she calls her repertoire friendly-to-meat eaters: rich in vegetables, yet not strictly vegetarian. “We flip the typical equation,” she purports. “Rather than cutting back on meat, these recipes help you think about where you want to add meat and fish to your diet.” Nice. Family-style and deeply practical, she rids her recipes of extra steps and superfluous ingredients in order to focus on the essence of each dish. Working within a limited budget became a driving force of creativity and resulted in recipes that are inexpensive to produce. This is exactly what a home cook desires and why she decided to write the book in the first place. Perhaps it will sit nestled next to like-minded tomes such as the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook, Perla Meyers’ The Seasonal Kitchen, and Moosewood cookbooks – older iconic examples serving as game-changers in the way that people think about, and connect to food and cooking in a larger context – where taste and ethics need not be at odds.

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Mexico, The Cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte
Phaidon Press, New York, 2014, ISBN: 978-07148-6752-6

When authors such as Arronte compile cookbooks about a national cuisine as vast as Mexico’s, the goal is to produce a well-rounded exploration that evokes and authenticates, the inherent spirit of a nation’s cultural foodways. Margarita Carrillo Arronte, Mexico’s global ambassador for all things culinary, has certainly accomplished this along with the remarkable design team at Phaidon Press, headquartered in London with offices in New York City. This massive tome, feeling like a work of art or runway fashion statement, is undoubtedly among the most beautiful books this year. Replete with 650 recipes and 200 photos, the book draws inspiration from various sources, some from which have been altered to the author’s own taste by adjusting ingredients, measurements or methods. Ms. Arronte wants the dishes of her homeland, and its many regions, to be cooked and experienced by audiences who have not yet plunged into the depths of mole (mole-lay) making – including an intriguing beet mole – to the more familiar tamales, enchiladas, and fresh fish Veracruz-style, to the less familiar rabbit with prunes and chili, ox tongue in pecan sauce, and birria, a fragrant lamb soup from Jalisco. Much admired in Mexico for the last 35 years, Ms. Arronte has owned restaurants and food companies, hosted television food shows, researched and taught all over the world. She is a formally trained teacher, turned chef and activist, involved in the decade-long effort to have traditional Mexican cuisine recognized with a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity designation.

Although I wish that head notes were included with each recipe, I understand how daunting a task this would be. The recipes, both classic and traditional, with a swath of contemporary recipes from restaurant chefs, feel mostly accessible – but some ingredients – specific chilies, epazote, avocado leaves — may be hard to find. This does not diminish the book’s pleasures. Part of Ms. Arronte’s research is to delve into other references and oral traditions for inspiration and to re-create recipes that are considered seminal in the development of the cuisine. This is the true nature of recipe transmission and the way that dishes evolve and national cuisines are created. There is an extensive bibliography that includes the important work of Mexican culinary guru, Diana Kennedy. It is a great gift to go hand in hand with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate, in bed if not in your kitchen.

Two Great Cookbooks for Hanukkah 2014

2 Dec

My private cookbook collection can’t compare to that of many of my colleagues — my 500 or so seem paltry next to collections in the thousands. But at this stage of life, I carefully curate the books I want around forever. Here are two of them — both recently published and perfect gifts for Hanukkah.

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Jewish Soul Food: From Minsk to Marrakesh
by Janna Gur
Schocken Books, New York NY 2014 $35.00 ISBN 978-0- 8052-4308-6

This is a rave. With striking photos and vibrant spirit, here is a cookbook that reads like a luscious travelogue built around the culinary narrative of the Jewish diaspora. The book’s author, Janna Gur, is among the most knowledgeable representatives of Israeli cuisine (her first book, The Book of New Israeli Food, 2007 is already a classic) and of Jewish food and identity around the globe. Her new book, Jewish Soul Food: from Minsk to Marrakesh, is both prequel and sequel to Jerusalem by Ottolenghi. In a world cluttered with cookbooks, hers is a standout, a poignant journey of enforced migration and authenticity cast in a contemporary light. There is much to learn. I have never seen, eaten, or made many of these dishes: Her sabich (an egg and eggplant sandwich often eaten for breakfast) is gorgeous, as is hamim macaroni, mafroum (meat and potato “sandwiches”), Bulgarian feta-stuffed pepper “cutlets,” and tantalizing fluden, made with poppy seeds, walnuts and apples, for dessert. Its diverse recipes paint much of Israel’s culinary landscape, where Ms. Gur resides and publishes, with her husband, Israel’s most prominent food and wine magazine called Al Hashulchan (At the Table). Born in the former Soviet Union, Ms. Gur emigrated to Israel in 1974 and since that time has scholarly untangled the global threads woven into the Israeli kitchen.

Some of my favorite dishes include sabzi polo, rice pilaf made with equal amounts of basmati rice and fragrant fresh herbs, and addictive ijeh b’lahmeh which are herb and meat latkes perfect for Hanukkah. Also appropriate for the holiday are bimuelos, a Sephardic dessert of fried dough, drizzled with cinnamon-scented honey syrup and garnished with walnuts. I look forward to making her orange flower butter cookies studded with almonds for gift-giving this season.

This book is important because of Janna’s strongly held belief: The only way to preserve traditional cuisine for future generations is to cook it. Without her careful attention to this repertoire of priceless artifacts — recipes from vanquished times and cultures — these hand-me-downs would be all but lost. Jewish cuisine is unique because it reflects the histories of so many nationalities, wars and displacements. How Ms. Gur captures its essence in 100 recipes is the magic of this book.

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Eating Delancey: A Celebration of Jewish Food
by Aaron Rezny and Jordan Schaps

powerHouse Books, Brooklyn, NY 2014 $35.00 ISBN 978-1-57687-722-7

I don’t know exactly where my grandparents lived as Hungarian immigrants in the early part of the last century, but they certainly climbed tenement steps and shopped on Delancey Street, as depicted in this sumptuous book with lovely essays by famous fressers (eaters) — Calvin Trillin, Paul Goldberger (architecture critic of the New York Times), food maven Arthur Schwartz, legendary graphic designer, Milton Glaser — and mouth-watering recipes. There are spectacular images of food, people, storefronts, and culinary ephemera, and an unexpected black-and-white photo of Janis Joplin smoking a cigarette at Ratner’s, which is fabulous.

Eating Delancey, is Mr. Rezny’s personal homage to the vanishing flavors of his youth. Similarly, Mr. Schaps waxes nostalgic about his bubbe Ethel Raben and the meals he consumed in her Russian-Yiddish-American kitchen. Mr. Rezny photographs the semaphores of their combined history — bagels, halvah, knishes, seltzer bottles — with the same intention. The photographs of iconic quaffs — a bottle of Cherry Heering, Slivovitz, a bottle top of Cel-ray soda, tea in a glass are stunning in their simplicity. And the luster of the finished dishes — a slice of creamy cheesecake, Schwartz’s sweet and sour flanken, even matzo brei, a monochrome dish if there ever was one, here looks sensuous.

Joan Rivers would have kvelled from this book. Her poignant introduction, which in itself is poignant, is brilliantly alive with affection for Jewish food. She describes her mother, “a chic woman, very well read, a great hostess, and a horrible cook” and goes on to confess her love of singed chicken feet and gefilte fish with freshly grated horseradish.

Many books have delved into the psyche of Jewish people through their food — but this book succeeds as a true work of art. I, for one, regret not knowing more about my grandparents’ path, that of Joseph and Louise (Goldstein) Gold, who walked and ate with the best of them. More nostalgia: My best friend threw me a surprise wedding shower at Sammy’s Roumanian on Chrystie Street — imagine how classy that was — a place where chicken fat is poured from a pitcher, garlic fills the air, and where time, for a moment, stands still.

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