Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Cooking My Books: The New Jewish Table {Book Review}

As a parent you want to teach your kids about traditions, but you also want to build on them and create your own. That is how I feel about recipes and cooking too. You need a place to start, familiar favorites that area  jumping off place for creation. And that is also how Judaism is for me – tradition, with individual interpretation to make things meaningful to you. 


Our new Jewish table! Rye for me, wheat for the hubby and little man.

I had the opportunity to receive a copy of The New Jewish Table, Modern Seasonal Recipes for Traditional Dishes by Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray for review back in the fall before our family expanded from 3 to 4. After trying to dive right into the bowl of matzo ball soup on the cover, I dove into the contents inside. Organized by season and type of meal, the book interweaves stories of family traditions, passed-down recipes and the evolution of them into the recipes in the books pages. The book is not strictly Kosher, but does indicate if a recipe is meat, dairy, or pareve with suggested substitutions. After a preface about the author’s relationships and background the book showcases recipes and the stories of their origins and evolution. By the end you feel as if you are a member of the authors’ extended family. The authors are owners of the Washington DC restaurant Equinox.

Included in the book are new takes on favorite dishes like chicken salad, matzo ball soup, kugel, and more. I love a good chicken salad sandwich. Ingredients need to be in the right balance and the chicken has to be the right texture. The authors include two great chicken salad recipes each with a little different twist. I started with a pulled chicken salad with cranberries and toasted cashews. According to Todd, the dish was a favorite at the White House and one of Equinox's signature items. I can see why! Using a whole poached chicken and then pulling it gives the chicken just the right texture. 


Piled onto two slices of good rye with a side of pickles and a Dr. Brown’s cream soda, this sandwich was deli-worthy!



I also used the recipe for Not Exactly Aunt Lil's Matzo Ball Soup, pictured on the book cover, for Passover this year. My grandmother passed along her matzo ball recipe, but her soup recipe hasn’t been written down yet. My mom tweaks her soup every time she makes it, much like I do. So I loved to read the journey this recipe took from Ellen's Aunt Lil to Equinox. The authors describe the soups evolution from "rustic, homey and satisfying"  to more refined and elevated to the next level for the book.



The addition of finely diced vegetables at the end (about 10 minutes of simmering at the end before adding and simmering noodles and chicken for 10 more minutes) gives me a solution to my lifelong dislike of cooked carrots in soup! The original vegetables are strained out, having given their flavor to the broth. The freshly added vegetables retain a slight crunch and all of their flavor.




This book is a great addition to the my cookbook collection. If you have a traditional with a twist streak, I recommend checking it out. The recipes offer a new interpretation of traditional dishes that make them a welcome addition to the table for holidays or everyday. Next on my to-make list are curried chicken salad with golden raisins and slivered almonds, Todd's deviled egg salad, and the Kassoffs' sweet noodle kugel. 


Starting a tradition, little man asked me to take a picture of his dinner!


Pulled Chicken Salad with Cranberries and Toasted Cashews
This is a signature item on their restaurant menu and the most popular lunch dish. 

1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 whole poached chicken
1 cup mayo
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 cup minced red onion
1 cup minced celery
1/2 cup chopped toasted cashews
2 tbsp chopped parsley

Put the cranberries in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside to soak while doing the next step.
Pull or cut the chicken from the bones pull into bite size pieces, shredding with your hands. Place in a large bowl.
Drain the cranberries with a strainer.
With a fork, mix the mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, slat, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the onions, celery, cranberries, cashews and mayonnaise mixture to the bowl with the chicken; mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Mix in the parsley. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Note: I omitted the onions and served the nuts on the side since we had a toddler dining with us. This allowed everyone to customize their sandwich to their liking. 

Book Info: 
The New Jewish Table, Modern Seasonal Recipes for Traditional Dishes
Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray 
Photos by Renee Comet (I met her at Eat Write Retreat!)
2013

I received a review copy of this book. All opinions are 100% mine and I was not compensated for this post. 

2 comments:

  1. I love chicken salad, and I bet this version with toasted pecans is extra delicious!

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