HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Simple Jewish food

I married a Jewish man and I'd love to make him food that will remind him of his mom's cooking...but I don't want to attempt to make something very complicated so if any of you know a simple recipe or two, please share!!
By the way, he isn't Kosher(though his parents are).

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. There is no such thing as "Jewish food" exactly. Many Jews come from families that originated in Eastern Europe, so the cooking will reflect that. But even that will differ depending on which country - Poland, Germany, Hungary, Roumania...each country has its own cuisine. Other Jews come from a Sephardic background - Spanish and North Africa, basically. So the cooking will be more Moroccan-ish. You probably should ask your husband what dishes he loved that his Mom made for him and that will give you a clue. Once you know that, you can start looking for simple recipes.

    1. So, Monica, have you tried asking his mother? Only because Jewish cooking varies by ethnicity. My background is Hungarian Jewish (Ashkenazi) - Central European and if your husband's family comes from Spain or the Middle East (Sephardim), those are VERY different cuisines. You would do yourself a favor by finding out what some of your husband's favorites recipes are and posting for those. If you are looking for a delicious brisket or kugel, I can help with that, but check with him first. Good Luck!

      1. I agree with everything that has already been said - however I do have one suggestion that a friend of mine made for me and was ultra delicious. Potato Kugel. I make mine from the Food Procesor cookbook - and it is really easy.


        1. I agree with the above posters in finding out background/food & I'd be sure to help. I just recently discovered that my non Jewish friends didn't know what a knish is- and we grew up in the same areas- interesting.

          1. I also agree that there are many regional variations of "Jewish cooking." But it you would like make come of the more recognizably Jewish-attributed food, try kugel, brisket of beef, potato latkes, rugelach, matzo-ball soup, lox-and-bagels, gefilte fish (buy these, don't make them), hot pastrami or corned beef sandwiches, kosher hot dogs, and challah (egg bread).

            12 Replies
            1. re: xnyorkr

              To make the matzah balls even easier - buy the mix usually found in the kosher food aisle in just about any major grocery store - it is our family secret on how to make good matzah balls

              1. re: weinstein5

                I'd say matzo balls are easy enough from scratch that you might as well go for the real home-made-with love thing. The following recipe, though not quite the most traditional, is very easy and produces a good "compromise" matzo ball (not too dense, not too fluffy)
                (I myself come from a "very fluffy" family, requiring beating the egg whites separately, and using selzer


                Come to think of it, epicurious is the source of a very good simple jewish style brisket recipe, called "my mother's brisket". Add a healthy amount of paprika and you have a more Hungarian style...

                1. re: another_adam

                  I too enjoy them fluffy - and was surprised when I found out form my mother for as long as their have been mixes that is what my family has used - and they always come out fluffy - so why mess with tradidiotn -

                  1. re: weinstein5

                    You are very luck Mr W. My family grew up with "sinkers" and Mrs Jfood "floaters". Once my MIL made a mistake and her floaters turned to sinkers. As we sat at the table, every begroaning the matzah balls one meber was giggly incessantly and internally. Jfood had a sinker. :-)))

                    1. re: jfood

                      We get the best of both worlds. My mom makes sinkers - solid and chewy, my MIL makes soft and fluffy. For passover we split the holiday with first days at one family and last days at the other wind up getting both.

                      For the record: Mrs PapaT (aka ImaT) makes them fluffy on the outside and chewy on the inside.

                      1. re: PapaT

                        PapaT - now your messing with us with the combo meal. Wow that sounds good.

                        Happy Pesach.

                        1. re: jfood

                          If you're ever in the neighborhood for a shabbat, stop in. My kids insist that ImaT make chicken soup w/matza balls every shabbat (even through the summer). As long as I keep bringing home the flowers every friday afternoon I think I'll keep getting that perfect soup...

                          1. re: PapaT

                            Mr PapaT - flowers!! Reminiscient of my bubbe and zayde! Every Friday evening he arrived home from the Antwerp Bourse with flowers for my grandma and choclates. The same dinner, summer & winter - chicken soup (homemade of course!) variations on matzo balls, knaidlech or noodles, roasted helzel (stuffed chicken neck), roasted chicken & potatoes, and a fruit based dessert. Where do you live, because I am assuming your invitation is open to all Chowhounds. Will Mrs. Ima T share some recipes?

                            1. re: Diane in Bexley

                              ImaT is usually very good at sharing recipes. We have guests from the community for meals and is often on the phone saturday night/sunday giving up recipies. Let me know what you are looking for. Just a word of warning - as we are both in our 30s and grew up as second generation americans she may not have the recipies you remember from your grandparents.

                              BTW - We live in Long Island, NY. Where is Bexley?

                      2. re: jfood

                        floaters are cooked covered, whereas sinkers are cooked uncovered

                        1. re: kleinfortlee

                          The gift of how hard to press comes into play as well.

                          1. re: jfood

                            ah...the bocce/matzoh ball connection, eh?

              2. My favorite and easiest brisket recipe: 1 brisket trimmed of all fat, one can of coke, one packet of onion soup mix, and 1 botte of Heinz chili sauce. Mix together and bake at 350 until tender (usually around 3 hours). I find it easier to bake the day before and slice when cool. Reheat the day you're serving with the sauce. Delicious!

                I also recommend the California Kosher cookbook (I know you said he's not kosher, but the book is good.) I think it's out of print, but you can easily find a used copy on the internet.


                1 Reply
                1. re: S DAG

                  I'm spinnin' in my grave. I agree with the "better the second day" but the rest of it I'm spinning in my grave.

                2. His grandma is from Russia so I guess that makes him Eastern European Jeiwsh. But he has a thing about Hungary as he used to live there for a few years. One dish he mentioned is Lamb shank of some sort(or was a goat meat). He used to order that from a Hungarian restaurant called Mocca in NYC and he loved it.

                  1. If your MIL lives close, try a test run with her in her kitchen and do NOT make her feel like you are trying to replace her in her son's life by taking her recipes. You want to be able to contribute to the meal in her tradition. Otherwise you will find an ingredient or two missing from the recipe.

                    Start with meals in which there is a low probability of failure. Brisket, latkes and carrots come to mind. If you can get his mom's recipe for brisket it's a pretty easy process. All the ingredients in a dutch oven or a Reynolds Turkey sized roasting bag. Into the oven. Cool overnight and serve day 2 (brisket always better the next day). Latkes are just potatoes, onion and some people place potato starch in as a binder. Squeeze out as much water as you can and fry. Big question you need to have answered is whether your husbands family is sour cream or apple sauce. Could cause a big rift if you serve the wrong one.

                    Potato kugel is also an easy entree into this cuisine. It's basically a bunch of potatoes, et. al. placed in a pyrex pan and shoved in the oven. Then the fight begins on who gets the overcooked "sides".

                    Chicken Soup. The Jfoods are KISS soupers. Half a chicken cleaned, three carrots, pealed, a large onion cut in half. Into the water, hard simmer for two hours. No ups, no extras.

                    I am not brave enough to even ask my MIL if i can make the matzah balls. That's her domain. Find out what your MIL's domain is and avoid at all costs.

                    Can't wait to hear the results.

                      1. OK, now we're talking. My Bible on Jewish cooking is Joan Nathan and on Hungarian cooking (although not kosher) is George Lang. Her brisket is world famous and the recipe I would have given you. I use some beer, which is NOT kosher for Passover, so leave that out if his family is strict. JFood gave some good advice on the domain of the MIL, tread carefully, like eggshells here. Mine can't cook worth a darn, but 2 dishes she really does well are brisket and matzo balls. I, too, would never volunteer to make these for a dinner at her house after 25 years of marriage!

                        1. Potato latkes. I food process the potatoes with the skins on. Add 1 egg per pound of potatoes, add a little salt and the key is matzo meal. Add enough so the mix isn't watery. Then take spoonfuls of the mix and plop them down in a pan of hot vegatable oil, spread each plop of the mix out so it's relatively thin and cook until done, turning once. Serve with sour cream.

                          1. Get a copy of the Complete Jewish American Cookbook. It's out of print, but copies are usually around on Amazon. It will have recipes for all the Jewish stuff - kugels, cholent, chicken soup. It's the cookbook my mom got at her wedding 40-some years ago and uses the most often. Thank you.

                            1. I recommend Joan Nathan's book "Jewish Cooking in America." I've made a few recipes from that, most memorably a brisket recipe called, IIRC "Texas Brisket as served to Lyndon B Johnson." It's got chili sauce & beer in it, and it's fantastic. There's also a great kugel recipe (noodle pudding) that is savory as opposed to sweet, which is what my mother always made. The savory one is spinach & cheese, Mom's had apples, crushed pineapple and raisins in it.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: rednails

                                I second the rec for "Jewish Cooking in America" & for the Texas Brisket. Also the Zingerman's mushroom & barley soup. My DH makes it with extra mushrooms, as well as pieces of stew meat.
                                I agree with the original posters, and also with flattering your MIL by asking her to show you how to make a few of her favorite recipes. I grew up and married into families that have always willingly shared recipes: I didn't realize until recently that some people don't. That said, I use much less oil than my MIL: you could see the grease bubbling on the top of the potato kugel when it was in the oven!
                                Another suggestion, which just occured to me is to see if your synagogue's sisterhood, or the local Jewish Federation, etc., offer cooking classes.
                                Good luck, p.j.

                              2. I found the recipe for the Texas Brisket! It looks pretty simple and doesn't require a lot of ingredients. Thanks for the tips!!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Monica

                                  Definitely stick with the Texas Brisket. My wife makes the dish you referred to above, although I think its actually lamb shoulder not shank. It takes a long time to make although it truly is quite delicious. Luckily, she is such an awesome cook (caterer's daughter) that I don't have to exaggerate when I sing her praises for slaving over the dish. But if you want to avoid the potchkee (Yiddish for very involved procedure) stay away.

                                2. Yo Monica,

                                  Add these books to your cookbook library...

                                  Jewish Cooking In America
                                  by Joan Nathan
                                  publ. Alfred A. Knopf (my edition is 1998)

                                  The Book of Jewish Food
                                  by Claudia Roden
                                  publ. Alfred A. Knopf (my edition is 1997)

                                  and if you happen to be of Italian heritage...

                                  Cucina Ebraica
                                  by Joyce Goldstein
                                  publ. Chronicle Books, 1998

                                  1. I am reading this thread with great interest. I had no idea there were Jewish cookbooks that weren't compilations of a synagogue used for a sisterhood fundraiser. I am slowly collecting all of my families recipes, but think I'd rather be Sephardic because they have better food and more options during Passover.

                                    When I think Hungarian, I think goulash.
                                    serves 4
                                    Finely chop a large onion and lightly fry in 2 tablespoons of fat. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of red paprika, toss in 400 g beef cut into cubes, add salt, a green pepper and a tomato and steam under lid until almost tender. Add 200 g of mixed sliced carrot and parsley root (white carrot), 300 g diced potatoes, caraway seeds if liked, and 1.2 liter of water. Cover and simmer until tender. When serving a few rings of hot green peppers can be added to garnish.

                                    The famous Hungarian gulash was originally a soup, but plenty of meats, potatoes and little noodles, it can be eaten as a main course.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: lisaf

                                      If you desire Sephardic cuisine, Claudia Roden's book is for you.

                                      1. re: lisaf

                                        If you are looking for a Jewish cook book that is not merely a collection of sisterhood recipes check out the Susie Fishbein books (Kosher Pallete, KP II, etc...). I'm pretty sure that they are commerically available on amazon or similar sites.

                                      2. When I long for the Jewish food of my youth I usually just carry out from my neighborhood Chinese restaurant.