Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Jan 22, 2013 05:00 PM

If you had to pick just one Jewish cookbook to use forever...

...What would it be? I'd like to get a good one to supplement the small stock of recipes I got from my family. We're Ashkenazi, and a lot of those recipes were so basic and second-nature that no one ever wrote them down. Now that I'm grown-up and in a position to cook for myself, of course, I live hundreds of miles away from the family and cannot observe the process.

I'm happy to consider a good cookbook with Sefardi, Mizrahi, etc. recipes, but I really want something that will help me cook the stuff I grew up eating. Bonus points if you know a good one that also helps us diet-conscious cooks adjust for the heart-stopping amounts of fat, salt, and sugar in the traditional recipes.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The foods of Israel Today by Joan Nathan. Love it... lots of diverse recipes that span cultures.

    The other thing I honesty love are community based cookbooks.

    I have a few that various sisterhood / community based cookbooks. They may not be my family recipes... but pretty close, or even better when you know that someone else considers the recipe good enough for publication (Or, when your family never made it to start with!!)

    it goes without saying... there are a million variations of kugel, mandlebroit, and harosset on Chowhound too!

    5 Replies
    1. re: cheesehead in recovery

      That might be my least favorite of Joan Nathan's books, but any of her books are a good choice. I gravitate towards "Jewish Cooking in America," but that's largely because I like the sociological/cultural history aspect of it.

      If you can dig up a copy of "Jewish Cookery" by Leah Leonard, you might find that helpful. Also, believe it or not, the "Molly Goldberg Cookbook," an early "celebrity" cookbook is surprisingly good and useful.

      NB: I collect vintage Jewish cookbooks (1950's and earlier) so I tend to lean in that direction.

      1. re: rockycat

        I also prefer Joan Nathan's "Jewish Cooking in America". I inherited my mom's copy when she passed away. She liked it a lot, too, although many of her year after year recipes came from an old sisterhood cookbook (Like Mama Used to Make, Beth Shalom Sisterhood, Pittsburgh). Now I use it, too.

        Another book that I really like is "The Art of Jewish Cooking" by Jennie Grossinger of Grossinger's Resort in the Catskills.
        It has a lot of the basic day to day stuff that other fancier cookbooks overlook.

        1. re: AmyH

          Both sound interesting to me. Investigations to follow.

          1. re: AmyH

            I was wrong. "Like Mama Used to Make" is from the Ann Arbor Hadassah chapter, 1952. Lord knows how my mother got that one. I don't think she was ever in Ann Arbor. The other old book I have is "Share and Share Alike" from the women's auxiliary of the Hebrew Home of greater Washington, 1972. Great mandel bread recipe in that one.

          2. re: rockycat

            One of my most revered cookbooks and now out of print...tattered and torn but still wonderful...The Original Jenny Grossinger might try getting it 'used' from Amazon.(just noticed it was posted earlier..not sure if it's the same book and I'm in Florida and the book is back home in Toronto!!!

        2. I'm not Jewish, but I like Claudia Roden's The Book of Jewish Food (which I acquired via a long chain of events which ended with 'Give it to Tardigrade - she cooks weird stuff') which has a lot of information on history, and the differences between Ashkenazi and Shephardic table (I lean towards the latter, which is why I like this book).

          7 Replies
          1. re: tardigrade

            I have Claudia Roden's "The Book of Jewish Food" and love everything I've made from it. Like Tardigrade, I'm not Jewish but this book has been a very worthy addition to my home library. Roden has researched Jewish food for 15 years and here she "traces the development of both Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jewish communities and their cuisine" through the centuries.


            1. re: tardigrade

              i came here to recommend the same, but will second tardingrade (third w/ gio). this is a great book, and has the ashkenzic staples of my family but great insight into dishes from other traditions.

              1. re: tardigrade

                I am jewish and love this book. I have many but this is the one I use over and over again. And it is interesitng just to read.

                1. re: magiesmom

                  my favorite is Gil Mark's Olive trees and honey. Its vegetarian and takes ingredients throughout the diaspora. Amazing historical and geographical work.

                  1. re: docfood

                    I like that book too, but a vegetarian book just does not cover all jewish food as OP asks.

                    Re Roden, her Ashkenazi recipes are superb too.
                    New Book of Middle Eastern Food is just a rehash anyway.

                    1. re: magiesmom

                      Hm, if you say so, I'll look into the matter. I'll try not to let my defensiveness cloud my judgment of Roden.

                2. re: tardigrade

                  Really? I have and like Roden's New Book of Middle Eastern Food, but after hearing a radio interview with her, I rather distrust her around Ashkenazi stuff. Something about the subtle condescension she evinces for the cooking puts me off.

                  I like reading her historical asides as much as the next person, but I'd rather a really useful cookbook over a fun cookbook.

                  1. Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales from the Jewish South by Marcie Cohen Harris

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Fydeaux

                      That book is an awesome read and the author is a terrific speaker and knows her stuff well. However....some of the recipes are of more sociological interest than culinary interest, ie, some of them will tank. Badly. She is an educator and historian, not a chef. Btw, her last name is "Ferris,: not Harris, if you're trying to look her up.

                      NB: Full disclosure - I am credited in that book although I couldn't find anything specific that I had contributed.

                    2. What about some of the cookbooks from Hadassah organizations?

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: Ruthie789

                        And Women's American ORT! I can't believe I forgot about this one:
                        I make so many recipes out of this, although they're not really all for Jewish dishes. It looks like it's only available used now.

                        1. re: AmyH

                          My mother was a long-time member of O.R.T.; I think I have three or four editions of their cookbook kicking around somewhere. I'll have to take a new look at them. The last time I did, my impression was '2nd or 3rd generation Jewish suburban' recipes, for the most part not particularly interesting. [Not nearly as interesting as the Settlement Cookbook from a generation earlier was.] But it's probably been close to 30 years since I've looked at them.

                          [Women's American O.R.T.: My father used to call it 'WORT'. Mom hated when he did that!]

                          1. re: Fydeaux

                            Yeah, the Chef's EscORT book is not super interesting in most of the sections, But it has lots of really useful recipes in the Passover section and several good kugel and tsimmes recipes that are very similar to what I grew up eating.

                          2. re: Ruthie789

                            I found this other ORT cookbook when I was looking up the link for Chefs EscORT-

                            The International Jewish Cook Book- Recipes collected from many parts of the world by members of Women's International ORT

                            The subtitle looked so interesting I just bought it!

                            1. re: AmyH

                              That`s a risk we take when looking up cookbooks. I always ending up buying something on my searches.

                              1. re: Ruthie789

                                Thankfully it was only $6 plus $4 shipping. I can feed my addiction cheaply!

                            2. re: Ruthie789

                              Great idea, and one that I never would have thought of! And I'm a little embarrassed to admit that, while I wouldn't have thought to consult Hadassah or other sisterhood groups, I never even heard of ORTs until now. Chowhounders taught me something today for sure. :D

                              1. re: elustaz

                                The best treasured recipes are often in these types of cookbooks as they often contain old family recipes.I have been wanting to purchase one from the Montreal Chapter for quite awhile but it is quite expensive. A very popular book in Montreal is Second Helpings link below:

                                1. re: Ruthie789

                                  That looks good. It it Hadassah, ORT, or a synagogue sisterhood?

                                  1. re: AmyH

                                    I am not sure, it is a book that has been in production since 1968, I no longer have it as it was my Mom`s. My neighbour had it and invited me for coffee, she was making the mandlebread from it. I wish I still had it.