The Jewish Cookbook

Leah Koenig. Phaidon, $49.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-7148-7933-8

In this outstanding and comprehensive cookbook, Koenig (Modern Jewish Cooking) explores Jewish cuisine from around the world. Wherever the recipes originate, they tend to be humble options: Sephardic slow-cooked eggs dyed brown with onion skins and coffee grounds, and an Ashkenazi stewed carrot tsimmes (a sweet stew) with dried fruit, for instance. A chapter on fritters presents classic potato latkes for Hanukkah and torpedo-shaped beef kibbeh from the Middle East. Along the way there are recipes for pan-fried gefilte fish in a curry sauce from South Africa, a sweet potato and pecan kugel from the American South, and a chicken and chestnut omelet from Azerbaijan. Koenig is a graceful writer, whether explaining the techniques for different challah shapes and their meanings (the braid is meant “to resemble the hair of a malevolent demon”) or differentiating Israeli-style rugelach from its American cousins. Included are recipes from restaurants that have wedded Jewish favorites with local traditions: Michael Solomonov of the restaurants Zahav and Abe Fisher in Philadelphia makes a steak sauce with soy sauce and sweet kosher wine, and from Warsaw, Poland, Aleksander Baron contributes a bread pudding dotted with poppy seeds. Desserts include dainty black-and-white cookies of the sort commonly found in New York delis, and chickpea flour shortbread. This is an excellent, thoughtful entry in Phaidon’s expanding lineup of accessible cookbooks. (Sept.)