My review of Cooking Jewish by Judy Bart Kancigor

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Post Wed, Jan 16 2008, 10:01 pm
Recently I received a copy of the cookbook called Cooking Jewish by Judy Bart Kancigor. I was asked to review it and post my impressions on Imamother. So here I am.
I liked the cookbook for a few reasons. I love how along with each recipe comes a story depicting the origins of the recipe. There are lots of great recipes for any dish you could think of creating. Cooking Jewish includes recipes for many types of appetizers, soups, salads, meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, side dishes, cakes, challah, breakfast treats, pies, cookies, candy, and drinks. There is even a section for Pesach cooking.

Cooking Jewish is an enjoyable cookbook to read through, with lots of anecdotes about life “in the olden days”. I enjoyed looking through the pictures and getting to know the extended Rabinowitz family through the captions. The pictures of some original recipes handwritten on a piece of notepaper were a nice touch. Its such an enjoyable book to read that I have to confess that as I am writing this review I ended up reading through the book for an hour.

One Erev Shabbos I wanted to make a new kind of babaganoush, something different, without mayonnaise or garlic. I looked it up in Cooking Jewish, and viola! Four types of babaganoush were available; one of which was exactly what I was looking for.

However I have to say that the cookbook was written by a conservative woman, and you can feel it in some of the descriptions. In the introduction to cooking kosher, she talks about gelatin and about how orthodox Jewry does not accept gelatin as kosher yet she chose to comply with the conservative ruling which states that it is acceptable, and so you find recipes containing gelatin inside. This, and the few times that she mentions things that are against halacha, give me an uncomfortable feeling coming from a Jewish cookbook. In the Pesach section in her anecdotes she mentions a child saying the Mah Nishtana into the microphone at the seder, and having a family tradition of writing a note in the back of the haggadah at the end of the seder. If you are looking for a Frum cookbook with recipes and tips targeting a frum audience, this is not it. Cooking Jewish is a cookbook geared for the traditional or conservative family, but can be adapted to serve the needs of the frum home.

Although many of the recipes would work just fine in a frum home, some wouldn’t be practical. For example she includes many types of potato and noodle kugel yet more than half of the recipes call for sour cream, butter, or whipped cream. Although technically you could substitute pareve sour cream, margarine or pareve whipped cream, it just feels frustrating to have to do so. It would be a great resource for Shavuos recipes though!

I enjoyed the cake section with 65 pages of sweet concoctions. However again, most of the recipes call for butter, and although it seemed simple when I replaced it with Smart Balance (non-hydrogenated margarine), two of the recipes I tried didn’t come out the way I thought it should from the description. Melissa Hakim’s Pecan Streusel coffee cake was a winner. My family enjoyed every bite, even though I had to substitute soy milk for the buttermilk, and Smart Balance for the butter. Some recipes came out good when using a substitute and some didn’t, like the sand nuggets. They were hard as a rock.

I am looking forward to trying more recipes for cakes because so many look really good. I have to apologize though for not trying out more recipes. Every time I sat down to find a recipe to bake, I would find myself sitting and reading through the cookbook like a novel, and by the time I looked up I had used up my available baking time.

If you are looking for a cookbook chock full of recipes for every dish you can imagine and more, then this is a great resource. This makes a nice addition to my kitchen, and I find myself frequently taking it down to read through looking for a cake or supper recipe. Cooking Jewish is a cookbook geared for the cook looking to expand her repertoire of Jewish style recipes. This would be greatly loved by anyone who is interested in an fascinating read; full of stories about life in the early 1900’s, and highly entertaining anecdotes about family members.
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