The World of Jewish Entertaining
Posted by : Karen Selwyn
I bought a copy of Gil Marks' new cookbook, THE WORLD OF JEWISH
ENTERTAINING and want to share my reaction. It's an interesting hybrid
of his first book, THE WORLD OF JEWISH COOKING, and the Marlene
Sorosky's FAST AND FESTIVE MEALS FOR THE JEWISH HOLIDAYS.
My take on Marks' first book (which I love) is that it had a scholarly,
approach to international Jewish cuisine and good explanation of
procedures which yielded tasty dishes. My take on Sorosky's book (which
I have only browsed through) is that it takes a fun and supportive
approach to help cooks put tasty and appropriate food on the table for
holiday and life cycle events. THE WORLD OF JEWISH ENTERTAINING is falls
between the two books.
The first chapter is titled "Guide for the Perplexed Host" and, among
other things, suggests layouts for a buffet table and quantities of food
for entertaining 20 people. It tells you to scale up in multiples of 20,
but once a book is trying to be helpful, it might have been more useful
if Marks had supplied quantites for more varied group sizes (e.g.
Shabbat dinner for eight, Break-the-Fast for thirty, etc.). It's not a
matter of simply doubling or halving quantities. Sometimes, for
different group sizes one needs to add/delete/double certain dishes.
The sections on Shabbat, Rosh Hashanah, Break-the-Fast, Sukkot, Simchat
Torah, Hanukkah, Tu B'Shevat, Purim, and Passover are like the first
book: the recipes are appealing, draw on Jewish cuisine around the
world, and include brief but fascinating commentary. The exception is
the section on shalachmones for food gift-giving at Purim. In his quest
for originality and sophitication, Marks' makes some distinctly odd
recommendations. Hamantaschen, of course, makes the list, but so do
Fortune Cookies and Pecan Tassies, the consummate southern pastry treat.
At least these are sweet suggestions. In the introduction, Marks
recommends some truly eccentric schalachmones collections: a Japanese
basket of sushi, rice wine vinegar, and Japanese horseradish or an
Italian basket of pasta, sauces, vinegar, and sun-dried tomatoes.
The recipes in the section on life cycle celebrations have a very
different feel. All are kosher, but they mix Jewish cuisine with
non-Jewish cuisine. A recipe for bourbon balls co-exists with a recipe
for Israeli Orange and Avocado salad. A recipe for Beef Wellington
co-exists with a recipe for Sephardic Pumpkin turnovers. And bringing up
the rear is a chapter on recipes for baked goods where examples of
Jewish cuisine are in the distinct minority.
The recipe for Sephardic Leek Soup: Sopa de Prassa in the soup and Rosh
Hashanah sections of the rfcj archives is from this book and it is a
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