Several new cookbooks have crossed my desk that have recipes that are meaningful to the two religious holidays in April: Passover, the eight-day Jewish holiday that begins at sundown on April 19, and the Eastern Orthodox Easter, which is celebrated April 27 this year.
Even though there are several weeks until each is celebrated, there s time for home cooks to see these new cookbooks. Many of the recipes are family favorites. Authors recount a remembrance or a story associated with the recipes. Sometimes the recipes are updated to be prepared with lower fat or lower sugar ingredients or with updated cooking equipment.
Arthur Schwartz s Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Recipes Revisited (10 Speed Press, $35) includes Passover dishes such as Cottage-Cheese Chremslach (fried matzo meal pancakes made with cheese), Passover Parve Apple Cake, and Matzo Buttercrunch.
The cookbook features the food of my culture and my youth, writes Mr. Schwartz, who has updated versions of the historic dishes. In addition there are recipes to be used before or after Passover. These include fluffy shlishkas, Hungarian potato dumplings made with onions and bread crumbs. He likens them to an Italian gnocchi except the shape is longer.
Stuffed Cabbage was a great favorite at his home, although the recipe was not a Passover recipe. His cookbook contains chapters on dairy (meatless) and meat entrees as well.
Passover By Design by Susie Fishbein (Mesorah Publications, $34.99) begins with Preparing the Seder and includes Traditional Charoset and Turkish Charoset recipes. The book features more than 130 recipes that have been reformulated and retested to meet kosher for Passover standards. The chapter on soups includes 19 soups, and three recipes for matzo balls include Spinach Matzo Balls. Salads are equally diverse with Roasted Beet Salad and Cucumber Dill Salad.
Glazed Chicken Breasts with Strawberry Salsa, Balsamic Braised Brisket with Shallots and Potatoes, and Chardonnay Poached Salmon are among the entrees. Cherry Tomato Crisp is made with matzo meal. Spicy Potato Stacks are garnished with fresh rosemary sprigs. Jelly Thumbprint cookies are made with matzo cake meal and potato starch while Ebony and Ivory is the most requested and beautiful dairy dessert the author says she has ever made: a layer of chocolate mousse is topped with a layer of white chocolate mousse.
In A Baker s Odyssey, author Greg Patent (Wiley, $34.95) reveals the secrets behind kulich and paskha, two traditional Russian Easter recipes, always served together.
Kulich is the tall, sweet Easter yeast bake containing raisins, cherries, and almonds. The texture is light and airy, yet firm. The top is covered with a thick sugar icing which runs down the sides in dribbles, giving a festive look.
Kulich is always served with a rich and creamy cheesecake dessert called paskha. The author writes that to Russians, Easter is the most important religious celebration of the year, even more important than Christmas.
Both the kulich and the paskha are rich in eggs and butter, symbols of fertility and rebirth. The paskha is made with farmer s or pot cheese. It is made two days in advance. I d spread a thick layer of the creamy pashka onto a slice of kulich, writes the author, who grew up in Shanghai celebrating the Eastern Orthodox Easter.
Mr. Patent s book credits 60 bakers who taught him their treasured recipes including Cindy Klotz of Eastern Europe and Israel who shared her recipes for Matzoh, Israeli Jewish Flatbread. Each copy of A Baker s Odyssey has a companion DVD in which Mr. Patent demonstrates general baking techniques and creates cannoli, matzoh, and other recipes in the book.