New cookbooks for a tasty Hanukkah

Hanukkah Cookbooks

By Margi Lenga Kahn, Special to the Jewish Light

I know. You’re probably thinking you have too many cookbooks already. Enough is enough. That may be true for you, but nearly everyone I know, including me, would welcome a stunning new cookbook with well-written recipes guaranteed to invigorate the weekly lineup of family meals and provide a shot of inspiration for the next dinner party.

Perhaps you believe that one can get all the recipes needed on the internet. Think again. Many of those recipes are untested and sound much better than they are. Furthermore, for that someone who enjoys reading a cookbook as much as reading a great novel, one can never have enough great cookbooks. 

Granted, plenty of glossy cookbooks are on the market, books whose recipes don’t work or require ingredients you can’t find or take more time than you have or are just more of the same old same old dressed in new clothes. 

So I have good news for you. The four cookbooks featured below share the following positive similarities: Each one features recipes that are creative, introduced by the authors,  and easy to understand and execute. 

Although some of the recipes are lengthy, don’t let that deter you. Carefully read through each recipe before beginning. You’ll find that knowledge, as in any situation, will allay your fears and foster confidence and, ultimately, success. 

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While I haven’t tested all of the recipes in each of these books, I have prepared at least one recipe from each and can confidently say that any of these cookbooks will make a welcome holiday gift for all of the cooks on your holiday list, from beginners to experienced. Or maybe even for you!




“The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods” by Jeffrey Yoskowitz & Liz Alpern. Flatiron Books, 2016, ($23.48, Amazon).

Most of us are familiar with chopped liver, kreplach, brisket and sour pickles. Maybe you’ve made them and perhaps even used the same recipes that your grandparents or parents brought with them from Europe. Maybe you are even lucky enough to have the scraps of yellowed paper on which those original recipes were written. Hang on to all of that. They are priceless. 

What makes this new cookbook so remarkable is that its authors extensively researched Ashkenazi cuisine, the ingredients, techniques and flavors passed down through the generations. The result is an approachable collection of recipes that honor the integrity of tradition while bringing this heritage cuisine into the 21st century. As the authors say in the foreword:

“Gefilte is about serving a dish with pride, not simply out of deference to hollow convention. It is about taking food traditions seriously and reclaiming the glory of Ashkenazi food – what it has been and what it can be.”

In addition to the classics mentioned above, you’ll find recipes for Everything Bagel Butter and Schmaltz and Gribenes, Jewish Rye and Bagels and Bialys, Spiced Blueberry Soup and Pierogi, Mustard Slaw and Home-Cured Pastrami, and Bessie Weinstein’s Schnecken and Orange-Spiced Rye Honey Cake.  And just in time for Hanukkah, a wonderful recipe for Root Vegetable Latkes.




“Breaking Breads” by Uri Scheft. Artisan Books, 2016, ($20, Barnes & Noble).

Whenever I visit my daughter Kayla in New York City, it is understood that we need to make at least one stop at a Breads Bakery, home to the best chocolate babka on the planet, along with other delicious breads, burekas and pastries. 

In fact, on Kayla’s trip home for Thanksgiving, she carefully wrapped a Breads Bakery babka she had bought fresh that morning, and held it on her lap the entire trip home lest it get crushed or taken by a lusting passenger. Suffice it to say, our family devoured it that night.

The talent behind the bakery, as well as the author of my most anticipated cookbook of the year, is Uri Scheft, a gifted Israeli baker whose Tel Aviv bakery, Lehamim, turned out some of the most coveted Israeli breads and pastries for 10 years. Lucky for us, he brought his craft to the United States, opening his first Breads Bakery in 2013 in New York City’s Union Square. 

Scheft’s passion for quality ingredients and classic and innovative baking techniques is evident in both his bakeries and in his new cookbook.  

With recipes for his winning babka, and a variety of other babkas that include ricotta, apple, halvah and za’atar, Scheft provides easy-to-follow directions for assorted flatbreads, burekas, Jerusalem bagels, a variety of challahs, and delectable rugelach and hamentaschen

Of course, you will be challenged to get beyond salivating over the stunning photographs. But don’t stop there. You will want to try baking just about everything in the book. You and your family, or the recipient of this wonderful cookbook, will be delighted with the results.



“Cooking for Jeffrey” by Ina Garten. Clarkson Potter, 2016 ($17.49, Barnes & Noble).

I’ve always admired Ina Garten’s ability to write recipes that work for foods we all want to eat. The New York Times bestselling author, Food Network star and former gourmet shop owner has nine other cookbooks to her name. This one is another gem, featuring recipes for the foods most frequently requested by her husband, Jeffrey, dean emeritus at Yale School of Management. Some will become your family’s most requested as well. 

This new compendium includes starters such as Smoked Salmon Pizza, Butternut Squash Hummus and Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad; main courses, such as Skillet Roasted Lemon Chicken, Brisket with Onion and Leeks, and Roasted Vegetable Paella; side dishes, such as Kasha Varnishkes with Wild Mushrooms, Sautéed Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes; and desserts, such as Pumpkin Flan with Maple Caramel and Bourbon Honey Cake. 

If you or someone you love enjoys cooking and turning out delicious food each and every time, Garten’s latest cookbook is sure to please. It’s what I would label fail-proof cooking.




“Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from an Unlikely Life on a Farm” by Molly Yeh. Rodale Books, 2016 ($19.96, Barnes & Noble).

Cooking bloggers come and go, and most of us blog followers know the good ones. Molly Yeh is the author of one of the truly great ones.  “My Name is Yeh,” the blog she began in 2009, is a delightful journal of her life, with recipes inspired by her Jewish and Asian roots. 

A Juilliard-trained musician and an enthusiastic cook who credits her mother for her love of cooking, Yeh and her husband recently traded their city life in Brooklyn for a sugar beet farm on the North Dakota-Minnesota state line. Her husband is now a fifth-generation family farmer.

While few of us could embrace such a radical life change, Yeh has made the most of it. Just reading through her beautiful cookbook, with its down-to-earth essays and creative recipes, you will get to know, and love, this dynamic young woman. She has a joie de vivre that is downright contagious. I was immediately smitten by the author and her cookbook, so much so that my husband, Mike, made me promise to channel my excitement over the book to you, my readers. Hopefully, I have.

Whether she’s preparing Slow Cooker Goulash with Scallion Knodeln for the annual sugar beet harvest festival, Honey Ricotta Blintzes with Caramelized Onions and Rosemary Sufganiyot with Tomato Jam for what she calls Chrismukkah, or Za’atar Monkey Bread with Garlic and Onion Labneh and Scallion Pancake Challah to celebrate her mixed heritage, Yeh will arouse a love of life and cooking for every recipient of this cookbook, both young and old.

With Hanukkah just around the corner, here are recipes from two of the cookbooks to help you celebrate.


Margi Lenga Kahn is the mother of five and grandmother of five. A cooking instructor at the Kitchen Conservatory, she is working on a project to preserve the stories and recipes of heritage cooks. She welcomes your comments and suggestions at [email protected].