A Jew­ish Cal­en­dar of Fes­tive Foods

Jane Port­noy; Robin Reike, illus.; Mar­shall Port­noy, commentary
  • Review
By – October 31, 2011

Month by Hebrew month, Jane Port­noy has gath­ered a year of recipes to mark all the sig­nif­i­cant days in the annu­al cycle. Mar­shall Port­noy, a can­tor, has col­lab­o­rat­ed with his wife, explain­ing the cal­en­dar and intro­duc­ing each month with a sum­ma­ry of its place and impor­tance in Jew­ish life. Round­ing out the book, Robin Reikes’s live­ly illus­tra­tions of a shtetl fam­i­ly pro­vide a heimish touch. 

A prac­tic­ing doc­tor and sur­geon, Port­noy under­stands the chal­lenges of hol­i­day prepa­ra­tion on a busy sched­ule and intro­duces short­cuts — frozen pie crusts, soup mix­es for fla­vor­ing — and sug­gests where ready-made dish­es — gefilte fish, chal­lah — can be used. The recipes draw on the tra­di­tion­al menu with con­tem­po­rary touch­es. Port­noy has help­ful tips for keep­ing the pantry stocked with hol­i­day ingre­di­ents to head off last-minute shop­ping and tech­niques that will be help­ful for kitchen novices. 

Clear­ly a labor of love, A Jew­ish Cal­en­dar of Fes­tive Foods makes an attrac­tive gift for any occa­sion and one that may be con­sult­ed month after month. Appen­dix­es, illus­tra­tions, index­es, photographs.

Recipe: Sweet Pota­to Apple Casserole

From A Jew­ish Cal­en­dar of Fes­tive Foods by Jane Port­noy (Janelle Inter­na­tion­al; 2011)

Yield: 8 servings

This sweet pota­to apple casse­role is a light and refresh­ing way to present sweet pota­toes for a hol­i­day din­ner. I include it in my Thanks­giv­ing chap­ter, but it would be equal­ly appro­pri­ate for oth­er hol­i­day menus. After bak­ing is com­plet­ed, the dish can be gar­nished with fresh pome­gran­ate seeds which are in sea­son dur­ing the late fall and win­ter. The seeds add a nice col­or and tang to the recipe.

6 sweet pota­toes
3 apples (Gold­en Deli­cious are nice for this recipe)
Veg­etable cook­ing spray
½ cup orange juice
3 table­spoons lemon juice
¼ cup sug­ar
2 table­spoons brown sug­ar
½ tea­spoon cin­na­mon
¼ cup pome­gran­ate seeds for garnish

Pre­heat oven to 350 degrees. Use a 1392‑inch bak­ing dish

Boil sweet pota­toes until ten­der and remove skins. When cooled, slice into 1/​3‑inch slices. Peel, core, and slice apples. Spray bak­ing dish with veg­etable cook­ing spray. Place pota­toes and apple slices in dish. Pour orange and lemon juices over pota­toes and apples. Sprin­kle with sug­ars and cin­na­mon. Bake uncov­ered at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Gar­nish with fresh pome­gran­ate seeds.

Case­role Pho­to: © Jane Portnoy

Maron L. Wax­man, retired edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor, spe­cial projects, at the Amer­i­can Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry, was also an edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor at Harper­Collins and Book-of-the-Month Club.

Discussion Questions