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 13 x 9 x 2‑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.