In her new cookbook, Beyond Chopped Liver, Kenden Alfond, author of the Jewish Food Hero blog, offers vegan and health-conscious recipes that are sure to expand the palates of all, vegan or not. Alfond takes on 59 Jewish recipes — including cholent, brisket, and Yemenite soup — and, in her words, gives them a “makeover.”
Following an informative introduction on the development of Jewish food culture and the concept of ethical eating in both Jewish and vegan practices, Alfond presents her readers with the broad range of the Jewish palate, articulated through vegan ingredients and nifty oil replacements.
Although the title may suggest an Ashkenazi focus, the recipes span Mizrahi, Sephardic, Indian, and Ethiopian flavors. Particularly intriguing is Alfond’s recipe for a Tunisian farka cake — a cake made with couscous and dried fruit bound by sugar and oil, and traditionally eaten during Hanukkah. Instead of sugar and oil, however, Alfond uses fresh fruits, apple juice, and maple syrup. Other enticing recipes include the Sephardic orange-scented bimuelos (bimuelo is a Ladino word for Spanish bunuelos, meaning fritters), varnishkes topped with fresh herbs and lemon, and a crispy tofu schnitzel. Also included is a recipe for a vegan and gluten-free challah, a rare find in the Jewish cookbook genre.
Perhaps the best aspect of Beyond Chopped Liver is the care Alfond takes in introducing the traditional versions of each veganized recipe. In her recipe for jackfruit brisket, she explains that, typically, Ashkenazi brisket is made with beef which becomes tender after slow cooking in a succulent sauce. In her version, however, she uses jackfruit — a tropical fruit with tendinous flesh that mimics that of meat. It is a recipe that vegan readers will be excited to make for their Passover seder, after enduring many years of only smelling the classic dish.
Beyond Chopped Liver is an exciting, contemporary addition to Jewish cookery, and is sure to satisfy those looking for lighter, brighter versions of beloved Jewish fare.
Hannah Kressel is a current fellow at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. She holds a Masters in Art History from the University of Oxford and a Bachelors in Art History and Studio Art from Brandeis University. Her research examines the intersection of contemporary art, food, and religion. She is an avid baker and cook.