Jamie Geller’s latest cookbook is part family album, part fun cooking ideas, and partly like hearing from an “old friend.” Geller cocoons us in her warmth and hugs; we feel as though we are part of her family as the adorable photographs of her children, husband, and delectable food entice us.
For a woman raised on take-out and in a non-observant home, Jamie has certainly come a long way, for she is now a traditionally observant Jewish wife, mother, cookbook writer, and popular kosher cooking media personality. The family made aliyah and she now reports to us from Israel.
When she married her observant husband, Geller knew nothing about cooking, but she learned and taught herself so well that now multitudes look to her for cooking advice and recipes. She confesses, “I still don’t like to cook. I love to eat. I love to watch my children eat. And I adore the looks of delighted anticipation on the faces of dinner guests when I bring out a tantalizing dish… Yes, I taste test every recipe. That’s why I look this way.”
The Soups and Starters section include Uputzi’s Vegetarian Chopped “Liver” Pâté (Uputzi is Jamie’s granddad). Perfect fare for holiday gatherings is the Cranberry Chestnut Challah Stuffing — to be served, she advises, with her Sour Mash Whiskey-Glazed Whole Roasted Turkey. Her Yerushalmi Kugel recipe does not disappoint. Her intro to the recipe is “ It’s a sweet and peppery caramelized kugel recipe I got from a friend (who wants to remain nameless) who got it from her mother (who also wants to remain nameless) who got it from a lady (who also wants to remain nameless) who is a native of Jerusalem.” Funny, and we know exactly what she means!
Some other recipes worth noting: Classic Tuna Casserole, Sweet Potato Cake, Jumbo Meatball Garlic Bread Bites, Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Skewers with Herbed Curry Mustard, Butternut Squash Mac ʻn’ Cheese , and of course a full, varied Challah section that includes the spiritual meaning of the mitzvah.
Each recipe is followed by suggestions, such as Quick Tips, Variations, Ways to Dress it Up (or Down), and Wine Pairings. The Equipment and Ingredients List is comprehensive and her comments continue to amuse. (When recommending a 10-quart plastic bowl, she observes “You’ll need this baby to knead your challah dough. A friend told me she uses her laundry bin. Try to avoid that; nobody wants to find a sock in the challah.”) There is a well thought-out list of Holiday Menus with explanatory notes, a Food Glossary and a Hebrew/Yiddish/Yinglish Glossary, as well as a complete index.