The New Jewish Table: Modern Seasonal Recipes for Traditional Dishes

St. Martin's Press  2013


She comes from a Conservative Jewish home in Bethesda, Maryland; he grew up in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and was educated at an Episcopalian boarding school. Pastrami and lox, meat and potatoes—how did Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray come to own Equinox, a highly acclaimed Washington, DC, restaurant and fuse their food backgrounds?

The New Jewish Table demonstrates the answer. For both of them food was their muse and their pleasure, and that shows in the blended table they present here. Arranged seasonally, the recipes stress fresh local ingredients with some new twists on familiar Jewish dishes—Baked Gefilte Fish, Tuna Noodle Kugel, Modern-style Tzimmes garnished with plums. The middle ground where the Grays met culinarily was Mediterranean food, and their recipes reflect that common interest—Quinoa Salad with Figs and Beets, Sweet and Sour Eggplant on Crispy Garlic Toast, Mediterranean-style Fish Stew. And there’s plenty of just plain good food from both their backgrounds—Fried Green Tomato Sandwich and Matzo Brei—as well as sophisticated contemporary dishes and a couple of vegan specialties for Ellen, whose tastes have changed over the years.

In addition to the recipes, the Grays carry on a conversation with each other and their readers, discussing each recipe and offering memories, explanations, and cooking tips. By the end of the book readers will feel as if they made new friends over a well-prepared and well-planned meal. There are also menus for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Chanukkah, and Passover, with fresh takes on traditional dishes. A Chef’s Appendix has excellent information on culinary basics. Although some dishes are not kosher, each recipe is identified as meat, dairy, or parve—with a couple of notable “mixed” dishes like a Reuben sandwich.

In all The New Jewish Table will refresh readers’ meals with seasonal and creative dishes. With inviting color photography, The New Jewish Table is a solid addition to any cook’s shelf. Chef’s Appencix, index, photographs.

Recipe: Chickpea Salad with Feta Cheese and Mint

Makes about 6 cups

Todd: Especially when fresh vegetables aren’t plentiful, it is a great idea to use legumes and beans as the main ingredient for salads. The extra protein comes in handy to provide the energy our bodies need in cold weather months. Herbs like mint and parsley are easily found year-round, so I don’t really consider using them in the winter to be a “seasonal violation.” Here’s a tip for shaving the red onion: If you don’t have an inexpensive Japanese vegetable slicer, it’s a good idea to invest in one. It’s a great tool for easily slicing onions really thinly.

Two 15.5-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
1 cup very thinly sliced red onion (about 1 small onion)
½ cup crumbled feta cheese (2 ounces)
¼ cup slivered black olives
2 scallions, thinly sliced crosswise, including part of the green (¼ cup)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint leaves
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup olive oil, preferably extra virgin
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the chickpeas in a medium-size bowl. Add the tomatoes (hold these aside if making ahead of time so they don’t get mushy), onions, cheese, olives, scallions, mint, and garlic; stir to mix. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pour over the chickpea salad and stir to mix well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving; if you held the tomatoes aside, mix them in about 30 minutes before serving.

From The New Jewish Table: Modern Seasonal Rcipes for Traditional Dishes Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray with David Hagedorn (St. Martin’s Press, 2013).

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