June Hersh is the author of The Kosher Car­ni­vore: The Ulti­mate Meat and Poul­try Book, avail­able this week. She will be blog­ging all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ings Vis­it­ing Scribe.

If you had told me on my 55th birth­day that in the com­ing year I would have a cook­book pub­lished and a sec­ond one in the works I would have told you to prompt­ly return your crys­tal ball to Ama­zon and ask for a full refund. Pri­or to that year I had many roles, fore­most moth­er and wife, and sec­on­dar­i­ly as a teacher at the Solomon Schechter Day School, founder of Fan­cy Schman­cy, a children’s cloth­ing com­pa­ny, and resource coor­di­na­tor for my family’s light­ing busi­ness. But cook­book author was not on my resume.

After we sold our busi­ness, my sis­ter stat­ed what would become our mantra– we did well, now let’s do good. I took those as march­ing orders and pro­ceed­ed to dis­cov­er my newest incar­na­tion, cook­book author. It seemed like a nat­ur­al choice. I have always been a stu­dent of every­thing food, an adven­tur­ous eater and fear­less cook. I find that there are not many endeav­ors that give you the instant grat­i­fi­ca­tion cook­ing does. Maybe it’s the Jew­ish moth­er in me, but the act of nur­tur­ing and nour­ish­ing is in my DNA. So many of my favorite mem­o­ries are set around the kitchen table as a child, watch­ing my moth­er lov­ing­ly pre­pare even the sim­plest dish. She could turn grilled cheese and toma­to soup into a five star expe­ri­ence. So it seemed so nat­ur­al that this would be the niche that I found to bring a new rich­ness to my days.

My first project was Recipes Remem­bered: A Cel­e­bra­tion of Sur­vival, a book focused on the sto­ries and recipes of Holo­caust sur­vivors. I would per­son­al­ly inter­view each and every sur­vivor or their fam­i­ly mem­ber and write their remark­able sto­ry and recre­ate their cher­ished recipes. The good would be that I would donate all the pro­ceeds to the Muse­um of Jew­ish Her­itage, an insti­tu­tion that stands as a liv­ing memo­r­i­al to the Holo­caust. The expe­ri­ence was life-chang­ing and result­ed in a beau­ti­ful book that has raised both funds and awareness.

Once I was bit by the cook­book bug I didn’t want it to end. That incred­i­ble project was some­thing that excit­ed me every morn­ing and kept me up at night. I dream in shades of medi­um rare, so it seemed to be an organ­ic deci­sion to write a book focused on meat and poul­try. Hap­pi­ly, St. Martin’s Press agreed. The Kosher Car­ni­vore was a rev­e­la­tion as it took my cook­ing to the next lev­el. This time I wasn’t rebuild­ing oth­er people’s recipes, I was cre­at­ing my own. What could I do to meld suc­cu­lent lamb shanks with pome­gran­ates burst­ing with ripe seeds? How could I incor­po­rate the summer’s sweet­est peach into a gin­gery glaze for chick­en? What new twist could I put on roast duck that would make the skin so crispy you could hear it crack­le down the hall? My aim was to devel­op eclec­tic and inno­v­a­tive deli­cious food that hap­pened to be kosher.

Shop­ping bags were replaced by gro­cery bags as I spent hours behind the counter of some of New York’s finest butch­ers. Don­ning an apron, I would care­ful­ly watch the butch­er turn cuts of beef into works of art. I drooled over the fat­ty cap that rests atop the prime rib ooz­ing with mar­bling. I mar­veled as the butch­er ground brisket and chuck to cre­ate the juici­est ham­burg­er blend. I ques­tioned every stroke of the knife and every emphat­ic crash of the cleaver until I felt assured that I knew exact­ly how to expert­ly pre­pare the meat I was tot­ing home. I returned from my vis­its with the same glow oth­ers get from an amaz­ing facial.

I am now a ver­i­ta­ble walk­ing ency­clo­pe­dia of bits of infor­ma­tion about kosher cuts of meat. Invite me to a din­ner par­ty and I will regale you with cook­ing tips, wine sug­ges­tions and cook­ware advice. Want to hear how to best sear a duck breast or grill a juicy rib-eye? I’m your girl. And because I do love meat and pota­toes, I can tell you how to turn Yukon golds into pareve mashed pota­toes so creamy you want to take a nap in the bowl. My on-off switch is usu­al­ly on, but a soft kick under the table or a gen­tle hand on my knee, tells me to change the con­ver­sa­tion and save my riv­et­ing news about short ribs for anoth­er time.

Over the next few days I want to take you along on my culi­nary jour­ney as I nav­i­gate the world of cook­book writ­ing. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Moroc­can Lamb Shanks with Pome­gran­ate Sauce

Lamb shanks are rich, meaty, and suc­cu­lent as the lay­er of fat that envelopes each shank bastes them while they cook. This Moroc­can ver­sion fea­tures aro­mat­ic spices, which blend to give the shanks a punchy taste, while nev­er over­pow­er­ing their nat­ur­al fla­vor. The addi­tion of pome­gran­ate juice brings a sub­tle sweet tart fla­vor to the sauce.

Behind the Counter The sin­gu­lar taste of lamb shanks real­ly has no equal. Alter­nate cuts short ribs (+$) or osso buco (+$) or even turkey drum­sticks cut osso buco style (-$)

About 4 servings

Start to Fin­ish Under 3 hours

4 (12 – to- 16-ounce) lamb shanks

Kosher salt and fresh­ly ground black pepper

2 table­spoons olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

6 cloves gar­lic, smashed

1 tea­spoon ground cinnamon

1 tea­spoon ground coriander

½ tea­spoon ground ginger

1 tea­spoon ground cumin

1 tea­spoon kosher salt

2 dozen juniper berries

2 table­spoons toma­to paste

1 cup sweet red wine

2 cups beef stock

1 cup pome­gran­ate juice (derived from the seeds of 1 large or 2 medi­um pome­gran­ates), or 1 cup bot­tled juice

Pre­heat the oven to 350 degrees. Sea­son the shanks with kosher salt and pep­per. Heat the olive oil in a brais­ing pot and brown the shanks, over medi­um to high heat, on all sides, about 10 min­utes. Be sure to stand the shanks on the edges to brown all sides. Remove the shanks and cook and stir the onion and gar­lic, over medi­um heat, until light­ly soft­ened, about 5 min­utes. Add the spices, toma­to paste, wine and stock. Stir over medi­um heat for 5 min­utes. Add the shanks to the pot cov­er and roast at 350 degrees for 2 hours. Check the shanks every 30 min­utes, turn­ing them over in the sauce each time you check and admire them. While the lamb cooks, Process the pome­gran­ate seeds if start­ing from scratch (see feed­back), oth­er­wise take a well deserved break.

When the lamb is near­ly cooked, after 1½ hours, add the pome­gran­ate juice. Con­tin­ue cook­ing 30 min­utes longer or until the meat on the shank is but­tery soft and near­ly falling off the bone. When fin­ished, the sauce will be thick and con­cen­trat­ed (you can thin it with a lit­tle water or stock if need­ed). Spoon the sauce over the shanks and serve along­side rice, noo­dles or couscous.


While pome­gran­ates are loaded with antiox­i­dants, their real pow­er is to stain any­thing porous they come in con­tact with. If you are work­ing with fresh pome­gran­ates, I applaud your ini­tia­tive. Late fall, Octo­ber and Novem­ber is the best time to buy fresh pome­gran­ates, when they burst off the shelves with ripe seeds. Here are some tips for han­dling this per­snick­ety fruit.

1. Wear some­thing that can take a joke, you could end up look­ing like a vic­tim from Law and Order, stained with red splatters

2. Cut, then squeeze the pome­gran­ates over a bowl so you don’t lose any of the pre­cious juice. There is addi­tion­al juice in the tiny seeds. To juice those, fill a bowl with water, with your fin­gers gen­tly loosen the seeds, over the bowl, and sep­a­rate them from the papery mem­brane. The seeds will fall to the bot­tom of the bowl, while the thin fiber will float. Strain the water, reserv­ing the seeds.

3. Pul­ver­ize most of the seeds in a blender (reserve a few for gar­nish). Strain the liq­uid press­ing on the solids to extract all the juice. Dis­card the solids. Between the squeezed juice and the pureed seeds, you should have about ¾ – to- 1- cup of fresh juice from 1 large or 2 medi­um pomegranates.

Alter­na­tive­ly, you can buy pome­gran­ate juice. It’s clean­er, eas­i­er but not near­ly as much fun!

Check back all week for more posts and recipes from June Hersh.

June Hersh is a five-time pub­lished author, with four cook­books and one Holo­caust pho­tog­ra­phy book. She focus­es on food his­to­ry, main­ly the con­nec­tion between Jew­ish expe­ri­ences and food mem­o­ry. June’s books are writ­ten with a char­i­ta­ble fla­vor, as her pro­ceeds ben­e­fit not-for-prof­it Jew­ish-relat­ed orga­ni­za­tions. She has been fea­tured on radio, TV, in print, and hun­dreds of book talks relat­ed to her work.