Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Joy of Kosher, a Tasty but Slightly Salty Review

I don't cook, let's make that clear, but I do enjoy eating. Does that qualify me to review Jamie Geller's new cookbook? I think so!

How does someone who doesn't cook review a cookbook? By enlisting the wife of course. My wife selected a number of dishes from Geller's Joy of Kosher cookbook for our Friday night dinner and I, of course, volunteered to eat them.

But first, a word about the book. Geller's previous cookbook, Quick & Kosher - Recipes From The Bride Who Knew Nothing, was published in 2007. That book was called an "autobiographic cookbook" by one reviewer on Amazon. This cookbook is a worthy sequel, as Geller's family takes center stage. It features Geller's husband and her five children in pictures and stories accompanying the various sections of the book.

Joy of Kosher is not the ultimate collection of kosher recipes to help plan traditional Jewish meals. As the cook in my family says, "If I wanted to read a book about a Jewish mother and her family, I would buy a book about a Jewish family." If, on the other hand, you're willing to try 'fast, fresh family recipes' according to the Geller tradition, you'll like this book. Simply put, this cookbook is Gellerish.

Some other comments about the layout of the book should be noted in this honest appraisal. Many of the recipes are listed on more than one page, making them hard to follow. When you're cooking and your hands are dirty, you don't want to have to turn pages.

Another comment would be how the dishes are listed, and what is included. If, for example, you are looking for a suitable meat starter for your meal, the listings include chicken soup, cocktail meatballs, and miniature ground beef pies. Are there other soups available for a meat meal? No, only the chicken soup.  And why are there so many recipes that feature pastrami?

This cookbook is geared for an American readership, listing ingredients that can only be found in the United States, such as Manischewitz products. On the other hand, many of the main dishes are paired up with suitable Israeli wines, kosher ones, of course.

That said, the pictures are colorful and the recipes are easy to follow. A special feature that stands out in the book is the ability to "dress up" a recipe when entertaining, or "dress down" a recipe for quick family cooking.

Here is what my wife made for our Friday night dinner:

** Moroccan Roasted Chicken

** Easy Cranberry and Pine Nut Couscous

** Colorful Mustard String Beans

** Hearty Mushrooms with Herbs and Wine

All of the dishes were very, very tasty! With the publisher's permission, I have included the recipe for the chicken below.

Moroccan Roasted Chicken

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Yields: 4 servings

Cooking spray
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 garlic cloves, chopped
One 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 medium red onions, quartered
1 pound small red-skin potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pistachios
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; spray the foil with cooking spray.

2. Mix together the honey, olive oil, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and garlic in a small bowl. Place the chicken, onions, and potatoes in a large bowl. Toss with three-quarters of the honey mixture and arrange in a single layer on the prepared pan. Toss the apricots and raisins with the remaining honey mixture and set aside.

3. Bake the chicken, onions, and potatoes for 35 minutes. Add the apricots and raisins and bake until the chicken is cooked through 15 to 20 minutes more. Garnish with the pistachios and cilantro.

Jamie Geller mentions in her cookbook that this Moroccan Chicken recipe quickly became one of her husband's favorite dishes. I have to admit that after my wife cooked it for our Friday night meal, it is already one of my favorites. Could it be that after experiencing the tasty dishes of Joy of Kosher I've become a little Gellerish myself?

Buy Joy of Kosher and start cooking now!

Originally published at The Times of Israel.


  1. Sounds yummy and yes, we have Manischewitz in Canada! :)

  2. Oh wow! Mouthwatering dishes! This made me so hungry, Ellis. Will just take a break from writing right now and grab myself something to eat. :-)

  3. Ellis, I love cooking and preparing food! I really enjoy healthy and nutritious recipes and I cook every weekend something new. Great book review! Moroccan Roasted Chicken sounds and looks so delicious. I'm not the biggest fan of meat, but chicken breasts from time to time are nice to eat :).

  4. Delightful review, Ellis! The Moroccan Roasted Chicken sounds really like a great blend of flavors, with the potatoes, apricots and pistachios!