By Judith Segal
Preparing beautiful food at Passover time is the greatest challenge for the kosher cook. The undertaking is not simplified by the fact that various Jewish communities observe various kosher-for-Passover levels and stringencies.
The "Sephardim" (the Jews of the Mediterranean and Iberia) consider certain foods "Pesachdick" (kosher for Passover) that the "Ashkenazim" (Jews descended from the population that lived in Europe) forbid. The Sephardim find rice, and legumes such as peas, acceptable, while the Ashkenazim do not.
The New York Times Passover Cookbook is definitely one of the best of such books; as the title implies, it may be the definitive work. The volume offers hundreds of recipes, each kosher-for-Passover. Most of the great Jewish cooks in America have contributed one or more dishes, often with personal reminiscences about their own holiday celebrations, and personal favorites.
Still, adaptations of traditional American Jewish favorites, common to that larger population descended from the Jews of Europe, are not neglected by The New York Times Passover Cookbook. Barry Wine contributes "Gefilte Fish in Beggar's Purses," a Pesachdik variation of the "Caviar in Beggar's Purses" that he made famous. The Margareten family, of the famous matzoh manufacturers "Horowitz-Margareten," supply a foolproof apple "kugel" (pudding) recipe.
Indeed, gefilte fish turns out to be merely a jumping off point, though there are a half dozen versions of it, including Salmon Gefilte Fish. More accurately, Cohen has fashioned a full-service Jewish cookbook with dishes from all over the Diaspora, the emphasis being on the more traditional American- Jewish recipes originally from Eastern Europe.
The Gefilte Variations is a major scholarly work, a treatise beautifully executed, with touching anecdotes, thought-provoking quotes, and fascinating photographs. This book is a true labor of love.
Marlene Sorosky's Fast & Festive Meals for the Jewish Holidays is one of the best Jewish cookbooks ever. This lovely book covers all of the holidays, with their accompanying classic dishes. While the emphasis, again, is on the European-Jewish favorites, there are some interesting deviations; Sweet Potato Latkas, easily adapted to a Passover diet, is one such example.
The Passover section is large and wonderful, and desserts such as Canteloupe, Kiwi and Strawberry Tart, or Coconut Chiffon Cheese-cake, are absolutely luscious. Again, there are lovely recipes in other parts of this book, too, that are well suited for Passover, such as Potato-Carrot Pancake. Generously illustrated with full color photographs, Fast & Festive Meals for the Jewish Holidays is a book to be savored all year long.
The Complete Passover Cookbook by Frances AvRutnick. Copyright 1981. Published by Jonathan David Publishers, Middle Village, New York. Hardcover; 420 pp; $19.95.
JOYCE GOLDSTEIN'S PICKLED SALMON
Ms. Goldstein has written several books celebrating the synergistic influences of Jewish cooking and Mediterranean cuisines. The New York Times Passover Cookbook reprinted the following recipe from her book Back to Square One.
2 cups Passover vinegar
Bring the vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a boil. Let this mixture cool completely.
Cut the salmon into pieces that are approximately 1 inch by 2 inches.
Serve the salmon chilled, but not ice cold, along with the marinated onions.
In New York, Jacques Capsouto and his mother, Eva, created a magnificent seder fundraiser to benefit Jewish charitable institutions. Eva provided her easy and delicious recipe for macaroons to The New York Times Passover Cookbook.
3 cups (15 ounces) blanched almonds
If necessary, blanch the almonds by putting them in boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove, drain, peel and cool. When cool, grind the almonds in a food processor.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix the ground almonds, sugar and egg whites. Drop from a teaspoon on to the cookie sheets, leaving 1/2 inch between the macaroons. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned. When cool, dust with sugar.
Makes approximately 2 dozen macaroons.