Review - The New Jewish Table: Modern Seasonal Recipes for Traditional Dishes

The New Jewish Table will be released in March 2013

The New Jewish Table: Modern Seasonal Recipes for Traditional Dishes is a cookbook by Chef Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray, the married duo behind Equinox, a popular restaurant in Washington, DC, that has become widely known as a spot favored by President and Mrs. Obama. It’s no wonder America’s first couple enjoys the restaurant; the recipes and concepts put forth in this book are outstanding.

The New Jewish Table celebrates the "culinary convergence" (a term first used by renowned food writer Joan Nathan, who penned the book’s foreword) between Todd’s Episcopalian upbringing and Ellen’s Jewish background, and champions eating seasonally and supporting local farmers. As such, the book is divided into four seasons – Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer – and each has six chapters: Brunch, Starters, Lunch, Dinner, Sides and Desserts.

The recipes are written in layman's terms, the ingredients are easily sourced, and the plating in the photos is sophisticated but simple; even novice cooks will be able to re-create the elegant dishes. For easy meal planning each recipe is labeled as to whether it’s dairy, meat, or parve, a Hebrew term for food that does not contain meat or dairy. There are holiday menu suggestions for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, and Passover, and the appendix has a wealth of information regarding spices, dressings, sauces and condiments. Throughout the cookbook there are tips and personal stories from the authors and their friends including Chef JoséAndrés, musician Keller Williams, and Sheila C. Johnson, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television.

Potato latkes
There are over 125 recipes in The New Jewish Table, and they are all extremely appealing. So far I’ve made Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Latkes with crème fraîche and grated horseradish, Etrog Cake (using the suggested substitute of lemons instead of etrogs), and Beet Cured Salmon Gravlax made with Cointreau, kosher salt, toasted fennel, fresh beets and tarragon. It was my first time curing fish - I always thought it would be complicated, but this book completely de-mystified the process.

Next we'll have Todd's Modern Day Brisket (it's braised in red wine, veal stock and balsamic vinegar, then compressed and cut into cubes), Caramelized Cauliflower with Almonds and Raisins, and after that, the Sweet Noodle Kugel, a baked dish that I enjoy on a regular basis, but have never made from scratch.

The New Jewish Table is a tribute to good food, seasonal ingredients, and the balance between honoring traditions and embracing fresh ideas. To that end, this cookbook will be part of my family’s "culinary convergence"; we're already enjoying new dishes that will stay in rotation on our menus, and I'll be making Todd and Ellen’s Salt-Baked Red Snapper for my Italian-Catholic family’s Feast of the Seven Fishes next Christmas Eve. For anyone with a passion for preparing delicious meals, The New Jewish Table will be a treasured resource; I highly recommend it.

The New Jewish Table: Modern Seasonal Recipes for Traditional Dishes
By Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray with David Hagedorn
Photographs by Renee Comet
St. Martin’s Press: March 2013
Hardcover / 352 pages / $35.00

Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013