No, says author Steven Raichlen, healthy Jewish cooking is not an oxymoron. Inspired by the large family gatherings of his childhood which were filled with homemade Jewish delicacies, Raichlen set out to re-create these meals with an eye towards the fat- and cholesterol-conscious. And he's done well. Raichlen finds still-tasty ways to greatly reduce or cut out schmaltz (rendered chicken fat), butter, oil, and eggs. With meat, he advocates using just enough for flavor but upping the ratio of vegetables, and to try grilling to release a smoky sweetness.
By following his "10 commandments" of healthy cooking, you'll be able to have traditional and not-so-traditional Jewish meals--but with drastically less fat and calories. Remember to "Think flavor, not fat" and "Roast your way to aroma" and you're on your way to lighter versions of old favorites like the Amazing Low-Fat Chopped Liver, Cheese Blintzes, and Sweet and Sour Turkey-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. Raichlen's family included Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, so in addition to German and Eastern European-inspired recipes, he also includes Moroccan and Middle Eastern dishes like Greek Lamb Stew with Romaine Lettuce and Dill and Bulghur Pilaf. For kugel aficionados, there is an entire chapter of sweet and savory recipes. There are many kosher recipes and suggestions on how to amend nonkosher dishes.
Besides the appetizing, straightforward recipes, the allure of Healthy Jewish Cooking is Raichlen's remembrances of the men and women in his family who taught him how to cook and appreciate the importance of food in the Jewish culture. "Above all, have fun," says Raichlen. "Jewish cooking is about family, love, and abundance. Cook with all three and your life will be rich beyond measure." --Dana Van Nest
Isn't healthy Jewish cooking an oxymoron? That's the typical response Raichlen, author of Barbecue! Bible and Steve Raichlen's High-Flavor, Low-Fat Vegetarian Cooking, got whenever he mentioned he was writing this book. It turns out that Jewish cooking can be low fat and flavorful: the Amazing Low-Fat Chopped Liver uses roasted mushrooms and hard-cooked egg whites to reduce fat and cholesterol while intensifying flavor. Middle Eastern dishes, such as Shish Kebab with North African Seasonings, and Moroccan Grilled Pepper and Tomato Salad, are well represented here. To make traditional Ashkenazi Jewish dishes lighter, recipes call for using broth instead of schmaltz (chicken fat) and no-fat dairy products, and for roasting and bake-frying. Raichlen also provides a wealth of meatless dishes, including a vegetarian version of chopped liver and a Portobello Paprikash. Raichlin emphasizes the innovative, such as Zucchini Kugel (usually a sweet noodle dish), without losing sight of traditional foods, like blintzes, Passover dishes, knishes and The Three B's Cholent, a Sabbath stew. While there are exotic touches such as Rhubarb Haroset and Tropical Tsimmis with ginger and fresh pineappleARaichlen's dessert section seems incomplete (where are rugelach and hamentaschen?). He isn't great at cutting down sugar, either, although some sinfully tempting recipes, like My Great-Grandmother's Chocolate Roll, list original ingredients as well as slimmed-down ones. But with homey anecdotes, food counts and preparation times, one hopes for a sequel to this heart-warming and user-friendly book. Photos by Greg Schneider. (Oct.)
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