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Did you know that there was no Jewish cuisine before the end of the 1800s? It was only after European Jews settled into the tenements of New York City and started living side by side with immigrants from all over, that various Old World dishes were melded into what we now think of as classic deli. The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home explains this and much more about the history of the foods that have graced the tables of American Jews for well over a century.
Unfortunately, authentic delis have been on the decline as a result of a number of socioeconomic factors and because today's eaters are often hyper-aware of health issues. As a consequence, American delis have had to adapt or go under. Zusman and Zukin characterize current delis as being a combination of traditional and artisan, with vegetarian versions of meaty classics and the addition of more salads. The good news is that you'll still find pastrami and brisket on the menu as well as a full array of whole-grain breads.
The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home covers everything from little dishes like pickles to the ubiquitous rugelach that goes with your after-dinner coffee. You'll find recipes for baked goods, soups, sandwiches, slaws, spreads, and salads. I particularly love the number of variations that Zusman and Zukin provide, so once you've mastered how to make latkes, for example, you can try them crispy or fluffy and with peppers or zucchini.
Some recipes are modern versions of old standards, such as brisket roasted with cider and butternut squash; others hark back to my grandmothers' kitchens (who makes schmaltz anymore?). Don't worry if you've never had kreplach or knishes, Zusman and Zukin explain everything, providing clear directions and photographs. Plus you'll find informative features throughout the cookbook that fill you in on ingredients and techniques as well as the history of some of the recipes
Despite the Yiddish words, you don't need to go to a delicatessen to find most of the ingredients to make the recipes in this book. A well-stocked supermarket will have you covered. If you're stuck, however, turn to the back of the book for recommended online sources.
We loved the zucchini latkes, the bialys, and some of the soups and salads. I'm looking forward to trying the brisket variations (though I can't believe any would be better than my mom's!) and to bake more of the bread recipes. I don't think this cookbook has left my kitchen in a month; there are so many great choices for everyday eating and casual entertaining.
The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home presents the best that modern delis have to offer. Whether the recipes remind you of your childhood or you're relatively new to the cuisine, Michael C. Zusman and Nick Zukin have put together a one-stop resource for everyone who's ever craved a good Sunday morning blintz or a warm chocolate babka fresh out of the kitchen oven.
Note on the photos: The photos were scanned from The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home; all rights and copyrights remain with the photographer, Caren Alpert.
Recipes and more photos: Visit the Artisan Jewish Deli on Tumblr or Facebook.
Andrews McMeel, 2013
Source: Review (see review policy)
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