Book Review: The Gourmet Jewish Cookbook

The Gourmet Jewish Cookbook:  More than 200 Recipes From Around The World, by Denise Phillips

This book proves something beyond any reasonable doubt, that even a book in which all of the recipes are kosher is still not made for someone like myself.  There are very few of the dishes included, sadly, that do not contain foods I am either slightly (peppers) or deathly (mangoes) allergic too, or that will not threaten gout attacks (beef, lamb, and fish).  Indeed, reading this and other cookbooks [1] often makes me wonder if the people who make cookbooks and collect recipes are in fact trying to kill me or at least harm me.  Now, in reviewing this book I must say that these are dishes that many people would enjoy eating and that some of the dishes would be ones I am willing to try, but even given the absence of any foods that I would not eat for religious reasons [2], there is still a large amount of food that I would not eat for other reasons, including my own personal tastes as well as my allergies and other health concerns.  And that is a shame, as I got less out of this work than I had hoped to.

The more than 200 recipes, taking up between 200 and 250 pages including some excellent photos, are divided as is customary in this sort of book into different themes.  The first chapter, deals with food that is served in the beginning of a meal, with starters, breads, and soups from around the world.  The second chapter deals with fresh and crunchy salads.  After this the author examines some fine dining dishes and quick fixes that can be cooked if someone lacks a lot of time to prepare a more formal meal, some of which, like the schnitzel noodle stir fry, look pretty tasty.  The fourth chapter looks at modern classics, or more traditional dishes that have been updated for contemporary hipster tastes, which, in the case of the Tzimmes chicken, looks pretty good.  The fifth chapter looks at food which is free from meat, sugar, or gluten, and shows more pandering to many diets, which has a few tasty looking dishes like a Thai pumpkin and broccoli curry.   The sixth and last chapter is more or less a catch-all chapter that contains hot desserts (including what looks like a yummy individual apple tarte Tatin), cold desserts (including a summer strawberry semifreddo), something chocolatey (including a mint chocolate cheesecake that could use those tasty mints you get after dinner from Olive Garden), something to much (including some tasty raisin biscuits and Passover apple squares), and something to slice 9including carrot cake, honey pecan pumpkin pie, and vanilla and dulce de leche cheesecake).  So, there is still plenty of value no matter the restrictions of one’s diet.

How could this cookbook have been made better?  It appears as if this cookbook is directed at someone with far less restrictive tastes than myself, and even the items that the book is free from are only those trendy picks like meat, sugar, or gluten.  If the book, for example, were free of onions, mangoes, beetroot, avocados, or aubergines, there would be little left to the book at all, probably not enough recipes even to publish.  In addition to this, the recipes leave a lot to be desired in terms of detail.  The author makes a lot of assumptions about how much equipment or how much skill someone actually has in the kitchen, and is really writing for people who are already at least amateur chefs.  Whether or not this assumption is a wise and accurate one will depend to a great deal on who picks up this book and seeks to try it out.  It is likely that a far simpler cookbook would have made for easier and more satisfactory cooking all around, but I do not write such books, I only read them.

[1] See, for example:


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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9 Responses to Book Review: The Gourmet Jewish Cookbook

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