I first heard of Miri Rotkovitz’s “Bubbe And Me in the Kitchen” via Facebook, where I’m a member of several Jewish and kosher groups. I adore classic Jewish comfort food; although I didn’t grow up in a Jewish household, my Polish great-grandmother was a cook for wealthy Jewish families in Poland, and some staple dishes of my childhood were very similar (stuffed cabbage rolls, kasha with mushrooms, buckwheat knishes, poppyseed strudel). Some of my earliest memories in the kitchen are of baking with my Polish grandmother, so I was eager to see how Miri took classic dishes and added modern twists.
From the very first pages, “Bubbe and Me” is like a warm hug from grandma; I loved the author’s family photos and memories, along with “In the Kitchen With…” recollections and recipes by many famous Jewish cookbook authors such as Paula Shoyer (I reviewed her “Holiday Kosher Baker” for Mediterranean Living), Kim Kushner (see my review of "The New Kosher,") Ronnie Fein, and others.
Breakfast includes classic updates on lox and bagels (hot-smoked salmon bagels with herbed goat cheese and veggies), challah strata, and an amazing pareve apricot pistachio babka, while you’ll find a delicious spread of meze (muhammara and za’atar pita chips, smoky spice-roasted chickpeas, herbed feta), and an array of colorful and healthy salad ideas (I particularly loved the arugula, apple, and date salad with goat cheese and pecans and the purple cabbage slaw with toasted sesame ginger vinaigrette). You’ll find modern updates on matzoh balls (parlsey and nutmeg matzo balls, golden vegetable broth with dill matzo balls), schav (ruby chard and lemongrass schav), latkes, and kugel.
As a pescetarian, I was thrilled by the many simple and delicious fish preparations, including penne with tuna, artichoke and capers (a great recipe for using up odds and ends in your pantry), Moroccan-spiced cod with oranges and olives, and the showstopping salt-crusted branzino with herbs will be sure to delight your fellow dinner guests. The pistachio and mint-crusted wild salmon with tzatziki (sadly I can only get Chilean farmed salmon, so this is a very occasional indulgence) was an eye-opener; the combination of flavorful pistachios with crunchy panko was a truly delicious and foolproof way to prepare salmon. Although I haven’t eaten poultry in over ten years, the recipes for pomegranate-lacquered roast chicken, marmalade-roasted chicken with potatoes, citrus chicken with clementine salsa, and easy apricot chicken looks like surefire crowdpleasers for Shabbat or family dinners.
“Bubbe and Me in the Kitchen” is a tremendous blessing to my fellow vegetarians; the aforementioned salads, dips and vegetables are plentiful and largely vegetarian, from Romanesco with golden raisins and toasted almonds to healthy grain-based salads like basmati rice with sweet carrot and orange and forbidden rice salad with mango and ginger vinaigrette. There’s even an entire chapter of meatless mains, from kasha varnishkes with ratatouille and a roasted beet reuben to vegetarian paella, white bean cassoulet, matzoh spanakopita and cauliflower “couscous” with vegetable tagine. You’ll even find a vegan challah! All too often, vegetarian and vegan dishes are few in many mainstream kosher cookbooks, so I really appreciated this touch (for a completely vegan kosher take on Jewish foods, check out my friend Estee Rahiv’s new cookbook “Oy Vey Vegan."
Naturally, what Bubbe isn’t known for her baking and confections? I loved the dried plums and apricots with almond paste and almonds, Satva’s semi-famous Jewish apple cake, chocolate orange ricotta cheesecake, and poppyseed hamantaschen dough with fruit filling. There is a chapter included on holidays as well, with a handy table of Passover ingredient substitutions and index of Passover recipes and a selection of menus for Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Chanukah, Passover, Lag B’Omer, Shavuot, Tu B’Av, and Shabbat.
Overall, “Bubbe and Me in the Kitchen” is a must-have addition to your cookbook library whether you keep kosher or are simply interested in Jewish comfort foods; out of the dozens of kosher cookbooks I own, I think this one will see weekly use as the recipes are delicious, approachable, and include many international influences (particularly Japanese / Asian). Thank you to Miri for preserving and updating these classic dishes for future generations, and most importantly, for remembering and recognizing the importance our bubbes played in our lives both in and out of the kitchen!