This charming celebration of Jewish North American culinary traditions is something of an anomaly nowadays.
Most of the Jewish chefs and cookbook writers making waves are either focused on advancing new Israeli cuisine (Yotam Ottolenghi and Michael Solmonov) or, well, publishing Christmas books (Nigella Lawson). Amy Rosen prefers to reflect on her childhood family table and document all its Ashkenazi glories unadulterated. This sentimental look back through schmaltz-tinted glasses includes recipes for bagels, creamed herring, pickled salmon, matzo ball soup and rugelach. The book feature vintage Rosen family photographs and a short Yiddish glossary (30 terms, only one of them culinary). There is even a three page tribute (titled “Is this the best restaurant in America?”) to that iconic Manhattan steakhouse, Sammy’s Roumanian, where meals begin with rye bread and pitchers of schmaltz (a tradition that purportedly once prompted the comic Zero Mostel to remark, “Sammy’s Roumanian killed more Jews than Hitler!”). But then, the past gets occasional updates here, too. There are a few recent standards of Jewish culinary appropriation (say, sweet General Tso’s chicken) and even a hint of decidedly Canadian multiculturalism (braised brisket with maple and soy), not to mention a puréed lentil spread Rosen calls “vegetarian chopped liver.” But if you were thinking you’d pick up the book just to get your sticky hands on the recipe for the author’s one-hit pastry shop, Rosen’s Cinnamon Buns, forget it (“I’d be out of business,” she writes). — J.R.