Review Of Jake Cohen’s “Jew-ish: Reinvented Recipes from a Modern Mensch”

It’s not often that a cookbook can be described as “fun,” at least not one that’s aimed at adults and doesn’t include humorous variations of Ants on a Log. But veteran food writer Jake Cohen has written a fun cookbook starting with its name, Jew-ish: Reinvented Recipes from a Modern Mensch ((Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021), and continuing through 100-plus recipes that marry the traditional with the contemporary. Cohen draws on the culinary traditions of both his Ashkenazi heritage and his husband’s Persian-Iraqi background for his energized take on heritage, sprinkling in plenty of trendy tastes along the way.

You like spinach artichoke dip? Try Spinach-Artichoke Kugel then. Cohen’s spin on chicken matzo ball soup is to roast the chicken rather than calling for the usual stovetop simmering technique. Italian panzanella salad, which makes use of day-old (or two-day-old) bread gets the “Jew-ish” treatment by using challah. There are four fillings for babka, including pistachio pesto and sun-dried tomatoes, and another four for rugelach. Cohen gives directions for making the basic flaky rolled crescents but then fills them with PB&J or Nutella and halva. 

While recipes are loaded with modernity—Everything Bagel Galette, for one—the beautiful photos speak to Cohen’s tenure as a writer for Saveur magazine and food editor of Tasting Table and Time Out New York. He is currently editorial and test kitchen director at The Feed Feed, a crowdsourced digital cooking publication. 

Cohen makes room for holiday menus, putting his own twists on food for Passover and Rosh Hashanah menus. Consider Apples and Honey Upside-Down Cake to end a feast for Rosh Hashanah, which begins at sundown on Sept. 6. The upside-down cake speaks to the hopes of sweetness for the new year, as does the Apples-and-Honey Bake Brie, plus it’s beautiful without being fussy. Count on this stand-up mensch to steer us toward a recipe sure to impress a crowd.

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