by Sybil PrattMarch, 2000
Passover and beyondIf you glanced at this title without reading the extensively explanatory sub-title, you might surmise that J.
S. Bach had composed a fishy addition to his glorious keyboard creation. A closer look will reveal that The Gefilte Variations by Jayne Cohen is 200 Inspired Recreations of Classics from Jewish Kitchens, with Menus, Stories and Traditions for Holidays and Year-Round. Since the Diaspora, Jews have assimilated the cooking techniques and ingredients they encountered in their widely varied new homelands into their traditional cuisine. Ms. Cohen follows suit in a personal way, using the culinary combinations, methods and refinements that she's encountered on her gastronomic gallivanting to accent and enliven her approach to Jewish cuisine. The result is playful, but not silly, contemporary but faithful to the old world soul and spirit. Her variations divide into two themes: year-round favorites organized by menu category, and dishes designed and destined for the holiday table. Since Passover will be celebrated next month, I checked out Ms Cohen's takes on the super-traditional Seder feast. To my delight, I found Salmon Gefilte Fish with Ginger-Beet Horseradish, Lemon-Roasted Chicken with Rhubarb-Prune Tsimmes, Brisket Braised with Thirty-Six Cloves of Garlic, and a soul-satisfying, Savory Artichoke Matzoh Brie, fabulous at a Passover brunch or a mid-winter lunch. Similar innovations abound throughout all the recipes all kosher, all with informative intros and detailed directions. Ms. Cohen has used her love and respect for Jewish food and culture as inspiration, rather than constraint, and the end result is a joyous tribute to the twists and turns that tradition can tolerate.
Sybil Pratt is an avid cook.