Let’s face it. Eastern European Jewish food, unlike Israeli food, needs some help. I come from a family where our Jewish friends came over for Christmas and Easter and we would celebrate Hannukah and Passover with them. I’ll admit I like raw horseradish (unlike many) and don’t mind dipping bitter herbs in salt water (unlike many), but the question “Would you like gefilte fish or creamed herring?” filled me with absolute terror as a child.

It was time for this book. Eastern European cooking as a whole has gotten a bad rap over the years and because of dietary restrictions, Eastern European Jewish cuisine has had to do more with even less.

This was my favorite cookbook of the last year. I still can’t do creamed herring after all these years, but there is almost no recipe here that I would not try.

Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern write a back-and-forth cookbook between the two exploring new takes on centuries-old recipes while remaining faithful (for the most part) to the Eastern European culinary tradition.

This book shows people what they have been missing, especially those who wrote off cuisine from this part of the world a long time ago.

The chapter on pickles alone is worth it. Sure, nothing is better than a good kosher dill, but why stop there? Isn’t it time for Ashkenazi Kimchi? Reuniting the palate with spicy pickled beets? The pickle brine salad dressing is, as the authors attest, perfect for a spring picnic.Indeed, while there are many hearty recipes in the book with which many will have some familiarity (mushroom and barley stew, Pirogis,  your favorite Jewish deli recipes), many recipes here seem almost Swedish. The light and the heavy offerings exist side-by-side. There are modern twists on many of these traditional recipes such as  deviled eggs simmered in broth before being filled.

The photography by Lauren Volo really brings this book to life. Highly recommended.