Hazana: Jewish Vegetarian Cooking
Quadrille Publishing/ Hardie Grant, 2017
Paola Gavin is the author of a number of different vegetarian cookbooks centred on specific cuisines, specifically French Vegetarian Cooking, Italian Vegetarian Cooking and Mediterranean Vegetarian Cooking. Her expertise on the subject is relevant to her fourth book, Jewish Vegetarian Cooking, both because of the geographic areas she has previously covered and because vegetarianism (even occasionally) can make adhering to a kosher diet much easier — if you don’t eat meat then it’s far easier to separate meat and dairy when cooking and dining.
Gavin has researched her subject matter extensively and explains the foods related to Jewish holidays and celebrations as well as the evolution of Jewish food in countries known for their Jewish populations, explaining what is typically eaten in France, Morocco, Hungary, and across Europe and the Middle East. She also details food cultures within the different Jewish communities (Sephardic versus Ashkenazi, for instance), so before the reader even gets a peek at the recipes, there is a full understanding of the foodways Gavin is working with in this book.
Throughout the book, each recipe includes a place of origin indicator at the top, so Kasha with Mushrooms is attributed to Poland and Russia, and Gavin explains the background of the dish, how it is served, etc. in the introductory paragraph. This makes every page informative and useful in learning about Jewish food and culture, even if the recipe itself is not of interest.
But these recipes will be of interest, both to readers looking for Jewish dishes, and for vegetarians in general. There’s a moussaka from Greece, cabbage rolls from Syria, plenty of pasta dishes from Italy, and traditional Ashkenazi dishes like pea soup from Germany and Austria. This is mostly hearty comfort food, but beautifully well-composed.
Usability: Very good. There’s plenty of white space and I’d like larger fonts, especially for the ingredients list, but if the reader does proper mise en place beforehand, this shouldn’t be an issue. Measurements are in both metric and imperial, and recipe steps are split with a line space for clarity.