Californians Jeff and Jodie Morgan offer a contemporary approach to eating and drinking in the Jewish tradition. The Covenant Kitchen: Food and Wine for the New Jewish Table (Random House) is billed as the first kosher cookbook that pairs food with wine. It’s a fresh approach that will surely please gourmets and wine aficionados alike.
The Morgans are the owners of Covenant Wines, the first kosher winery in the San Francisco Bay area. Based in Berkeley, it’s a 30 minute drive from the southern edge of the fabled Napa Valley. As they tell it, kosher wine making brought them closer to their Jewish roots and connected them with Israel.
“It has been a wonderful awakening,” they write.
Wine is an integral component of this handsomely-illustrated book because it’s so related to Jewish spiritual and culinary traditions. “But it is also part of our daily diet at home, just as we believe it was for our ancestors in ancient Israel,” they note.
The Covenant Kitchen, the Morgans add, reflects the rhythm of a typical meal. They start with an appetizer, salad or soup, followed by a main course and dessert. “Our goal is to nourish our bodies with fresh, good tasting, healthful ingredients.”
They believe we’re in the midst of a Jewish dining renaissance. “The signs are everywhere: a blossoming of upscale kosher restaurants and artisanal delis; the coming of age of the modern Jewish home kitchen, inspired by a new focus on international Jewish cuisines, and the availability of seriously good kosher wines.”
Open-minded and eclectic, the Morgans have been influenced by Asian and Mexican cooking. But after spending time in Israel, where they were introduced to its bounty of fruits, vegetables and spices, Middle Eastern flavours have crept into their recipes.
All of them are paired with various wines, from Sauvignon Blanc to Riesling.
Their appetizers are certainly redolent of the Middle East. Olives with lemon zest and thyme. Hummus with toppings and pita bread. Roasted red peppers with olive oil and garlic. Feta cheese with lemon, rosemary and olives.
The salads, from the summer time tomato salad with tahini dressing to the chickpea salad with red onion, red pepper and cilantro, look divine. The soups are inventive: Curry ginger butternut squash soup. Salmon chowder. Fish soup with matzo balls and aioli.
Their egg, rice and pasta dishes appear appetizing. Shakshouka, that quintessential Israeli egg and tomato concoction, can be enjoyed as a first or main course. Mushroom risotto is inspired by Italy. Gnocchi with sage butter is made with ricotta cheese and flour rather than with potatoes.
The Middle East influence is also evident in one of the fish dishes: grilled sardines with marinated onions, green peppers and freekeh (a wheat cereal common in Mideastern countries). Halibut pockets with spiced olive tapenade and kasha is a fusion of the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe.
Meat and poultry recipes are just as mouth-watering. Apple-stuffed rosemary roast chicken with new potatoes. Couscous with chicken and lamb sausage. Korean-style flanken with Asian slaw and red potato salad. Cowboy cholent (read all about it). Spiced lamb tangine with currants and Israeli couscous.
The desserts won’t disappoint you either, judging by the pistachio cardamom butter cookies, the cherry coconut rice pudding, the pear tart, the mocha cheese cake and the orange olive oil cake.
This is scrumptious food, and in The Covenant Kitchen, it’s very accessible.