Jewish cooking is "food with a story" — a story that spans the globe, from the Middle East and Africa to Eastern Europe, across the Mediterranean and far beyond, with tastes and aromas unique to each region. Wherever one finds Jewish cooking one finds the history of a people preserved and passed down in dishes around a family table. It is cooking rich in history and symbolism. Yet, as deeply rooted in tradition as Jewish cooking is, it has always been open to new influences and inspirations. So, if you haven't written down Grandma's recipe for stuffed cabbage or Aunt Becky's brisket, do not worry: Modern twists on traditional favorites are what keep Jewish cooking alive and vibrant.
Kosher, Simply Stated
Fundamentally, all traditional Jewish cooking is kosher. While there are varying levels of observance, the dietary rules that determine whether food meets the standards of being fit for use according to Jewish law remain the same. Kosher laws are observed year round, with additional considerations during Passover.
While the details of keeping kosher may seem complicated, the basic principles are fairly simple:
- Meat must come from an animal that has "cloven hooves and chews its cud." This means cattle, sheep, goats, deer and bison are kosher; pigs and rabbits are not. Chicken, ducks, turkey and other poultry are acceptable under kosher law. When buying meat or poultry, purchase products that have been certified as kosher or are from a kosher butcher.
- Fish must have scales that can be easily removed to be considered kosher. Salmon, trout, cod, bass, snapper, tuna, carp and herring are among those permitted; catfish, swordfish and sturgeon are not. All shellfish are forbidden.
- Fruits and vegetables are kosher.
- Dairy may not be cooked with or served at the same meal as either meat or poultry.
- Fish, eggs, grains, fruits and vegetables are considered "neutral" foods and thus allowed in meat or dairy meals.
- Utensils used for cooking and eating meat should not touch dairy and vice versa.