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Passover, which this year falls in the final week of March, is a favorite Jewish holiday in part because it involves a feast. People come together around a meal, partake in ancient rituals, and eat an array of traditional dishes, much the way Jews around the world have celebrated for centuries.
But you don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate the Passover story of liberation (a tale of the exodus from Egypt) or to savor the matzoh ball soup or beef brisket on the Seder table. Nor do you have to be Jewish to enjoy—or cook—Jewish food.
Well, maybe being at least a “half Jewish” couple helps.
Take it from one of Washington’s most admired culinary couples, chef Todd Gray and his entrepreneurial, food-savvy wife Ellen Kassoff Gray. Todd is Pennsylvania Dutch by background and grew up in central Virginia (think: meat and potatoes). Ellen is Jewish and was raised in DC (think: corned beef and latkes). Their union was built on “lox and love”—one that has produced not only a wonderful son, but also a prominent downtown restaurant, Equinox, a leader in promoting local and seasonal ingredients and the farm-to-table philosophy, and more recently Muse, a café that celebrates art and food at the Corcoran.
Now Todd and Ellen have written an entertaining, informative, and beautiful cookbook, The New Jewish Table: Modern Seasonal Dishes for Traditional Recipes (St. Martin’s, $35).We’re thrilled to feature the book on our Passover display table and in our cookbook section at Politics & Prose and are delighted to be hosting Todd and Ellen for a book signing and tasting at the store on Sunday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m.
The New Jewish Table is special in showcasing Jewish cuisine beyond the staples of gefilte fish and chicken soup. Indeed, as our friend and food writer Joan Nathan has written in her own excellent books, Jewish cooking is an ever-evolving fusion of tastes and ingredients that followed the migration of Jews around the world. (Joan has written the foreword to Todd and Ellen’s book, and one of her recipes is included.)
Todd and Ellen bring their own personal story to the history of Jewish cuisine in ways that are warm, humorous, and instructional. Their recipes are delicious and easy to follow and, of course, offer a modern twist on some of the classics of the Jewish holidays. You’ll find directions for making chopped liver with sweet marsala onions and potato and cheese knishes, as well as Jewish-influenced creations like smoked salmon and corn beignets, quinoa salad with figs and mint, or grilled lamb burgers with olive tapenade. The recipes are also organized seasonally, befitting an emphasis on seasonal and local ingredients. And while not exclusively kosher, they are broken down with those keeping kosher in mind.
We know that food lovers and cooks of all backgrounds and tastes will enjoy Todd and Ellen’s culinary journey and the recipes they share in The Modern Jewish Table. We also hope to see many of you at the signing. Keep in mind that if you come, you’ll get to sample some of Todd and Ellen’s treats.
- Brad and Lissa