The almond macaroons I make every year for Passover are from a recipe in a book published in 1979 by Schocken Books, called The Jewish Holiday Kitchen, by Joan Nathan. I must have purchased it from the original Border’s Books in Ann Arbor—long before they became a chain bookseller. Can it be that I’ve had the book for 29 years! The pictures prove it, though: notice all the stains! Click on the pictures for a closer look!
The book was essential to me for learning about Jewish holidays, customs and foods that my then new husband grew up with. The book is organized by the holidays and each chapter begins with a short history about the holiday and its traditions. Especially useful were the Sephardic recipes. I could make a Persian haroset with dates, pistachios, almonds, raisins, apples, pomegranate, orange, and bannana spiced with cayenne cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and black pepper. It didn’t taste like his grandmother’s recipe! But it wasn’t supposed to. Eventually I made some of the Ashkenazic recipes, and they may or may not have been like Bubbe’s, but they were good. It’s funny what you find in between the pages of an old cookbook: That’s a magnolia leaf from my mother-in-laws yard. It was a tradition for my husband, my daughter, and me to take a picture of ourselves under a magnolia tree on her birthday. That leaf was just a skeleton after a winter on the ground.
According to The New York Times 9 July 1987:
Schocken Books was a family-owned publishing house that was founded (1931 in Berlin, with a publishing office in Prague) by refugees from Nazi Germany. It owned the worldwide rights to the works of Franz Kafka. In 1987, Schocken Books was purchased by Random House to become a part of its Pantheon Books imprint…
its backlist contains 500 titles. These include a large Judaica list, books by Primo Levi, Martin Buber, Elie Wiesel, Elias Canetti and S. Y. Anon, the last three of whom are Nobel Prize winners, as well as all 15 books written by Kafka…
In the same NYT article, it’s noted that Schocken also published:
”Masquerade” by Kit Williams, an illustrated fantasy about a rabbit, and ”When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, which were bests sellers in the U.S. during the early 1980’s.
Joan Nathan was born in Providence, Rhode Island. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a master’s degree in French literature and earned a master’s in public administration from Harvard University. For three years she lived in Israel where she worked for Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem. In 1974, working for Mayor Abraham Beame in New York, she co-founded the Ninth Avenue Food Festival. The mother of three grown children, Ms. Nathan lives in Washington, D.C. and Martha’s Vineyard with her husband, attorney Allan Gerson.
She is the author of ten cookbooks and a regular contributor to The New York Times. She is the author of the much-acclaimed Jewish Cooking in America, which in 1994 won both the James Beard Award and the IACP/Julia Child Cookbook of the Year Award; as well as An American Folklife Cookbook, which received the R.T. French Tastemaker Award in 1985. She most recently wrote The New American Cooking which also won the James Beard and IACP Awards as best American cookbook published in 2005. Her other books include Foods of Israel Today, Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook, The Jewish Holiday Baker, The Children’s Jewish Holiday Kitchen, The Jewish Holiday Kitchen, and The Flavor of Jerusalem. She is currently working on a new cookbook on the foods of the Jews of France.
Ms. Nathan’s PBS television series, Jewish Cooking in America with Joan Nathan, was nominated in 2000 for the James Beard Award for Best National Television Food Show. She was also senior producer of Passover: Traditions of Freedom, an award-winning documentary sponsored by Maryland Public Television. Ms. Nathan has appeared as a guest on numerous radio and television programs including the Today show, Good Morning, America, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, and National Public Radio.
2 1/2 cups blanced almoonds
2 1/4 cups sugar
5 egg whites
matzah flour for dusting
1/4 cup blanched almonds, split, for topping
1. Preheat oven to 3350°F.
2. Grind the almonds very fine in a food processor or other grinder.
3. Place the almonds in a bowl. Add the sugar and egg whites, on at a time, blending by hand or with a food processor until a paste is formed which can be manipulated with the hand. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. (The Greek style of separating eggs is to pierce a tiny hole in one end and then slowly let the white ooze out, preserving the yolk within the shell for later use.)
4. Dust a large cookie sheet with matzah flour.
5. Take a piece of dough the size of a plum. Roll between the palms to make a ball and pinch the top to shape like a pear. Place, wide side down, on the cookie shee. Place half a blanced almond on top.
6. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until the cookies rise and brown a little. Cool and separate with a spatula, taking care not to break them.
Makes about 24 (P)
NOTE: These days, I also use parchment paper in addition to the matzah flour.
Other items found in the book:
a letter from my brother talking about his wedding plans, an unopened credit card offer, a list of my daughter’s imaginary friends (age 5?), a few recipes cut from newspapers including one for pasta sauce in the chapter about Passover, a two page list of seed catalogs I was going to send for…
The recipe below is very similar to the one I’ve been making but this link has lots of other recipes, too.
And another recipe, but I haven’t made this:
For a Sweeter Passover, Old and New Sephardic Delights By JOAN NATHAN
Published: March 28, 2007
Recipe: Almond-Lemon Macaroons (Almendrados)
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