Food & Drink

Jewish cooking? In this book, it’s healthier than you’d think

Dry-Rubbed Roasted Salmon uses the flavors of pastrami.
Dry-Rubbed Roasted Salmon uses the flavors of pastrami. Jennifer Chase/The Washington Post

While perusing Paula Shoyer's new "The Healthy Jewish Kitchen: Fresh, Contemporary Recipes for Every Occasion" (Sterling Epicure, 2017), it occurred to us that her dishes have appeal far beyond what is kosher. Many of the recipes are vegan and gluten-free, for example, and just about all of them are simple enough for entry-level cooks. Shoyer, a pastry chef and culinary instructor who lives in Maryland, blogs at The following is excerpted from the cookbook.

Most Jewish cookbooks have too many recipes with processed ingredients, not enough whole grains, too much salt and fat and too much sugar, even in savory dishes. My goal was to create recipes that use only natural ingredients. I banished margarine, frozen puff pastry, soup stocks and powders, and most jarred sauces. I gave up frying and created baked goods with as much whole-grain flour as I could. I reduced sugar; most of my desserts contain less than 1/2 cup. Kosher food is notoriously oversalted; these recipes have a minimal amount. I found that adding an extra pinch of kosher salt just before serving pumps up the flavor.

My recipes include Jewish classics made healthier and updated for the modern table, and American and international recipes that reflect food trends beyond the Jewish culinary world. Some do require planning and time management. You can start soaking beans or rice before you go to sleep. You can gather ingredients long before you begin to cook. Make soups and freeze them in advance. And if you have 15 minutes free in the middle of the day, make a part of the meal.

Variety is the key to a delicious, nutritious meal and the best way to persuade your people to go on a healthier eating journey with you. When I plan a meal for my family, I make sure every dinner plate has colors and textures. I offer both raw and cooked vegetables.

This is a way for you to start eating better - try a recipe or two each day. Good nutrition is about balance and finding a way to introduce into your diet more and more healthful food, as often as possible.

Winter Salad

Adapted from "The Healthy Jewish Kitchen: Fresh, Contemporary Recipes for Every Occasion," by Paula Shoyer (Sterling Epicure, 2017). Feel free to use precooked beets, which can be found in most supermarkets. If you cook your own beets, you can do that and refrigerate them up to 3 days in advance; the salad can be assembled and refrigerated a day in advance.

3 medium red beets (unpeeled, greens trimmed)

About 1/2 red cabbage, shredded (2 cups)

1 radicchio, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks (about 2 1/2 cups)

1/2 small red onion, cut into very thin half moons

2 red radishes, cut into thin slices using a vegetable peeler

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)

For the dressing:

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest and 2 tablespoons juice (from 1 orange)

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse, dry and then wrap each beet in aluminum foil. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet; roast (middle rack) for 45 minutes, or until you can pierce the centers with a fork. Let cool, then peel the beets and cut them into 1-inch chunks. (Or use precooked beets.)

Meanwhile, make the dressing: Whisk together the orange zest and juice, shallot, balsamic vinegar, honey, oil, salt and pepper in a medium bowl to form an emulsified dressing.

To assemble the salad, combine the cabbage, radicchio, red onion, radish slices, cranberries and beets in a mixing bowl. Pour the dressing over the top and toss gently to coat. Taste, and add more salt and/or pepper, as needed.

Scatter the pomegranate seeds on top, if desired, and serve.

Per serving: 140 calories, 2 g protein, 19 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 115 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 14 g sugar

Yield: 6 servings


Adapted from "The Healthy Jewish Kitchen: Fresh, Contemporary Recipes for Every Occasion." You can chop the vegetables and refrigerate them (separately) the night before. The finished soup can be refrigerated up to 3 days.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 leeks, white and light-green parts only, cut into quarters, then thinly sliced and rinsed well

2 medium carrots, scrubbed well and cut crosswise into thin rounds

2 ribs celery, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

2 (15.5-ounce) cans no-salt-added cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

7 cups water

3 tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup peeled butternut squash chunks, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces

10 leaves lacinato kale, stemmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces, (1 1/2 to 2 cups; may substitute curly kale)

Leaves from 6 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

1 large starchy potato, peeled and cut into 3/4- to 1-inch chunks

1/2 packed cup basil leaves, thinly sliced, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion, leeks, carrots, celery and garlic and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. If the vegetables start to brown, reduce the heat.

Meanwhile, place half the cannellini beans in a food processor. Add 1/2 cup of the water and puree until smooth.

Add the tomatoes to the saucepan; increase the heat to medium and cook for 8 minutes, stirring often, then add the zucchini, squash, kale and thyme. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes, then add the salt and pepper, the remaining 6 1/2 cups of water, the pureed beans and the potato. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then stir in the remaining beans. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash and potato are barely fork-tender.

Taste and add salt and/or pepper, as needed. Add the basil and serve hot.

Per serving (based on 10): 190 calories, 10 g protein, 31 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 80 mg sodium, 7 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar

Yield: 8 to 10 servings (makes 16 cups).

Dry-Rubbed Roasted Salmon

Adapted from "The Healthy Jewish Kitchen: Fresh, Contemporary Recipes for Every Occasion." A quick blend of spices typically used to cure pastrami coats the fish and keeps it moist, without any added oil. Add more black peppercorns to the spice mix if you want more kick. You can use an instant-read thermometer to measure the doneness of the salmon.

1 tablespoon coriander seed

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1 tablespoon black or yellow mustard seed

2 teaspoons dried juniper berries

1 teaspoon fennel seed

2 teaspoons light brown sugar

2 teaspoons granulated garlic (garlic powder)

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton; may substitute sweet paprika)

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 (8-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets (from one 3-pound salmon fillet)

Combine the coriander seed, black peppercorns, mustard seed, juniper berries and fennel seed in a designated spice grinder and pulse to a fairly fine consistency (or crush them using a mortar and pestle or in a sealed zip-top bag with a rolling pin). Transfer to a medium bowl, then stir in the brown sugar, garlic and onion powders, paprika, cloves and salt to form a well-blended spice rub. The yield is 1/3 cup. Spread the rub across a plate.

Press the tops and sides of each portion of salmon fillet into the rub, using it all. Place the fish on a roasting pan, spacing the fillets well apart. Cover with plastic wrap and let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roast (middle rack) for 20 to 22 minutes, depending on the desired degree of doneness (125 degrees for medium-rare). Serve warm or at room temperature.

Per serving: 350 calories, 46 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 15 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 125 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugar

Yield: 6 servings