Ellen Kassoff Gray is the co-author, with her husband, Chef Todd Gray, of The New Jewish Table: Modern Seasonal Recipes for Traditional Dishes. They are the co-owners of Equinox restaurant in Washington, D.C., and they run the Harvest Moon Hospitality Group.
Q: In the introduction to your book, food writer Joan Nathan discusses how you and your husband come from different food traditions. How were you able to blend them?
A: By being married for 18 years you just sort of mix and match. It helps that we are both in the food business and that my husband is a professional chef. It gives him a natural curiosity towards different culinary styles and the traditions are intriguing to him.
Q: Your book's title includes the words "new" and "modern." How are you modernizing Jewish cooking?
A: By employing new techniques to traditional dishes, like the brisket for example. He weights it down to press it, which gives a great result.
Q: Why did you decide to divide the recipes seasonally?
A: That's how we live. It’s how we eat and it’s certainly how our ancestors ate. It’s also how our restaurant is modeled, by the seasons. It was only natural for our book to do the same. Not to mention the holidays are very seasonal, as well as their meanings.
Q: Do you have a favorite recipe from the book?
A: I love the Cauliflower with Golden Raisins. It’s a side dish but everyone who makes it loves its simplicity and blending of flavors. I also love the take on stuffed derma. We made it vegan. It’s awesome - a little tricky to make but awesome.
Q: Are you working on another cookbook?
A: I have several ideas in mind, but I haven't spoken to my agent yet - I want to make sure these sell well!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: The photographer, Renee Comet, is truly amazing. The photographs are my favorite part of the book - she captured the essence so well!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. This interview was conducted in conjunction with The Lessans Family Annual Book Festival at the JCC of Greater Washington. Ellen Kassoff Gray and Todd Gray will be speaking at the festival on Sunday, November 17, at 1:30pm.