By Deb Silverthorn
See related recipes, p.14
Dallas resident, food historian and author Tina Wasserman is celebrating nearly a decade of her family-friendly cookbook, “Entrée to Judaism for Families: Jewish Cooking & Conversations with Children.”
The cookbook, which followed “Entrée to Judaism: A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora,” is available as an e-book, providing more than 120 recipes for holidays, Shabbat and “any” days as she says.
“You don’t have to save recipes for a specific day,” said Wasserman. “Make tradition happen year-round. Doing that with little ones nearby makes anytime special, and the e-book lets you see the technique and it makes cooking close to foolproof.”
The book is for the whole family with recipes for everyone to enjoy, she said. “Don’t presume children only want mac ‘n’ cheese or chicken nuggets. If you never offer anything else, their palates can’t be realized.”
The book also offers recipes with ingredients that are easy to find at home.
“Families appreciate these recipes. The recipe for French toast uses vanilla ice cream because most family homes have ice cream; not all have heavy cream on hand,” said Wasserman, who serves as food editor for the Union of Reform Judaism and whose recipes are published regularly in the Texas Jewish Post. “It’s incredible and, heck, who doesn’t want to ‘have’ ice cream for breakfast?”
Wasserman hears from her readers that the book’s recipes have created home chefs around the country. Locally, Rebecca Hoffman, who with Ben Krasner graced the cover of the book when she was 9, was inspired.
“I remember watching Tina’s recipes come to life while we were doing the photo shoot. It was like watching a magician in action,” said Hoffman, now a rising senior at The Hockaday School. “The interactive book, especially since the pandemic, is a great at-home activity. This book makes it possible and proves that anyone can cook. For me, the star-shaped Chanukah cookies are still my favorite.”
The interactive edition of the 176-page book, available on Wasserman’s website, takes readers and participants through recipes, the introduction of cooking tools, Tina’s Tidbits (extra tips for successful cooking) and the Kitchen Conversations, ideas to reflect the readers’ own family history.
“I realized there was a generation of children pushing the iPad buttons before they could talk and it occurred to me we could teach them about cooking, and that they could cook, as easily as any of the games they were playing,” said Wasserman. “Why not teach ‘c is for colander’ and ‘w is for whisk’ and how to use these tools?”
Wasserman, in the kitchen since she was a young girl growing up on Long Island, is the daughter of the late Lucille and Leon Rice and the sister of Sherry. Her career has spanned more than 50 years: cooking, teaching, writing and creating recipes.
“I remember sitting on the kitchen floor, rolling pin in hand, and a 5-pound bag of flour and I was ‘making’ a pie. Mother lived through the Depression, and she treated food with reverence. Our salads were always served on their own plate, with a radish rose, a bell pepper ring and four wedges of tomato,” said Wasserman, who was inspired by her seventh-grade home economics teacher to make a career of teaching cooking. “Mrs. Levine was all the things that a home-ec teacher wasn’t: young, Jewish and cool.”
That 13-year-old, who would become one of only four members of the prestigious Les Dames d’Escoffier to specialize in Jewish cooking, realized her dream, first as a teacher at Mineola Middle School in Long Island and through the years through many outlets, reaching children across the country.
Wasserman met Richard, her husband of 51 years, at a United Synagogue Youth regional event when they were just 17. The two dated through high school and college and were married June 27, 1970.
When Richard graduated from Mount Sinai Medical School, in New York, the couple moved to Dallas from 1974 to 1977 while he completed a Ph.D. program at UT Southwestern, and the city has been home since 1982. He served as head of pediatric immunology at Children’s Medical Center Dallas and has since been in private practice at Medical City Dallas.
Tina and Richard are the parents of Jonathan (Tanya Phattiyakul) and Leslie. The Wassermans’ home has always been a kosher kitchen, an opportunity for their children to always feel a connection.
“I wanted my children to grow up in an environment that was Jewish and a kosher kitchen expresses so much of our tradition,” said Wasserman, a longtime member of Temple Emanu-El. “The tastes and smells of our heritage, of our people … it is tradition and this project allows anyone to serve up our culture and heritage.”
For more information about Tina Wasserman’s programs, books or to purchase the e-book, visit cookingandmore.com.