The Nosher editor and cookbook author at the J March 15
By Deb Silverthorn
The JCC’s Margot Rosenberg Pulitzer Dallas Jewish BookFest will be mixing up all the right ingredients: “Modern Jewish Comfort Food” and “Modern Jewish Baker” cookbook author, and founding editor of “The Nosher,” Shannon Sarna, a demonstration of her delicacies and sweet treats for the audience, at 7 p.m., on Wednesday, March 15, at the Aaron Family JCC.
“We are so happy to have Shannon here. Every page of her books will wake your palate and so many of her recipes take us home to the kitchens of our parents and grandparents,” said Rachelle Weiss Crane, the J’s director of Israel engagement and Jewish living and BookFest producer.
Sarna will discuss her books and demonstrate a recipe. The evening will feature a bakery sharing its take on some of Sarna’s recipes
Sarna’s book provides classic dishes and modern variations by showcasing recipes and variations that have shaped Jewish cuisine from around the world — including immigration waves from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, New York City and beyond.
“What is so enthralling about Jewish comfort food is that for Jews from around the world, it means many things and tastes vastly different, but it has a few common threads that tie it together,” said Sarna. “It tells the story of where we’ve been, our struggles as a people and how we have persevered.”
Sarna was born in upstate New York and is the daughter of Marie, of blessed memory, and Randy Sarna, sharing their Italian and Ashkenazi heritage. Her parents were professional musicians, and she was raised in an arts-filled home, training in classical piano, dance and musical theater. It was after her mother passed, when Sarna was just a teenager, that she took to the kitchen making most of the meals for her siblings.
“I was a girl who liked to eat, who learned to cook. I literally remember calling my mom’s friends to learn how to make hot dogs. I’ve come a long way from then, with a foundation of family recipes,” said Sarna. The book also includes her (Sarna’s) mom’s Italian American meatball recipe.
Sarna graduated from Smith College, majoring in languages and Middle East politics. She worked for Hillel, The Samuel Bronfman Foundation and UJA-Federation New York, before mixing her talents of social media, and creating mouthwatering masterpieces, together. She began blogging and was contacted by the powers at My Jewish Learning, who asked if she’d write for them.
“The Nosher is now 11 years old, and I still love it,” said Sarna, whose test audience is often her husband Jonathan Goldberg and their three children. “My books came after a friend, working in publicity for a New York restaurant, had spoken to a publisher about the magic her friend — me — did with challah. I got lucky.”
Sarna’s book, with beautiful images, teases the tastebuds as the reader turns its pages. Her mother’s meatballs are one of seven alternatives including a chickpea cauliflower and a whitefish sort. There’s her mother-in-law’s “Jojo’s Cakey Crunch Sweet Potato Kugel” — one of 10 kugels in the book as well as six styles of shakshuka.
She stuffs zucchinis and onions, peppers, eggplants and more.
“We all have flavors that are ‘home’ to us,” said Sarna, also the co-host, with Jordana Horn, of the “Call Your Mother” podcast featuring interviews notable Jewish parents. “I’ve brought a lot of those, with many ways to make them, together.”
To purchase tickets, $10/person or $36 with a copy of “Modern Jewish Comfort Food,” visit jccdallas.org/event/shannon-sarna. Sarna’s The Nosher can be found at myjewishlearning.com/the-nosher.