Covenant cookbook marries kosher food and wine

Perhaps it was inevitable that Jeff and Jodie Morgan would one day put out a kosher cookbook that features wine pairings. After all, they operate the kosher Covenant Winery and between them already have authored seven cookbooks, including “The Working Parents Cookbook” and “Rosé: A Guide to the World’s Most Versatile Wine.”

But if it was inevitable, Jeff Morgan said he certainly didn’t know it himself 20 years ago, when he was an assimilated Jew who didn’t know from kosher.

What a difference the years can make.

“Kashrut is a complex thing,” said the winemaker, who moved Covenant Wines to Berkeley last fall after a decade making wine in Oxnard and then the Napa Valley. “I got into this game late, and I’m still learning. Ten years ago, I was just beginning to think about how to make kosher wine, and now we’re keeping a kosher kitchen.”

The couple also joined a synagogue for the first time just six months ago. “I’m making progress, as is my wife, but there’s always more progress to be made,” he said.

“The Covenant Kitchen: Food and Wine for the New Jewish Table,” with photos by Ed Anderson, has been published by  Schocken Books, with a foreword by the CEO of the Orthodox Union’s kosher division, Rabbi Menachem Genack.

It was important to Morgan that the OU be involved. “While I’ve got pretty good experience over 10 years making kosher wine, and I understand what the rules are, I’m not an authority on kashrut,” he said. “I wanted to make sure this book really adhered to the level of kashrut that is accepted by the OU, our certifying kosher agency, and I felt much more comfortable knowing that they would vet the final copy so we wouldn’t make any errors.”

So what kind of food is in the cookbook? Despite the latkes on the cover, much of it isn’t especially Jewish. It’s mostly the Morgans’ favorite home recipes that happen to be kosher. But a kosher cookbook wouldn’t be complete without Jewish standards. They are included as well, but reimagined, like Gefilte Quenelles with Braised Leeks and Lemon Zest and something the authors call “Cowboy Cholent.” There also are Israeli foods, like hummus and shakshouka. (See their Onion Tart recipe below.)

Each recipe has a footnote with advice on which wines will pair well with what recipe; for example, Apple-Stuffed Rosemary Roast Chicken with New Potatoes calls for a cabernet, syrah, pinot noir, zinfandel, riesling, gewürztraminer or barrel-fermented chardonnay.

“Often I find that many different kinds of wine will work very well with the same dish,” said Morgan, “so I’m trying to help the reader understand that they don’t have to be afraid of picking the wrong wine.”

Morgan said that unlike previous cookbooks, this one is more personal (indeed, there are photos of the couple throughout).

“As winemakers, Jodie and I really have integrated our love of fine wine and love of good food into our daily lives,” said Morgan. “And this book, as far as I know, is the only kosher and/or Jewish-themed cookbook that does that effectively. We drink wine every day with dinner, and very often with lunch. For us, wine is a part of our daily dietary practice, and my hope with this book is to inspire the Jewish community to enhance their meals with a good glass of wine every day.

“It’s all about sitting down and sharing something that tastes really good with each other, with our friends and our family.”

The Morgans will hold a public book-release party at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 1 at Covenant Wines, 1102 Sixth St., Berkeley.

KOENIG COMING: New York–based cooking teacher and author Leah Koenig is headed to the Bay Area to celebrate the release of a new cookbook of her own: “Modern Jewish Cooking.” According to its publisher (Chronicle Books), “this take on the cuisine of the diaspora pays homage to tradition while reflecting the values of the modern-day food movement.”

Koenig, who used to work for Hazon and is also the author of “The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook: Daily Meals for the Contemporary Jewish Kitchen,” will appear at local events March 23-25. Visit www.leahkoenig for information.

SMALL BITES: Rebecca Katz, food-as-medicine advocate and subject of a previous column (www.tiny-url.com/jweekly-rebecca-katz), has come out with “The Healthy Mind Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press) with recipes said to boost brain power and mood.

Alix Wall is a personal chef in the East Bay and beyond. You can find her website at www.theorganicepicure.com. Please send story ideas to her at alixwall@sbcglobal.net.

Excerpted from “The Covenant Kitchen” by Jeff and Jodie Morgan. Copyright © 2015 by Jeff Morgan and Jodie Morgan. Excerpted by permission of Schocken, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Onion Tart

Pareve | Makes about 36 tartlets or
4 main-course servings

Cut this tart into 2×3-inch squares and it becomes a pass-around finger food appetizer. Or slice it into larger portions, like pizza, and serve it alongside a salad for a light meal or first course. In Nice, France, where we used to live, the locals top the tart with anchovies and call it pissaladière, but we like it best without the little fish. Note that you can serve this tart hot, warm, or at room temperature, all with excellent results!
For the tart crust, we use a mixture of all-purpose and high-gluten flours. You can also substitute bread flour for both flours (see page 62 for more on flours). The dough will need to rise for a few hours, during which time you can prepare your topping.
When it comes to wine, this onion tart is quite versatile. It pairs equally well with both reds and whites. If you’re starting off with the tart as an appetizer, offer your guests a white wine like bubbly or perhaps a glass of crisp Chardonnay. The caramelized onions have a hint of sweetness—great with Riesling or Moscato too.

Tart Dough
1 envelope (¼ ounce; 2¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
1¼ cups warm water
½ cup high-gluten flour
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and rolling
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the bowl and pans

Tart topping
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
5 teaspoons dried thyme
6 large onions, thinly sliced
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
30 to 40 pitted Niçoise or Kalamata olives

Make the tart dough: In a large bowl, combine the yeast with 1 cup of the warm water. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the high-gluten flour. Add the all-purpose flour, salt, and olive oil. Stir until a sticky dough begins to form on the bottom of the bowl. Add the remaining ¼ cup warm water and, using your hands, shape the dough into a large ball.
When your hands become sticky, dust them with a little all-purpose flour. Knead the dough in the bowl by pushing it down with the heel of your hand and then pulling it together in a mound. Repeat until the dough becomes firm yet elastic, about 5 minutes.
Lightly oil the surface of another large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside at room temperature to rise for 2 hours. It should double in size.
While the dough is rising (during the second hour), make the tart topping: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and thyme to the oil and cook for 30 seconds. Add the onions, separat­ing the slices with a wooden spoon and stirring to coat them evenly with the oil and thyme. Add the salt and the pepper and stir well. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring every 5 minutes, until the onions are soft, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
Get out two nonstick 12-to 14-inch round pans or two nonstick 9×13-inch baking sheets or pans. If the pans are not nonstick, oil each with 1 teaspoon olive oil.
When the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl and set it on a floured work surface. Cut it in half and use a rolling pin to roll out two crusts that will fit your pans. Raise the edge of each crust with your thumbs to make a rim.
Preheat the oven to 500°F.
Spread the cooked onions and the olives evenly over each tart crust. Bake until the outer crust is golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
Cut into 2×3-inch pieces to make appetizer portions (or cut in quarters to serve as a main course).

Headshot of Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."