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What’s cooking?

What’s cooking?

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

Robert Bildner and Elisa Spungen Bildner
Robert Bildner and Elisa Spungen Bildner

Shiitake mushroom frittata with goat cheese is not exactly camp fare. Neither is chilled melon and mint soup. But both can be found in “The Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook: 125 Homegrown Recipes from the New England Hills” (The Countryman Press) by the first couple of Jewish camp, Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner (written with Chef Brian Alberg).

The Bildners, who live in Montclair, created the Foundation for Jewish Camp in 1998, which serves as the central address for American-Jewish camping. But as they say in the introduction, the cookbook is a paean to their “spiritual home” in the Berkshires; it’s not an outgrowth of their considerable philanthropic work in the Jewish community. Through profiles of local farmers and restaurants, coupled with lush photos of the produce, livestock, food, and landscape, the Bildners breathe a sense of place into their recipes.

There’s not much that’s specifically Jewish about the book; a few of the recipes involve pork or seafood. But then again, it’s hard to miss the Bildner touch when you turn the page to find Savory Beet Latkes featuring vegetables from Hawk Dance Farm and chevre from Rawson Brook Farm. Or the mention of hosting Shabbat guests and that they “love to cook and entertain, especially on Friday nights.”

There’s a certain irony in their appreciation of sustainability and eating locally sourced food: Bildner’s grandfather founded the New Jersey supermarket chain Kings.

If food is in their DNA, so is writing. While both are attorneys, Spungen Bildner also trained as a journalist and chef.

Though written over several years and finished before the pandemic, the timing is right for cooking some slow food and dreaming about a pastoral view.

Caramelized onion galette with blue cheese and carrots, inspired by the carrots at Woven Roots Farm and the cheese at High Lawn Farm? Yes, please.

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