Jack's Wife Freda

Jack's Wife Freda

by Dean and Maya Jankelowitz; recipes by Julia Jaksic

I eyed this book for months before I bought it. “But the restaurant is just down the block from your office, where they will cook for you in exchange for money! There aren’t that many recipes in it! You don’t even like green juice!” All true, but the book is really pretty and the restaurant is so inviting that I picked it up anyway, one very hot summer day after a Pilates class when my guard was down.


My advice is to not start off reading the family history they commissioned as an introduction. What starts out sweet, with remembrances of their grandparents (including the titular Jack and Freda) turns a little strange when it gives Dean and Maya, restaurant founders and book writers, the same treatment. Can you memorialize people who are still in, like, their early 40’s? The essay also brought up a lot of heavy questions that it wasn’t prepared to answer or engage in, from the Holocaust to issues of identity and racism in Apartheid-era Johannesburg to memories of 9/11. The book and restaurant just want to be “loose, confident, and generous in spirit,” it tells us. Let us take them at face value and enjoy it.

Instead, skip right to the breakfast chapter and make yourself the eggs with tomatoes and halloumi. It’s a good start because you’ll want the salsa verde over everything else you make, and the extra halloumi will be perfect with the addictive pan-fried grapes starter. The book has a lot of repeated notes that go really well together and build into meals and dinner parties (the sign of a small but ambitious kitchen?) It’s hip but intimate, and the recipes work well.


The influences come from all over, drawing on family histories that span from North and South Africa, Israel, Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish traditions, New York City, California…but they come together in ways that feel both natural and fresh. Some of the millennial tropes are here – juice, grain bowls, avocado toast – but they feel genuine and, unlike the Sqirl book, these modern “classics” don’t feel fussy or overwrought. I do wonder if all these bowls and toasts will feel dated in a few years in a way that the Sriracha Cookbook feels so-2012 to me now. At least JWF follows these up with actual-classics like chicken livers on toast, schnitzel, and kefta – truly something for everyone.  From the dessert chapter, I thought the stone fruit crisp exemplified the JWF touch – a classic idea, souped up with a few smart changes that I’ll be rolling into my regular crisp recipe.

I think the main thing that comes off about the Jankelowitzes in this book is almost a pathological need to feed and welcome people – and in that sense, this book works really well and allows them to extend the embrace beyond downtown NYC. The ideas are fun and fresh and just the right amount of homey. It’s a gift to be able to feed people well – whether it’s ultimately a transaction or showing you how to feed your own family and friends with their guidance, and it’s something they do well.


make this one thing:
Poached Eggs with Roasted Tomatoes and Halloumi

4 plum tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
5 thyme sprigs, stems removed
1 (8-ounce) package halloumi cheese
4 poached eggs
½ cup salsa verde (see below)

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Wash the plum tomatoes and cut in half lengthwise.

Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, on a baking rack over a baking sheet to catch any juices.

Drizzle the tomatoes with 1 tbsp olive oil and season with salt. Finish by picking fresh thyme leaves, spreading them over all the tomatoes.

Bake for one hour and 15 minutes, or until the edges of the tomatoes begin to caramelize.

Cut the halloumi crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices.

Heat remaining 1 tbsp olive oil (or less if your pan is nonstick) in a cast-iron pan over high heat until very hot.

Sear the cheese until golden in color on both sides, 30 seconds to 1 minute per side, and transfer to a plate.

For each serving, begin by placing 2 tomatoes side by side on a plate. Place a slice of halloumi on each tomato, followed by a poached egg. Spoon a tablespoon of the salsa verde onto each egg, being sure to give the salsa a quick mix if need be before ladling it onto the egg.

Serve with a slice of toast (JWF uses their sourdough, toasted with a little olive oil).  

JWF’s Salsa Verde

1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 shallot
1 garlic clove
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 cup olive oil
Kosher salt

Chop the parsley very finely and transfer to a small bowl.

Finely mince the shallot and garlic, then add to the parsley.

Add the lemon zest to the parsley with the sherry vinegar.

Mix well by hand while slowly adding the olive oil.

Season with salt.