California vintners Jeff and Jodie Morgan published The Covenant Kitchen: Food and Wine for the New Jewish Table today, their eighth cookbook and the first to include exclusively kosher recipes. The recipes feature tastes from the Mediterranean and local flavors from California alike, with curry ginger butternut squash soup, grilled sardines, cowboy cholent, and more. The Morgans run Covenant Winery in Berkeley, CA, which among their offerings produces 10 kosher-certified wines, and each recipe in the cookbook is accompanied by a recommended wine pairing. (There’s also a guide to teach readers how to assess the quality of wine, choose it, pair it, and more.)
I asked Jeff Morgan what dish he’d recommend for Purim—and the wine to pair with it.
“Purim is a party time so you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen,” he explained. “Dishes you can prepare quickly or in advance are the way to go.”
He suggested the spiced lamb meatballs with tomato sauce and freekah, the spiced lamb tagine with currants and Israeli couscous, or the flanken pot au feu.
Asked what wine he’d recommend generally for the festive holiday, Morgan deferred: “It would depend on what you’re eating,” he said. “The same question remains whether it’s Purim or not—do you have something rich and lush on your plate or light and fresh?”
Jeff did, however, offer some insight on what not to drink. “I would strongly recommend that people drink more wine and less scotch,” he said, adding that he loves scotch himself. “It’s a Jewish holiday that commemorates an important moment in Jewish history and wine is our holy beverage, not scotch,” he explained.
“I don’t think they had scotch in Esther’s day but I can assure you they were drinking a lot of red and white wine.”
The Morgans reconnected with their Jewish heritage about 10 years ago and now identify as Modern Orthodox. “I grew up so secular that I didn’t even have a bar mitzvah until I was 54,” Jeff said, describing himself and his wife, Jodie, as “bagels and lox New York Jews.”
In 2003, after years in the food and wine industry, the couple decided to try making kosher wine. Jeff started working with Shabbat-observant Jews, the only people who can touch the wine in the cellar if it is to be considered kosher. “As I got to know them better, I started studying Hebrew and talking to rabbis and reading siddurs, and got some initial understanding to what I should do to live a more Jewish life and have a more Jewish practice,” he explained.
Luckily for the Morgans, kosher wine has become a rapidly expanding industry, which means more people can embrace the couple’s philosophy of a food-and-wine filled life. “In my opinion a great meal needs a good bottle of wine. It enhances the whole dining experience—it makes us linger and talk to each other and helps us communicate and relate,” said Jeff. “What we are trying to do in this book is relate our eclectic dining methods to a Jewish lifestyle.”