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Rugelach, Syrian pepper dip on menu for Tucson Festival of Books demo

Leah Koenig

Leah Koenig will be representing Jewish cuisine at the Tucson Festival of Books with her new cookbook, “The Jewish Cookbook,” which includes recipes from around the globe.

Koenig’s recipes have been featured in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine’s Grub Street, and other popular publications. She is the author of six cookbooks, all of which focus on Jewish cuisine, including “Modern Jewish Cooking” and “The Little Book of Jewish Feasts.” In addition to writing, Koenig leads cooking demonstrations and classes all over the world. 

The 12th annual Tucson Festival of Books will be held March 14 and 15 on the University of Arizona campus. Koenig will present her demonstration, “The Jewish Culinary Canon,” on Saturday, March 14 at 10 a.m. on the culinary stage. Jennifer Selco, director of Jewish Life & Learning at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, will act as moderator. 

“I love learning about and tasting foods from around the world, so when the opportunity to moderate Leah Koenig’s cooking demonstration arose, I was thrilled both on a personal level and to be able to represent the Tucson J in the broader community,” says Selco. “Koenig emphasizes that Jewish food is not defined by geographical borders. It is fascinating how Jews have adapted dishes based on local cuisine. I hope that people come to Koenig’s demonstration to learn how to make two delicious dishes and also to learn what it is that makes Jewish food Jewish.”

Koenig, who lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, says she makes an effort in her cookbooks to ensure anyone can cook her food. She feels proud when she sees someone post a picture online of a dish they made from one of her recipes.

“It means the world to me that a dish I created brought them a moment of happiness and deliciousness,” says Koenig.

Koenig grew up eating Eastern European-inspired Jewish food. As she began cooking Jewish cuisine for a living, she realized there is great diversity in Jewish cuisine because Jews have lived and cooked all over the globe.

“The cuisine is a complex patchwork of different flavors, ingredients, and customs held together by the shared reasons why Jews gather around the table. Each dish beloved by Jewish communities — whether it is German apple strudel, Syrian stuffed onions, or Egyptian fava beans — has a story to tell. That’s what keeps me endlessly fascinated with Jewish cuisine,” says Koenig.

Koenig will be doing two demonstrations at the book festival — a Syrian red pepper, walnut, and pomegranate dip called muhammara and an Eastern European cinnamon-walnut rugelach. She decided on the two dishes because they represent how diverse and abundant Jewish cuisine is.

“Anyone with a curiosity about Jewish food — either because they grew up eating it and want to hear more, or because they didn’t grow up eating it and want to learn — is welcome to join. One of my favorite things about being a cookbook author is having the chance to cook with readers,” says Koenig.

Along with recipes in “The Jewish Cookbook,” Koenig gives a little history of each dish.

“For people who come from a Jewish background, it can be wonderfully empowering and exciting to learn more about Jewish cuisine. It gives folks a deeper understanding about their own identities and their family backgrounds and offers a chance to connect to heritage,” says Koenig.

Koenig says her cookbooks are for anyone interested in learning more about various cuisines around the world, not just Jews.

“You don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate Jewish cuisine — or Korean or Mexican, or any other cuisine. Jewish cuisine has something to offer everyone,” says Koenig.

For more festival information, visit