The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen
I’ve been having lots of fun cooking from my friend Amelia Saltsman’s new cookbook, The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen. This is a warm, personal book, filled with Amelia’s spins on Jewish recipes, often influenced by the intense flavors of Middle Eastern fare. It is organized by the seasons, features fresh produce, and offers fascinating history and family stories. You might remember Amelia from her wonderful The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Cookbook.
Many of the recipes in The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen are naturally gluten free, and some offer potato starch as a substitute for all purpose flour (Amelia’s daughter is gluten-intolerant, so Amelia is well versed in putting together gluten-free meals). I also found lots of recipes that are rich in bone-building nutrients.
I started with the Hearty Winter Slaw: napa cabbage, radicchio and arugula tossed with a lemony dressing and then topped off with sliced pears and toasted walnuts. I’ve made it at least 4 times, to accompany chicken and fish, and as a light lunch (I added some Parmesan cheese, a blue cheese would have been good too). Sometimes I substitute similar ingredients I have on hand- Sherry wine vinegar for the lemon, apples for the pears, and fennel for the celery. I love the versatility and freshness of this recipe, and I know I will return to it over and over, not only for its great taste, but also for the bone-strengthening ingredients— radicchio and arugula rich in vitamin K, and walnuts, which are a good source of calcium and magnesium.
Special touches help make the recipes in this book alluring. Amelia offers several latke recipes, plus a great lesson on preparing perfect latkes. Her Best Potato Latkes are thin, crisp and not heavy at all. I am looking forward to making them again, next time with the beguiling Roasted Smashed Apples and Pears she suggests as an accompaniment. Another comforting example: Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Latkes served with her Smoky Harissa. We feasted on these latkes as our dinner the night I tried the recipe, with the Winter Slaw on the side. Now I have a jar of this easy, homemade harissa, which I will use to flavor the Roast Chicken with Tangerines, Green Olives, and Date Syrup, as soon as tangerines come into season.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Pomegranate Molasses will be on my Thanksgiving menu this year. The caramelized sprouts, glazed with tart-sweet pomegranate molasses and then topped with a yogurt sauce redolent of toasted sesame seeds, thyme and tart sumac, are so remarkable, even my husband, who dislikes Brussels sprouts, enjoyed the dish. The sauce recipe calls for labneh, (salted and drained yogurt, popular throughout the eastern Mediterranean and the Arabian Peninsula). There’s a recipe for it in the book, but I used the Greek yogurt I always have on hand instead. The sauce gets seasoned with za’atar, available at Middle Eastern markets. You can make your own za'atar by mixing 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon sumac, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, and a pinch of salt. The Brussels sprouts and labneh (or yogurt) help strengthen bones too, with vitamin K and calcium, respectively.
Here are two recipes from The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen, to tempt you to try more.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Pomegranate Molasses
I like to dip the warm Brussels sprouts into the cool shanklish, but you can also thin the topping with a little olive oil to make it more like a dressing. Pomegranate molasses is the Middle Eastern equivalent of a balsamic reduction.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
2 pounds small-to-medium Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 cup walnut halves, toasted
1 cup Shanklish (recipe follows)
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
Boil the Brussels sprouts in salted water or steam them over salted water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and dry thoroughly on paper towels or dish towels. (This step can be done a day ahead; store covered in the refrigerator.) On a large baking sheet, toss the sprouts with the olive oil, season them with salt and pepper, and spread them evenly over the baking sheet.
Roast the Brussels sprouts, shaking the pan halfway through the cooking, until they are tender, browned in places, and any loose leaves are crisped, about 35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, drizzle 2 tablespoons of the molasses over the sprouts, toss, and return the sprouts to the oven for about 5 minutes to glaze.
Remove from the oven and scrape the Brussels sprouts and any juices onto a serving platter. Scatter the walnuts over and around the sprouts, season with additional salt, and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons molasses. Top with a large dollop or two of Shanklish and serve the remaining sauce in a bowl alongside.
Puchase za’atar or make your own by mixing 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon sumac, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, and a pinch of salt.
Makes about 2 cups
2 cups labneh, homemade or store-bought (I substituted Greek yogurt)
1 tablespoon za’atar
Leaves from 6 thyme sprigs, chopped or crushed
½ to 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
½ to 1 teaspoon kosher salt
In a bowl, combine the labneh, za’atar, thyme, ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper, and ½ teaspoon salt and stir to mix. Let stand for at least 30 minutes before serving. Taste and adjust with more Aleppo pepper and salt if needed. The shanklish will keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Hearty Winter Slaw: Shaved Cabbage, Radicchio, and Celery with Bosc Pears
Here’s a lovely winter salad whose colors, textures, and mellow flavors complement seasonal menus. Most of the components can be prepared a day ahead, making this a terrific choice for holiday entertaining. Apples or citrus can be added or substituted for the pears. This salad is a natural with shaved or chunked aged sheep’s milk cheeses or Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
1 Meyer or Eureka lemon
¼ cup (60 ml) walnut oil
Finishing salt, such as Maldon sea salt
½ head napa cabbage, cored
1 small head radicchio, halved and cored
3 ribs celery with leaves
Large handful of arugula
2 Bosc pears
½ cup (60 g) walnuts, toasted (see page 18) and coarsely chopped
For the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, salt, and several grinds of pepper and whisk in 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Whisk in the oil in a thin stream until the dressing is blended. (The dressing can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. I like to use a Mason jar for this. Whisk, or shake the jar, to blend the dressing before using.)
For the salad: Have a large bowl of ice water ready for crisping the vegetables. Using a sharp knife, a Japanese mandoline, or a food processor fitted with the slicing disk, cut the cabbage and radicchio crosswise into ribbons ¼ to ½ inch (6 to 12 mm) wide and place in the ice water. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the strings from the celery. Pluck off any leaves and add to the bowl. Shave the celery ribs into thin slices and add to the water.
Drain and dry the cabbage, radicchio, and celery. Place in a salad bowl. If the arugula leaves are large, cut them crosswise into ribbons and then add them to the bowl. (The salad can be made up to this point up to 1 day ahead, covered, and refrigerated.)
Up to 1 hour before serving, toss the salad with the dressing. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or lemon if needed. Just before serving, quarter and core the pears and cut lengthwise into thin slices. Add the pears and walnuts to the salad, toss, and top with the finishing salt.
Photos by Staci Valentine