THE SEASONAL JEWISH KITCHEN: A Fresh Take on Tradition
Amelia Saltsman Staci Valentine
August 18, 2015
Amelia Saltsman Staci Valentine
August 18, 2015
Amelia Saltsman is the daughter of a Romanian mother and an Iraqi father who met in the Israeli army and immigrated to Los Angeles, where she was born and raised. Her cooking reflects her eclectic background, with the diverse flavors and cultural touchstones that have made her first book, The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook, a beloved classic. Amelia’s name is synonymous with intuitive, seasonal cooking, and she is regularly sought out for her expertise by publications such as Bon Appétit, Cooking Light, Vegetarian Times, U.S. Airways, Fit Pregnancy, The Jewish Journal, and Los Angeles Times. She is a frequent guest on KCRW’s “Good Food with Evan Kleiman” and a longtime advocate for small family farms. Amelia lives with her family in Santa Monica. Visit her at www.ameliasaltsman.com.
Here, at last, is a fresh, new way to think about Jewish food. In THE SEASONAL JEWISH KITCHEN, Amelia Saltsman takes us far beyond deli meats and chicken soup to explore a universally appealing world of flavors ideal for modern meals. She traces the delicious thread of Jewish cooking, from its ancient roots to today’s focus on seasonality, sustainability, and Middle Eastern fare, and reveals what happens when these elements are mixed together.
Amelia draws on her own rich food history to bring you a warmly personal cookbook filled with her trademark seasonal spins on beloved favorites, classics ready to be rediscovered, and much more, including such recipes as:
Inspired by the Jewish lunar calendar, Amelia divides the book into six micro-seasons that highlight the deep connection of Jewish traditions to the year’s cycles. It’s no coincidence that holiday foods, including ancient ones, are season-based—the spring herbs of Passover; the winter roots, grains, dried fruits, and nuts of Tu b’Shvat, the Jewish Arbor Day—or that the agricultural and social justice lessons of the Bible are the foundation of today’s sustainability and gleaning projects.
Whether you’re Jewish or not, observant or not, Ashkenazic or Sephardic, this year long culinary journey through the Diaspora will have you saying, as Deborah Madison does in the foreword “This is Jewish food? Who knew?”
Makes 8 servings
Pareve or Pareve/Vegan
Most Americans don’t know what to do with kohlrabi, a Martian spacecraft–lookalike tuber that offers a crisp nut-like flavor reminiscent of water chestnuts. In Israel, it is a popular addition to salads and pickled vegetable mixes. This is my cousin Michal Brayer’s favorite salad, and now one of mine, too. This refreshing magenta-and-orange slaw will take you through the fall and winter seasons. Use agave instead of honey for a vegan salad.
FOR THE SLAW
FOR THE DRESSING
TO MAKE THE SLAW: Fit a food processor with the grating disk. Peel the carrots and kohlrabi, then grate them in the processor and transfer to a salad bowl. Peel the apples, if desired, then quarter, core, and grate in the processor and add to the bowl. Peel the beets, grate them, and add to the bowl.
You can prepare the salad up to this point early in the day, cover, and refrigerate it. In this case, store the beets separately from the other ingredients, and cover the grated apples with the carrots and kohlrabi to keep them from turning brown.
TO MAKE THE DRESSING: In a small bowl, whisk together the vegetable and sesame oils, lemon juice, honey or agave, about 1 teaspoon salt, and several grinds of pepper. Pour over the salad and toss to coat.
Add the parsley leaves to the salad and toss again. This sturdy salad will stay fresh at room temperature for up to 3 hours, and the leftovers are delicious the next day.
SHOPPING TIP: Look for juicy-looking carrots, beets, and kohlrabi. The moisture factor is more important than their size, especially when you want to use them raw.
Makes 24 latkes, 6 servings
Pareve or Dairy
These latkes are thin, crisp, and pan-fried, not deep-fried. My family’s traditional recipe is inspired by Sara Kasdan’s, from her hilarious 1956 cookbook “Love and Knishes”, which my mother received as a gift nearly sixty years ago. You need a starchy potato for good latkes; the starch helps bind the pancake together. Sierra Gold (a cross between a Yukon Gold and a russet), German Butterball, Kennebec, and King Edward are all wonderful here. This recipe is easily doubled or tripled, and it works well with other wintry vegetables.
Using the large holes of a box grater or a food processor fitted with the grating disk, grate the potatoes. You should have about 5 cups (730 grams). Place the potatoes in a sieve to drain. Grate the onion on the large holes of the box grater or fit the processor with the metal S blade and grate. It should look like pulp; mince or discard any large onion pieces.
In a large bowl, stir together potatoes, onion, flour, salt, baking powder, and a few grinds of pepper. Stir in eggs.
Line 2 or 3 sheet pans with paper towels. Place the prepared pans, the latke batter, a large spoon, and a spatula near the stove. Heat 1 or 2 large skillets over medium heat. Generously film the skillet(s) with oil (not more than ¼ inch/6 mm deep). When the oil is shimmering and a tiny bit of batter sizzles on contact, start spooning in the latke batter, making sure to add both solids and liquid. Using the back of the spoon, flatten each spoonful into a circle 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) in diameter. Do not crowd the latkes in the pan. You’ll get 4 or 5 latkes in a 12-inch (30.5-cm) skillet.
Cook the latkes, flipping them once, until golden on both sides, 5 to 6 minutes total. Transfer the latkes to a prepared baking sheet. Cook the remaining batter in the same way, stirring the batter before adding more to the pan and adding oil as needed at the edge of the pan.
Arrange the latkes on a warmed platter, sprinkle with finishing salt, and serve with applesauce or sour cream.
CRISP PARSNIP LATKES VARIATION: Sweet, lemony, and spicy parsnips and smashed apples and pears are a fabulous root-and-fruit pairing for latkes. Substitute 2 pounds (900 g) juicy-looking medium to large parsnips for the potatoes and use white pepper in place of black pepper. The grated parsnips won’t release liquid that requires draining, but they will discolor slightly after they are peeled.
These recipes may be reproduced with the following credit:
Recipes from THE SEASONAL JEWISH KITCHEN: A Fresh Take on Tradition by Amelia Saltsman. (Sterling, August 2015; $29.95/trade paperback; ISBN: 978-1454914365).
Contact: Blanca Oliviery