The Sea­son­al Jew­ish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Tradition

  • Review
By – May 19, 2015

In recent years, the words loca­vore” and sea­son­al” have deserved­ly tak­en their place in cook­ing and cook­book arti­cles. Many of us wish we had access to tru­ly prepar­ing and eat­ing food that is local­ly pro­duced. To seri­ous cooks like Amelia Salts­man, it makes all the difference.

Salts­man was born in Cal­i­for­nia to a Roman­ian-Israeli moth­er and an Iraqi-Israeli father. In her intro­duc­tion, she states, one grand­moth­er used pars­ley, the oth­er, cilantro, one cooked pota­toes, the oth­er rice…I re-cre­at­ed the foods of mem­o­ry and explored the fla­vors of my par­ents’ adopt­ed, and my native, home­land.” Many of the recipes are tied to the sea­sons of the year and to the Jew­ish hol­i­days, though one can pre­pare and eat these dish­es at any time.

Salts­man points out that the dif­fer­ent sur­round­ings of var­i­ous Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties inspired Jew­ish Food”; adding the influ­ences of the Israeli melt­ing pot and Saltsman’s imme­di­ate envi­ron­ment make for a fas­ci­nat­ing cook­book. Though the author informs us that her cook­book is not a kosher one, it does fol­low some basic pre­cepts. She adds, I hope that what­ev­er dietary guide­lines you prac­tice, you will be able to enjoy all the recipes in this book.”

Includ­ed in the list of ingre­di­ent essen­tials are freekeh, the fire-roast­ed green wheat with a slight­ly smoky fla­vor; quark, low-fat, tangy fresh cheese of Ger­man ori­gin; kashkaval, kasseri, and kefo­latiri, yel­low Balkan sheep’s milk cheeses rang­ing from semi-hard to long-aged and sharp for grat­ing; smoked salt, which adds a deep com­plex fla­vor; sumac, a favorite in Per­sian cook­ing, which adds spec­tac­u­lar col­or and some tart­ness; and ras el hanout, a pop­u­lar North African ground spice mix.

At the out­set, there are sev­en basic recipes: basic white rice, Sephardic style; vine­gared cab­bage; lab­neh; tahi­ni sauce; lemon sauce; and schmaltz and gribenes (and even a pareve, veg­an schmaltz and gribenes.”) Par­tic­u­lar­ly intrigu­ing recipes that appear under Saltsman’s sea­son­al offer­ings are Gvetch: Roast­ed Roman­ian Rata­touille, The Euro­pean Plum Meringue Torte, Green Olives with Za’atar and Cit­rus; Saf­ta Rachel’s sesame seed Bageleh (the Hebrew hand­writ­ten ver­sion appears too); Savory Per­sian Herb and Cheese Haman­taschen; Saf­ta Rachel’s Iraqi Charoset; Freekeh, Eng­lish Peas, and Smoked Fish- and Mama­li­ga; and Pop­py Seed Short­bread Cookies.

The pho­tographs by Staci Valen­tine are visu­al­ly excit­ing. In addi­tion to an alpha­bet­i­cal index, recipes are list­ed by course and by kosher cat­e­go­ry. Also includ­ed is a valu­able resource guide.

Danièle Gor­lin Lass­ner (wife, moth­er, grand­moth­er) retired after 35 years at Ramaz where she served as Dean of Admis­sions, For­eign Lan­guage Depart­ment chair and teacher of French and Span­ish. She owns hun­dreds of cook­books. She has trans­lat­ed sev­er­al chil­dren’s books from French into Eng­lish. She has recent­ly trans­lat­ed “ A Mem­oir of Sanc­ti­ty “ by May­er Moskowitz (Mazo Pub­lish­ers, Jerusalem, Israel) from Hebrew into Eng­lish. No mat­ter the lan­guage, food is a con­stant.”

Discussion Questions