By Evan Berkowitz Photography | By Staci Valentine.
Amelia Saltsman, born in Los Angeles to a Romanian mother and Iraqi father, re ects her eclectic background in her cooking with the diverse avors and cultural touchstones that made her rst book, The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook, a beloved classic. Amelia’s name is synonymous with intuitive, seasonal cooking, and small family farms. Now she’s back with a new book, The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen.
Amelia Saltsman traces the delicious thread of Jewish cuisine from its ancient roots to today’s focus on seasonality and sustainability. Her rich food background brings a warmly personal cookbook lled with soul-satisfying spins on beloved classics and bold new dishes. From her Iraqi grandmother’s kitchri—red lentils melted into rice with garlic slow-cooked to sweetness—to four-ingredient golden borscht with buttermilk and fresh ginger, and the vibrant blood orange and olive oil polenta upside-down cake, Amelia’s melting-pot approach will win over a new generation of cooks.
“This book encompasses the food story of my family, the Romanian Haimers and the Iraqi Ben-Aziz clan (Abdulaziz in Iraq), both of whom relocated to the land of Israel. But our tale is emblematic of those of countless other families: Gordian knots of migrations, unions, and regional influences that create myriad unique personal culinary histories.”
The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen reflects these stories through the diverse flavors of a cuisine from the Middle East, North Africa, Italy, Spain, Eastern Europe, California, and more, but with today’s twist. Traditional Jewish foods and ingredients such as buckwheat, pickled herring, organ meats, and rendered fats are enjoying a renaissance in mainstream cooking.
“Today, when we talk about the importance of knowing where our food comes from, we’re usually referring to matters of food safety and justice, sustainability, and support for small local farms. But the concept can take us farther back, putting food’s ancient past into modern context. The twists and turns of my own food history have driven my search for deeper connections in food that give substance to a melting-pot life.”
WITH TANGERINES, GREEN OLIVES, AND SILAN
SERVES 6 TO 8
- 1 chicken, 4 pounds.
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
- 2 tablespoons Silan (date syrup)
- 2 to 3 teaspoons Harissa spicemix, Harissa paste, or 1⁄2 teaspoon each cayenne pepper, smoked Paprika, coriander, and cumin
- Kosher or sea salt
- 3⁄4 pound shallots (about 4 large or 8 small)
- 6 tangerines or other sweet mandarins
- 1 cup (lightly-brined green olives, such as Castelvetrano
- 1 to 2 cups white wine, stock, or water
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Wash the chicken and pat it dry. Whisk together 4 tablespoons (olive oil, the Silan, the Harissa to taste, and 1 teaspoon salt. Peel shallots and cut into quarters if large or halves if small. Cut unpeeled tangerines into quarters or sixths and poke out visible seeds.
- Scatter shallots and tangerines in the bottom of a large roasting pan and toss with a little olive oil and salt. Rub chicken inside and out with the Silan-Harissa-oil mixture. Toss a few tangerine and shallot pieces into the cavity of the chicken. Place chicken, breast-side up, in the pan and loosely tie the legs together with twine, if desired.
- Roast for 30 minutes, baste with juices that have collected in the pan, and add the olives. Continue cooking, adding wine, stock, or water as needed to prevent the juices from burning, basting the bird once or twice more, until the skin is a rich brown color and the meat is cooked all the way through, about 30 minutes longer.
- Transfer chicken, shallots, olives, and tangerines to a platter and tent loosely with foil. Place roasting pan on the stove top over medium heat, pour in 1 cup of wine, stock, or water and stir to deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits. Cook until heated through, reduced, thickened, and glossy, about 2 minutes. To defat the juices, pour them into a fat separator or skim o with a large spoon.
- Carve the chicken and serve with the shallots, olives, tangerines, and the warm pan juices.
CITRUS AND AVOCADO SALAD
WITH SPICY GREENS
- Large orange
- 2 grapefruits, pomelos, or OroBlancos (pomelo-grapefruit cross)
- 2 large handfuls of wild arugula, watercress,pepper cress, or a mix (about 2 ounces/55 g)
- 1⁄2 bunch green onions (about 4) or 8 tinyspring onions, thinly sliced crosswise
- 2 ripe avocados
- 1⁄4 cup (40 g) oil-cured black olives
- Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
- 3⁄4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Using a ve-hole zester, remove the zest in long curls from the orange and reserve. Peel and segment the orange and grapefruits. Drink the juice from the membranes or save it for another use.
- Tear the arugula and cress, and scatter over a serving platter or divide among individual salad plates. Top with half the onions. Halve, pit, and peel the avocados, then thinly slice each half lengthwise and arrange the slices over the greens along with the citrus segments. Oil-cured olives should be soft enough to tear into pieces to pit them. Scatter the olive pieces, the remaining onions, and the orange zest over the salad.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, salt, and several grinds of pepper, then whisk in the oil. Pour the dressing over the salad to serve.
- For something different, use a thick-skinned pomelo (also spelled pummelo or pommelo), grapefruit’s ancient relative that has crunchy juice vesicles that you can scatter onto the salad. Pomelos are found at some winter farmers’ markets and at Asian groceries, especially around Lunar New Year. Arugula and water—and upland cresses, which are at their best this time of year— add a peppery contrast. This salad is too beautiful to toss in a bowl. Layer the elements on a platter or on individual plates to brighten the grayest winter day.
WITH ZA’ATAR AND CITRUS
MAKES 2 CUPS
- 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 3⁄4 pound (340 grams) green olives
- 2 tablespoons Za’atar
- 1 large clove garlic, sliced
- 1 dried chile de árbol
- 1 lemon
- 1 orange
1. In a medium saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium- low heat until it lique es and shimmers. Add the olives, reduce the heat to low, and warm through. Remove from the heat, add the Za’atar, garlic, and chile, and toss to coat. Using a swivel-blade vegetable peeler, and working over the pan, remove the zest from the lemon and the orange in long, wide strips, getting both the zest and the spray of citrus oils into the pan. Stir to mix, and serve warm or at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate any leftover olives and bring to room temperature or reheat to serve.
WITH ZA’ATAR AND CITRUS: IRAQI FUNNEL CAKES
MAKES 8 SERVINGS
FOR THE DOUGH:
• 11/8 teaspoons (1⁄2 package) active dry yeast
• 11⁄4 cups (300 ml) warm water (100 to 110°F/38° to 43°C) • 1 cup (125 grams) unbleached all-purpose our
• 3⁄4 cup (95 grams) cornstarch
• Scant 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
FOR THE SYRUP:
• 2 to 3 lemons
• 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) water
• 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
• 2 quarts of mild oil with a medium-high smoke point, such as grapeseed, sun ower, or avocado, for deep-frying
TO MAKE THE DOUGH:
- In a small bowl, stir together the yeast and 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) of the warm water and let stand in a warm place until the mixture bubbles, about 10 minutes.
- Stir together the our, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in 1⁄2 cup of the warm water and the yeast mixture until the dough is lump-free.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until doubled in size, at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.
TO MAKE THE LEMON SYRUP:
1. Using a ve-hole zester, remove the zest from 1 of the lemons in long strands. Halve and squeeze enough lemons to yield 1⁄3 cup of juice. In a small pot, stir together the lemon juice and zest, water, and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar is completely dissolved and clear, about 1 minute. Pour into a pie pan and let cool.
TO MAKE THE FRITTERS:
- Scrape the dough into a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag or large pastry bag tted with a 1⁄4-inch plain pastry tip; set the bag in a bowl for support. Let the dough stand for about 15 minutes before frying. Line a large plate with paper towels. Place the prepared plate near the stove, along with some tongs, a small spider or slotted spoon, the syrup, and a tray to hold the nished fritters.
- Pour the oil to a depth of 31⁄2 inches. Roll the top of the pastry bag closed to move the batter toward the opening.
- Pipe a bit of the batter into the hot oil. The oil should bubble around the batter immediately. Fry the dough, turning once at the halfway point, until bubbled, golden, and crisp, 4 to 5 minutes total. Use a spider or slotted spoon to sh the fritters out of the oil, drain them brie y on the towel-lined plate, and drop them into the syrup for a moment or two, turning them to coat evenly. Lift them out of the syrup and transfer them to the tray in a single layer to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter.
- Pour any remaining syrup over the top.
Recipes reprinted with permission from The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen by Amelia Saltsman, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.