August 14, 2015

The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Tradition (includes two recipes)

The_Seasonal_Jewish_KitchenThe Seasonal Jewish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Tradition*
by Amelia Saltsman, foreword by Deborah Madison, photography by Staci Valentine

Seasonal cooking and farmers’ market expert Amelia Saltsman delivers a fresh, new way to think about Jewish food. In The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Tradition, Amelia Saltsman takes us far beyond deli meats and kugel to a universally appealing world of diverse flavors ideal for modern meals. Inspired by the farm-to-table movement, her 150 recipes offer a refreshingly different take on traditional and contemporary Jewish cooking. Amelia traces the thread of Jewish cuisine from its ancient roots to today’s focus on seasonality and sustainability. She draws on her own rich food history to create a warmly personal cookbook filled 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 vibrant Blood Orange and Olive Oil Polenta Upside-Down Cake, Amelia’s melting-pot recipes will win over a new generation of cooks. In The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen, readers will discover vegan dishes, Middle Eastern flavors, and new ways to use Old World ingredients—buckwheat, home-cured herring, and gribenes—in fresh, modern meals. Other recipes found in the book include:

  • “Manta Ray” Ceviche
  • Pashtida: Baked Pasta with Spinach, Ricotta, and Brown Butter
  • Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Mini-Latkes with Smoky Harissa and Labneh
  • Roast Chicken with Tangerines, Green Olives and Silan
  • Apple, Pear, and Concord Grape Galette in Rye Pastry

Guided by the Jewish calendar, Amelia divides the book into six micro-seasons that highlight the deep connection of Jewish traditions to the year’s cycles. Today’s sustainability and gleaning projects are founded in the agricultural and social justice lessons from the Bible, and it’s no coincidence that holiday foods are seasons-based—the spring herbs of Passover, for instance, or the autumn pomegranates and apples of Rosh Hashanah.

Whether you are Jewish or not, observant or not, Ashkenazic or Sephardic, this yearlong culinary journey through the Diaspora will have you saying, “This is Jewish food? Who knew?”

“Amelia Saltsman has a warmth and a vibrancy that comes through beautifully in this book; her recipes capture the aliveness of ripe, seasonal ingredients, the importance of farmers, and the diversity of flavors in Jewish food.” – Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse, author of The Art of Simple Food

The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen
By Amelia Saltsman
Sterling Epicure
August 2015
Hardcover with jacket/$29.95
ISBN: 978-1-4549-1436-5

Recipes from The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen

(Reprinted by permission)


dish1Tzimmes is an eastern European stew of carrots and/or sweet potatoes and prunes traditionally cooked with beef flanken, often sweetened with brown or white sugar, and sometimes thickened with flour. In Yiddish, the word tzimmes means “a big fuss,” probably because of all the work required to make the old-style dish. This version couldn’t be easier: Skip the meat, sugar, and flour and instead roast carrots, sweet potatoes, and dried Santa Rosa–type plums (or common dried prunes) in fresh orange juice until they are tender, browned, glazed with citrus, and deliciously infused with orange. Tzimmes is a great companion to brisket or chicken and is also a good accompaniment to farro or quinoa for a pareve/vegan main course. It can easily be made a day ahead and reheated and is often served in the fall for Rosh Hashanah and in the spring for Passover. It is also a lovely addition to any festive meal during these times of the year. Both seasons yield sweet carrots, especially in the spring. In the fall, use new-season white- or orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.

6 to 8 oranges
1 lemon
2 pounds (900 g) carrots
3 pounds (1.4 kg) sweet potatoes
1 pound (450 g) shallots (about 8 large)
½ to ¾ pound (225 to 340 g) dried plums or pitted prunes (vary the amount depending on how sweet and fruity you want the dish)
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground white or black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Using a swivel-blade vegetable peeler, remove the zest in large strips from 2 of the oranges and the lemon. Be sure to press down only hard enough to capture the colored part of the skin, not the bitter white pith. Juice enough oranges to yield 2½ cups (600 ml) juice. Reserve the lemon for another use.

Peel the carrots and cut them crosswise into 2-inch (5-cm) chunks or lengthwise into 2-inch (5-cm) chunks (if carrots are very fat, first halve them lengthwise). Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into large bite-size chunks. Peel and quarter the shallots lengthwise. Use kitchen scissors to snip the dried fruits in half.

Use a roasting pan large enough to hold all the vegetables in more or less a single layer. Place carrots, sweet potatoes, shallots, dried fruit, and lemon and orange zests in the pan. Toss with enough olive oil to coat evenly, season with salt and pepper, and pour the juice over all.

Roast the vegetables, turning them once or twice during cooking, until they are tender and are browned in places and most of the juice is absorbed, about 1¼ hours. If you want a saucier finished dish, add another ½ to 1 cup (120 to 240 ml) juice during the last 20 minutes of cooking. The juice should thicken slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.


dish2In date-growing regions, the harvest begins in late summer or early autumn. Barhi dates are the first variety to be brought to market, still on the stem, a beautiful shade of soft gold, and crisp. Their flavor hovers between sweet and astringent. Golden Barhis, known as “fresh” or khalal, the second of four stages of ripeness, are lovely with late-season nectarines or mangoes in a distinctive early autumn salad. Any astringency in the fresh dates is tamed by the use of orange juice, sweet nut oil, and tart sumac in the dressing. Fresh Barhi dates are available at Middle Eastern markets, California farmers’ markets, and by mail order for a few brief weeks in the fall. They are a rare treat, but now you know what to do with them. The basic structure of this salad lends itself to many seasonal combinations of dried and fresh fruits. Try Fuyu persimmons and pears in place of the dates and nectarines and contrast their sweetness with additional tart dried fruits and early mandarins.

½ pound (225 g) crisp golden Barhi dates (about 16)
½ cup (55 to 85 g) moist dried apricots (about 16; 2 to 3 ounces)
2 ripe nectarines or juicy pears, about ½ pound (225 g) total
½ pound (225 g) arugula
1 to 2 tablespoons nut oil, such as walnut, pecan, almond, or pistachio
1 Valencia orange
Finishing salt, such as fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt
Ground sumac

Cut the dates in half lengthwise and remove the pits, then cut each half into thin crescents and place in a salad bowl. Use kitchen scissors to snip apricots into strips and add to the bowl. Halve the nectarines or pears and pit the nectarines or core the pears. Cut into thin crescents and add to the bowl along with the arugula.

Drizzle the oil to taste over the salad and toss lightly. Using a five-hole zester, and working over the salad bowl, remove the zest from the orange in long strands, getting both the zest and the spray of citrus oils into the bowl. Give the salad a healthy squeeze of orange juice and season to taste with salt and sumac. Toss the salad and sprinkle with additional sumac for color and added tartness.

KITCHEN NOTE: To quickly ripen khalal-stage Barhi dates for another use, freeze them for at least 24 hours. When thawed, they will have turned light brown and have become soft and sweet. This is the same freezing technique that works with astringent Hachiya persimmons, the oblong variety that must be meltingly ripe to be eaten.

Cookbook author Amelia Saltsman

Cookbook author Amelia Saltsman

About Amelia Saltsman | Amelia 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 cookbook, The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, 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, and Vegetarian Times. She is a frequent guest on KCRW’s “Good Food with Evan Kleiman” and a longtime advocate for small family farms and farmers’ markets. Amelia is a favorite at Rancho La Puerta in Mexico, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, and more. To learn more visit

*No compensation was received for the sharing of this material.


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