I am the daughter of a Romanian mother and an Iraqi father who met in the Israeli army and immigrated as students to Los Angeles, where I was born and raised. My culinary upbringing has been equally eclectic. One grandmother uses parsley, the other cilantro. (p. 1)
She experienced the fresh, seasonal, inventive cuisine that comes from melding and respecting different traditions. This is a cookbook organized by the season and dictated by the Jewish cooking calendar. One could as easily look at it as a seasonal cookbook for anyone, Jewish or not, since it is full of thoughtful, interesting and international recipes tied to the season.
The chapter of November & December is especially rich with great recipes. Start any dinner or party – any season really – with Green Olives with Za’atar and Citrus (p. 82): “Olives are an evergreen option for any mezze table. In summer, use Valencia oranges and Eureka lemons, in winter, navel oranges and Meyer lemons. Be sure to have country bread or pita on hand to mop up the seasoned oil.” Pair the olives with Safta Rachel’s Sesame Seed Bageleh (p. 85) the small, buttery rings that are served all over the Mediterranean with tea or drinks. Instead of a boring pasta salad, try Freekeh with Kale, Butternut Squash, and Smoked Salt (p. 88).
The fall colors are stunning in the photograph by Staci Valentine.
If you have leftover butternut squash, make the Yemenite Pumpkin and Carrot Soup (p. 90) flavored with cumin, coriander, and black pepper, and a swirl of Cilantro Pesto. Or you could make the Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Mini-Latkes with Labneh and Smoky Harissa (p. 96) for Hanukkah. For a cool fall dinner, the Braised Beef with Semolina Dumplings (p. 107): “The stew flavors the dumplings, which in turn, thicken the juices into a rich gravy. In late fall, use snap, romano, or Chinese long beans or okra, along with carrots and late season sauce tomatoes.” It’s a rib-sticking kind of stew, perfect for Sunday dinner after a long day’s drive to see the fall colors. If you stopped by an apple orchard on the way home, then make Apples in Nightgowns (p. 115) pretty baked apples in a Calvados-spiked pastry sleeve.
The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen is, indeed, a fresh take. It is the best food of the diaspora, full of the rich, buttery flavors of Eastern Europe, the spices and color of the Middle East, and the playful brightness of Los Angeles.