In Amelia Saltsman’s new cookbook, “The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen,”holidays are all part of a framework for eating that draws on the bounty of their seasons.Rather than trying to “update” the traditional foods so closely tied to these special days, Saltsman highlights all of the possibilities available to cooks.
There’s also much more variety to what’s on a Jewish table than many people think, if they stop to consider the diaspora who have been migratingall over the world for thousands of years: Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
Saltsman’s cooking is mainly inspired by the products of California’s farmers markets, where the climate and food trends closely resemble Israel’s. Yes, there’s a requisitehandful of latke recipes (try making them with parsnips sometime!), which add to Saltsman’s point that using local ingredients and modern cooking methods can reimagineany dish —and,incidentally, often make ithealthier.
For a dish that showcases the best of early fall, try her recipe for tzimmes, a traditional sweet stew. Saltsman’s version doesn’t have any added sugar, relying only on the natural sweetness of the fruits and vegetables.
Tzimmes is a great companion to brisket or chicken and is also a good accompaniment to farro or quinoa for a vegan main course.
6 to 8 oranges
2 pounds carrots
3 pounds sweet potatoes
1 pound shallots
½ to ¾ pound dried plums or pitted prunes (depending on how sweet and fruity you want the dish)
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
freshly ground white or black pepper
Directions:Preheat the oven to 400°F. Remove the zest in large strips from two of the oranges and the lemon. Juice enough oranges to yield 2½ cups juice. Reserve the lemon.
Peel the carrots and cut them crosswise into 2-inch chunks or lengthwise into 2-inch chunks. 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
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 juice during the last 20 minutes of cooking. The juiceshould thicken slightly. Serve warm; makes 8-10 portions.