Halloween decorations started showing up in stores in July, Christmas has been around for weeks, so forgive me for bringing up Thanksgiving so early.
In fact, Jews celebrate a second Thanksgiving: a week-long harvest festival called Sukkot, which this year begins at sunset on October 9. Some believe that when the pilgrims sat down for that first thanksgiving, they had the Hebrew festival of harvest in mind.
We’ll never really know, but no doubt those religious settlers were familiar with the ancient texts and commandments, and it’s no wonder a joyous thanksgiving meal coincided with the fall harvest.
While it’s hard to tell from the diet of our Eastern European ancestors (beets and cabbage being notable exceptions), Jewish cuisine, at least in the Mediterranean, has had a long love affair since biblical times. with vegetables, and what better time to display them than during Sukkot. And what better way to celebrate this harvest thanksgiving than with a trip to your local farmers market.
I recently partnered with Amelia Saltsman, writer, cookery teacher, and author of “The Santa Monica Farmers Market Cookbook” (Blenheim Press, $22.95) and “Seasonal Jewish Cuisine” (Sterling Epicure, $29.95 ), on a walk through the market. But there are frequent interruptions, because Saltsman is the undisputed queen of this market and she is instantly recognized by farmers and shoppers alike.
All growers salute Saltsman, who immortalized them in his first cookbook, which is as much a tribute to growers, their stories and their commitment to excellence, as it is a collection of simple, original and inventive recipes inspired by the incredible varieties . they produce.
A delivery man zooms past carrying piles of flower bouquets that look like bushes. “Fresh chickpeas,” Saltsman informs me.
“You can find unusual things at the farmers market that you will never find anywhere else. It’s not that they’re that rare, they’re just rare here,” she said. “And even the most common things sing with great flavor: carrots, potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, they make all the difference in the world.”
But the main reason to shop at a farmer’s market is for taste, she says. “Because the ingredients are so fresh, they will keep for a surprisingly long time, as they are harvested at their best. Its entire shelf life is spent in your home, not shipped.”
With fall approaching, we spot the first Bartlett pears, which gives Saltsman a “bittersweet feeling” because they’re on display alongside summer’s Dapple Dandy pluots, which we gorge on. (Oh, by the time you read this, they’ll be gone, but make a note for next year!)
“My message is that time you spend shopping here is time you save in the kitchen,” says Saltsman. “It’s really fun to find unusual things, but even everyday ingredients resonate with flavor and health.”
Judy Bart Kancigor of Fullerton is the author of “Cooking Jewish” and “The Perfect Passover Cookbook.” Her website is cookingjewish.com.
Roots and their vegetables roasted with wheat berries and horseradish cream
This recipe, which serves from eight to 10, comes from “Seasonal Jewish Cuisine” by Amelia Saltsman
Note: Red beets will turn the plate magenta. Add them just before serving.
- 4 cups cooked wheat berries (from 2 cups raw), cooked if needed
- 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 to 3 bunches green leafy beets, 1 1/2 pounds total
- 1 bunch of small turnips with greens attached, about 1 pound
- 10 medium carrots, about 1 pound
- 2 onions
- 2 cloves of garlic, finally minced
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 to 2 cups vegetable broth or 1 cup canned broth diluted with 1 cup water
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche or plain Greek yogurt
- 3 to 4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 1 lemon
- kosher salt
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a small pot. Add cumin, coriander, 1 teaspoon salt, and a little ground pepper; heat over low heat until oil shimmers.
3. Trim leafy tops off beets and turnips, leaving a 1-inch stem, and reserve tops. Scrub beats well. Cut larger beets into halves or quarters. Toss beets in shallow baking pan with about 1 tablespoon of the oil mixture; turn beets cut side down. Cover with foil; roast until almost tender, about 30 minutes. Remove foil; continue grilling until tender and golden in places, about 10 minutes more.
4. Cut turnips into halves or quarters. Cut carrots crosswise into 2- to 3-inch pieces. Cut very fat carrots in half lengthwise. Cut each onion into eight wedges. Toss turnips, carrots, and onions with remaining oil mixture in large shallow baking pan (or two). Grill uncovered until well browned, 30 to 40 minutes.
5. Cream of Horseradish: In a small bowl, whisk together the creme fraiche and horseradish. Add the squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt. Cover; refrigerate until serving.
6. Trim and discard excess beet stems and turnip greens, cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips.
7. In a large, wide saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, wait 30 seconds; add greens and raisins. Cook until vegetables wilt, 2 to 3 minutes (add vegetables in batches, if needed). Add wheat berries, roasted vegetables, bay leaf and 1 cup broth; Spice with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, adding remaining broth as needed to moisten. Add vinegar to taste. Serve in bowls. Top with some horseradish cream and serve.