Recipes

Cookbook author Amelia Saltsman talks farmers market, sundaes

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Amelia Saltsman spends a lot more time at farmers markets than you do.

Unless you’re a farmer, at any rate, in which case you probably know Saltsman from her first book, The Santa Monica Farmers Market Cookbook, which you can still find at Anthropologie stores.

Saltsman has been cooking and writing about cooking for decades and has finally published her long-awaited second cookbook, The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen. Think more farmers markets, but this time, Saltsman is channeling her childhood (her family is Romanian-Iraqi-Israeli), and in her new book, she cooks her way through the Jewish calendar. To quote Deborah Madison, another market junkie who wrote the book’s foreword: “This is Jewish food? Who knew?”

Recently we met up with Saltsman at her Santa Monica home to chat and to make ice cream sundaes for lunch. Because wouldn’t you? Also because these Brooklyn Ice Cream Bar sundaes are just the thing for summertime, as much as they were for Saltsman when she first ate them as a little kid at the popular cafe in Tel Aviv.

Q. Your parents met in the Israeli army?

A. My father was a captain and my mother was sergeant. My father would come into the office that my mother was working in — even though women were weapons-trained, they still worked in offices back then.

Q. Why write about Jewish food?

A. I wanted to use (the book) to give traditional context to our modern seasonal lives — and I wanted to make it feel universal. This was the next step on the journey — more personal, more biblical. We’ve been talking about knowing where our food comes from; I’ve been looking at that through time. With this particular lens, I was also looking at the journey of ingredients. Like the citron. How did it travel? Who was carrying it? The citron wasn’t a fruit in the Bible. It’s a scrubby old thing, not a sturdy tree. But it was considered a perfect fruit — because of the aroma. Then it became a symbol carried by the Hebrews as they migrated. Think of it as an agricultural diaspora, as well as the diaspora of the Jews.

Q. So many dishes (yours, everyone’s) are about building blocks. How do you decide how to put them together?

A. I think of it in terms of flavor and texture and color contrasts. And what the foods bring to each other — I like to flavor food with other foods. There aren’t a lot of bottles here on the counter. This is what the farmers give their lives to. You want to respect the ingredients and not mask them — and that’s a real shift in how we cook. The essence of seasonal market-based cooking is not to mess with what the farmers have already done.

Q. Three tips for shopping at farmers markets?

A. One, shop (and eat) in “layers” to get the longest-lasting reward. Buy a mix of shelf-stable, medium-hold and perishable items, and use the most perishable items first. With items like tomatoes or stone fruit, buy a range of moderately ripe to dead-ripe, so you can pace your enjoyment throughout the week. Two, focus on whatever is at the peak of its season. Try to resist the urge to splurge on first-of-the-season appearances; a little patience rewards us with the greatest flavor. Three, engage all your senses, including common sense. Trust your inner smarts and you’ll be fine. It’s just food. But oh, what food.

Brooklyn Ice Cream Bar Sundaes

Source: Adapted from “The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen,” by Amelia Saltsman.

1 cup chopped fresh fruit

1 pint cactus pear and raspberry sorbet (see recipe)

1 pint mango and passion fruit sorbet (see recipe)

1 pint carob molasses ice cream (see recipe)

Fresh raspberry sauce (see recipe)

Quick dark chocolate sauce (see recipe)

Chopped toasted pistachios, almonds or pecans, for garnish

Put a spoonful of fresh fruit in each of eight dessert glasses. Layer small scoops of ice cream and sorbet, sauces and nuts in each glass, ending with the sauces and nuts. Serve immediately.

Yield: 8 servings.

Quick Dark Chocolate Sauce

Source: Adapted from “The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen,” by Amelia Saltsman.

1/2 cup half-and-half

5 ounces semisweet chocolate (62 percent cacao), coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon or more hot water, if needed

In a small saucepan, bring the half-and-half to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and stir in 6 tablespoons (90 ml) of the hot half-and-half until the chocolate melts. Add the remaining half-and-half as needed to achieve a good sauce consistency. Stir in vanilla and salt.

Use immediately or cover and set aside for up to a few hours. If the sauce becomes too thick, place the bowl in a pan of simmering water and stir 1 or more tablespoons of hot water into the sauce to reconstitute. The sauce can be made a day ahead, covered and refrigerated.

Per serving (based on eight): 122 calories, 2 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 8 g fat (5 g saturated), 6 mg cholesterol, 7 g sugar, 36 mg sodium.

Yield: 3/4 cup.

Mango And Passion Fruit Sorbet

Source: Adapted from “The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen,” by Amelia Saltsman.

2 mangos, about 1 pound each

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup lime juice, from about 2 limes

1/4 cup water

Pinch of salt

1/4 pound passion fruit (2 to 4), or 1/2 cup passion fruit puree

Stand a mango, stem end down, on a cutting board and use a serrated knife to cut from the top to the bottom, running the blade close to the pit. Turn the mango around and repeat on the opposite side. Use a spoon to scoop the flesh from the skin and transfer it to the jar of a blender. Cut away any usable flesh attached to the pit, peel it and add to the jar. Squeeze the pit over the jar to extract the juices from any flesh clinging to the pit. Repeat with the second mango.

Stir the sugar, lime juice, water and salt in the blender and puree until smooth. Taste the puree, and if it is fibrous, strain it through a sieve into a bowl.

To prepare the passion fruit, halve the fruit and scoop the pulp and seeds into a small bowl. Mash the pulp with a fork to liquefy, then stir the pulp and seeds into the mango mixture. (If using puree, stir directly into the mango mixture.) Cover and chill the mixture several hours, up to overnight.

Make the sorbet: Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Pack into a chilled container, cover tightly and freeze, preferably for several hours, before serving. Remove from the freezer about 10 minutes before serving to make the scooping easier.

Per serving (based on 16): 66 calories, 1 g protein, 17 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 0 g fat, 0 g cholesterol, 15 g sugar, 18 mg sodium.

Yield: 1 quart.

Fresh Raspberry Sauce

Source: Adapted from “The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen,” by Amelia Saltsman.

1 1/4 cups raspberries

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Mash together raspberries and sugar with a spoon. Stir in lemon and orange juices and press through a sieve set over a bowl. Set the sauce aside for 30 to 60 minutes before using. The mixture will be opaque but will turn clear as the sugar dissolves. The sauce can be made a day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Makes 3/4 cup.

Per serving (based on eight): 38 calories, 0 g protein, 9 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 0 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 8 g sugar, 0 mg sodium.

Yield: 3/4 cup.

Carob Molasses Ice Cream

Source: Adapted from “The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen,” by Amelia Saltsman.

4 egg yolks

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

1/4 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup carob molasses, warmed

Set a mesh sieve over a 2-quart bowl. Rest the bowl in a larger bowl filled with a good handful of ice and a little water, and place near the stove. In a medium bowl, lightly whisk together the yolks.

In a medium saucepan, combine cream, milk, sugar and salt over medium heat and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. Take 1 cup of the hot cream mixture and stream it slowly into the yolks, whisking constantly. Slowly whisk the egg-cream mixture back into the saucepan. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and stays parted like the Red Sea when you run your finger across the spoon, 2 to 4 minutes. Be careful not to overcook, as the mixture will curdle. Pour through the prepared sieve to remove any bits of cooked egg.

Stir the custard a few times to cool it down a bit and then stir in the carob molasses. Strain through the sieve again. When cool, cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the custard, and refrigerate for several hours or up to overnight.

Freeze in an ice cream maker following manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a chilled container, cover tightly and freeze, preferably for several hours, before serving. This ice cream is creamy enough that you should have no trouble scooping it straight from the freezer.

Per serving (based on 16): 173 calories, 2 g protein, 13 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 13 g fat (8 g saturated), 89 mg cholesterol, 11 g sugar, 42 mg sodium.

Yield: 1 quart.

Cactus Pear And Raspberry Sorbet

Source: Adapted from “The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen,” by Amelia Saltsman.

3 pounds cactus pears (about 9 large)

9 ounces raspberries (about 1 pint)

1 cup sugar

6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons kirschwasser

Cut the cactus pears in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop the flesh into a bowl. Crush the flesh with a fork. Fit a food mill with the medium disk and pass the flesh through the mill to separate the pulp from the seeds, scraping the underside of the mill to capture any puree clinging there. Discard the seeds. Or use a sturdy rubber spatula or spoon to push the pulp through a coarse-mesh sieve or colander to remove the seeds, scraping the underside to extract as much puree as possible. You should have 2 to 2 1/4 cups puree.

Mash the raspberries through a mesh sieve (or a food mill fitted with the fine disk) set over a small bowl, using the back of a spoon to push the pulp through and working to extract as much as possible. You should have about 3/4 cup puree.

Add the raspberry puree, sugar, lemon juice, water and kirschwasser to the bowl holding the cactus pear puree and stir to mix well. Cover and chill for several hours or up to overnight.

Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Pack into a chilled container, cover tightly and freeze, preferably for several hours, before serving. Remove from freezer about 10 minutes before serving to make scooping easier.

Per serving (based on 16): 99 calories, 1 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 1 g fat (0 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 14 g sugar, 5 mg sodium.

Yield: 1 quart.

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