For the High Holy Days we plan to prepare some delicious dishes from Joan Nathan’s new cookbook, King Solomon’s Table. Nathan’s beef stew, which she presented at a lunch in Los Angeles, gained an appealing sweet taste from red bell peppers, as well as onions and paprika. It should make a tempting main course for Rosh Hashana, when sweet flavors are traditional.
For our Rosh Hashana dessert, we’re thinking of baking Nathan’s pizza ebraica. This “Jewish pizza” doesn’t have tomato sauce or cheese. It’s a tasty Italian-Jewish treat that is actually a biscotti-like cookie studded with raisins and dried cherries macerated in sweet wine.
What do these dishes have to do with King Solomon? The subtitle of Nathan’s book is “A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.” There has long been variety in the cuisine of the Land of Israel, said Nathan, thanks to merchants who were looking for new items to trade. The story of King Solomon, she wrote, “offers an image of a ruler presiding over a diversity of cultures, an abundance of food, and reaching beyond his borders to feed his kingdom.”
There was global influence on traditional dishes for the Yom Kippur pre-fast and post-fast meals. According to Nathan, “the art of making kreplach – the Jewish wonton – was learned from the Chinese and perhaps the Khazars, many of whom supposedly converted to Judaism.”
For the post-Yom Kippur dinner, Nathan serves harira, a soup made with chickpeas, which were found in Mesopotamia at least 8,500 years ago and spread throughout the Middle East. “A Muslim staple to break the daily fast of Ramadan,” wrote Nathan of harira, “it has crossed over to the Moroccan Jewish tradition of breaking the fast of Yom Kippur.”
Often harira is made with meat, but Nathan makes her version of the spicy, lemony soup vegetarian. That way, for a kosher meal, one could also enjoy Nathan’s tasty tomato salad, which is enhanced with feta or goat cheese as well as olives and herbs.
Another good appetizer for celebrating Rosh Hashana or for breaking the Yom Kippur fast is Nathan’s tabbouleh, which she makes with apples and pomegranate seeds. The bulgur wheat mixture also contains walnuts and parsley, and is flavored with red onion, honey, lemon juice, olive oil and salt.
Nathan’s colorful salad of roasted beets with oranges and pistachios, dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and cumin, also makes an inviting starter for any of this month’s feasts.