Though most of us think of Jewish cooking as Eastern European in origin, there's an alluring second traditional Jewish cuisine, that of the Mediterranean. Joyce Goldstein's Saffron Shores explores the most southerly branch of this exotic repertoire, which includes the spice-infused dishes of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Goldstein, who pursued Italian- and Spanish-Jewish cooking in Cucina Ebraica and Sephardic Flavors, is ideally suited to introduce this largely unexplored and delicious cuisine; she offers 100 recipes for a wide range of dishes--appetizers through sweets--including don't-miss treats like Lamb Tagine with Prunes and Honey, Baked Fish Stuffed with Almond Paste, and Cumin Flavored Meatballs with Onion Jam and Spicy Tomato Sauce. Simple in conception, and mostly easy to do, the dishes work well for modern cooks who want something "different" without going to great lengths to get it.
Beginning with a brief history of the cooking, and presenting its flavor profile (like that of the Jews who settled in the Ottoman Empire, the Southern Mediterranean palate favors vivid spiciness with the likes of cumin and cinnamon, plus a penchant for sweet-and-sour combinations), she then introduces the tempting recipes. Of special interest is a section on savory pastries like Iraqi Chicken and Chick Pea Pastries and Lebanese Spinach Turnovers, "labors of love," says Goldstein, that are nonetheless worth a cook's involvement, and sweets, such as Syrian Rice Pudding and Raisin and Walnut Jam Tart. (Also included is a recipe for preparing boxed couscous that finally makes the most of this obvious convenience.) With holiday menus and color photos throughout, the book is truly welcome. --Arthur Boehm
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Saffron Shores offers Jewish food from the lower Mediterranean
Joyce Goldstein wants to change everything you thought you knew about Jewish culinary traditions. Many Americans associate Jewish cooking with Eastern European flavors (such as chicken fat, onions, and sour cream). But Goldstein's research into Mediterranean Jewish food has opened up a world of different tastes.
Her newest cookbook, Saffron Shores: Jewish Cooking of the Southern Mediterranean, isn't for the novice cook; many recipes are challenging. But it is a beautiful treasure trove of dishes from the Jewish communities of North Africa. Some will seem familiar - spiced roast lamb with couscous and harissa from Morocco, for instance - whereas others are more exotic, like a green pureed soup of fava beans and cilantro, garnished with chicken gizzards, for Passover.
Saffron Shores is full of fresh ideas for all the Jewish holidays. For Hanukkah, it is traditional to eat oil-rich foods in honor of the miracle of a Temple lamp that burned for eight days with only one day's supply of oil. Goldstein suggests serving sweet or savory fried pastries, such as classic North African briks (spicy filled turnovers). We found more than one reason to like these mashed potato-filled Tunisian pastries, adapted from Goldstein's recipe first, because they're easy to put together (egg roll wrappers fry up beautifully, and the thick filling doesn't leak out), and second, because they taste like a subtle twist on comfortingly familiar latkes. - Sunset Magazine