“Would You Make This?” is a sporadic new column where personal chef Alix Wall evaluates a new cookbook by making two of its recipes, sharing them with friends and asking what they think of the results.
Hi, my name is Alix and I’m a member of the cult. The cult of Ottolenghi, that is. I feel I should begin this way to acknowledge that I am one of the thousands who have come down with a new kind of Jerusalem Syndrome, one where, our older cookbooks remain spatter-free and collect dust, because somehow, after the “Jerusalem” cookbook, none of them seems to compare.
On a recent pilgrimage to Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Nopi restaurant in London, a waiter told me that “Ottolenghi: The Cookbook” by the chefs (out in the U.S. on Sept. 3) that’s new to us is his favorite of the team’s three books. “Better than ‘Jerusalem?’” I asked, incredulously. He thought so. I couldn’t imagine such a thing. And yet, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy to find out. I was tempted to buy the U.K edition, British measurements and all, but I decided to wait. And luckily for me, that wait didn’t turn out to be long at all.
The only High Holiday where alcohol is a requirement is Simchat Torah. This is a mistake.
Let me explain: Drinking is a part of Simchat Torah because a rabbinic interpretation for the commandment to rejoice on festivals is to drink wine. Yet the rabbis never specify Simchat Torah. As it says in Sifra Emor 12:4, “And with what do you sanctify the day [of sukkot]? With eating, drinking, and nice [literally ‘clean’] clothes.” The Rambam later re-interpreted the idea of “eating, drinking and nice clothes” along gender lines. He wrote that men should buy beautiful clothes and “ornaments” for women and celebrate for themselves by eating meat and drinking wine. But a plain sense, sources suggests that all Jewish holidays are times for drinking and dandyism.
The other reason it’s a mistake to drink only on Simchat Torah is all the great seasonal and traditional flavors. If you’re feeling ambitious, there’s plenty of time left to make your own seasonal alcoholic drink for the high holidays. This year, my friend Josh suggested we try an Apfelwein (German hard apple cider) recipe that only takes a month to ferment. The recipe is simple, though buying the necessary equipment is a high upfront cost. Unlike beer, which has to be brewed in stages, Apfelwein is a one stage process. This is especially true if you start with 100% apple juice, rather than pressing whole apples for their juice. In the end, the scariest part of fermenting your own Apfelwein is actually sanitizing the brewing equipment.
Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah. Need we say more? [Smitten Kitchen]
An oldie, but a goodie. Apple Raisin Challah. [Epicurious]
Rosh Hashanah, international style. Check out a round up of recipes from Turkey, Iran, Syria and India. [Serious Eats]
Sweets for a sweet new year. Holiday dessert ideas including lavender honey cake and maple cake with brown butter apples. Serious Eats]
Change up your tzimmes recipe, and give this one from Mile End a try. [Serious Eats]
As soon as September starts, my mind turns to high holiday cooking and the intoxicating smells of one my Sephardic family’s favorite dishes – Salade de Piments, more widely known as matbucha. It is a transporting elixir of garlicky, semi-caramelized roasted peppers and tomatoes. Layered with smoky, piquant and subtly sweet flavors, it’s a perfect counterpoint to any meal — from brisket to omelet — or simply savored on bread.
Despite the lengthy prep time, the dish has been relished by Mediterranean Jews for nearly 500 years. I love to serve it for Rosh Hashanah when local peppers and tomatoes are bountiful.
My family’s Salade de Piments recipe has roots in the Spanish Inquisition when, rather than face death or conversion, my ancestors chose exile to Melilla, a coastal town in Spanish Morocco. It was around the same time that Christopher Columbus returned from the New World with his exotic booty, including peppers plucked from South America; tomatoes followed from Peru via Cortez in the mid-1500s.