I recently was accused of being a food history geek. As I opened my mouth to dispute this bizarre accusation, I stopped because I realized, with humility, that it is true. I am a total food history geek. I lay awake nights as I wonder about things like, the food King Tut chose for his journey into the afterlife (watermelon and beets) or what Charlemagne insisted be in every garden in his kingdom (a fish pond).
When I started reading Joan Nathan‘s latest cookbook, King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from around the World, I found a kindred spirit. I couldn’t put it down. It’s a food history geek’s dream.
Joan’s interpretation of King Solomon’s passion for discovery according to 1 Kings 10:23-25 takes you on a fascinating adventure into a cross-pollination of culinary cultures.
“As a wandering people, Jews have influenced many different local cuisines as they carried their foods to new lands via Jewish trade routes, while fleeing prejudice in search of safer lands, or while migrating in search of new opportunities,” Joan writes.
Who knew that macaroons trace back to Iraq, or bagels to Egypt? Ms. Nathan tells it all, and the tidbits and treasures written around each recipe in this cookbook are as delicious as the recipe itself.
I recently met Joan at a media luncheon at Melissa’s Produce. Her extensive travels while researching this book, included trips to India, Greece, Italy, Cuba and beyond.
Here are a few of the globally inspired recipes we tasted.
Quinoa Salad with Squash, Feta and Pecans – pg. 98 (Peru)
This recipe goes by many names: Golden Dumpling Cake, Butter Puffs, and the U.S. version, Monkey Bread. It is easy to make, but time intensive. Put on your favorite music and enjoy the process. Your friends and family will thank you.
The dough comes together quickly thanks to a mixer.
Once it has doubled in size (over an hour), roll out the dough.
Make sure you have your sugar/walnut mixture and your melted butter ready.
Roll each ball in the butter and then the sugar mixture. Give each ball space in the dish as it will expand during cooking.
Drizzle with your favorite jam. I used homemade peach jam because my husband ate my apricot jam before I could use it!
I stacked the ball in 4 layers in a 10″ pie plate.
I had extra dough so I was able to make cinnamon rolls and a small Aranygaluska.
Just out of the oven it looks like this.
Flip it over on a plate and let the oohs and ahhs begin.
I made this on Saturday and put the unbaked dish in the refrigerator overnight and baked it on Easter morning for a special treat hot out of the oven. Geshmak!
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 cup (235 ml) warm milk
- ½ cup (100 grams) sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
- 4 1arge eggs
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup plus 4 tablespoons
- (2½ sticks/282 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
- 4½ cups (600 grams)unbleached all-purpose flour (about)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups (180 grams) ground walnuts
- 6 tablespoons (83 grams) brown sugar
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons cake or butter cookie crumbs
- ¾ cup (150 grams) apricot or plum jam
- Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in the bowl of a standing mixer equipped with a paddle attachment. Add ¼ cup of the sugar, the eggs, orange zest, vanilla, and 1 stick of butter. Gradually add the flour and salt, beating until mixed. Cover the bowl and leave for an hour, or until the dough has about doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 10-inch round pan with some of the second stick of butter.
- Melt what is left of the second stick of butter plus the remaining half stick and put it in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the walnuts, brown sugar, remaining white sugar, cinnamon, and the cake or cookie crumbs.
- Roll the dough into a ½-inch-thick circle. Using a 1-inch cookie or biscuit cutter, cut circles of dough. Dip the circles first in the butter, then in the nut mixture and set in the pan, almost touching each other. After a layer is completed, spoon on dollops of jam. Make a second layer, filling in the holes with dough, then jam, continuing and rerolling until the dough is used up, ending with the walnut topping but not the jam. Bake in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown and set. Leave in the pan for a few minutes, then turn onto a plate and serve warm. You can either cut the cake or pull the sections apart.
I don’t know much about Jewish cooking, but I am learning quickly with Joan’s easy to follow recipes. I really admire her zest for historical exploration and her passion for bringing people together through their stories and recipes.
I am enjoying unearthing a new culinary nugget with each page.
…and then, she paused for thought.
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I received a copy of Joan Nathan’s cookbook to review. All opinions are my own.