As we head into the holiday season, the focus of all our celebrations will be on food. A new cookbook, "The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Tradition" by Amelia Saltsman, is full of recipes that can make great additions to any holiday meal. The recipes in the book are inspired by the farm-to-table movement and offer a fresh take on traditional and modern Jewish cooking.

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seasonal-jewish-kitchenThe book is divided into six seasons with seasonal foods that are guided by the Jewish holiday calendar. It's not a kosher cookbook, but it follows the basic precepts of not mixing dairy and meat in a dish or on a menu, and pork and shellfish are not used in any of the recipes. A thorough explanation of pantry and refrigerator ingredients used in Jewish cuisine precedes the recipes.

Starting with September and October, when the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashana falls, Saltsman fills each section with dishes that are reflective of what is available seasonally. In this way, it's no different than many other farm-to-table, cooking local, or seasonal cookbook. The recipes are appealing whether you're Jewish or not, like this side dish, Freekah with Kale, Butternut Squash and Smoked Sea Salt.

The freekah can be swapped out for farro or red or black quinoa if you prefer. This healthy, smokey side dish could work on the menu of any fall or winter holiday.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup freekeh (155 grams), preferably finely cracked
  • 1 small butternut squash, about 1¼ pounds (570 grams)
  • 1 small bunch tender kale, such as cavolo nero, about 6 ounces (170 g), or 1/4 pound (115 grams) loose-leaf baby kale
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) hot water
  • Smoked salt for finishing

Directions

  1. If using whole or cracked freekeh, soak in water to cover for at least 6 hours or as long as overnight, then drain well. If using finely cracked freekeh, skip this step.
  2. Halve the squash and remove and discard the seeds and fibers. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the squash halves, then cut into cubes no larger than 1 inch (2.5 cm). You should have about 3 cups (420 grams). If using a bunch of kale, strip the stems from the leaves and discard, then massage the leaves to tenderize, if you like. If using baby kale, skip this step. Roughly chop the leaves.
  3. In a wide pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the squash, the smoked paprika, and a little kosher salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is golden in places and crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pot and set aside.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon oil, the onion, and a bit of salt to the same pot and sauté until the onion is soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in the kale and cook for 2 minutes. Push the kale and onion to the side of the pot. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the freekeh and cook for 1 minute, stirring to coat the grains with oil.
  5. Stir in the water, squash and about 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until almost all the water is absorbed and the freekeh is tender, about 20 minutes.
  6. Uncover the pot and cook until all the water is absorbed, about 5 minutes longer.
  7. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the smoked salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.

"The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen" has 149 more recipes that will take you through the year with a fresh approach to Jewish food.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.