Reviewing “Perfect Flavors: Creative, easy-to-prepare recipes inspired by my family and travels.” By Naomi Nachman. Artscroll Mesorah Publications Ltd. 2018. English. Hardcover. ISBN-13: 978-1422622384.
“Perfect Flavors” is Naomi Nachman’s tribute to the world’s many cultures and cooking styles, with beautiful photographs by Miriam Pascal. Nachman’s career has taken her from the embrace of a loving home in Australia, where she enjoyed the elegant traditional cooking of her mother and grandmother, to travels around the world as a cooking instructor, personal chef and cooking show host. Beginning with her seminary year in Israel, Nachman developed an appetite for eating out in restaurants where she could sample the cuisine of the local culture. In “Perfect Flavors,” she reinterprets the dishes of many lands using kosher ingredients and her own flair for combining tastes and textures into exciting new flavor profiles. These recipes are easily accessible for the adventurous home cook. Browse through the pages to select recipes you want to try and take note of some of the less common ingredients they require; you may not keep them in your pantry or find them in the supermarket on your first try.
I sampled a few dishes at the “Perfect Flavors” book-launch party, held at Factory 220 in Passaic, New Jersey, on November 12 following a Jewish Food Media conference, and the day before Kosherfest, an industry trade show that draws kosher foodies and business people from all over the country, and probably the world. I spent the rest of the week making a large selection of the book’s recipes.
Nachman’s green shakshuka is a twist on the iconic Israeli breakfast dish, using sautéed spinach, leeks, onions and herbs instead of marinara sauce, topped by sunny-side-up eggs. It takes a little time though, so be prepared—I nibbled on a granola bar as I progressed through the chopping and sautéeing. Falafel-stuffed eggplant is listed as an appetizer, but I served it for dinner as a side dish along with shwarma turkey burgers, as the flavors and sauces were similar. The eggplant provided a contrasting smooth texture to the crunchier falafel. I loved the shwarma burgers, infused and topped with tahini sauce. The result is similar to kukfta (lamb) kebabs, which I make frequently. These burgers are a lighter version with similar flavor. I used three recipes for one meal: New England fish chowder followed by fried goat cheese and butternut squash salad and sweet chili salmon. I first tried fried goat cheese rounds in salad at a café on Emek Refaim Street in Jerusalem and only occasionally make them myself—it’s a little tricky to get the texture right with golden-brown crust and solid interior. These were delicious alongside the butternut squash cubes. The New England fish chowder was creamy and comforting, transporting me back to Massachusetts, where I went to college and lived for several years afterwards. Nachman’s sweet chili salmon was a real delight—tasty and very easy to prepare with bottled sauce and a quick combination of crunchy toppings.
For Shabbos dinner I made the crockpot onion and flanken soup. Genius! In the morning, onions and flanken go into the crockpot set on high and several hours later they are golden brown. Add broth and seasonings, and leave for another hour or until ready to serve. For the main, I made mole-inspired spare ribs (pronounced mo-lay), a Mexican dish with chocolate and spices. The chocolate gave the dish a deep, rich flavor with just a hint of sweetness to mellow the chili and peppers. For Shabbos lunch I served veal Milanese, schnitzel topped with a salad of mushrooms, tomatoes, arugula and basil in a lemon vinaigrette. Veal cutlets are more delicate than chicken but the thick-style breading insulated the veal well on the hotplate. For dessert we ate Drunken Brownies, baked and glazed with orange juice and triple sec liqueur, a good forerunner to a Shabbos nap.
I enjoyed my international travels in the kitchen! Thank you, Naomi Nachman, tour guide.
Crockpot Onion and Flanken Soup
Meat—yields 8 servings—freezer friendly
- 12 onions, sliced into half-moons
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 2 pounds bone-in flanken
- 4 cups beef, chicken or vegetable broth
- ¾ cup red wine
- ¼ cup red miso paste
1. Combine onions, salt, pepper and oil in a crockpot; stir to combine.
2. Add flanken to the crockpot; cover with onion mixture. Cover; cook on high for 4-5 hours, until onions are golden brown.
3. Add broth, wine and miso paste; stir to combine. Cook on high for an additional hour.
Miso paste is a paste made from fermented bean curd. Used primarily in Japanese cooking, it adds umami, depth of flavor, to the dishes. Miso paste is available in a variety of colors; the darker the color, the stronger the flavor. I use them interchangeably.
By Bracha Schwartz