King Solomon's Table by Joan Nathan

King Solomon's Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World is the prolific author's most beautiful title to date, in my opinion. Joan Nathan is a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and food authority. In this book, she takes us on a trip around the globe focusing on Jewish foods.
 
Why King Solomon's Table? It is said that King Solomon dispatched ships to all corners of the ancient world sparking the melting pot of culinary cultures that continues today. 

Joan is generous in sharing her knowledge in these pages - the history, stories and the background on dishes - all riveting. Then we have the recipes, which are pure gravy - Macedonian Leek and Meat Patties, Persian Chicken Soup with Gundi, Indian Chicken with Cardamom, Cumin and Cilantro and Multi-Seeded Fennel-Flavored Challah - are just a few examples. King Solomon's Table is my kind of book - compelling stories, history and global flavors splattered throughout the 170 recipes shared. Bravo Joan! 
 
The author has a number of events planned to promote her title - check to see if she is in your area. Special thanks to the publisher for allowing us to share the recipe for Syrian Meatballs and providing five copies of this title in our giveaway.

Keftes Garaz, Syrian Meatballs with Cherries and Tamarind 
Ostian meat balls-Offellæ ostienses:

Prepare the meat in this manner: clean the meat [of bones, sinews, etc.]. Scrape it as thin as a skin [and shape it]. Crush pepper, lovage, cumin, caraway, silphium, one laurel berry, moistened with broth; in a square dish place the meat balls and the spices where they remain in pickling for two or three days, covered crosswise with twigs. Then place them in the oven [to be roasted], when done take the finished meat balls out. Crush pepper, lovage, with the broth, add a little raisin wine to sweeten. Cook it, thicken with roux, immerse the balls in the sauce and serve. 

-Apicius, De re Coquinaria (Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome), first century c.e.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
 
Meatballs
 
½ cup (50 grams) pine nuts
1 large sweet onion, diced (about 1½ cups/350 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 pounds (907 grams) ground beef

2 cloves garlic, minced 
¼ teaspoon ground Aleppo or Marash pepper 
½ teaspoon ground cumin 
1 teaspoon ground allspice 
¼ teaspoon cinnamon 
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 
2 large eggs

1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate 
2 teaspoons tomato paste or ketchup 
½ cup breadcrumbs, fresh 
 
Sauce 
 
¼ cup (59 ml) olive oil 
1 ½ onions, diced (1 1/3 cups/165 grams)   
1½ tablespoons tamarind concentrate 
2 cups (440 grams) pitted
sour cherries or frozen dark red cherries 
2 cups (440 grams) dried cherries 
Juice of 2 lemons

1½ teaspoons ground allspice 
Salt and pepper

1½ cups (355 ml) beef stock 
1½ cups (355 ml) red wine 
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or cilantro 
 
One of the great gifts of the Syrian Jews to gastronomy is this meatball dish. Fla- vored with tamarind sauce and dried and frozen sour cherries, this sweet and sour keftes meatball recipe has been handed down for five generations in the family of Melanie Franco Nussdorf, a Washington lawyer who loves to cook the dishes of her ancestors, from Aleppo. We can tell that Melanie's family recipe has been updated over the years, as it contains tomato paste, a relatively recent addition to Old World cooking. If you cannot find sour cherries, frozen Bing or dark sweet cherries will work just fine. 
 
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and toast the pine nuts by stirring often, in a small dry skillet over medium heat, until lightly brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove to a medium bowl.
2. To make the meatballs: Sauté the onions in the oil in a nonstick frying pan until lightly caramelized, about 20 to 30 minutes. 

 
3. Add the onions to the pine nuts, then add the ground beef, garlic, Aleppo or Marash pepper, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Break the eggs into the bowl and stir in the tamarind and tomato paste or ketchup, mixing gently with your hands until just combined, then add just enough breadcrumbs for the meat to become clammy. 
 
4. Take about 1½ tablespoons of meat and slap the beef several times into the center of the palm of your hand to emulsify. Shape into small meatballs, about 1¼ inches in diameter. Put on two rimmed baking sheets and bake for about 20 minutes, or until done but still juicy. You should get about 36 meatballs. 
 
5. While the meatballs are baking, make the sauce: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until transparent, then add the tamarind, pitted sour or frozen cherries, dried cherries, lemon juice, allspice, salt, pepper, beef stock, and wine. Simmer together for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened. 
 
6. Mix the meatballs with the sauce and serve, sprinkled with chopped parsley or cilantro, over rice. 
 
Note You can make this dish ahead and freeze if you like. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat in a pan, covered, over medium heat until warm. 
 
Tamarind
 
Tamarind, whose name comes from the Arabic word meaning "date from India," is an ancient sweet and sour fruit that actually originated in Africa but traveled very early to India and throughout the Middle East, then was brought by the Arabs and Jews to Spain and by the Spanish to Latin America. Within Jewish communities, you know a dish has Syrian roots if you find tamarind listed in the ingredients. 
Often used the way we use tomatoes today, to add acidity, depth, and sweetness to a sauce, tamarind has been a lovely flavor addition for centuries in Syrian, Persian, Iraqi, Georgian, and Indian Jewish dishes, as well as Sephardic dishes that eventually, in the 1500s, traveled with the Spanish and Portuguese to Mexico, the Caribbean, and other parts of Latin America, where it remains very popular today. 
The only catch is that tamarind is somewhat difficult to use-it has to be peeled, soaked, seeded, and then squeezed through cheese- cloth and mixed with sour salt, lemon juice, and/or sugar before being cooked down to a concentrate or paste. (Poopa Dweck's beautiful book The Aromas of Aleppo describes the process.) As soon as tomatoes came from the New World to the Old, the more easily used red tomatoes replaced tamarind in many dishes. The unique flavor and tartness of tamarind, however, is becoming popular again, with easily dissolvable tamarind paste concentrates and bulk tamarind dissolved in a little water now available from India, other parts of Asia, Latin America, and even Texas. 

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23 Comments

  • Siegal  on  4/30/2017 at 8:54 AM

    I own a bunch of Joan Nathan books my fav being Jewish cooking in America

  • JamieSchler  on  4/30/2017 at 8:55 AM

    Oh lord meatballs with cherries in the sauce! I want to make this! I own 2 of her cookbooks - Quiches, Kugels and Couscous and The New American Cooking.

  • stephdayl  on  4/30/2017 at 10:07 AM

    I don't own any of her other cookbooks but I can't wait to try these meatballs!

  • imaluckyducky  on  4/30/2017 at 12:41 PM

    No I do not

  • lgroom  on  5/1/2017 at 8:03 AM

    Well, I need this book. I have Quiches, Kugels and Couscous.

  • sipa  on  5/1/2017 at 12:46 PM

    I not only own all of Joan Nathan's book but I have given Jewish Holiday Kitchen as a gift to all of my siblings.

  • JenJoLa  on  5/1/2017 at 4:42 PM

    I don't own any Joan Nathan cookbooks, but I think I need to rectify that!

  • sgump  on  5/1/2017 at 4:45 PM

    Joan Nathan books in my collection include *The Foods of Israel Today,* *Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous,* and *The New American Cooking.* I'd love to add her latest!

  • monique.potel  on  5/2/2017 at 9:01 AM

    some of this reminds me of my childhood i would really love to win this book

  • Lem9579  on  5/2/2017 at 8:46 PM

    Yuca latkes with cilantro cream. I grew up eating yuca in Puerto Rico. Who knew it could be made into a Jewish dish.

  • RSW  on  5/5/2017 at 4:06 PM

    No I do not own any of her books.

  • AnnaZed  on  5/5/2017 at 6:40 PM

    I don't have any Joan Nathan books and now I feel that I must!

  • meggan  on  5/8/2017 at 2:26 PM

    No. but it looks like I should.

  • t.t  on  5/13/2017 at 12:42 AM

    No, I don't own any yet.

  • Uhmandanicole  on  5/13/2017 at 4:48 AM

    I do not own any of Joan Nathan's books. Yet!

  • elysek  on  5/17/2017 at 5:40 PM

    Joan Nathan is wonderful. I have Jewish Cooking in America, The Jewish Holiday Kitchen, and The Children’s Jewish Holiday Kitchen among others.

  • ckbks  on  5/19/2017 at 6:13 PM

    Yes, I own other books by Joan Nathan, including The Jewish Holiday Kitchen.

  • artmarcia  on  5/19/2017 at 9:03 PM

    King Solomon--known for wisdom an common sense--applied to cooking?

  • kate  on  5/20/2017 at 11:46 AM

    oh those meatballs! I can't wait to make them. I have two of Ms. Nathan's books and love and use both.

  • nomadchowwoman  on  5/22/2017 at 6:29 PM

    Considering how many cookbooks I do own, I can't believe I don't own a single by Joan Nathan--but this one I definitely want.

  • PennyG  on  5/26/2017 at 4:18 PM

    I do not own any of her books.

  • lsgourmet  on  5/27/2017 at 9:24 AM

    I own almost all of her books and never had a recipe fail me yet. We don't keep a kosher home. but good food is good food and her recipes prove the point!

  • RSW  on  5/30/2017 at 11:09 AM

    No

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