As a huge fan of Sarina’s Sephardic Cuisine blog and app, I was thrilled to hear that she was publishing her first standalone cookbook, “Backyard Kitchen: Mediterranean Salads.” Published in the New York Times, NT Times Jewish Cookbook, and Joan Nathan’s Jewish Cooking in America: Expanded Edition (Knopf Cooks American), Ms. Roffe’s book includes many recipes handed down from mother to daughter with love and are traditional foods found in the Levant. Her grandmother, Ester Cohen Salem, immigrated to America through Beiruit and was the first to own a Syrian Jewish catering service Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Her backyard kitchen became the center of life for the entire Syrian community in Brooklyn.
Salads are common throughout the Middle East, although certain salads are only found among Sephardic families, such as Syrian-style potato salad and avocado salad. Many of these salads feature olive oil and lemon juice in dressings, but do not use lettuce as the Middle East is an arid region and water is at a premium.
As I am vegetarian, I LOVED the range of healthful salads here, including Sephardi-style beets with tamarind paste, fava bean salad with hard-boiled eggs, babaghanouj, fruited couscous (apple Craisin, cranapple carrot, seven species) and homemade pickles, another staple at Mediterranean and Middle Eastern tables (cauliflower, turnips, mushrooms). Other than tamarind paste and pomegranate molasses (both of which I always keep in my fridge!), the recipes use everyday ingredients. All recipes are labeled as parve or dairy. Other than one or two recipes that call for salmon and tuna, all are suitable for vegetarians. Certain recipes also feature video demonstrations on Sarina’s website. Handy notes also point out the origins and health benefits of each dish, along with suggested pairings.
This is a lovely addition to your cookbook library that is perfect for summer; these salads are light and refreshing (unlike many American-style picnic salads and coleslaws), chock full of colorful veggies and fruits, and the perfect way to use up summer’s bounty.