I can’t stop thinking about zengoula. For weeks, I’ve been cooking from one of the best new books this year, The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen, by the gifted cook and writer (and my dear friend) Amelia Saltsman. Amelia is a native Californian whose Iraqi father and Romanian mother met and married in Israel before immigrating to Los Angeles. She's captured a world of Jewish food through the lens of her diverse family traditions and her own intuitive cooking style, and the result is food that we want to eat now—fresh and modern yet somehow still authentic and comforting.
Zengoula with Lemon Syrup is a great example of a traditional dish with a little twist that makes a big difference. Instead of plain sugar syrup, the pastries are soaked in fresh lemon syrup. The results are easy to imagine: more fragrant and wonderful and, I have to say it, “zingier” zengoula.
Amelia writes in her book: "Also known as jalabi, these crisp fritters, or funnel cakes, were adopted by Iraqi Jews centuries ago as the perfect fried food to celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah. Traditionally soaked in sugar syrup, they are infinitely more wonderful when infused with a tangy lemon syrup (in spring or summer, dip them in Rose Geranium Syrup). It takes only a few minutes to whisk together the forgiving batter the night before you want to serve zengoula, and the pastries can be fried early in the day you want to serve them. Or, make the frying a Hanukkah party activity. My cousin Elan Garonzik has vivid memories of our grandmother turning out perfect coils, which is how they're sold at Arab bakeries like Moutran in Nazareth and Jaffa. That takes a bit of practice. Free-form Rorschach-like shapes—seahorses, dolphins, geese—that magically appear as they bubble up in the hot oil are just as delicious. You will need to begin this recipe at least six hours before you want to serve the zengoula."
Recipe reprinted with permission from The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen by Amelia Saltsman. Published by Sterling Epicure, 2015. Photos by Staci Valentine. —Alice Medrich