In this multi-cultural melting pot, one enterprising family endeavors to bring a uniquely “New Mexican” spin to generations-old Ashkenazi and Sephardi recipes.
Thanks to Santa Fe, New Mexico’s historically inclusive culture, Jewish travelers will feel welcome. Reminders of how European Jewish immigrants helped build Santa Fe from the ground up can be found in every part of town, from world-re-nowned art gallery street Canyon Road to museums and public buildings. La Posada, one of Santa Fe’s poshest hotels and most coveted sites for weddings and bar mitzvahs (kosher catering available), was built out of the homes of German-Jewish immigrants Abraham and Julia Staab, instrumental in transforming the city into a trade center and state capital in the 19th century.
Even with five shuls and approximately 7,000 Jews among the greater population of 65,000, however, there are no stand-alone kosher cafes—surprising when one considers the well-documented impact the Staabs and other pioneers, entrepreneurs and artists had on Santa Fe. Chabad Santa Fe’s Rabbi Berel and Devorah Leah Levertov, however, believe there is no reason why there shouldn’t be a kosher restaurant in Santa Fe. While Devorah runs a small kosher “market” out of the family garage, and Santa Fe Chabad offers catering services as well as prepared meals-to-go ($40), they are diligently working to push things forward with the same pioneering spirit as their 19th century counterparts.
Rabbi Levertov recently worked with the Santa Fe Tortilla Company to make their production facilities kosher. A visitor can also get a taste of their vision now by contacting Chabad Santa Fe to attend one of their Friday Shabbos dinners or holiday events.
Every Shabbos and gathering is admittedly a labor of love, as Devorah Leah makes the rounds to different area supermarkets (Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Smith’s, and Albertson’s) and Santa Fe’s nationally acclaimed farmers’ market to stock up on provisions and produce. Every Friday, Devorah Leah and her daughters bask in the glow of a Georgia O’Keefe sunset and the warm, pungent aromas of New Mexico chili and spices as the different dishes that will comprise their late spring Shabbos spread.
“What makes New Mexico cuisine special and why I love it so much are the flavors,” affirms Devorah Leah as she checks on her green chili matzoh ball soup. “The way we prepare food on the holidays as well as every day is a mix of traditional (Ashkenaz) kosher food and New Mexican components such as the fresh green and dried red chilies. Every year we purchase a big stack of green chilies when they are in season in the fall, and we use both kinds throughout the year in everything. Though roasting chilies takes effort, the smell alone is worth it. We do chili-based stews for major holidays and events, and occasionally offer a chili cholent!”
SPICY TIPS FROM DEVORAH LEAH’S KITCHEN
A word on chili: “When using chili, I add accordingly for extra flavor. Here in New Mexico, people eat their chili dishes very hot, but you need to be careful as every chili pepper is different, and the longer you cook the dish, the more the chili flavor dilutes.”
Chili Chicken Soup: “I prep and combine one bag of carrots (chopped), one large sweet potato, three chopped zucchinis, a whole chopped onion, salt, pepper, garlic, a bunch of parsley and most importantly, two large roasted New Mexico green chili peppers, (no skin and no seeds) in a large pot with the chicken. Next, I fill the pot with water, bring to a boil and simmer for a few hours. The chili gives it a good kick!”
Chili Gefilte Fish: “I line the bottom of a pan with 8 ounces tomato sauce, black pepper, garlic powder, parsley and two tablespoons of lemon juice. I take all the parchment paper off of my gefilte fish, put two rolls into the pan, pour lemon juice over the frozen rolls and pour remaining half can of tomato sauce over the fish and lemon juice. Then sprinkle some garlic powder, red chili pepper, black pepper and parsley on top of sauce. I bake it uncovered for two hours at 350°F.
Chili Potato Side Dish: "Cut your potatoes into chunks and boil until soft, but be careful not to overcook them. Next, drain the water and add olive oil, salt, red chili pepper, fresh parsley, garlic powder and diced New Mexico roasted green chili pieces. If you can- not get these peppers in your area, or the peppers are not in season, you can use cans of hot roasted green chili pepper, diced. Mix it all together, serve immediately or keep warm in oven.”
New Mexico Taco Salad: “This is a mix of romaine lettuce, fresh tomatoes, black olives, avocado, red onions and roasted corn. What makes the salad ‘New Mexican’ is the dressing, which needs to be added in at the very last minute. The dressing is two parts of homemade medium or hot salsa, mixed with one part mayo. You then customize it with fresh diced green chili or red chili added to the dressing to taste. Finally, mix crumbled tortilla chips like those by Garden of Eden and top with more homemade salsa.”
Chabad Jewish Center of Santa Fe
Santa Fe Farmers’ Market
New Mexico Jewish Historical Society
The Jewish Federation of New Mexico Headquartered in Albuquerque, this organization provides services and information for Jews throughout the state.