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Learning a Ramadan favorite from Hanan Rasheed to kick off the month-long holiday.

The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic word ramida meaning “be burnt, scorched,” referring to the first time the holiday was supposedly observed which was a summer month.1

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The Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which takes place in the 9th month of the Islamic (lunar) calendar, is marked by the first sighting of the new moon or crescent (hilal) and lasts 28 to 30 days for all the phases of the moon. Because the estimated start date for Ramadan 2019 is Sunday, May 5th, Muslims all around the globe will begin to look for the first glimpse of the new moon around May 3rd in order to determine the official start to the holy month of fasting. Some will look to their local imam for the official announcement while others may follow what is declared by the Judicial High Court in Saudi Arabia. Once the official announcement has been made, Muslims will call friends and family members to congratulate them with “Koulu am weh entoum salameeneh,” meaning “Many happy returns” or “Ramadan kareem” (“a great/generous Ramadan”).

During this month-long holiday Muslims worldwide will fast from dawn until sunset each day in order to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) by the angel Gabriel — an act that is considered to be the fourth of the five pillars of Islam. (The five bases of the Islamic faith are as follows: shahada [confession/declaration of faith], salat [prayer], zakat [almsgiving/charity], sawm [fasting, especially during the month of Ramadan], and hajj [pilgrimage to Mecca].2

Between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan, adults are expected to abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and sexual relations. (From sundown until sunrise the next morning they can continue with their normal routine, and fasting is mostly waived for the young and adults with certain issues related to health.)

The emphasis of the holiday is on self-sacrifice, charity, gratitude, and reflection. Ramadan  is not only a month of fasting and prayer, but a period of spiritual healing and devotion to Allah (God). It is a time to feed the hungry and the poor, and catch up with family and friends.2

Eid al-Fitr (“festival of the breaking of the fast”) begins with the first sighting of the new moon on the first day of month of Shawwal marking the end of the fast of Ramadan. The festival lasts for three days and is a period of prayer, giving, and forgiveness. During this period Muslims will celebrate by giving gifts to family members and donations to charities, wearing new clothing, and feasting on a variety of savory and sweet dishes.Family members, friends and neighbors will wish one another Eid Mubarak meaning “have a blessed festival.”

Ramadan is like the arrival of the most special guest — aziz — someone whom you prepare and wait for all year long from one Ramadan to the next.

— Hanan Rasheed

I met Hanan Rasheed, a Palestinian-American, in February of 2019 while teaching a cooking class at ICE (the Institute of Culinary Education of New York). She was a culinary arts student at the time and came into my class to introduce herself after seeing my cookbook “Too Good To Passover: Sephardic & Judeo-Arabic Seder Menus and Memories from Africa, Asia and Europe” on display outside the classroom kitchen. Two days later we were sitting down together in a café discussing our equal love for Middle Eastern food and culture, and figuring out ways to bring people together through it.

Hanan is the creator of “Healing Table” where she prepares Middle Eastern themed pop-up dinners in order to bring individuals from all faiths and backgrounds together. A big part of what motivates her to organize these dinners is conflict resolution between Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims, through their shared history of food and culture.

On Friday, May 3, 2019, Hanan came to my Upper West Side apartment to talk about her memories of Ramadan as a child while growing up in the West Bank village of Dibwan, and to show me how to prepare Qataiyif (a stuffed and baked pancake with walnuts and cinnamon that is dipped in rose water syrup). The recipe reminded me of the Syrian version in my cookbook A Fistful of Lentils pronounced Atayif, which is fried then dipped in the syrup.

The following is a photo journal with the recipe that she showed me.

Hanan Rasheed’s Qatayif ma’eh Juz
(Walnut-Stuffed Pancakes with Cinnamon, Cardamom,
and Lemon-Orange Blossom Water Syrup)

Yield: Makes about 3½ dozen four-inch pastries

INGREDIENTS:

For Pancake Batter:
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon yeast
5 cups warm water (¼ cup for yeast mixture + 4¾ cups for main batter)
2 cups semolina
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons warm milk

For Walnut Filling:
1½ cups raw walnut halves
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoons sweet/unsalted butter, melted

For Rose Water Syrup (Ater):
2 cups sugar
2 cups cold water
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons orange blossom water

For Frying, Baking and Serving the Pancakes:
4 to 5 tablespoons vegetable oil,
for greasing the skillet and brushing the pastries before baking

2 half sheets or large baking trays lined with parchment paper

3 tablespoons sweet/unsalted butter, melted,
for brushing the outsides of the stuffed pancakes

1 pastry brush

2 tablespoons finely ground pistachios, for sprinkling on top of pastries before serving

 

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the Pancake Batter:

  1. Combine 1 tablespoon of sugar, yeast, and 1/4 cup of warm water in a small bowl. Place in a warm location and let sit for 10 minutes or until bubbles form on the top (the sugar and warm temperature helps to activate the yeast).
  2. In a medium sized mixing bowl combine the semolina, flour and salt.
  3. Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Add the 3 tablespoons of warm milk and the remaining 4¾ cup of warm water and whisk together into a smooth batter. Pour mixture into a large blender and pulse until very smooth (if necessary blend in batches). Pour mixture back into your bowl, cover, and let sit for 20 minutes at room temperature. Meanwhile prepare the walnut filling and syrup.

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Prepare the Walnut Filling:

  1. Place the walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom into a food processor and pulse just until walnuts are coarsely ground, 15 to 30 seconds.
  2. Pour mixture into a small bowl and combine with the melted butter.
    Set aside and prepare the syrup.

Prepare the Syrup:

  1. Combine the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan and bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a medium-low heat and simmer for 15 minutes until sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture has turned into a light syrup.
  2. Remove the syrup from the heat and mix in the rose water. Set aside to cool and start to cook the pancakes.

Cook the Pancakes:

  1. Lightly grease a medium sized non-stick skillet with oil and warm over a
    medium heat for 1 minute.
  2. Mix or whisk the pancake batter. Using a ¼-inch measuring cup, scoop out ¼ cup of the batter and pour into the hot skillet. Cook until the bottom is golden brown and the top is soft but feels dry to the touch, about 2 minutes. (Note: You will only be cooking the bottom side; you want the pancake to be cooked enough so that it has a nice golden color on the bottom but remains pliable enough to fold and stuff in Step #12. If the pancake is overcooked and dries out it will break when folded and will not seal shut along the edges.)
  3. Remove the pancake and place onto a piece of parchment paper with the cooked/golden side down. Cook a second pancake in the same fashion then stack it on top of the first pancake on the baking sheet. (Note: When you stack the second pancake on top of the first it should be flipped over so that the golden side is up facing you, and the white side with the bubbles is on the bottom. This helps to keep the pancakes soft until you are ready to stuff and fold them.) Continue to cook and stack the pancakes, 1 to 3 at a time, until all the batter has been used up.

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Stuff the Pancakes:

  1. Place one pancake on the countertop or a clean cutting board so that the white/bubble side is facing up. Put 2 tablespoons of the ground walnut mixture in the middle of the pancake and spread it out into a horizontal line from left to right. (Note: Be careful to keep the nuts away from the edges of the pancake or you will have trouble sealing it closed in the next step!)
  2. Fold the pancake up from the bottom to create a semi-circle shape, and pinch the edges together so that the pancake is sealed shut. (The topside of the pancake should be a little softer and slightly sticky enough to hold the pancake together.) Place the stuffed pancake onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and continue in this manner until all the pancakes have been filled.

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Bake and Serve the Pancakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. As oven heats up, brush the top of each stuffed pancake with the melted butter.
  2. Place the baking trays on the bottom and lower-middle racks of the oven and
    bake until slightly crispy on top, about 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and immediately dip each pastry into the cooled syrup to fully coat. Cool for 10 minutes on the parchment paper. Serve warm or at room temperature arranged on a platter or plate sprinkled with the ground pistachios as decoration.

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Qatayif_9

Sahten!


1. https://www.etymonline.com/word/ramadan

2. Bakhtiar, Laleh. Ramadan: Motivating Believers to Action: An Interfaith Perspective.
The Institute for Traditional Psychoethics and Guidance, Kazi Publications, Inc.,
Chicago, 1994.

3. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Eid al-Fitr.” [www.https://www.britannica.com/topic/Eid-al-Fitr],
Encyclopedia Britannica, inc., March 20, 2019, (Accessed April 25 2019).

IACP Finalist in Best Self-Published Cookbook Category!

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“Too Good To Passover” has been entered as a finalist in this year’s Self-Published Cookbook Category! Winners will be announced at the IACP awards ceremony on May 18th in Santa Fe. Will keep you posted!

Remembering Grandma Fritzie

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On May 22, 2001, Grandma Fritzie passed away on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
I have been thinking a lot about her lately.

Only a week ago I received an email by a woman named Francine in Tucson who had purchased  a lithograph by my grandmother at an estate sale.

After doing a search online Francine came across my website and information about the life of my grandmother. She was intrigued by her strong personality and drive to be a female artist in the sixties and seventies, and was reminded of her own Brooklyn born Italian-American family, with their large family gatherings that centered around great food. When I received this email with the photo of my grandmother’s lithograph, I was happy to know that her artwork was keeping the memory of her alive. 

Unfortunately Grandma Fritzie never got to see my cookbook “A Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes From Grandma Fritzie’s Kitchen” when it was officially printed in 2002. But I am so very grateful that I spent so much personal time with her while writing it. This book was what brought me into the world of recipe recording and teaching, and Syrian food was my first lesson.

 

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Painting by my grandmother hanging in my apartment, possibly a self portrait from the 1960s

Very recently I received a letter from the publisher that all rights to the cookbook had been reverted back to me. My first reaction was to feel sad because I thought that if my cookbook was no longer being printed, my grandmother’s, mother’s and family’s stories and recipes would be forgotten (which was the whole point of writing this book to begin with!). But then I realized this was an opportunity for me to take back my book and relaunch it with revised (and possibly even new) recipes. I have learned a lot about self-publishing this last year when “Too Good To Passover” was released in January, and it almost feels like “A Fistful of Lentils” has finally come back home to me in my care. 

By the end of this year I hope to relaunch a new edition to “A Fistful of Lentils” that will continue to keep my family’s stories and recipes, and the Syrian-Jewish culture alive. Stay tuned! 

 

 

 

Happy 70th Birthday Israel! My podcast with Steven Shalowitz on popular Israeli foods and their origins

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In honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary (April 18, 2018), I was interviewed by Steven Shalowitz to discuss popular Israeli food for JNF’s Podcast (the Jewish National Fund), IsraelCast. Tune in as we discuss the origins of shakshuka, borekas, felafel, hummus, halvah, the biblical herb za’tar, and shnitzel. (I will even talk about how pastrami became a Jewish-American deli favorite!)

Click here for JNF’s Podcast, IsraelCast
(Scroll down to “Episodes” and you will find it listed first as
episode 25, Culinary Expert Jennifer Abadi.)

Note:
In the second half of my talk I will also briefly discuss my new cookbook
Too Good To Passover.

 

 

A Matzah Mosaic Decorating Party!

The whole idea behind the Passover holiday is to get the kids involved. What better way than to have a matzah decorating party? Every year my kids enjoy decorating sheets of matzah that we give to our guests as gifts to take home with them after the Seder meal. Just melt chocolate and paint it on using pastry brushes, then stick on your favorite candies, sprinkles, or chopped up nuts and dried fruit. It’s fun for adults as well! Make sure that the chocolate has dried completely before placing into Ziploc baggies and storing in the freezer until ready to eat. You need only defrost about 20 minutes before.

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The One Way Ticket Show: My trip to the Ottoman Empire to meet the Sultan.

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In a recent interview by Steven Shalowitz for his podcast The One Way Ticket Show, I was asked the following question: “If I gave you a one-way ticket, past, present, future, real, imaginary or state of mind, where would you go?” (Remember — there’s no coming back!)

Putting aside the fact that by going back in time I would be giving up some of the great discoveries in medicine, technology, and advancements in human rights, I chose to go back to the Golden Age of the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the mid 1500s. (I had briefly considered the golden age of Jewish culture in Spain in the 8th and 9th centuries, but decided I didn’t want to be stuck there once the Inquisitions began.)

One Way Ticket Show

 

 

The Seder gift that is (really) “Too Good To Passover!”

Now that Purim is over, the countdown for Passover has begun! If you are hosting a Seder or invited to one as a guest, don’t forget to make Too Good To Passover a part of your holiday.

Please spread the word to your friends, colleagues, and family.
(And thank you for leaving a book review! 🙂 )

CLICK HERE TO ORDER in the U.S.A.

For those of you outside of the U.S. you can order my book and have it shipped directly from the local Amazon in the following countries:

CANADA
FRANCE
SPAIN
ITALY
GERMANY
U.K. & IRELAND
NETHERLANDS

Thank you,

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Jennifer

About Too Good To Passover
Too Good To Passover is the first Passover cookbook specializing in traditional Sephardic, Judeo-Arabic, and Central Asian recipes and customs (covering both pre- and post-Passover rituals) appealing to Sephardic, Mizrahic, and Ashkenazic individuals who are interested in incorporating something traditional yet new into their Seders.

A compilation of more than 200 Passover recipes from 23 Jewish communities, this cookbook-memoir provides an anthropological as well as historical context to the ways in which the Jewish communities of North Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean, and Middle East observe and enjoy this beloved ancient festival.

In addition to full Seder menus, Passover-week recipes, and at least one “break-fast” dish, each chapter opens up with the reflections of a few individuals from that region or territory. Readers can learn about the person’s memories of Passover as well as the varying customs regarding pre-Passover rituals, including cleaning the home of all hametz or “leavening,” Seder customs (such as reenacting the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt), or post-Passover celebrations, such as the Moroccan Mimouneh for marking the end of the week-long “bread fast.” These customs provide a more complete sense of the cultural variations of the holiday.

Too Good To Passover is a versatile and inspiring reference cookbook, appealing to those who may want to do a different “theme” each Passover year, with possibly a Turkish Seder one year, or Moroccan one the next.

See inside my book! Sample Spreads:

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The following 3 e-booklets are
also available on Amazon
:
E-BOOKLET 1: Seder Menus and Memories from AFRICA
(Pages 1-223/Chapters 1-6:
Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia)

E-BOOKLET 2: Seder Menus and Memories from ASIA
(Pages 225-473/Chapters 7-13:
Afghanistan & Bukharia, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria & Lebanon, Turkey, Yemen)

E-BOOKLET 3: Seder Menus and Memories from EUROPE
(Pages 475-665/Chapters 14-18:
Bulgaria & Moldova, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal & Gibraltar)

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About Jennifer Abadi
Jennifer Abadi lives in New York City and is a researcher, developer, and preserver of Sephardic and Judeo-Arabic recipes and food customs. A culinary expert in the Jewish communities of the Middle East, Mediterranean, Central Asia, and North Africa, Jennifer teaches cooking at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) and at the Jewish Community Center Manhattan (JCC). She also offers private lessons and works for a variety of clients in the New York City area as a personal chef. In addition, Jennifer provides Jewish food and culture tours on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Her first cookbook-memoir, A Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes From Grandma Fritzie’s Kitchen is a collection of recipe and stores from her family. Too Good To Passover is her second cookbook.

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