Category Archives: Recipes

Sweet and Spicy Ethiopian Style Haroset

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I was surprised to learn from many Jews who had grown up in Ethiopia, that haroset simply had never been a part of their Seder meal. But for those few who did have it, the addition of fresh ginger was essential to creating a paste that was both sweet and spicy. Because the Ethiopian diet traditionally has very little in the way of sweets, the haroset also became the dessert, spread over matzah either at the end of the Passover meal or during the long holiday week.

Recipe from “Too Good To Passover,” Section 1: Africa, Chapter 3: Ethiopia

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ETHIOPIAN STYLE HAROSET
(Date and Fig Spread with Fresh Ginger)

Yield: Serves 8 to 10 / Makes 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients:
1/2 pound Medjool dates (about 8 large), cut in half, pits discarded
1 pound dried Black Mission figs, quartered, stems discarded
1/4 cup peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger root
1/2 to 3/4 cup cold water

Steps:
1.
If your figs are dry and hard, place them in a small bowl filled with enough cold water to cover. Let the figs soak long enough to soften slightly, 1 to 2 hours. Drain well. (Figs should be soft enough to squeeze between your fingers.)

2. Place dates, figs, ginger root, and 1/2 cup water in a food processor and pulse until a smooth and thick paste (if you need to add more water, do it one tablespoon at a time so that it doesn’t become too watery).

3. Place in a small, decorative bowl and serve at room temperature with matzah.

 

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Stuffed Fila Triangles with Spinach, Lemon and Pine Nuts for Purim

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Fila Triangles Stuffed with Spinach,
Lemon and Pine Nuts

Yield: Serves 12 to 15 (about 60 fila triangles)

INGREDIENTS:
For Filling:
10-ounce package baby spinach leaves, rinsed and dried in salad spinner
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onions
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ to ½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 large egg, well beaten

For Preparing the Triangles:
1-pound box phyllo/fila dough, thawed according to package directions

2 sticks unsalted butter melted, plus ¼ cup vegetable or olive oil (mixed together)
(or 1¼ cups olive oil, if you would like dish to be dairy-free/parve)

Dish of sesame seeds (about ½ cup)

 

STEPS:
Prepare the Filling:
1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet and cook the onions, stirring, over medium heat until golden and soft, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the spinach, one handful at a time, and toss to coat with the onions and oil. When all of spinach has been added and mixed, cover and let steam over low heat until the spinach is cooked down and wet in texture, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the lemon juice and salt and continue to cook over low heat, uncovered,
until the excess liquid is cooked off, about 15 minutes.

4. Remove from heat. Drain any extra liquid and place the spinach in a medium-size bowl. Add pine nuts and mix well. Cool to room temperature (you can hasten cooling by placing the mixture in the refrigerator for 10 minutes). When the spinach has cooled, quickly mix the beaten egg into the spinach mixture.

5. Preheat the oven to 350° F.; Line two baking sheets or half sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Prepare and Stuff the Fila:
6. Unroll the fila pastry dough onto a large cutting board and gently smooth out with dry hands. With a kitchen scissors or very sharp knife, cut the fila in half widthwise, along the short end. Re-roll one half and securely wrap in a plastic bag, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil (fila will keep up to 1 week in refrigerator, but do not refreeze).

Cut the other half lengthwise into 3 equal strips 3 inches wide and about 12 inches long. Place the strips on top of each other to form one stack and cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel to keep the fila from drying out and crumbling.

7. Set up everything you will need before you on a counter top. Working with one strip of dough at a time, gently peel off a single layer of fila and place it vertically before you on a clean cutting board or other work surface. (Re-cover the stack of fila with the damp towel each time to prevent drying.):

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8. Using a pastry brush, coat the entire strip lightly with the butter-oil mixture. In the bottom left corner, about ½ inch from the left and bottom sides, place 1 teaspoon of the filling (too much filling will make it hard to fold and cause the triangle to burst in the oven):

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Fold the bottom right corner over the filling to the left-most side to form your first triangle shape. (Note: It should be a right triangle and the piece of the fila that you fold over should line up flush with the left side of the strip.):

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Dab the top of the triangle with the butter-oil mixture again. Bending at the top of where the filling ends, fold the dough straight up to form your first triangular shape. (Make sure that the triangle always stays a right triangle whenever you fold it!)

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Dab the top of the triangle with the butter-oil mixture again. Folding along the diagonal of the triangle, fold the bottom left corner up to the top right, making sure that the angles remain square:

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Fold the extra flap of fila dough on the right side over the triangle to the left:

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Fold the triangle up again along the diagonal side from the bottom right corner to the top left corner. Dab with the butter-oil mixture and keep folding back and forth until fila strip is finished and you are left with a complete triangle:

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9. Brush the loose edge and top with butter-oil mixture one last time and dip one side of the triangle into the dish of sesame seeds:

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You may freeze the triangles at this point layered between pieces of parchment or wax paper in a large air-tight container or tin wrapped with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. When ready to bake, spread the frozen triangles out onto 1 or 2 baking sheets and bake immediately without thawing until they become slightly brown on the outside and soft and fully cooked on the inside. Will keep in the freezer for up to 4 weeks.

Place the triangles on the baking sheet sesame seed side up about 1 inch apart. Repeat with the remaining fila strips and filling:

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10. Bake the finished triangles until slightly brown, about 15 minutes. Place on a large platter and serve warm or at room temperature.

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Breaking the Bread “Fast” with Something Sweet: Mimounah arrives just in time

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Tomorrow night, Saturday, April 7th, 2018 is the last night of Passover when many of us will be breaking our week-long bread “fast” with something special. For North African Jews in particular it is time to prepare for the Mimounah celebration with a variety of pastries, sweets and confections. (For further explanation on this festival please go to my blog page.)

The following recipe was taught to me by Colette Nahon who grew up in Orán (the Spanish pronunciation, or Wahran — in Arabic), a city along the northwestern coast of Algeria where many Spanish people once settled. While the name mantecaos derives from the Spanish word mantequilla, meaning “butter,” or even more closely to the word manteca for “shortening” (which in Spain was usually pork fat), this Jewish/kosher version uses vegetable oil instead, making it something easy to serve following a meat meal. Because it contains flour, Colette usually prepares this specialty for the Mimounah holiday when flour products such as cakes, cookies, and breads are served to mark the end of Passover. Mantecados are a cookie commonly prepared for Christmas in the Iberian Peninsula (a region including Spain, Portugal, Andorra, Gibraltar, and a small part of France) and made with lard or butter. What is most interesting is that through this cookie one can trace the Sephardic lineage of the Jews who fled the Inquisitions during the very end of the 1400s and settled in Algeria, bringing this cookie along with them.

Recipe from “Too Good To Passover,” Section 1: Africa, Chapter 1: Algeria

Mantecaos (No-Butter Butter Cookies with Cinnamon)
(Parve)
Yield: Serves 15 / Makes almost 4 dozen 1-inch cookies

Ingredients:
1 pound all-purpose flour (about 3 level cups, but more accurate if weighed)
¾ cup sugar
1 cup vegetable or safflower oil
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Steps:
1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Combine flour with sugar in a medium size mixing bowl.

3. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the oil. Mix well until all of the oil is absorbed and the mixture can easily be formed into a soft dough.

4. Scoop out one level tablespoon of dough using a measuring spoon or melon ball scoop, and gently roll it into a ball. (Note: It is important that the ball of dough not be larger than 1 level tablespoon, otherwise the baking time, texture, and final size will be affected.) Use your thumb to slide the dough out of the spoon and onto the parchment paper on the baking sheet. Leaving about 1 inch between each ball, continue to scoop out and roll dough until is finished.

5. Make a shallow indent in the center of each ball with your thumb and flatten them down ever so slightly. (If this makes the ball of dough crack a little around the edges, leave it! This — according to Colette — is what makes the cookie look homemade.)

6. Sprinkle the center of the dough (where the thumb print is) with about
1/16 teaspoon of cinnamon and bake on the top and middle rack of the oven until they begin to crack slightly along the bottom edges, and only the very bottoms are golden brown, 27 to 28 minutes on the middle rack and 25 to 26 minutes on the top rack.*

*(Note: These cookies should become a “sandy,” white color on the outside, and retain a pale, “snowy” color on the inside, with only the very bottoms slightly browned. Once fully cooled, the resulting texture should be a tiny bit crunchy on the outside and crumbly on the inside, which Colette says should “melt in your mouth.”)

7. Allow the cookies to fully cool and harden before serving, about 30 minutes. Store cookies between layers of parchment paper in an air-tight container at room temperature up to one week, or in the freezer up to one month. Bring to room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.

For another Mimounah recipe, see Moroccan Cigares aux Amandes

Grandma Fritzie’s Syrian Passover Soup

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Today’s post by the Jewish Food Society shows my family recipe for Kibbeh Hamdah, a Syrian soup made with lamb meatballs, dried mint, and lots of lemon. If you like tart flavors, this is the dish for you. Enjoy!

 

Moroccan Date-Raisin Haroset “Truffles”

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Moroccan Style Haroset
(Cinnamon Dusted Date-Raisin “Truffles” with Walnuts, Rolled in Cinnamon)
Yield: Serves 12 / Makes approximately 3 cups or 4 dozen 1-inch balls

A recipe from my cookbook Too Good To Passover: Sephardic & Judeo-Arabic Menus and Memories from Africa, Asia and Europe, Section 1: Africa, Chapter 5.

This Moroccan haroset is shaped into a small ball, then rolled in ground cinnamon to resemble an elegant truffle. For the most impressive way to serve visually, stack balls on top of one another into a pyramid shape on an elegant platter alongside any other more classic haroset spread in a bowl. When it comes time to eat, guests may help themselves to a single truffle and eat it straight, or pressed down between two small pieces of matzah as a sandwich.

For Haroset:
1 cup walnuts

½ cup slivered almonds
12 large Medjool dates or 20 regular-size dates, pitted and cut into large pieces
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup dark raisins
3 to 4 tablespoons sweet Passover wine, such as Manischewitz

For Serving:
1 box of matzah/matzo squares or mini matzah crackers

Cinnamon (for rolling and dusting the outside)

DIRECTIONS:
1. Place the walnuts and almonds in the food processor and pulse until coarsely ground, but not into a meal-like consistency (about 30 seconds).

2. Add the dates and raisins and combine in the food processor for about 30 seconds.

3. Add the wine and pulse until the mixture becomes a soft paste.

4. Taking one level tablespoon (or mini melon ball scoop) at a time, roll the thick paste into 1-inch balls* (if the paste is sticking too much to your hands, try dipping your hands in cold water and then rolling them).

5. When all of the balls have been rolled, pour a couple of tablespoons of ground
cinnamon onto a small plate and gently roll each ball in the cinnamon to lightly coat the outside. (You can also dust your hands with cinnamon and then roll each ball again
between your palms to lightly coat, whichever way is easier.)

6. Serve haroset balls at room temperature stacked in a small decorative bowl or on a small platter alongside tea matzahs. Store balls in a tightly covered plastic container between layers of parchment or wax paper in the refrigerator for up to three days, or the freezer for up to one month.

*Note: If you wish to serve the mixture in the more common way of a paste in a bowl, then add a little more wine or warm water to make a bit smoother and softer for spreading.

Spanish-Portuguese Congregation Mikvé Israel-Emanuel of Curaçao: Winner of the best haroset in 2011

The original Mikvé Israel congregation was created in the 1650s — a community formed by Iberian Jews from Holland, whose ancestors had once fled the Inquisitions of Spain and Portugal. After merging with the Sephardic Reform Temple Emanu-El in 1964,  the synagogue became known as “Mikvé Israel-Emanuel,” and affiliated itself with the Reconstructionist stream of Judaism. The building that stands today was built in 1730 by Spanish and Portuguese Jews from the Netherlands and Brazil, and is the oldest remaining synagogue in continuous use in the Americas. The Jewish population of Curaçao today is about 300 people out of 160,000 residents.

In a recent trip to Curaçao, my friend Katie Sanders and her family visited this synagogue shortly before Passover 2017. Katie was nice enough to send me the following photos of the synagogue:

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As explained in the synagogue’s brochure, the sand floor of the synagogue symbolizes the following three things:

  • The Sinai desert that the Israelites wandered in for forty years
    when fleeing Egypt for the Holy Land
  • The sand that the Spanish and Portuguese Jews once poured on the floors
    of their secret prayer rooms in order to muffle the sounds of their services.
    (During the Inquisitions, a Converso or “Secret Jew” could face
    life imprisonment, loss of property, and even death if discovered.)
  • God’s promise to Abraham:
    I will multiply your seed of the seashore and the stars in the heavens.
    — Genesis 13:16

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For more information, please go directly to the Mikvé-Israel Emanuel Website.

©2017 Photo by Myrna Moreno, Curator at the Jewish Cultural Historical Museum in Curacao. On Seder plate: Garosa/Haroset Ball, Lamb Shank Bone, Hardboiled Egg, Matzah, Celery, Radish

The following recipe — courtesy of Myrna Moreno and the Mikvé-Israel Emanuel Sisterhood — won Berlin’s 2011 “Milk & Honey Tour” for best haroset. Combining Sephardic and Caribbean ingredients, this haroset is rolled into balls, and is the most exotic I have ever seen or tasted!

GAROSA
(Sephardic Style Haroset Balls from “The Jewish Kitchens of Curacao”)
Yield: About 5 dozen balls

½ pound pitted dates
½ pound pitted prunes
½ pound raisins
½  pound figs
¼ cup lemon or orange peel
2 pounds unsalted peanuts
½ pound unsalted cashew nuts (optional)
1 pound dark brown sugar
½ cup honey
2 to 3 tablespoons cinnamon plus extra for coating
2 jiggers kosher wine
¼ cup orange and lime juice or watermelon and tamarind juice, if available.

  1. Grind fruits and nuts.
  2. Add the sugar, honey, cinnamon, wine and juices to form a moist but firm mixture.
  3. Roll into balls (about 1” to 1-1/2” in diameter) and coat with cinnamon.NOTE: These can be made ahead, wrapped individually in wax paper and placed in an airtight container in the refrigerator or frozen.

 

 

From Damascus to the Upper West Side: Syrian cooking with Nada Mahfouz

On January 31st, 2017 I received an email from a student who has attended several of my classes at the Institute of Culinary Education in lower Manhattan:

“This is an email introduction to those who love Syrian food. Dr. Zeizafoun tells me his mom is visiting from Syria and is a great cook — so of course I thought of you!”

— Daphne Semet 

P.S. I want leftovers. 

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I immediately responded and Daphne connected me to Nebras Zeizafoun, a doctor in New York City, whose mother had just arrived from Damascus (not long before the ban on individuals entering the U.S. from Syria was declared). After a few emails back and forth, Nebras and I were able to work out a short menu of dishes to prepare, as well as the ingredients list. A few weeks later, Nebras’ wife Lana (serving as my Arabic interpreter) came over with his mother Nada, who toted a bagful of baby eggplants, a jar of sweet red pepper paste, a container of dried mint (from Syria), and a corer with a long wooden handle. There was barely enough time to introduce ourselves when Nada walked into my apartment, took off her coat, and immediately found her way to my kitchen to start working (seriously). It reminded me of the no-nonsense Syrian women in my own family when it came to cooking in the kitchen, and I had to scramble for some paper and a pen to jot notes down. After an hour or two a few Arabic words came back to me, and we all relaxed a bit more into our roles as teacher, interpreter, and student/recorder.

Quick notes about what I learned was:

  • Syrian food requires a lot of oil and lemons
  • It’s not so easy to core a tiny eggplant (without breaking it)
  • Halabi food (from Aleppo) is sweet and tart combining fruit with meat, 
    while Shami food (from Damascus) is more garlicky-savory
  • American parsley leaves and stems are much tougher than Syrian parsley
  • Fruit and vegetables are much better in Syria than in the U.S.
  • Za’tar leaves are often used as well as the dried za’tar spice blend
  • You can’t use low fat yogurt (“like water,” Nada said)
  • My dried mint is not so great (after a few sniffs Nada pulled out her own jar
    of dried mint that she had brought from Syria)

The following is one of the dishes that we prepared that afternoon. Like many Middle Eastern recipes, there are several steps, and you serve it in multiple layers. 

Fattet Makdous
(Beef Stuffed Baby Eggplants with Tomatoes, Sweet Red Pepper Paste,
Pomegranate Syrup, and Tahini-Lemon Sauce)

Yield: Serves 6

*Combine the following for Tahini-Lemon Sauce and set aside:
1 cup whole milk yogurt
2 teaspoons crushed or very finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons pomegranate syrup or concentrate

*Note: For those of you keeping kosher, you can leave out the sauce entirely,
or make a non-dairy sauce combining the following: 
½ cup tahini (sesame) paste
¼ cup cold water

1 teaspoon crushed or very finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons pomegranate syrup or concentrate

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FattetMakdous_5_blog.jpgIngredients for Filling:
1 tablespoon sunflower or canola oil
¼ cup very finely chopped white or yellow onions
1 pound ground beef
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground paprika

Prepare the Filling:
1. Heat oil in a large skillet or frying pan over high heat for 1 minute.Add the chopped onions and cook until soft and transparent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the ground beef. Mix and press down with the back of a large wooden spoon to break up the meat. Cook over medium-high heat until brown, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the salt, nutmeg, cloves, and paprika and mix well. Continue to cook with the meat an additional minute or two. Remove from heat and pour into a small bowl to cool.

FattetMakdous_2_blog.jpgFattetMakdous_3_blog.jpgIngredients For Frying Eggplants:
24 baby eggplants (each about 3 inches long, these small eggplants are usually found in a special Middle Eastern or Turkish grocery), rinsed in cold water

2 to 4 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil, for frying

Prepare the Eggplants:
1. Trim off the stem of each eggplant and reserve tops in a small bowl.

(Note: Try to cut the minimum amount off so that most of the eggplant remains intact.)

2. Working from the stem to the bottom of the eggplant, peel off a strip of the outer purple skin to create a white stripe. In this same fashion, peel 2 or 3 more strips to create a design of purple and white stripes all around.

3. Core each eggplant, being careful not to break the outside shell. Place any excess pulp from inside of eggplant into the same bowl as the reserved stem tops.

4. Stuff each cored eggplant with about 1 tablespoon of the meat filling, pressing it in with your finger to make it compact. Take a small piece of the leftover pulp and press it into the top to plug the opening and prevent the filling from falling out while cooking. Place each stuffed eggplant onto a large platter or plate. (Note: Set aside any extra beef filling for sprinkling on top of the dish before serving.)

5. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Gently place in as many stuffed eggplants as you can and fry over high heat until browned on all sides, about 2 minutes. Remove each frying eggplant and place onto a clean tray.

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Ingredients for Tomato and Red Pepper Sauce:
1 tablespoon sunflower or canola oil

1½ cups coarsely chopped onions
(may also be cut into 1-inch strands)


½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground paprika
Kosher salt, to taste

½ cup tomato paste


1 tablespoon sweet red pepper paste
(sold in Middle Eastern or Turkish grocery stores)


2 tablespoons pomegranate paste or concentrate
(sold in Middle Eastern or Turkish grocery stores)

2 cups cold water

Prepare the Sauce:
1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan (about 10 inches wide and 8 inches tall) over high heat for 1 minute. Add the chopped onions or onion strands and cook until soft and transparent, about 5 minutes.

2. Mix in the nutmeg, cloves, paprika, and salt.

3. Add the tomato paste, red pepper paste, pomegranate syrup, and water and mix well until tomato paste dissolves.

4. Gently place each eggplant into the sauce (you can layer them to to fit, if necessary). Cook over medium-low heat, covered, about 10 minutes. Remove lid and simmer an additional 10 to 15 minutes for sauce to cook down and thicken slightly. Dish is ready when eggplants are soft.

5. Taste and adjust for salt if necessary.

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Layer and Serve the Fattet Makdous in the following manner:
1. Line the bottom of a large serving platter or large wide bowl with about 2 cups of
pita chips (if preparing for Passover, use broken up pieces of matzah instead).

2. Pour the tomato-pepper sauce over the pita chips (or matzah pieces).
3. Place each cooked eggplant on top of the sauce.
4. Sprinkle the top of the eggplants with any extra cooked meat filling.
5. Sprinkle the top of the meat with a few tablespoons of flat-leaf parsley leaves.
6. Finish the dish with a few tablespoons of slivered almonds or pistachios (if desired).
7. Serve immediately.

Sah’tein! (“To Your Health,” in Arabic.)

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