Category Archives: Recipes

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:

CuracaoSynagogue_8

Katie_Evie.jpg

CuracaoSynagogue_1

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

CuracaoSynagogue_3

IMG_3504.JPG

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. 

FattetMakdous_1_blog.jpg

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

FattetMakdous_4_blog.jpg

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.

FattetMakdous_6_blog.jpg

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.

FattetMakdous_7_blog.jpg

FattetMakdous_8A_blog.jpg
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.)

Stuffed Grape Leaves: From Istanbul to the Upper West Side.

ElifOmer

Elif Omer, in my kitchen

Elif is from Istanbul, and her two daughters attend the same school as my girls on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. A few days before the first day of kindergarten (nearly three years ago), parents met for the first time in Central Park for a picnic, and that was when I was invited by Elif and her husband to join them as they set out a spread of Turkish delicacies, that included savory stuffed pastries called Borek, various homemade salads, and hand-rolled stuffed grape leaves. (They even had a large thermos-like canteen to serve hot Turkish tea!) This was when I knew that they were my kind of people, and I noted to myself that one day I would have to invite Elif over to cook and teach me some of her Turkish recipes.

Three years later, in late May 2016, I finally was able to organize a cooking date, and after dropping off the girls at school, Elif came back with me to show me some of her favorite vegetarian specialties. Stuffed grape leaves were at the top of my list so that is what we prepared first. Elif pointed out that in Istanbul (and perhaps Turkey overall) a bit of sugar and some dried currants are added to the filling to give a slight sweetness to balance with the saltiness of the grape leaves soaked in brine. The addition of a lot of cinnamon also gave it a nice Eastern flavor, that I thought was a bit different from the Greek kind that tastes more lemony. All in all you should give yourself about 3 to 3 1/2 hours so that you are not rushed and can take your time in carefully rolling each leaf. When finished, the stuffed leaves will be longer and thinner than the store-bought kind, and the outer leaves themselves should be tender with a slight bite, and not mushy.

Zeytinyagli Yaprak Sarmasi
(Stuffed Grape Leaves with Olive Oil, Rice, Cinnamon, Currants, and Pine Nuts)

(Yield: Serves 15 / Makes about 5 Dozen Stuffed Leaves)
Preparation Time: 2 1/2  to 3 Hours

INGREDIENTS:
One 32-ounce jar grape leaves, packed in brine

For Stuffing:
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup coarsely chopped white onions
1 tablespoon dried mint leaves
2 cups cold water
1/3 cup pine nuts
½ cup dried currants
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup Turkish style rice (such as Osmancik) or Calrose rice
(a medium grain California type of white rice — not sushi rice),
rinsed several times in cold water and drained

For Sauce:
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil mixed with 1 cup cold water

For Serving:
1 lemon

GrapeLeavesStuffed_Turkish_1

Grape Leaves, Olive Oil, White Onions, Dried Mint, Pine Nuts, Dried Currants, Salt, Cinnamon, Sugar, Turkish Rice or Calrose type

GrapeLeavesStuffed_Turkish_2

1. Dislodge the grape leaves from the jar and separate them gently. Place in a large bowl in the sink and rinse under cold running water. Set aside in a colander over a bowl to drain.

Prepare the Filling:
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat for 1 minute. Add the chopped onions and cook, mixing constantly, until soft and transparent, but not browned, about 7 minutes. Reduce to a medium heat.

3. Measure out the dried mint into the palms of your hands, then grind the leaves into a powder directly over the skillet with the onions.

4. Add the water, pine nuts, dried currants, salt, cinnamon, sugar, and rice and mix well. Simmer over a low heat, uncovered, until liquid is mostly absorbed and mixture becomes thick and porridge-like, 7 to 10 minutes. Turn off heat and pour into a large bowl to cool to room temperature.

GrapeLeavesStuffed_Turkish_3

Stuff and Roll the Leaves:
5. Separate the smaller leaves from the larger ones into two piles (setting aside the ripped ones just for backup if needed). Take a large skillet, about 12 inches wide and 2 to 3 inches deep, and line the bottom with some of the broken and smaller leaves that won’t be used.

6. On a clean work surface, spread one of the larger grape leaves out with the underside (veins) facing up and the base or stem closest to you (the shiny side should be the outside of the stuffed leaf once rolled). Place about 2 teaspoons of the filling on the bottom-most center of each leaf and using your fingertips, gently arrange the filling in a long horizontal line about 3 inches long. (Note: You might need to adjust amount according to leaf size).

GrapeLeavesStuffed_Turkish_4

GrapeLeavesStuffed_Turkish_5

Fold the bottom parts of the leaf over the filling.

GrapeLeavesStuffed_Turkish_6

GrapeLeavesStuffed_Turkish_7

Fold each side in right where the filling ends.

GrapeLeavesStuffed_Turkish_8

GrapeLeavesStuffed_Turkish_9

Continue to tightly roll upward, making sure that the sides are always folded and tucked inward to create a long, cigar shape.

GrapeLeavesStuffed_Turkish_10

Place on top of the leaves lining the skillet and continue stuffing and rolling as many leaves as you can until the filling is finished.

GrapeLeavesStuffed_Turkish_11

(Note: Make sure to place the rolled leaves very close together in the skillet, and if necessary, you can layer the stuffed leaves in a criss-cross fashion.)

7. Pour the olive oil-water mixture evenly over the leaves. Place a small plate directly on top of the leaves to compress them and prevent unraveling while cooking, then cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer 1 to 1½ hours over low heat, or until leaves are tender but not mushy, and rice filling is very soft. (Note: Check the leaves every half hour and, if all of the liquid is absorbed, add another ½ cup water mixed with 2 tablespoons olive oil.)

GrapeLeavesStuffed_Turkish_13

8. Remove from heat and cool, covered, to room temperature.

GrapeLeavesStuffed_Turkish_15

Serve at room temperature arranged nicely on a platter, with fresh lemon squeezed on top.

Afiyet Olsun! (Bon Appetit!)

 

 

Searching for a Jewish past through recipes with Jewish roots.

HeleneJawharaPiner_4_blog_MohamedJawhara

Photo by Mohamed Jawhara

This past October, I received an email from Hélène Jawhara-Piñer, a young French woman with Spanish roots (on her father’s side) who was preparing her doctorate in Bordeaux, a city with the largest Sephardic community in France. Helene explained to me that she was focusing on the Arab culinary heritage of 13th and 14th century Andalusian Spain, and by translating original Arabic and Spanish recipes and manuscripts from this same era she was hoping to trace the ways in which Arab Muslims, Catholics, and Jews once shared recipes and cooking techniques, finding where they diverged, and how they transformed dishes into ones still prepared today. I was very curious about Hélène’s area of study, as it overlapped with my own personal and professional interests in Judeo-Arabic and Sephardic cooking, and as a result the two of us became instant pen pals, writing back and forth about recipes, ingredients, and cooking techniques. After corresponding for about six months, Hélène decided to come to New York City to cook with me in the days leading up to Passover to learn some hands-on techniques of the Sephardic foods I was preparing for clients as well as for my own two Seders (which she also attended, along with her husband).

HeleneJawharaPiner_3_blog_MohamedJawhara
Photo by Mohamed Jawhara

While in New York City, Hélène further related to me how a few years ago she learned from an uncle on her father’s side that they once had Jewish family living in 14th century Spain, changed their name to Piñer (likely based upon their agricultural business in pine trees), a common practice forced upon Jews at this time. This knowledge of her own Jewish past sparked a personal interest in recipes that like she, had Jewish roots. Now the detective, Hélène began sifting through hundreds of recipes from this time period kept in the university’s library in search of those that either mentioned explicitly that they were Jewish (which was rare), inferred a Jewish origin according to ingredients used or more interestingly left out due to the laws of kashrut (such as using beef in a dish normally using pork, or vegetables like eggplant to replace meat all together, or olive oil in place of butter in a dish that also contained  meat), or used a particular technique (such as cooking a covered, single-pot dish for a long time in a low heat) indicating Shabbat.

During her visit, Hélène and I decided to recreate one particular recipe that she had translated from Arabic into French. The recipe was very general, written more like a long paragraph, using vague words like “spices” and “aromatics” in the ingredients list. Hélène explained that in her research she noticed that recipes from southern Spain and North Africa frequently used cinnamon, ground ginger, black pepper, and cumin, while aromatics likely referred to fresh coriander leaves (parsley was a later addition used mostly by Christians in places like Italy), bay leaves, onion juice, fresh mint, pine nuts, rosewater, and the leaves, skin, and pulp of an etrog — a Biblical fruit in the citrus family resembling a large bumpy lemon (something still used symbolically during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, an agricultural festival marking the end of the wheat harvest in the Land of Israel).

What fascinated me most was when Hélène explained that while Jews who remained in Southern Spain were forced to alter their dishes and ways of cooking so as to hide from the authorities of the Inquisition, those who fled to nearby Morocco were able to continue their original cooking techniques because they were protected (which ultimately preserved these recipes in exile). By examining traditional Moroccan recipes that continue to be prepared today by Sephardic Jews in the diaspora (outside of Spain), we can better learn about how these dishes were originally prepared then (before Jews, and ultimately Muslims, were forced to convert or leave).

The following is the recipe from which Hélène and I based our own creation. For those of you who know Arabic, you will see the word Yehudiy’yeh in its title (the second word reading from right to left), which describes this style of dish as “Jewish”:

PlatoJudio_Recipe_Helene_1A_blog

Plato Judío Relleno Oculto
(Jewish Style Layered & Stuffed Omelet Cake with “Hidden” Meatballs)

Yield: Serves 10 / Makes one 10-inch pie

INGREDIENTS:

For Ground Meat Layer:
1¼ pounds ground beef
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh coriander leaves
½ cup coarsely grated (not chopped) yellow or white onions
2 teaspoons rosewater
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons cold water
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt (if using kosher meat use only ¼ to ½ teaspoon)
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground fresh black pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (for frying)
2 bay leaves

For Meatball Layer:
1¼ pounds ground beef
¼ cup finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
½ cup coarsely grated (not chopped) yellow or white onions
2 teaspoons rosewater
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons cold water
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt (if using kosher meat use only ¼ to ½ teaspoon)
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground fresh black pepper

¼ cup matzah cake meal (for rolling meatballs before frying)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (for frying)

For Omelet Layer #1:
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons reserved oil from fried meatballs (or use extra virgin olive oil), for frying

For Omelet Layer #2:
5 large eggs, lightly beaten

For Topmost Egg Layer:
1 dozen large eggs, lightly beaten
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon rosewater

For Serving:
Coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
Toasted pine nuts and pistachios, coarsely chopped
Ground cinnamon

STEPS:

Prepare the Ground Meat Layer:
1. Combine all ground meat ingredients (except the bay leaves and oil) in a medium mixing bowl, squeezing together with your hands until smooth and soft.

2. Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet (preferably nonstick) over high heat for 1 minute. Add the bay leaves and fry for 30 seconds.

3. Add the ground meat in small amounts, breaking it up with the edge of the spoon so that meat cooks evenly and without large clumps. Cook until brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Pour into a bowl and set aside to cool. Clean and dry the same skillet to use for the meatballs.

PlatoJudio_1_blog

Prepare the Meatballs Layer:
4. Combine all meatball ingredients (except the matzah cake flour and oil) in a mixing bowl, squeezing together with your hands until smooth and soft.

5. Scoop out 1 level tablespoon of the meat mixture and roll it into a smooth, even ball (you can lightly wet your palms with cold water to prevent balls from sticking to your hands). Place the ball onto a large tray or platter, and continue in this manner until all of the meat mixture has been used up.

6. Place the tray of meatballs and a small bowl of the matzah cake flour before you, just to the side of the stove where you will be frying. Warm 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet (preferably non-stick) over high heat for 1 minute, then roll a meatball in the matzah cake flour and gently place it into the hot oil. Fill the skillet with several meatballs and fry each one until dark brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. As each meatball is browned, place it onto a separate tray or platter until all the meatballs have been fried. Being careful not to splatter and burn yourself, pour the hot oil into a ceramic or heatproof glass bowl and set aside to reuse for the omelets.

PlatoJudio_2_blogPlatoJudio_3_blog

Prepare Omelet Layer #1:
7. Combine all the ingredients (except the oil) for the first omelet in a medium bowl.

8. Warm 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil from the meatballs (or fresh extra virgin olive oil if you prefer) in a nonstick 10-inch skillet over high heat. Pour the egg mixture into the hot skillet and fry until firm on top and slightly curled along the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off heat and using a spatula, gently slide the omelet out onto a dinner plate or platter and set aside until needed. (Keep the oil remaining in the skillet to be used for the second omelet.)

PlatoJudio_4_blog

Prepare Omelet Layer #2:
9. Reheat the pan with whatever oil remaining in it over a high heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Pour the 5 beaten eggs for this second omelet into the hot skillet and cook until firm on top and slightly curled along the edges, 3 to 5 minutes (like the first one). Turn off the heat, and leave this omelet in the skillet to serve as the bottom layer.

Prepare Topmost Egg Layer:
10. Combine all the ingredients for the topmost egg layer in a medium bowl and set aside.

Assemble the Pie Layers:
11. Pour cooked ground meat evenly over the omelet remaining in the bottom
of the skillet.

PlatoJudio_5_blog

12. Gently slide Omelet Layer #1 (that you have sitting on a plate on the side)
on top of this ground meat layer.

PlatoJudio_6_blog

13. Arrange each meatball on top of this second omelet layer so that the omelet
is evenly covered (it is okay if there are spaces between the meatballs).

PlatoJudio_7_blog

14. Pour the Topmost Egg Layer mixture evenly over the top of the meatballs
to serve as the final layer of the pie (meatballs will be poking out and visible).
Cover skillet tightly and steam over low heat until eggs on top have solidified
and fused with meatballs and rest of cake, about 30 minutes.

PlatoJudio_8_blog.jpgPlatoJudio_9_blog.jpg

Serve Cake:
15. Cool cake 20 to 30 minutes, then run a thin plastic spatula around the edges to dislodge it from the skillet. Place a round platter or plate (larger than the skillet itself) on top of the skillet and quickly flip skillet over so that the meatballs become the base of the layer cake and the omelet becomes the top.

PlatoJudio_14_MohamedJawhara

Photo by Mohamed Jawhara

16. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the chopped mint leaves and toasted nuts and serve warm or room temperature cut into wedges.

PlatoJudio_12_blog

Recipe_PlatoJudeoRellenoOculto_Helene_1_GodWilling

(God Willing, He Will Come.)

 

Nargesi: A pie in love with itself.

NargassiFlower_blog

The name Nargesi comes from the Farsi word (Narges) for the Narcissus plant or daffodil, a sunny springtime flower (with either bright yellow petals and a deep orange center, or bright white petals with a deep yellow center) that has come to symbolize rebirth and renewal. This river bank flower is named after the Greek God Narcissus known for his extraordinary beauty, who subsequently drowned while admiring his reflection in a pool of water. Over time the term “narcissist” has come to define someone consumed with his or her own physical appearance or ego.

In my research on this dish I came across photos where instead of the eggs being scrambled with greens and herbs (as done in this recipe), the eggs were cracked open and poached directly on top of a bed of sauteed greens and onions, which visually resembles the Narges flower over leaves. I learned this unusual recipe from my friend Simona Shokrian, whose family would serve this for Passover. The resulting dish is more like a hearty frittata, mixed with herbs, spinach, and tiny meatballs, that you cut into wedges like a pie. Naima Abrishami suggests to sprinkle with lemou Omani (crushed Persian dried limes) to add a slight tangy flavor before serving.

Nargassi_6A_blog

Nargesi (Persian Egg “Pie” with Leeks, Spinach, Turmeric, and Tiny Meatballs)

YIELD: SERVES 6 TO 8

INGREDIENTS

For Meatballs:
1 large (1/2 pound) white onion, pureed in food processor (should have about 1 cup)
1 pound ground turkey (dark meat better since it has some fat) or beef

For Nargesi:
2 tablespoons grape seed, safflower, or vegetable oil
1½ cups coarsely chopped yellow or white onions (about 1 large)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white or freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin (optional)
1 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
1 cup finely chopped coriander leaves or 1/3 cup tarragon leaves
½ cup finely chopped dill leaves
4 ounces coarsely baby spinach leaves (about 7 loose cups)
2 cups coarsely chopped leeks (use dark green and white parts only) rinsed in cold water and drained, or 1 cup coarsely chopped chives
¾ cup hot water
6 large eggs, lightly beaten

For Serving (optional):
2 tablespoons ground or crushed lemou Omani (dried Persian limes)
or 1 to 2 whole lemou Omani, ground in food processor

STEPS:
1. Drain the excess liquid from the puréed onions and mix with the ground meat in a medium bowl.

2. Heat a large 5- or 6- quart pot with oil over high heat for 1 minute. (Note: Your pot should be about 9 or 10 inches wide, but no more or the final pie will be too thin!) Add the chopped onions and cook until soft and transparent, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the salt, pepper, turmeric, and cumin (if desired) and mix well. Cook 1 minute.

4. Reduce to a medium-low heat. Wet your hands lightly with cold water (to prevent sticking) and taking only 11/2 teaspoons of the meat mixture, form it into a small, smooth meatball the size of a large cherry. (Meat will be very soft and wet, so be gentle.) Drop the meatball into the pot and continue until all of the meat mixture has been used up. Cover pot and steam until solid and cooked through, about 20 minutes.

5. Drop in the parsley, coriander (or tarragon), dill, spinach, and leeks (or chives) and cover.
Steam until the herbs and spinach have wilted and softened, 10 minutes.

6. Pour the hot water over the top and mix gently so as not to break meatballs. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover, reduce to a medium heat, and cook for 15 minutes. Uncover and cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. (Eggs will cook too quickly if added to mixture when very hot.)

7. Once nargasi has cooled, re-warm over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Gradually pour in the beaten eggs while gently mixing with a spoon to distribute evenly. Partially cover and steam over lowest setting until eggs have solidified but are still soft and slightly wet in the center, 35 to 40 minutes.

8. Score and scoop out large pieces of the nargasi and arrange in layers onto a serving platter or plate. Serve warm with lemou Omani on the side for individuals to sprinkle on top of each serving, as desired.

Charazoti: Georgian Flavors Come Through in their Charoset.

Charoset_Georgian1_blog

version of this charoset was described to me by Irina Kazhiloti. The walnuts, which are commonly found in Georgian cooking, are added in a larger quantity than the rest of the nuts, while the addition of pears and peeled chestnuts give it a thick texture similar to a pâté. Try serving this with one or two other charosets at your Seder table this year!

Charazoti 
(Georgian Style Pear and Wine-Soaked Raisin Spread
with Walnuts, Hazelnuts, and Chestnuts)

Yield: Serves 8 to 10 / Makes About 2 1/2 Cups

For Charazoti:
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/3 cup whole raw almonds
1/2 cup peeled and cooked chestnuts (fresh or packaged)
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
Pinch of salt
2 ounces ripe pear, cut into cubes (about 1/2 cup)
4 ounces Red Delicious apple, cut into cubes (about 3/4 cup)
2/3 cup black raisins soaked in 2/3 cup sweet kosher for Passover red wine for 1 to 2 hours
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

For Serving:
2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds (or mixture of all three)

STEPS:
1. Pulse walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, chestnuts, sugar (if desired) and salt
in a food processor for about 30 seconds or just until coarsely ground and crumbly
(do not over grind).

2. Add the pieces of pear, apple, raisins (and the wine it was soaked in),
and orange juice and pulse until mixture becomes smooth and thick, almost like a pâté.

3. Place into an air-tight container and chill for 2 hours. Serve in one or two small decorative bowls garnished with chopped nuts. Charazoti may be store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Revisiting the Egyptian Sofrito: Test 3 is the charm.

had neither tasted nor even heard of a sofrito until one year while visiting family in France, my husband and I were invited to the home of Dinah Franco — a Sephardic Jew of Egyptian descent. Sofreír in Spanish means to sauté or “lightly fry,” and in Spanish, Portuguese, Caribbean and Latin American countries, a sofrito is a type of sauce made by cooking a lot of garlic, onions, and spices with various vegetables for a long period of time over low heat, so that it can be used as a base for cooking meat, other vegetables, beans or rice dishes.

The following recipe is one that I recreated after having tasted Dinah’s, which combines nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and turmeric, with a lot of garlic and onions. When I was first developing this dish I focused on getting the right balance of seasonings and ingredients down on paper, and when I later tested my recipe I found that the result was more like a soup than a stew. In this most recent third attempt I used a lot less liquid to braise the meat and cooked it over a lower heat for a longer period of time. The overall result was a thick, rich sauce that took on the flavor of the meat, and more of what a true sofrito should be.

Beef_Sofrito_Step1_blog

STEP 1: Gather and prep your ingredients (3 pounds beef stew pieces, 4 cups onions, parsley, 1 to 2 cups coriander leaves and/or parsley leaves, 4 to 5 tablespoons garlic, spices, 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, black pepper).

Beef_Sofrito_Step2_blog

THE SPICES: 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1 teaspoon ginger, 2 teaspoons turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.

Beef_Sofrito_Step3_blog

Beef_Sofrito_Step4_blog

STEP 2: Brown the meat in a large heavy-bottomed pot with a little oil over high heat, then pour into a separate bowl along with all of its liquid.

Beef_Sofrito_Step5_blog

STEP 3: Add a few tablespoons of oil to the same pot (no need to wash) and cook onions over medium-high heat until soft and transparent, but not browned. Add the garlic and while stirring, cook for 30 seconds.

Beef_Sofrito_Step6_blog

STEP 4: Add the spices, salt, and pepper, mix, and cook over medium heat for about 1 minute.

Beef_Sofrito_Step8_blog

STEP 5: Return browned meat and all of its liquid plus about 1 cup cold water to the pot. Add the chopped herbs and mix well. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a medium-low heat, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and cook an additional 1/2 hour until sauce has reduced and meat is so soft it can be easily cut with a spoon. (Note: If you like, you can scatter a few cups of potato pieces over the top and cook it with the meat for the last 1/2 hour as well.)

Beef_Sofrito_Step9_blog

STEP 6: Dinner is served.

 

 

 

 

 

The Seder

A Simple Passover Haggadah

Eshkol HaKofer

Sephardic Passover Dishes and Memories, from India to Italy!

too GOOD to PASSOVER

Sephardic Passover Dishes and Memories, from India to Italy!

In my Iraqi Kitchen: Recipes, History and Culture, by Nawal Nasrallah

Sephardic Passover Dishes and Memories, from India to Italy!

Bendichas Manos

a blog about living, cooking and caring in the Ladino tradition

KOSHER LIKE ME

COMING SOON

my madeleine

Sephardic Passover Dishes and Memories, from India to Italy!

A Kosher Christmas

'Tis the Season to be Jewish

SEPHARDIC FOOD

Exploring and celebrating Judeo-Spanish culinary heritage

%d bloggers like this: