Category Archives: Break-Fast/Post Passover Recipes

Celebrating Shavuot with Syrian Rice Pudding from Aleppo

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Shavuot (meaning “weeks” in Hebrew) is both an ancient agricultural festival celebrating the wheat harvest in Israel, as well as a holiday commemorating the time when God gave the Torah to the Israelites at Mount Sinai.

Shavuot takes place on the fifth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, which is exactly 7 weeks plus one day from the eve of the second night of Passover. This 50-day period (known as the Counting of the Omer) connects the moment of salvation — when God brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt — to the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai — when the Israelites pledged their loyalty and devotion to God.

There are a few theories as to why culturally we eat dairy products for this holiday. But the most common explanation is that sweet dairy foods recall the biblical line in Exodus 3:8:

“So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.” 1

Because of the reference to milk and honey, many Jewish communities will make a point of preparing such dairy foods as cheesecake and cheese blintzes in the Ashkenazic world, or milk puddings known as Sütlaç/Sutlach in the Sephardic world or Mulhallabeya/Mahalabia in the Middle East.

You may also find more savory non-meat dishes prepared for Shavuot that don’t necessarily emphasize or even include dairy at all such as Marcoude (a North African potato-egg tortilla), fish with tahini sauce (in Lebanon and Syria), fish croquettes (in Greece) and couscous with vegetables (in Morocco).

The following is my family’s Syrian version of a honey-rice pudding from Aleppo. Interestingly enough Halab (the Arabic word for Aleppo) derives from the Arabic/Hebrew word meaning “milk.” The legend is that Aleppo, once the ancient capital of Syria, was where Abraham once milked his sheep to feed travelers and the poor. 2

Riz b’Haleb
(Syrian Rice Pudding with Honey and Rose Water)

Yield: Serves 5 to 7 (Makes about seven 1/2-cup servings)

Ingredients:

For Rice Pudding:
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons long-grain white rice
2 cups cold water
3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup mild tasting honey (such as clover)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons rose water

For Serving:
Ground cinnamon, cardamom, or nutmeg
Ground pistachios

1. Place the rice and water in medium-size saucepan or pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer over medium-low heat, uncovered, until most of the water has evaporated and the rice is soft (the water should be level with the rice), about 15 minutes.

2. Add the milk, mix well, and cook over low heat, uncovered, until the mixture starts to thicken, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

3. Mix in the honey, vanilla, and rose water, and stir well over low heat for 5 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature sprinkled with ground cinnamon, ground cardamom or ground nutmeg (you may also refrigerate and serve chilled; it will keep up to 2 days).


1 Exodus 3:8: New American Standard Bible. Biblehub.com.

2 Dan Ben Amos (2011). Folktales of the Jews, V. 3 (Tales from Arab Lands). Jewish Publication Society. p. 283. ISBN 978-0-8276-0871-9.

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).

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

Matzah Granola. Why didn’t I think of that?

Matzah_Granola_1_blogThe kosher food industry is getting more and more creative with their Passover food products, making life during the week-long holiday almost too easy to observe. While I’m not big on promoting ready-made products, I have to say that I find the name Matzolah, a Passover-friendly snack or breakfast treat that combines broken up matzah pieces with all the best ingredients of homemade granola, very clever. Recently I was down on the Lower East Side leading a Jewish Food Tour and while at Streit’s Matzo Factory, a box of Matzah Farfel caught my eye. With plans to make my own matzah granola, I bought the box. I was a little incredulous about the taste at first, because let’s face it: matzah ALWAYS tastes like, well, matzah. But the final result was crunchy, chewy, and delicious (and I know that my kids will love it). It’s also a fun way to use up leftover matzah pieces at the end of the holiday.

Let me know what you think!

 

CHEWY MATZAH GRANOLA WITH WHOLE ALMONDS, WALNUTS,
DRIED CRANBERRIES, AND HONEY

(Yield: Serves 8 to 10 / Makes 5 Cups)

INGREDIENTS:
Dry Ingredients:
4 cups matzah farfel or finely crushed (not ground) matzah pieces (about 1/4-inch pieces)

1/3 cup whole raw almonds
1/3 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios
1/3 cup walnuts
¼ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/3 cup dried cranberries, blueberries, or coarsely chopped cherries
1/3 cup coarsely chopped dried Turkish apricots or golden raisins

Wet Ingredients:
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup honey
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

STEPS:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.; Line a large cookie or baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a medium sized mixing bowl and set aside.

3. Combine the oil, maple syrup, and honey in a small saucepan.
Bring to a slow boil over medium heat and stir for 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and mix in vanilla extract.

4. Pour hot syrup over dry ingredients in the bowl and toss well until the
matzah pieces are evenly coated.

5. Spread the matzah mixture out on the parchment-lined cookie sheet or baking pan and place into the oven and bake 30 minutes until lightly browned, shaking or mixing every 10 minutes to make sure that all of it toasts evenly. 

6. Remove from oven and cool completely, about 30 minutes. Mix in the dried fruit, and store in an airtight container or in a Ziploc bag at room temperature up to 3 weeks. Serve with yogurt, milk, or as is like a snack.

Pepitada: Melon Seed Milk — a comforting break-fast drink?

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I had heard and read about a drink made from melon seeds, and it had always intrigued me. My first thought was: “Is it really possible?” Followed by my next thought: “Would it be worth it?” The word Pepitada comes from the Ladino word pepitas meaning, “melon seeds,” and I believe the suffix “ada” signifies some kind of drink (like you have in the word “lemonade” or limonada). This drink is truly Sephardic in nature, and something that I learned about from Bulgarian, Moroccan, Greek, and some Turkish Jews. Traditionally it is served as a break-fast food after Yom Kippur as something that is both nourishing and gentle on an empty stomach. But recently a young Bulgarian woman emailed me that in her family this drink is given to those who as firstborns have to fast on Erev Pesach (the day leading up to the first Seder) as a way to break their “pre-Passover fast”. (Note: This particular fast, otherwise known as the “Fast of the Firstborn,” is a way of expressing gratitude for those who had been spared the Plague of the Firstborn the night before the Israelites fled from Egypt.)

Because it is summer (and melons are in season) I decided in early June that this would be the perfect time to start collecting seeds, placing them in a container in the freezer until I had at least two cups-worth (it took me about 7 melons of all kinds). Then yesterday, I felt it was time. I removed and thawed the seeds, rinsed them well, and spread them out on a large kitchen towel to air-dry. Then I toasted them, cooled them, and ground them up in my new NutriBullet blender into a powder that resembled sawdust. I wrapped it in a double layer of cheesecloth, tied it up into a ball, and dropped it into a large bowl of water. Yes I was skeptical. However, after a few hours I already began to see progress. The pulverized seeds were dissolving and a milky substance was seeping out into the water. I squeezed, and more came out. I let this process continue for almost eight hours at which point (since it was late at night) I decided it was time to remove the bag and flavor with some sugar and a little bit of vanilla extract. I poured it all into a glass container and placed it into the refrigerator overnight for the flavors to meld.

This morning I tasted it and here are my thoughts:
If you are one of those people that loves to drink almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, tiger nut milk, or protein drinks, then you should try it. It has a slightly bitter flavor (adding some sugar or honey helps), but I have to admit that the taste has grown on me. It’s soothing, nourishing, and I can imagine that if you had grown up with this drink the taste and consistency would be very comforting to you. Overall I think that it actually is the perfect sustenance following a fast (or even when you are in need of a little comfort). And now is the time to start saving those seeds!

 

Pepitada (Sweet Melon Seed “Milk” with Vanilla and Rose Water)

For Milk:
2 cups melon seeds (saved from 7 to 8 large melons; can be from canteloupe, honeydew, canary, casaba, Galia, or mixture of any above, rinsed and stored in container in freezer until ready to use)

8 cups cold water
¾ to 1 cup sugar
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon rose water (optional)

For Serving:
Ground cinnamon (optional)

 

1. Rinse all seeds thoroughly in a fine mesh strainer, making sure to remove and discard any pieces of the melon or its membrane. Spread out on a large kitchen towel and air-dry completely, 2 to 3 hours.

2. Pour dried seeds into a baking pan and toast for 20 minutes in a 375 F. degree oven, shaking pan after 10 minutes to loosen and expose all seeds. Remove from heat and allow to fully cool, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

3. Pour toasted seeds into a food processor, spice grinder, or NutriBullet blender (you need something that can easily and thoroughly pulverize) and pulse until very finely ground (should resemble saw dust).

(For more NutriBullet recipes, please click here!)

4. Cut two pieces of cheesecloth into pieces about 10 inches in length. If cheesecloth is created like a tube, then place one tube layer into the other, and tie up one end to create a small sack. Pour the ground seeds inside and tie second end closed. If cheesecloth is flat, then layer two pieces together, pour the ground seeds in the center, gather up all four corners and tie tightly. Place the sack of seeds into a large bowl filled with the water and cover with a lid. Let sit at room temperature for a minimum of 8 hours (or overnight), squeezing and twisting the sack every couple of hours to extract the milky part of the seeds.

5. Add the sugar, vanilla extract, and rose water (if desired) and mix well until dissolved. Place in the refrigerator an additonal 6 hours or overnight for sugar to dissolve and flavors to meld. Remove from refrigerator and pour through a fine mesh strainer if there appears to be a lot of sediment from ground seeds at bottom. Before serving, shake well and adjust sugar, vanilla, and rose water (if used) to taste. Serve cold, with or without ice, with a little ground cinnamon sprinkled on top, if desired.

How did you break your bread fast? The Tunisian Sandwich.

For the last night of Passover to break the bread fast, many Tunisians will go to a Tunisian store to take out a special sandwich called Casse-Croûte. This sandwich is made on an Italian style bread loaf or large roll (very crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside) spread with harissa or Tunisian hot sauce, pickled red bell peppers or cooked red pepper and tomato salad (mechouia/makbouba), and olive oil, then filled with sliced olives, canned tuna, capers, and sliced hardboiled eggs, salt, and pepper. Yes, it is greasy, but VERY delicious, and many will describe that sensational moment of their first bite after a long week of abstinence from bread. 

How did you break your bread fast? What did you eat?
(And what did you find yourself missing most this past holiday week?)

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Casse Croûte Tunisien: Tunisian Hero with Tuna, Eggs,
Pickled Peppers & Hot Pepper Sauce
(Yield: Makes one 8- or 10-inch sandwich good for 1 to 2 people)

For main part of sandwich:
One 8- or 10-inch Italian roll, hero, or small French baguette (can be a wedge of a larger bread)
2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup coarsely chopped pickled red peppers (from jar)
2 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onions
2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander leaves
1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
2 hardboiled eggs, thinly sliced
1 can light (not white) tuna in oil, drained and slightly mashed with a fork

For Garnish:
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons pitted and sliced or coarsely chopped green and or black olives
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Piece of fresh lemon (to squeeze on top)
Salt and pepper to taste
Few teaspoons harissa (Tunisian hot sauce), optional (recipe following, store-bought fine to use)

1. Slice roll horizontally leaving it intact (do not cut all the way through!)

2. Open up roll and brush both sides generously with olive oil.

3. Sprinkle both sides with the chopped red peppers, onions, and coriander leaves.

4. Layer both sides with the tomato slices, followed by the egg, and the tuna running down the middle.

5. Garnish with the capers and olives, and drizzle with extra olive oil, lemon juice, salt and black pepper, and lastly harissa or special Tunisian hot sauce, if desired. Cut sandwich in half or in thirds and serve immediately.

©Jennifer Felicia Abadi:  www.TooGoodToPassover.com / jabadi@FistfulofLentils.com

 

Harissa: Tunisian Hot Pepper Sauce with Caraway, Coriander & Cilantro
(Yield: Serves 10 / Makes About ¾ to 1 Cup)

For Harissa
1 medium red bell pepper (about 5 ounces), rinsed and patted dry

1 medium green jalapeno pepper (about 1 ounce), rinsed and patted dry
1 medium red jalapeno pepper (about 1 ounce), rinsed and patted dry
3 extra large or 4 to 5 medium cloves garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing the outsides of the peppers and garlic cloves
¾ teaspoon caraway seeds
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon unrefined pure cane sugar
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, or flat leaf parsley leaves 
    (Note: do not chop leaves with stems: use only the leaves by separating them from stems)

For Serving:
Extra virgin olive oil, lightly sprinkled on top
1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves and/or parsley leaves

1. Preheat the broiler (set on “Hi” if using an electric oven).

2. Rub a small amount of olive oil all around the outside of each pepper and garlic clove, then place them onto a baking sheet or pan and set under the broiler. Once garlic cloves begin to turn a brownish-black color (after 8 to 10 minutes), remove from pan and place onto a plate to cool. When skins of peppers begin to blacken and blister (an additional 5 minutes), turn each one over to broil the opposite side (another 10 to 15 minutes). Keep turning and rotating the peppers until all sides blister. Remove from the broiler and let cool until lukewarm. Meanwhile, prepare the spices.

3. Place the caraway seeds and coriander seeds into a small frying pan or skillet and toast, over medium heat, until they start to pop and crackle, about 2 to 3 minutes. (Shake pan every minute or so to prevent burning). Remove from heat and cool completely (about 10 minutes). Place into a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind until fine. Set aside and return to the peppers.

4. (Note: For handling the hot peppers you may want to wear rubber gloves to prevent your hands and fingers from burning; Be careful of wiping your eyes and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly when done!) Pull out the stems from each pepper and discard. Gently peel away the thin skin from the bell pepper and discard (no need to do this for the hot peppers). Cut each pepper in half, and using a spoon or a paper towel, gently scrape out and discard all of the seeds from the inside of each pepper.

5. Very coarsely cut the peppers (1-inch pieces is fine) and place into a food processor, along with the whole garlic cloves.

6. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and pulse until the peppers are very finely pureed.

7. Add the ground caraway-coriander mixture, sugar, and salt, and pulse until very smooth. Add the fresh coriander or parsley leaves and pulse one more time to blend.

8. Serve sprinkled with olive oil, and finely chopped coriander leaves and/or parsley leaves, alongside grilled meat, chicken or fish, or as a garnish with soups and stews, or sprinkled over your favorite salad or sandwich. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator (sprinkled with olive oil to prevent spoilage), for up to 1 week. 

©Jennifer Felicia Abadi:  www.TooGoodToPassover.com / jabadi@FistfulofLentils.com

 

Back to Bread: Moroccan Cigares aux Amandes

CigaresAmandes_BlogPassover has passed over and we are now back to eating our favorite breads, cakes, cookies, crackers, and yes, pasta. For our break fast (from bread) we decided to have a simple pasta with sauce and cheese (other choice was pizza), a cold beer, and some delicious Moroccan pastries called, Cigares aux Amandes, which are a specialty served during Mimounah, the festival celebrated at the end of the Passover holiday. Below is a recipe that I later developed after having first learned them from Fatima, a Moroccan woman I met while visiting my husband’s family in France. Because France has a large North African population from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, one can easily purchase store-bought leaves of dough in a package to roll and fill and make these cigares, but in the U.S. I have only seen them in some of the more specialized Middle Eastern stores in places like Queens and Brooklyn. Instead one can make a version that using the Greek style of thin phyllo pastry, which also rolls well but is a bit more flaky and delicate to work with.

Cigares aux Amandes: Moroccan Phyllo “Cigars” with Almonds
& 
Honeyed Orange-Blossom Syrup
(Yield: Serves 12 / Makes 2 Dozen Cigares)

 

For Filling
1 cup blanched whole almonds
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 small egg or ½ large egg, lightly beaten
1 to 1½ teaspoons orange-blossom (flower) water

For the Cigares Using Phyllo Dough:
2 sticks sweet, unsalted butter, melted
½ pound phyllo dough (half of a 1-pound box), thawed according to package directions
2 to 3 cups vegetable oil, for frying

For the Cigares Using Feuilles de Brick:
6 pieces of feuilles de brick
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
¼ to ½ cup canola or vegetable oil, for frying

For the Syrup:
1 cup clover or orange-blossom honey
2 teaspoons orange-blossom water

For Serving (Optional: may choose which you prefer):
Confectioner’s sugar
Ground cinnamon
Sesame seeds


PREPARING THE FILLING:

1. Pulse together whole almonds and sugar in a food processor until finely ground into a meal.

2. Add ground ginger, cloves and cinnamon and pulse together again to blend.

3. Add eggs and orange-blossom water and pulse one last time to make an almond “dough” that is
soft and paste-like. Set aside.

FILLING, ROLLING, AND FRYING (using phyllo dough):
4. Unroll the phyllo pastry dough on a countertop and gently smooth out with dry hands. With a kitchen scissors or very sharp knife, cut the phyllo widthwise—along the short end—into three strips, making two of them about 7 inches wide. Place the strips on top of each other to form one stack and cover with a damp towel to keep the dough moist. (Cover and set aside the leftover, thinner strip of phyllo just in case you have some leftover filling at the end.)

5. Place the dish of melted butter beside you. Working with one strip of dough at a time, gently peel off a single layer of phyllo and place it vertically before you on a clean work surface. Re-cover the stack of phyllo with the damp towel.

6. Using a pastry brush, coat the entire strip lightly with melted butter.

7. Take 2 to 3 teaspoons of the almond filling and roll it out into a long, thin sausage, about the width of the phyllo dough before you. Place the almond sausage about 1/8 of an inch from the bottom of the phyllo strip.

8. Roll tightly from the bottom to halfway to the top, then turn the sides into the center and continue to roll to resemble a long, thin cigare. Brush the edges with butter and place on a platter or plate. Continue rolling the pastries in this fashion until all of the filling has been used up.

9. In a medium sized saucepan, heat the oil until very hot. Depending upon how large your saucepan is, deep fry 2 to 4 cigares at a time until they become a medium brown color. (Gently twirl each cigare around in the hot oil to make sure that all sides are evenly coated and fried.)

10. Place each deep fried cigare onto a platter covered with a paper towel to soak up the excess oil and place 2 to 4 more cigares into the saucepan for frying.

11. Position a cake rack over a plate. Combine the honey and orange blossom water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the honey has dissolved and becomes a thin liquid. Reduce heat to low. Gently pick up one fried cigare at a time with a tong or chopsticks, and dip it into the syrup to coat all sides. Place onto the cake rack for the excess syrup to drain onto the plate below. (Note: if you want to sprinkle with the sesame seeds do it at this point so that they stick onto the syrup.) Continue dipping all of the cigares into the syrup in this manner and allowing them to sit on the rack until they fully cool to room temperature.

12. Serve cigares stacked in a pyramid shape or in criss-crossed layers on a small platter or plate. If you like, you can lightly sprinkle the tops with a little confectioner’s sugar and/or cinnamon before serving.

FILLING, ROLLING, FRYING (using Feuilles de Brick):
4. Using a kitchen scissors or sharp knife, cut one leaf of dough into quarters so that you have four equal triangles. (Leave the dough attached to the paper it comes with to make the cutting easier.)

5. Peel one triangle of dough away from the paper and place flat on the countertop or table in front of you with the apex or pointy corner of the triangle facing up, and the wide base closer to you on the bottom.

6. Take 2 to 3 teaspoons of the almond filling and roll out into a long, thin “sausage,” about 4 inches wide. Place the almond sausage horizontally on the dough about 1 inch from the top or pointy tip of the triangle. (You want the almond sausage to be centered from left to right so that there is about one inch from the pointy top, as well as the left and right edges.)

7. Roll tightly from the top to halfway to the bottom, then turn the sides tightly into the center and continue to roll to resemble a long, thin cigare.

8. Dip your finger into the egg white and brush just enough along the inside edge of the dough to seal the cigare closed. Place cigare onto a plate and continue to fill and roll in this manner until all of the dough has been used up.

9. In a medium sized skillet, heat ¼ cup of the oil over high heat until very hot (when you sprinkle a little cold water into it and it crackles, then it is hot enough.) Depending upon how large your saucepan is, fry 4 to 6 cigares at a time until they become a light golden brown color, about 2 minutes. (Gently shake your skillet to make sure that all sides are evenly coated and fried in the hot oil.)

10. Place each deep fried cigare onto a platter covered with a paper towel to soak up excess oil and place 4 to 6 more cigares into the skillet for frying, adding more oil if needed.

11. Position a cake rack over a plate. Combine the honey and orange blossom water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the honey has dissolved and become a thin liquid. Reduce heat to low. Gently pick up one fried cigare at a time with a tong or chopsticks, and dip it into the syrup to coat all sides. Place on the cake rack for the excess syrup to drain onto the plate below. (Note: if you want to sprinkle with the sesame seeds do it at this point so that they stick onto the syrup.) Continue dipping all of the cigares into the syrup in this manner and allowing them to sit on the rack until they fully cool to room temperature.

12. Serve cigares stacked in a pyramid shape or in criss-crossed layers on a small platter or plate. If you like, you can lightly sprinkle the tops with a little confectioner’s sugar and/or cinnamon before serving.

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