Category Archives: Pre-Passover Recipes
In 1923, an eight-year-old Syrian girl, her mother, and her younger brother and sister boarded a ship from a port in what was then Palestine (established as Israel in 1948) and made the thirty-day journey across the Atlantic to come to America. That little girl was my beloved Grandma Fritzie, who became an artist, and never forgot the sights, tastes, and sounds of her first days in her new “Promised Land.” Years later I spent time cooking with her to learn and preserve all of her delicious recipes from Aleppo so that my own family could continue to prepare these dishes in the future.
Today is her birthday and I am thinking of preparing M’jedrah —
rice and lentils — in her honor (please see recipe below).
Happy birthday Grandma Fritzie!
Rice and Lentils with Fried Onions
Yield: Serves 8
For Rice and Lentils:
2 cups dried brown lentils, rinsed in cold water then drained
2 ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups long-grain white rice,
soaked in cold water for 10 minutes then drained
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 to 3 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (about 3 medium)
2 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter, cut into tiny bits
1 recipe Cucumber-Mint Yogurt Dressing (Leban; recipe following)
- In a heavy medium-size saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add the lentils and cook 10 minutes over a medium-low heat, uncovered, until the lentils are halfway cooked and somewhat chewy in texture. Remove from the heat.
- Drain the lentils over a strainer, reserving all of its liquid.
Combine the reserved liquid with enough water to equal 3 3/4 cups,
and pour it into the same saucepan. Add the salt and drained rice, and mix. Bring to a boil over high heat, uncovered.
- Once the rice is boiling, add the drained lentils, and stir twice gently so as not to mush them. Boil, uncovered, until the liquid appears mostly absorbed and reaches the level of the surface of the rice and lentils, about 3 to 5 minutes. Cover tightly; reduce the heat to its lowest possible level, and steam until the rice is soft but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Once rice is tender, gently stir by folding from the bottom to the top. Keep covered at room temperature until ready to serve. (Note: If you need to reheat before serving, pour rice and lentils into an ovenproof, heavy-bottomed pot, cover, and warm in a preheated
250 degree F. oven until warm, about 20 to 30 minutes.)
- 30 to 45 minutes before serving, heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and fry the onions until very brown (almost black!) and crispy, about 25 to 30 minutes. Arrange the rice and lentils on a serving platter or bowl and pour the fried onions and their oil over the top. Do not mix. Dot the top with the butter and serve at once. Eat with several spoonfuls of this yogurt dressing (leban) on top of each individual serving.
Leban m’Naa’na: Cucumber-Mint-Yogurt Dressing
Yield: Makes About 2¼ cups
2 cups plain whole milk yogurt (low fat or nonfat yogurt can be substituted)
1 tablespoon dried mint leaves
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 cups peeled and finely chopped or coarsely grated Kirby cucumbers, excess liquid drained
- Place the yogurt in a small bowl and stir until creamy.
- Add the dried mint by crushing it between the palms of your hands.
- Add the garlic powder and salt and mix well.
- Fold the cucumber into the mixture, cover, and chill until serving time; it will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 days.
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The last time that Thanksgiving and Chanukah collided it was about 125 years ago, and next week Jews from all over the United States will have a chance to celebrate what has been officially coined “ThanksgivUkkah.“My friends Lori and Joshua Plaut have written extensively on their blog, “A Kosher Christmas” about this phenomenon, and have even become experts on the topic. Perhaps you are all thinking: “Chanukah on Thanksgiving? I’ve heard of Chanukah being early, but this is ridiculous!” This got me to thinking. What if in another century or more Passover somehow “passed over” Thanksgiving AND Chanukah? How would we cope with this holy trinity, and more importantly, what would we serve? Well I have found the perfect recipe that embodies a little bit from each holiday:
A sweet & spicy sweet potato latke with cumin, curry, and cayenne, that is served with cranberry sauce and/or apple butter! Yes! Here is how it works for all you skeptics out there:
• Fried pancake (oil and therefore fried foods, symbolic of Chanukah)
• Sweet potatoes (traditional food for Thanksgiving)
• Cranberry sauce or relish (traditional food for Thanksgiving, while sweet-and-sour flavor also
represents bitterness of slavery with sweetness of freedom in Passover)
• Apple sauce or apple butter (resembles sweetness/mortar of Charoset for Passover)
• Cayenne, curry, and cumin (the spiciness or bitterness of slavery in Passover)
SWEET POTATO CUMIN-CURRY-CAYENNE LATKES WITH CRANBERRY RELISH
(Yield: Serves 8 to 10 / Makes About 3 ½ Dozen Three-inch Latkes)
1½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
½ cup all-purpose flour or matzah cake flour
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
Dash cayenne pepper
2½ teaspoons curry powder
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup water
½ to ¾ cup canola, coconut, or grape seed oil (for frying)
Cranberry sauce or relish
Apple sauce or apple butter
Greek yogurt, Middle Eastern labne, or all-American sour cream (optional)
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour (or matzah cake flour), sugar, baking powder, cayenne pepper, curry powder, cumin, salt and black pepper.
2. Add three eggs and water to the dry ingredients to make a stiff batter. Add the potatoes and mix
(the batter should be moist but not runny; if too stiff, add a little more water and an extra egg.)
3. Heat 3 to 4 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet for about 1 to 2 minutes. Drop 1 tablespoon of the batter into the hot skillet (if the mixture does not sizzle immediately then allow the oil to get a little hotter before adding more). Continue in this manner so that you are frying 4 to 6 latkes at a time (depending upon the size of your skillet). Continue to cook over medium-high heat for several minutes until all of the latkes are a dark brown on each side. Place fried latke onto a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
4. Serve hot sprinkled with a dash of cinnamon and your choice(s) of topping on the side.
©Jennifer Felicia Abadi: www.TooGoodToPassover.com / jabadi@FistfulofLentils.com