Tag Archives: apricots

Bukharian Egg & Matzah Soup with Sour Golden Plums

Soup_Matzah13This recipe is adapted from the one that I learned from Amnun Kimyagarov and his wife Zoya during my trip to Rego Park in late August of 2013 (see previous post from September 15, 2013). You can also find this recipe (called, “Oshi Masozgoshak“) in Amnun’s cookbook: “Classic Central Asian (Bukharian) Jewish Cuisine and Customs.”

The original recipe uses unripe green apricots, but dried yellow or golden plums are substituted here in the U.S. The trick is to add a slight tart flavor to the soup. Dried apricots can be used if you cannot find the dried yellow or golden plums in a Russian, Eastern European, or Asian grocery store, but keep in mind that the flavor should be more tart than sweet. Zoya used imported dried Olucha which are dried yellow plums that resemble giant golden raisins. According to Amnun’s Bukharian/Russian/English dictionary this translated to “Cornelian Cherry” and looked like this (see below):

YellowPlums_DriedWhen I went looking in a Russian grocery in Queens (right after my visit with Amnun and Zoya) I couldn’t find the same dried yellow plums that they had used, so instead I got a box of something that looked similar called Uzbek Apricot Kondak, which on the container were translated as “Small Size Apricots with Pits” (photo below). The Apricot Kondak were much more sweet than the Olucha that Zoya had used but looked pretty in the soup (make sure to warn guests about the big pits!). Perhaps the next time I would try to use a more sour apricot like the California variety. After emailing Amnun about this he told me that the taste of the soup should have a slightly sour flavor, so if you cannot find the dried sour plums you should add a few tablespoons of lemon juice instead.

Apricot_Kondak1Oshi Masozgoshak
(Yield: Serves 8 to 10
/Makes about 15 cups)

For Soup:
3 tablespoons vegetable, safflower, or canola oil

2 cups coarsely chopped onions (about 1 large)

1¼ pounds veal stew, beef stew, or chicken thighs cut into ¼-inch pieces

12 cups homemade plain veal, beef, or chicken broth or water

Meat bone (can be 2 reserved bones from chicken thighs, or 1 from veal or beef)

2 teaspoons fine sea salt
3 to 4 generous grindings of fresh black pepper
¾ pound carrots, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 2 cups cubed)
¾ pound white potatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 2 cups cubed)
1½ cups dried golden or yellow plums, or Persian dried sour plums*
2 cups finely chopped sorrel leaves or loosely packed coriander leaves (stems discarded)

6 large eggs, lightly beaten

*If you cannot find these from an Asian, Persian, Central Asian/Russian, or Middle Eastern
specialty grocery store then substitute with dried California apricots and several tablespoons of
freshly squeezed lemon juice until you have reached desired tartness.

For Serving:
4 squares matzah, broken into 2-inch pieces

1. Pour oil into a large 4- to 6-quart pot or saucepan and warm over high heat for 1 minute.

Reduce to a medium-high heat and mix in onions. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until very soft
but not browned.

2. Add meat and mix well. Cook meat, stirring often, until it becomes a greyish-brown color,
about 5 minutes.

3. Pour in broth (or water), and add bone(s), salt, and pepper and bring to boil over high heat.
Reduce to a medium heat and simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered.

4. Add the whole dried plums or apricots, mix well, and continue to simmer an additional
15 minutes uncovered.

5. Add the carrot and potato pieces, and chopped sorrel (or coriander leaves) and mix well.
Cook 10 minutes over medium heat, just until potatoes become soft but not mushy.

6. Slowly add the beaten eggs while stirring until eggs become long strands like egg drop soup,
about 1 minute. Remove from heat and serve immediately into individual soup bowls with
about ½ a square matzah broken up into each bowl.

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

My Roadtrip to Regostan, Queens

Amnun_TableSetting_BlogOne sunny Sunday morning in late August, I ventured out to Queens to meet Amnun Kimyagarov, the author of “Classic Central Asian (Bukharian) Jewish Cuisine and Customs.” (I learned about this book from a woman named Dahlia who I had interviewed for the Afghani/Bukharian chapter of my Passover cookbook.) Amnun’s phone number was right there in the book, so why not call? Amnun answered the phone and, after I introduced myself and told him about my Passover cookbook project, agreed to my coming to him for an interview about Bukharian Passover traditions and foods.

As expected, the subway ride from the Upper West Side to Rego Park, Queens on a Sunday was a challenge, but I was prepared leaving plenty of time. (Something else I found very confusing was the layout of Queens: Is it 53rd Drive, 53rd Road, or 53rd Street? I definitely felt like I was in a foreign land!) But in the end I did make it to Amnun’s with even 15 minutes to spare, choosing to explore the main supermarket on Queens Boulevard with its interesting foods and packaged goods from Central Asia (and Russian radio blasting in the background).

Amnun_Zoya_BlogUpon arriving at Amnun’s I was greeted with a friendly smile by both Amnun and his wife Zoya. The table sitting right there in the middle of the living room was covered with a white tablecloth and arranged like a still life of fresh fruits and melon slices, round Central Asian breads, diamond-shaped walnut pastries, a platter of dried fruit, nuts, and green tea. It was so beautiful I had to take a photo before even sitting down. Zoya presented me with this large flat bread whose texture looked just like a matzah, but in the form of a shallow wok or bowl. They told me that it was a special Bukharian cracker-like bread called Noni Toqiy that was baked in a traditional clay oven called a tandyr,  the same kind of oven that was used for baking matzah (what they called maso) during Passover. Even though this bread was not technically the matzah used for Passover (it was August after all!), they told me that it very much looked like the Bukharian maso. I was fascinated to imagine how their matzah would look so different from the store-bought ones that I knew growing up that were always square, totally flat, and half the size.

MatzahSoup_BukharianIn addition to the matzah, Zoya was generous with her time by showing me how to make Oshi Masozgoshak,matzah-egg soup with cilantro, chopped veal, and dried yellow plums. Traditionally the soup would use special green apricots that were available in Central Asia during the spring time. They were hard, and green, and very tart because they were not yet ripe, but when added to the soup became soft and imparted a special flavor. Because these green apricots were not something that could be found in Queens (much less in the U.S.), they instead substituted a dried yellow plum in its place, which also has a distinct sourness to it. These yellow plums are also known as golden plums and come from Central Asia. With the scrambled egg mixed into the chicken broth, it reminded me of the common Chinese egg drop soup, and made me wonder if this was one of the Asian influences on Bukharian cooking? The addition of the matzah made it Jewish and for Passover, and the sour plums/apricots felt Middle or Near Eastern.

YellowPlums_DriedUpon leaving I was given one of the round breads and the remaining matzah pieces to take home, and Amnun and Zoya hospitably walked me to the supermarket right near the subway, where i shopped for yogurt, pirogis, and these unusual dried yellow plums. What I ended up finding was something called Apricot Kondak from Uzbekistan, which looked similar to the dried golden plums that Zoya had put into the soup. Perhaps these were the same apricot that they mentioned using fresh and green in Uzbekistan? I will have to ask.

Overall it was a very successful day, and reminded me why I was writing this blog and my Passover cookbook to begin with.

So Sweet You Can Eat it with a Spoon

SpoonSweetBowl_6_BlogThis past summer weekend in June I took a trip down with my mother and my girls Micah and Sacha to visit Little Syria in Deal, New Jersey. I was looking forward to getting out of the city and visiting my mother’s aunt Evelyn, who so reminds me of my Grandmother Fritzie (her oldest sibling). I was also looking forward to the Syrian food because it always tastes better to me when I eat it there. I don’t know if it’s because Evelyn is such a great cook, or that she reminds me so much of my grandmother, or that it’s just better because someone else has prepared it for me. All that I know is that it’s comforting and tastes like the past.

Early on Sunday morning, before all the family started arriving in droves, I cornered my aunt Evelyn and asked if I could quickly interview her about her memories of Passover while growing up in Brooklyn. After the talk she showed me her closet and pulled out a few special dishes and platters that she had stowed away. The most special thing that she showed me was this beautifully ornate silver bowl that had little hooks running all around to hold tiny silver forks with mother of pearl handles. This bowl was from her husband’s mother who most likely brought it from Syria on her way back to Egypt, and was meant to contain a special Sephardic confection known as a “spoon sweet.”. These jams, Evelyn explained to me, were often served during the week of Passover for guests when they came over for a short visit. While there could be a number of various flavors, in Syria they were often made of grated coconut, rosewater, and blanched almonds, or apricot, orange blossom water, and pistachios. The way that it was served was with the inner glass bowl filled with the jam, the tiny forks or spoons in a tray next to the bowl (or in this case hanging on small hooks running around the bowl), an empty glass next to the bowl for each fork to be placed with used, and lastly a clean glass of water for the guest to drink after his spoonful to wash it all down. What I love about this sweet is that it has a ritual all of its own. The bowl. The fork. The empty glass. The glass full of refreshing water. Each with its definitive role, making each sweet spoonful an experience not to be missed.

Iraqi Meatballs with Apricots and Tomatoes: Not Just For Passover

Stew_Meatballs_Apricots_Iraqi_BlogEven though this may be a dish served for an Iraqi Passover Seder meal, it is not something that is reserved solely for this holiday alone. Iraqis may prepare this for most any special occasion, including Rosh Hashanah as well as Shabbat. The sweet and savory combination of beef and/or lamb cooked with dried apricots is distinctly Middle Eastern, and has carried over into the Sephardic palate.

Iraqi Meatballs with Apricots & Tomatoes
(Yield: Serves 4 to 6 (Makes About 5 Cups / About 1½ Dozen Meatballs Plus Sauce)

For the Sauce:
1 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup pitted prunes
¼ cup golden raisins
2 tablespoon canola, vegetable, or olive oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onions (about 1 medium)
One 6-ounce can (about ½ cup) tomato paste
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/8 to ½ teaspoon kosher salt (depending upon how salty your tomato paste is)
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground coriander

For the Meatballs:
½ pound ground lamb
½ pound ground beef
¼ cup cold water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
3/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 to 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (for greasing your hands and browning meatballs)

1. Soak the dried apricots, prunes, and raisins in a small bowl with 3 cups hot water. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook the onions, stirring, until soft and golden but not brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into a large mixing bowl, keeping the saucepan for frying the meatballs (do not wash!).

3. Add the tomato paste and lemon juice and mix until the tomato paste is smooth and blended into the onions.

4. Add the salt, ginger, and ground coriander and mix well.

5. Add the dried fruit with all of its soaking water and mix well to combine. Set aside to prepare the meatballs.

6. Combine all the meatball ingredients (except for the oil) in a medium-size bowl squeezing it together with your hands until well blended and the meat is very soft.

7. Wash and dry your hands, then coat them lightly with extra canola or vegetable oil. Taking 1½  tablespoons of meat, roll it into a smooth meatball. Place the meatball onto a large platter or plate and continue to roll until all of the meat is used, oiling your hands if necessary.

8. Pour 1 tablespoon of canola oil into the same large saucepan that cooked the onions and reheat over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Place the meatballs into the saucepan and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes total.

9. Pour the sauce mixture over the browned meatballs and mix gently, taking care not to break the meatballs. Bring to a boil over high heat, uncovered, then lower to a medium heat and slow boil until sauce has thickened and reduced slightly and fruit is very soft or almost mushy in texture, about 1 hour.

10. Serve hot over white rice or as is alongside cooked vegetables or potatoes.

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

The Second Night: An All Meat Seder Dinner


Sephardic Style Brisket with Tamarind,
Coriander, Cinnamon, Ginger,
Apricots and Prunes

Any Carnivores out there? What was your meat of choice: Lamb, Beef or Veal?

For the second night we decided to have a much smaller Seder dinner for us carnivores. We didn’t really read the Haggadah this time, but Micah, my four-year-old insisted that we at least read the basic story as a review.

Here was the menu:
–Leftover charosets with matzah pieces on the side: (Syrian Apricot, Yemenite Date-Almond-Pomegranate, Grandma Fritzie’s Apple Butter with Sweet Wine and Walnuts)

–Vegetable Soup with Matzah Balls

–Jeff’s Cucumber Salad
(even better the next day!)

Sephardic Style Brisket with Tamarind, Onions, Coriander,
Cinnamon, Ginger, Apricots and Prunes

(Yikes! Third time that I made this brisket this week: once for me and twice for two different clients.)

–Syrian White Rice with Pine Nuts (from the first night)

–Chocolate Dipped Dried Apricots, Dates, and Figs,
with Blood Orange Sorbet

Syrian Charoset with Apricots, Orange Blossom Water and Almonds

Charoset_Apricot_Syrian_BlogOne of the most popular dishes on the Seder table is charoset, the fruity spread used to symbolize the sweetness of our ancestors’ freedom from slavery. In every Jewish culture there is a charoset that reflects the unique ingredients of the region. While the most traditional charoset that Ashkenazim (Germanic and other Eastern European Jews) prepare consists of finely chopped apples, walnuts, wine, cinnamon, and some sugar, most Middle Eastern and Mediterranean communities use dried dates as their base, adding other dried fruit (such as raisins and figs), along with varying spices and nuts. The charoset takes center stage on he Seder plate, and is the dish where one can be most creative. Below is my recipe for a Syrian charoset that uses dried apricots in place of the usual dates in most Middle Eastern charosets (in Syria they also do a charoset with dates sometimes mixed with the apricots). The orange color of the apricots really brightens up the Seder plate and table, and the sweet-tart flavor is especially nice if you find pure dates to be too sweet.

Syrian Charoset with Apricots, Orange Blossom Water and Almonds
(Yield: Serves 8 to 10 / Makes 2 Cups)

For Charoset:
2 cups whole Turkish dried apricots
½ cup orange juice
¾ cup hot water
2 tablespoons coconut sugar or unrefined whole cane sugar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 to 3 teaspoons orange blossom water
¼ cup shelled, unsalted pistachios or whole blanched almonds, coarsely chopped

For Serving:
2 tablespoons shelled, unsalted pistachios, or whole blanched almonds,
slivered or finely ground in the food processor

1. Combine apricots, orange juice, water, and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until apricots are very soft and mushy, 30 to 40 minutes. (Make sure to stir every 5 to 10 minutes to prevent burning.)

2. Pour hot apricot mixture into a food processor and add the lemon juice and orange blossom water. Pulse 1 to 2 minutes until a smooth paste. Scoop out into a medium sized bowl and mix in the chopped nuts by hand. Cool to room temperature.

3. Serve charoset at room temperature in a small, decorative bowl garnished with the pistachios
or almonds.

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

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