Tag Archives: Seder

“Too Good To Passover” Cookbook Now Available!

Dear Friends,

Happy new year!

After 9 years of doing research, conducting interviews, and developing recipes, I am happy to announce that my new cookbook: Too Good To Passover: Sephardic & Judeo-Arabic Seder Menus and Memories from Africa, Asia and Europe is finally available!

I appreciate your support by following my blog these last few years.
Please help me to make this cookbook a success by ordering a copy on Amazon,
and spreading the word to your friends, colleagues, and family.
The more books I sell, the better ranking it will have!

CLICK HERE TO ORDER!

For those of you outside of the U.S. you can order my book and have it shipped directly from the local Amazon in the following countries:

CANADA
FRANCE
SPAIN
ITALY
GERMANY
U.K. & IRELAND
NETHERLANDS

I am now scheduling talks and book-signing events for the winter and early spring leading up to Passover. If any of you know any journalists I could send a review copy to, or have connections with any radio shows or TV networks for me to discuss my book, please let me know.

Thank you,

JenniferAbadi_small

Jennifer

About Too Good To Passover
Too Good To Passover is the first Passover cookbook specializing in traditional Sephardic, Judeo-Arabic, and Central Asian recipes and customs (covering both pre- and post-Passover rituals) appealing to Sephardic, Mizrahic, and Ashkenazic individuals who are interested in incorporating something traditional yet new into their Seders.

A compilation of more than 200 Passover recipes from 23 Jewish communities, this cookbook-memoir provides an anthropological as well as historical context to the ways in which the Jewish communities of North Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean, and Middle East observe and enjoy this beloved ancient festival.

In addition to full Seder menus, Passover-week recipes, and at least one “break-fast” dish, each chapter opens up with the reflections of a few individuals from that region or territory. Readers can learn about the person’s memories of Passover as well as the varying customs regarding pre-Passover rituals, including cleaning the home of all hametz or “leavening,” Seder customs (such as reenacting the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt), or post-Passover celebrations, such as the Moroccan Mimouneh for marking the end of the week-long “bread fast.” These customs provide a more complete sense of the cultural variations of the holiday.

Too Good To Passover is a versatile and inspiring reference cookbook, appealing to those who may want to do a different “theme” each Passover year, with possibly a Turkish Seder one year, or Moroccan one the next.

See inside my book! Sample Spreads:

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The following 3 e-booklets are
also available on Amazon
:

E-BOOKLET 1: Seder Menus and Memories from AFRICA
(Pages 1-223/Chapters 1-6:
Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia)

E-BOOKLET 2: Seder Menus and Memories from ASIA
(Pages 225-473/Chapters 7-13:
Afghanistan & Bukharia, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria & Lebanon, Turkey, Yemen)

E-BOOKLET 3: Seder Menus and Memories from EUROPE
(Pages 475-665/Chapters 14-18:
Bulgaria & Moldova, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal & Gibraltar)

Jennifer_WritingRecipe_3BW

About Jennifer Abadi
Jennifer Abadi lives in New York City and is a researcher, developer, and preserver of Sephardic and Judeo-Arabic recipes and food customs. A culinary expert in the Jewish communities of the Middle East, Mediterranean, Central Asia, and North Africa, 
Jennifer teaches cooking at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) and at the Jewish Community Center Manhattan (JCC). She also offers private lessons and works for a variety of clients in the New York City area as a personal chef. In addition, Jennifer provides Jewish food and culture tours on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Her first cookbook-memoir, A Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes From Grandma Fritzie’s Kitchen is a collection of recipe and stores from her family. Her second cookbook, Too Good To Passover is her second cookbook.

What does your Seder Plate say about you and your politics?

Beet

The Passover story of the ancient Israelites fleeing slavery in Egypt for freedom in their homeland of Jerusalem has become a metaphor for human suffering in the modern day. As a result, the Seder has turned into a stage for political discussion about civil and human rights. In addition to the traditional bitter herbs, charoset, spring vegetable, shank bone, salt water, and egg found on the Seder plate, new symbolic foods are being added to express our individual views about gender issues, animal rights, racism, bigotry, and war. In the early 1980s, Jewish feminist and scholar Susannah Heschel stirred things up by adding an orange to her Seder plate to represent the “inclusion for lesbians, gays, and others who are marginalized by the Jewish community.”1  In 2014, Rabbi Marcus added a big tomato to her Seder plate to bring attention to underpaid/overworked workers in the agriculture/tomato-picking industry.2  To acknowledge powerful female leaders, many households now include a second cup of wine alongside the Prophet Elijah’s to remember the Prophetess Miriam who helped her brother Moses lead the Israelites out of the desert. And for vegetarians, a red beet (similar in color to blood) takes the place of the shank bone to represent the Paschal Sacrifice made the eve of the first Passover, while olives or an olive branch is used to symbolize the hope for peace in the Middle East. 

For your Seder this year, will you add something new to your Seder plate and make a statement about one of the many issues our society is struggling with today?
Please send me your ideas!

Footnotes:
1 Cohen, Tamara. “An Orange on the Seder Plate,” MyJewishLearning.com.
[Source URL (retrieved on 3/13/2017):
http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/an-orange-on-the-seder-plate].

2 Lipman, Steve. “The Tomato Finds Its Place on the Seder Plate,” JewishWeek.TimesofIsrael.com, 3/27/12 [Source URL (retrieved on 3/13/17): http://jewishweek.timesofisrael.com/the-tomato-finds-its-place-on-the-seder-plate].

In Honor of Women’s History Month: The Ma’yan Passover Haggadah

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©Cover Illustration by Jennifer Abadi

While doing my spring/Passover cleaning, I came across this women’s haggadah that I had once illustrated for Ma’yan, the Jewish Women’s Program at the JCC. In the mid ’90s, Ma’yan held their first annual feminist Passover Seder in New York City, which became a tradition that continued for many years. Since then feminist Seders have been held throughout the United States to call attention to the roles that Jewish women have played in our history, as well as to encourage female leadership in the future. In honor of Women’s History Month, commemorate Miriam — the sister of Moses — who helped the Israelite women while fleeing Egypt. Take a moment to reflect upon strong and positive female role models who strive to make a positive impact on women in modern society. As we approach the Passover holiday, think about what you can add to your Seder ceremony to make the Passover experience more meaningful and inclusive.

“A Feast of History: The drama of Passover through the ages”

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In reading Chaim Raphael’s book, A FEAST OF HISTORY: The drama of Passover through the agesI came across the following description of the Seder ceremony, which I think sums up its role as a common (yet important) Jewish experience:

“The Seder has a unique quality, however, in that it is a ceremony which brings together — and always has throughout history — all kinds of people of Jewish origin, no matter what weight they normally attach to this in terms of belief, practice, political philosophy, social interests or family loyalties. Among our profusion of skeptical Jews … there are not many who will refuse to attend the Seder ‘on principle’ — as they might other Jewish observances. On the surface, nothing is committed by attendance.”

— Chaim Raphael
(Excerpted from: A FEAST OF HISTORY: The drama of Passover through the ages (with a new translation of the Haggadah for use at the Seder)Steimatzky’s Agency, Ltd. together with Weidenfeld Nicolson, London, 1972, pages 17-18.)

 Have a good Seder everyone!

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).

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.)

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STEP 6: Dinner is served.

 

 

 

 

 

Still Time to Save Your Skins! (Huevos Haminados are coming.)

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AKA: Ouevos Haminados, Uevos Haminados or Güevos Haminadavos.

Two months before Passover, Deanna Marcus starts saving her onion skins (yellow, white, and red), while June Hersh remembers her mother telling the produce man to save them for her in anticipation of the holiday. Huevos means “eggs” in Spanish, and the word Haminados comes from the Hebrew word Cham meaning, “hot.” In the Sephardic world Huevos Haminados (browned whole eggs in the shell) are baked all year round, served alongside such pastries as cheese or potato borekas, or baked in the Shabbat stew known as Chamin/Hamin. When slow-cooked, the onion skins turn the whites of the eggs inside into a beautiful beige color, imparting a delicate caramel flavor. Shade and intensity of the egg’s color inside and out will depend on the quantity of the onion skins and coffee used, the variety of onions, and the length of time they cook (in the Yemenite tradition some add red wine vinegar as well). For Passover, one of the browned eggs is used for the Seder plate, while the rest are served as the first course to the dinner. The bottom line is, if you plan to prepare these delectable treats, you need a ton of onion skins. So start collecting now!

HUEVOS HAMINADOS (Browned Eggs with Onion Skins, Olive Oil & Coffee Grinds)
Yield: Serves 6 (Makes 6 Brown Eggs)

INGREDIENTS:
1 tablespoon coffee grinds
8 to 10 loosely packed cups onion skins (just the outermost thin brown layers)
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups cold water
6 large white eggs

STEPS:
1. Combine all of the ingredients except the eggs in a medium sized mixing bowl.

2. Create a nest at the bottom of a medium sized,
heavy-bottomed pot with half of the onion skin mixture.

3. Gently place the eggs on top of the onion skins,
then cover them with the remaining half of the onion skins.

4. Bring water to a boil over high heat and boil the eggs for 5 minutes.

5. Lower heat to the lowest setting on your stove, cover with a tight-fitting lid,
and steam the eggs until the shells obtain a caramel-brown color on the outside,
about 4 to 5 hours minimum. (Note: These eggs traditionally were slow-baked in the oven overnight,
so if you have the time you can do it that way or keep cooking the eggs on the stovetop for about
10 hours total.)

6. Rinse off the eggs and cool to room temperature before serving at the seder meal.
Leftover eggs may also be refrigerated to be eaten the next day as a delicious snack or
as part of a lunch.

Are we ready for a Thanksgiving Seder plate?

SederPlate_Thanksgiving1_blog

As I continue to work on my Passover cookbook, I am struck by certain parallels between Passover and Thanksgiving. Just as Thanksgiving is the most popular holiday enjoyed in the United States by Americans of all backgrounds (a billion-dollar industry with thousands of cookbooks around one food holiday alone!), Passover is the most loved of all holidays in the Jewish calendar celebrated by Jews from all streams of Judaism. Like Thanksgiving, Passover takes place with family and friends of all generations sitting around a big table (or two) at home, outside of any house of worship. For Thanksgiving, turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and sweet potatoes have become the symbols of the holiday, while matzah, charoset, gefilte fish, chicken soup (with matzah balls), eggs, and either brisket or lamb have become synonymous with Passover here in the United States.

The message behind each occasion also has some striking resemblances. While there may be a bit of a debate these days about the true story behind how Thanksgiving came to be, the overall mood or feeling around this festivity has become one of inclusiveness, sharing, giving, and last but not least: gratefulness. As immigrants from all backgrounds we reflect (if only for a tiny moment between bites of sweet potato pie and savory stuffing) about being lucky to live in “America,” and for having those who are special to us around to share the meal and essentially “break bread.” It also has become a time to pause and think more locally about those of us who are poor, sick, or struggling in other ways, and as a result many volunteer their time to soup kitchens providing free Thanksgiving meals to those in need. While retelling the story of the Exodus from the Bible, we express gratefulness for our ancestors being released from slavery in Egypt, making their journey through the desert to Jerusalem, and for us surviving as a people time and time again. In my interviews of individuals from all over the world for my Passover cookbook, many have shared with me their stories of making a concerted effort to invite any Jews into their home for the Passover Seders so that they would not be alone and would have a place to eat and “break matzah” with others. (And we can’t forget about the custom of setting out a glass of wine and opening up the door for Elijah, the prophet and eternal guest.)

Some individuals and Jewish organizations have even taken up this opportunity to take aspects of the Passover Seder and weave them into their Thanksgiving meals. During these meals, mini Haggadot or prayer booklets are distributed at the table to discuss the topics of “Struggle, Freedom, and Gratitude” as a universal concept.

Maybe this is the time to create a new Seder plate for Thanksgiving,
one that would include various foods to represent the following principles:

STRUGGLE: leeks, scallions (slavery, abuse, poverty, sadness)
LUCK: head of garlic (protection against evil)
FREEDOM & SHARING: pumpkin bread (sweetness/”breaking bread” with others)
GRATEFULNESS: cranberries/cranberry sauce (sweet & sour taste representing balance)
INDIVIDUALITY & STRENGTH: multi-colored carrots (various cultures/building roots)
HOPE: pumpkin (growth)

QUESTION: What would you put on your Thanksgiving Seder plate?

The Second Night: A Tunisian Seder

For the second night of Passover we went to a Tunisian Seder at Jennifer and Philippe’s on the Upper West Side. The photo below is of their beautiful Tunisian Seder plate, which includes a Tunisian style charoset (upper left portion of plate) that I made myself of apples, dates, almonds, toasted sesame seeds, and rosewater. The final paste I formed into small balls, then rolled in finely ground rose petals:

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The photo below shows Jennifer carrying the Seder plate around the table while circling each person’s head — a common Sephardic and Middle Eastern Seder custom. This ritual signifies good luck for the year to come, but more importantly connects each guest present to the story of the Exodus from Egypt:

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OUT with the OLD and in with the NEW: Time to throw out the old spices!

Spices_Down_Sink_blogMy students often ask me, “How long can I keep my spices?” This is a hard question to answer as throwing out your spices on a regular basis to replace with fresh ones can be very expensive. But one thing I will say is if you are going to do it only once a year, right before Passover is the ideal time!

Passover is all about spring and renewal, and your Seder dinner should reflect that with all fresh ingredients and spices. Many individuals that I interviewed from various countries (such as from India, Iran, Morocco, or Libya) explained that one of the first and most important things prepared in advance for the holiday were the spices. They were bought from the market as seeds, picked clean, washed, dried, and freshly ground all in honor of the holiday feast. The result? The food just tasted different. Better. Fresher. And to match a home that has been cleaned from top to bottom, the spices also had to be new.

So today, in honor of this tradition, I decided to go down to Kalustyan’s on 28th and Lexington Avenue to purchase some new spices to make sure that I would be getting rid of the old ones. If you haven’t been to this store yet, you definitely should. It’s a beautiful place, almost like a specialty food museum, and you will find yourself getting lost in all of the unusual spices, rices, sauces, and dried fruit. I walked in just for spices, but here is what I walked out with:

Roasted ground cumin (usually buy regular, but thought I would try the roasted)
Ground coriander (A staple in my house along with cumin)
Fenugreek seeds (for making Yemenite soup and Hilbeh sauce)
Turmeric (Generally need for Persian dishes)
Hazelnuts (To test my Sephardic Mustachudos cookie recipe for Passover)
Bokharian Sweet & Sour Persian Dried Plums (hope to use with Bukharian soup recipe next time!)
Whole wheat & white Moroccan couscous (for Mimounah break-fast party last night of Passover)
Tiny dried rosebuds and crushed rose petals (for Tunisian charoset recipe)
3 bags frozen fava beans (for helping my friend to make Tunisian M’soki on 2nd Seder night)

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The Paschal Sacrifice: Going in on the whole lamb

Lamb_BW_blogRecently a good friend of mine emailed me a photo of a lamb with only the subject line: “Want to share one with me?” My first thought was she wanted it as a pet, but after a few emails I understood that she needed to know if I would share half of it with her (the meat, that is). My first reaction was one of discomfort. A whole lamb reserved just for us? It felt wrong and sad (and the cute and fuzzy photo she had sent didn’t help). But then I thought about God’s commandment to the Israelites to sacrifice a lamb the night before their big exodus from Egypt, and how since then its consumption has become such an integral, even holy part of the Seder meal. I also thought about the stories from several individuals who recalled their traumatic experiences as children: “One spring my father brought home a lamb, who then became our pet. We would feed it and play with it in the backyard. But then one month later (the day before the Seder) the shochet arrived at our door and we knew what was going to happen. It was a terrible experience,” shared one individual from Iran. “My sisters, and brothers and I used to keep him on our terrace and feed and pet it. Then one day it was gone and it wasn’t until the Seder meal that we understood. It was very hard for us,” shared another from Morocco. In fact it was not uncommon in the Middle East for several family members to go “wholesale” and order an entire lamb that they could share for the holiday week, while others in poorer communities might have shared one between several families. The main thing was that you ate some amount of lamb to fulfill this mitzvah of the sacrifice (and remember our ancestors’ freedom from Egypt).

Now that Passover is upon us, and my freezer is filled with half of a lamb, I feel more pressure to find and develop appropriate recipes for each piece. It’s not the same thing as simply going to your local butcher and purchasing a few (“anonymous”) pounds of the same cut. There is some responsibility now in using every piece and not letting any go to waste. Corny as it sounds, going in on the whole lamb feels much more personal.

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