Tag Archives: turkey

Happy 70th Birthday Israel! My podcast with Steven Shalowitz on popular Israeli foods and their origins

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In honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary (April 18, 2018), I was interviewed by Steven Shalowitz to discuss popular Israeli food for JNF’s Podcast (the Jewish National Fund), IsraelCast. Tune in as we discuss the origins of shakshuka, borekas, felafel, hummus, halvah, the biblical herb za’tar, and shnitzel. (I will even talk about how pastrami became a Jewish-American deli favorite!)

Click here for JNF’s Podcast, IsraelCast
(Scroll down to “Episodes” and you will find it listed first as
episode 25, Culinary Expert Jennifer Abadi.)

Note:
In the second half of my talk I will also briefly discuss my new cookbook
Too Good To Passover.

 

 

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The One Way Ticket Show: My trip to the Ottoman Empire to meet the Sultan.

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In a recent interview by Steven Shalowitz for his podcast The One Way Ticket Show, I was asked the following question: “If I gave you a one-way ticket, past, present, future, real, imaginary or state of mind, where would you go?” (Remember — there’s no coming back!)

Putting aside the fact that by going back in time I would be giving up some of the great discoveries in medicine, technology, and advancements in human rights, I chose to go back to the Golden Age of the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the mid 1500s. (I had briefly considered the golden age of Jewish culture in Spain in the 8th and 9th centuries, but decided I didn’t want to be stuck there once the Inquisitions began.)

One Way Ticket Show

 

 

Are we ready for a Thanksgiving Seder plate?

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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?

Roosevelt Island: My roundtrip ticket to Istanbul.

RooseveltIslandTram_blogThis past November I bought a roundtrip ticket to Roosevelt Island to meet with Jale, a true Sefardi from Istanbul, and her daughter Olya. I had already interviewed Jale over the phone that past spring, and on this day we were planning to make a few of her special Passover dishes: Enginara (lemony steamed whole artichokes), and Almodrote (shredded zucchini pie with sheep’s milk cheese and creamy yogurt). I hadn’t been to Roosevelt Island since I was a kid in the 1970s, and I was excited about taking a mini trip away from the city. Boarding the tram felt exotic, and I half expected to be asked for my Manhattan passport. As we flew over the East River and approached land, I imagined that I was on a plane crossing the Black Sea, getting ready to debark on an island near Istanbul.

Enginara_Jale_blogAs soon as I arrived, Jale’s daughter Olya welcomed me in and took my coat. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted already shredded zucchini draining in a strainer over a plate, and I smelled something baking in the oven. “Uh oh,” I thought, “I hope that she hasn’t started cooking without me!” (This is a common anxiety I often have when going to someone’s home to learn a recipe.) When Jale came up the stairs and greeted me, she assured me that she had only started some of the simpler things to save time, and there was still plenty of work to be done. “Please sit down for a cup of Turkish coffee and a boureka,” she beckoned. Feeling a bit worn from my travels (after all, I had taken a bus, subway, and tram to get there), I accepted Jale’s hospitality and sat down at the table. The boureka was flakey and buttery, and the coffee was strong, which is just what was needed to prepare for the big cooking day ahead.

The first dish that we prepared was the steamed whole artichokes with lemon. I must admit that when Jale first suggested that we make this dish together, I didn’t think that it would be something complex enough to learn, but I was very wrong. Without her demonstrating, I never would have understood the proper way to pick a good artichoke (for size and color), how to clean the outside stem, how to cut the top and pluck the leaves, how to scoop out the center to get to the cherished heart, and most of all, how to prevent the outsides from oxidizing and turning black before cooking. We finally got them into a saucepan to steam with freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt, and a bit of sugar to round out the flavor. The results of this “simple” dish were heavenly. The tart flavor of the sauce made by the combination of fresh lemon juice, salt, oil, and a sprinkle of sugar made my Sephardic palate dance with glee. “I’ve traveled to Sefarad, I thought.

JaleTurcihin_blog

Enginara: Steamed Whole Artichoke Hearts with Lotsa Lemon
(Yield: Serves 6 to 8)

For Cleaning Artichokes:
12 medium whole artichokes
(if possible, try not to get them too big)

5 large or 6 small lemons
Large basin, pot, or bowl filled with cold water

For Cooking Artichokes:
1/4 cup pure olive oil (not virgin or extra virgin)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
(from above lemons)

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Couple teaspoons sugar (to taste)
2 to 3 cups cold water

Clean the Artichokes:
1. Cut the lemons in half and squeeze out enough juice to equal 1 cup. Set juice aside and throw the lemon rind shells into a very large bowl or pot filled with cold water. (If you have a lemon half leftover give a few quick squeezes of lemon juice into the water as well.)

2. Being careful not to break off the stem, remove and discard all the darkest, thickest leaves from the artichoke by first snapping them back then ripping them off at the bend. (Stop when you get to the softer leaves that are lighter green in color.)

3. Take a sharp knife and about 1 1/2 to 2 inches up from the base of the artichoke, cut straight across the top so that it resembles a flower with a flat top.

4. Using a teaspoon, scoop out the choke or entire center of the artichoke in order to clean out all of the thin hairs and pointy white leaves (the “flower” should now be like an empty cup inside, with the heart at the bottom).

5. Using a small sharp knife or peeler, clean off the very outermost layer of the stem all around making sure not to make the stem so thin that it bends or breaks off.

6. Take a lemon half from the bowl of water and rub the inside of the shell all over the artichoke to lighten or brighten it. Drop the artichoke in the lemony bath while continuing to work on the remaining artichokes in this same manner.

Cook the Artichokes:
7. Bring oil, lemon juice, salt, and sugar to a boil over high heat in a saucepan large enough to fit all
12 artichokes snugly side by side.

8. Place each artichoke stem-side up into the liquid, then fill with enough cold (about 2to 3 cups) of water to reach halfway up the artichoke base (you should not go as high up as the beginning of the stem). Bring to a second boil over high heat, reduce to medium heat, cover, and cook until arthichokes become very tender and sauce has cooked down to about half, about 30 minutes. Remove cover and cook an additional 15 minutes to cook off more of the excess liquid.

9. Taste sauce and adjust the balance with salt and/or sugar, if necessary. Remove from heat and serve hot, warm, or cold.

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

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