Archive for the 'kosher cooking and history' Category

25
Jul
11

Aromas of Aleppo


Poopa Dweck‘s magnum opus is far more than just an ethnic cookbook. In its pages, the author lovingly brings us the history, the culture, the flavors and aromas of over 2500 years of Syrian Jewry.

As the author tells us in the Preface, the book…

…features dishes that are both disarmingly familiar, exotic, and, above all, healthful.

My community represents a link to a forgotten past. It is one of the few Jewish communities to live through the rise and fall of Moorish Spain and the Ottoman Empire and survive as a modern people in the West while maintaining its venerable traditions. Our soulful culture, with its fervid, tuneful songs and communal celebratory feasts, is at its most vibrant during the Sabbath, holidays, and life cycle events. One of the most artful representations of Aleppian Jewish culture is our food, whose story I have yearned to tell.

By coincidence (is there really such a thing?!?) I was playing Rabbi Moshe Tessone‘s CD Odeh La’El!, as I became engrossed in this coffee table sized, art-book quality tome. The writing is informative and fun, the evocative photography (the colors, the settings, the lighting, the angles, bespeak of a certain rusticity and a sedate elegance at the same time) and the recipes truly introduced me to a world which – as an Ashkenazic Jew – I barely knew. Between this beautiful book and the music I felt transported to another time, to an enchanted region, far from the hustle and bustle of New York and – at least for the moment – life seemed beautiful, simple and far more pure…

Looking through the old photographs, looking at the author’s family, looking at the recipes pictured, almost made me feel as if I was partaking of a holiday meal at her table.

While loeafing though the book I just had to immediately try a recipe. On page 162 I found one that called for some of my leftover matzah meal and tamarind concentrate, which I’d picked up in the nearby Sephardic neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Keftes

Tamarind-Stewed Meatballs

Meatball dishes such as keftes are a tradition all over the Middle East. Some regions use turmeric and others use sumac or lemon and mintas flavoring accents for similar meatballs. Aleppian Jews like to use a combination of tomato sauce and tamarind, the proportions of which can vary according to a family’s preference.

Meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons matzah meal
  • 1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Sauce:
  • One 6 ounce can tomato paste, or two 8 ounce cans tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon ou (tamarind concentrate, page 41), homemade or store bought
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  1. To make the meatballs, combine the the beef, eggs, matzah meal, salt and Aleppo pepper. Mix well by hand. The mixture should be loose and moist so that it can best absorb the sauce and retain a velvety texture. Shape the meat mixture into walnut-size balls.
  2. To make the sauce, combine the tomato paste, ou, lemon juice, salt, 1 cup of water, and, if desired, sugar, mix well.
  3. In a large ovenproof saucepan, brown the meatballs, one batch at a time, in the oil over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes per batch.
  4. Return all the meatballs to the saucepan. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes to thicken sauce and allow the flavors to integrate thoroughly.

Variation

For a tangier sauce, increase the ou by 1 1/2 teaspoons and increase the water by 1/2 cup. Or omit the ou altogether for a lighter, more refreshing sauce, especially if you are serving another dish with ou.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Enjoy, gentle reader, enjoy! Sifrah daimeh – “May your table always be plentiful”

CS

03
Jan
11

This Week’s Upcoming Internet Radio Show


Elizabeth Bland, photo from her website (cheesemistress.com/)

Last Wednesday we had a very interesting discussion on cheese and kosher cheese in particular with Elizabeth Bland (we will soon post, on these very pages, a supermarket trip with Mrs. Bland where we will look at various kosher cheeses. Meanwhile you can hear an .mp3 file of our radio show here.

This coming Wednesday – January 5, 2011 – our guest will be Gill Marks. Gill recently published the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. What are Gill Marks credentials? What qualifies him to talk or write about food? As his website states:

Gill Marks, at The James Beard Foundation. Photo from gilmarks.com

An author, rabbi, historian, chef, and social worker, Gil Marks is a leading authority on culinary subjects in general and Jewish cuisine in particular. Among his published books are Encyclopedia of Jewish Food (Wiley: 2010), James Beard Award-winning Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World (Wiley 2004), and James Beard Award finalist The World of Jewish Cooking (Simon & Schuster, 1996). Marks was included in the Jewish Forward’s annual “Forward 50,” a list of the fifty most influential Jewish-Americans in the year 2010. http://www.forward.com/forward-50/

A self-taught chef, Marks entertained at his New York City home, earning a reputation as a gourmet cook. He began moonlighting for several caterers before branching out on his own. Some of his early jobs involved baking 150 apple pies for a cooking spray promotion, an all-dessert bat mitzvah, and a health food wedding. In 1986, Marks combined his interests in food, history, Judaism, and writing to become founding editor of Kosher Gourmet magazine, a position he held for six years. After leaving Kosher Gourmet, Marks turned his attention to writing fiction and biblical research as well as continuing his work on culinary subjects. His efforts include two plays, Therapist, and, in collaboration with Stanley Allan Sherman, The Golem of Gavah. His other books are The World of Jewish Desserts (Simon & Schuster, September 2000) and The World of Jewish Entertaining (Simon & Schuster, 1998) and he was also among the international team of contributors to the prestigious Meals in Science and Practice: Interdisciplinary Research and Business Applications (Woodhead Publishing, 2009).

Marks has also written articles for numerous magazines; served as a guest lecturer at the Culinary Institute of America,HazonKosherfest, and Drisha Institute; acted as consultant for various companies and organizations; and given presentations throughout the world, including the 92nd Street Y, Macy’s DeGustibus Cooking SchoolThe Learning Annex, the Kislak Adult Center, and the Fresh Start Program at New York’s Rikers Island. Marks continues to write, research, lecture, and perform cooking demonstrations for groups across the country and make appearances on various television and radio programs.

When I first contacted Mr. Marks to arrange the radio interview I thought it would be a short call, instead I was totally fascinated listening to his stories and the call was rather a long one. He is a captivating repository of anecdotes and history, this upcoming show promises to be a very interesting one!

Please, listen in on Wednesday at 8:00pm on Jewish Radio Network. Click on the red “here” under the white “Radio,” then wait about 90 to 180 seconds for the application to start streaming.

CS

24
Dec
10

The Joy of Cookbooks


There was a time when cookbooks were written dry as a road map, the writing was limited to exact cooking directions, nothing more; in their current generation, cookbooks tell a story – besides presenting us with succulent recipes – we are regaled with personal anecdotes, or the various transformations of the specific dish, something about the region or culture that created it and so on. Quite often the result is very readable and interesting, even if you do not plan to make the specific recipe at the moment, there is something about it that catches your eye, excites your imagination and makes your taste buds salivate.

Food writing, differs from other types and yet it combines so many staple features of all the others. More than any other writing, however, it affords us huge insights into its author’s personality, interests, quirks, likes, dislikes and sometimes, personal life. Oft, you come away with the feeling you reunited with an old friend or that you just met someone you’ll love revisiting time and time again.

From books that trace Jewish influences on a specific country’s cuisine (like Joyce Goldstein‘s Cucina Ebraica), to books that bring us anecdotes, personal stories and more about the author’s or the recipes’ background (like Lévana Kirschenbaum‘s Lévana’s Table), or the incredible well researched Encyclopedia of Jewish Foods by Gil Marks (I’ve only seen a few random pages of the last, but I found it absolutely fascinating!!!), reading food writing – specifically kosher food writing - connects us with our past as a people, connects us with new friends we’d probably never have met otherwise, connects with our traditions. Yes, gentle reader, reading a cookbook is not what it used to be, there is a lot to learn from it – far more than how to prepare a flavorful dish. As Gil Marks so aptly puts it in his Encyclopedia:

Food is more than just sustenance. It is a reflection of the history, culture and values, and this is specially true of the Jewish people–a community that spans the globe. From Brooklyn to India and everywhere in between, Jewish food is represented by a fascinating array of dishes, rituals, and traditions.

Jewish cuisine is truly international. In every location Jews settled, they brought culinary traditions and also adapted local dishes modifying them to fit dietary laws, lifestyles and tastes. Unique traditions and dishes developed within the cuisines of North Africa, Europe, Persia, and the Mediterranean, but all are recognizably Jewish.

Enjoy your reading, gentle reader, and excite your taste buds.

CS

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