Archive for the 'Sephardic dishes' 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

13
Apr
10

Israeli Food Blogs – Part 1


I constantly look at blogs from around the world for interesting recipes. Why blogs? Because not only renowned chefs can make memorable dishes. Imagination, love of food and talent in combining the right ingredients are what is important. Israel, as the melting pot of Jewish cultures from all over the planet, has many sites dedicated to ethnic food for every taste. Today I will look at three blogs, I read religiously. The writing and the photography are quite good, the recipes at times unusual, the results always delectable!

These blogs give descriptions of places, of life, of people and recipes. They reveal at least as much about the bloggers as they do about each post’s subject.

From Sarah Melamed‘s Food Bridge:

[All photos in this post are the property of Food Bridge.]

The Cook from Agrippas Street

by Sarah on April 12, 2010

agrippas street, Jerusalem

It is on this street in Jerusalem, lined with shops, alleyways and cafes, that Aviva Ben Yoseph, was born and raised in the early years of Israel.  Her cookbook is not only a wonderful compendium of her mother’s Sephardic recipes but a tribute to her and glimpse of a culture that has all but vanished with time. The author recreates the smells and flavors emanating from her mother’s tiny kitchen and the bustle and noise from the nearby Mahane Yehuda shuk, with the help of photographs depicting life years ago and of Agrippas street and the shuk as they are now.

Mahane yehuda, Jerusalem

mahane yehuda, Jerusalem

Her recipes are an amalgam of Middle Eastern and Sephardic cooking, some of them handed down from mother to daughter, other recipes perhaps influenced by neighbors and friends.  The wandering Jews of the Middle East had a propensity to travel more than their Arab compatriots often searching for a safe haven or better economical conditions. It is for this reason that many Jewish recipes reflect their travels and deviate from the standard. In Aviva’s cookbook there are kubba recipes from Iraq, Syrian style stuffed onion and cheesy Turkish bureks.

Meatballs with bulgur

Meatballs with Bulgur

This is a recipe from Aviva’s book and an easy way to incorporate bulgur into dishes besides the ubiquitous tabouleh and fried kibbeh. Although this is a Turkish influenced recipe, the addition of coriander is definitely not Turkish as it is an herb rarely seen in Turkish cuisine and very difficult to obtain there.

500 grams [1.1 lb] ground beef or lamb

1/2 cup fine bulgur

1 onion, coarsely grated

1 cup chopped parsley

1 cup chopped coriander

2 eggs

1 tablespoon flour

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon hot paprika

1 teaspoon salt

Wash the bulgur and let stand for 10 minutes.

Combine all the ingredients and mix well.

With your hands create flat meatballs and fry in enough oil so it comes half way up the meatball. Fry on one side and then the other. Serve with fresh tomato and cucumber salad.

*Agrippas Street is named after the grandson of Herod the Great, the brutal King of the Jews who had a penchant for killing his wives and living an extravagant lifestyle (somewhat like Henry VIII of England), relics of which can be seen in his palace in Masada. His grandson Agrippas inherited his excessive spending habit and fled Rome to escape his debt, later to become the King of Judea. His image and namesake is preserved on ancient coins and two thousand years later, it is the main thoroughfare  to reach the Mahane Yehuda shuk in Jerusalem, the biggest shopping area in the city. I think Agrippas would have liked that.

Not only does Mrs. Melamed’s writing and photos bring the sights, the sounds and the smells of Rechov Agrippas to life – even from a afar – but they fill the reader with a strong appetite for the particular recipe.

While living in Israel, I often walked through the alleyways of Jerusalem; I’ve been on Rechov Agrippas and the above post brought back some great memories. Good food, good memories… can anyone ask for more?

CS




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