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Jun 25, 2014

Next Stop--Italian Jewish Food

One of the oldest Jewish communities in the world can be found in Rome, where Jews have been living since the destruction of the Second Bais Hamikdash in the year 70. At that time many Jews were brought to Rome as prisoners and slaves. By the end of the first century, some 30,000 Jews were living there.

Over the years, there have been two other major migrations: the Ashkenazim who came from Central Europe in the early 14th century, and the Sephardim who came after the expulsion of Jews from Spain. As with Jewish immigrants throughout the world, it’s often difficult to know whose culture was the greater influence.

As with all Mediterranean cuisine, vegetables and herbs play a large part in Italian Jewish cooking. Of course they came up with their own versions of slow cooked foods for Shabbos and special dishes for Yom Tov.

Spinach with Pine Nuts and Raisins
This is one of the most popular dishes of the Italian Jews.

 2 1/2 pounds spinach (frozen is fine)
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions, minced
4 tablespoons raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

If using fresh spinach, rinse the leaves well and remove the stems.  Place in a large sauté pan with only the rinsing water clinging to the leaves. Cook over medium heat, turning as needed until wilted, just a few minutes. Drain well and set aside. If you are using frozen, thaw and drain as much water as you can.
Add the olive oil to the sauté pan and place over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the spinach, raisins, and pine nuts and sauté briefly to warm through. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm or at room temperature.

Italian Citrus Salad

A light fragrant salad that’s perfect any time!

2 tomatoes, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup bell pepper (red and yellow), chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
1 zucchini, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
1/3 cups finely chopped red onion
3 large oranges, washed, peeled and cut into 1/2 -inch cubes

for the dressing:
2 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon shredded fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

 In large bowl combine all salad ingredients.

Whisk together salad dressing ingredients and add to the bowl of prepared vegetables. Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve

Carciofi alla Giudia or Fried Artichokes

This savory vegetable recipe is said to have originated in the ghettos of Rome. It's a prime example of Jewish ingenuity in creating kosher dishes with local ingredients. Serve hot as an appetizer or side dish.

 2 tablespoons olive oil

2 (14-ounce) cans artichoke hearts, drained and patted dry
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

 In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over high heat. Add artichokes and cook 2 minutes to heat through.

Reduce heat to low. Stir in garlic and lemon juice. Cook 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat and add Parmesan cheese. Stir gently to mix.

Transfer to an oiled broiling pan. Finish off under preheated broiler to brown at edges, 2 minutes.

 Apple-Apricot Crostada
If you’re going to serve and Italian-style meal you will want to end with this simple but tasty fruit tart

 4 Granny Smith or other cooking apples
½ cup sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter or pareve margarine
2 large egg yolks
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup apricot preserves

 Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and grease a 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.
Peel, core, and slice the apples about a fourth to an eighth of an inch thick. You should have about 24 pieces.
Place the sugar, butter, egg yolks, flour, and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process gently until the dough forms a ball. Pulsing works best—do not overwork the dough.
Take the ball of dough in your hands and flatten in the center of the tart pan. Working with your fingers and wide spatula, spread the dough evenly around the pan and up the sides. The dough should be about 1/2 inch thick on the sides. Press the dough into the flutes and spread it evenly across the bottom of the pan, then trim and flatten the edges with a knife. Starting on the outside and working toward the center, lay the apple slices in an overlapping, concentric circle.
Place the apricot preserves in a saucepan and heat over a low flame until it has liquefied. Using a pastry brush, glaze the apples and the visible crust.
Place the tart pan on a cookie sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees and continue baking until the crust is deep golden brown, about 45 minutes. Bring to room temperature, unmold, and put on a platter or serving dish.


Jun 18, 2014

Dutch Jewish Food—Our Next Stop

In the 1500’s the Netherlands were known to have been tolerant of any religious practices. This meant freedom for both Christians and Jews who flocked there in large numbers. They mostly came from Spain where only Catholicism was acceptable. These Jews were Sephardic and brought with them traditional Sephardic foods. But as word spread Ashkenazi Jews arrived as well and by the 1700’s made up a large part of the Jewish population. Each culture brought its own influence to Holland and contributed dishes that remain popular today. One of the most famous is called Zeeuwse bolus sweet spiral buns. These sweet sticky buns are covered in cinnamon and sugar and are for this reason are sometimes referred to as “inside out buns.”

3 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 ½ cups w
hole milk or soy milk
1 stick butter or margarine
1 egg
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

Sift all of the flour into a bowl and add the yeast. Heat the milk until it is lukewarm.  Make a depression in the flour and add ½ cup of the warm milk. Now add the egg and butter or margarine into the same depression. Start the mixer slowly and add the rest of the lukewarm milk one bit at the time into the flour, kneading until you have a silky smooth dough. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour under a damp cloth in a warm place.

Mix the cinnamon and brown sugar together.

Knead the dough once again, by hand, for about a minute.
Cut the dough into 60 small pieces of about 2 ounces each. Let the dough rise for about 15 minutes under a plastic bag or tarp. Spread cinnamon and sugar on your countertop. After 15 minutes, roll each ball in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Set aside to rise for another 15 minutes.
Roll the dough pieces through the sugar, making long strings about ¾” in diameter. Make sure they’re well coated.  Twist the rope around your finger to make a knot.  Put the boluses on a lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let them rise for another half hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the boluses are golden brown. After baking turn the boluses over immediately. Be careful, the melted sugar is HOT! Let the boluses cool down a bit before serving.
These are best served warm and sticky!

Another traditional Dutch Jewish food is their version of potato kugel knows as Pom. It combines shredded potatoes and chicken along with a delicious mix of spices.

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 small onions, roughly chopped (about 2½ cups)
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch chunks
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, each cut in half
2 cups chicken stock, divided
Juice and zest of 2 small oranges
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, shredded in long strips
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (about 1 large bunch)
3 eggs

 Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray a 9” x 13”casserole dish with nonstick cooking oil spray and set aside. 

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over high heat until it shimmers. Add the onions and stir, cooking for 8 to 10 minutes, until onions have softened and are translucent. Remove the onions to a bowl and set aside.  Reserve the pan. 

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan and heat until it shimmers again. Add the chicken to the pot in a single layer, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and sear until lightly browned. With tongs, turn the pieces, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and the remaining pepper and cook on the other side until lightly browned. Its fine if the center is still pink.

Lower the heat and return the onions to the pan, stirring well. Add the tomatoes, 1 cup of the stock, the lemon juice and zest, brown sugar, allspice, and nutmeg and stir well. Pour this mixture into the prepared casserole dish. 

Place the shredded potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Add the chopped parsley, the eggs, 1 teaspoon salt, the remaining stock and 1 tablespoon oil and stir to combine. Arrange this mixture evenly over the chicken stew mixture in the casserole dish. Drizzle the remaining oil over the potato layer and place in the oven.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the potatoes are a deep golden brown and crunchy on top. Remove from the oven and serve immediately, or allow to cool and refrigerate, covered. To reheat, cover with foil and bake at 300°F until heated through; then uncover, increase the heat to 450° and allow the top to get crunchy again. The potatoes will have soaked up the liquid the second day and it won’t be as crunchy, but it will be equally delicious.


Jun 11, 2014

Continuing our Culinary Adventures—On to Poland!

History has shown a Jewish presence in Poland since the 900’s. It is believed Jews from Prague and Bohemia settled there when they were expelled from their native countries during the Crusades. For centuries Polish kings passed laws allowing Jews to live in relative peace and extended royal protection to all Jewish settlers. In return the Jewish people living there were profoundly loyal to the reigning king. Jews became tradesmen and merchants and facilitated trade between Poland and many other countries.

 Until WWII the Jewish population in Poland grew every year until it numbered more than 3 million.

With a history that long, it is no wonder that there are numerous dishes that originate in Poland. Blintzes, kugels, knaidlach, kreplach and rugelach are all believed to have been invented there. These popular dishes spread to neighboring countries of Germany and Hungary where they were tweaked to fit local cuisine. But without a doubt, the most famous Jewish food to originate in Poland is the bagel!

While we think of bagels as something to be picked up at your local bake shop, some intrepid cooks will want to try making them at home—just like they did for centuries in Poland!


Homemade Bagels:

For the sponge: (substance that causes the bagels to rise)

4 cups high-gluten flour or bread flour
1 tsp. instant yeast (not active dry)
2-1/2 cups lukewarm water (about 70°F)

For the bagel dough:

1/2 tsp. instant yeast
4 cups high-gluten flour plus more as needed
1-1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt
2 tsp. malt powder or 1 Tbs. malt syrup (available at natural food stores)

For shaping, boiling, and baking:

canola oil spray
1 tablespoon baking soda
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, finely chopped onions tossed in a little oil

To make the sponge:

In a 4-qt. bowl, mix the flour and the 1 teaspoon yeast. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky dough. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until the mixture is very foamy and bubbly, 1 to 2 hours. It should swell to nearly double in size.

To make the bagel dough:

In a stand mixer bowl, stir the sponge with the 1/2 teaspoon yeast. In a bowl, mix 3 cups of the flour with the salt. Add it to the sponge, along with the malt. Using a dough hook, mix on the lowest speed, slowly working in the remaining flour until the dough is stiff, and  satiny; you may need extra flour. Keep kneading on low until the dough is firm but still pliable and smooth, about 6 minutes.

Divide the dough into 12 pieces, each weighing about 4-3/4 oz. Shape each piece into a smooth ball by pulling the dough down and around to one point on the bottom and then pinching the bottom closed. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 20 minutes so the gluten relaxes.

To shape, boil, and bake the bagels:

Line two baking sheets with parchment and spray the parchment with canola oil.

To shape the bagels, poke a hole in the center of each ball of dough with your thumb and then gently rotate the dough around both thumbs, slightly squeezing and stretching the dough little by little as you turn until the hole has enlarged to 1-1/2 to 2 inches. The dough ring should be an even thickness all around.

Set the shaped bagels on the prepared pans so they’re 2 inches apart. Mist the bagels very lightly with oil and cover the pans with plastic (the wrap keeps the dough from developing a skin, which would restrict the rise). Let the bagels sit at room temperature until they swell slightly.

After 15 minutes, start doing the “float test” to see if they’re ready to be set in the refrigerator: Drop one bagel a bowl of water. If it floats within 10 seconds, the bagels are ready for the overnight rise. Pat dry the test bagel and return it to the pan. (If it doesn’t float within 10 seconds, shake or pat it dry, return it to the pan, and test again every 10 minutes until it floats.) Refrigerate the pans, still covered, for at least 8 hours, or up to two days.

When you’re ready to bake the bagels, heat the oven to 500°F. Bring a large wide pot of water to a boil and add the baking soda; have ready a slotted spoon or skimmer. Remove one pan of bagels from the refrigerator. Move the parchment with the bagels off the pan and onto the counter. Line the pan with a clean sheet of parchment, mist with oil, and sprinkle with cornmeal.

Gently drop the bagels into the water, boiling only as many as will comfortably fit; they should float within 10 seconds, if not immediately. Boil for 1 minute, flip them over, and boil for another 1 minute. For very chewy bagels, boil for 2 minutes per side.

As the bagels finish cooking, lift them out with the skimmer and set them on the baking sheet with the cornmeal. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds, kosher salt, chopped onions, or minced garlic.

When the bagels on the first pan are boiled and sprinkled bake for 10 minutes, rotate the pan for even browning, and then continue baking until golden brown on top and bottom and very firm, about another 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the bagels to a cooling rack. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Remove the second pan of bagels from the fridge and boil and bake them the same way.

Serve with cream cheese and lox—another Jewish favorite!

May 28, 2014

Prepping for Shavuos—in the Kitchen

This week we’re taking a break from our culinary travels. It’s time to think about preparing for Shavuos—both spiritually and culinarily!

When we think of Shavuos the first thing that pops into our heads is “cheesecake!” The second thought is inevitably “too many calories!” While we have tried many low fat or low calorie cheesecakes, nothing compares to the real thing. So to keep from overindulging this Shavuos we suggest smaller portions. You don’t have to forego cheesecake altogether—just stick with individual bars or small cakes and limit yourself to one.

Mini Creme Brulee Cheesecakes

For the pastry crust:      
1 cup flour       
6 tablespoons sugar      
pinch salt       
4 tablespoons butter, (1/2 a stick) cut into small pieces       
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons ice cold water     

For the cheese filling:
1 pound unwhipped cream cheese

3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
8 tablespoons granulated sugar

 Prepare the crust:
 Sift together flour, sugar & salt in a large bowl.  Add butter and use a pastry blender to cut mixture into large crumbs.  You can also do this in a food processor using short pulses.  Using a fork, stir in the egg yolk and water until all the flour has been incorporated.  Shape dough into a round disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter the bottom of eight 4” springforms or tartlet pans.  Dust with flour, shaking out and excess.  Remove from refrigerator and divide dough into 8 pieces.  Roll each piece into a 5” round and press into prepared pan, bringing dough up the sides slightly.  Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork and place pans in the freezer for 15 minutes. 
 Cut aluminum foil squares to fit pans.  Place a square of foil in each pan and weigh down with pie weights or beans.  Place the individual pans on a sheet pan and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. 
 Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.   Remove from oven, take out foil and weights and allow to cool.

Prepare the cheesecake filling:
 Using the paddle attachment to an electric mixer or a handblender, mix all the filling ingredients until just blended.  DO NOT OVERMIX!  Divide the filling among the prebaked pie shells. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or just until set.  Cool and  refrigerate for a minimum of one hour.

To caramelize:
Sprinkle the top of each cheese tart evenly with 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Using a chef’s torch*, caramelize the top of each  cake by heating the sugar with the torch’s flame until it melts and turns a dark amber color.   When making these tarts for Shavuos, freeze immediately after caramelizing.  Remove from freezer and defrost 2-3 hours before serving.  Do not refrigerate--brulee topping will get soggy from the moisture in your refrigerator. 
 Yield: 8 4” individual desserts  

 *a chef’s torch is a mini propane torch that is used to caramelize sugar quickly and easily.

Praline Cheesecake Brownies
For brownie layer:
10 tablespoons butter (5 ounces)
2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate,
1/4 cup praline paste

2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup natural cocoa powder

For cheesecake layer:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup praline paste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a 9x9 inch square pan with parchment allowing the paper to extend over the edge of the pan.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler until just melted. Set aside to cool.  Combine praline paste, eggs, and sugar in your mixer bowl and mix well. Add the chocolate mixture and continue mixing.  Sift in flour and cocoa powder and mix until well combined. Pour batter into your prepared pan and spread evenly. Set aside while you prepare the cheesecake layer.
Mix the cream cheese, sugar, eggs and praline in your mixer until well combined. Pour over your brownie batter.
Bake until the cheesecake looks set, about 40-45 minutes. Allow brownies to cool completely in the pan before cutting into squares.


Coconut-Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

For the crust:
1/2 cup butter
1 sleeve graham crackers, finely crushed
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup sugar

 For the cheesecake:
2 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sugar
4 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Line it with parchment paper, leaving an overhang at the sides of the pan; set aside.

Prepare the crust:
In a small saucepan heat butter over medium heat until the color of light brown sugar. Be careful not to let it burn. Remove from heat; set aside.

In medium bowl stir together graham crackers, coconut, and 1/4 cup sugar. Stir in butter until combined. Evenly press on bottom of parchment lined pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, in large mixing bowl beat cream cheese and 2/3 cup sugar on medium until combined. Add eggs, sour cream and vanilla. Beat until combined. Pour over hot crust.

Toss blueberries in confectioners’ sugar until completely coated. Sprinkle blueberries over cheesecake batter. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until center appears set.
Cool in pan on rack. Cover and refrigerate. Cut into bars. Store, covered, in refrigerator.
Makes about 32 bars.

May 21, 2014

Our Culinary Travels Continue—Jewish Food in Spain

While our first thoughts of Sephardic food may bring to mind Syrian or Moroccan dishes, Sephardim all originate from Sepharad or Spain! It was during the 1400’s and the Spanish Inquisition that Sephardic Jews emigrated to the Middle East and Northern Africa. Once Sephardic Jews moved on to more tolerant countries they brought along Spanish culinary traditions and combined them with local cuisines. But some dishes have remained truly Spanish.

Hamin (or chamin) refers to a hot dish cooked overnight and served on Shabbos. History tells us that the food was placed in a clay pot and buried in the ground under red hot ashes and left to cook in that manner overnight. Nowadays you can make in a slow cooker or crock pot.

It usually includes stuffed vegetables in addition to meat or chicken and chickpeas. Sephardim also add spices such as cumin and hot peppers. The ingredients and spiciness of hamin varies from area to area. Jews from Spain make a version called adafina, which calls for spices like garlic, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and pepper, as well as whole eggs that turn brown and creamy during the long cooking process. The brown eggs, called haminados are shelled before serving and placed on top of the other cooked ingredients.

For the meat:
1 large onion diced
2 ½  pounds of beef flanken or ribs and beef bones
1/2 cup chickpeas
1/2 cup of white beans
2 medium sized potatoes, cubed
1 medium sized sweet potatoes, cubed
Salt & pepper to taste

½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon  cinnamon
¼ teaspoon paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Canola oil

for the rice:
1 cup rice
1 small onion, diced
1 small sweet potato, diced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon of cumin
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of salt
Pinch of pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil

4 eggs, raw in their shells
cooking or roasting bags
Water to cover

Dice and sauté the onion until it is golden. Cut the beef into chunks and brown together with the onions.
After the beef is browned, add chickpeas and beans, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Add the spice as directed or to taste. Place this mixture in a cooking bag in your slow cooker.
In a separate bowl mix together the rice, sweet potato and diced onion. Add oil and two cups of water. Place rice mixture into a separate cooking bag and place in the slow cooker. Cover bags with water. Add eggs in their shells. Cook everything together on low heat for 12 hours.
Open the bags into separate bowls and serve each separately with the eggs on top.

Bimuelos (Spanish Doughnuts)

You don’t have to wait for Chanukah to try this tasty treat!

 3 1/2 cups  flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water, divided
juice of 1 large orange, strained of pulp (about 1/3 cup), divided
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying
1 cup honey

 Combine flour, 1 tablespoon sugar and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. Pour 1/2 cup water into a large bowl. Sprinkle sugar and yeast over water and wait until mixture become foamy, about 10 minutes. Add flour mixture, remaining water, 3 tablespoons orange juice, orange zest, and 2 tablespoons oil to yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine, about 30 seconds.
Using your hands, knead dough in bowl until smooth, adding 1 tablespoon of additional flour at a time to reduce stickiness, for about 1-2 minutes. Remove dough and place in a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest until dough has doubled in volume, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Heat oil in a large stockpot pot to about 350-360 degrees on a deep fry thermometer.   Lightly oil hands, form dough into walnut-sized balls, and drop into oil in batches. Fry until golden brown on both sides, about 3-4 minutes total. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Place honey and remaining orange juice in a small saucepan and simmer 3-4 minutes until warm. Drizzle honey over bimuelos and serve.


A popular Spanish nut cookie that is delicious Pesach as well as all year!

 4 cups chopped toasted hazelnuts
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
zest of 1 large orange

 Mix all the ingredients with a fork until they hold together in a dense paste. Cover the paste in a bowl and chill it for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Line cookie sheets with baking parchment or Silpats. Moisten your hands lightly with cold water, divide the paste into 30 balls and compact them well by rolling them between your palms. Space the balls one inch apart on the cookie sheets.

Press each ball into a pyramid. Form the base first: using your thumb and first two fingers, push straight down on the ball to flatten the bottom against the cookie sheet.  Turn the cookie on its side and this time press down at an angle, to form the first triangular side. Rotate 90° and repeat, making sure the second side is equal in size to the first. Repeat on the remaining two sides, for a total of four triangular sides plus the square bottom.

Bake for 20 minutes. Mustachudos should be lightly toasted, at most. Don’t let them brown (they’ll dry out and crack), and don’t worry if they come out of the oven looking a little pale. Transfer to a plate or wire rack to cool.

If you prefer to prepare these nutty cookies with less effort simply press the batter into a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cut in squares. Cool and serve.




May 14, 2014

Jewish Food Around the World—Next Stop: India

For centuries, India has been home to Jews. The Jews of Cochin, a port city on India’s southwestern coast, have lived in India for at least a millennium. According to their tradition, they settled there after the destruction of the Bayis Sheini. Coconut and coconut oil were abundant and made their way into the Jewish dishes.

 Jews living in Bombay and Calcutta came from Baghdad when British rule began in the 19th century. Lured by economic opportunities and afraid of growing anti-Semitism, some became extremely wealthy as developers and manufacturers, and their affluence was reflected in their food. They love rice dishes that are very elaborate.  

Aloo makalla--described as “the most famous Jewish dish in India”—is the product of a combination of Arabic and Indian cooking practices common among Baghdadi Jews. Long-simmered in hot oil, whole potatoes form a hard exterior but stay soft inside, leading the flesh of the potato to “jump” out when cut into—the root of the dish’s nickname, “Jumping Potatoes.”  These potatoes are often served with murgi (spicy chicken), bhaji (curried vegetables) and other vegetable and rice dishes. The generous use of sesame and nuts also reflects Jewish Middle Eastern lineage. 

Historically, the largest group of Jews in India is the Bene Israel, discovered by European missionaries in the 18th century in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Bene Israel tradition tells of a shipwreck in ancient times that stranded them in India, where they remained and mingled with the native people of Maharashtra. Interestingly, DNA tests have confirmed that they are of Middle-Eastern Jewish origin.

Whatever their origins, the Jews of India shared a love of sweets. They make many desserts, usually in conjunction with a Yom Tov. Gulab jamun, fritters soaked in a sugar syrup, are popular during Chanukah; Yom Kippur fasts are broken with padhar, a coconut-filled crepe and Purim is associated with malpua, a sweet pancake made with bananas, pineapple and other fruits and served with a syrup.


2 pounds small potatoes of uniform size, peeled
1 teaspoon table salt or 2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
About 3 cups canola or peanut oil for frying

 Place the potatoes in a large pot and add water to just cover. Add the salt and turmeric. Bring to a boil and parboil for 30 seconds. Drain. Let cool, then pat dry. Prick each potato once with the tines of a fork.

Place the potatoes in a wide pot and add enough oil to cover. Bring to a boil, without stirring, over medium-high heat, about 15 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer, shaking the pan occasionally, until the potatoes are crusty and lightly golden, about 1 hour. At this point, the potatoes can be removed from the heat and allowed to sit in the oil, for up to 3 hours.

Shortly before serving, increase the heat to medium-high and fry until the crust is very hard and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm.

Aromatic Spiced Rice

Before serving, remove whole spices if desired, or simply advise guests to leave them to the side of their plate
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin
2-inch piece cinnamon
2–3 whole green cardamom pods
5–6 whole black peppercorns
4–5 whole cloves
1 onion, finely chopped
2 finely minced garlic cloves
1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 cups long-grain rice, preferably basmati
Salt to taste

Heat oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add cumin and sauté just until aroma arises, avoid burning. Stir in cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorns and cloves; sauté for 10 seconds. Add onion, garlic and ginger; sauté until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally so spices don’t burn or stick.

Add rice and salt to taste; mix well and sauté for 2 minutes. Add 3 3/4 cups water and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 20 minutes, until all water is absorbed and rice is tender. Serves 4 to 6.


Like all stews, this curry is excellent prepared a day or two in advance. Add the cilantro just before serving.
3 tablespoons canola oil 

3 large onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
5 fresh beefsteak tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon cayenne or other ground hot red pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder or 4 lamb shoulder chops (about 2 1/2 pounds), trimmed very well and cut into 1-inch cubes
2–3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Heat oil over medium heat in large, heavy Dutch oven or wide pot. Add onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.

Pulse garlic and ginger in a food processor until chopped finely. Add tomatoes, red pepper, cumin and turmeric; process to a coarse puree. Stir the tomato mixture into the onions, together with black pepper, salt to taste, cinnamon and cloves; cook for 5 minutes. Add meat; cook over moderate heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add potatoes; cover and cook until meat and potatoes are very tender.

If sauce is not thick enough, remove meat and potatoes with a slotted spoon and set aside. Boil sauce, uncovered, until it has cooked down a bit. Return meat and potatoes to sauce to reheat. Taste; adjust seasoning. Garnish with cilantro and serve with Aromatic Spiced Rice or other freshly cooked rice.

Serves 4 to 6.

May 7, 2014

Voila! Jewish Food in France

There have been Jewish people living in France for approximately 2000 years so it’s no wonder that each culture has had an influence on the other. There are countless tales debating the origins of cabbage stews, cholent (from the words chaud--“hot and lent-- “slow”; a slow cooking hot dish) and other common foods. It is often unclear if a dish was invented by Jewish cooks and popularized by Gentiles or the other way around. Either way, lots of our traditional Ashkenazi foods can trace their origins to France. Some dishes, however, are uniquely French like fricassee and pletzl—a type of flat onion roll. In fact, the Jewish quarter in Paris is colloquially referred to as “the Pletzl!”

This delicious French bread is great for mopping up sauce from your plate!

 4 to 5 cups flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast
4 tablespoon sugar
2 eggs
1 cup water
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 to 3 cups diced onion, to taste

¼ cup poppy seeds

Place 4 cups of flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast and the sugar.  Add the eggs, water, ¼ cup of the vegetable oil and the salt. Mix well and knead for 10 minutes, until smooth, adding more flour if necessary. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, turning the dough to coat lightly with the oil, cover and let rise for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
Divide the dough into 12 pieces and form into balls. Roll or flatten each ball to about 6 inches in diameter. Put the dough on the cookie sheets and press down the center to leave about a slightly higher inch-wide edge all around. Brush the dough with cold water and sprinkle about some diced onion in each indentation. Brush the edges of the rounds with vegetable oil and sprinkle generously with poppy seeds. Let sit for 15 minutes uncovered.
Bake for 20 minutes until pletzls are golden brown. Serve warm

Apple Cinnamon Chicken

This tasty dish probably originated as a Rosh Hashanah tradition but it can be enjoyed on Pesach as well.

1 whole roasting chicken, about 3 ½ pounds
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup chicken stock
1 1/3 cups dry white wine
3 fuji or gala apples, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons sugar

 Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Sprinkle the chicken, inside and out with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon.

Put the onions in a roasting pan. Place the chicken on top.  Pour the chicken broth and wine over the chicken, and roast in the oven for 45 minutes.

Sprinkle the apples with the remaining cinnamon and sugar. After the chicken has been cooking for 45 minutes, add the apples to the pan. Baste with the wine, and roast for about 45 more minutes, or until the apples are very soft and the chicken is cooked.

Remove from the oven and serve hot.

Plum Torte

This popular tart can be served as a side dish along with your entrée or as a light dessert.

 1 stick margarine, softened
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
12 small (Hungarian or Italian) plums, pitted and cut in half

1 teaspoon cinnamon or more, to taste

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream the margarine and the 3/4 cup of sugar. Add the flour, baking powder, eggs, and salt and beat to mix well. Batter will be soft. 

Spoon the batter into an ungreased 9” springform pan or 9” quiche dish. Arrange the plum halves or slices on the batter.  Mix the cinnamon with the remaining sugar and sprinkle over the top.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and let cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired.  Serves 8

Alsatian Challah Kugel with Pears

Bosc pears were often put into kugel in France. Some, like this version, include onions, which add a savory dimension to the sweetness of the fruit and the dough. 

1¼ cup canola oil, divided
2 pounds ripe Bosc pears
2 small onions (about 1/2 pound), peeled diced
Kosher salt to taste
7-8 slices challah, about 8 ounces
3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 eggs
2 cups pitted prunes
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Juice of 1 lemon

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch springform pan with 2 tablespoons of the oil.

Peel the pears and cut into cubes.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil over a medium-high heat in a frying pan.  Lightly sauté the onions until they are translucent.  Remove from the heat, salt to taste and let them cool.

Soak the challah in lukewarm water for a few minutes and squeeze out as much water as you can.  Put in a large bowl and add ¼ cup of the sugar, and the remaining oil.  Stir in the eggs, onions, and half of the diced pears, setting aside the remaining pears for the sauce.

Pour the batter into the spring form pan and bake for 2 hours.

While the kugel is baking, make the sauce.  In a heavy saucepan put 1 cup of water, the remaining ½ cup of sugar, the prunes, cinnamon, lemon juice, and the remaining diced pears.   Cook this mixture over medium-high heat, uncovered for 30 minutes.

When the kugel is done, remove from the oven and set on a rack to cool for about 20 minutes.  Spoon half of the compote over it and allow it to soak into the kugel. Remove from the springform and serve the remaining compote on the side.

Bon appétit!