‘Food Maven’ Saves Endangered Recipes


 

“Jewish Food: The World at Table” by Matthew Goodman (HarperCollins, $29.95)

When the El-Ghriba synagogue in Tunisia was bombed by Al Qaeda in 2002, the fragile remnant of a once thriving Jewish community was even further shattered.

“The Tunisian Jewish community is one of the oldest continuous Jewish communities in the world,” said Matthew Goodman, author of “Jewish Food: The World at Table,” from his home in Brooklyn, “and the site of El-Ghriba was one of the most ancient, going back, I believe, to the fifth century B.C.E. As of 1948 there were 100,000 Jews in Tunisia. Today there are fewer than 2,000.”

As the “Food Maven” columnist at The Forward, Goodman used his reporting skills to search out diverse cuisines of far-flung, once vital centers of Jewish life, some now on the brink of extinction.

“What I tried to do with this book was to locate and preserve food traditions from communities around the world that are today endangered because the communities themselves are endangered,” he said. “So many of them weren’t able to survive the 20th century or survive only in the most attenuated form.”

More than 170 recipes, some of which have never before been written down, document the rich and varied Jewish culture of 29 countries, linked by law and ritual, yet distinguished by unique customs, traditions and celebrations, the history of a people told through its food.

But what is Jewish food? Can it even be defined?

“There are very few dishes that are shared by all Jewish communities around the world,” Goodman noted, “only two or three, and only one shared ingredient, matzah. You couldn’t define a cuisine based entirely on matzah. Jewish food is food that has been made by Jewish communities through the centuries and sustained by them, wherever they happened to be.”

Both Ashkenazic and Sephardic cuisines and cultures are celebrated, so you see the Sabbath stew, one of the few dishes shared by all Jewish communities — charoset is another — in the Solet of Hungary and the Moroccan Dafina.

“Jewish Food” is an exciting read, filled with fascinating history. Did you know the mother of King Ferdinand of Spain was a converso, that Yemenites were the only people on earth who used Hebrew for communication before it became the official language of Israel and that the earliest borscht was made not from beets but from parsnips?

Nestled among the recipes are essays on selected ingredients, dishes and communities, deepening our understanding of their historical context.

“Food is kind of a repository of a community’s history,” Goodman observed. “You can see the wanderings of people over time. You can see the influence of conquest, of poverty, of travel. Food becomes a history lesson on a plate.”

As an example, he cited the use of pine nuts and raisins in Roman Jewish cooking, as in the Italian Matzo Fritters with Honey Syrup.

“These ingredients were brought to Sicily by the Arabs where the Jews learned how to use them. Then when they got kicked out of Sicily during the Spanish Inquisition, they brought them when they moved up to Rome. The cinnamon and honey sauce, giulebbe, you find in a lot of Roman Jewish desserts. You can see the history of these people in this dish.”

And what would Passover be without macaroons? But, if you’ve tasted only the store-bought variety, you’re in for a treat.

“The same way that gefilte fish has gotten a bad name because most people think it comes out of a jar, macaroons got a bad name because they think they come in those metal tins,” noted Goodman. “Macaroons you make yourself are so much better and just phenomenally simple to make.”

The Pistachio Macaroons are made with rosewater, “a very common ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking, as are pistachios, and used a lot by Syrians,” he said. “They’re a nice alternative for people who want something a little different than the typical coconut macaroons.”

Sadly, some recipes are irretrievable, Goodman said.

“There are so few of these dishes left,” he said. “It’s really like an extinct species. So many generous people shared their recipes with me. Some in the New York area would invite me to their home and let me cook with them in their kitchen. It was just an amazingly moving experience for me. But with each recipe they’d give me, they’d say, ‘I wish you could have tried these other two that so-and-so used to do, but she died.’ That dish is gone forever.”

Pizzarelle Con Giulebbe (Italian Matzah Fritters with Honey Syrup)

Syrup
1 cup honey
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Fritters

5 matzahs, broken into small pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher for Pesach vanilla
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 egg whites
Vegetable oil for deep frying

1. Make the syrup: Combine the honey, water and cinnamon in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cover and bring to a boil, then uncover, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour into a serving bowl.
2. Make the batter: Place the matzah pieces in a bowl of cold water and soak until soft but not falling apart, one to two minutes. Drain in a colander and squeeze out any excess water. In a large bowl, mix together the matzah pieces, sugar, vanilla, salt, raisins, pine nuts and egg yolks.
3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the matzo mixture.
4. Make the pizzarelle: In a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot, heat at least 2 inches of oil to 375 F on a deep-fat thermometer. In small batches, drop heaping tablespoons of the matzah mixture into the oil. Fry in batches, turning as necessary, until they are a deep brown on all sides, about five minutes total. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve warm or at room temperature, accompanied by the honey syrup.
Makes about 25.

Pistachio Macaroons

3 cups (about 1 pound)
shelled pistachios
1 cup sugar
3 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons rosewater

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease two baking sheets or line them with parchment paper.
2. Grind the pistachios with the sugar in the bowl of a food processor, leaving some chunks for texture; transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
3. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold them, with the rosewater, into the pistachio mixture.
4. Drop the batter by heaping tablespoonfuls in balls onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 1 inch between. Bake until lightly browned, 17 to 20 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Makes about 30.

For more recipes, visit ” target=”_blank”>www.cookingjewish.com

 

Serve Up Something Different in 5765


Food is the centerpiece of every Jewish holiday. For Rosh Hashanah especially, our traditional foods are a kind of ritualistic prayer where we ask that the coming year be better than the last. During a time when are lives are weighed and measured, we dip the apple in honey and eat the head of a fish (or broiled cow tongue in certain Sephardic households) to ask for the next year to be sweet and prosperous. Every Rosh Hashanah you probably expect your mom’s famous roast, or the traditional honey cake, but why not make this year about trying new recipes with similar flavors. Sweet is the theme for this season and new cookbooks are varying the holiday fare by borrowing from other culinary cultures and serving up some traditional favorites with a twist. Before you gather around your table this year, check out these latest cookbook offerings and surprise your family and guests with something a little bit different.

It’s so easy to refer time and again to the family recipe book to create your Yom Tov menu, but it’s more exciting to bring other culinary traditions to your holiday table. Dispersed across the globe for centuries, Jews have adopted much of the cuisine of their host countries and incorporated local and available ingredients. Jewish cookbook queen, Joan Nathan, in her book, "Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook" (Schoken, $29.95), has updated the recipes from her two classic books, 1982’s "The Jewish Holiday Kitchen" and 1997’s "The Jewish Holiday Baker," and invites you to prepare classic dishes from Jewish households all over the globe, making this year’s holiday a cross-cultural feast.

Right before the High Holidays, the bakery is always the last place you want to be shopping. This year, instead of taking a number and waiting in an endless line, opt for the simple pleasure of making your own challah. In her book, Nathan includes an authentic Moroccan family recipe for Pain Petri (challah) to spice up your holiday table.

For the main course, go with Persian Fesenjan, a chicken stew made with walnuts and pomegranates — another fruit traditionally eaten on Rosh Hashanah at the beginning of the meal with all of the other symbolic foods. The many seeds of the pomegranate are a sign of fertility, and serving an entrée that incorporates its juice is an original way to further indulge in the seasonal fruit.

Pain Petri (Moroccan Challah)

Note: You can either make this by hand or using a food processor.

7-8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

3 eggs plus 1 yolk

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 tablespoon anise seeds

1 1/2 scant tablespoons (1 1/2 packages) active dry yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water

Place 7 cups of flour in a huge bowl. Make a well in the center and place the sugar, three eggs, 1/3 cup of oil, salt and sesame and anise seeds in the well. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, then add it to the well.

Using your hands, gradually work in the flour with the ingredients in the well. Add more flour as needed. When a medium-stiff dough is formed, knead on a wooden board for about 20 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, turn it in a greased bowl to coat the surface and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes, or until doubled in size. Punch down and knead once more. Divide the dough into five pieces. Either shape each into a round ball or make a long piece of it and twist it into a spiral with the end of the dough at the high point in the center. Cover and let rise for about 1 hour, until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.

Remove the dough to the cookie sheet. Brush with the remaining egg yolk mixed with the tablespoon of oil and bake for 35-45 minutes.

Persian Fesenjan (Pomegranate-Walnut Chicken Stew)

One 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut up

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cups walnuts, ground

1/3 cup hot water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cups pomegranate juice or 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons sugar

Brown the chicken in the oil and remove to drain on a paper towel. Brown the chopped onion in the same oil.

In another pan, brown the walnuts, stirring constantly, without using any shortening. When brown, add the onion. Then slowly add the hot water so that the mixture does not stick. It should not be too liquid — more like a paste. Then add the lemon juice, pomegranate juice, tomato paste, salt and pepper to taste and sugar, stirring with a spoon. When well-mixed, add the chicken.

Bring the mixture just to the point of boiling (not a fast boil). Decrease to a simmer and let cook, covered, until the chicken is very tender, about 45 minutes. If the sauce is not thick enough, remove the chicken and boil the liquid down until the desired thickness is reached, stirring as it cooks.

For a holiday menu rich in fruit and vegetables, a vegetarian cookbook is a great source to draw from on Rosh Hashanah when on the hunt for new recipes. Try a soup with sweet fruits and vegetables to change up the first course. Vegetarian cookbook veteran Nava Atlas, in her new book "The Vegetarian Family Cookbook" (Broadway, $17.95), offers tasty recipes for the die-hard vegetarian or for anyone looking to enrich their diet with more fruits and vegetables. With the plethora of junk food at our fingertips, it is more tempting to reach for potato chips than carrot sticks to satisfy hunger. Inspired by a lack of healthy food choices for adults and children, Atlas compiled a cornucopia of wholesome meals and snacks for even the pickiest eaters. Her Creamy Butternut Squash and Apple Soup is a great starter for the Rosh Hashanah feast, or a fabulous meal by itself when opting for a lighter lunch after days of endless holiday eating.

Creamy Butternut Squash

and Apple Soup

1 large butternut squash

2 tablespoons light olive oil

1 large red onion, chopped

4 cups peeled, diced apple, any cooking variety

4 cups prepared vegetable broth, or 4 cups water with 1 vegetable bouillon cube

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups low-fat milk, rice milk, or soy milk

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Halve the squash lengthwise with a sharp knife and scoop out the seeds and fibers. Place cut side up in a shallow baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Or, if you’d like a more roasted flavor, simply brush the squash halves with a little olive oil and leave uncovered. Either way, bake for 45-50 minutes, or until tender. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until golden, eight to 10 minutes.

Add the apples, broth and spices. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer gently until the apples are soft, about 10 minutes.

In a food processor, puree the squash with 1/2 cup of the milk until completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl.

Transfer the apple-onion mixture to the food processor and puree until completely smooth. Return to the soup pot and add the squash puree; stir together. Add the remaining milk, using a bit more if the puree is too thick.

Bring the soup to a gentle simmer, then cook over low heat until well heated through, five to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at once or let the soup stand off the heat for one to two hours, then heat through as needed before serving.

Serves six.

Honey cake is a great way to end the meal, but Lise Stern’s "How To Keep Kosher" (Morrow, $24.95) offers a great variation you might want to serve after a light pareve or dairy lunch. The sponge honey cake is a tradition not to be forgotten, but Stern livens it up hers with some honey frosting and tops it with caramelized apples. Her creation is one of the many kosher recipes she features in her book which is primarily meant to educate and excite her readers about the fundamentals of kashrut, its origins and modern-day practices.

Honey Layer Cake With

Caramelized Apples

1 large egg

1 cup honey

1 cup plain yogurt, stirred until smooth

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Oil for the pans

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray or lightly grease two 8-inch round cake pans.

Combine the egg, honey, yogurt, melted butter and vanilla in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until well blended.

Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a sifter. Sift half the flour into the honey mixture. On low speed, blend until fully incorporated. Sift in the remaining flour and blend in until smooth.

Divide the batter into the prepared pans. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes, until pale gold in color and a tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.

Cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then remove and cool on racks.

When fully cool, spread Honey Cream Frosting (see recipe below) between the layers and on the top of the cake (not on the sides). To serve, slice into wedges and put on individual plates. Top each slice with a spoonful of Caramelized Apples (see recipe below).

Makes 12 servings.

Honey Cream Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature

Pinch salt

3 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

Cream together the cream cheese, butter and salt until smooth, using an electric mixer or a wooden spoon. Blend in the honey, then the confectioners’ sugar. The frosting should be of an easily spreadable consistency. If it seems too thin, add additional sifted confectioners’ sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Caramelized Apples

2 tablespoons salted butter

3 apples (preferably pink lady or gala), peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

1/4 cup light brown sugar

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the apples and sauté for two minutes. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the apples. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat, and simmer over low heat for five to 10 minutes, until the apples are softened but still hold their shape. Serve warm; the compote may be reheated.

If the thought of slicing into a rich cake is a bit unbearable after a long meal, opt instead to prepare a helping of Yetta’s Stewed Summer Fruits. Former actress and neophyte cookbook author Pamela Hensley Vincent compiles treasured family recipes in her new scrapbook cookbook, "The Jewish-Sicilian Cookbook" (Overlook Press, $24.95). So much of our history is in our culinary heritage and Vincent offers a glimpse into the lives of her immediate family and the recipes for which they were famous. Yetta’s — short for Henrietta, Vincent’s maternal grandmother — stewed fruit is a light desert that fits neatly into the sweet holiday theme.

Yetta’s Stewed Summer Fruits

4 to 6 peaches, peeled, pitted and quartered

12 plums, pitted and quartered

12 apricots, pitted and quartered

1 pound fresh cherries, stemmed

Juice of 1 lemon (or 2 limes)

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup dark rum

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Put the peaches, plums and apricots into a pot. Add the cherries (whole & un-pitted). Add the water, lemon or lime juice, brown sugar, rum and cinnamon. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for about 40 minutes. Allow to cool. Then pour into a glass jar and store in the fridge.

Yields four to six cups.

Exile the So-So Seder


Some people like their Passover seders just as they remember
them: the same lines recited by the same relatives with the same emphasis, the
same songs, jokes and foods, the same delicate glassware that picks up the
light in a certain way, reflecting past and present.

David Arnow treasures his memories, too. But for him, the
seder is also about creating new memories, doing things differently each year
so that each person present indeed can taste the feeling of having left Egypt.
Although it’s possible to use a different haggadah every year given the large
number of editions now available, Arnow believes that it’s not about the
haggadah, but how it’s used. He suggests that people follow the traditional
narrative and add texts for discussion, stories, participatory activities and
much that goes beyond reading what’s printed on the page.

His new book “Creating Lively Passover Seders: A Sourcebook
of Engaging Tales, Texts & Activities” is an outstanding resource for
enhancing seders. It’s not a haggadah but a companion volume that’s best read
before the seder, with certain passages shared at the table. One of Arnow’s
strengths is drawing on the haggadah text, midrashim and traditional
commentaries, and juxtaposing them with contemporary and historical issues. He sees
this telling of the story in a creative, interactive way as very much in
keeping with the Mishnah’s approach.

Arnow, a 53-year old psychologist by training and a communal
activist and writer, explains in an interview that he has been amending his
family’s seders with meaningful readings and discussion questions since 1988.
In 1994, he expanded those readings into a seder booklet for the New Israel
Fund, an organization he had served as president. For eight years, Arnow, who
also served as vice-president of UJA-Federation and as a Wexner Heritage
Leadership Fellow, produced the widely praised booklets, highlighting a
different passage each year, and thought to develop his ideas further into a
book.

At his family seder, which this year will be held in his Scarsdale,
N.Y., home, the intergenerational group first gathers in the living room, for
about an hour’s worth of discussion before moving into the dining room. Once
they begin the formal part of the seder at the table, they follow the haggadah
text, pausing for questions and dialogue. He admits that these gatherings,
although great, are far from perfect. Even at his table, people ruffle through
the pages looking for the cue to serve dinner.

“One of the things I realize,” he said, “is that what
happens at the seder recapitulates what happens at the Exodus. We’re supposed
to be celebrating freedom and soon we start complaining and grumbling about
wanting to eat. The seder leader gets a bit of the experience of Moses, trying
to lead an unruly group that takes freedom for granted very quickly.”

Arnow’s family sings the Passover songs with great spirit.
He noted that when most people recall seders of their childhood, they remember
the singing with particular fondness. The first song mentioned in the Bible is
after the crossing of the Red Sea; he explains that after having such an
overwhelming experience, it was as though the Israelites took a huge breath and
out came a song to God. He quotes Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “We sing to Him
before we are able to understand Him.”

The author acknowledges that there’s much too much
information in this book for any one seder, and suggests that people might
focus on a different chapter each year, selecting from the supplementary
materials.

Even those readers who can’t imagine their guests marching
around the house, led by children singing “Let my people go” en route to the
table, will find possibilities of interest here — from discussions that tie
together Passover, spring and the environment to bibliodrama to a chapter on
the women of the Exodus who are missing from the traditional text. He includes
a quartet of 20th century voices on redemption, with quotes from Rabbi Mordecai
Kaplan, Martin Buber, Heschel and Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, along with
questions leading to dialogue.

Many of Arnow’s discussion topics touch on politics and
peacemaking, but he is not preaching a particular point of view.

“I am saying that one of the lessons to remember is that we
were strangers in the land of Egypt and, therefore, we have the responsibility
to treat strangers among us fairly.”

Arnow and his wife, the parents of two sons, are members of
Conservative and Reconstructionist congregations in Westchester, N.Y. He has no
formal training in Jewish studies and spent a year and a half doing research,
studying on his own and with others, and says that he loved the process. In
talking with the author about the book and the upcoming holiday, he continues
to generate new ideas, new topics and approaches, beyond what’s in the book.

For more information about the book, visit www.livelyseders.com
.

New Haggadahs

“The Holistic Haggadah: How Will You Be Different This
Passover Night?” with commentary by Michael Kagan, (Urim) is a guide to the
inner journey of Passover, with contemporary spiritual commentary, geared to
individuals of all denominations. Throughout, Kagan reflects on the meaning of
freedom and its relation to serving God. This volume makes for meaningful
pre-Pesach preparatory reading; the traditional haggadah text is translated by
Kagan, with new translations of the Hallel and other sections by Reb Zalman
Schachter-Shalomi. Kagan, who leads experimental workshops and lectures on
holistic Judaism around the world, lives in Jerusalem and describes himself as
“an Ortho-practicing, but unorthodox Jew.”

“The Pesach Haggadah: Through the Prism of Experience and
History” by Rabbi Berel Wein (Artscroll) features classic commentary and
stories, along with background and history of the holiday. Wein is the author of
several well-received books on history and Jewish texts.

“The Gurs Haggadah: Passover in Perdition” edited by Bella
Gutterman and Naomi Morgenstern (Devora Publishing, in cooperation with Yad
Vashem) has its origins in a detention camp in southwestern France where, in
1941, the Jewish inmates held a seder, declaring their own freedom from
oppression. This volume is a significant addition to holiday literature.
Included is a facsimile edition of the actual hand-written haggadah used,
photographs and other materials from the Yad Vashem archives and several moving
essays commenting on the haggadah and on the ordeals of life at Gurs, with a
piece by the son of Aryeh Zuckerman who wrote the haggadah by hand from memory.
After the seder, one inmate wrote, “Passover was but a brief respite from the
fleeing and wandering, yet closer than previous Passovers to the ancient-new
prayer: ‘Next year in Jerusalem.'”

Of Passover Interest:

“Make Your Own Passover Seder: A New Approach to Creating a
Personal Family Celebration” by Rabbi Alan Kay and Jo Kay (Jossey-Bass) is a
guide that covers every aspect of making a seder and is useful for someone
making one or participating for the first time, as well as for those who are
veterans and want to enhance their efforts. Included is information on
selecting a haggadah, tips for including children and guests from different
backgrounds, personal stories, guidance on rituals and more. Rabbi Kay serves
as spiritual leader of Temple Beth Emet in Mount Sinai, N.Y., and Jo Kay is director
of the School of Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
in New York.

“Had Gadya: The Only Kid” edited by Arnold Band (Getty
Publications) is a facsimile edition of Russian avant-garde artist El
Lissitzky’s 1919 edition of lithographs. His colorful, bold prints interpret
the traditional Passover song; the illustrations are crowned with architectural
frames with the verses printed in stylish letters, in Yiddish, with some
Aramaic text at the bottom of the page. Only 75 copies were published in the
lifetime of the artist — this work was part of his engagement with Judaica
before turning to abstract painting. In this volume, a separate section
includes a translation of each verse and notes on the images. Band is professor
emeritus of Hebrew and comparative literature at UCLA. In her introduction,
Nancy Perloff, collections curator at the Getty Research Institute, notes that
Lissitzky chose to publish these artworks in their own publication rather than
as part of a haggadah, indicating that he “viewed the song both as a message of
Jewish liberation based on the Exodus story and as an allegorical expression of
freedom for the Russian people.”

For Children:

“Matzah Meals: A Passover Cookbook for Kids” by Judy Tabs
and Barbara Steinberg, illustrated by Bill Hauser, (Kar-Ben) includes
easy-to-follow recipes for banana pancakes, gefilte fish kabobs, matzah pizza,
meringue kisses and more.

“It’s Seder Time!” by Latifa Berry Kropf, photographs by Tod
Cohen, (Kar-Ben) documents a class of young children learning about and
participating in Passover rituals — collecting chametz for a food bank, making
matzah, singing, dancing, posing as frogs. The full color photographs are full
of smiles.

Spicy ‘Shores’ of the Mediterranean


Celebrated cookbook author and chef Joyce Goldstein can trace her bloodline to a Russian shtetl, but her heart and soul lie in the Mediterranean.

In "Cucina Ebraica" (Chronicle Books, 1998) and "Sephardic Flavors" (Chronicle Books, 2000) she explored Italian Jewish and Spanish Jewish cuisine, and now, to round out the trilogy, in "Saffron Shores" (Chronicle Books, $35) she continues her Mediterranean culinary journey with the exotic cuisine of the Maghreb: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, even including related Judeo-Arabic countries like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran.

"I have been cooking this food for I cannot tell you how many years," said the former chef/owner of the renowned Mediterranean restaurant Square One in San Francisco. "When I was doing research for ‘Sephardic Flavors,’ I realized the subject was so huge I couldn’t do it all in one book, so I covered the northern Mediterranean in ‘Sephardic Flavors’ and the southern Mediterranean in ‘Saffron Shores.’ Here the style of cooking changes with a lot more spices and herbs and additional uses of fruit, but, of course, there is some overlap."

Notable for its absence is Israeli cuisine. "I left it out because it’s a hodgepodge," she explains. "The last time I was in Israel I was served sashimi and Thai-flavored something or other, and I thought, sorry, I didn’t come here for that. Israeli cuisine is a melting pot, a lot like America. Whoever is there is cooking Romanian food, Italian food, Yemenite food. Is there Israeli cuisine? I think it’s fusion, so I didn’t give it much attention. It’s not pure. I’d rather go back to the sources."

Indeed, each recipe reflects Goldstein’s impeccable research and attention to detail, and regional differences are carefully noted. For example, for the Cumin Flavored Meatballs, Goldstein offers Moroccan and Syrian variations. But she never sacrifices flavor for authenticity, adding a touch of orange to the sfenj (Moroccan Chanukah donuts), for example, and adjusting the spices in various dishes.

"The spices of North Africa are really vibrant, just incredible, so much fresher and more intense than those we can buy here," she said. "To make these recipes taste right, I often had to double them."

More than just a recipe collection, "Saffron Shores" traces the history of Jewish life in these exotic lands and its impact on the cuisine. We learn that unlike the Ashkenazim, who preserved their Judaism by isolating themselves, the Sephardim were more involved in the communities in which they lived. "They shared recipes and culinary traditions with their non-Jewish neighbors," she writes. "Their food reflected the cuisine of their homeland but adapted to follow the kosher laws."

Because the Sephardim were more active in the community, in trades and in business, there was a greater exchange of ideas between Jews and Muslims, and the similarity in recipes between Jews and their non-Jewish neighbors is striking, she notes.

"On the other hand, certain [Eastern European] dishes, when you think of them, you know they are Jewish. I have many Russian cookbooks, but I don’t see too many recipes in there for brisket or tzimmes. There’s not as much overlap between the Jewish and non-Jewish dishes. Some of the ingredients are the same, like cabbage and potatoes, but the recipes don’t track the same way that the Sephardic ones do."

A tireless researcher, Goldstein combed cookbooks from the area, written in French, to capture the authentic tastes and aromatic flavors of such dishes as Iraqi Chicken and Chickpea Pastries, Lamb Tagine with Prunes and Honey and Moroccan Chicken and Almond Pie. The latter, known as B’Stilla, Goldstein calls "a masterpiece of Moroccan cuisine."

And while most of the recipes are easy to prepare, favoring the use of fresh, local ingredients over the labor-intensive method, the savory pastries that Goldstein calls "labors of love" are worth the extra effort, she said. Teams of women would prepare them together for special occasions, a tradition that is sadly dying out. Goldstein suggests families create their own traditions by preparing these bistels, briks or buraks together. "Anything that is fried is appropriate for Chanukah. The Tunisian briks are rounder in shape and contain egg, as compared to the bistels from Morocco and buraks from Algeria," she explains, "but they all can be fried."

For those who can’t think of Chanukah without potatoes, there are potato filled briks from Tunisia. But Goldstein offers a variety of fillings for these pastries, from beef or lamb to feta cheese to chicken with chickpea to spinach with pine nuts. Depending on the region, the dough may be phyllo, yeast raised, short crust or semolina, and the pastries may be baked as well as fried.

These spice-infused pastries make an alluring addition to any Chanukah table. And for Ashkenazic Jews, what an exotic change from latkes.

>Cumin Flavored Meatballs With Onion Jam and Spicy Tomato Sauce

1 pound ground beef

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1¼4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

11¼2 teaspoons salt

1¼2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Light a fire in a charcoal grill. (You may also use a skillet heated over medium-high heat.)

2. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well, form into 16 oval meatballs wrapped around skewers, or into eight oval patties.

3. Grill or cook in oil on a hot pan until browned on all sides.

4. Serve with onion jam and tomato sauce.

Serves four.

Moroccan Chanukah Doughnut

2 envelopes active dry yeast

1¼4 cup sugar

1¼2 cup warm water

4 cups all-purpose flour

1¼2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten (optional)

grated zest of 1 orange

1¼4 cup canola oil, melted margarine,

or melted unsalted butter (optional)

11¼2 to 2 cups warm water or part

water, part orange juice

Peanut or canola oil for deep frying

Granulated sugar for sprinkling or warm honey for dipping (optional)

1. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water. Let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.

2. Pour into a large bowl and gradually stir in the flour and salt.

3. Stir in the eggs, zest, and 1¼4 cup oil, margarine or butter, if using.

4. Stir in just enough water or water and juice to make a soft and elastic dough.

5. Knead well, with a dough hook or by hand, on a lightly floured surface, until the dough is elastic, smooth and shiny.

6. Roll the dough into a ball, place in an oiled bowl and turn to coat.

7. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled (11¼2 to 2 hours).

8. Oil your hands. Divide the dough into 20 balls about 2 inches in diameter.

9. In a deep saucepan or wok, heat 3 inches of oil to 365 F.

10. Take a ball of dough, make a hole in the center, and pull it out to make a doughnut shape. Deep fry a few at a time until the donuts are puffed and golden.

11. Using a slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer to paper towels to drain.

12. While still hot, sprinkle with granulated sugar or dip in warm honey. Serve warm.

Makes about 20 donuts.

Judy Bart Kancigor, the author of “Melting Pot Memories” (Jan Bart
Publications, $19.95), can be found on the Web at

History Comes Alive


Italian scholar Francesco Spagnolo is keenly aware of the long-standing Jewish presence in Italy.

"Never before the creation of the State of Israel did Jews of so many varied origins live together, and in such a stimulating, if at times threatening, environment as in the land they called in Hebrew ‘I-Tal-Yah,’" he says.

"I-Tal-Yah" — Island of Divine Dew in Hebrew — means Italy in Italian, a land where Jews have lived for more than 2,000 years and which has seen layer after layer of immigration from all over the Jewish Diaspora.

For centuries, Jews in Italy have maintained specific local identities, which were reflected in a wide variety of distinct customs based on Sephardic, Ashkenazic and ancient Italian Jewish traditions. These included foods, dialects, rituals — and also the melodies used in the liturgy. Almost every Jewish community had its own melodic tradition.

Spagnolo, who founded and directs the Milan-based Yuval Center for the Study of Jewish Music, has released a CD presenting a sampling of these melodies.

Titled "Italian Jewish Musical Traditions," the CD was released in association with Hebrew University and Rome’s Accademia Nationale di Santa Cecilia.

It is based on recordings made in the 1950s by Italian Jewish ethnomusicologist Leo Levi, the first scholar to devote research to the Italian Jewish oral music tradition. In more than 80 recording sessions, Levi, who died in 1982, collected more than 1,000 prayers, chants and other items from nearly 50 cantors and other sources.

"The recordings constitute testimony — in most cases, the only account — to 27 liturgical traditions preserved in the Jewish communities of more than 20 Italian cities," Spagnolo says.

These include such places as Rome, Ferrara, Asti, Venice, Florence, Trieste, Ancona, Moncalvo, Gorizia, Verona, Padua, Casale Monferrato, Turin and Pitigliano. Most of these places have few, if any, Jews today.

"The percentage of melodies that are still in use has definitely decreased since Levi’s work," Spagnolo says. "But many of the communities where he recorded were already on the verge of disappearing before World War II. My impression is that these recorded melodies carry us back to a time that could only be preserved in an oral tradition."

The CD follows a liturgical order, beginning with Shabbat and the High Holidays and continuing through the various festivals of the Jewish year. It also includes liturgical songs and chants related to life-cycle events such as marriage and circumcision.

Most of the texts are in Hebrew, except for some Passover and Purim songs in Italian. Most of the melodies are likely to be a revelation for Jews outside Italy.

"It shows an exceptional kind of music," Spagnolo says. "It is both genuinely Jewish" and "genuinely Italian." The melodies are mixed with bel canto and opera, as well as folk and political music.

Spagnolo’s interest in Levi’s work and Italian Jewish musical traditions has changed his life. He met his wife, the American cantor and Yiddish singer Sharon Bernstein, when he was in Jerusalem, working in the sound archives where copies of Levi’s field recordings are kept.

The couple have begun working with American musicians Michael Alpert and Willy Schwarz as an ensemble to perform Italian Jewish music and take it to a wider audience in the United States and elsewhere. They also would like to help American and other cantors incorporate Italian liturgical traditions in their synagogues.

The couple have another connection to Levi. In July, Spagnolo and Bernstein were married at the synagogue in Florence by the city’s rabbi, Joseph Levi — who is Leo Levi’s son.

At their request, Rabbi Levi incorporated a number of rarely heard liturgical melodies in the wedding service. "We frankly did not know what a beautiful singing voice he has, and we were both crying to hear such exquisite and authentic renditions of pieces which we had before only accessed on his father’s recordings," Bernstein says.

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

If you like babbling brooks and floating waterlilies, City of Hope probably has your idea of an interesting and unusual Saturday afternoon. It’s the second annual Parade of Ponds, a self-guided tour of neighborhood water gardens. You’ll get a map of the more than 50 homes on the tour, which cover more than 20 Los Angeles suburbs. Then you’re free to peruse at your own pace.9 a.m.-5 p.m. (Saturday), 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (Sunday). $10 (general), free (children under 12). Tickets are on sale through Waterscapes Plus, (877) 540-7663, and the Rainbow Garden Nursery, (626) 914-6718. Proceeds will be donated to the City of Hope Cancer Center.

Sunday

On the list of features at this year’s Outfest, Los Angeles’ Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, is an Israeli docudrama titled “Tomer Ve Hasrutim” (“It Kinda Scares Me”). The filmmaker, Tomer Heymann, is a youth group leader for at-risk young men, each with something to hide. While Heymann works to get the boys to trust him, he avoids divulging his own secret that he is gay. But it is his eventual revelation that becomes their catalyst for growth.Noon. $10 (general), $9 (OUTFEST members). Subtitled. The Village at Ed Gould Plaza, Renberg Theater, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Los Angeles. For reservations, call (213) 480-7065.

Monday

We Jews pride ourselves on carrying our traditions with us no matter where we wander. Stacie Chaiken’s grandparents were no different. But while they carried on their traditions, they left their stories behind. As a grown woman, Chaiken longed to know the secrets her grandfather determined to leave in Russia. In her one-woman play “Looking for Louie,” Chaiken shares her tale — her search for the untold story of her mysterious great-grandfather.Runs through Aug. 26. 8 p.m. (Mondays and Saturdays), 4 p.m. (Sundays). $15 (general), $12 (students, seniors and groups). Stages Theatre Center, 1540 McCadden Place, Los Angeles. For reservations, call (323) 465-1010.

Tuesday

Using subjects including nature, animals, seasons and biblical stories, six women artists interpret “Archetypal Allusions” in the University of Judaism’s new exhibition. But though their subjects overlap, their treatments vary widely. Susanna Meiers’ drawings of animals shift forms, while Suvan Geer’s birds allude to Buddhist mythology. Also featured are works by Lorraine Bubar, Mayde Herberg, Anne Scheid and Freda Nessim.Runs through Sept. 29. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (Sunday-Thursday), 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (Fridays). An artist reception will be held on Sun., July 28, from 3-5 p.m. Platt and Borstein Gallery, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. For more information, call (310) 476-9777, ext. 201.

Wednesday

MOCA may have Warhol, but Jack Rutberg Fine Arts has Chagall, de Kooning, Matisse and more. With more artistic headliners than we can name, the exhibition titled “Modern and Contemporary: Paintings, Drawings, Prints and Sculpture,” features American, European and Latin American works.Runs through Aug. 31. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Tuesday-Friday), 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Saturday). 357 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. For more information, call (323) 938-5222.

Thursday

Chew on this: TAG, The Artist’s Gallery is presenting an all-member show with a theme you can really sink your teeth into. Check out different artists’ takes on the common subject of food in “Food for Thought.” Various talks are scheduled over the course of the exhibit’s run, including tonight’s Art Salon on “Appetizing Ideas.”Runs through Aug. 3. 7 p.m. (Art Salon). 11-5 p.m. (Tuesday-Saturday), open till 8:30 p.m. Thursdays. 2903 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica. For more information, call (310) 829-9556.

Friday

“The Sex Show” debuts tonight at Highways. No, it isn’t live porn, but don’t rush to bring the kids, either. Nurit Siegel directs an ensemble production investigating the art of sex with a post-feminist twist. Think “Vagina Monologues,” only racier.8:30 p.m. Fri., July 26 and Sat., July 27 only. $15 (general), $13 (students and members). 1651 18th St., Santa Monica. For reservations, call (310) 315-1459.

My Very Own Chuppah


Hold onto your son’s baby blanket. Don’t give away your daughter’s cheerleading uniform. If they hold precious memories and deep meanings, you may be able to recycle them — as part of your child’s chuppah.

Chuppahs and ketubahs are long-standing Jewish wedding traditions. But Los Angeles couples are now taking their heritage to a more personal place, using chuppahs and ketubahs with intimate, as well as religious, significance. And they are asking their parents to help them create these special wedding fixtures.

With their parents’ assistance, Los Angeles-area brides and grooms are trading in hotel rent-a-coverings and standard flowered archways for chuppahs they can truly call their own. Joan and Joel Schrier of Brentwood helped their daughter and son-in-law produce a patchwork chuppah. Joan Schrier, a Skirball Cultural Center docent, sent out 36 fabric squares to her daughter’s wedding guests, asking the friends and relatives to decorate their swatch with a meaningful illustration.

"Weddings all have common denominators: a white bridal dress, a band and not-so-wonderful food. This was a way to make Kimberly and David’s wedding unique to them," Schrier said. She collected the finished squares and her husband sewed them into the quilt under which their daughter, Kimberly Gowing, married.

Gowing, a pediatrician, attended Palisades High School with her husband David, a singer-songwriter. The former classmates started dating after their 10-year reunion and married on July 1, 2001, at the Skirball.

"It was amazing to stand under the chuppah, glance up during the ceremony and see how many special people contributed to our day," Gowing said. Cherished chuppah panels displayed the handprints of a 6-month-old niece, a non-Jewish friend’s Tree of Life and Joan Schrier’s embroidered Rashi quote. The Gowings, who now live in Seattle and attend Temple De Hirsch Sinai, plan to prominently display their chuppah in their home.

The quilt chuppah is a fast-growing Los Angeles wedding trend. Nicole Jessel Heilman, who attends Temple Judea in Tarzana, also recruited her guests’ talents. "I wanted to get my family and friends involved with our wedding," she said.

Heilman, a teacher, was married at the Bel Air Bay Club under a schoolhouse painted by her kindergarten teacher, photos scanned by a childhood friend and a police car she designed for her husband, Dave, a law enforcement officer. Heilman’s mother, Maxine Jessel, spearheaded her daughter’s chuppah effort. "It’s the way people who shared in their lives could share in their ceremony," said Jessel, owner of The Max Event Coordinators.

Variations on the patchwork chuppah are springing up around the Southland. Some couples turn to themselves, not their guests, for square ideas. Newlyweds-to-be have sewn together fabric swatches from memory-filled clothing like football jerseys, baby blankets, beach towels from a first date at Zuma and even college pennants.

Carol Attia, owner of Under The Chuppah Online, has seen a significant increase in personalized chuppahs during her 10 years in business. She believes these self-designed chuppahs truly enhance a wedding day.

"A wedding is so personal, people want their chuppah to reflect who they are," said Attia, recalling one bride’s chuppah made of white fairy lights. She sewed her favorite chuppah out of the mother-of-the-bride and mother-in-law’s wedding dresses.

"The couple married under this chuppah viewed their wedding not as a union of two people but as a union of two families," Attia said. "It’s wonderful that couples now feel free enough to express their love through creative concepts," she added.

Los Angeles couples and their parents display this same creativity with their original ketubah designs. While ketubah prints and texts can be purchased at Judaic galleries, catalogs and Web sites, many Angelenos produce their own. Original artwork can highlight everything from the couple’s hobbies to their engagement stories.

Jessel recently created a ketubah that incorporated the newlywed’s occupations. A teacher and a veterinarian, the couple’s ketubah was covered with animals and children. "Bride and grooms really want the ketubah art to represent their lives, and their two worlds coming together," Jessel said.

Michah Parker, president of e-ketubah.com, just constructed a ketubah using a grandmother’s painting of the bride and groom at sunset. Parker noted that the number of nonconventional ketubah requests he receives has increased every year since 1995. He credits this trend to technology

"Nontraditional, abstract, even bizarre, ketubah art and language has become more popular. When people surf the Internet, they get new and unusual ideas," Parker said. "Plus, now we can download art files, like the grandmother’s work, or a friend’s painting, so we have the ability to accommodate original ideas," he added.

Gene and Ruth Kirshner, members of Temple Beth El in San Pedro, enlisted modern technology to produce their daughter, Shana Johnson’s, ketubah. Gene Kirshner authored the ketubah text and created the artwork on his home computer. "I once did a sample photo mat that looked like the two tablets. I had that in mind when I designed the art," said Kirshner, who once owned a framing business.

The proud father shaped his daughter’s ketubah like the covenant tablets. "I’ve been putting away ketubah texts and ideas for years, in anticipation of my children’s weddings. A ketubah is more meaningful if it has the exact words and images you want," Kirshner said.

Johnson, a physician’s assistant, and her husband Matt, a Score Learning Center executive, married on March 25, 2001 at La Venta Inn in Palos Verdes. Johnson beams as she talks about her cherished ketubah. "I love it. It really captures our relationship, and it means even more to me and Matt because my Dad made it for us," Johnson said. Their ketubah, written in English, is bordered in the same deep rose color as Johnson’s bridesmaid’s dresses.

"It’s so much more special and personal than the standard ketubah. It was a way to take the Jewish heritage and make it our own," said Johnson, whose ketubah hangs in her living room.

This desire to mesh Jewish culture with personal expression seems to drive these wedding trends. In producing their own chuppahs and ketubahs, couples weave their religious ties with their own lives. And in doing so, perhaps they are starting their own tradition.

Gowing was so moved by her personalized chuppah and her parent’s involvement, she hopes to continue the custom when she has children of her own. "I’d love if they got married under our quilt chuppah, but with an added a perimeter of squares made just for them," Gowing said. Perhaps this new nuptial trend is actually becoming a new nuptial tradition.

Thanksgiving Traditions


This Thanksgiving, red, white and blue American flags waved among orange, gold and brown gourds, Indian corn and honeycomb crepe paper holiday decorations. “The Star-Spangled Banner” was heard among choruses of “Gobble Gobble Fat Turkeys.”

This is only fitting. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving should be observed as an annual holiday on the last Thursday of November, to foster a sense of patriotism and unity in a country enmeshed in a Civil War.

This Thanksgiving, following the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, we are already a patriotic and unified country. But, we are also a frightened and anxious country, in need of the comfort that tradition brings.

We Jews, perhaps better than anyone, know the power of tradition. We mark our lifetimes and our calendar years with ceremonies and celebrations. These provide us with meaning and a sense of identity — and, more than anything else, ensure our survival, even through pogroms, persecutions and exile.

For Americans, no national holiday is as special, as widely observed or as tradition-laden as Thanksgiving. It brings us together, Americans of all races, religions and walks of life, no matter how or when we or our ancestors ourselves arrived in this country, to celebrate a common heritage. And to eat quintessential American foods — turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie.

And so, on Nov. 22, we remembered the story of the First Thanksgiving, which was celebrated for three days, in friendship and peace, at Plymouth Plantation in the fall of 1621. But the story of the first Thanksgiving wasn’t incorporated into American history until the 1890s or early 1900s. And it also wasn’t incorporated entirely accurately.

Many of the Pilgrims were not merely seekers of religious freedom but rather strict fundamentalists, separatists from the Church of England, who were intent on building their version of the “Kingdom of God” in the New World. And 50 years after that First Thanksgiving, their descendants, by transmitting diseases and waging war, had wiped out almost the entire Wampanoag tribe.

“Mom, why do you have to ruin every holiday?” my son, Jeremy, 12, asks. But the truth is, while we need to remedy the historical misconceptions and re-examine our treatment of the Native Americans, we also need to retain the mythologized story. And to tell it.

We tell the story of the Exodus, whether or not it occurred as the Bible describes it. Whether or not God literally rained Ten Plagues on Egypt, the Red Sea parted or 603,550 Israelites, along with their wives and children, their flocks and herds, wandered in the desert for 40 years.

What matters is the story — how, with God’s help, we escaped from slavery in Egypt, journeyed through the wilderness and finally entered the Promised Land. This story defines us as Jews. Similarly, the story of the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving defines us as Americans. As a people who fled religious oppression, who exhibited courage and tenacity in face of terrible conditions, and who ultimately survived and thrived in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

And so this Thanksgiving, we can add a tradition of lighting two candles and displaying them among our flags and holiday decorations. And we can hope, as Lincoln implored God in his 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation and as is only fitting, for “the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

For our country and for our world.

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