Yuca: A New World Root For Passover

— by Ronit Treatman

The earliest Ancient Israelite Passover dinners consisted of lamb shawarma.  As Jews spread around the world, the Seder menu evolved to incorporate new fruits and vegetables that they encountered.  One of the best things to happen to the Passover Seder was Columbus’ discovery of America.  He brought back foods that we now consider indispensable for our festive meal, such as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and cacao.  The process of enhancing our Passover observance with the addition of exciting new fruits and vegetables continues.  This Passover is an opportunity to discover the yuca, a tuber that originated in Brazil. The yuca root is versatile, nutritious, low fat, and gluten-free.  Why not add yuca to your traditional repertoire, and spice up your Passover with some Latin flavors?

The yuca tuber is also known as cassava, mogo, and manioc. Yuca is very starchy and high in calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin C.  Its flavor is very subtle, and it can be used in place of potatoes in any dish.  It should never be eaten raw, because it has cyanogenic glucosides, a form of cyanide.  If you eat yuca without preparing it properly, you can get acute cyanide intoxication, which can result in paralysis.  To be safe, peel the cassava, and then boil it in salted water for at least 30 minutes.  This will detoxify it.  Drain well.  It is now safe to consume!  The easiest way to cook cassava is to buy it pre-peeled and frozen.  You may purchase it online.

After the jump are some yuca recipes you can try during Passover.
In Trinidad, yuca is boiled, and then sautéed with vegetables and spices to make a delicious, filling dish.  You can add chicken, meat, or fish and pair it with a crunchy green salad for a complete meal.

Trinidadian Yuca
Adapted from Roxanne Jr.

  • 1 package frozen yuca (1.5 Lbs.)
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, cut up
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Fresh cilantro, minced
  • 3 large tomatoes, cubed
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Boil the yuca in salted water for at least 30 minutes.  Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling the raw yuca.  When the yuca is soft enough to be easily pierced by a fork, drain it well.
  2. In a separate pot, sauté the onion, garlic, and tomatoes in the olive oil.  
  3. Add the yuca to the vegetable sauté.  Mix well.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Sprinkle some minced cilantro over it before serving.

Yuca FriesIn all of Latin America, yuca is fried into crispy, golden spears and served with a variety of exotic dipping sauces.  Here is a recipe for fries from Colombia, with Peru’s famous creamy and spicy yellow dipping sauce.

Colombian Yuca Fries
Adapted from Erica

  • 1 package frozen yuca (1.5 Lbs.)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

  1. Boil the frozen yuca in salted water for 30 minutes.  When it is tender, drain well, and dry the yuca with paper towels.
  2. Heat some olive oil in a pan.  Fry the yuca until it is golden-brown and crispy.
  3. Blot the yuca on paper towels.
  4. Sprinkle some salt over the yuca fries to taste.

Aji Amarillo: Peruvian Yellow Sauce
Adapted from Chocolatl

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 2 green onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  1. Char the yellow bell pepper in the broiler.
  2. Remove from the oven and seal in a pot.  This will make it easier to remove the peel.  The steam trapped in the pot will separate the flesh of the pepper form its peel.
  3. Allow to cool to room temperature, then peel as much as you can.
  4. Remove the seeds.
  5. Mix all of the ingredients in a food processor.
  6. Serve with the yuca fries as a dipping sauce.

One of Cuba’s most famous exports is Yuca con Mojo, a yuca mash flavored with garlic and lime.  This soft, salty, garlicky mush is the ultimate Cuban comfort food.

Cuban Yuca Con Mojo: Yuca With Garlic Sauce
Adapted from Manami

  • 1 package frozen yuca (1.5 Lbs.)
  • 1 large Spanish onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 limes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Boil the yuca in salted water for 30 minutes.
  2. Drain well.
  3. Sautee the onion and garlic in one tablespoon of olive oil.
  4. Pour the yuca into the onion-garlic sauté.
    Mix well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Squeeze the lime juice over the yuca mixture.
  6. Serve immediately.

Sancocho is a descendant of the Spanish Cocido Madrileño, which came to Latin America with immigrants from the Canary Islands in the 1500s.  It is the centerpiece of the family meal on Sunday.  This hot soup filled with meat, yuca, and vegetables is very satisfying.  Fresh cilantro, jalapenos, and lime accentuate it deliciously.

Latin American Beef Sancocho (Soup)
Adapted from What4eats:

  • 2 pounds of cubed beef
  • Beef soup bones with marrow
  • 1 large Spanish onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 package of frozen yuca (1.5 Lbs.)
  • 1/2 pound of cubed pumpkin or any other squash
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, cubed
  • 4 celery sticks, chopped
  • 1 plantain, peeled and sliced
  • 1-tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Oregano
  • Fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1 sliced jalapeno
  • Limes, quartered for garnish
  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil.  
  2. Sautee the onion, garlic, green pepper, celery, and tomatoes.  
  3. Add the meat and soup bones.  Add the frozen yuca and fill the pot with cold water.  
  4. Add salt to taste and bring to a boil.  
  5. Allow the soup to simmer for at least 60 minutes.  The longer you can let it simmer, the better it will be.  
  6. Forty-five minutes before serving add the squash and plantain.  
  7. Season to taste with oregano, cumin, saffron, and black pepper.  
  8. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro, sliced jalapeno, and fresh lime juice.

I like to respect my family traditions when preparing the Passover Seder.  Yuca will not be making an appearance then.  After the first and second Seders are completed, I will still have six days left to experiment.  This Passover, join me and indulge yourself in some new discoveries from South America.  Yuca was the staple food of the pre-Columbian natives in America.  It was such an important part of their diet that the Portuguese explorers named it “the bread of the tropics.”  With the addition of lime, peppers, and garlic, it will tingle your tongue, satisfy your stomach, and liven up your Passover week.

How Chamin (Ancient Sabbath Stew) Came To Philadelphia

— by Ronit Treatman

Please enjoy this clip I filmed about how chamin (Portuguese cholent) came to Philadelphia.  It was filmed at Stenton Mansion, one of the best-preserved colonial homes in Philadelphia.  I would like to extend my special thanks to Marlene Samoun for permitting me to use her soulful rendition of the ladino folk song Morenika in this clip.

Jewish contact with Spain may go as far back as the Kingdom of Solomon.  It is thought that Southern Spain was the country of Tarshish.  Tarshish was the furthest place west that people could sail to from Ancient Israel in Biblical times.  There was a continuous Jewish presence in Spain until March 31, 1492.  

Recipes and more after the jump.

This was when the Alhambra Decree was issued, ordering the expulsion of the Jews from the Kingdom of Spain.  The majority of these exiles moved to Portugal, but they were expelled from Portugal in 1498.  As a result, the Spanish Jewish community was dispersed.  A large number of these Jews navigated the 8.9 miles across the Straits of Gibraltar and resettled in the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya).  A much smaller number ventured to America.  

They brought a very ancient dish with them.  Its oldest name is chamin, which comes from the Hebrew word “cham” which means “hot.”  Chamin is a dish that evolved so that Jews could comply with the rule of not kindling a flame on the Sabbath.  In the Mishnah it says “tomnim et ha’chamim.”  This oral tradition instructed Jewish people to “bury the hot.”  In the countries of the Maghreb, the Arabic word for “buried” or “dafina” was adopted for this dish.  No matter where they resettled, these Spanish and Portuguese exiles continued to cook the same special festive Sabbath dish.  The Jews who settled in Eastern Europe continued this tradition under a different name.  Their special Sabbath dish is called cholent.  This name is believed to derive from the Hebrew word “she’lan” which means “rested overnight.”  Several famous European dishes derive from chamin such as the French cassoulet, and the Spanish cocido madrileño.

As the days grow colder, chamin is the perfect comfort food to prepare for Shabbat.  I have a very special recipe to share with you.  My daughter, who is spending a trimester in Israel, enjoyed home hospitality with the Ben Moshe family.  Mrs. Yasmin Ben Moshe welcomed her Shabbat guests with her special Tunisian chamin.  She has generously agreed to share her recipe with us. This recipe has been passed down orally in the Ben Moshe family for generations.  Enjoy!

Mrs. Yasmin Ben Moshe’s Tunisian Chamin

  • 2 1/2 cups wheat berries
  • 2 pounds of cubed lamb
  • 6 potatoes
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, in their shells
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste

Soak the wheat berries in water for one hour.  In a large pot, mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil with ¼ tablespoon of sugar.  Cook over high heat until the sugar caramelizes.  Add 2 1/2 cups of water, 2 teaspoons of paprika, and 2 teaspoons of cumin.  Bring to a boil, then add the wheat berries, and salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer until all of the liquid has been absorbed.  Add the cubed lamb and cover with water.  Add the eggs and potatoes.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 1/2 hour.  Set aside and prepare the dumplings and sausage.

Kouclas (Dumplings)

  • 1 cup cubed lamb fat
  • 1 cup ground bulgur wheat
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1 egg

In a pan, heat the olive oil, and then add the lamb fat.  When it is hot, add the garlic, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper, stirring well.  Stir in the cup of ground bulgur wheat.  Remove from heat.  Mix in the minced parsley and egg.  Blend everything together until it becomes a dough.  Form the dough into little round dumplings and place in the Chamin pot.

Machshi  (Sausage)

  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • 1/4 cup minced dill
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Vegetable casing or cotton straining cloth (cheesecloth)
  • Cotton twine

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.  Form a loaf with the mixture, and stuff it into the vegetable casing, or wrap it in the cheesecloth.  Tie both ends with twine.  Place in the chamin pot.  Make sure that all the ingredients are covered with water.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cover the chamin pot tightly and place in the oven overnight.  It should cook for 24 hours.

Serve the eggs and potatoes first.  Spoon plenty of gravy over them.  Offer salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper so each diner can spice it to taste.

Then serve the wheat berries, lamb, dumplings (kouclas), and sliced sausage (machshi).

As you experience your first taste of this chamin you will understand the wisdom of the old Ladino proverb:

Cuanto mas tienes, mas quieres.

The more you have, the more you want.